Claire Booker reviews ‘Mahler’s Hut & Other Accommodations’ by Alan Price

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Which of us hasn’t yearned for an artist’s hut – that womb like space in which to delve for truths? Gustav Mahler’s little chalet in the Vienna Woods peeps out from between fir trees on the cover of Alan Price’s newest pamphlet. Mahler himself emerges from this sequence of poems as a wounded creator, an épateur of the Viennese bourgeoisie, a man of clay (and hemorrhoids), a traveller into the land of the dead.
“You foolishly entered the summer hut/ to write music you imagined was pure./ Such discipline working the long musical line.”
Price understands how, for the creative artist, life is a struggle between vision and execution. His finely worked poems attempt to fathom the creative impulse. In ‘By the Forest’s Eye’, he depicts the uneasy symbiosis of nature and art through the medium of the great god Pan, who observes Mahler at work on his 3rd Symphony:
“I’ve listened to your tones. Now hear what nature/ tells me. Bird, animal, insect, flower, tree march/ to my soul, ascend the ladder. You were created/ in the last hatch of my brain. You’ve seen the origin of the chain. If you climb up I’ll count the parts./ Sometimes a limb, petal, wing is broken. All flaws/ hurt my generative eye.”
There is a touching poem about infant mortality (Mahler lost five brothers) containing the exquisite lines: “The pips of those lost hearts/ planted in music of tempting fruit./ God’s bells chiming for the falling apples./ The voice of the orchard angel praising/ your orchestration.”
Each of the Mahler sequence of poems relates to an individual symphony. In ‘Felling of the Tree’, Price brings life and musical composition into powerful resonance. Mahler’s triple loss of his young daughter, his position at the Opera House and his health found their way into his Symphony no 6: 
“A propulsion of every right note to the right disaster./ A ‘love of fate’ imagining five hammer blows./ An ear for structure and sanity reducing them to three. . . ./ Falling like an axe with a Mahler cry.”
Price makes connections seemingly effortlessly: “The black sky pours down/ its hoard of grotesquery” on the lake “as Mahler insanely rows.”  “Goethe keeps shouting/ the eternal feminine.” “The darkness falling when abandoned/ The giddy way you waltz to the ditch.” He is like an artist applying layer after layer of brush work to build up tone and texture. He is not averse to sly wit either. In ‘Requiem for an Atheist’, the profligate Berlioz demands twenty cymbals for his orchestra:
“Far too expensive for a requiem,/cried The Ministry for the Interior./ At its premiere only six were used,/ the minister counted them.”
The second, shorter section, of Mahler’s Hut, is an eclectic mix of stand-alone poems. The three most affecting are prose poems. In ‘The Work’, a female librarian’s life has been fragile: “The nose-bleeds, the ridiculed red hair, mutterings of shame/ about her size, the school attacks and her hard-won pride.”   The Cure’ cleverly fits form to content in a thumb-nail sketch of a stutterer. Most powerful of all, ‘The Dignity’ visits the territory of social class and aspiration, where the poet remembers a friend who has died of asbestosis:
“You are gone/ my beautiful maker of doors. Sometimes I can see you walking/ with that shoulder bag, your eyes alive to unconditional honour.”
Price’s poetry is erudite, but he wears his research lightly. His technical skills, which are impressive, only augment the humanity at the core of his search for truth. Price’s deft juxtaposition of the demotic and the mythic, the musical and the prosaic makes for a thrilling read. Mahler’s Hut will appeal to anyone who finds interesting questions more satisfying than easy answers.
Claire Booker’s debut poetry pamphlet Later there will be Postcards is published by Green Bottle Press ( Her poems have appeared in Ambit, Magma, Poetry News, The Rialto and the Spectator among others. More information at
You can order your copy of  Mahler’s Hut & Other Accommodations by Alan Price ( Original Plus) – price £3.60 here:

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Elisabeth Sennitt Clough reviews ‘Gaps’ by Jenny Danes





Gaps is the debut pamphlet from Jenny Danes, a winner of The Poetry Business New Poets Prize 2015/16. Comprised of 17 poems (23 pages of poetry), Danes’s pamphlet corresponds to the dictionary definition of ‘gaps’ as differences between views, situations, or ideas (Collins).

