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The Wide Summer Shelf, 2018 III.


barbed rule

By Peter Riley.

barbed rule

New poetry Summer 2018
Reviewed, noted or just listed
In three parts: First part reviews Carol Rumens and Judith Willson. Part Two reviews Sheila Hamilton, Em Strang, Vahni Capildeo and Dorothy Lehane. Part Three: Steve Ely,  Nick Totton, Aidan Semmens, Scott Thurston, Alex Houen, James Russell, Andrew Wynne Owens, Antony Rowland; short notes, anthologies for Denise Riley and W.S. Graham, and criticism by Sandeep Parmar et al.


Pursuing Atrocity on the Periphery and Beyond
barbed ruleSteve Ely

Bloody, proud and murderous men, adulterers and enemies of God
The High Window 2018 | 142pp paperback | £10.00. $12.99

Zi-Zi Taah Taah Taah: The Song of the Willow Tit
Wild West Press 2018. Artwork by PR | 36pp pamphlet | £7.00

Jubilate Messi
Shearsman Books, 2018 | 36pp pamphlet | £6.50. $9.95.


I REMEMBER A sense of relief when I first came across Steve Ely’s sequence “How Dear is Life” in the Poetry Society’s collection of new poetry on the 1914-18 war, The Pity (2014), which is reprinted in Bloody, proud… It was also in some respects a shock, but what was a relief was the realisation that we were for a change not centrally involved with a self. Instead of the subjective pleading folded into all kinds of substance, which we have come to expect of most new poetry in English, what we get is facts, history, reality, result. The “pity” was not only in the slaughtering fields and the subsequent helplessness of our regret, it was in immediate result, in the stab-in-the-back legend which precipitated the next war, in the expulsion of the Israelites 3000 years ago. And if course it is in the next room waiting an occasion to become public again.

As with most of his projects (and he seems mainly to write in projects) some of the poems concerning 1914-18 remain within the given scenario, tending to be ballad-like when that happens (in this case once); others will be set somewhere else as a result of sudden lurches across time and distance; and yet others will shoot all over the place. It was the speed and confidence with which the sites of attention are transgressed which first struck me.

Pharaoh decreed it from his palace of ivory & gold
six hundred smooth-snatched kama sutra concubines
jacuzzied in ass milk__ or donkey-stoning Karnak
with clouts of hairdos__. and Vim corroded hands

Ely’s mechanics require ‘the urgency of the rhythm, the strong breath of the caesura’.d long lines, or the sharply pointed song-cluster…’

These four lines move back and forth across three thousand years and half the earth in a flick of the wrist (“donkey stone” is a block used for scouring stone steps of houses, probably a north of England thing, I remember it well; Vim is a scouring powder; I’m not sure about clouts). Elsewhere in the same poem the babies floated down the Nile to escape the genocide are hooked by one word (“recusant”) to a different campaign of child-murder and then in a flash to “cankered scrotum of the infant sweep”, and Kronos rhymes with Krupp… There is no time to seek out the mechanics of these connections, but they are not irrational and it is not only concept that binds them together. It is also the urgency of the rhythm, the strong breath of the caesura’d long lines, or the sharply pointed song-clusters; it is the spoken dialect of class and place, with its sometimes Google-defeating vocabulary; it is the encyclopaedia of names built into the poetry and the grip of story-telling, for that is what he mainly does.

Steve Ely pursues atrocity. Bloody, proud… holds five of his projects, all well blood-stained, one of which, “Werewolf” (formerly a Calder Valley Poetry pamphlet) has notes in which we can possibly locate a belief structure for his enterprise. He offers a kind of plot summary:

In a Death Camp setting presided over by the White Angel, the First Woman is raped, conceived and gives birth to twins. The twins are seized by the White Angel, who experiments on them: one twin is blessed and grows up to be caring and altruistic; the other is horribly abused and becomes a monster. The twins make their respective ways in the world…

I’m sure Ely would not want this made a substitute for all the resourcefulness and variety of his work, in manner as well as subject. But we do have here a dualism, a basic good-versus-evil scenario which could account for all but the detail (i,e, all but what really matters), for the poems in “Werewolf” range through a kinema of locations and subjects, from “Scientific race theory” to Ely’s own experience of brutality in the classroom. I’m unsure whether there is or isn’t a sense of the severed twins longing to be united in love (see above on Vahni Capildeo’s view of the imposition of a third term (“white”) which by interposing itself inhibits the conjunction.)

