Posted in 2021, Anthology, library book, National Poetry Library, Poetry, various authors

Haiku: An Anthology of Japanese Poems

This celebration of what is perhaps the most influential of all poetic forms takes haiku back to its Japanese roots, beginning with poems by the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century masters Basho, Busson, and Issa, and going all the way up to the late twentieth century to provide a survey of haiku through the centuries, in all its minimalist glory. The translators have balanced faithfulness to the Japanese with an appreciation of the unique spirit of each poem to create English versions that evoke the joy and wonder of the originals with the same astonishing economy of language. An introduction by the translators and short biographies of the poets are included. Reproductions of woodblock prints and paintings accompany the poems.

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The spring sun

shows its power

between snowfalls.

SHIGEYORI

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(@ShambhalaPubs, 13 October 2019, ebook, 208 pages, borrowed from @natpoetrylib via @OverDriveLibs)

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I’m a big fan of haiku’s and other short Japanese forms such as the tanka or choka. The poems in this anthology fall into the category of traditional Haiku in that they deal with nature and the natural world. I prefer more modern Haiku which deal with a wider range of subjects and are a bit more contemporary in their style and subject. Alan Spence has written some fantastic Haiku. I enjoyed the poems in this anthology, they were beautifully written and perfect examples of traditional haiku. I just hoped for a bit more variety in subject matter.

Posted in 2021, Anthology, library book, National Poetry Library, Poetry, various authors

Watcher of the Skies

How big is the universe? Are there dogs in space? What if your friend – or your granddad – was an alien? Join the poets in wondering in Watcher of the Skies, a sparkling collection of poems about the outermost possibilities of space, life and our imaginations. Fully illustrated by Emma Wright and accompanied with helpful facts from space scientist Rachel Cochrane (Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh) and ideas for writing poems from Rachel Piercey, this is the perfect companion for any budding stargazer or astronaut.

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Far away from home,

the astronauts are measuring meteors

from inside a space station.

HOW TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH IN SPACE

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(@TheEmmaPress, 29 September 2016, ebook, 109 pages, borrowed from @natpoetrylib via @OverDriveLibs)

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I didn’t realise this was a collection of poetry for children when I borrowed it or I wouldn’t have. Yes I missed the words on the front cover. I enjoyed the poems in Watcher of the Skies; they were a lot of fun and inventive even though I wasn’t the target audience. The best poems were Comet by Kate Wakeling, Recipe for Cosmic Cup Cakes by Julia Anna Douglas, Milky Way Disco by Camellia Stafford, Letters by Rob Walton and Poets in Space! by Abigail Parry and Jon Stone.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, edelweiss+, Poetry, Review Copy, Top Books, various authors

#StayingHuman

Poetry Book Society Special Commendation


Staying Human is the sequel to the Staying Alive trilogy of anthologies which have introduced many thousands of new readers to contemporary poetry. This fourth Bloodaxe world poetry anthology offers poetry lovers an even broader, international selection of 500 more ‘real poems for unreal times’, with a strong focus on 21st-century poems addressing current issues. The range of poetry here complements that of the first three anthologies: hundreds of thoughtful and passionate poems about living in the modern world; poems that touch the heart, stir the mind and fire the spirit; poems about what makes us human, about love and loss, fear and longing, hurt and wonder; talismanic poems which have become personal survival testaments for many. There’s a strong focus on the human side of living in the 21st century in poems from the past two decades relating to migration, oppression, alienation and the individual’s struggle to hold on, stay connected and find meaning in an increasingly polarised world. Staying Human also draws on poems suggested by readers because they’ve been so important in their own lives, as well as many poems which have gone viral after being shared on social media because they speak to our times with such great immediacy. And there are poems from around the world written in response to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

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Whose life? you asked

And I answered

my life, and yours

STAYING HUMAN BY GORAN SONNEVI

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(@BloodaxeBooks, 1 October 2020, ebook, 528 pages, copy from the publisher via @edelweiss_squad and voluntarily reviewed, edited by Neil Astley, various poets) 