The following lines from the title poem encapsulate the self-conscious choreography of steps through each other’s language that the speaker of the poem and her German partner undertake. These lines serve as an abstraction for the entire pamphlet:


…What is this complete

chance that you and I were brought up in different tongues?

How is it that we would name the same object or feeling differently

and always have done?


There is an assuredness of voice and technique at work here, which results in many of the poems interrogating the world in which the poet finds herself – never more so than in the aptly titled ‘Moving to Another Country.’ The poem opens with an image of ‘rough beaches,’ where


From my sand-filled mouth

clauses trip and fall.


Dislocation is a key theme throughout: the reader is witness to the constant play between the insider and the outsider. As such, it is perhaps hard not to view these poems without the uncertainty of a post-Brexit Britain in mind (at the end of the pamphlet, the poet returns to England). It is no accident that the poems open up into white space – there are very few full-stops at the end of Danes’s poems.


Like many of the poems, ‘Moving to Another Country’ is full of surprising twists. The humour of lines such as these


I make three faux pas in a row

that are all to do with drinking


hints at the stereotype of the drunk British tourist abroad. Danes is keenly alert to the nuances and comedy of translation and cultural intersection. In the penultimate poem, ‘Things I Left in Germany,’ three of the items the poet lists are a ‘thicker skin,’ ‘a nostalgia for England’ and ‘a language I’ll slowly forget.’ There is a refreshing clarity and honesty at work here.

At the end of the pamphlet, the poet’s playfulness reaches its pinnacle in ‘Deutsch,’ a poem that riffs on untranslatable English idioms and sayings:


Oh but come and chat out of the little sewing box!

How deep is the sea? I am as happy as a snow king,

I’m on cloud seven, tousled and cosy with my tootle sack


Not only does Danes have a sharp ear and eye for detail, but her poems are what Helen Mort, judge of The Poetry Business 2015/16 New Poets Prize, describes as ‘anthropological.’ These are ‘elegantly-crafted poems that stand back and take a good, hard look around the room, finding a fresh language for what they see’ (Mort).

Gaps is a startlingly assured debut and is available to purchase now from The Poetry Business.




Order your copy of Gaps by Jenny Danes (Smith / Doorstop, 2017) here:



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Kevin Saving reviews ‘Shadows Waltz Haltingly’ by Alan Morrison

It should, in the interests of full disclosure, be recorded that this reviewer has been trumpeting the merits of Alan Morrison’s erudite and tendentious verse for over a decade now. Online, in conversation and -once previously, in a book review- Morrison’s flare for words, his passionate espousal of un -or pre- fashionable causes and his intellectual omnivorous-ness have been signposted to anyone who might listen. This, his seventh collection of poems, expands his range still further and treats compellingly of his family’s excoriation by Huntington’s disease -a genetic disorder which rampages through generations, leaving both its immediate victims and their closest intimates harrowed in the cruelest of fashions.

Shadows Waltz Haltingly‘s title-poem takes as its subject the unsteady a-rhythmic gait characteristic of Huntington’s Chorea (which, among its other sobriquets, has been called ‘Saint Vitus’s Dance’).

