Vicky Foster is one very capable writer and Bathwater is a very personal story. Using her own real-life experience of what happens when violence spills over into family life, Bathwater is a gripping, ever-twisting, often moving, somewhat shocking and often agonising piece of work. Rather than a cathartic over-share, however, Foster goes way beyond writing what she knows in order to craft something that is simultaneously hard-hitting and poetic. She has written a work of literary beauty, despite the harsh and uncomfortable subject matter, combining prose, poetry and dialogue.
This is as bold a line in the sand as a writer can make to announce their arrival. Given her enormous talent and ability to weave a piece of work so well, there’ll be plenty more to come from Foster’s experience-fuelled imagination as she strides, confidently, into the literary and poetic world.
This debut collection of poems by former Birmingham Poet Laureate Roy McFarlane explores love, loss, adoption and identity in powerful, precise and emotionally-charged poetry. From bereavement comes forth a life story in poems; the journey of sons, friends, lovers and parents, and all the moments of growing-up, discovery, falling in and out of love and learning to say goodbye that come along the way. Themes of place, identity, history, and race interweave personal narratives, with and poems that touch on everything from the ‘Tebbitt Test’ and Marvin Gaye to the Black Country, that ‘place just off the M6’. Distinct and memorable, McFarlane’s poems are beautifully focused, moving their readers between both the spiritual and the sensual worlds with graceful, rapturous hymns to the transformative power of love.
‘Being Alive’ is the sequel to ‘Staying Alive’, which became Britain’s most popular poetry book because it gave readers hundreds of thoughtful and passionate poems about living in the modern world. Now he has assembled this equally lively companion anthology for all those readers who’ve wanted more poems that touch the heart, stir the mind and fire the spirit. ‘Being Alive’ is about being human: about love and loss, fear and longing, hurt and wonder. ‘Staying Alive’ didn’t just reach a broader readership, it introduced thousands of new readers to contemporary poetry, giving them an international gathering of poems of great personal force, poems with emotional power, intellectual edge and playful wit. It also brought many readers back to poetry, people who hadn’t read poetry for years because it hadn’t held their interest. ‘Being Alive’ gives readers an even wider selection of vivid, brilliantly diverse contemporary poetry from around the world. A third companion anthology, ‘Being Human’ (2011), completes this modern poetry trilogy.
The teasing title poem of this book is about weather. Rain falls, wind cracks its cheeks as in Macbeth; the noises are drops like kisses falling, ‘fallen into birdsong on Mars’. What would it sound like, be like, to hear it? The poem wants to know what it can’t yet know. But as the book proceeds, the poet – on a human heath, tormented by loss – hears something like it, unearthly sounds on a planet without atmosphere, sound making quite another kind of sense.
Lupita and Genesis have just wasted a drug dealer, stolen his stash and hit the open road with a suitcase full of dirty money. Little do they know that their road trip will set them on a collision course with a side of America darker and weirder than any of them have ever known.
“You write what’s said, you don’t lie. Or say it didn’t happen when it did all the time…”
Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile is a novel inspired by the life and work of the Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar.
Best known for her classic black comedy Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Dunbar wrote three plays before dying at a tragically young age. This new literary portrayal features a cast of real and imagined characters set against the backdrop of the infamous Buttershaw estate during the Thatcher era.
A bittersweet tale of the north / south divide, it reveals how a shy teenage girl defied the circumstances into which she was born and went on to become one of her generation’s greatest dramatists. Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile is a poignant piece of kitchen sink noir that tells Dunbar’s compelling story in print for the very first time.
Adelle Stripe’s writing has been described as ‘a genuine breath of fresh air’. Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile is her keenly anticipated debut novel.
Moniza Alvi’s new book is unified by birds. Her creations ‘Motherbird’ and ‘Fatherbird’ are inspired by her parents, and by the loss of her father and by his emigration from Pakistan. Among the many bird-related poems are versions of the French poets Jules Supervielle and Saint-John Perse, and poems ‘after’ the paintings of the Spanish-Mexican surrealist artist Remedios Varo. Blackbird, Bye Bye is Moniza Alvi’s first new poetry book since her T.S. Eliot Prize-shortlisted collection At the Time of Partition, published in 2013.
The inner monologue of a woman haunted by German composer Arnold Schoenberg’s portrait, following a complex romantic encounter with an American-German pianist-composer in Berlin. As the irresistible, impossible narrator flies home she unpicks her social failures while the pianist reaches towards a musical self-portrait with all the resonance of Schoenberg’s passionate, chilling blue. A contemporary novel of angst and high farce, Blue Self-Portrait unfolds among Berlin’s cultural institutions but is more truly located in the mid-air flux between contrary impulses to remember and to ignore. In Blue Self-Portrait Noemi Lefebvre shows how music continues to work on and through us, addressing past trauma while reaching for possible futures.
