Book Review: The Sun is Open

sun is open

“Around noon, the girl took her
auntie by the hand to the rows
of rose bushes where her father
wasn’t”

“Around noon, the men sent out
for fish and chips and as they sat
eating they watched the lunchtime
news to find out if they had
killed their target”

On the morning of March 6, 1984, Gail McConnell’s father was shot dead outside his home in front of his wife and three-year-old daughter. This poetry collection provides an innovative and powerful account of the affect this had on the author in the years that followed. It is built from memories and personal archive material taken from a ‘Dad Box’ she created. Several of the entries are wrapped around direct quotes from items stored therein, including: newspaper clippings, William McConnell’s student diaries, Beryl McConnell’s Statement of Witness.

Each page makes use of white space and indentation to effect. There is no punctuation and few capital letters. This approach serves to focus the reader’s attention. Meaning is clear. The stream of memories and violent imagery is gut-wrenching to consider.

The poems are more factual than political, emotive given context but never mawkish. By drawing on what was reported at the time, a picture of the terrorist mindset sits alongside a young girl growing up in the shadow of the void their actions created. And yet, no judgement is made here. Her father’s perceived character – “a man of high morals, honest, loyal, dedicated” and also “giving prisoners a hard time in Long Kesh” – sits alongside the man who made his young daughter a Wendy House, took her to the beach and created music with his guitar.

In a segregated society sides will be taken, community support provided even for killers.

“the stuff of thrillers wigs washed
in the kitchen sink two pairs
of rubber gloves burnt in the
yard the briefcase tucked up in
the attic sub-machine gun snug
inside clean towels for everyone
the spinner going on third
time that afternoon”

The author’s family are church goers, the child’s social life lived amongst Christian youth groups and protestant schoolfriends. The bible is quoted frequently, the bizarreness of some of its commands and stories quietly highlighted.

The strangeness of being a major news item is remembered, or rebuilt from items kept. In time, the author is cautioned against playing her ‘murder card’ to get her way.

“it’s what dislodges in my body
when I hear balloons pop pop the
birthday party I spent in the
corridor outside the room”

As an adolescent there were small rebellions but also a pulling in of what had been absorbed, the fallout from such a pivotal childhood event. The hurt from such a loss need not be explicitly stated to provide the undercurrent and occasional riptide in choices made. That the author avoids any call for sympathy in her writing – although obviously deserved – is to be commended.

The poems are both beautiful and poignant to read, the language employed all the more compelling for its concise simplicity. Depth is conveyed through what was considered ordinary for a girl in Northern Ireland – how strange the accepted behaviours are to look back on. And yet, it is not necessary to understand life during The Troubles to appreciate the schism caused by the sudden death of a parent. This collection provides a window into a life that perforce continued. It is an arresting and deeply moving read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Penned in the Margins.

Book Review: Bent for the Job

bent for the job

The privileged often espouse a view that poverty of aspiration and achievement (whatever that means) can be improved through education and temperance. They hold a belief that a desire for self-improvement is an inherent quality in man, perhaps because of their blinkered experiences. The life Mick Guffan writes of in his caustic yet remarkable poetry makes no mention of such capital ambition. It’s not for me to say if the man actively looked to improve his lot and lacked luck or opportunity, but the snippets he shares here of day to day existence are shadowed by the elemental – violence, drugs, unsatisfactory sex – endured when the effort required to effect change feels pointless to the narrator. There is little mention of pleasure other than through temporary release.

For those who regard poetry as pretentious, this collection offers an antithesis. Its raw honesty grates against any supposed rules on taste or censure. It includes references to and casual acceptance of such realities as: lice, semen, the sharing of menses. These are dealt with factually, without recoil, cutting to the quick. The poems offer an evocative rendering of a man as he sees himself – flawed and flayed by life. He is in want, and often this is not pretty.

There are injections of humour, as in ‘A Visit to the Museum’.

Browsing the bottom shelf
three specimen jars in a row.
Antiquated floating pricks as pathologist reference-
near an exposed, dangling double socket.
A sign below them all saying:
“Faulty, do not use.”

There are insights that offer a window into the sharp mind of a man whose behaviour and outward appearance may have led some to dismiss him with misplaced condescension.

(Only the righteous
shall be saved)
Ah yes, all in good time.
There are
so many
different
people to be.

‘Progress’ mocks

them          clever
poems
with
words that         jump
about

poems that

tick / some / boxes
merit an    Arse Council    handout

What comes across is an impression that the narrator chooses his own path within the confines of the hand dealt him. There is no expectation of sympathy. He accepts responsibility for what he is.