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The Staying Alive trilogy is among the first poetry collections I read when I started to get into poetry, many years ago. I was excited about reading this new collection, given what a year this has been. I wanted something to elevate my mood. And I got it. This is an epic poetry collection at almost 600 pages. I’m glad I read a digital copy and didn’t get RPI from hefting around a doorstop paperback. That’s happened before. I read a lot of thick books so I guess it’s my fault. Saying Human like its predecessors is split into themed sections. There are some familiar names here such as U.A Fanthorpe, Mimi Khalvati, Charles Simic, Derek Mahon and Denise Levertov to name but a few. The poems are all unique and cover a wide array of styles and subjects. Among my favourites were When Someone Goes Away Everything That’s Been Done Comes Back by Nikola Madzirov, So by Alison Brackenbury, Sheep by Fiona Benson, Poem by Simon Armitage, High Land by Jackie Kay, The End of the Bed by Caroline Bird, Belfast Waking 6am by Colette Bryce, And If by Moniza Alvi, Travelling As We Are by James Berry and Dominion by David Constantine.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, ARC, Blog Tour, Contemporary Fiction, Horror Fiction, NetGalley, Short Fiction, various authors

#AfterSundown

This new anthology contains 20 original horror stories, 16 of which have been commissioned from some of the top names in the genre, and 4 of which have been selected from the 100s of stories sent to Flame Tree during a 2-week open submissions window. It is the first of what will hopefully become an annual, non-themed horror anthology of entirely original stories, showcasing the very best short fiction that the genre has to offer.

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Almost every bad plan is hatched over a few beers in a bar.

BUTTERFY ISLAND BY C.J TUDOR

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(@flametreepress, 20 October 2020, 304 pages, ebook, #ARC from the publisher via #NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed, #BlogTour 21 October via @RandomTTours, edited by @MarkMorris10)

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I usually read a lot of short fiction but have neglected this genre recently. I also love horror fiction. So After Sundown came along at the perfect time. I’ve read other horror fiction by the publisher and have generally been impressed so I was looking forward to this and had high hopes for the collection. There’s a risk with collections featuring multiple authors that you get one or two duds that spoil the whole collection. Thankfully that wasn’t the case here. After Sundown is packed with excellent horror stories. The stories are all very unique so no two are alike. I’d only heard of a few authors before so it was good to stumble across so many new voices to explore further. The best stories are Butterfly Island by C. J Tudor, Creeping Ivy by Laura Purcell, Murder Board by Grady Hendrix and Branch Line by Paul Finch.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, Contemporary Fiction, Crime Fiction, library book, Short Fiction, various authors

#BloodyScotland

In Bloody Scotland a selection of Scotland’s best crime writers use the sinister side of the country’s built heritage in stories that are by turns gripping, chilling and redemptive.

Stellar contributors Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, Louise Welsh, Lin Anderson, Doug Johnstone, Gordon Brown, Craig Robertson, E S Thomson, Sara Sheridan and Stuart MacBride explore the thrilling potential of Scotland’s iconic sites and structures. From murder in an Iron Age broch and a macabre tale of revenge among the furious clamour of an eighteenth century mill, to a dark psychological thriller set within the tourist throng of Edinburgh Castle and a rivalry turning fatal in the concrete galleries of an abandoned modernist ruin, this collection uncovers the intimate – and deadly – connections between people and places.

Prepare for a dangerous journey into the dark shadows of our nation’s buildings – where passion, fury, desire and death collide.

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The runes began to dance before his eyes, their cryptic tree shapes merging branches one with another.

ORKAHAUGR BY LIN ANDERSON

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(@HistEnvScot, 7 September 2017, 291 pages, ebook, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @OverDriveLibs, various authors)

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I enjoyed all of the stories in this collection and some of them are by writers I enjoy including Lin Anderson, Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves and Louise Welsh. The setting chosen for each story wasn’t as important to me as it seems to have been for the writers and the people who put the collection together. It’s the stories I was interested in. Every story is well-written and enjoyable. There isn’t a single dud which is unusual for anthologies. Some stories were a bit better than others. My favourites were Orkahaugr by Lin Anderson, Painting the Fourth Road Bridge by Doug Johnstone, Come Friendly Bombs by Louise Welsh and The Return by Ann Cleeves.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, ARC, Blog Tour, Crime Fiction, NetGalley, Short Fiction, various authors

#VintageCrime

Vintage Crime is a CWA anthology with a difference, celebrating members’ work over the years. The book brings together stories from the mid-1950s until the twenty-first century by great names of the past, great names of the present, with a few hidden treasures by less familiar writers. The first CWA anthology, Butcher’s Dozen, appeared in 1956, and was co-edited by Julian Symons, Michael Gilbert, and Josephine Bell. The anthology has been edited by Martin Edwards since 1996, and has yielded many award-winning and nominated stories in the UK and overseas.