AND THEN THERE’S football (Jubilate Messi) and the song of the willow tit, which goes Zi-Zi Taah Taah Taah. The point about football is that it too is a history and can evince virtue as well as skill in the acts of its players. Ely even provides it with a pre-history: (again from his notes): “…the creation of football from the beginning of time via a conflation of the Hebrew and Orphic creation myths. The Promethean figure “Pramanath” seizes the ball from God and brings the game to Earth.” I don’t think this is entirely serious, but it gets the book off to a good start, as it launches into a series of football narratives – heroes and villains, chronicles of names and acts much in Ely’s usual manner, which is a kind of embellished narrative technique which he has established for himself somewhere between Pound’s accumulations of gerundive symptoms and the rolling pace of the real narrative poetry which petered out early last century. I think his manner at times comes into contact with what is called “labouring class poetry” and, somehow, the English ode tradition. There are massively helpful (indeed indispensible to some of us) football notes.

The book of the willow-tit is a very fine product. Delightful coloured drawings by “PR”(not me!) decorate a diverse collection concerning this now scarce and fast declining small bird — notes of sightings, etymology, historical records… but also a politically laden account of the despoiled landscape this creature now inhabits, and, as in other of his projects, towards the end a fully “poetical” poem, “England’s Dreaming” in which the “I” takes the stage as a figure of power and vision, master of ceremonies and lamenting prophet:

I woke to trumpets, trembling earth. Light rinsed
the freighted catacombs. Before my eye, roots flexed
the cracked the limestone. The living walked.
The dead slept in their dust. All the dead were dead
save me. I entered the rapture on Upton Beacon,
in the ruins of the stricken Water Tower. Angels were razing
the dormers with flamethrowers, dangling mortgagees
from gibbets. The dead were dead already. The quick
transformed in air. All the quick were dead save me.

Not only to achieve such a voluminous writing, but to create the context that makes it possible, all balanced on the spine of a small almost-extinct bird; this is Steve Ely at his best.

Briefly Bracketed: Four poets of the original outburst—
Torrance, Totten, Burns and Barnett

The Magic Door
by Chris Torrance

Test Centre 2017 | 416pp card covers, edition of 500 | £30.00. $60.00
Also 26 copies in slipcase signed and lettered by the author and with additional holograph material.

I HAVE REVIEWED this in Poetry Salzburg Review no.32. Unfortunately the last page of the review, which contains the only extended quotation, is accidentally missing. An A5 sheet will be inserted into copies not yet gone out, otherwise the page can be received as an e-mail attachment, from The first sentence of the review is “Chris Torrance is important”.

Cold Calling
Equipage 2018 | 28pp pamphlet | £6.00.

World Frequency
Magpie Moon (4/PL242JH) 2018 | 40pp A4 pamphlet | £6.00. $8.00

by Nick Totton

EVIDENTLY A RETURN to poetry by a partisan of Cambridge disruptions long ago, in a manner he describes as “collage mosaic, conscious and unconscious”. But Nick Totten seems to take several different routes to the poem: computational, outright Prynnian (it shows in the very small words: “Uncertain ever forming and if not, but so.”) with some preaching (he is a Jungian analyst) and mixed up with these in both publications, poems which must be the true Tottonalia, noticeably more relaxed in feeding words to each other.

“let’s do it”: late poems.
The Black Light Engine Room Press (Middlesbrough) 2018 | 30pp pamphlet

by Jim Burns

The plainest of plainest possible poetry.

The Making of a Story.

Allardyce, Barnett 2018 | 64pp paperback | £12, $25 including mailing, from

by Anthony Barnett

“Prose fragments and poems arising from the search
for an unknown woman who appears in a video clip.”

