In Issue 9's podcast, Adam, Rhys and our guest Emily Blewitt coincidentally all chose poetry pamphlets to recommend to our listeners, proving that the art form is still going strong almost a decade after Jackie Kay celebrated its 'return'.
Teaching a Bird to Sing – Tracey Rhys
Green Bottle Press, 2016
Tracey Rhys’s Teaching a Bird to Sing was published by Green Bottle Press in 2016, and was featured in The TLS in its end-of-year round-up of the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets. Touching yet unsentimental, Teaching a Bird to Sing explores Rhys’s son’s diagnosis of autism, what it means to her and the frustrations, worries and hopes it brings.
Written from the perspective of both mother and child, the poems in this pamphlet are by turns tender and outraged. Some were featured in the Winterlight Theatre stage show Touch Blue Touch Yellow, providing a sobering insight into the lives of autistic people and those who love them.
Teaching a Bird to Sing is available to buy from greenbottlepress.com
The Wild Gods – Malene Engelund
Valley Press, 2016
Malene Engelund grew up in Aalborg, a city grown from a former Viking settlement in northern Denmark. She moved to England in 2002 and currently lives in Greenwich. The eighteen poems that comprise her debut pamphlet, The Wild Gods, reveal a distinctly Nordic imagination, punctured with rich colour, shadows and light.
Here are letters, portraits and prayers, composed with an almost painterly precision. Searching and clear-eyed, each poem is a compact saga that revives folklore and extends it into the present. Engelund’s wild gods take their places between borders: of home and belonging, darkness and dawn, the silenced and the lost.
The Wild Gods is available to buy from valleypressuk.com
Giraffe – Bryony Littlefair
Giraffe is a beguiling, beautiful and entertaining debut pamphlet of poems by Bryony Littlefair. Her poetry displays novelistic qualities: clarity of language and the use of realism, a feeling for plot and incident, an eye and ear for character. Also noted are the subtle ways that Littlefair indicates character and relationships. There is a good deal of wit on display in Giraffe, but also a wonderful humanity.
Poems need head, heart, and soul but this particular Mslexia Poetry Prize-winning pamphlet has an extra ingredient: a feminist kick. Littlefair is acutely aware of women’s lives and gives us mothers, daughters, grandmothers, friends and colleagues whose adventures or misadventures we become increasingly eager to follow.
Giraffe is available to buy from serenbooks.com
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue 9 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-9.html
In Issue 8's podcast, Rhys recommended a debut collection that interrogates the very idea of masculinity, Adam chose to highlight a new novel by a Faber poet, Richard suggested a modern morality cycle with an everyman figure at its centre, and our guest clare e. potter praised an artful and expansive collection from a newly-revived author.
physical – Andrew McMillan
Jonathan Cape, 2015
Winner of the 2015 Guardian First Book Award, Andrew McMillan’s debut poetry collection physical confronts what it is to be a man, and interrogates the very idea of masculinity. Raw and urgent, these poems are hymns to the male body – to male friendship and male love – muscular, sometimes shocking, but always deeply moving.
McMillan is an elegant stylist and an unfashionably honest poet. Dispensing with conventional punctuation, he is attentive and alert to the quality of breathing, giving his poems an extraordinary sense of being vividly poised and present – drawing lines that are deft, lyrical and perfectly pitched from a world of urban dereliction.
physical is available to buy from penguin.co.uk
The Adulterants – Joe Dunthorne
Hamish Hamilton, 2018
Joe Dunthorne’s The Adulterants is an uproarious tale of competitively sensitive men and catastrophic open marriages, riots on the streets of London and Internet righteousness, and one man's valiant quest to come of age in his thirties.
Fresh, sharp and wickedly funny, The Adulterants is Dunthorne's third novel, following Submarine (2008) and Wild Abandon (2011). His first full-length poetry collection will be published by Faber and Faber in 2019.
The Adulterants is available to buy from penguin.co.uk
Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides – Stephen Dobyns
A modern morality cycle with an everyman figure named Heart at its centre, Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides takes the form of sixty-one episodic poems. Throughout the collection, Heart – who “comes to resemble Charlie Brown as seen by Charles Bukowski” – is foiled repeatedly in his quest for happiness.
Dobyns’ poetry employs extended tropes, using the ridiculous and the absurd as vehicles to introduce more profound meditations on life, love, and art. Originally published by Penguin in 1999, Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides is Dobyn’s tenth collection of poems. A later edition was published by Bloodaxe Books.
Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides is now out of print, but you can still pick up a second-hand copy at worldofbooks.com
Sax Burglar Blues – Robert Walton
Seren Books, 2017
The poems in Robert Walton’s Sax Burglar Blues are clever and keenly observed, ranging from vivid memories of youth to pointed satire. In the title poem, the pleasing complexity of jazz mirrors the poet’s vocation to embody, echo and reverberate the complexities of lived experience.
As befits a poet born and based on the Severn Estuary, Walton’s land and townscapes are often damp, misty, watery, and recorded with many subtle variations of blue. There are also pleasingly unlikely totem animals, a nod to the mythical man-eating crocodile that infests Bristol Docks, and the surreal lampoon of a canary’s presidential candidacy. Artful and expansive, this is a stunning collection from a newly-revived author.
Sax Burglar Blues is available to buy from serenbooks.com
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue 8 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-8.html
In Issue #7's podcast, our guest Rhys Milsom pointed listeners towards a collection that is full of sentiment without being sentimental, Richard recommended a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Adam endorsed a stunning debut collection from a former Crunch guest, and Rhys suggested picking up a mini coffee-table book about carving site-specific poems onto stone.
A Boat Called Annalise – Lynne Hjelmgaard
Seren Books, 2016
Lynne Hjelmgaard’s third collection A Boat Called Annalise evokes life on a sailboat, recalling a journey the poet took on a sailboat to the Caribbean and back to Europe with her husband. The couple’s relationship is poised on tensions, beautifully observed, as masculine/feminine, the need to assert and/or withdraw in the face of the turbulent seascape.
Our guest Rhys Milsom reviewed A Boat Called Annalise for Wales Arts Review in 2016. You can read Rhys's review here: walesartsreview.org/a-boat-called-annalise-by-lynne-hjelmgaard
A Boat Called Annalise is available to buy from serenbooks.com
The Monster Loves His Labyrinth – Charles Simic
Ausable Press, 2008
The Monster Loves His Labyrinth offers a fascinating glimpse into the mind of poet Charles Simic. Passionate, witty, tender and curious, these notebook entries range from casual jottings to profound observations. Their subject is the vast array of ways in which we human beings try to make sense of our world.
Born in Yugoslavia in 1938, Charles Simic won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990. In 2007, he was appointed US Poet Laureate and received the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets.
The Monster Loves His Labyrinth is available to buy from coppercanyonpress.org
The Days After – Rebecca Parfitt
Listen Softly London, 2017
The Days After is the stunning debut collection from our Issue #5 guest Rebecca Parfitt. A moving, close-to-the-bone account of heartbreak, the poems record the trajectory of a relationship – from passionate infatuation, through tortuous unravelling and, finally, the promise of what will be lived afterwards. The collection was recently selected as one of The Cardiff Review's books of 2017: "...both delicate and powerful....Parfitt has a precise, sometimes devastatingly brittle, quality to her writing."
The Days After is available to buy from listensoftlylondon.com
Watch Rebecca reading some of the poems from The Days After here: crunchpoetry.com/rebecca-parfitt.html
Stanza Stones – Simon Armitage, Pip Hall and Tom Lonsdale
Enitharmon Press, 2013
In 2012, Simon Armitage was commissioned by the Ilkley Literature Festival to write six site-specific poems. Stanza Stones presents a record of the project to carve these poems onto stone along a new trail in England’s Pennine region.
With the help of local expert Tom Lonsdale and letter-carver Pip Hall, Armitage found extraordinary, secluded sites for his words to be carved into stone. Stanza Stones brings together Armitage's six poems and the accounts of Hall and Lonsdale, publishing them alongside colour photographs of the project in progress and the stones in their completed state.
Stanza Stones is available to buy from enitharmon.co.uk
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #7 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-7.html
We're fiercely proud to be based in our hometown Swansea. Seven of the poets we've featured so far are Swansea residents, and the city and its environs provide the backdrop to many of our videos. Swansea is already a city of culture – the Swansea 2021 team have proved that with their inspirational #SwanseaIsCulture hashtag –but it would be so good for the city and its residents to take the official UK City of Culture title for 2021.
Prouder cities rise through the haze of time,
The Crunch fully supports Swansea's bid to become UK City of Culture 2021. Good luck to everyone involved today, let's hope the judges agree that #SwanseaIsCulture!
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