This new edition includes an array of incredible and award-winning authors: Robert Barnard, Simon Brett, Liza Cody, Mat Coward, John Dickson Carr, Marjorie Eccles, Martin Edwards, Kate Ellis, Anthea Fraser, Celia Fremlin, Frances Fyfield, Michael Gilbert, Paula Gosling, Lesley Grant-Adamson, HRF Keating, Bill Knox, Peter Lovesey, Mick Herron, Michael Z. Lewin, Susan Moody, Julian Symons and Andrew Taylor.

‘For the Dear Lord’s sake go down and deal with Mallet direct’ said Mr. Crane, senior partner of Horniman, Birley and Crane Solicitors, of Lincoln’s Inn, to his young partner, Mr. Bohun.

MONEY IS HONEY BY MICHAEL GILBERT

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(@flametreepress, 27 August 2020, 256 pages, ebook, #ARC from the publisher via #NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed, #BlogTour 12 August via @RandomTTours, edited by Martin Edwards)

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I have mixed feelings about this anthology. First, the good stuff. This is quite a broad and diverse collection, which features stories set between 1950’s until now. A wide range of subjects feature in the stories and the characters are just as wide-ranging. If old-fashioned mysteries are you’re thing, then this collection has plenty to offer. Like a lot of anthologies, this is a mixed bag, some stories work a lot better than others. I preferred the more recent stories to be honest. Then we have the not so good. The stories are very British and nice. If that’s your thing then you’ll love this anthology. I don’t mind this but not so many times in succession. I would have liked a bit of variety. I do like darker fiction and this collection lacked these type of stories. Still, I did enjoy the stories just not quite as much as I hoped.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, library book, National Poetry Library, Poetry, various authors

#BlackDogBlackNight

The poems in Black Dog, Black Night highlight an aspect of Vietnamese verse previously unfamiliar to American readers: its remarkable contemporary voices. Celebrating Vietnam’s diverse and thriving literary culture, the poems collected here combine elements of French Romanticism, Russian Expressionism, American Modernism, and native folk stories into a Vietnamese poetic tradition marked by vivid imagery, powerful emotions, and inventive forms. Included here are 17 postmodern and experimental Vietnamese poets, including the founding editor of Skanky Possum magazine, as well as American poets of Vietnamese descent.

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[She had three older brothers in the army / but some of the younger ones / were still too young to speak (THE PURPLE COLOUR OF SIM FLOWERS BY HUU LOAN)]

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(@Milkweed_Books, 1 December 2011, first published 15 February 2008, e-book, 288 pages, borrowed from @natpoetrylib via @OverDriveLibs, edited by Paul Hoover & Nguyen Do)

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I’d never heard of any of the poets before. I decided to read this anthology because I like the cover and I wanted to read something a little different outside my comfort zone. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Vietnamese verse. Consider me better informed. What impressed be about this collection is how diverse and different the poems are. Many deal with similar themes but the styles used are rich and varied. All of the poems used vivid imagery and the same themes crop up again and again including war and cultural identity. I was impressed with this collection and discovered a bunch of new poets to explore more. The best poems were The Purple Colour of Sim Flowers by Huu Loan, Your Face by Van Cao, I Live in Quan Ho Circle by Hoang Cam, From The New Horizon (I) by Dang Dinh Hung, A Dog of Stone by Hoang Hung and My Mother’s Garden by Nguyen Khoa Diem.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, Contemporary Fiction, library book, Short Fiction, various authors

#BehindTheSong

A song to match everyone’s heartbeat.