Five poets who spoke to the above:
Semmens then Corcoran, Annwn, Dent, Thurston

Life Has Become More Cheerful.

Shearsman 2017 | 102pp paperback | £4.28.

by Aidan Semmens

AS SOON AS I saw the title I ran for this book, imagining an outburst of optimism in unlikely places — not meaning Semmens but the whole poetical quarter with which he is associated. The general rule is that as the energy of the original outburst dispersed to a next generation the writing became more overtly political in various ways, therefore oppositional therefore dedicated to lost causes therefore gloomy or pessimistic in the immediate shadow of political events or their histories. So, no optimism. The sentence was spoken by Stalin in 1938 immediately after the Great Purge and its use here is entirely ironic.

The good news is that Semmens is writing very well these days. His perspective is Russian, Jewish, and European, an almost constant double attention to large-scale politics and its results in individual experience of lives and land, set in three phases: the Russian Revolution, its failure, and the current shambles, each phase dominated by an unattributed lamentational monologue. But there is also a sense throughout that certain hints and linguistic irregularities refer us to where we are, Britain 2000s, such as, right at the end, in the middle of the last monologue which is about population displacement in a mining area: “I live on this street for 60 years / now where will they send?”. I think that when Semmens wrote this the Windrush crimes had not been made public, and he identified a wrong which is in the regular repertoire of destructive administrations. The dialect in the last word in not Russian.

Here is a book-full of modern poetry which is crafted to meet the affective demands of the story directly or indirectly, often elegantly, and with sardonic wit when appropriate.

Within this structure there is a book-full of modern poetry which is crafted to meet the affective demands of the story directly or indirectly, often elegantly, and with sardonic wit when appropriate. The modernity: no punctuation; constantly shifting prominence of statement, theatre and image; jumping from speaker to speaker and place to place (most speakers are anonymous, appropriately)… but gathering up its sequences of fragments and responses in a constantly even scale, pressing on calmly and dutifully through the shadows of history. There is a disregard for, or a refusal of, the definitive completion, which could be thought of as the demand of the innovative condition — “the work of art withheld is its own eloquence” — and the poet is protected by the modernist texture from any obligation to state a belief. But 1917 and its results govern everything in the poetry, as they did everything else in 1917. The task of reconciling events and public messages which violently contradict each other has to be renounced: it was never possible. In the resulting stalemate Semmens is using modernism, not replicating it. Statements do appear, but always held in the tension, and when they seem disputable, as quite a few do, regain their substance as stages in a journey.

all is nothing but illusion
contrived for the likes of us

all that really matters is missing


fear assumes different forms
history offers only
the must unreliable guide
we don’t believe
in triviality
least of all our own
everything profound loves a mask.1

…which could be taken as a plea for subjectivisation, or a claim that the poetical sensibility is more authentic and gives a fuller (profound) account than the accents of the people, which are lost to us, but all is again embedded in the particulars. The particulars can also be occasions for despair (page 87).

The author is authentically there in what happened, and constantly subject to the contradictions, both public and private, of the extended revolutionary condition. At the same time he is here, distanced from the immediate threats but distinctly worried about the echoes. This liberates a free play of sincerity, irony, sarcasm, ventriloquism or state broadcast which it is up to us to assimilate—

there will be no burning of books
it is better economics to pulp them
for printing again with better words

infinite happiness will lead
from this anywhere,
the end of injustice, war,
conflict and shipping

here I am expecting a trainload of ammunition
and they send me a trainload of priests

and sometimes a chilling conflation (innocently reported from the front line) of past and present—

in a trial against conspirators
there is no need of proofs
historical context
confirms the charges

The ending is bitter, but plenty enough reason has been given why it should be. And it is a bitterness both heightened and made bearable by a kind if relishing in the poetic lines, the pleasure of being spot-on strengthening the tread of syllables. There are stories by Platonov which are like this.

Article 50.

Longbarrow Press 2018 | 28pp pamphlet | £5.00

by Kelvin Corcoran

This has been commented on a number of times recently, for the compatibility of real lyrical writing and political lament, held together, unified, by an affective commitment.

