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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’. 

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Date: 12 September 2016

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.

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Date: 12 September 2016

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.

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Date: 12 September 2016

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’……

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Date: 26 November 2015

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. 

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Date: 26 November 2015

Eleanor Perry reviews Frances Kruk

Frances Kruk’s lo-fi frags in progress is composed of five related sequences, some of which have previously appeared as stand-alone pamphlets from yt communication, Veer Books, Dusie and Punch Press. The collection’s title implies insurrection against military-industrial structures of power—frag meaning to throw a grenade at a superior officer, particularly one who is fanatical in their desire for bloodshed—but it is one which is ongoing (in-progress) and deliberately unpolished (lo-fi)
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Date: 26 November 2015

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. 

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Date: 26 November 2015

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. 

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Date: 26 November 2015

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.

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Date: 26 November 2015

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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Date: 26 November 2015

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