We're still recovering from The Swansea Fringe – what an incredible weekend! Thank you to everyone who came to our Crunch Omnibus event on Friday evening, and to our four readers Christopher Cornwell, Alan Kellermann, D. E. Oprava and Rebecca Parfitt.
If the recording gods have been kind to us, then a special Fringe edition of The Crunch will be with you very soon!
We're delighted to be involved in the return of The Swansea Fringe at the end of this month, and the line-up for our event has now been confirmed! We're getting the band back together, inviting three of our previous guests to return for a special live omnibus edition.
Head down to The Grand Hotel on Friday 29th September to catch up with Alan Kellermann (Issue #3), Rebecca Parfitt (Issue #5) and Christopher Cornwell (Issue #6), and also hear the poetry of forthcoming Crunch feature D. E. Oprava. For more information about the event, head over to the Facebook event page.
This is a ticketed event as part of The Swansea Fringe. If you don't have a festival wristband, you can pay £5 on the door. Find out more about day/weekend tickets here: www.tinyurl.com/FringeSwansea
We will hopefully see you on the 29th!
In Issue #6's podcast, our guest Christopher Cornwell recommended a collection that celebrates and laments a lost Parisian river, Rhys pointed our listeners towards an anthology of emerging Welsh writers, Adam revisited a first collection written in Swansea dialect and Richard recommended a publication that represents a unique and inclusive poetry of consciousness.
Teint – Zoë Skoulding
Hafan Books, 2016
Teint (or Teint: For the Bievre / Pour la Bievre) is the latest publication in the Boiled String series of poetry chapbooks from Hafan Books. Zoë Skoulding's poems in this collection celebrate and mourn the 'lost' Parisian river La Bièvre – a culverted tributary of the Seine.
A bilingual publication, Teint includes translations into French from the Parisian poet Jean Portante, whose own work was translated into English by Skoulding and published in In Reality (Seren, 2013).
Teint is available to buy from lulu.com/hafan
Cheval 9: The Terry Hetherington Award Anthology 2016
Parthian Books, 2016
The ninth edition of the Cheval anthology contains a selection of the best poetry and prose submitted to last year's Terry Hetherington Award. The award has become known as one of the most significant awards for young writers in Wales, and counts poets Jonathan Edwards, Natalie Ann Holborow and Jemma L. King amongst its previous winners.
In addition to publishing the year’s best submissions, the anthology also collects new work by previous winners and commended entrants.
Cheval 9 is available to buy from parthianbooks.com
Tidy Boy – David Hughes
Swansea Poetry Workshop, 1999
A first collection from David Hughes, Tidy Boy reflects upon people's relationships with one another, on being Welsh, and on the city of Swansea and its inhabitants. Many of the poems are written in Swansea dialect, brilliantly capturing the voices and experiences of people rarely heard in poetry. Unfortunately, Tidy Boy is now out of print, but you can still pick up a second-hand copy at biblio.co.uk
Watch David Hughes read 'Swansea Market', filmed and edited by friends of the Crunch Turnshoe Productions:
Swansea Market – David Hughes
A Dream of Mind – C.K. Williams
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1992
A Dream of Mind is a challenging, exhilarating collection, representing an important stage in the evolution of C. K. Williams' work. It's dominated by the long title poem, which explores the materials and qualities of states of consciousness with enormous flexibility and suppleness.
The poetry of C. K. Williams, who died in 2015, has won an essential place in contemporary American poetry. The long lines that characterised his style from the mid-1970s onwards allowed him to make ever more radical forays into what The New York Times called "a unique and inclusive poetry of consciousness."
A Dream of Mind is available to buy from us.macmillan.com
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #6 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-6.html
Recently, thanks to a very helpful librarian called Emily, we were listed on the Scottish Poetry Library's 'Collections' page – an excellent resource for both poetry readers and writers. Similar listings with the Southbank Centre and Poetry Ireland have followed (thank you to both Lorraine and Elizabeth!) These listings will hopefully help to spread the word about The Crunch a little further, and we really appreciate the time spent by these very busy people to add us to their websites. Please do check them out – all three organisations do a lot of good work in the name of poetry.
A by-product of these listings is that we're now eligible to nominate three poems for The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Exciting times! The deadline for nominations is the end of this week, with the prize awarded at a ceremony in London on 21 September 2017. We've just posted off our nominations – here are our chosen three:
An Amateur's Guide to Astronomy
Tonight is hysterical with stars.