There were once more than a thousand men and boys worked at Brandon Pithouse in County Durham. Today the site of the colliery is a green wilderness. John Seed has set out to recover the lost and silent world of Durham pitmen in the company of Walter Benjamin, Sid Chaplin and Charles Reznikoff. Composed of fragments of recorded speech, parliamentary reports and newspapers, Brandon Pithouse is a book about the experience of labour about the pain and danger of working underground, about the damage to the human body and about the human relationships created in such conditions. It is a study in the attachments and distances which shape our relationships to place and time, the negotiations required to reconnect ourselves to a world that ceased to exist in the 1990s. It is a set of notes for an unmade Eisenstein film and a footnote to chapter 10 of the first volume of Marx s Capital. And like any history, it is a ghost story.
From the nightmarish first story set in the South China Sea in 1946 to the final piece, set nowhere at the end of time, Brief Lives demonstrates in a short compass a huge range in technique and milieu and a unity of theme and sensibility. It opens naturalistically but is distinctly non-realist by the close. We meet an ex-collier in 1950 anguishing over whether to return to the pit, a young mother in the early 1960s quietly shepherding those around her through a bleak Christmas day, an industrial chemist in this century plunged into vortices of memories that cause him to question his grasp of the world, and more. Meredith’s fiction has been marked by its willingness to push at literary boundaries, and Brief Lives is no exception: it is an intense distillation of Meredith’s abiding concerns to explore how memory shapes the present and the present shapes memory, the interplay between beautifully realised individual lives and the wider historical process, and the paradox of simultaneous human isolation and community.
In Burying the Wren Deryn Rees-Jones returns to familiar preoccupations but with a new clarity and maturity of vision. With intense lyricism she calls on the Roethkean ‘small things’ of the universe — truffles, slugs, trilobites, birds, stones, feathers, flowers, eggs — which, mysterious, and magical as well as ordinary — she sets up against loss. Her sequence of ‘Dogwoman’ poems, which draws on the work of artist Paula Rego, is an extended elegy to her late husband, the poet and critic Michael Murphy. Above all these are poems of the body, “…the blue heartstopping pulse at the wrist”, which are alive to the world and the transformative qualities of love.
Byron and the Beauty is loosely based on Byron’s biography and takes place during two weeks of October 1809, during his now famous sojourn in the Balkans. Besides being a great love story, this is also a novel about East and West, about Europe and the Balkans, about travel and friendship and cruelty. Bazdulj marvellously combines facts with imagination, history and romance, resulting in an exceptionally beautiful novel. The author’s style has something of the subtle lyricism and chronicle-like tranquillity of his countryman Ivo Andric, but also a touch of the oriental baroque richness associated with Orhan Pamuk, making this a book which is both erudite and innovative, with a daring sense of humour.
Milner Place: Born 25/1/30… First job timber faller before doing National Service 1948/50… Some time at Agricultural College but opted out… worked as barman… managed farm and estate… got involved in horse racin… 1953… sailed to South Africa… worked as undergound surveyor copper mines… managed fruit farm…1955 returned to England to manage another farm, left and entered journalism…1958… sailed to new York …1958/61… Bahamas, did some surveying work. Bought a dinghy and learned to sail. Then a sloop, freighting and fishing… skippered for Burl Ives… took over yacht in Miami… returned to England… left for Majorca…Dec 1961… smuggling run to Algiers during war, cargo one man… Supplemented income by smuggling money from England for Brit living abroad…1962… took over staysail schooner, working Balearics and wintered yacht in Ibiza…spent time in Bilboa and Madrid…Sailed to Italy, left Autumn 1963…wintered Madrid…1964…bought sloop and summered Burnham-on-Crouch…1965…took job as captain of ketch built in Holland and sailed her to Lisbon…met Count of Barcelona and his son (now King of Spain). Wintered in Gibraltar and Tangiers, then to Cadiz and Seville…back to Lisbon where did several ocean races with Count of Barcelona…quit job with ketch and sailed with Count for England…1966 Autumn…sailed own sloop to Bordeaux and via Canal du Midi to Toulouse…left for Denmark to convert a working trading schooner to a yacht… 1967…sailed same to Malta to effect conversion…did a delivery to Greece (minus keel)…August 1968 quit job and returned Spain…then France to pick up own sloop…lost it off Spanish coast, wandered round Andalucia, returned London courtesy of consular services…back to Malta to do honeymoon charter for couple, sailing to Tunisia via Lampedusa…1969…employed as consultant by Forte’s International Hotels on projects in Sardinia and Greece…left for Ecuador for job as consultant Tourist Investments S.A…9 months organizing marlin fishing fleet, Punta Carnero…left for Peru under threat of charge of Piracy, consultancy work on Manu River project, others in Brazil and Panama…1971… England and then Grand Canary, where scratched a living as a photographer…1973…took off for Mexico to write unsuccessful novel…1976…moved to Majorca now with partner, Dorothy and stepson Paul…1977 first poems published in Spanish…trip to Canada – hashish smugglers – didn’t…1979/82…Boroughbridge, N.Yorks… worked as petrol station attendant, filling shelves at supermarket, night-watchman and running a B&B…1982/87… ran hotel in Alston, Cumbria until bankrupt…Jan 1987…came to Huddersfield, went to workshops, became sort of poet.
