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.
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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 the moors of northern England to the cities of Western Europe, the poplars of the Thames to the sands of the Nevada desert, the poems in Kidland rise from ancient landscapes to confront a society in denial about its relationship with nature, memory and destiny. On barrows and mountains, in yellow fields and green woods, Kidland offers up a radical, uncompromising vision of broken connections and darkening futures. Images, dreams and prophecies, human and inhuman, dominate the pages of Paul Kingsnorth’s debut collection, finding their fullest expression in the narrative title poem, in which reason meets wildness among the dark pines of the north, and certainties are broken like empty promises.
“Is there a poet writing in Ireland who feels so profoundly and knows more surely love’s obsessions, its piercing chronicles, its succour and sorrows than Anne Fitzgerald? The poems in Vacant Possession char the page, leaving their imprint, imperishable, unique.” – Frank McGuinness
“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
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.