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.

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

#ThePoetryPharmacy

‘Truly a marvellous collection … There is balm for the soul, fire for the belly, a cooling compress for the fevered brow, solace for the wounded, an arm around the lonely shoulder – the whole collection is a matchless compound of hug, tonic and kiss’ Stephen Fry.

Sometimes only a poem will do. These poetic prescriptions and wise words of advice offer comfort, delight and inspiration for all; a space for reflection, and that precious realization – I’m not the only one who feels like this.

In the years since he first had the idea of prescribing short, powerful poems for all manner of spiritual ailments, William Sieghart has taken his Poetry Pharmacy around the length and breadth of Britain, into the pages of the Guardian, onto BBC Radio 4 and onto the television, honing his prescriptions all the time. This pocket-sized book presents the most essential poems in his dispensary: those which, again and again, have really shown themselves to work. Whether you are suffering from loneliness, lack of courage, heartbreak, hopelessness, or even from an excess of ego, there is something here to ease your pain.

‘The book is delightful; it rightly resituates poetry in relation to its biggest and most serious task: helping us to live and die well’ Alain de Botton.

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[When despair for the world grows in me / and I wake in the night at the least sound / in fear of what my life and children’s lives may be / I go and lie down where the wood drake / rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS BY WENDELL BERRY]

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(@ParticularBooks, 28 September 2017, e-book, 151 pages, copy from the publisher via #NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed, compiled by @emergencypoet, various authors)

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This anthology reminds me of the Being Alive series from Bloodaxe Books. Only on a smaller scale. I really enjoyed this anthology which offers a good selection of more recent poetry and older poems by the likes of Maya Angelou. Some of my favourite poems and poets around found in these pages and it was a treat to revisit old friends such as Celia Ceilia by Adrian Mitchell, Everything is going to be All Right by Derek Mahon, Wild Geese by Mary Oliver and Chemotherapy by Julia Darling. I also discovered some new voices. My only issue is that the anthology is too short. There is only one poem for each theme. I would have been happy to read a few for each one.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, First Read, library book, Poetry, Short Fiction, various authors

Home Ground

Home Ground is a powerful and enduring collection of new writing from established authors, learners, students and tutors who have worked together in Glasgow. The stories and poems in this book are peppered with the landmarks, spaces and places that are emblems of our city. Most of all, they are about people; their hopes and fears, and their trials and triumphs.

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[Celtic Park, October 1993 – FROM HAPPINESS TO HOMELESSNESS: ONE MAN’S JOURNEY TO HELL AND BACK BY DAVID FARRELL]

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(@FreightBooks, 1 March 2017, 139 pages, ebook, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @OverDriveLibs, edited by Louise Welsh and @zoestrachan)

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So, I’ve lived in Glasgow for seventeen years and I’d never heard of the Glasgow Homeless World Cup. I had no idea that was a thing. Seeing homeless people on the streets in a common thing in the town, mainly in and around the city centre. I now live in a more affluent area and can’t remember the last time I saw a homeless person. I’m one of the people who tend to see someone homeless but act like they’re not there. I’m not proud of it, that’s just the way it is. I’m also the kind of person who tends to assume most of if not all homeless people are somehow to blame for their situation. After crying a ridiculous amount of times reading this collection, consider me humbled and better informed. The only name I recognise is Lin Anderson so I’m not sure if the writers and poets are well known, amateurs or a bit of both. The poems and stories are very broad and diverse considering they explore the same theme. They all moved me and I’m glad I read this collection. There is an incredible story, I can’t remember the title or author about a young homeless woman who dies. The story is narrated after her death by someone who witnessed her last hours. It seems he knows the young girl because he discusses her family and the events that led her to live on the streets. Her discusses how many people spit on her in a space of 30 minutes and wonders what kind of person take the times to spit on someone dying in a doorway. I couldn’t stop crying as I read this.

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

Wild Cards Volume One

The alien virus arrived on Earth just after World War II—and the world was never the same. For those who become infected, there are two results: death, or transformation. And depending on the recipient, death is sometimes the preferable outcome. Only a few lucky ones become super-human “aces” as a side effect of the virus; the rest are turned into horrible, grotesque “jokers.” It’s a strange and wonderful, terrible and terrifying world where anything can go. A world that, in a twist of fate, could lie just outside your door. A world of Wild Cards.

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[Bonham’s Flying Service of Shanktank, New Jersey was socked in – THIRTY MINUTES OVER BROADWAY! BY HOWARD WALDROP]

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(@gollancz, 1 March 2002, first published 1 December 1986, 575 pages, ebook, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @OverDriveLibs, edited by @GRRMspeaking)

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So, I’m aware of the Wild Cards series, more than twenty and counting but for some reason I’ve never read them before. Each story is linked because they take place in the same world and some feature the same characters. It took a couple of stories to get my head around this. This is my first time reading the series so I can’t judge whether this concept works or not. I wasn’t really aware of the links between the stories as I read if that means anything. I’d only heard of a few of the writers before, so most were new to me. I enjoyed every story on offer and will likely read other books in the series as I’m curious to see how the concept develops. The best stories were Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!, Captain Cathode And The Secret Ace, The Long, Dark Night Of Fortunato, Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan and Comes A Hunter.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, First Read, Horror Fiction, popsugar 2020, Science Fiction, Short Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Top Books, various authors

The Long List Anthology: More Stories from the Hugo Award Nomination List

The Hugo Award is one of the most prestigious speculative fiction literary awards. Every year, supporting members of WorldCon nominate their favourite stories first published during the previous year to determine the top five in each category for the final Hugo Award ballot. Between the announcement of the ballot and the Hugo Award ceremony at WorldCon, these works often become the centre of much attention (and contention) across fandom.