John Hartley Williams’s Canada explores a country of the mind, where whatever mania comes to mind becomes its own reality, and writing happens automatically. In Canada, poems arrive out of the ether like the fabled, lantern-jawed Mountie coming to the rescue out of nowhere. Others are on their way back into the ether, transmissions from the brain of an uneasy redman. These are poems which make you feel like the hairs on a pony’s neck. Canada opens in the backwoods of autobiography and narrative, then reports crisply on the alarums of sex and desire. After crossing the frontier, a final coda blows innocence off the map for good and all. Shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize 1997.
Phil Woods takes a deliberately unacademic approach to Chaucer’s great work, while at the same time retaining the original’s sense of fun, chivalry and satire in this updated version. This Canterbury Tales has been acclaimed by audiences and critics throughout the country (including the West End)) and has been produced by countless professional and amateur theatre companies. The text had been out of print for some years but is now brought back into publication by IRON Press.
Centenary Selected Poems marks the poet’s 100th birthday and is the first book to reveal the full range of his poetry. All his natural and invented voices speak here – animals, inanimate objects, dramatic monologues by famous, imaginary and anonymous people – in all sort of forms and styles – sonnets, science fiction constructions, concrete poetry, sound poems, his own invented stanzas – together with his evocations of place, in particular his inexhaustible home city of Glasgow. They all illustrate his incurable curiosity and a kind of relentless optimism for humanity.
As if convinced that all divination of the future is somehow a revisioning of the past, Kwame Dawes reminds us of the clairvoyance of haunting. The lyric poems in ‘City of Bones’ constitute a restless jeremiad for our times, and Dawes’s inimitable voice peoples this collection with multitudes of souls urgently and forcefully singing, shouting, groaning, and dreaming.
From well-known and award-winning authors-including Bernardine Evaristo, Fred D’Aguiar, and Leone Ross-to previous unpublished writers, this ambitious and intriguing anthology of short stories showcases each author’s most challenging work. These works from writers who are happy to describe themselves as Black British, have a rich variety of styles, forms, and themes, from raw realism, the erotic, and elegant economy, to the fanciful, humorous, and the tender.
The contributors to Closure display a keen awareness of the short story form in all its contemporary possibilities as a way of telling and finding a form for the writer’s vision. These are stories about the ways in which we do and do not love, unrequited yearnings, the quiet and often hidden violence in our lives, moments of epiphany, and the precious occasions of jubilation and uplift.
passed are not.
When childhood friends meet again to reminisce and compare scars a fresh wound waits just around the corner. One rainy night at the wrong end of town, and a pub crawl along Memory Lane takes a hard right down a dark dead end in Barney Farmer’s second novel, Coketown.
Seventeen tales, whittled down from a total of almost 200 submitted from writers both established and unknown, bring a selection both paying homage to the tradition of the ghost story and placing it frmly in the context of our own times. Thus, ghosts appear on football terraces, from cancer wards, on the ﬂoor of TV shows, on the late night service bus, over a Sunday dinner and at a supermarket checkout. Authors include Wendy Robertson, Kitty Fitzgerald and Beda Higgins plus a host of promising new writers.
John Anthony Burgess Wilson (1917-93) was an industrious writer. He published over fifty books, thousands of essays and numerous drafts and fragments survive. He predicted many of the struggles and challenges of his own and the following century.
Burgess’s most famous book is A Clockwork Orange (1962), later adapted into a controversial film by Stanley Kubrick. The linguistic innovations of that novel, the strict formal devices used to contain them, and its range of themes are all to be found too in Burgess’s poetry, an area of his work where he was at once most free and most experimental. His flair for words, formal discipline, experimentalism, and fondness for variousness mark every page.