Light and memory: both
needle through from the past.
In this bay, we were equally
combustible. One lunatic electron
is enough to ignite bodies.
I remember you in charted galaxies.
Andromeda's arms. Your hands
on my waist; the startled
particles between. Gravity.
When you pulled me into the February
sea, we were nebulous. Light
and memory. Constellations
apart, we scuttle our feet
under different waves.
How to tease the sea
from the moon's leash?
The Crunch Issue #3
I stand in the bedroom, sweatless.
I admit to the dagger,
the rage and the kids
who looked like you; had the eye
of the cool Aegean
with Argonaut bravado
and a traitor’s blood.
Our babies. I nursed them
with love and a knife
to save them from sins like you—
our lullabied young.
Like you, they were forked in the tongue.
But I was once young,
a charming girl, head over claws
in love with you--
as any good angel, my Colchis light
bleaching a brother’s bones.
You could say I became obsessed.
I had you possessed
but Corinth tore us apart.
Still, I can’t resist revenge,
death knell shaking the house
to its dead foundations,
the children’s gasping surprise;
oh, the look in your eyes
when you found them, coiled
like little white worms
or the curl of a gorgon’s hair.
She may be princess
but I am a queen,
with blood in my breasts
and a glint in my milkwhite eye.
Revenge is a kick in the womb.
Natalie Ann Holborow
The Crunch Issue #4
The merry-go-round played out with grim enthusiasm as we passed by,
the skirt of our black umbrella angled against the wind.
We were the only people walking the promenade of empty chain restaurants
devoid of charm.
Latin music piped out through crummy speakers,
a delusion of a summer holiday somewhere hot,
somewhere not here.
Yet the chairs stacked up against the walls dripped with rain
and we huddled together to keep warm.
I bought you chips to eat in the salted sea air,
vinegared with a sharp gull’s cry,
and from the jetty we watched tourists venture out onto the platform,
take a photo, clouded by the dark sky,
and scuttle away like insects,
enduring little of the chilly British weather.
In the distance the merry-go-round played
but still did not turn.
That night we drank the world and rolled heavily into bed,
murmured of making babies between things unsaid.
The Crunch Issue #5
The winner of The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem receives £1000, with all other poems nominated also considered for an anthology of the year's best poetry. Good luck to Alan, Natalie and Rebecca!
In Issue #5's podcast, our guest Rebecca Parfitt recommended a poet who shines a light on human ecstasy and sadness with blinding precision; Richard pointed our listeners towards a book of poetry that is straightforward, honest and bold; Adam enjoyed returning to a seminal work by one of the most influential writers of the 19th century; and Rhys spoke about a collection that offers a timely reminder of the plight of those who seek asylum.
The Sand Garden – Humberto Gatica
Hafan Books, 2008
The Sand Garden / El Jardin de Arena is the debut poetry collection from Humberto Gatica, a Chilean exile who arrived in Wales shortly after the 1973 military coup. The poems, included in both Spanish and English, deal with the enforced exile of Gatica and his family and the subsequent struggle to adapt to life in a foreign country. Fittingly, whereas Hafan's other marriages of literature and visual art are often collaborative, The Sand Garden is instead the sole work of Gatica, with the poems accompanied on the page by the poet's black and white photographs of exile in Swansea.
The Sand Garden is available to buy from lulu.com/hafan
Rhys wrote a longer introduction to Humberto Gatica's poetry for Everything But A Mis-Print back in 2010. You can read it here: rhysowainwilliams.com/blog/an-introduction-to-humberto-gatica
My Feelings – Nick Flynn
Graywolf Press, 2015
In My Feelings, Nick Flynn makes no claims on anyone else’s. The poems in this, his fourth collection of poetry, inhabit a continually shifting sense of selfhood in the attempt to contain quicksilver realms of emotional energy – from grief and panic to gratitude and understanding.
Poet and memoirist Nick Flynn was born in Scituate, Massachusetts. Like My Feelings, his other poetry collections Some Ether (2000), Blind Huber (2002) and The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands (2011) were also published by Graywolf Press. He teaches creative writing at the University of Houston, and splits his time between Houston and New York.