The poems, for all their grimy imagery, somehow transcend. They take a scalpel to preconceptions of someone who is at times ground down, who is so much more than first impressions. If the reader is discomfited by what is being shared perhaps the onus lies within. Reality bites and Guffan chews over this with uncompromising skill.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Tangerine Press. 

Book Review: White Eye of the Needle

white eye needle

White Eye of the Needle, by Chris Campbell (illustrated by Sandra Evans), is a collection of twenty-five poems written over a six year period and including consideration of life lived in lockdown. Many of the poems exude admiration and love for a partner, at home and on trips abroad. The settings vary, often urban but with appreciation of natural elements that spring up where not cleared away. Observations made are appealing in their simplicity and yet, in that, are at times profound.

“there’s more to life than death”

The poems written in lockdown reflect the frustrations widely felt by those confined to home, who hanker after the holidays they would be planning if permitted. There are walks by a canal and a feeling of gratitude to be sharing confinement with a loved one. Pets feature, their previously private antics observed between Zoom or Teams meetings.

‘Must all the world’s beauty be a gift?’ is a short appreciation of unaltered looks that particularly resonated.

“Our plastic wealth of plucked lips; nip and tuck,
takes all attention from our individuality
and tries to rid all life of natural luck,
adding to inner ugliness that never sags.”

‘Virtual Coo’ reminds of the sadness that milestones must now be shared over screens rather than in person – a newborn baby offered the inadequate virtual hug.

Older poems recount highlights of trips away: a ski run, art admired in St Ives, a honeymoon in Madagascar.

‘No holding me back’ jarred against the previously expressed gentle love and support with its depiction of an argument.

“your tongue is an adder
striking poison through my heart.”

It offers a reminder of the more negative reactions life’s challenges can induce.

This short collection is enhanced by the varied and skilfully rendered illustrations.

white eye pic 1   white eye pic 2

An enjoyable read that offers human connection during a time when life can feel held in abeyance.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.

Book Review: The Heeding

the heeding

The Heeding is a poignant and powerful poetry collection written by Rob Cowen and stunningly illustrated by Nick Hayes. It reflects on the year following the first COVID19 lockdown and will serve in the time to come as a reminder of when the world changed profoundly – how we lived lives altered in previously unimaginable ways. The poems capture the concerns and frustrations of families required to deal with the challenges of: house arrest, homeschooling, a ban on visiting their cared for elderly. It provides an evocative reminder that nobody will live forever.

“They are staring into a child’s eyes, wondering at the storm that’s coming.
How they might put themselves between what they love and everything”

The author is father to young children and his worries centre on them. He reflects on his own childhood and the lessons learned and valued from his parents and grandparents – often appreciated only in hindsight. He was taught to heed what was around him, particularly in nature. He now wishes to pass this valuable skill on to the next generation.

The poems have a depth that belies the ease with which they may be read. Incidents recounted are often everyday yet have an impact, a value, in the connections they engender.

Solidarity on a Saturday Night is a short poem about neighbours lighting up their backyards and somehow feeling together without the need to meet. This Allotment reflects on a humanity that is possible when people are accepting of difference in looks or creed – willing to offer practical advice and their labour along with excess produce.

“When heart-sore, I often wonder if this place is
secretly a model for what should be; how things could be,
were we not so preoccupied with property”

Last Breaths took my breath away, moving me to tears. It is a heartfelt account of a man in a nursing home, dying alone of this terrible plague. He remembers aspects of his life: war, a beloved wife outlived, a daughter who died in childhood, another now banned from seeing him – to keep him safe! The illustration that goes with this poem is perfect, as are so many here. The words brought home to me, perhaps for the first time, how my own father passed away last year – hand held by a nurse in PPE.

Another particularly poignant poem is Dennis, a man taunted relentlessly by local children whose casual cruelty makes their older selves squirm. The reason for his odd tics and behaviour is heartrending.

There are poems that describe encounters with birds and other creatures along with the Yorkshire landscape where the author lives. Nature is depicted as savage as well as beautiful, teeming with life but also death. There are reflections on more human concerns – failing businesses, history, politics, fearful unease.

“These cancelled birthdays.
These bans on being together.
These redundancies, uncertainties,
limits on impulse and joy,
on movement and autonomy.”

Black Ant highlights how we may try to save a tiny creature in difficulties, but will not tolerate those that threaten the structure or safety of our dwelling and family.

