Review – Terrace – by Richard Skinner

It’s about Time.

Richard Skinner is skilled at unpacking the moment. His observations, like drops of ink into a bowl of water, blossom out in unexpected directions, unfolding and unfurling the world. His language is deceptively simple. It’s almost possible to miss the way that he plays with sound to draw the reader to a conclusion. The work engages the senses with a studied intensity taking them almost to the edge of comfort.

It’s about Time

He uses ekphrasis, haiku, lists as litany, to interrogate the instant and out pour colour, perfume, light, life, and death. They are laid out before us for observation. They are the What and the How. The Why is a personal exploration of his own place in the maelstrom of Time. This is the thread that runs through every poem in the collection. The question is one of where he stands and what that means. What does that mean for a man? And, given a man’s place in time, how does he move forward?

“They say that a Yew can walk an acre in a year.”

If so, how far might a man walk?  How far might I walk?  And do I have the wisdom to do that?

The work of Richard Skinner is a beautiful example of condensed questioning.

The Terrace by Richard Skinner is published by Smokestack. You can find him here:

@RichardNSkinner   http://www.richardskinner.weebly.com

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Debut Novel Release – Author Chat with Caroline Roberts

Caroline writes contemporary fiction; emotional stories about love, loss, betrayal, and family, that explore how complex and yet beautiful love can be. She lives in stunning rural Northumberland – sandy beaches, castles and gorgeous countryside that inspire her writing. “The Torn Up Marriage” is her debut novel. In her own words, it is a powerful and poignant story about the bomb of an affair, and the key instinct to protect your family. But what happens when you tear that family apart?

The road to publication was long for Caroline, having written seriously for ten years, completed four novels and been submitting to agents and then publishers directly for the last five years. Finally it all came together in July last year, when 2 major publishers offered her deals within the hour! It’s all been a huge learning curve. She tale about her debut novel and shares a few tips for any aspiring authors below.

The Torn Up Marriage is an emotional story, where did you get your ideas from?

I am intrigued by relationships and by the “messier” side of love – it’s more true to life. A magazine article initially sparked the idea…by detailing how difficult it had been for a family coping with the fall-out of the affair, but how they were trying to make it work. I wanted to show how everyone involved would feel, the betrayer as well as the betrayed, the children, the grandparents; the idea just grew. And I wanted to show how love, even when battered and bruised, can survive.

Why did you choose Northumberland as a setting?

I have lived in Northumberland for the last 13 years and absolutely love the place – its rolling countryside, moorland hills, and the most amazing sandy beaches with castles perched on cliffs overlooking them, are just stunning. There are also historic towns, such as Alnwick, with its honey-coloured stone buildings. I think many people still don’t know a lot about it, being rather unique and undiscovered country tucked away on the borders between England and Scotland. My novels are all set in Northumberland – it’s just an inspiring setting to have!

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

* Write what you are passionate about. If you love what you write this will make the writing process so much easier, and it will come through to the readers (and hopefully publishers/agents) and spark their imagination and interest too.

* Finish the book! Just keep going forward and get the story out. Make time to write regularly, and you will get there. Editing is for later.

* Polish up your first 3 chapters, spend time on your synopsis and cover letter, and only then start sending it out. Try and be as professional as possible.

* Persevere – the submission process can be long and hard, and rejection is never easy. Try not to take it too personally – easier said than done, I know – but keep going and try and learn from any critical feedback you may get.

* Link up with other writers. Look for local groups, or link with groups in your genre. The support and friendship within organisations such as the Romantic Novelists’ Association is invaluable. (It was only by taking a deep breath and pitching at the RNA conference that I got my book deal offers.)

* Take a look at my blog for further tips and feedback on writing and submitting:
http://carolinerobertswriter.blogspot.co.uk/

You can find Caroline on Twitter here
@_caroroberts

Richard Skinner – Terrace

Richard Skinner is a novelist, essayist and poet as well as being one of the driving forces at the Faber Academy. His new pamphlet ‘Terrace’ is due to be published by Smokestack in April 2015.
I had an opportunity to ask him what this new collection is about.
Here is his reply:

The 22 poems in ‘Terrace’ were all written 2008-14. I didn’t put in any poems written before then into the collection because they seem distant to me now, almost as if written by someone else. It’s other people who are best at identifying any common themes running through your work and my editor at Smokestack, Andy Croft, describes ‘Terrace’ as a ‘book about the meanings of perfume, light and colour, exploring the world in a series of striking images, and juxtaposing them in unexpected ways to reveal at the end a ‘bigger picture’ that was always there, only hidden.’

The 22 poems published together allow me to see what interests me most in terms of form and technique. For example, I love lists and the idea of ‘list as litany’ and there are a couple of poems that are just lists of objects, but these objects take on a special significance, a near-sacredness even. In “Death in a French Garden”, the bottles of medicine are metonyms of a mysterious death. We don’t see what happens, only what remains after the event. “My grandmother’s things” is a list of things belonging to her that I have kept and which now act as aides-memoire. In making these lists, I’m writing about what’s tangible and visible as a way of talking about what’s intangible and invisible.
There are a couple of poems based on Greek myth/Biblical characters. I have always been fascinated by the Orpheus myth and every poet has to write a poem about him, don’t they? Orpheus’ ‘mistake’ lies in his desire, which leads him to see and possess Eurydice when he is only destined to sing about her. Only in song does Orpheus have power over Eurydice, but he loses Eurydice because he desires her beyond the power of the song, and he loses himself too. “Nefertiti” is a very earthy poem about sights, sounds and the smell of: ‘neroli, of oris butter,/ the roots of iris-floral,/ obscenely fleshy, like the odour/ beneath a breast or between buttocks.’

Some poets whose style and subject matter are close to my own heart are: Wallace Stevens, Sylvia Plath, Ian Hamilton. More recently: Pauline Stainer, Michael Symmons Roberts, Marion Tracy. And whichever way you turn, there is always TS Eliot. Short poems work best for me. I love the super-condensation of a short lyric or imagist poem. Short dense poems can expand your mind in every direction and the shorter the poem is, the more expansive it is. For me, that’s what David Burnett was getting at when he said,
‘Prose adds. A poem multiplies.’

You can find further details here
http://richardskinner.weebly.com/terrace.html
@RichardNSkinner

Review – The Chelsea Flower Show Massacre – by Mark Fiddes

I took my time with the work of Mark Fiddes.
I read and re-read, and then allowed it to percolate for a while.
The recipe seems to be this:

Take a pan of social commentary
Add a cup of literary allusion
and sprinkle with essence of wry

Then reduce over a low flame until it turns to gold
Turn the gold over
It is stamped
Precision

This is precise work without being delicate. It certainly carries a weight of meaning in a small space. The language is modern and the punctuation a necessary afterthought. The work is heavy with intent and the word choices careful, and yet, none of this gets in the way of the narrative.

This is intelligent, multi-layered modern Poetry and should be read.

It isn’t perfect, which is almost a relief, and there is in places an emphasis on waste which won’t appeal to everyone. But this is clever, deep and engaging. You can’t ask much more from a first collection.

The Chelsea Flower Show Massacre will be launched at Keats House by Templar Poetry on the 17th March 2015, and is the winner of the annual iShot Award. You can find more information at the sites below.

http://www.templarpoetry.co.uk
http://www.iotamagazine.co.uk
@fiddesmark
@KeatsHouse