Selima Hill, Women in Comfortable Shoes – review

Selima Hill’s Women in Comfortable Shoes is different again [to O’Brien’s Embark and Gross’s The Thirteenth Angel]. The poems are all short – many if not most six or fewer lines. They’re grouped into sequences but even within these I think they largely work as separate units. They have the punchiness of epigrams but unlike epigrams what most offer is not pithy reflections on life in general but flashes of extremely subjective response to another person or to the speaker’s immediate circumstances. She appears at different ages, as a child at home or a girl in a boarding … Continue Reading

Philip Gross, The Thirteenth Angel – review

Allowing for density of print, The Thirteenth Angel probably contains well over twice as many words as O’Brien’s Embark. Its fertility in ideas, images and perceptions is almost breath-taking. So is the vivid precision of its language of physical description. The world it presents is above all crowded with movement.  This is a part of the experience of modern life that Gross captures brilliantly. Glittering details seem to leap off every page. Looking down at a road at night the poet sees ‘the cold blush of blue / on a cheek: stranger, her mobile tingling / with presence.’ He … Continue Reading

Sean O’Brien’s Embark – review

In Embark, Sean O’Brien deftly shifts between registers and tones to present and think about the world in different ways. In his elegies, melancholy recollection is expressed in a way that combines elegance with conversational intimacy. Other poems are more obviously highly wrought, like ‘Of the Angel’ with its archaic-sounding title. This describes a boy at a Remembrance Day ceremonial –

The poor mad angel boy of twelve
With the unblinking gold-green stare
And the frightening permanent smile

That should be love but cannot be
Is brought by his mother to join the crowd.

That opening already trembles between the mundane and … Continue Reading

Sean O’Brien, Impasse for Jules Maigret – review



Click on the title Impasse for Jules Maigret for a link to my review, with thanks to Michael Bartholomew-Biggs and the London Grip where it appears.

Jane Draycott, The Kingdom – review

Jane Draycott is the reverse of a confessional poet, or even a poet whose persona is one of affable conversational candour. To me, the pleasures she offers are more deeply engaging. In all her books, many of her best poems are haunting, haunted-seeming traps for meditation, full of sidesteps, ellipses and paradoxically intense evocations of absence. The proportion of such poems seems particularly high in this one. Some are enigmatic, others more straightforward. Either way, they seize the imagination by the clarity and economy of their phrasing, the poise of their rhythms and a strange, nervy tautness that gives every … Continue Reading

Katharine Towers, let him bring a shrubbe – review



You can link to my London Grip review of Katharine Towers’ superb chapbook by clicking here.


What I didn’t adequately suggest in the review itself was how beautifully the booklet is designed and produced by Philip Lancaster and the The Maker’s Press. Everything except the Tasting Notes is printed in a way that combines visual clarity with softness (the paper is a very pale ivory rather than white). The Tasting Notes are shaped as concrete poems and printed in a pale slightly greenish grey, which to me suggests the elusiveness and obliquity of attempts to describe nuances of flavour. It’s … Continue Reading

Maura Dooley, Five Fifty-Five – review


You can read my review of Maura Dooley’s fine Five Fifty-Five in the London Grip by clicking here.


Harry Clifton, Gone Self Storm – review

The cover image of Harry Clifton’s Gone Self Storm is Mark Tracey’s beautiful black and white photograph of Howe Strand, which shows a ruined building silhouetted between the running sea and the sky. The poems themselves are haunted by death. Parts One and Three are dedicated to the memory of dead women, the first being the speaker’s mother or stepmother. Part Two begins with a short sequence set in the Glasnevin cemetery, and most of its poems are elegies or addresses to the dead. What’s really distinctive, though, is not this elegiac subject matter but the way ideas of change … Continue Reading

Michael Vince, Back to Life – review

Michael Vince, Back to Life. Mica Press. £10


You can link to my review by of this book on thIMG_3559e London Grip by clicking here.

James Fenton, ‘Wind’

Here’s a link to the text and the poet’s reading of James Fenton’s superb short poem ‘Wind’ on the Poetry Archive:

It’s a poem that brings tears to my eyes when I read it. Paradoxically, I think it does so at least partly by the serene beauty of its composition and the lightness with which it touches its matter. This lightness is reflected in the poet’s reading, which is thoughtful and tinged with sadness but never heavily emotive.

Despite its being so short, I would call it a great poem. Its point of view, its subject matter, is epic, dealing … Continue Reading