This is poetry born of Ireland and all its beautiful contradiction. There are few places in the world where Christianity, Paganism and Mythology collide with such force and rain their colours into the literature. With the poet we walk the boundary between the seen and the unseen, the known and the unknown. We walk on the water and between two worlds. There is wonder in both and fear in both. And there is an anxiety here that a sideways step will lead to an unintended crossing. The battle is between the old gods and the oldest God, creator, creature and land. And always we return to the water, the point of passage.
The poet uses her understanding of form to isolate and highlight the uncanny. She draws out the emotion of fear and turns it over and over in her hands, looking deeply into it for truth, however that comes. Truths that are sometimes easier to see with the eyes of a child. Remembered knowing. We learn that strong does not mean never lost, that adult does not mean fully grown. She turns over the experience of endings and leaves them open and questioning.
This is poetry of the boundary. This is poetry of balance, of gain and loss, afraid and unafraid of pain. The poet has a gentle gift for repetition that sings her intentions into each poem. The structure is precise and studied but at no point does it overwhelm or even distract from the message.
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:
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
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.
Lach can turn a beautiful line of poetry with the same cavalier indifference that he applies to his musical asides. The strange thing is – I don’t think that he knows that.
This is a transitional collection.
You can chart the journey from the conversation of music to the music of language, from song lyric to lyricism.
In places the autobiographical accents of Betjeman meet the curl of TS Eliot, but the driving force is pure Lach. It screams “What the hell are we doing?” and follows that immediately with a “What the hell am I doing?”
It is unsteady in places.
And Lach, like the rest of us, is a much better poet when he isn’t consciously trying to write “A poem”. There are a couple of unfortunate lines but only a couple and that is rare in an initial collection. There is a firm understanding of rhythm and cadence, voice and pause, which you would expect from a musician. There is a great deal of good here with a flourish of the outstandingly beautiful.
I look forward to the next collection.
If this is what maturity does to Anti beat heat,
I’m good with it.
I’m a writer currently living in Middle England. I am taking time this year to write a collection of twelve short stories.
I have a great and very patient Editor. I hold an Honours Degree in Applied Human Psychology and I tend not to talk about myself very much mostly because I put all the interesting things on the page, and when you have done that what is there left to say?
I read a great deal and widely. I’m currently listening to a lecture series on Plato’s Republic because, well, I haven’t before. I think it’s important to always be learning and growing.
I enjoy writing and I try to make each piece better than the last.
The English language has built over time and has rules of construction; just as any other builder has to follow a code, the writer should be able to don their hard hat and survey their handiwork. Kick the foundations and see if it wobbles.
In order to do this effectively the writer needs a good and up to date understanding of the rules. I recommend a yearly tune-up with a good grammar.
Of course, there are times when the correct use of grammar is simply incorrect, such as when we represent everyday speech.
Speech follows a whole different set of social rules,
Ya get me blud?
No one said you have to follow the rules all the time but it’s more fun to break them what you know are there.
I have never been gifted with telling the future but there is one certainty that confronts each of us, things change. The changes that have been happening in the world of publishing over the last five years have thrown hopes and expectations into the air and we are all still waiting for them to land. We are coming to terms with new technology. Any advance has positive and negative implications for those working in the industry but the movement towards digital self-publishing has changed things in a way no-one anticipated. There is a great deal of discussion around the relevance of publishing houses in this new brave world. Things change.
Insecurity often makes people feel that they have to make a decision, take a stand, have a firm opinion. We like to know what we know, you know.
Well, I know one thing. I fully support any and all means of championing the written word. We need more writing of a good quality. Traditional publishers have always been driven by the bottom line to produce work which will sell to the masses. Often the sale of such works supports the development of more literary projects. I doubt this will change. Self publishing will produce a vast quantity of lower quality work it is true but it will also give an opportunity to the gifted to produce breathtaking work of literary beauty without having to rely on a publisher’s previous sales of Diary of the Stig part 2.
Low or lower quality work is no threat to the publishing industry and those authors who produce excellent work will earn their stripes before submitting to publishing houses. Editors will include the banner headline ” Why aren’t you selling? ” on their websites and the world will continue to turn. Wordsmiths will continue to produce the words. We monkeys will make magic.
Sometimes it’s good to remember that no matter how big the change the important things stay the same.
Isn’t that the basic premise of fiction? I spend all of my days writing about people who don’t do the things I say and certainly aren’t in the places I mention. Usually they aren’t even real people. In fact I am a great big “Liar liar pants on fire” most of the time.
The funny thing is that amongst all the fibs, of which there are many, the thing I am searching for is the truth. The truth of what it means to be human. The truth and mechanics of relationships. To engage a reader in a story you have to find the spark of recognition, the place where a reader realises yes I know this, I have lived this, this man is like me.
In order to get to that place your writing has to remain true to your character. Are you trying to make a person behave in a way they simply wouldn’t? Does it ring true? You see people really don’t step outside their normal range of behaviour unless they are placed in extreme circumstances and even then it is unusual.
So figure out what your character’s usual reactions would be and then you will know if you step outside them. If you are going there, do it with purpose and conviction. There are times when you can use this fact to advantage but it must be with a character your audience knows very well and I think possibly several books into a series just to shake up the pace. Part of the truth behind people is that we do things for certain reasons; sometimes we don’t know the reason, sometimes we have some insight. We are complicated and understanding and using complicated characters to get to the truth is just about the highest goal of literary fiction.