…the trick with this imbalanced
Balletic feat, this preternatural paso doble,
Tripping quickstep, stuttering foxtrot, rubber-limbed rumba,
Juddering jitterbug, jittery jig, apart from the glide upon
Flat feet, glissades of fallen arches, is in anticipating
Its unpredictability, so that it seems an effortless,
Almost automatic, puppet-like extemporisation
Of motor and cognitive faculties, no strings visible…

The extract quoted above demonstrates typically Morrisonian methods, utilising as it does an ‘impasto’ effect (adapted from the painting technique) by adding layer upon layer of colouration whilst simultaneously incorporating a species of quasi-Joycean word-play (‘Balletic feat… glide upon flat feet’) and Anglo-Saxon alliterative patterning. These syntactically-dense accretions -with their near Word-Association nexuses- can be terribly hard to consistently ‘pull off’, and it says much for their author’s fine-tuned poetic ear that he succeeds far more often than not.

A sizable proportion of this collection stares unflinchingly into this same Huntingtonian neurological abyss (as witnessed in Morrison’s maternal and maternal-grandfather’s case-histories) but nowhere to more effect than in his ‘extended villanelle’, ‘The Rage’. Those of us who have ever attempted that most recalcitrant of poetic forms, the villanelle, know just hard difficult it can be (in T.S.Eliot’s words) to ‘land the kite safely’. Here, with great dexterity and no small craft, the poet assembles sixteen of the constituent word-cages (the usual received number of stanzas is six) with their multiple refrains and limited, binary rhyme-scheme, and still brings them back to earth adroitly.

How does a gentle soul go out in rage?
Most enter in a tantrum, part in tears,
But some -again- rave as they disengage.
Autopsies thumb the brain’s each cabbaged page,
Leaf flimsy onion skins obscure as smears;
Neurons scoured this gourd, and caused the rage
No whispered reassurances assuage;
What she grasps abruptly disappears
To shadow’s dislocated mucilage.
The hunted gene knows few test-volunteers:
Why trace the cureless thunder at this stage;

Pre-empt the protein-pogrom to rampage
Before it has to? Will my punished ears
Prepare me more for when I disengage?
Will augurs fail? Will I go out in rage?

Here is an extraordinary writer at work, perusing the clinical literature, reading-up on his neuro-pathologies, researching his familial prognoses and fashioning what he has learnt into a formally-adept and moving work of art which leaves most ‘un-extended villas’ looking pretty drab and cramped by comparison. This reviewer -a retired nurse who has himself worked with Huntington’s patients- knows of only one other poem in the canon possessing similar stature. In his courageous refusal to surrender to the temptations of despair and his clear-eyed, informed compassion, Morrison has penned his very own ‘Invictus’.

Elsewhere in Shadows Waltz Haltingly we encounter a number of Acrostics concerned with troubled poets such as Thomas Chatterton, Isaac Rosenberg and Ivor Gurney. Several of Morrison’s previous publications have show-cased this form (wherein the first letter of each succeeding line gradually elicits its subject’s name) and he has grown steadily more confident in his range of effects. What is doubly pleasing is the way in which he is now frequently able to assume the featured writer’s idiosyncratic style -as exemplified here by ‘Marigolds to Distraction’ (i.m. Emily Dickinson).

Eyes like the sherry in the Glass the Guest leaves-
My mind is too near itself -cannot see unclouded-
Indian Knots Stich my Heart- Hair like Chestnut Bur-
Leaves me to see into myself -transparently-
Youth Clouding my Mousy Brow -Yellow Buttery.

Miss Emily Dickinson’s daguerreotype holds itself -fleshed out with trademark dashes- up to the cool mirror of introspection.

It would be easy enough to continue to name-check the frequent bright particulars of this stand-out publication (like, for instance, the charming, short formal-piece, ‘Nightbird’) though, unfortunately, too many prized-up poetasters have already left the miniscule poetry-reading public un-bewitched, unbothered (yet) increasingly bewildered. Alan Morrison will, I very much hope, continue to ignite his refulgent verbal fireworks -though it would be particularly sad if they were to merely fizz out into a sparsely-tenanted ocean. Work of this stature -and especially in these challenging times- demands the attention it would so amply reward.



