Friday, 30 January 2015

Review: Enchantment by David Morley

Enchantment spins tales similar to Aesops Fables or the camp fire shadows of myths and legends. Beginning slowly, the collection focuses the readers attention on the finer details of the natural landscape; from Fresh Water in Oxford, Dragonflies 'Here be Darters, Skimmers, drawn flame. Here, are Dragonflies' a deconstruction of their wider context, the ancestry that is attached to the imagery.
       Morley follows the thread right from the beginning of the oral poetic tradition and blends this use of language with the printed page, in a way that is equally as fascinating read aloud as it is read. He moves through the language, blending the imagery of the natural world with personification to further blur the line between the true reality of nature and human interaction. In The Lucy Poem ' She can sense as much water/ in her breasts as in the earth' an image that links the human body to a body of water but at once distances them from each other.

     In the second section begins with Hedgehurst, where Morley takes the story of Hedgehurt from Duncan Williamson's Fireside Tales of the Traveller Children and develops it in his own style. He follows Hedgehurst, decoding his character and using Williamson's context to move into his next 'voice'. Through the intricate graphology at the end of Hedgehurst, it runs us through companions of the natural world and their companions, mimicking the companionship in humans.We see Morley's next step into the storytelling tradition, following the Romany traditions and stories. In Romany Sarah we begin with 'air for oars' calling upon the phonetic link to blend man made tools with the natural landscape.
      After this Morley moves fully into the Romany community, Nightingales links with his beautiful poetic imagery of the beginning.  Taking the reader finally on a journey through the circus, but again focusing the reader on one element of it. This series is intriguingly linked together by connecting language; at the end of Mashkár the Magician 'I am talking to the space where their eyes will tear into time' and the beginning of Saydimé the Strongman 'Tear into time?' This brings the reader full circle, linking the characters of the circus together into a bigger collective that moves the readers attention also from the Dragonfly of the initial poems and linking through to a vision of the world as a whole.
     Mythology, pulling together the natural world and humanity to a cohesive whole.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Review: Craving by Esther Gerritsen

I read this as my 'A book based entirely on its cover' for the 2015 Reading Challenge. I am quite easily pleased, so it was the curved edges of the book that were interesting for me.

I had a few disputes with the blurb of this translation from the Netherlander playwright. The book revolves around the disjointed relationship of Coco and her mother Elisabeth.  This is not simply an exploration of the Mother/Daughter relationship but also about the unraveling of a family and it's member and most notably the clash of mental unrest / illness in a household. This is all brought upon by Elisabeth's impending death.

I mentioned earlier that Gerritsen is a playwright, this shows through in her writing and the translation has picked up on that quickly. The dialogue in this novel is fantastic, and extremely poignant as the two main characters find it difficult to talk to one another and to express their true meaning. The dialogue is true to life, relateable and colloquial in a way that reflects it's original setting and language but is also accessible for the English language reader.

The use of flashback in the book is a brilliant tell of the characters, hindsight breeds multiple perceptions and the narrative switching between Coco and Elisabeth allows the reader to fill in the missing gaps as well as acknowledge the differences between each story. I came unstuck with the novel at the end, as Elisabeth is dying; always a sticky point for a writer as each reader has their own interpretation of the after-life. Elisabeth's description of passing is the most reliable narrative of the whole novel, once she is free of the pressures of her life and her own connotations.

Ultimately, this was a beautiful read. The translator has done a fantastic job of merging the two cultures, there is a visible seam between the two but it only adds to the creative mixture of this novel.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus! - Happy Saint. Dwynwen Day.

25th January is the Welsh Valentines day. Celebrating Saint Dwynwen, and her dedication to lovers. Stori Santes Dwynwen is fascinating and you can read a lot more of it on the BBC's website. Today I offer up a series of linked Englyn's, following in Robertson Davies' style, which you read more on here.

     In short Santes Dwynwen was the daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog, who fell in love with Maelon Dyfodrull. The two lovers planned to marry but Dwynwen's father forbade it. After this Dwynwen prayed to be let out of her love, and Maelon was turned into ice. As the story continues, an angel appears to Dwynwen and gives her three wishes. She wishes for Maelon to be free, that she will never marry, and that she could spend her life helping anyone in pain through love.
   Dwynwen goes on to establish many Christian churches, along with her sister Cain and her brother Dyfnan. Dwynwen's own church is off Anglesey, Llanddwyn, the remains of the church are still there and people still travel to it to pray to Dwynwen to help them with their love.
The Englyn is a short Welsh and Cornish poetic form, similar to that of the Haiku.

   Santes Dwynwen
Maelon, in your heart, do you still shiver,
from prayers icy dart
the angel of the river,
Brychan Brycheiniog's temper?

Maybe you dream, with me, at Llanddwyn,
a swollen memory
Angelsey, or an omen
of what we should have known, then.