This beautifully intricate collection betrays a gimlet eye for detail and a huge passion for the tiny dramas of everyday life. Kath McKay’s dense and fragmentary lines wind themselves around the subconscious, recounting the quiet firestorms that fuel human relationships and the seismic reverberations that can often ensue.
A brave, exciting and adult collection that entertains with wit, shocks with frankness, and engages both intellect and emotion. Richly varied, it ranges from extended stories to intense pieces of flash fiction. Stories may be set in realistic settings – but develop magical narrative twists that make us see all afresh. Others begin in fantasy – returnees from the dead, a man who finds discarded hymens – but are so skilfully realist we can only believe in their actuality.
Choman Hardi’s Considering the Women explores the equivocal relationship between immigrants and their homeland – the constant push and pull – as well as the breakdown of an intermarriage, and the plight of women in an aggressive patriarchal society and as survivors of political violence. The book’s central sequence, Anfal, draws on Choman Hardi’s post-doctoral research on women survivors of genocide in Kurdistan. The stories of eleven survivors (nine women, an elderly man and a boy child) are framed by the radically shifting voice of the researcher: naïve and matter-of-fact at the start; grieved, abstracted and confused by the end. Knowledge has a noxious effect in this book, destroying the poet’s earlier optimistic sense of self and replacing it with a darker identity where she is ready for ‘all the good people in the world to disappoint her’. Hardi’s second collection in English ends with a new beginning found in new love and in taking time off from the journey of traumatic discovery to enjoy the small, ordinary things of life. ‘The courage of this book – her refusal to to be daunted by the context of its cataclysmic scale – is impossible to ignore and perhaps the book’s principal driving force. Such fortitude is at its most tangible in the book’s focal sequence, Anfal… The horror of the subject matter is counterbalanced by the humility of her poems. Humility is a rare commodity among poets but Hardi, in her economy of utterance, yields not an inch to the showy, exploitative or sensational. The language is trimmed back, its wings clipped, its phrase-making curfewed… genocide requires its own poetry of witness, but also the sort of plain speaking integrity which inheres in Considering the Women… Choman Hardi is no tourist poet, or well meaning writer in residence in a women’s prison: she is chronicler of catastrophe, and gives up all her talent to the subject, all her tact; it feels like an act of sacrifice.’ – Tim Liardet & John Burnside, Poetry Book Society Bulletin ‘Another contender for this year’s Forward poetry prize, Kurdish writer and translator Choman Hardi’s collection Considering the Women explores the eternal push and pull relationship between immigrants and their homeland(s), as well as considers the plight of women in a patriarchal society and as survivors of political violence. An important voice now more than ever, Hardi brings us closer to the experiences of those for whom we all too often assume to speak.’ – The Skinny (Best Summer Reads) ‘At a time when the British media is full of the terrible results of events in the Middle East… Choman Hardi’s poetry puts us directly among the people living and suffering through it all, hearing their voices and sharing their experiences….There are any number of places in the school curriculum where this poetry would prove illuminating, and it really should be read.’ – Frank Startup, The School Librarian ‘Considering the Women is impressive in the sense that it leaves its dent upon the reader. I came away from my first reading dizzied, imbalanced and ashamed in a way which I have not felt since first encountering the work of Primo Levi. The collection delivers snatched fragments of the Kurdish story to an Anglophone audience and enacts the uncomfortable yoking of an adopted nationality with fading memories of a crumbling homeland. The grainy footage of barren Middle-Eastern landscapes which make cameos in UK news reports are hereby superseded, through Hardi, by the unflinching force of human testimony.’ – Phil Brown, The Huffington Post
CCTV cameras, TV recording equipment, microphones, all capturing and recording events in peoples lives. In today’s Big Brother world, these constant intrusions are at once a threat and a comfort – moments would be lost forever without surveillance. Tim cumming tells of events caught on camera as they happen to disparate protagonists, seemingly at random, but which dissolve into one another as they loose partners, jobs, identities and belief. “Contact Print” is set in a traffic jam on the Holloway Road in London. Its hero is Tony Harris, who is seen driving away for the last time from his married girlfriend’s house into a traffic snarl-up, a demo, a pub, a maze of memories, the city or the city itself, repeating itself to the horizon, which finally swallows him up. Along the way we are treated to arresting images of urban life, from the kidnapping of a junior minister to doing smack in the toilets of Paddington station. This is a world of personal and political instability, captured with photographic accuracy.