Order your copy of  Shadows Waltz Haltingly (lapwing Press) by Alan Morrison, here:




Kevin Saving is Home-counties based versifier and reviewer in his mid-fifties. His work has been published in ‘Poetry Review’, The Independent on Sunday, The Daily Mail, and (quoted) in The Morning Star. He most frequently writes for ‘The Recusant’ (ezine).


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Devika Basu reviews ‘Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral’ by Kiriti Sengupta


“I consider poetry my existence”— it is indeed a revelation on the part of a poet who has coined chiseled words from the depths of his heart to present this poetic trilogy, Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral, a genre quite unique in literature. The book takes us into a world of subtle nuances, where the ‘sacred’ and ‘ephemeral’ unite to make a complete ‘whole.’ My Glass of Wine is full to the brim and we, the readers, drink the elixir “to the lees.” With his subtle strokes of brush, Kiriti Sengupta transports us to a world where the concept of divinity is definitely multilayered. “I drank it first/ right after I was spiritually baptized” — the concept of Christian baptism and Tantra, the drinking goblet of Christ, red wine and ‘somarasa’ — all these images are in perfect consonance with the poetic fervor of Sengupta’s well-researched work.

The poetic journey goes on and the poet makes the readers feel the agony of crucifixion, which is bloody, and thereby makes the color symbolism more appalling to the readers: “They pinned it before, and will do that now and again…/ No arrangements of incenses though!”

After having dwelt on a world of colors, and reflecting on the awakening of Kundalini (spiritual awakening) with a view to “unveil the mysteries of life,” Sengupta enters into the realm of profound philosophy with a candid incantation of scriptures, where human beings are presented as trees, as embodiment of the reversal. He writes, “Reversal demands practice of the principles that lead us towards truth or realization.” This is, in fact, an introspective journey into the human psyche where Sengupta has heard the sound of the ‘unheard’ in “all works imperishable.” This is a realization of not only the poet, but also of a very sensitive human mind, where we can hear ‘unheard melodies’ from within.

Sengupta has also dealt with the reversal of the so-called concepts of sex and sexuality. Sengupta has raised some pertinent questions regarding the transgenders, Lara being the mouthpiece. The story of betrayal, her desire and the aversion of the society towards homosexuality, lesbianism — all these burning issues bear a poetic resonance in the mighty pen of Sengupta. “You will call it fetish, I guess … I need some cologne as I step out of my home … odor that is mine … physical … deceptive.”

Sex and sexuality are the areas rarely discussed within the arena of family members and this self-imposed taboo often bears perilous consequences. While reading the poems in the trilogy, the readers might be reminded of the overtly sexual references:


I have matched my lips

With the highs of your water

As you flowed joy

The Sun has dared to surface

On your mirror playing both

A she, and a he toy.”


Sengupta himself has labelled some of his poems as ‘omnigender’ and has put into question the traditional orthodox ideas about sex and sexuality.

How is society related to literature? Is literature a mirror of the society? Sengupta has tried to answer these questions, referring to the recent conflicts and the vested interest of the war-mongers, which is in sharp contrast to the “dharma yuddha,” a struggle for justice as envisioned in The Mahabharata; and The Gita bears ample testimony to the fact. Therein lies the dichotomy of existentialism, depicted by the author.

In Healing Waters Floating Lamps, the concluding part of the trilogy, we discover the myriad hues of poetry, a journey “beyond the eyes,” with images of the holy Ganges, Varanasi, where “water is not the fire-extinguisher.” Evening descends in Varanasi as a symbol of meditative, serene landscape where flames ignite to utter words of devotion. The ‘floating lamps’ are resplendent with life and the images of ‘fire’ and ‘water’ add to the grandeur of the poem “Evening Varanasi.” In the concluding part of the trilogy, we come across some intimate details which owe their origin to the Wordsworthian concept of poetry as “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” Sengupta pays tribute to his mother with such clarity of diction that we, the readers, are simply mesmerized: “I have seen my mother preparing Ghee out of milk/ She never used butter/ To clarify it further.” Sengupta has focused on the diversity of human life, moments of rapture as well as the pain of separation: “Not all rivers succeed to unite.”

