Grant Tarbard reviews ‘Fates of the Animals’ by Padrika Tarrant



This is Padrika Tarrant’s third book, Fates of the Animals, following Broken Things (Salt 2007) and The Knife Drawer (Salt 2011), also published by Salt, the alkaline in Cromer’s cliffs, comes this book of very short stories that live in a mixing bowl of clipped fairy tales, fag butt fables and the animals associated with them, the barking of the dog is relentless as choking. Tales of hyacinth girls expanding on Eliot, love stories of daughters of reputable figures and angels with Kleptomania. It is at turns delicate, creepy and always with a wink to the camera knowing that there’s diamonds in the stone cold ground beneath the ink. Through it all there is a sense of a unifying force, like the Marvel comics universe, and Tarrant is Stan Lee. Excelsior true believers!

I’m going to focus on two shorts here, as I could write a whole book about Tarrant’s world, but we are fools to the word limit. The book begins with The Music of the Foxes, a Hughes-esque tale with traits of Crow.
There is a strange relationship between humans and foxes, in their cries in the night, like a babe that’s been snatched, a child crying in the alley at midnight. No wonder that the fox is thought to have served as a witches familiar, even as the form into which a witch transform. Perhaps that anxiety goes back to the goddess Hecate, fond of the black she-dog, indeed the core of a foxes being, to humans, is otherworldly, and this is echoed in Tarrant’s first line:

When all the world was bald, flat path, the vixen trotted its length like the grin of a god.

The music of the foxes is considered as one word filled with pins; 

Shak. The noise that a fox makes when she sings is a Shak, shrill and high; sharp at its core, rich as Ribena.

Rich as Ribena? Ribena isn’t particularly rich, it’s sugar that stains the lips and makes the throat sore. Why not rich as claret? Simple really, it wouldn’t sound right. The language flies with music.

In the last passage we see that the vixen has formed the earth and the old oil paint melancholy of jealousy of creator and created, the son eclipses the father and on it goes. The world is made in the vixen’s wake, roads are laid behind her and the detritus of the earth, bus tickets and cars, follow.

Shak! Spoke the vixen, streaming her song down her back behind the flow of her tail, and everything in the world shone pale and black and red, just as glorious and cruel and full of jealous beauty as can be.

I imagine that all sounds of the world are animated with the vixen’s final unheard Shak, it’s there in the paint.

The Little Boy Who Lied is woven with ethereal materials; the decreasing glow of a flash bulb’s element, yellowing paper, attic dust and memory’s flimsy grasp of a person’s past lives – Trapped between the film and the cardboard, the cracks and the tea stains and the gelatine-silver years, there is a sepia child in a sailor suit

This short leaves a copper taste of The Shining at the back of your eyes, you could turn around the corner and encounter the mangled Grady twins, you feel the urgency of a missing child. A disembodied child searching for eyes to see through – But the eyes; he squeezed his fingers tight against the palm of his hand. He wanted the eyes. They had sharp edges and were drawing blood inside his hot fist.

One could happily wallow in the deep imagery of Tarrant’s prose: They searched a long time for Amelia, lifting bedcovers as gingerly as grave-robbers

Tarrant’s book of stories claps in blacked rooms, has a smile as wide as the Ripper’s blade, prowls in midnight back alleys until the threadbare structure of the world’s bones has some meat. It’s not jaded, it has wonder, she would stop to gain knowledge of leaves ballet dancing down in a purple sky, and that’s a rarity nowadays in this cynical world of austerity and celebrity. They could even be read to children as bedtime stories, and that is the greatest compliment I think I could give.





Order your copy of Fates of the Animals, published by Salt, here:

Read More

Marc Woodward


Marc Woodward is a musician and poet based in the West Country. His work, which often draws on music and rural life and is frequently underpinned by dark humour has been published in various magazines and anthologies. Maquette Press published his chapbook ‘A Fright of Jays’ last year.  This is his blog:


Read More

Ruth Stacey


Mental Health Animals

Between us your depression and my anxiety;
such slippery things to articulate – yet I try.