Tim Cumming’s poems have been published widely in Britain and America, and he writes regularly for The Guardian and The Independent. His work has been broadcast on BBC radio and TV, and he has featured in the New Voices season at the South Bank. He lives and works in London.
The thread connecting the tales in ‘Corksucker‘ is the years Fante spent as a cab driver and self loathing alcoholic in the pitiless sunshine of Los Angles. All of the anger and rage of the novels are here, yet the format of the short story allows him to shift focus away from Fante as anti-hero and focus on the bizarre and damaged characters who come in and out of his orbit: the sad, petty, spiteful alcoholic doorman known as Wifebeater Bob, the beautiful, grief-crazed, tragic Mrs. Randolph and most memorably the smacked-out, fast talking, amoral Libby who along with his girlfriend Niggabitch and their insatiable pet boa constrictor form the nucleus of one of the collections stand out stories – the outrageous, ghoulish black comedy ‘Princess.’
Cornrows and Cornfields is a heartfelt journey from the childhood fields of Indiana to the glittering metropolis of Chicago. Spinning together memory, popular culture and personal politics, celeste doaks makes words dance, weep, wail and sing – often in the space of just a couple of lines. This sublime collection of delightfully bold and vivid poems burn upon the mind’s eye long after the final page is turned.
Courting Katie explores tenuous notions of what it means to be Irish. This is a collection about drunken nights, about cranes, outbound flights, and confirmation parties. Situated within a range of pre- and post-Celtic Tiger contexts, it examines social and cultural crises, both local and national. These poems engage with the experience of Ireland, not simply in a grandiose manner, but through the individual, and the many disappointments that have been suffered on this island.
From a sapient pig to human extinction, syphilis to broken bones, a woman who births rabbits to changelings in the crib, this collection explores the full range of human fallibility as well as the eternal quest for hopefulness.
Cures is filled with strange characters: volcanic women, a rat catcher on the brink of retirement, a bonesetter, a drunkard, a mermaid; the collection is brimful with both the uncanny and the familiar, exploring the joys of parenthood, the folly of dissipation and reflecting on lives lived – mixing words in search of a tonic.
Robert Peake’s second full collection of poems is about weathering storms—personal, political, psychological—in our present-day climate of chaos. These are matters of life or death, and Cyclone urges us to consider what the ill wind may bring, and how we will survive it. Peake’s acutely tuned poems bring eloquence and urgency to matters of profound devastation. With shattering delicacy, he writes of personal loss, of grief and the long aftermath; “whenever the wind sprays into my face, I taste salt of your absence”. These poems also hazard an eye at the global weather and find a world in turmoil, wild with unreliable news and terrible forecasts. Manifesting between the storms is the man with the kindest face. Is he here to save us or warn us? A guide or a harbinger? As these brilliantly-visioned poems suggest, nothing is certain in the eye of the storm. Nevertheless, there is some form of consolation and rescue: “He seems at home in this tempest. He seems happy”.
Born into slavery on a U.S. plantation in 1759, Daniel has no experience of life beyond the boundaries of his masters’ land until an event occurs which changes his life forever. Daniel is cast out of the plantation into a hostile world. He embarks on a journey which will span continents, test his courage and endurance to the limit and expose him to the horror of the slave trade.
Daniel’s experience as a crew member of a slave ship is so profound that he becomes determiend to campaign for the abolition of the UK slave trade. In doing so, he adds his voice to those of the great reformers of the age, inclduing Thomas Clarkson and the great William Wilberforce.
Daniel’s story is testimony to the resilience of the human spirit and how one man can make a difference. As we approach the anniversary of the abolition of slavery act, Daniel’s story reminds us of the determination and fortitude of those who brought about that change and continue to inspire us.
Doris Kareva is one of Estonia’s leading poets, admired especially for poems that balance precision and control with passion and bravado. Her achievement, according to Estonian Literature, is in writing poems which are both ‘plentiful and fragile like a crystal… balancing on the line between the human soul and the universe, between sound and silence’. Days of Grace spans over forty years of her poetic output, showing how the sustained depth and clarity of her poetry lies in her ability to create ambiguity and suggest harmony at the same time, with a multiplicity of meanings generating the opposite of clarity: a form of hinting which at its most illuminating becomes utterly oracle-like. Such is the metaphysical sensitivity of her poetry that its moral charge is sensed almost physically. She has also been called ‘a priestess of love’ who is fearless as well as discreet in her portrayal of love that is so ‘pure and elevating like mountain air’ that she seems to be writing from another time or dimension.