In our Issue #4 recommendations, there were two books from the excellent Nine Arches Press (picked by Rhys and our 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
In Issue #1's podcast, Adam recommended a return to the first Forward Prize winner for Best Collection, Rhys pointed our listeners towards a podcast dedicated to a young poet whose promise will never be fulfilled, Richard spoke about an incredibly imaginative sequence by a Dutch poet in translation, and our guest Ian Gregson praised a collection that proves that poetry is still a place where the most difficult things can be said.
The Man with Night Sweats – Thom Gunn
Faber & Faber, 1992
Originally published in 1992, The Man with Night Sweats was Thom Gunn's first collection of poetry in a decade. Displaying his unparalleled ability to move between classical forms and looser, colloquial measures, Gunn's poems in this collection address a wide range of themes, both intimate and social.
The collection ends with a sequence of poems about the many friends Gunn lost to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s – part elegy for those who have been lost and part evocation of the changes that await those who survive. With their unflinching directness, compassion and grace, they have been described as among the most moving statements to have been provoked by the disease.
The Man with Night Sweats is available to buy from faber.co.uk
Mysteries of Afternoon and Evening – Rachel Sherwood
Sherwood Press, 1981
Rachel Sherwood's chapbook – Mysteries of Afternoon and Evening – was published posthumously in 1981, two years after her untimely death. In a contemporary review in the Los Angeles Times, Peter Clothier said the collection displayed "...the attentive eye and sharp ear for language of a young poet whose promise will sadly never be fulfilled…[and] whose weaknesses reflect only the short time she was permitted to develop her growing talents. The book is a moving tribute to a clear-sighted and caring human sensibility."
Unfortunately, Mysteries of Afternoon and Evening is now out of print, but you can read some of Rachel Sherwood's poetry, and listen to the 'Two Poets in their Youth' podcast Rhys mentioned, here: poetryfoundation.org/bio/rachel-sherwood#poet
Raptors – Toon Tellegen
Carcanet Press, 2011
With the economy of proverbs and the psychological insight of a novel, Toon Tellegen’s acclaimed sequence Raptors depicts the dynamics of a family held hostage by the mood-swings and histrionics of a father, a figure both comic and terrifying, grotesque and pathetic.
An improvisation on a theme, circling back to 'my father' at the start of each poem, Raptors builds to a story without narrative, its extravagant imaginative leaps into absurdity held within a framework of tender observation.
Translator Judith Wilkinson worked closely with Tellegen to create English versions of the poems that capture the startling clarity and inventiveness of the original Dutch.
Raptors is available to buy from carcanet.co.uk
Into It – Lawrence Joseph
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007
Into It is the fourth collection from Lawrence Joseph, an American writer of great originality and scope. In the words of Ian Gregson, he is a poet who "discusses ideas directly and explicitly...and takes poetry seriously, as a place where the most difficult things can be said."
Along the New York waterfront, on a crowded street, at the site where the World Trade Center stood: Joseph enters into these places to capture the thoughts and images, the colours and feelings, and the language that give the present its pressured complexity. Few contemporary writers have been able to shape this material into poetry, but Joseph has done so masterfully, and in poems that are daring, searching, and classically satisfying.
A list of places where you can buy Into It is available at us.macmillan.com
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #1 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-1.html
There's been a lot of interest in the guys who provide the title music for our podcast, so we thought we'd write a short profile on them and provide some links for you to go and listen to their songs in full.
Freeway Park are a litpunk band from Seattle, WA. Started in a small room in Fremont in 2013, the band was "originally conceived as a noise-and-spoken-word project, [but] it's since evolved to include the occasional riff, hook, and structure."
The band is made up of Adam Muhgrunk on guitar, John Jernigan on bass, Patrick Gill on drums and Graham Isaac on vocals. Graham was a student at Swansea University in 2007–08, and it was during this time that he co-founded The Crunch – a spoken word night that ran in the Uplands area of the city until 2012, and then regenerated into this online magazine in 2015.
