John Glenday, Selected Poems – review

John  Glenday’s Selected Poems adds nine pieces to a selection of work from his five previous books. It’s a small output for the time he’s been writing but a very fine one.

The main features of his work have been clear from the beginning: avoidance of rhetoric, meticulous craftsmanship, love of balanced forms, and skill in combining musical qualities with a conversational style. These features are integrally related to the way the ‘I’ of the poems seems to think and feel. His voice is quiet and measured, though what he says can be startling or disturbing. Even when directly addressing the … Continue Reading

The Barbarians Arrive Today C. P. Cavafy, translated by Evan Jones – review

‘Traditore traduttore.’ All translations involve distortion, dilution or both, and good translations of great poetry tease us with the desire to get closer to the original than any one version can bring us. Evan Jones’s The Barbarians Arrive Today gives all the canonical poems and a large number of unpublished ones (Jones calls them ‘hidden’) in English translation only, together with nine prose pieces. It’s a valuable supplement to existing translations, for those who already know Cavafy, and a good point of entry for those who don’t. There are masterstrokes in it that throw a brighter light on particular poems … Continue Reading

Deborah Landau, Soft Targets – review


You can read my review of Soft Targets on the London Grip by clicking here.

Martyn Crucefix, Cargo of Limbs – review

Describing the attempts of refugees from war to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, Martyn Crucefix’s Cargo of Limbs is about borders in the most concrete, desperate and morally challenging way. He makes the current crisis resonate with Virgil’s epic story of the refugees from Troy by shaping it as a revision of part of Book 6 of the Aeneid, describing Aeneas’s journey to the underworld. You don’t need to know this background to understand the poem, but it adds a dimension if you do.

The poem itself consists of 60 unrhymed quatrains, many broken mid line by the asterisks that divide  … Continue Reading

Philip Gross, Between the Islands – review

The epigraph to Between the Islands is a quotation from Guillevic’s Carnac, ‘Nous n’avons de rivage, en vérité, / Ni toi, ni moi’: in John Montague’s translation, ‘We have no shore, really, / Neither you nor I’. This questioning of boundaries is followed by ‘Edge States’, three poems that seem to find them everywhere:

Sunlight, late
………………… the year, the edge
of winter. Light like stainless steel.
Just out of hearing,
…………………………..the ring
of its thin blades fencing with itself.
Light like glass
…………………….that, let fall
on water growing harder at the edge
of freezing,
……………….could break.

What makes that opening gripping … Continue Reading

Selima Hill, My Mother with a Beetle in her Hair – review


Selima Hill, My Mother with a Beetle in her Hair, Shoestring Press; 40pp, £6


You can find my review on the London Grip by clicking here.

Edmund Waller – a memory

It’s 1963 or 1964 in South Africa. I’m fourteen or fifteen. I’m standing in my father’s narrow, shabby and dusty study – feeling an acute sense of privilege and awe. This is his retreat, where he works away from the noise of family life and where he keeps his treasures – relics of his life in England, our childish drawings, our milk teeth. There are two crude, tight-packed bookshelves – one made of metal – and his greening academic gown with its moulting rabbit skin hood hangs on the door. There’s a pile of yellowing newspapers several feet deep in … Continue Reading

Clive James, The Fire of Joy – review

Clive James, The Fire of Joy: Roughly 80 Poems to Get by Heart and Say Aloud, Picador, 2020, 320 pp, £20.

You can find my review for the London Grip by clicking here.

Robin Robertson, Grimoire – review

You can find my review in London Grip by clicking here.

Shanta Acharya, What Survives Is the Singing – review

The title of Shanta Acharya’s What Survives Is the Singing suggests a central difference between it and the other two books (Wing, by Matthew Francis, and The Martian’s Regress by J O Morgan). In them, general ideas arise by implication from particulars. In it, general ideas are the overt driving force. This approach limits the reader’s freedom of imagination and response. Its advantage is the sheer intensity of passion or acuteness of realization it can produce. One very strong poem is ‘Can You Hear Our Screams’, a haunting catalogue of femicide violence starting with the rape and murder … Continue Reading