But now you have gone, with Dyfnan and Cain,
and our sublime bygone,
to another place and time.
Here. I, mother to love's crime.


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Imagine the scene. I'm sat on a train for at least 4 hours, it's 7am and there's isn't enough coffee on board this train to keep me awake, nevermind if I could afford a single cup. Crack out John Green.

The Fault in Our Stars had been sitting on my shelf waiting for me to have a few hours to dedicate to it's charm. I've followed Vlog brother online for a few years on and off, and I've spent my fair share of time on tumblr, so I was already familiar with his style. What I wasn't prepared for was to sit in a carriage full of strangers as I laughed out-loud, sighed with happiness, sighed with sadness and actually cried.

If tumblr ever sprouts fingers, it'd write this novel. It is positively saturated in internet speak. In a similar way to A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Fault in our Stars submerges the reader in the modern world in a way that is honest and real. As a writer I often find it hard to equate the silent ring of a smart phone in my pocket to the vibrations of a lark in the morning sky. Somehow this novel achieves all of that and more.
      I work in secondary schools, and when I see children reading this I'm smugly proud as it managed to be poignant in a new, debilitating way and also be an easy read, this is a subtle novel that eases you in to some very deep poetically constructed scenes. Hazel in particular is a lovely round female character, yes she has her flaws but it is lovely to see how she reacts to the pressure of society around her, it comforts me to assume that these flaws are the work of self-aware writer and not accidental prejudices - such as the still perpetuated distinction between 'Boy' and 'Girl' activities. Knowing John Green's work I assume this is the strong voice of Hazel, to be honest, at times I hate Hazel. But these emotions are real, the connection I made to the characters is honest and involuntary.
    Initially I was skeptical of the longevity of the plot, but Green is well aware of where he is taking these characters - a long emotional roller coaster definitely lies ahead.  Unfortunately most of the best 'lines' and scenes are within the first half of the novel, as the plot speeds up the inevitable happens in an unsuspected way which is charming at best. by the latter half of the novel the novelty is wearing thin, common devices start to melt away, I'm glad the novel is around 300 pages, as any longer and I think it would have been grating. I am wary of reading more of Green's novels in case these are his show ponies in their entirety; but there is only one way to find out.

    I do think this is a modern masterpiece, it is beautiful to see writing mimicking real life and encouraging us to engage with it artistically. I haven't seen the film.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Review: another country: haiku poetry from Wales - Anthology

I love a good anthology. Or any anthology for that matter. My first exposure to most styles of writing is through anthologies, to get a taste for the way one theme can be interpreted by different writers, it's a beautiful thing. This accumulation of writers is no different.

another country brings together haiku's from all around Wales, some Welsh by birth, others choosing to settle in Wales, some influenced by Welsh culture that seeps through their writing.We learn a lot about the haiku from both experts and new comers in this collection. I was pleasantly surprised to find many examples of the haibun in this collection which pads it out even more. i particularly enjoyed In the Air by Lynne Rees (who's work shines brilliantly throughout the collection) which uses the haiku as flashbacks or snapshots within the prose, accentuating the character development; I also enjoyed Pilgramage to Pennant Melangell by Noragh Jones which again is a superb haibun, incorporating the welsh into the haiku passages which adds to the overall feeling of place, and is an interesting comparison for the haiku in both languages.

  The anthology is split into chapters, whereas this seems on the surface unnecessary thinking about it further the chapter names add to the traditional concept and conception of the haiku rather than as writing prompts; appealing to the ancestral nature of the traditional poetic forms.
Chapters include Age and Youth, Culture and Society, Memory and Imagination and Nature Observed amongst others. The poetry itself seems to flow out of these lines and merges into a collaborative effect at the strength of the haiku and traditional forms to fully realise modern life. some of  my favourite's from the collection are those in both Welsh and English, the contrast and comparisons between the forms aesthetic nature and lyricism is quite telling of the Welsh poetic tradition, such as Arwyn Evans offering :

cysgodion dail yn disgyn         Leaf shadows fall
i'r pwll disglair                         into the glistening pond
... gwrandawaf                          ... I listen

or some that play on common Welsh images, like Pamela Brown's

bright sunlight
through birch leaves -
fingers ripple the harp

or others that are, if anything, bereft of place, but rely heavily on sound,

frosty bark
   as I squint the Pleiades
of fox, cadno, fox, fox                                 *cadno = fox
Nigel Jenkins

Originally I wouldn't have thought much about the haiku in Wales but the gem of this anthology are the essays. They contextualize the works perfectly. The haiku actually seems like the most obvious choice for the Welsh writer, appealing to the obsession with language and lyrical addiction that is present in most Welsh writers, in the tradition of the Englyn, the prevailing tradition of the cynhanedd and the practice of dyfahu, the haiku is a fabulous form to bridge the gap often perceived in English language Welsh writing and Welsh writing as a whole.  The collection has spurred my interest into the history of Welsh poetry even more, so some of that will be showing through my work as the research continues

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Review: The Lilac Cellar by Diane Moore

2015 Reading Challenge. No, 37. A Book with a Colour in the Title.

Luckily my favourite element of this book in the title, it's a luscious placement of  delicate darkness, which throws the reader right into grip of the poetry. The collection is described as being 'situated in the complex film-like zone between extreme, pure reality - and only a dream...' and interesting description of reality as pure, that in fact in being pure it becomes abstract. The collection follows the narrator through a series of events from loves lost, motherhood, death and the familiar ups and down's of life.

