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Manchester book reviews
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Manchester book reviews

The Swerve by Julith Jedamus

The Swerve by Julith Jedamus

Publisher: Carcanet Press, 80 pages

Reviewed by Denis Joe August 2012

 

There are those who think that that as long as you can write then you can compose poems. Novelists and other prose writers have turned their hand to poetry on many occasions - Raymond Carver and Jorge Luis Borges are two of the most successful - but on the whole, prose writers don’t really hack it as poets. James Joyce’s Pomes Penyeach is among some of the worst poetry ever published, for example.

Julith Jedamus’s previous publication was the novel The Book of Loss, and Swerve is her debut collection of poetry. I first came across one of her poems when it featured in The New York Times, in May 2011. The Drowning of Drenthe, which appears in this collection, is a wonderful poem that takes us from the physical journey and age, through nine tercets. Some of the rhyming may strike some as clichéd (‘The linseed mill with icy arms,/The whitewashed churches purged of charms’) but I think that Jedamus shows a great deal of artistry. The simplicity gives us a sense of wonderment, almost child-like. There is a nursery rhyme feel to the poem. The final stanza - the denouement – seems to confirm a feeling of awe:

The past is new, the future old;
Who can say now what rhymes are told
In this drowned world?

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Manchester book reviews

Sit Down! Listen to This! by Bill Sykes

Sit Down! Listen to This!

The Roger Eagle story by Bill Sykes, published by Empire

Reviewed by Charlotte Starkey August 2012

 

Sit Down! Listen to This! by Bill Sykes is a fascinating book for many reasons. It is mesmeric for those born during the Second World War or thereabouts and who remember The Twisted Wheel in both its venues in Manchester and/or Eric’s in Liverpool and for those who know ‘Northern Soul’ and its origins. It is a compilation of interviews, reminiscences with some of the friends and acquaintances of Roger Eagle, and with Roger Eagle’s own account in interview. It tells a story of the music clubs of Manchester and Liverpool for well-nigh thirty years until Roger Eagle’s death in 1999 at the age of fifty six. Specifically it is a story about Roger Eagle himself, placing him at the centre of the key musical developments in Manchester and Liverpool from the 60s to the late 80s: his amazing record collection, his influential contacts with musicians from Britain and America, the clubs in which he worked, which he came to run.

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Plague Lands and other poems by Fawzi Karim

Plague Lands and other poems by Fawzi Karim

Versions by Anthony Howell after translations by Abbas Kadhim

Publisher: Carcanet Press, 160 pages

Reviewed by Denis Joe July 2012

 

Poetry does not deal with history but with myth . . . A poet has to neglect historical time and go beyond it.
[Fawzi Karim]

 

A few years ago I came across a handful of Fawzi Karim’s poems which had been translated into English by Saadi Simawe and Melissa Brown (in Banipal No 19, 2006) and Michael Glover (in The International Literary Quarterly, May 2009). I was immediately struck by the voice of the poems. There was no attempt at protest but the works captured a feeling of a world being torn apart, much more so than Owen or Sassoon or even the works of the early Modernists. So this first collection in English of Karim’s poetry is most welcome.

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Adropiean Galactic Lego Set Blues by Fat Roland

Adropiean Galactic Lego Set Blues by Fat Roland

Pages: 84, available from Italic Eyeball Shop

Reviewed by Denis Joe July 2012

 

There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.
[Salvador Dali]

 

There is a long tradition of surrealism in Britain, the works of Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear being prime examples. One could also include the last two novels of James Joyce. In the twentieth century, surrealism gained a wider audience through radio and TV shows such as The Goon Show and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Whereas one can detect an element of snobbery, knowingness, in much of this type of entertainment, in later years a more Absurdist take would develop, with the popularity of Vic Reeves or The League of Gentlemen and a near rejection of rationalism, where we respond because we are made to feel unsure about what it is we are experiencing.

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Full Blood by John Siddique

Full Blood by John Siddique

published by Salt Publishing, pps. 112

Reviewed by Denis Joe July 2012

 

Full Blood is one of the most exciting collections of British poetry I’ve come across in the last few years. John Siddique stands apart from the much of the poetry scene in Britain that, with a few exceptions, seems to be dominated by crude confessionalism and even cruder moralism. Here Siddique presents us with poems that call on his life for inspiration. Whether about childhood or adulthood, Siddique’s poems draw you into experiences rather than places in time.

 

The group of poems under the title The Knife are a case in point. The opening poem, National Front, begins rather blandly:

Their mouths full of fire and alcohol;
they patrol the town; night and weekends

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