My Feelings is available to buy from graywolfpress.org
Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman
James and Andrew Rome, 1855
Leaves of Grass is a collection of quintessentially American poems, the seminal work of one of the most influential writers of the 19th century. Though the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent most of his professional life writing and re-writing Leaves of Grass, revising it multiple times until his death. This resulted in vastly different editions over four decades – the first edition was a small book of just 12 poems, and the last was a compilation of over 400.
With that many poems to choose from, it's difficult to know where to start. As Adam mentioned in the podcast, the poem in the collection he returns to most often is 'Song of the Broad-Axe'. Read it for free on poemhunter.com
As a work in the public domain, Leaves of Grass is widely available.
Sunshine – Melissa Lee-Houghton
Penned in the Margins, 2016
Sunshine is the new collection from Melissa Lee-Houghton. A writer of startling confession, her poems inhabit the lonely hotel rooms, psych wards and deserted lanes of austerity Britain.
The collection combines acute social observation with a dark, surreal humour born of first-hand experience. Abuse, addiction and mental health are all subject to Lee-Houghton’s poetic eye. But these are also poems of extravagance, hope and desire, that stake new ground for the Romantic lyric in an age of social media and internet porn. In this new book of poems, Melissa Lee-Houghton shines a light on human ecstasy and sadness with blinding precision.
Sunshine is available to buy from pennedinthemargins.co.uk
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #5 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-5.html
Though brought to you a little later than planned, our Issue #4 recommendations come just in time for seasonal gift giving (or receiving). There are two books from the excellent Nine Arches Press (picked by Rhys and our Issue #4 guest Natalie Ann Holborow), a collection teeming with exploration and innovation (championed by Richard), and a recommendation via a recommendation from Adam (with a nod to Issue #1’s feature poet Ian Gregson). There’s also the now-traditional second pick from our guest: a brave, hard-hitting sequence of poems about loss that you’ll read and re-read.
Kith – Jo Bell
Nine Arches Press, 2015
The bold and generous poems in Jo Bell’s second collection Kith interweave bigger questions of place, identity and community and what these mean to us, here and now. Delighting in the belting, beautiful turn-of-phrase, the poems are lyrical and joyous, but always precise and clear as birdsong.
A unique force in British poetry, Jo Bell brings a large personality and boundless energy to both writing and promoting it. Her global workshop group 52 won a Saboteur Award, and was later turned into a book of poetry prompts (also available from Nine Arches).
Kith is available to buy from ninearchespress.com
Ooga-Booga – Frederick Seidel
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2006
Frederick Seidel is often named as one of the greatest living poets. Our Issue #1 feature poet Ian Gregson called him a “challenging and disturbing personality...more important than Dylan Thomas,” and urged our listeners to read his extensive back catalogue. It was this recommendation that brought Ooga-Booga, Seidel’s tenth collection, to the shelves of the Sillman residence.
Originally published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux of New York in 2006, a UK edition of Ooga-Booga was published by Faber & Faber in 2009. Reviewer Adam Kirsch suggested that "...the title itself – a parody of a threat, something the monster under the bed might grunt – manages to capture the weird dialectic of Mr. Seidel's black comedy: He is scary, but funny, but still scary...”
Ooga-Booga is available to buy from faber.co.uk
A Book of Rooms – Kobus Moolman
Deep South, 2014
A Book of Rooms inhabits the childhood and young adulthood of a man with a serious physical disability growing up in the final years of Apartheid. Brilliantly experimental and profoundly moving, the book tells a single extended story – what Moolman calls “a brave/foolhardy attempt to shake up the distinction between truth (fact) and fiction, between autobiography and invention.”
Divided into four sections (‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘Why’, and ‘When’), each poem is linked to a room (‘The Room of Maybe’, ‘The Room of Green’, ‘The Room of Spillage’, and more), with the reader invited right into the character’s bleak and constant meetings with pain and failure. However, within this narrative there is also a powerful will to live, and an even more powerful drive for truth.
A Book of Rooms is available to buy from deepsouth.co.za
Absence has a weight of its own – Daniel Sluman
Nine Arches Press, 2012
Daniel Sluman’s Absence has a weight of its own is an unflinching study of serious illness, sex, death and decadence. In sometimes brutal and spare cadences, Sluman explores the extremities of human experience in poems that are skilfully, icily primed.