But there are more stories loved by the Hugo voters, stories on the longer nomination list that WSFS publishes after the Hugo Award ceremony at WorldCon. The Long List Anthology collects 21 tales from that nomination list, totalling almost 500 pages of fiction by writers from all corners of the world.

Within these pages you will find a mix of science fiction and fantasy, the dramatic and the light-hearted, from near future android stories to Steampunk heists, too-plausible dystopias to contemporary vampire stories.

There is something here for everyone.

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[Going into the mountains had never been easy THE BREATH OF WAR BY ALIETTE DE BODARD]

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(@diabolicalplots, 15 December 2015, 495 pages, e-book, #popsugarreadingchallenge 2020, an anthology, bought from @AmazonKindle)   

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This is an impressive collection of stories that fit into the speculative / science fiction / horror / fantasy genres, often straddling multiple. I was familiar with some authors such as Elizabeth Bear, T. Kingfisher and Scott Lynch but there are a host of writers I’ve never read / heard of before. What impressed me is the diversity and range of stories on offer, no two are alike and each one offers something completely unexpected and different. Most anthologies contain one or two dud’s. Not so here. Every story is excellent. My favourites were When It Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster, Covenant by Elizabeth Bear, A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone and The Devil In America by Kai Ashante Wilson.

Posted in 2020, Anthology, First Read, Library, National Poetry Library, Poetry, various authors

Ten: Poets of the New Generation

Ten: poets of the new generation presents the work of ten exciting British poets from diverse backgrounds. It is the third anthology from The Complete Works poetry mentoring scheme, a national programme supporting exceptional black and Asian poets founded by the writer Bernardine Evaristo in 2007. Already making a big impact on the British poetry scene, poets from the series have included Sarah Howe, the 2016 winner of both the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award; Mona Arshi, winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2016; and Warsan Shire, who collaborated with Beyoncé on her visual album, Lemonade in 2016, which featured many of Shire’s poems. This latest anthology in the Ten series will not disappoint readers hoping to discover more exceptional talent. It includes poets with even more diverse backgrounds ranging from Somalia and Nigeria through to Jamaica and the multiculturalism of Macau, and features the first poet from Latin America. These are poets who interrogate race and explode any ideas of a page/stage divide. Fierce, unexpected, sometimes beautiful and always passionate, here are ten poets to savour and enjoy. The poets included are: Raymond Antrobus, Omikemi Natacha Bryan, Leonardo Boix, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Will Harris, Ian Humphreys, Jennifer Lee Tsai, Momtaza Mehri, Yomi Sode and Degna Stone.

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[In a backroom / where stories & names / are exchanged / & forgotten / in the same breath / I begin to speak WHILE SHE WAITS FOR A HEART TO ARRIVE BY OMIKEMI NATACHA BRYAN]

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(@BloodaxeBooks, 28 September 2017, e-book, 160 pages, borrowed from @natpoetrylib via @OverDriveLibs, edited by @KMcCarthyWoolf)  

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So, I’d never heard of any of the poets in this collection before. I had no idea what to expect. I’ve discovered a group of new poets to continue to explore and become better acquainted with. What impressed me are the range, depth and diversity of the poets and their work on offer here. No two poets and indeed no two poems are the same. I enjoyed the work by Ian Humphreys, Jennifer Lee and Momtaza Mehri the most. Each poet is introduced by another well-known poet and these names were familiar including Pascale Petit and the editor, Karen McCarthy Woolf.

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

Slow Things: Poems about Slow Things

What’s so good about being fast? Sometimes a little patience goes a long way, and a slow thing can be just what you need. Slow walks, slow thoughts and slow afternoons in the sun provide inspiration for the poets in Slow Things, an anthology which celebrates taking life at a leisurely pace and existing in the present. As ice, traffic and a giant wooden boulder all advance with a soothing inevitability, the poets invite us to see the beauty in the accretion of tea-stains in a teapot and the unwavering stare of a Loris.

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[What are we to do with all this sky? / Swifts swoop and stitch it / to the glistening grass ELLON BY ISOBEL DIXON]

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(@TheEmmaPress, 24 August 2018, e-book, 57 pages, borrowed from @natpoetrylib via @OverDriveLibs, edited by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright)

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This is another impressive collection from The Emma Press. I’ve read a few recently and really enjoyed them. Now I seek out collections they’ve published as I expect the quality to be quite high. I’d never heard of any of the poets before so I enjoyed discovering new voices. This is a very short anthology and I read it very quickly and was disappointed when I reached the end. The best poems are Ellon by Isobel Dixon, When It Hit Me It Was Slow, It Was Multiple by Jessica Schouela, 10:15 by Ben Rogers, Friday Afternoon by Alison Brackenbury and Dear Loris by Caroline Gill.