Red Bank.

Knives Forks and Spoons Press 2018 | 50pp paperback, £7.00. $10.00

by David Annwn

Three sequences of free poems arising from historical and remembered events and three Beatles songs.

The Distances of Elizabeth Bowen.

Brass Farthing Press 2018 | 24pp pamphlet

by Peter Dent

Not exactly commentary, more like prose poems headed by short quotations from A World of Love.

Poems for the Dance.
Photographs by Roger Bygott | Aquifer Books 2017 | 74pp paperback | £10

by Scott Thurston

The poet is a dancer, and (after a long prose introduction) arranges reflective phrases in dance-steps down the page, concerning the experience of dancing but developed into glances at the world, poised, sometimes elegant, sometimes striking. Then returns to prose thoughts. In the verse sections the linear breaks cut across syntax rather persistently.

four people long
four people long….dead in a ring around
me appear first
four people long…in recognisable guises from
the old snap
four people long.shots then transform into
something ideal …

Thoughtful and clear, and hiding nothing of its origins; you would never guess the poet was a prophet of “experimentalism”.

Contemplative to Dramatic:
Houen and Russell

Ring Cycle
Eyewear Publishing 2018 | 98pp paperback | £8.36. $14.21

by Alex Houen

Wounded Light
High Window Press 2018 | 112pp paperback | $13.10

by James Russell

Couldn’t Modernism now be recognised as a store of poetical techniques which can be availed as a normal procedure in the writing of poetry, whether intensely or spasmodically? That’s what it’s rather like here…

I PUT THESE two together, in spite of their manifest differences, because apart from their both emanating from a certain eastern city, they represent ways of working within what can really no longer be called Modernism but does retain a certain Anglo-American sense of free movement and unrestrained figuration, now without missionary pressure. Couldn’t Modernism now be recognised as a store of poetical techniques which can be availed as a normal procedure in the writing of poetry, whether intensely or spasmodically? That’s what it’s rather like here: the sentences again flow freely, without constant halts and trips, and sense can be anything from transparent to cryptic. Generally the poetical text is over-written on recognisable conditions of the person and the state of things. Perhaps the most telling feature is a relaxation which opens the writing to humour and wit, whether outright or delicately in unexpected shifts of register, but with serious reverberations. Perhaps a lot of this was due to the intervention of Frank O’Hara or John Ashbery, who have both been points of agreement (reluctantly sometimes) between the advanced and the static (but never the extremes of either) .

Alex Houen’s line is always fluent and alive, however prominent his techniques of displacement become. A fast-flowing speech constantly shifting its sense and dialect, generally reporting on conditions: conditions of living, of idea, of affection, of what-have-you. It can be straightforward with interruptions, or highly complex with many and multiple displacements, but a complexity which does not require solving, because however serious it gets, it partakes of forms of pleasure (which is to say lyric) and this is often reinforced by techniques of repetition threaded through the poem, quite irregularly rather than in prominent refrain positions. So the writing can be dense, a tangle of figures which I feel is not a challenge to the reader but some kind of invitation. There is a recognisable, but not necessarily identifiable, logic holding the words together–

Backing vocals upside-down to war
Ba.bone-white stucco ceiling cupids
gunning for wings against memory
Ba.folded as working pockets…

Or it may be a sudden shift of one word which intervenes to destabilise the balance like a sudden attack of vertigo, come and gone in a flash but leaving a question hanging over the restored normality. A typical stroke of simultaneous seriousness and absurdity is his recipe for an “Oedipal silverpoint” whose ingredients include :

½ teaspoon indigo powder
2 heaped dessertspoons Ashes of Father
½ cup tap water
1 teaspoon liquid Gum Arabic”… etc.

In fact mourning is a recurrent question in this book, a rift which can be torn open and healed simultaneously, and both lyricism and playfulness are among the agents of this healing. There are also two intriguingly rich poems both entitled “Iliad Kid” identified as a rewriting of Curzio Malaparte in 1939, something which demands further investigation.

