Next Salon Discussion

First Tuesday current affairs discussion - Tuesday 6 February 7:00pm start

Tuesday 6th Feb: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion

We'll discuss a couple of topical issues in the news

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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Manchester book reviews

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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Manchester book reviews

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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Manchester book reviews

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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Manchester book reviews

Glass is Elastic by Jon Glover

Glass is Elastic by Jon Glover

Publisher: Carcanet Press, 128 pages

Reviewed by Denis Joe July 2012

 

I first came across Jon Glover’s work a few years ago with the collection Magnetic Resonance Imaging. It was a collection that joined a trend of poetry publications at the time, which included Maurice Riordan and Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s Dark Matter: Poems of Space. Of course using Science as a theme for poetry is nothing new, John Donne’s poetry is testimony to that, and one can even go back as far as Lucretius’ On The Nature Of The Universe.

 

The drawback to creating thematic genres of poetry is that the theme becomes the primary concern rather than the poetry itself, which can be a drawback if you create a narrowed audience. For someone who has done so much for the poetry in this country, and is one of the few real artisans (who I would rate along with Geoffrey Hill, for the real workmanship that goes into their poetry), being seen for autobiographical or propagandist dabblers that populate much of the poetry scene in Britain, would be a grave mistake.

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Manchester book reviews

Weirdo. Mosher. Freak by Catherine Smyth

Weirdo. Mosher. Freak. by Catherine Smyth

The Murder of Sophie Lancaster

Reviewed by Simon Belt June 2012

 

From the outset, this book is direct and down to earth. It reports the violent assault, in their local park in the early hours of Saturday 11 August 2007, on Sophie Lancaster and Rob Maltby from the Lancashire town of Bacup, the subsequent court case and development of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Sophie never recovered from her injuries and her life support machine was turned off on Friday 24 August 2007. Aged just 20, Sophie suffered her fatal injuries while cradling her boyfriend Rob’s head in an attempt to protect him from the cowardly assault which started on him. Although Rob was released from hosiptal the same day, his injuries have profoundly affected his life since. So what insights do we get from this book?

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Manchester book reviews

Apocrypha by Peter Clayfield

Apocrypha by Peter Clayfield

Reviewed by John Hutchinson February 2012

 

A recent local addition to the North West’s literary scene is a novel, Apocrypha, by local author, Peter Clayfield, if novel is the right description, for this is a disturbing and rather violent fantasy. In fact, it reads like a graphic novel or a novelised version of a computer game.


Apocrypha is really a science fiction novel and a thriller combined, set in the future after a catastrophic nuclear war has devastated the earth. Its central character, Damon Carter-Brown, is a young scientist who has discovered time travel whilst researching in America. Everything is going for him at the start of the novel. He is shown convincing a Senator to invest public money into his research, is recently married to the delectable Val and a future teeming with success awaits him.

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Manchester book reviews

Panic on a Plate

Panic on a Plate

by Rob Lyons (Societas Imprint Academic, 2011)

Reviewed by Richard Crawford February 2012

 

Rob Lyons tells us all to chillax about food in this short, wide-ranging polemic.

 

Approaching Panic on a Plate, I was looking forward to a dose of common sense and rational argument. Something along the lines of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science or Francis Wheen’s How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World. An antidote to food scares. The reality was more wide-ranging and more thought-provoking, but also less satisfying.

 

Lyons argues that, over the millennia, the big problem that humanity has had with its food is a lack of it. There was also the fact that it was usually the same boring thing, meal after meal. Now these problems are essentially solved and we are ignoring that achievement and instead making up new problems that have only a thin relationship with reality.

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Manchester book reviews

How to Direct a Play

How to Direct a Play: a Masterclass in Comedy, Tragedy, Farce, Shakespeare, New Plays, Opera, Musicals

by Braham Murray. Oberon Books, London, 2011

Reviewed by Dr Charlotte Starkey January 2012

 

A new book by Braham Murray, the fruits of his many years as a successful theatre director not least at The Royal Exchange in Manchester, is relevant to the interests of a number of groups: student dramatists, aspiring directors, designers, stage managers, in fact anyone directly involved in theatre; teachers of drama as a performance subject, teachers and lecturers and students of plays as texts both in school and university; and, most importantly, anyone who loves theatre and who loves reading a well-written narrative.

 

It is witty, anecdotal, informed, informative, intimate and frank. This is the work of a professional expert and Braham Murray’s account of ways to approach Shakespeare as a director (followed by a discussion of producing and directing Greek drama) is one of the best practical discussions of how to approach a Shakespeare play both as text and performance that one could find today. The book is not a bible in how to direct a play; it is one man’s account of what has, and has not, worked for him – a passionate, dedicated, lived and lively statement of what can happen when theatre is performing powerfully; and Murray believes deeply in the importance of theatre for the world beyond the stage.

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