An intuitive mind unravels the mystery of creation, the concept of ‘nothingness’ where the human body is confined within a ‘cage.’ The essential paradox of human existence depicted by Sengupta clearly reveals his profound knowledge of Indian philosophy.


The womb carries water — so do your eyes

Water builds the fetus

That becomes ‘I’


Sengupta’s confession is utmost here — the agony and ecstasy of creation portrayed in unequivocal terms. The deep-rooted sorrow, a sense of loss and bereavement touch the poet: “Few beautiful scratches deep within/ Soft marks, palpable even after months/ No wounds, but tiny scratches brown/ Soothing, mesmerizing in between.”

Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral is a poetic journey which enthralls the readers throughout; the temporal and the eternal converge within the poetic metaphors. The ancient scriptures, the Holy Bible are revered by Sengupta with proper diction. This poetic trilogy makes us think — we delve deep into the world where ephemeral becomes timeless and nothing is transitory. Even there is a positive note to enjoy life after death! Poetry is the alma mater of Dr. Sengupta and he has nurtured his verses with utmost care. As we go through his verses, we have an insatiable hunger to read more and we tend to build a bridge between poetry and life. As Sengupta started with an anecdote of Shesher Kobita, I may conclude my notes with Tagore: “Antore atripti robe/ Sango kori mone hobe/ Shesh hoye hoilo na shesh” [There will be a feeling of dissatisfaction/ Having finished/ We will feel/ This is not the end, but more to come].


Order your copy of Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral (Hawakal Publishers, Calcutta) by Kiriti Sengupta here:

Devika Basu is a high-school English teacher, bilingual poet, translator and a lover of Spanish literature. She loves to explore the hidden treasures of different literary genres, with a special focus to poetry. Her published works include three books of poems. Her pen scribbles the diverse aspects of life and she loves to face the challenges of life. She has traveled extensively and she would like to walk across the inroads of life with poetry.



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Konstandinos Mahoney reviews ‘Acrobats of Sound’ by Colin Pink






Colin Pink’s impressive first collection, Acrobats of Sound, takes its title from his poem, A Peal of Bells that marvels at the ability of heavy leaden church bells to be rocked into joyful conversation. And this is what Pink does over the seventy-seven poems in this highly readable collection, finding in nature, art, the city, memory, transience, subjects that can be coaxed and swayed through the rhythms of poetry to loosen their tongues and sound out their hidden song.

Pink, an art historian, has an eye for the visual, though his poems go beyond the merely descriptive, delving behind the surface to interrogate what lies beneath. Victorian Woman in Green Dress, one of a number of ekphrastic poems in the collection, this one based on Vittorio Coroc’s oil painting , Sogni, perfectly exemplifies this, going from the visual, /as your/chin rests on the soft plinth of your hand, fingers/ gloved in a second skin of supple leather./ to the final line, Let’s unwrap time, peel/back each brittle layer, until we might meet, a powerful insight into the real behind the real, realism in the painting of the woman as a representation of both surface and hidden realities, the construction of an aesthetic reality through dialogue between a living man and the artist’s illusion.

One of Pink’s strengths is his ability to develop an arresting image into a wider metaphor and open the poem out into a philosophic observation, his is the poetry of both image and thought, an ability to move from the concrete to the abstract. His poetry only occasionally uses end rhymes, his preferred way of shaping a poem is through stanza length, meter, and a deft use of internal rhyme and assonance. Though images are vivid his verse does not feel lyrical or rhapsodic, pace is steady, poems build steadily delivering an observation that is always worth sharing. This gives his work a feeling of integrity, a poet you can trust, a poet who is gently sharing observations on the strangeness and wonder of things. Field Path takes us on just such a modest journey, a country walk through ever denser foliage until the path runs out, but on the journey back /retracing/steps that now seem so different,/no longer recognizably ours at all/ he captures the strangeness and paradox of landscape altered by the direction we move in with it’s wider echoes of the forward passage of time and the unfamiliarity of the past despite having lived it.