WHEN IT COMES to James Russell, a typically full and lyrical opening by Houen—

Ice floe slowly slowly slowly
blue-noir feedback screen reveals
cross between Venus and Medusa
writhing naked ecstatic in sheets…

set against one of Russell’s openings—

“I’m happy when I’m hawking…
I’m hap.was The Dwarf’s victory speech in full

…which is from the eponymous episodic narrative sequence or satirical monologue which occupies over half the book, and which I think is a remarkable achievement.

We have gone from the contemplative to the dramatic, but the freedom to violate all customs of dramatic unity…is confidently taken.

There is obviously a very different tone here, we have gone from the contemplative to the dramatic, but the freedom to violate all customs of dramatic unity, draw veils across the action or disguise it with mirrors or displace it at will, is confidently taken. There are 18 episodes or poems, each of which holds a different condition of decadence or alienation in modernity, contributing to a total sense of failure, affliction, or simply “Something Is Wrong”, which the narrator uncovers, challenges and adds to. As the scene constantly shifts the narrator shifts with it, with little sense of an over-riding condition except such as accumulates in the defiant burlesque. The whole enterprise is not unlike Edward Dorn’s Gunslinger, and Dorn is quoted, aptly: Knowing none of it accurately / The world can be surveyed.

As so the “world” is, surveyed and blamed and corrected and pitied by a despairing and sardonic narrator who may not always be the same person, as an incoherent entity endlessly submitting itself to hollow hopes.

The dadda, his tie wired from his neck, in the carbonara,
Thelol-lol/is laughing too much

to speak his joke for them.
to.Who could laugh at home
Who cold.with terror-rhythm

set by the rocking of the TV aerial
sh.against the brickwork?
set against.Can we please

go to bed now?

But there is one constant and solid figure, presiding over, creating and perpetuating all this from a position which is a position of elevated emptiness: The Dwarf. Here, a kind of nothing person clad in the whole armoury. I don’t know when Russell wrote Wounded Light and the time it takes to get poetry books published now might disable my reading, but it is difficult to think that The Dwarf could be anything but a figure of Trump. Not that he does anything much — that is the point: he is just there and all the harm refers to him. The glance at “hawk” above, which recurs, might clinch the American connection. But The Dwarf is more than a person, as is Trump.

There are also 23 sharp poems mostly marked by what he calls “laughing rancour” and without big displacements. One interesting poem is subtitled “a sort-of reply to Douglas Oliver” and I think I get the point but not all of it.

One interesting poem, “Kynde”, is subtitled “a sort-of reply to Douglas Oliver” and is a reluctant strike against dualistic and ecstatic poetical vision, the contradiction burning in Oliver from the heart of the heroic revolutionary hobblings of that strange city.

Both Houen and Russell have produced books with a great sense of fullness about them, that you could venture into at any time and, perhaps after some air-lock adjustments of expectation, find instances and versions of a serious sense of current reality held in poetical masking, sometimes not unlike what Carol Rumens sometimes does.

Mainstream on the edge:
Owens and Rowland

The Multiverse
Carcanet 2018 | 136pp paperback | £9.99. $9.99.

by Andrew Wynne Owens

I HAVE REPEATEDLY tried to convince the tribes of “innovative” or “experimental” poets that their great enemy and definer, the “mainstream”, doesn’t exist. That there is no body of poets working in such a unified manner or subject range, nor career pattern, nor automatic and corrupt reward system—all of which they are convinced there is. Then someone goes and writes a book-full of absolutely classic “mainstream” procedures like this one. It could have been done to order. I still don’t think there is a mainstream, but it clearly is still possible to write, efficiently and even thoughtfully, poetry which reads as though one-third of the author inhabits the eighteenth century and, for instance, to repeatedly perform what I call the “opening-guess-what-gambit” which I have always found particularly irritating: beginning a poem with oblique reference to some unidentified entity or event which is made clear a few lines later.

I’m not in a position to say much, it belongs in a different world, but I will say—

When jetpacks overshoot their destination
W.And zip us through the meadows like a bee,
When trains arrive before we’ve built the station
W.And find us dishing tickets out for free,
When rivers are dispersed by irrigation
W.And we are emptied to capacity
But then replenished with a drenching drought,
W.What will we say this life is all about?