This debut collection is at times provocative and by turns tender and wry. Frailties and vices are held up for inspection in a ruined landscape of disappointing highs, hung-over regrets and head-on collisions, haunted by figures such as Roman – an unrepentant and debauched womaniser. In the aftermath, real love and hope remain stubbornly, emerging into the sunlight of an unexpected new day.
Absence has a weight of its own is available to buy from ninearchespress.com
Her Birth – Rebecca Goss
Carcanet Press, 2013
In 2007, Rebecca Goss’s newborn daughter Ella was diagnosed with Severe Ebstein’s Anomaly, a rare and incurable heart condition. She lived for sixteen months. Her Birth is a book-length sequence of poems beginning with Ella’s birth, her short life and her death, and ending with the joys and complexities that come with the birth of another child.
In Her Birth, Goss navigates the difficult territory of grief and loss in poems that are spare, tender and haunting. The collection secured Goss’ place on the Poetry Book Society’s 2014 Next Generation Poets list, and was nominated for a Forward Prize.
Her Birth is available to buy from carcanet.co.uk
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #4 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-4.html
In Issue #3's podcast, our guest Alan Kellermann recommended two books: a collection of poems that deals in dualities, and an inspirational guide to the writing of poetry. Meanwhile, Rhys suggested picking up a copy of a ‘verse novella’ by Scotland’s leading rural poet, and Richard and Adam pointed our listeners towards two poetry anthologies that are worth dipping into.
On Poetry – Glyn Maxwell
Oberon Books, 2012
Illustrated with examples from canonical poets, On Poetry is a collection of short essays and reflections from the acclaimed British poet Glyn Maxwell. A worthy addition to the Oberon Masters series, it serves as both an accessible guide to the writing of poetry, and a defence of the art.
On Poetry will be especially prized by writers and readers who wish to understand why and how poetic technique matters. These essays illustrate Maxwell's poetic philosophy: that the greatest verse arises from a harmony of mind and body, and that poetic forms originate in human necessities such as breath, heartbeat, footstep and posture.
On Poetry is available to buy from oberonbooks.com
Lucifer at the Starlite – Kim Addonizio
W. W. Norton & Company, 2011
Kim Addonizio’s fifth collection of poetry explores life’s dual nature. Good and evil. Light and dark. Suffering and joy. As one American Poets reviewer put it: “If this book is a party, then someone is shooting heroin in the bathroom, a national disaster is being watched on TV in the kitchen, and the man and woman making out in the bedroom are both married to other people.”
Whether looking outward to events on the world stage or inward at struggles with the self, the poems in this collection aim at the heart, and against the feeling that Lucifer may have already won the day.
Lucifer at the Starlite is available to buy from books.wwnorton.com
Killochries – Jim Carruth
Freight Books, 2015
A stunning epic poem (though marketed as a ‘verse novella’), Jim Carruth’s Killochries tracks the relationship between two very different men working a remote sheep farm over the course of twelve months. Spare, sharp, bold, innovative, touching – Killochries is a major achievement from one of Scotland’s most important and influential voices.
Despite being his country’s leading rural poet and having won a clutch of poetry awards, this is Jim Carruth’s first formal collection. Since our Issue #3 podcast was recorded back in December of last year, Killochries has deservedly been shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize.
Killochries is available to buy from freightbooks.co.uk
Another Country: Haiku Poetry From Wales
Gomer Press, 2011
Published in 2011, Another Country is the first ever Welsh national anthology of haiku poetry, and features the work of forty poets who have all contributed significantly to the development and popularity of this most ancient yet versatile of literary forms.
Concise, precise and evocative, the anthology takes you on a journey through and around the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of everyday life. Edited by three highly respected pioneers of the haiku in Wales – Ken Jones, Lynne Rees and Nigel Jenkins – it includes poems from Issue #3 guest Alan Kellermann and The Crunch’s own Rhys Owain Williams.
Another Country is available to buy from gomer.co.uk
Best British Poetry Series
Salt’s annual Best British Poetry anthology presents the finest and most engaging poems found in UK literary magazines and webzines over the past year. Each poem is accompanied by a note by the poet themselves, explaining the inspiration for the poem and why they decided to write in that form.
At a time when print journals still retain their significance and popularity, and when new sites are flourishing on the web, Salt’s anthology gives us a snapshot of current UK poetry practices by bringing together a diverse selection of poems. The 2015 offering, edited by Emily Berry (with Roddy Lumsden as series editor), is the fifth edition in the series.