Pharmacy Cake brings home the loneliness of lockdown life for the elderly it was sold as designed to protect.

“This braving of sleet and virus;
this coddling of staff, is a way to treat a pain
more mangling, more unbelievably sore
than any of us are collecting prescriptions for.”

Viking Gold is a wonderfully evocative remembrance of a stern grandmother who, in the end, offered the author a window into all she had kept in check throughout her life, just before ‘her mind unspooled towards infancy.’

“Born of bleak moor and indoctrinated patriarchy;
the dark, meagre modesties of mill town terraces.
Be grateful for the least. Repent, repress
the sin of boastful joy; let your worries be endless
lest God give you, with a clout,
something proper to worry about.”

Lockdown, with all the mental baggage it has created, has certainly given the author much to worry about. He is scathing in his opinion of those who do not take the vaccine, especially those who spread fear about side-effects, branding them murderers. I pondered how many were living with such concerns and if this will change how they interact once guidelines are lifted.

Whatever views one ascribes to on this, the collection offers much to consider along with an appreciation of the natural world that continues to turn through the seasons however man is living within. I found this thought uplifting, that we too may choose to go on, perhaps still at risk but not allowing this to rob us of the joys to be found both in our back yards and beyond.

“Be kind. Forgive. Attend and heed.
Be strong, but lead with love not power.
Look for the universe inside the seed”

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Elliott & Thompson.

Book Review: Owl Unbound

owl unbound

“In death
they shall inherit the earth.
Until this time
they have been living
on borrowed land.”

Owl Unbound, by Zoe Brooks, is a poetry collection that explores big issues man often ruminates over – life, death, disappointment, expectations. The author winds her thoughts around the wonder that is nature, where such things happen but are accepted as a cycle. Modern living demands control and sanitisation. There is a disconnect with wider existence – oft ignored interconnections that affect wellbeing.

Where love is mentioned it is as a search for something personally fulfilling, or as a loss.

“Our love is without sap,
like the flayed ash”

There is a loneliness in relationships referenced.

“I stole the moon for you,
but you did not even notice”

Many of the topics explored are presented with a degree of bitterness, but there is also humour in the musings.

As well as nature, history features. Fossils are found on a beach and a young boy wants to believe they are from dinosaurs, not simple sea creatures. The ghosts to be sensed in old buildings are ignored by those uninterested in a past that inexorably shaped people and place, concerned as they are only by current experiences.

Punch is a powerful series of poems that use the traditional puppet to portray cause and effect of attitudes and actions – resentments felt by some men and where this leads.

There’s Nothing To See is a clever play on aspects of ageing, including the increasing invisibility of the elderly as they move through society.

“I have taken off my body
and hung it on the wardrobe door.
It has become too much for me.
I am tired of pulling it on
each morning rumpled by sleep.

I have worn it so long
it has lost its shape.”

There are observations on living in a female body, within and without – menstruation, pregnancy, the souring of friendships, disappointing love affairs, watching a parent die.

The writing is penetrating in the insights shared although with an undercurrent of despondency. What comes through is the importance of surroundings – noticing and appreciating small details that offer perspective on personal problems that must be dealt with.

I took from my reading of this collection how man puts himself at the pinnacle of existence despite the short time each spends amongst the living.  The poems reflect how much better life can be with less naval gazing and more quiet reflection on the wider views to be found all around. Carefully written and offering much to consider, this was a worthwhile read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.

Book Review: We’ll Meat Again

well-meat-again

“The owls are hooting in the afternoon again

or maybe the world is just quiet enough to hear them.”

We’ll Meat Again, by Benjamin Myers, is the third title published by the recently formed Ration Books (I review the first here and the second here). These are pocket sized quick reads intended to be: disposed of, passed on, left for other readers to find. Ration 3 is described on the back cover as ‘quarantine dream scenes disguised as fleeting poems’. In reading them I pondered if the author had been ingesting the special cookies (not that I am suggesting he indulges in such behaviour).

Myers’ trademark appreciation of nature, alongside his willingness to face down brutal realities, are injected with elements so surreal that they at times perplexed this reader. His lockdown observations are undoubtedly pithy and witty but some remained opaque even after several attempts to decipher meaning. Others honed in on tropes that garnered media attention as life grew ever more constricted. Images evoked are often playful, if morbidly so. This is not an offering that celebrates the best of what man can be in a crisis.

