Assembly Lines asks what it means to be here and now, in post-industrial towns and cities of the heartlands that are forever on the periphery. From schools and workplaces and lives lived in ‘a different town, just like this’, these poems take a historical perspective on the present day from the ground upwards – whether the geological strata that underpins a ‘dithering island’ or the ever-moving turf under a racehorses’ hooves. This is a new Midlands realism, precision-engineered, which seeks wonderment in unlikely places. By turns both fierce and tender, the poems in Jane Commane’s first book-length collection re-assemble the landscape, offer up an alternative national curriculum and find ghosts and strange magic in the machinery of the everyday. Between disappearances and reformations, the natural and the man-made, the lines are drawn; you might try to leave your hometown, but it will never leave you.
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.
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.
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 body is the ‘bad machine’ of George Szirtes’ latest book of poems. The sudden death of his elderly father and of his younger friend, the poet Michael Murphy, remind him how machines – sources of energy and delight in their prime – go so easily wrong; and that change in the body is a signal for moving on. But language too is a body. Here, politics, assimilation, desire, creatureliness and the pleasure and loss of the body, mingle in various attenuated forms such as lexicon, canzone, acrostics, mirror poems, postcards, and a series of ‘minimenta’ after Anselm Kiefer whose love of history as rubble and monument haunts this collection. George Szirtes is one of our most inventive – and constantly reinventing – poets, and Bad Machine shows him developing new themes and new ways of writing in poems which stretch the possibilities of form and question language and its mastery.
“This imagination creates a mystery you can’t paraphrase. Poems put things, or create things, in a place where they, and we, have never quite been before. A concise, mysterious language alters things. The result is a wonderful fidelity to the way things may be imagined, which also suggests it might just also be the way things are, once altered, re-imagined and imaginatively transformed.” John Brown Poet/writer, Northern Ireland