Pink’s poems are economic, often making their point over three to five stanzas, poetic journeys that are neither too taxing nor too leisurely, poems that help you to arrive without overtly signposting the way. The longest poem in the collection is American Civil War Bubblegum Cards, in which, over thirteen sestets, Pink makes a sustained comparison between the realities of the American war in Vietnam as seen on television and the progress of the American Civil War as portrayed in the illustrated bubblegum cards he collected as a boy. Seen again through the eyes of his boyhood Pink uses simple language and syntax allowing the horror to come though in descriptions of the printed images on the cards/In one scene a little boy/is hanged as a spy; he looked a bit like me,/it made me feel sad, I guess that’s what//it was meant to do/ And images on the television, /Napalm illuminated the screen/like every firework display you’d ever seen./Children came running, naked, down a thin/road, their thin arms outspread, their thin skin/burned off./ Comparing the two American wars in this way is original and gives a renewed freshness to both, a wholly original and successful way of showing history’s futile repetitions of war and violence.

The starting point of Pink’s poems are often landscapes, paintings, buildings, objects in the present or past. His wonderful poem Games The Dead Play jumps straight at you from nowhere, from behind a tombstone, spare, boney couplets frolicking in skeletal scariness, gothic playfulness, /On birthdays they blow out other people’s candles/and watch darkness descend from all angels./

 Acrobats of Sound, a handsomely published book by Poetry Salzburg, reward the reader with accessible, thoughtful, beautiful and engaging poems. Reading Pink’s poems is like being with a friend who delights in opening your eyes to the mysteries of the world around you. His counterbalance of deep thought and vivid image has a European feel to it, a philosophical thread running through his poetic oeuvre. I look forward to his next volume.




Order your copy of Acrobats of Sound  by Colin Pink (Poetry Salzburg 2017) here:


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Susan Castillo Street reviews ‘The Swell’ by Jessica Mookherjee





Writing in 1989, scholar Werner Sollors caused a bit of a stir when he challenged the concept of ethnicity as a hermetic, immutable category. Sollors describes ethnic groups as existing within history and as highly unstable and pliable entities which are constantly interacting and redefining themselves.   Indeed, he adds, in today’s global context it is difficult to characterize a writer as belonging exclusively to one ethnic group.[1] For Sollors, ethnicity is not essence but rather as a dynamic historical process though which we define and redefine our identification with one or more groups.

For this reason, it would be wrong for critics to pigeonhole Jessica Mookherjee as ‘ethnic’ writer. She is much more than that, and her poetry is elegant and evocative. Her background is Bengali, and she grew up in Wales; she now lives in the Southeast. Swell, a pamphlet of 15 poems published in 2016, is her debut.   In it, she skillfully and sensitively evokes the rich cultural and personal strands that run through her life.

Several of the poems focus on the complexities of family. The title poem, ‘Swell,’ evokes a pregnant woman, ‘drum-tight and ‘about to burst,’ with a husband who ‘made a fuss of her for a change.’ Another poem, ‘Snapshot,’ begins with the lines


There is photographic evidence

of when she shifted her gaze,

the exact time her eyes went out of focus.


and goes on to describe pictures of the poet as

…growing bigger

in pigtails, often alone.

A snap of a girl with her hand on her mother’s

shoulder, like a Victorian husband.’


With elegance and understated economy of expression, Mookherjee paints in remarkably few words a haunting picture of her mother’s vulnerability and her own isolation.