“A man accidentally strangles himself with the clanking chain of his sex swing

Neighbours are alerted by the black smoke pluming from his burnt sourdough”

My reaction after first perusal was to question what I had just read. Be assured, enjoyment improves with rereads. There is play on language alongside a reminder of what lockdown featured. Perhaps this work is intended as an aide-memoire for the times we have experienced over the past year.

“Keep two claps apart
and wash your metres

Social the unprecedented
extension hands.

Isolate a lockdown.
Panic immediately.”

As a literary reminder I personally prefer Jonathan Gibbs’ Spring Journal. There is, however, room on my shelves for a collection such as this that both provokes and entertains.

Book Review: We Are All Somebody

we are all somebody

“I realised how powerful poetry can be. It can instil hope, it can inspire and you can feel the emotion in the words.”

“Listen to our young people”

We Are All Somebody is a poetry anthology written by street children who were chosen to represent their countries in Street Child World Cups. Starting in 2010, these international events are organised ahead of the world’s biggest sporting competitions in cricket and football. Their aim is to bring together street connected young people from around the world, and to advocate for change in the way they are seen and treated.

The anthology was compiled by Samantha Richards who, in 2018, represented the UK at the Street Child Football World Cup in Moscow. Inspired by her discussions with members of other teams from across the globe she put pen to paper and wrote out her emotions in a poem. She invited her new friends to contribute in poetry or artwork.

“We must encourage each other to be the best version of ourselves before we can expect others to do the same.”

The book opens with profiles of the young leaders in the competitions from various countries. Their plea is to be treated fairly and with compassion. What they want is: shelter, food, clean water, healthcare, education. They ask for protection from: violence, exploitation, sexual abuse, trafficking, child marriage. Key to accessing these basic rights is a legal identity, often hard to come by.

“They are children like any other children in the world.”

The poems that follow are heartfelt cries for needs to be met without discrimination. Several include references to COVID 19 and the difficulties of adhering to recommended guidelines when access to proper sanitation is limited.

“insecurity and hunger are their greatest threats”

The street children are exploited by all they come into contact with, including at times each other. Despised, unprotected and blamed for their situation they have no recourse to justice.

“We sleep in a group
If you sleep alone, you are sexual prey
If you sleep too deeply, your money gets taken”

Although raw at times, the message herein is powerful. The contributors ask that their voices be heard on behalf of other street children. I hope they find readers who will listen.

original_112459ce-2741-4d1f-a61a-39d4857ec5f5_IMG_20210401_125217564_HDR

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Fly On The Wall Press.

Book Review: About a Lover from Tunisia

Ouafa and Thawra: About a Lover From Tunisia, by Arturo Desimone, tells the story of a five year love affair between the part-Jewish narrator and a beautiful Arab woman. They lived in an apartment by a mosque, the calls to prayer marking their days and bookending their love-making. Structured as a poetry collection interspersed with line drawings there is an element of myth to what is the tale of a modern relationship.

The edition sent to me for review was bilingual – original Spanish alongside English translation (by Lucas Brockenshire). The prologue was not translated. The English edition linked to above includes an essay by the author that, as the publisher explains, adds context. Interesting though this would be to read, I was fully able to enjoy each of the poems standalone.

The collection opens with a poem in homage to a girl once loved. The narrator muses on her beauty, how much he enjoyed her naked body and the dark raven curls of her hair. In leaving her country he lost her. There is regret but also acceptance – pleasure in the memory.

The setting – Tunisia – is evocatively portrayed. Mentioned are: the minarets, latticework, encroachment of modern accoutrements, suspicion of locals towards camera wielding tourists. Referenced are virulent opinions separating Europeans and Arabs. The woman, though, is regarded by her lover as an equal.

“That din, that din I was forced to hear
for five years –
But the only inequality between us
was in height: when we stood I had to bend
over her
like beaten up crescent from a molten minaret
to thank her for translation.”

Their are musings on their differing heritages – on forbidden love and forbidden desire, religions attempting to police behaviour. The narrator is aware that women are neither powerless nor incapable.

“All those secret cops,
work for the great Stellar pimp”

“she barely needs me,
to drown her enemies.
She doesn’t depend
only on me,
to tighten the pink scarf
of her enemy –
but it’s the gesture that resonates.”

Although this is a modern love affair, the writing has tones of earth and fire. There is history, myth and tradition that predate the origins of current conflicts. There is so much beauty to be savoured in people and place whatever their daily trials.

When the man leaves Tunisia he takes with him regrets that linger.

