Review – Matthew Francis, The Mabinogi

Matthew Francis, The Mabinogi, 112 pp, £14.99, Faber & Faber Ltd

A woman who rides slowly but can’t be caught by the fastest galloping horseman; a cauldron that simmers dead warriors to life; a giant king who wades through the sea to make war on Ireland, and whose severed head is buried alive to watch over Britain when his body is killed by a poisonous wound; all the buildings, people and animals of a country stolen in a magic fog; the threat to hang a mouse who’s really the pregnant wife of a powerful magician on a gallows made of two … Continue Reading

Review – Philip Gross, A Bright Acoustic

Philip Gross, A Bright Acoustic, 96 pp, £9.95, Bloodaxe Books

Philip Gross is much admired for the intellectually exploratory side of his writing. Not having a philosophical or scientific mind, I have difficulty with longish works held together by ideas of an essentially abstract and cerebral kind, as is the case with the sequence “The Same River”. What I love about this poet is the way his imaginative power, skill in sensuous description and darting intelligence work in more localised and concrete contexts.

“Wren Time” shows the power with which Gross thinks in metaphors and the speed with which he moves between … Continue Reading

Review – Robert Desnos, Surrealist, Lover, Resistant, translated by Timothy Adès

You can read my review for the Manchester Review by following this link:

Robert Desnos, Surrealist, Lover, Resistant, reviewed by Edmund Prestwich


Review – Jamie McKendrick, Selected Poems

Jamie McKendrick, Selected Poems, 160pp, £ 12.99, Faber and Faber.

In some ways I wished these poems could have been given in reverse chronological order. Starting with “Out There”, “The Carved Buddha”, “The Meeting House” or “The Literalist”, a new reader would have begun with a poet at the height of his powers. These are four poems you can reread endlessly for the beauty of their writing and the constantly changing shimmer of suggestion within and between them. Their relaxed style draws its strength from finely honed prosodic skill. Each has an imaginative spaciousness that belies its brevity, moving effortlessly between … Continue Reading

Jane Draycott’s “Lent” – a reading


The bailiff winds are at the door.
Alcohol and cigarettes must go. Abstain,
repent. No meat, no chocolate, no more
obsessive checking of your phone
like the pulse of a dying friend. Refrain.
No more taking photographs of pictures.
Let the world go like Michelangelo’s sculpture
made of snow that no one framed.

The house lies purged and empty. Still the winds blow.
Now give up the wilderness, the wandering.
Retreat instead to that windless winter morning
when a young man stood in the gardens of the palazzo,
lips glistening, hair shining at the nape,
before the bomb-blast of sun, not anyone’s to keep.


This poem finely illustrates … Continue Reading

Forbidden words – “vermilion” in Hopkins’ “The Windhover”

I’ve just been introduced to a list of “forbidden words” in poetry. “Vermilion” is one of them. But look at Hopkins’ “The Windhover” – how he makes “vermilion” burst off the tongue with a sense of sudden release and then settle into quietness. There are bigger miracles in the poem, of course, but I want to talk about this one in the context of the idea that some words are too clichéd for us to use in our poems.


The Windhover

To Christ Our Lord

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
…..dom of daylight’s dauphin, … Continue Reading

Review – Kelvin Corcoran, Facing West

Kelvin Corcoran, Facing West, 84 pp, £9.95, Shearsman Books.


“Abduction Zone”, the title sequence of the first section of Corcoran’s Facing West, illustrates some of the attractions and challenges of his writing. He’s a master of metre and rhythm, both in the singing and the speaking line. This is a constantly varied source of pleasure as he shifts between different tones, registers and contexts. However, I feel that this sequence of more than 150 lines interweaves its allusions to classical myths, classical and twentieth century Greek history and the country’s current economic and political situation too loosely and sketchily to make … Continue Reading

Review – Philip Gross, Love Songs of Carbon

You can link to my review of Love Songs of Carbon in PN Review by clicking here.

Review – W S Merwin’s Garden Time

Somehow I forgot to post a link to my review of Garden Time in PN Review, which you can find here. Disregard the misleading title.

Review of Imagine: New and Selected Poems by Shanta Acharya

You can link to my review of Imagine in The Manchester Review by clicking here

You can find my review of her Dreams That Spell the Light (a selection from which makes up the penultimate section of Imagine) by clicking here.