A soaring melody, a pulse-pounding beat, a touching lyric: Music takes a moment and makes it a memory. It’s a universal language that can capture love, heartbreak, loss, soul searching, and wing spreading-all in the span of a few notes. In Behind the Song, fourteen acclaimed young adult authors and musicians share short stories and personal essays inspired by the songs, the albums, the musicians who move them.

So cue up the playlist and crank the volume. This is an anthology you’ll want to experience on repeat.

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[‘Dude’ I say (SUBURBIANA BY DAVID ARNOLD)]

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(@SourcebooksFire, 5 September 2017, 376 pages, e-book, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @OverDriveLibs)

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I loved the concept behind this collection, stories and essays inspired by music. Music is something that does speak to everyone and certain songs resonate more than others. Perhaps they remind us of a significant experience such as first love or someone who once met a lot to us. I enjoyed the essays more than the stories which surprised me. The essays were a mixed bag written by singers discussing their own music as well as writers inspired by specific songs. The best essay is Cold Beverage: The Song I Wrote That Changed My Life by G. Love. I enjoyed all of the stories as well. The stories were a mixed bag, spread across different genres and styles. My favourites included Miss Atomic Bomb by Anthony Breznican, Tiffany Twisted by Ellen Hopkins and City Girl by E.C Myers.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, library book, National Poetry Library, Poetry, Top Books, various authors

#HallelujahFor50ftWomen

Our relationship to our bodies is affected by many things including culture, religion, family, sex, hunger, pleasure and pain. This new anthology is inspired by a passionate desire to celebrate our bodies in a fully realised way, leaving Barbie’s grotesque silent pliability in her box for good.

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[I’ve never seen a soul detached from its gender / but I’d like to (HORSE BY CHASE TWICHELL)]

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(@BloodaxeBooks, 28 August 2015, first published 23 April 2015, e-book, 176 pages, borrowed from @natpoetrylib via @OverDriveLibs)

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This is an incredible collection of poetry. I loved every poem in this collection. I’m familiar with the work of some of the poets such as Chase Twichell, Sinead Morrissey, Helen Dunmore and Selima Hill. There are also a slew of poets I’ve never heard of before including Ruth Aylett, Sarah Hymas, Kris Johnson and Eloise Williams. I loved every poem, each of them celebrating the good and bad things about being a woman. This is a collection I could read again and again. The best poems are The Mermaid in the Dime Museum by Alex Toms, Three Ways of Recovering a Body by Helen Dunmore, Underneath Our Skirts by Katie Donovan and Does My Bum Look Big in This? by Patricia Ace. This is a must-read poetry collection.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, NetGalley, Poetry, Review Copy, various authors

#ThePoetryPharmacyReturns

‘A matchless compound of hug, tonic and kiss’ Stephen Fry on William Sieghart’s bestselling Poetry Pharmacy

The Poetry Pharmacy is one of the bestselling (and most giftable) poetry anthologies of recent decades. Now, after huge demand for more prescriptions from readers and ‘patients’ alike, William Sieghart is back. This time, tried-and-true classics from his in-person pharmacies are joined by readers’ favourite poems and the new conditions most requested by the public – all accompanied by his trademark meditations (warm, witty and understanding, with just a twist of the challenging) on the spiritual ailments he seeks to cure.

From ageing bodies and existential crises to long-distance relationships and embracing your slovenliness, The Poetry Pharmacy Returns caters to all-new conditions while drilling further down into the universals: this time, the challenges of family life, and of living as a person among others, receive a much closer look. Perfect for the treasured friends, barely tolerated siblings, beloved aunts and revered grandparents in your life.

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[It is madness says reason It is what it is says love / It is unhappiness / says calculation / It is nothing but pain says fear WHAT IT IS BY ERICH FRIED]

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(@ParticularBooks, 26 September 2019, e-book, 150 pages, copy from the publisher via #NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed, compiled by @emergencypoet, various authors)

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I enjoyed this as much as the first volume. This also reminds me of the Being Alive series from Bloodaxe Books on a much smaller scale. This is an interesting mix of more recent contemporary and older contemporary poets. Some of my favourites are among them including Fleur Adcock, Denise Levertov, Mary Oliver and Kate Tempest. I also found some new poetic voices including Mark Strand, John O’Donohue and Grace Nichols. Like the first volume, I would have preferred more than one poem for each theme.