“I want to speak to you again,
and that our voices are not dead in each other’s souls.”

She, however, has drawn a line under their affair.

“my Arab girl
across the ocean in Tunisia,
no longer thinks of me,
no longer waiting,
no longer”

The gorgeous imagery of the text is enhanced by the line drawings which offer much to unpack and are well worth making time for.

The language employed is reminiscent of a more ancient appreciation. The woman is depicted as more than beautiful – as powerful and independent. Unexpected juxtapositions add force and flavour to poems expressing love for a person and place.

That both parties have moved on reminds the reader that passion may be enjoyed and fondly remembered without it overriding what comes next.

A paean to a relationship that transcended the petty rules of religion and nationalism. Poems to savour for the many pleasures shared that are still valued though their time has now passed.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.

Book Review: Vertigo To Go

Vertigo To Go, by Brendon Booth-Jones, is a powerful poetry collection with a deeply personal vibe. Running through each entry are musings on the loneliness and perceived failures of modern living.

The narrator gets by on a cocktail of drugs, alcohol and attempts at forging relationships that subsequently go awry. There is an undercurrent of grief for a father who died when the narrator was a child. He castigates himself for not honouring the man’s memory by being the person he aspires to be – ‘more reason to call myself your son’. There are also concerns at how easily he allows the burning of the planet to slide under his easily distracted radar.

“all I do is try to scroll the loneliness away – while faceless corporations push species after species down the ravenous black hole of extinction.”

The opening section, Whippet, contains five poems that hold up a mirror to adolescence.

Ashley presents a set of fifteen year olds doing drugs in a friend’s garage, sprawled out on beanbags while listening to the likes of Hendrix and Cobain. Caught up in the moment, along with thoughts of ‘the luminous tantalizing future’, the narrator misses his friend’s cry to be heard. It is only later in life, when he realises they have lost touch, that he becomes haunted by what may have become of the boy.

“I had been too busy riding the radiant final wave
of innocence behind my eyes
to see his hands shaking”

Testimony precedes this by a year. The narrator is in a church listening to the shrieking output of an evangelical preacher. In a moment of quiet, on his way to use the bathroom, he comes across another preacher evicting a homeless man into the ‘deluge of winter night’ with words of hatred.

“it was one of those moments
when you either scuttle back
into the warm fold of all you’ve known

or you turn your back and leap into a dark future –

away from the sickly sweet cologne
of toilet freshener cloying your throat:
that synthetic smell of fake flowers
trying to cover shit -“

The section finishes with Codex in which the narrator sets out on the rest of his life, away from ‘the religion: a cardboard cutout of love’ and ‘the school: a conveyor belt of hate’. He carries with him the poison of his stepfather’s words: ‘Your daddy never loved you!’ to lose himself in ‘the fear and vertigo and glitter -‘ beyond graduation.

The what comes next is covered in the remaining poems in the collection. There is apparent success – champagne parties held at McMansions with swimming pools – but any pleasure derived is shaded by loneliness and memory. Sonnet is a brilliant depiction of modern living – limited attention spans and the diversions available.

“Breaking news: the news is broken. Purpose is replaced by a plastic replica. How fast does my attention fade on a scale from Brexit to breakneck? Cute Cat Singing Christmas Carols!”

Poem Scraped from Greasy Menu somehow manages to explain the damage caused by modern capitalism, asking how a ‘young child who loved dinosaurs, bees and flowers’ makes the leap ‘from carefree to cruelty’.

“And that salmon, sir, was dyed pink and pumped
with preservatives. Slave-wage workers
with weeping minds picked your precious coffee beans –

But the planet you tamed climbs back up the chain
in blind revenge. No apex predator escapes.
Earth rolls back red eyes (red claws, red fangs).
Don’t you see the blazing December sun? The snowy summers?
The ocean up to its throat in microplastics?”

Another recurrent theme is relationships, often at their breakup. Catacombs is set in Paris, the narrator recognising his failure to perform as required and expected.

“I couldn’t get it right
I walked too fast. I walked too slow.
I chewed too loud. I mumbled.”

At the site of the crash sees the narrator faced with a traumatic death that hits all the harder when he spots a photo of a young boy on a bloody dashboard – who now perhaps faces a lifetime of grief that is achingly familiar.

The repeating aspects in the collection – cutting words that cannot be forgotten; that each person is the sum of everything that has gone before yet struggles to learn its lessons; that how the world is treated will effect all who live in it, including man – are presented with a simplicity that nevertheless eviscerates.