Another poem, ‘Glass Sisters,’ describes pottery images in a glass cabinet. The first person plural perspective is deftly deployed; the ‘we’ may be that of the objects


We were all cabinet curios,

waking occasionally , trapped behind glass

under small locks, tiny keys.


or of child who identifies with them:


Gingerly, with a smell of fresh rose water


she would take us out, sit us on the sofa,

while she played with a typewriter,

practicing her name. No one but us

saw her hair unbraided,


cascades of shining black.

Her fingers spelling yours sincerely

Clicking on the white Olympus—

I could get a job, learn to drive, drink wine

she muttered, glancing at her dolls.


The child exchanges a glance of complicity with Kuan-Yin:


I looked sideways at Kuan-Yin

behind her pane; she smiled at me

and listened to the world’s sorrows.


In ‘Red,’ Mookherjee gives us a subtle cascade of images: red curtains in her mother’s house ‘…like blood dripping down the windows’; a red tikka on her mother’s forehead ‘looked like someone had shot her’; red lipstick ‘inappropriate for a girl of six’; a red silk skirt that made a lover smile; that same lover’s face ‘…too red, too much sun, too much/beer, too much butter; an unflattering red shirt that ‘doesn’t flatter.’ The poem ends with two lines evoking the visceral barrenness of the failing relationship: ‘there’s blood in the bathroom again/this month.’

The final poem in the pamphlet, ‘The Changing,’ is marvelously surreal. It describes a woman transformed into a fish:


At night she dives into wet corridors

Seeps from blankets,

Slathers across carpet, lost in the heft;

She’s flatfish slapping down stairs

Leaving trails of silver moon-strike.


In night that tastes of felt, she gulps air

Chokes on magnolia walls. Her eyes bulge

And sight blurs.


The poem ends with a stunning vision of liberation:


…she reconstitutes in ripples

and, at last, she is night swimming,

free of her fins

in the swell of stars, arms stretched in a

yearning dance of encore.


The deft enjambment that runs through the poem, and the marvelous vividness of the verbs (‘dives,’ ‘slathers’, ‘gulps’, ‘chokes,’ ‘bulge,’ ‘blurs’) create a vision of almost unbearable intensity.

The apparent surface simplicity and elegance of Jessica Mookherjee’s carefully crafted poems conceal a hidden depth charge of emotion and sensibility. The reader is left wanting to read many more, and her forthcoming collection is eagerly anticipated.



[1] Werner Sollors, The Invention of Ethnicity (Oxford University Press: 1989)




Order your copy of Jessica Mookherjee’s The Swell (Telltale Press, 2016) here:

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Jane Burn reviews Grant Tarbard’s ‘Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World’



Grant Tabard’s Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World led me into it with immediate interest – the contents page alone is full of such curiosities such as Snuff of the Disappeared and Beaks. I knew from this that I would want to read more.

This is a collection which deals with illness, horror and death.

‘My leg is split in two,
clamps keeping the exposed pink tendons

of the supple flesh peeled –
the shadow of my emptied skin’

Throughout, he is unwilling to ‘admit to devastation’ – you do feel beneath it all his irrepressible love of words, loved ones and life, there is darkness within but it has a cast of magic upon it. Musical and satisfyingly wordsome, the poems roam from lilies to kidneys, sperm to sun, mulberry to cellophane, spud gun to sparrows. The world around us upsets as it uplifts.

‘I will mend you with the brushstrokes of my words’

It is a collection of remembrances – you strongly feel Tabard’s belief in the survival of love. Love bites you, life burns you but the poems suggest an inevitable going on and a stubborn will to go on noticing the important little things. The poems have a hallucinogenic quality – a dreamlike, between states feel. You get the feeling Tabard is trying to stay above water – he is floating and the poems are cast as life

He ends the collection in measured consideration of small seeming but powerful moments.

‘The mindfulness of breathing,
now is the eternity.’

Also, I now really, really want a Faberge clothes peg.



Order your copy of Grant Tarbard’s Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World published Platypus Press by here:


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