The Shearsman Review
The Shearsman Review — Book Reviews
James Davies reviews Rachel Sills
Rachel Sills’ 200 Houses is a little gem of a book in the mould of George Perec’s Two Hundred and Forty-three Postcards in Real Colour, and just as funny. As the title suggests it is a serial poem of 200 numbered short descriptions of perhaps imaginary people and their imaginary houses. It is written using either one or two clauses per description – ‘Gillian’s House has a kitchen extension’ and ‘Hugh’s house is often used as a film location, which can be very lucrative’.
Martin Domleo reviews Yvonne Reddick
Anyone with a sense of the past could not fail to be engaged by the poems in this beautifully presented pamphlet. They are at once direct and multi-layered, grabbing you with volleys of carefully crafted lines and carrying you with them to a poem’s conclusion.
Colin Lee Marshall reviews Samantha Walton & Jo Lindsay
Samantha Walton’s Strange House reverberates in ways that belie its brevity. The acoustic reflexions might begin for us even before we have opened the book, engendered by whatever strange recesses hollow the house evoked by the title—although equally, we might imagine something altogether less echoic, more open and angular, a structure riddled with misplaced quadrangles and jutting cantilevers. Either way, after we have read Walton’s chapbook, our anticipative architecture will likely seem lamentably illiquid.
Juha Virtanen reviews Joshua Clover
In anticipation of Joshua Clover’s forthcoming book of cultural and critical theory, Of Riot (Verso, 2016), it is perhaps useful to frame this review of Red Epic with some comments Clover makes in his 2012 paper, ‘World-System Riot’……
Marcus Slease reviews Bobby Parker
Authenticity is a loaded word. What does it mean? Being sincere? We live in a world of intense self-branding and marketing and maybe a lot of us crave authenticity more than ever. It seems like authenticity is something always in process. Maybe you know authenticity when you feel it/hear it/experience it? For me, Bobby Parker’s collection of poems, Blue Movie, makes us feel authenticity beautifully. I feel it (a raw and brutal reality with starling imagination) because the speakers in the poems are open to various states of reality and emotions. Like a lot of great art, suffering is altered through the power of the imagination. There is a careful attention to both craft and rawness. A seemingly effortless effort. Of course, it often takes a lot of skill and artfulness to render complex ideas and emotions in accessible language and to make it seem effortless. Parker does this exceptionally well. It is one of many things I love about his poetry.
Eleanor Perry reviews Frances Kruk
Ian Brinton reviews R.F. Langley
On 12 February 2011 at the Memorial service for Roger Langley being held in Bramfield Church, Suffolk, Tom Lowenstein recalled that ‘While the peaceful Mrs Coke lay beyond in the chancel, all the speakers in their different ways brought us face to face with Roger, often hilariously, always with gratitude, also sadly.’ That sense of the ‘face to face’ is central to Langley’s poetry and it evokes what he admired about Thomas Nagel’s The View from Nowhere (O.U.P. 1986) with its focus upon both looking at the world and living in it.
Alan Munton reviews the Wor(l)ds in Collision exhibition
This outstanding exhibition is, of course, a game. ‘The artworks here’, writes Mike Rose-Steel in his ‘Wittgensteinian introduction’ to wor(l)ds in collision ‘are engaged in various forms of play, translation or reconfiguration’. The setting for this show was a house at the edge of the main campus of Exeter University, where you walk in upon the exhibits in the hallway, there to encounter a screen busily engaging in wordplay. You could then either go upstairs, engaging with artworks on the walls, or head into the main exhibition room, where the sheer variety of objects became apparent. Notable among these was the structure that held, hanging to be read, cards bearing the 50 or more poems written by the Exegesis collective, who are Jaime Robles, Mike Rose-Steel and SMSteele. The hanging poems are entitled The Wittgenstein Vector, which was first exhibited as an outdoor campus installation attached to a tall Victorian brick wall; on each card is a proposition from the Tractatus, with a poem on the reverse. You engage by reading the exhibit.
Laurie Duggan reviews Gregory O'Brien
Sometimes the poetics of the new avant seem all too pure. Commentators might shudder at the idea of a poet being taken on a scientific voyage in order to furnish reports even if these were presented in a language other than that of standard journalism. The results of such an exercise might be a little too hybrid for those who want the work to reflect only the principles of its own construction. But what if poetry happened to be ‘occasional’ of its nature. I don’t mean here the ‘occasion’ of a greeting card but the thought that a poem might be addressed to someone or to a group of people. Coleridge, I’m sure, would not have minded a commission in the least though he may have given his paymasters a deal of grief. Gregory O’Brien has been on at least a couple of investigatory voyages, employed as a poet (as well as an artist and art critic). In Whale Years his journey is very much one of the imagination rather than a journalistic exercise.
Lila Matsumoto reviews Frances Presley
A halse is an embrace, from Old English, ‘halsian’: a falling upon the neck. Halse is also Exmoor dialect for the hazel tree, a derivation which Frances Presley discovered in the writings of Hazel Eardley-Wilmot, archaeologist and historian of the forests of Exmoor in West Somerset. Presley’s latest collection of poems holds Eardley-Wilmot’s conservation work of woods and words in close regard as both seed and strand. Presley notes in an essay on her website that ‘This question about the name “hazel” is, indirectly, about [Eardley-Wilmot’s] first name, and must have been of interest to her, as it is for me. My own experience of nominative determinism has to do with FP = footpaths.’ Presley’s trajectories take us on a compelling journey across overlooked landscapes and vocabularies, from Exmoor to Scotland and across the Atlantic.
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