Following the completion of his degree Graham returned to the USA, where he continues to curate and host spoken word nights. A collection of his poems – Filthy Jerry's Guide to Parking Lots – was published by Babel/Salvage in 2013.
Freeway Park were kind enough to let us use their track 'Little Fear of Drowning' as the title music for The Crunch podcast. You can listen to it in full by using the embedded SoundCloud player above.
But don't just stop there! Check out the other songs on their SoundCloud profile too – and like them/follow them/become their friend on Facebook and Twitter.
In Issue #0's podcast, Rhys spoke a little about rediscovering one of his favourite writers – the prose poet Louis Jenkins – as a result of moving house, Richard recommended a collection of passionate and elegantly written essays from Tom Sleigh, and Adam took the opportunity to ask Richard a few questions about his debut poetry collection 'Little Man'.
North of the Cities – Louis Jenkins
Will O' The Wisp Books, 2007
The meta-fiction poems collected in North of the Cities perfectly typify the contemporary prose poem: a snapshot of everyday life laced with sardonic humour that strives for sonorous effect. But Louis Jenkins is, perhaps above all, a fantastic storyteller; "all poetry," he says, "comes down to storytelling. This is what happened. This is what it's like to be a live human being. You tell that story the best way you can."
North of the Cities is available to buy from willothewispbooks.com
Rhys wrote a longer introduction to Louis Jenkins' poetry for Everything But A Mis-Print back in 2011. You can read it here: rhysowainwilliams.com/blog/an-introduction-to-louis-jenkins
Interview with a Ghost – Tom Sleigh
Graywolf Press, 2011
In Interview with a Ghost, Tom Sleigh investigates poetry from the vantage point of his conviction that "while art and life are separable, they aren't separate." With passion and erudition, his essays explore issues of self-hood that are often assumed but not adequately confronted by contemporary poetry – namely, what it means to employ the first person in a poem, the elusive "I" with all of its freighted aesthetic and psychological implications.
The works of poets – including Anne Bradstreet, Sir Walter Raleigh, Robert Lowell, Thom Gunn, Seamus Heaney, and Frank Bidart – are examined, as are Sleigh's own poems in the contexts of his own history and sickness.
Interview with a Ghost is available to buy from graywolfpress.org
Little Man – Richard James Jones
Parthian Books, 2014
Though none of us intend for The Crunch to become a vehicle for our own egos, it seemed remiss to not ask our very own Richard James Jones about the process of writing, editing and launching his debut collection Little Man, especially as it was the book that Adam had most recently been reading.
So we did.
Published by Parthian Books towards the end of last year, Little Man was soon selected as one of the Scottish Poetry Library's recommended titles – alongside work by poets such as Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Michael Longley and John Burnside.
Little Man is available to buy from parthianbooks.com
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #0 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-0.html
Welcome to crunchpoetry.com, home to The Crunch – a new multimedia poetry magazine, comprising an online repository of videos and a monthly podcast.
This project has actually been a few years in the making. When our open mic night came to an end in 2012, the idea was always to keep The Crunch going in one way or another. After exploring the possibilities of chapbooks, anthologies and other print-based media, the decision was made to instead keep The Crunch in the realms of the audiovisual.
We recorded our first test video in March 2014 and now, 18 months later, are ready to launch our first full issue. You can learn more about the development of the project by listening to our Issue #0 podcast here.
We'd like to express our thanks to Ian Gregson and Nia Davies, our first two feature poets, for supporting the project when it was still really just a concept. And also thanks to Graham Isaac, original Crunch co-founder, and his band Freeway Park for providing music for the podcast.
Issues #0 and #1 of The Crunch are available right now. Head over to our Archive page to check them out.
Note: crunchpoetry.com is currently optimised for web users, though a very basic mobile site is available. Mobile users, please bear with us whilst we sort out a better handheld version of The Crunch for you guys.