There is something quite aggressive about this, and obstinate, a foot stamped on the ground, a defiance addressed to some notion of the poetry world which I don’t recognise. The bow to ancestral poetry is selective, it only refers to one aspect and it is emphasised in the way, for instance, the individual iambs are so prominent. What chance an imitative homage to Skelton, or Shakespeare for that matter? — nil. Why is the “Augustan” manner always the one to be treated as exemplary? And is it not anyway a vaudeville version that we’re offered, as compared, for instance with the use of the heroic couplet in recent urgently serious political and satirical poems by Alistair Noon and Martin Thom published in The Fortnightly Review here and here?

Anyway, it is none of my business and I’m sure it will go down well in the right end of the market. Peter McDonald, John Fuller and Simon Armitage in their blurbs all say it is extremely good and important. They all seem to speak rather defensively, and I don’t think any of them, certainly not Armitage, would themselves load their poetry with so much pastiche.

Arc Publications 2017 | 78pp paperback | £9.81

by Antony Rowland

ANTONY ROWLAND’S PREVIOUS book, I am a Magenta Stick, was reviewed here. M pursues his distinctive manner, a kind of topographical poetry constantly using the wrong words and building a present-tense narration which avoids saying what is happening. I find it interesting to reflect that the position of the resulting writing would have been highly anomalous not long ago, but some fundamental change has clearly taken place in the public arena of poetry.

Rowland comes bearing the marks of a “conventional poet”: Professor of, Gregory Award, Manchester Poetry Prize, international recognition, etc. Poets he has expounded in criticism include Hughes, Harrison (a book), Hill, C-A Duffy, Larkin… and “The Dutch government elected him a UK poetry ‘ambassador’ for 2016: his poetry was read on national television and shown on screens at Schipol airport and Amsterdam Central Station.”

So here we are at Amsterdam Central Station where crowds are gathered round various screens showing Antony Rowland’s face, and he speaks:

Mesolithic activity
in read clif: from an axe-hammer
to whitsters and bleachers, a goit
powering the throstle-spin. Coal
reveals a breach at Ladyshore,
the exposed seam a revenant
to the hush shops of cock and bait…

…which seems to me to be among the most difficult poetry I have seen, but evidently presents no problems to Manchester counsellors and the Dutch. In case I am just not being very bright, I went to Google, which produced no results for: read clif, whitsters, bleachers, goit, throstle-spin, hush shop, cock and bait. There was one result: Ladyshore is a defunct colliery near Manchester. If “goit” is a spelling of “goyt” it helps a little.

Perhaps difficulty, then, is not…what enrols you among the great unrecognised and unrewarded of contemporary poetry; perhaps obscurity is more to the point.

Rowland is not the only poet to enjoy public and institutional success against a difficult, sometimes very difficult script (Ishion Hutchinson is another). Perhaps difficulty, then, is not the point, is not what enrols you among the great unrecognised and unrewarded of contemporary poetry; perhaps obscurity is more to the point. The difference would be that obscurity is a darkness, cultivated as an act, a shadowing or masking of sense according to a world view, academic or monastic or nomadic. The darkness is taken as an inhering property of language. There may be a whiff of mysticism about it which discourages the poet-sorting officials, for whom world and language must essentially form a mutually cohering and evident arena. Difficulty is more likely to be the result of a manipulation of language, a displacement rather than a shot in the dark, an exercise or even a game to substitute awkward words for those the language hands you. This creates a sense of unease or worse, behind the reading experience, making the reading a struggle, which Roland understands as a figure of harm. He has written about the Holocaust as underlying “awkward” poetical writing by Sylvia Plath and others without their mentioning it, and “M”, the principal sequence of the new book “responds to” the random stabbing of a teenager in Manchester in 2013, who is likewise only mentioned on the back cover blurb. But if you look carefully at the poems, it is there.