The authors own introduction is an interesting concept of poetic.  Described as 'Poems of an anguished Winter, the expression of a woman's self-doubt, fifty days of immediate (non)-events and writing' setting the tone from the offset. Explicitly stating that the poems take place in non-events tricks the reader into finding events, from a writers perspective Moore is not using time specific triggered events as inspiration for her work, instead she is allowing the rollercoaster of her life to wash over her and out into her work. A Woman's self-doubt is another interesting concept, the poetry in this collection I would describe with feminine imagery, coming from a definite space of cultural stereotyping and oppression.

Noteable poems include Poem for Alla Pugacheva, opening with 'It is a melody played over a thousand times, / captured in the lilac mist / emerging from a metro station', which ties together a history of imagery with Ezra Pound's In a Station of the Metro. A synthetic journey through non-events. The use of colour in this collection is beautiful, such as 'my final tear of overdosed cyan' from Unearthed Love and Loss by using the cyan colour specifically it brings the language of photography or cinematography. The collection comes from a place of extreme reality in the sense that reality captured becomes hyperealistic.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

2015 Reading Challenge.

This year I will be taking part in the 2015 Reading Challenge that is doing the rounds on ye olde Facebooks. I have a few friends taking part as well, and have joined a few new forums for it so we'll see how that goes. If you fancy giving it a go here is the main guide.
   I will be doing one book per category, but know a few who are ticking multiple boxes. Reviews will appear on the blog sporadically of books that capture my attention in particular, otherwise mini-reviews will be put on my GoodReads account.

Good Luck!

Review: The Whole & Rain-domed Universe by Colette Bryce

An unintended trip to the local library saw me plucking this from the shelves. I'm slowly making my way through the poetry section and every poet there I haven't read yet. All of the credit must go to Wrexham Library who have an excellent selection of poetry, prose and non-fiction! *plays are lacking a smidge*

The unusual cover and the theme of rain brought me to this book - research for my own poetry in progress on Capel Celyn but more about that later. I'm extremely glad to pick this up; as with most books the blurb is often shrouded in mystery but this blurb says exactly what you'll find inside.

Bryce presents a 'personal reckoning' of her life, family, environment and culture that is raw and cutting in places, putting Derry and the Troubles into a tangible poetic force for the reader. I'm particularly bowled over by her sense of place and space, highlighting the limitations and possibilities that are constantly at work between the writer and their origins.

I was captured from the first poem, White  a beautiful quilt of poetry to swiftly pick up the reader in the folds of childhood, something we can all relate to, the importance of our development at this delicate stage speaks through 'the wordless place', which is a fascinating image for poetry, that does in fact convey up with words to a wordless space of images, scents, sounds and memory. The book more or less continues in chronological order, and I was pulled by the anchoring placement of some poems. After being conveyed to childhood Bryce takes us to Derry, a place that I have never been and hardly heard of, but paints a picture with very familiar colours, such as 'the sounds of crowds and smashing glass', it is the way that Bryce layers these images that make us feel at home.
      We move quite quickly to the Troubles with The Analyst's Couch and the 'Blood... / like HP sauce' - such familiar images to describe uunfamiliarevents envelops the reader into the time and place. Growing up in Wales I can pull elements from the text that reminds me of my own life, which is a sign of a very good poet, to involve the reader actively in the story telling, like in Don't speak to the Brits, just pretend they don't exist and 'a wasp stings him on the tongue/ 'Tongue' is what they call the Irish language', images and context such as this makes the poetry very isolating, internal reminders and quite painful times I can imagine, spun into words of silver.
     My absolute favourite poem of the book is one of the final ones, through quite a mature voice about a Mother A Simple Modern Hand, words taking the movement of writing and showing us that process. Crushing the hulk of words into dust that sings, the musicality in this poem with the 'mama - mama - emem - emem' dances from the page and moves the tongue in your mouth. The third section of this poem spells out the word Mother, forcing the reader to retrace their steps, like a reprieve in a song.
    The overall accomplishment of these poems is one tellingly very personal to the poet, the characters she involves, the family they may represent, the place becomes a person in it's own right and guides the reader through the lives of it's inhabitants. By the end you are welcomed in, to pick up a pint or a cup of tea and join in with the story telling.