You, a creature sat curled into himself, naked,
muscled, not a weak man but a hare-man.
Arms folded, long ears and face drooped:
blocking out everyone, but especially

me – a woman whose anxiety is a white horse,
pale in a dark green field. It is a pastel soft
night, I am wearing a cherry-red dress, bare
footed – my uneasy horse is outside myself,

body trembling as there are no stars visible.
The heart cries: where are the Plough
and the Pleiades? I hold her muzzle close
to my cheek to calm her – don’t pant so,

don’t pant my dear one. Your hare doesn’t
notice my withers flickering or hear
my breath come like gasps of steam
in the cold, dark air that surrounds us both.



Ruth Stacey  writes poems in the fleeting spaces between motherhood and studying Native American Literature. It is not the easiest way to be a writer, but it is her way.  This is her website.

Read More

Stuart Charlesworth




But During the Medicine Round

A tablet missed the medicine pot
and skittered across the clinic room floor.

I picked it up, rolled it between my fingers.

It was not a gelatine pod or a chalky pill.
Thin, leathery roots hung from its bottom.

Two small leaves were fighting
to emerge
from the manufacturers stamp.

I closed my fist around it
and my mind’s eye
looked out on a fresh tilled field

where a hundred plants
used their leaves
as arms
to climb from furrows.

Serpent vines leaped to choke and bite them.




Stuart Charlesworth’s poems have appeared in Cake, Lighthouse, Poetry Review and Under the Radar. He is a learning difficulties nurse and sometimes an associate tutor for student nurses. He has an MA in creative writing (UEA) and degrees in nursing and international politics. He is a Café Writers Committee member.

Read More

Andrew McDonnell




Me, Me, Me

Sometimes I feel like a stranger in the town called Me.
I enter a bar and all the other me fall silent.
The barman is familiar, he reminds me of me
when I was younger. “Shandy” I say and he shakes
his head without speaking. “It’s funny” says the me
next to me, “I haven’t seen your face in here before”.
He gives his ice a tinkle in the glass. “I’m new in town
I say “and I’m lost. Do you know who I am?” I show him
the wife and kid in my wallet but some weirdo has scratched
out their faces with a key. He turns from me to social media:
weirdo next to me has scratched out his wife and kid’s faces
with a key, lol!”. I would never use ‘lol’ I think,
and then remember all the times I have used ‘lol’
or emoticons to show what I am feeling. (Mostly winks,
some downturned mouths, occasionally a cat
reading a book). All the online me are now on the bar TV.
Missing says the caption beneath the photographs.
The other me all watch me and shudder,
as if trying to shake off a cold. I drink my beer
and run my hand through my hair. Me pulls
away in horror, “keep your hands to yourself!
I retreat to the jukebox, select a 7”, it kicks in,
plays me singing in the shower something sweet
and sad like a wedding cake in bucket of sick,
“I remember me!” I say, but all the other me are asleep
and it’s time for me to go.




Andrew McDonnell writes poetry and short fiction. He has a story ‘Breakfast by the Motorway’ in the Being Dad anthology, due out today. He co-runs Gatehouse Press & Lighthouse Literary Journal.

Read More

Sarya Wu




Palindrome Existence

Sometimes when I feel alone,
So I find a clean bus stop to stand by and wait,
Perhaps the bus will remind me
Of where to go
Maybe it’s fate-

I contemplate.

Maybe it’s fate-
Of where to go
Perhaps I’ll know if I sit still
So for a sign of direction I take a look
Sometimes when I feel alone,





Sarya Wu is 20 year-old Taiwanese-American who currently attends the University of Edinburgh. During her free time, she does spoken word. Her other passions include physical theatre, Roller Derby, bin diving, and walking around aimlessly in a bear hoodie. Twitter: @saryachan  Website:

Read More