So there may well be a kind of moral, but you have to seek it out, it won’t be declared. In his poem on the Brontës for instance, I am able to pick out reference to the faulty drainage system of Haworth which caused epidemics, and the miserable deaths of Maria and Elizabeth Brontë at Cowan Bridge School. There may be any number of scenes like these concealed behind the apparently defeating diction, but you have to work to find them. I think what happens is that events cease to exist except in the details, which stand before everything.

Anthologies and criticism

The Caught Habits of Language.
An Entertainment for W.S. Graham for Him Having Reached One Hundred, edited by Rachael Boast, Andy Ching and Nathan Hamilton.

Donut Press 2018 | 272pp | £15.00.

ONE HUNDRED POEMS for WSG’s Centenary, plus unpublished poems, photographs of Graham in 1958 by Michael Seward Snow (never seen him looking like this before). The ensemble of contributors, by design or happenchance, suggests that interest is dominantly Scottish. It is good to be reminded of people like Alexander Hutchison. The new Graham poems, presumably late, are exercises in the contrarian mode in which he had become so confident, but include several fully created pieces.

The World Speaking Back / to Denise Riley,
edited by Ágnes Lehóczky and Zoë Skoulding.

Boiler House Press 2018 | 196pp paperback | £12.99, $16.40.

There not an awful lot you can say about 103 poems offered to a person by 103 persons. I mean, they’re all different. But, as the introduction says, the poems relate to all of Denise Riley’s intellectual activities and the poets come from all phases of her life, including those of us who did not “neglect” but knew from the start and remained faithful.

by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya, and Bhanu Kapil

Clinic Publishing 2018 | 68pp pamphlet | £5.99, $7.69.

Three essays or polemics, on the “racialised subject”, the white privilege of the “lyric I” etc. argued by Parmar, commented on by Ramayya and meditated within experience by Kapil. I can’t really comment on this because I feel the text tells me I am disqualified. I will say that Kapil’s piece is helpful in understanding, possibly even empathising with, the vengeful dilemma. Parmar’s essay is tight but academic in its concepts and terminology, which I find rather nervous-making.

but no more marathons!

New and selected poems | Shearsman 2018 | 188pp paperback | £12.95, $20.00

by John James

John James died in May 2018.

Desire Lines.
Shearsman 2018 | 342pp paperback | £16.95

by Barry MacSweeney

For future review. Contains poems absent from the Bloodaxe selection.

Faber 2018 | £7.59.,$10.90.

by Zaffar Kunial

Bone Antler Stone.
High Window Press 2018 | 94pp paperback | £9.99, $12.64.

by Tim Miller

The Poem: Lyric, Sign, Metre.
Faber 2018 | 752pp hardback | £16.45

by Don Paterson

Oh dearie me. Oh dearie dearie dearie me. For future review.

Index: The Wide Summer Shelf, 2018.

Fortnightly ReviewsPeter Riley, the poetry editor of The Fortnightly Review‘s New Series, is a former editor of Collection, and the author of fifteen books of poetry (including The Glacial Stairway [Carcanet, 2011]) – and some of prose. He lives in Yorkshire and is the recipient of a 2012 Cholmondeley Award for poetry.

Peter Riley’s latest books are Pennine Tales and Hushings (both from Calder Valley Poetry) and Dawn Songs (Shearsman, 2017). His Due North (Shearsman), a book-length poem, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection, 2015. A collection of his ‘Poetry Notes’ columns has been collected in The Fortnightly Reviews: Poetry Notes 2012-2014, and published in 2015 by Odd Volumes, our imprint. An archive of his Fortnightly columns is here.



  1. I have already disagreed with this sentence, which is by Nietzsche, where it appears in Andrew Duncan’s blurb on the back of Dorothy Lehane’s book (see above). Sensing vast European monuments threatening me on all sides, I nevertheless continue to think it is wrong and that in Semmens’ case that doesn’t matter because of the context. It remains a historical result rather than a prescription for cryptic poetry. But the centre of the problem is the word “loves” which seems to have become the standard translation of braucht which means “needs, wants, uses…” If the mask were meant as a necessity rather than a pleasure I’d be happier with it.
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