Monday, 10 May 2021

Review by Lauren M Foster of "Little Quakes Every Day" by Caroline Hardaker

Little Quakes Every Day is Caroline Hardaker’s first full-length poetry collection. The rich and varied poems are divided into three parts, each of which address different aspects of the human experience and our interconnectedness with nature.

The poems in the first part, Histories, span millennia and explore the history, folklore and mythology that has shaped our understanding of the world around us. They encompass figures as diverse as Medusa in a poem of the same name, and Mary Anning in the poem 'Pterosaur.' Hardaker’s gentle humour is evident in 'Afternoon Tea with the Millers,; about Thomas Edison and his wife and their secret code:

          Poor over-affectionate Edison! You’ve addled his brain, Mina,
          he touches you insistently. The muse has made of him a mute!

The second part, Discoveries, primarily addresses the natural world. This section contains my personal favourite, 'On Opening a Love Note Delivered by a Snail,' a playful narrative from an infatuated mushroom to their beloved:

          I’ve heard you pulse your hyphae-strings many times,
          tripping out a melody for my ‘shroomy ears to hear.
          I sang back every night to your fruiting body, gills rippling.

In Inventions, the third part of the collection, Hardaker delves into technology and the physical universe – including what we cannot perceive by eye. A few of the poems, such as 'Sun 2.0,' could be considered science fiction. She provides an empathic interpretation of scientific processes, for example, in 'What we can learn from thermodynamics,' where she successfully applies the concept of entropy to the human condition and its limitations:

           But this road. We’ve been on it before
           We can’t go back to the apartment years, the parties
           the parks. We’re heading for an absolute zero.

I liked Hardaker’s use of senses and language choice, especially her use of scientific terms. Sometimes the poems seem almost chant-like, akin to Beat poetry or Patti Smith. She displays her playful inclinations with experiments with shape and form – the collection incorporates a prose poem and several experimental works. I greatly enjoyed the poems in Little Quakes Every Day. Hardaker has an original, impressive voice and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

About the reviewer
Lauren M Foster is a graduate of the MA Creative Writing at the University of Leicester and has been published in Ink Pantry, DIY Poets, An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Leicester and more. She performs her work on a regular basis and plays drum-kit in a garage-punk band The Cars that Ate Paris, sometimes combining the two, which is as difficult as it sounds.

You can read more about Caroline Hardaker's Little Quakes Every Day on Creative Writing at Leicester here

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Review by Cathi Rae of "everlove" by Maggie Butt

This is Maggie Butt's sixth full collection in a poetry career of almost twenty years. It has been described as “a mature, devastating and ultimately redemptive work” (Jacqueline Saphra) and it is all of that and much more. My reasons for reviewing it were completely selfish in that I knew that a previous collection had been built on real lives, historical interviews and photographs, an area of writing of particular interest to me post an MA thesis using social media data and imagery to create a collection. 

Her new collection starts with a sequence of poems inspired by the work of the painter Mary Behrens and her photographs of refugees, and these poems are beautiful, focusing on the small, the relatable, to make tangible the refugee experience – in the poem "Shoes," she asks the simple question, if you had to leave your home, which one pair of shoes would you take with you? Sometimes it’s those tiny questions that  help us to have some understanding of what losing everything might feel like and in a way that avoids the polemical or the obvious.

Butt's background in journalism, the ability to use small details to make larger statements and her razor-sharp observation to draw the reader in to empathise and share emotions and experiences are everywhere in this collection. These range from the title poem “everlove” which explores loss – the loss of an earring and the loss of a person and ends “the earring turned up         caught on a sock / and you are here       deep in the core       of me” - to “The Repair Shop,” written during lockdown but which manages to say something new about an experience when for many of us, nothing was new or interesting.

This is a beautiful, deft, and polished collection which will bear reading and re-reading for a very long time.

About the reviewer
Cathi Rae is currently working on a PhD looking at marginalised lives and poetry. She has recently been awarded a Midlands 4 Cities scholarship to fund this work.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Review by Elizabeth Chell of "100neHundred" by Laura Besley

Turning the pages of Laura Besley’s 100neHundred flash fiction stories is as delightful as being inside a huge box of chocolates. Here, bite-size stories meet with you for any and  every occasion; they will delight every literary palate. You enter stories wrapped with intrigue, or revenge, others seductive, haunting, dark, and bitter. They seem like snippets of someone’s private life, as if you have overheard someone’s thoughts as they pass you by - thoughts that you shouldn’t be eavesdropping on, but glad that you did. 

As you absorb these expertly crafted morsels you will be given an emotional workout: you will be touched by the sadness of some, captivated by the confessional nature of others, or made to shudder at true wickedness. There are stories which will leave your heart  warmed by love's first splendour and others that  will give you sheer joy with a wash of nostalgia - all of them knitted together perfectly in a hundred words. There are so many original wonderful lines, such as: 'She can’t leave because he’d find her ...' 'Leftovers of his life ...' 'Accordion wrinkles around her eyes …' 'A storm in an hour glass ...' and so on.

Each of her stories have one thing in common: you will want to read them several times as they are layered with meaning not often apparent with the first bite. Besley is such a good wordsmith not one word is out of place or wasted and what is not said is just as important as what is. These stories are like little magic spells, far from the ordinary.

About the reviewer
Elizabeth Chell is a full-time teacher, and is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Leicester University.