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The Shearsman Review — Book Reviews

Ken Hunt - Space Administration & Daisy Knell

Space Administration & Daisy Knell are companion pieces; both created through text erasures of voice transcripts from the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. Readers will be reminded of crackling exchanges between astronauts & mission control on old, grainy TV footage: some of it inaudible, the rest largely inaccessible to the non-technician, yet to these ears more deserving of the name 'poetry' than much of what the literary world has to offer. However, what passes before our eyes, as already hinted, is not so much re-enactment as a deliberate plundering & re-purposing of the record. 

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Date: 6 August 2014

Lee Harwood - The Orchid Boat

On the surface, there does not appear to be much going on. A pool disturbed by the faintest of surface ripples, Lee Harwood's second full volume since the Collected Poems in 2004, The Orchid Boat often manifests a tranquil ambience that flirts with but does not surrender to stereotype.

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Date: 6 August 2014

Ken Edwards - Down With Beauty

Ken Edwards is one of UK poetry’s most productive veteran writers and publishers, with Reality Street maintaining a stream of necessary publications of which many of the best come from Edwards’s own pen. Like all of Edwards’s recent work (including the 2011’s excellent Bardo: Forty-Nine Prose Pieces Over Seven Days), Down With Beauty is made up of texts left-justified and run on as ‘prose’, but which exhibit a stylistic self-consciousness and openness to linguistic difficulty and disorder that we might associate with poetry. And one of the things that is most distinctive about the reading experience of Down With Beauty is the variety of gradations of this difficulty and disorder between the work’s sections Thus at some points sentences jut up against one another like Language Poetry’s New Sentences, though in other sections conform more closely to (never quite) ‘conventional’ narrative prose—in fact more so in this volume than in Bardo and Nostalgia for Unknown Cities

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Date: 6 August 2014

Chrissy Williams, Flying into the Bear and Epigraphs

Chrissy Williams is opening a new space for British experimental poetry. A space that uses the neo-avantgarde strategies of some first and second generation NY School poetry, with its generosity towards the reader via a light touch and warm experimentalism. The poems in both Flying Into The Bear and Epigraphs acknowledge, like T.S. Elliot’s 'The Waste Land', the fragmentary nature of our contemporary existence but they also provide a means to construct a whole from both received wisdom and lived experience.

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Date: 6 August 2014

Bill Griffiths - Collected Poems and Sequences (1981-90)

Bill Griffiths’ contribution to post-war British literature is both substantial and significant. From the late 1960s until his death in 2007, the poet produced a bibliography of over 300 items, which cover poetry, collaborations, translations, essays, polemics, dialect studies, social history and more. Additionally, his skills as an archivist, book designer, and small press publisher enabled Griffiths to catalogue and support the proliferation of innovative poetry in Britain from the 1970s onwards. His erudite work on the history and patois of the North-East of England is equally noteworthy. And yet—partially as a result of the poet’s own preference to publish groups of poems in small units through independent publishers—much of this oeuvre would be difficult to locate outside of special collections in various institutions. 

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Date: 6 August 2014

Jane Yeh - The Ninjas

Anyone familiar with Jane Yeh’s debut collection, Marabou, will know to expect something vibrant and eccentric from her latest book of poetry, The Ninjas. The poems in it are charmingly accessible; bizarre, broken fairy-tale worlds and sci-fi nightmares littered with quirky and absurd images. Yeh’s forte is the creation of weird and whimsical narratives, and there is no shortage of those in the collection, the best of which incorporate themes of alienation, desolation, cultural decay and social inequality.

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Date: 16 March 2014

Nick Laird - Go Giants

Laird begins his new collection with a prose piece on the dust jacket addressing the concept of the poem. He tells poetry that a homogenous group, ‘they’, are ‘pretty sure you’re not worth knowing’, that it is at worst ‘a mockery, a joke; outmoded’ and at best ‘a pimped-out souped-up pussy wagon’, and in doing so almost frames the collection as a defence of the genre.

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Date: 16 March 2014

Ko Un - First Person Sorrowful

Until his remarkable performance at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in November 2012, Ko Un was largely unknown in Britain. This is all the more surprising, as Ko Un is a major international poet and human rights activist, now approaching his 81st birthday.

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Date: 16 March 2014

Michael Farrell - Open Sesame

The first thing you notice about the poems in Open Sesame is a colloquial familiarity. At the same time the poems are often dense and use an unstable grammar. In some of them there’s a distinctive parlance going on: not just Australian but regional and possibly generational (I mean here the adult generation around the time of Farrell’s country childhood). Farrell is an agile performer. You feel there’s a language being created here and yet it’s your own language.

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Date: 16 March 2014

Visual Poetics Show, Saison Poetry Library

When you walk through the glass doors that mark the boundary of the Saison Poetry Library from the rest of the Southbank Centre in London, immediately to your left is a pocket of the library where the curators David Miller and Chris McCabe have installed their Visual Poetics show. On wall, in plinth and cabinet and on screen, work by over 30 artists, from the seminal to the au courant, is displayed, giving a pithy survey of a little observed and infrequently celebrated art form.

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Date: 15 March 2014

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