In Poem for my Mother the narrator states ‘you taught me not to look away’. It is, perhaps, when he looks away, when he seeks a chemical release from the loneliness faced, that he disappoints himself more than the father whose love was denied by a cruel stepfather, whose religion was equally hate filled.

It is always pleasing when good writing is packaged well and I must mention the aesthetics of this slim collection. The photos and end papers add to the enjoyment to be gleaned while perusing the impressive contents.

This is poetry I eagerly recommend to all – aficionados and those who would like to read more of the form but perhaps fear they won’t get it. Readers of either ilk will be bowled over by the resonance and connection of each entry in this collection. I am grateful that its existence was brought to my attention.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, The Hedgehog Press.

Book Review: Chaos

Chaos, edited by Anna Johnson, is the most recent poetry anthology published by Patrician Press. Many of the entries have been included in previous collections but have been brought together here as a reaction to various events affecting the UK over the past five years. These include attitudes to: immigration, Brexit, climate change, the current pandemic.

“In difficult times, then, we turn to Art; poetry, in particular, is one of the pithiest ways to process events that seem extreme.”

Many of the poems are provocative – understandable given that the issues being written about have generated controversy yet little in the way of balanced debate. There appears to be an assumption that readers will agree with the points of view of the book’s creators. There is limited exploration of why these views are not held by everyone.

In their introduction, the editor writes

“I hope there is enough in these pages to console, entertain and feed the spirit.”

Sadly, this was not my reaction. While I am appalled by the selfish and insular actions of too many politicians – lining their pockets along with those of their financial supporters and powerful advisors rather than working to help constituents – the issues are more complex than is suggested within these pages. Solutions are rarely as simple as they are made to appear.

Refuge is a Taxi features an immigrant, Basim, who is obviously intelligent and willing to work hard in order to realise his quiet ambitions. His past still gives him nightmares – of the horrific experiences escaped from. He regards his new home as a ‘land of opportunity.’

I found no poems exploring the messier side of immigration – of those who demand the retention of oppressive culture and damaging familial traditions that break the laws of their new homeland. I’m thinking of such practices as: FGM, ‘honour’ killings, forced marriage, rejection of homosexuality. Freedom and safety are not just the rights of heterosexual men.

It is possible to agree with the headline – show compassion, seek understanding – without accepting behaviour that damages those who also deserve protection.

Closed borders are the subject of several poems. In Something Human the freedom offered by a red passport is compared to the plight of refugees.

“I’ve never pleaded with strangers
to let me in to a cold and foreign nation
where I feel unwelcome,
derided and despised for trying
to save my life.”

Ride the Waves explores the removal of freedom that we are currently experiencing within the UK – how it has been so submissively accepted.

“Running away from each other in public
Get back!
We’re too close!
6-foot rule, or 6-foot under!”

The poet ponders if we have already said goodbye to our rights by accepting the ‘sanitised lies’.

Although there are a number of poems focusing on climate change – blame and fear more than a call to appreciate the still beautiful world – I enjoyed the images of nature in Wild Isolation. Birds and mammals continue their daily existence, even amongst the abandoned litter and other human detritus – while people fearfully isolate themselves from the current plague.

“All left in the lurch   to besmirch green and brown –
While squirrels   maintain their slight sordidness
Without being thought – sweet”

Climate change can be hard to discuss pithily. The need to respect the health of the planet – the life support system of all species – may be incontrovertible. How this is currently being approached, especially given man’s innate behaviour, creates unpalatable reverberations. As examples, wind farms kill birds and are a blight on the landscape. They and solar farms – with their tax funded subsidies – add wealth to already wealthy landowners. These poems suggest we may help with small, personal changes. Advocating for these is worthwhile but also of limited impact.

I have found this review hard to write as I fear opprobrium for not always agreeing with good and honourable intentions without reservation.

The writing within the anthology is mixed, as may be expected from a variety of contributors. Some of the poems have a simplistic structure; others require a number of rereads to unpack meaning. Together they are certainly thought-provoking. The issues explored deserve attention and careful consideration.

It is, perhaps, because humans and their behaviour are the focus of these poems that I did not find the consolation the editor hoped to offer. Instead, I found too much polemic – sad reminders of the misnomers now surrounding ‘fact’ or ‘expert’. We undoubtedly need more kindness, generosity and acceptance. We may also benefit from listening more attentively to those outside our echo chambers.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Patrician Press.