Best British Poetry is available to buy from saltpublishing.com
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #3 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-3.html
Regrettably we have to announce that the next issue of The Crunch will be delayed until the new year. If you've been following us on social media, you'll have seen that we’ve already spent a day filming and recording with our Issue #3 guest Alan Kellermann – so why the delay?
Last week, there was a fire at Adam’s house. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but the damage to Adam’s office – what we affectionately refer to as ‘Crunch HQ’ – was devastating. Luckily the fire didn't have time to spread too far, but the smoke did its worst to a large portion of our equipment.
We’re hopeful that we'll be able to salvage Alan’s videos and podcast, but if not we’re sure we can arrange another day with Alan to bring you Issue #3 as originally intended, once we’re back on our feet.
So for now, have a merry Christmas, and we’ll see you in the new year.
Rhys, Adam & Rich
In Issue #2's podcast, our guest Nia Davies recommended two books: a novel from Chris Kraus that refuses to be pinned down by genre, and a poetry chapbook from Hoa Nguyen that challenges the authority of language. Meanwhile, Richard, Adam and Rhys all spoke about poets and collections that, in their own very unique ways, meditate on the complexities of what it is to be human.
Tells of the Crackling – Hoa Nguyen
Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015
Hoa Nguyen’s chapbook Tells of the Crackling reveals love in its lost and often fragmentary forms. It sifts through rivers and blue explosions with a "yell of living", and asks how we can attempt to retrieve the irretrievable.
Language, and the spaces in between words, are important to Nguyen, a poet who wants "the root of the words / not the fucking use / made purposed and stupid." The poems in Tells of the Crackling seek to alter our perception of the world, and separate how it really is from how it is presented through language. With its intriguing nuances, it is a chapbook collection that definitely invites the reader to return.
Tells of the Crackling is available to buy from uglyducklingpresse.org
I Love Dick – Chris Kraus
When Chris Kraus, an unsuccessful artist pushing 40, spends an evening with a rogue academic named Dick, she falls madly and inexplicably in love, enlisting her husband in her haunted pursuit. Dick proposes a kind of game between them, but when he fails to answer their letters Chris continues alone, transforming an adolescent infatuation into a new form of philosophy.
Blurring the lines of fiction, essay and memoir, Chris Kraus's I Love Dick was a literary sensation when it was first published in 1997. Widely considered to be the most important feminist novel of the past two decades, it is still essential reading today; as relevant, fierce and funny as ever.
The new hardback edition of I Love Dick is available from serpentstail.com
The October Palace – Jane Hirshfield
Harper Perennial, 1994
Grounded in a series of meditations, The October Palace – Jane Hirshfield's third collection of poetry, published in 1994 – explores the ways that radiance dwells most truly in the ordinary, the difficult, and the plain.
Finely crafted and delicately thought out, the poems in this collection frequently hinge on a turning point or moment of insight, and explore themes for which Hirshfield would later become well known, such as awareness, consciousness, and the changeable nature of perception.
The October Palace is available to buy from harpercollins.com
Sole – D. E. Oprava
Blackheath Books, 2010
D. E. Oprava’s poetry considers the curious skin of life, and the universal bones beneath. Sole, his third collection of poetry, is a book that explores his childhood growing up in rural America. Each of the poems aims to express a solitary emotion, a universal whole, and the peculiar holes in which we often find ourselves.
An American-born writer who has lived in Wales for almost two decades, D. E. Oprava has published six collections of poetry, the latest of which – The Last Museum of Laughter – was highly commended by the 2014 Forward Prizes.
Sole is available to buy from blackheathbooks.org.uk
Here and the Water – Sarah Coles
Gomer Press, 2012
Sarah Coles' first collection of poetry – Here and the Water – is an intensely personal journey through the complexity of human relationships. Her portrayal of family, and of love and loneliness, is touching and incisive, whilst her engagement with the beauty and darkness of the natural world can thrill and unsettle in equal measures.
In Here and the Water, Coles embraces life's joys and complexities, wherever they appear. Sometimes they're at the seaside, or in the back garden, other times in the city and its back lanes, and many of them are encountered on expeditions with her children. But even in the company of others, she often travels alone.
Here and the Water is available to buy from gomer.co.uk
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #2 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-2.html
The Crunch Blog
Our blog is where we'll post news, articles and other items of interest related to The Crunch.