Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Recent Issues

Well, here are a few recent issues of magazines that I thought I'd flag up, and no, not just because I've something of my own included in them, which in several cases I don't, but because I've subscriptions to many poetry mags and journals for the simple reason that, in many ways, they're the lifeblood and engine rooms of new writing and, on this slightly gloomy looking Wednesday morning, I'd like to encourage you, dear Wasteland reader, to consider subscribing to a new publication today.

First off, the latest issue of New Welsh Review dropped with a satisfying thud through my letterbox the other week, and aside being excellently produced (nothing superficial about enjoying the look and feel of a stylish book or magazine with high production values, and to be honest, NWR holds its own against most books, never mind journals), it also contains plenty of engaging new writing, including two new poems from Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch, fiction from Nii Ayikwei Parkes, plus reviews of Philip Gross's T.S. Eliot prize-winning collection The Water Table, and a new collection of short stories inspired by the work of Jane Austen.

I'd also recommend the latest issue of The Rialto, celebrating 25 years of this major publication's appearances, and including - among new work from Carol Ann Duffy, Andrew Motion, Lorraine Mariner and Rachel Curzon - 'Look Out', the first part of a special feature on new poets under 35 edited by Nathan Hamilton, with poems from Andrew Jamison, Luke Kennard, Chris McCabe, Heather Phillipson, Keston Sutherland and Jack Underwood. Well worth a look.

The latest issue of Orbis, #150, is also packed with poems and reviews of recent books, and its usual 'Lines on Lines' section of candid reader comments on the previous issue. Where the poems in #150 are concerned, highlights for me came in the shape of Rupert Loydell's 'Paper Children', Eoghan Walls's 'Terminal One', and Todd Swift's 'The Port Daniel House'. Reviews include a round-up of recent pamphlets from the indefatigable Smith/Doorstop (the publishing house of the, now Sheffield-based, Poetry Business), including Sally Goldsmith's Singer, a short little book that packs an emotional yet unsentimental punch, and one which I'd recommend getting hold of.

Lastly, the latest issue of the Times Literary Supplement (No 5590, May 21 2010) contains the usual array of incisive, decisive, highly readable and thought-provoking literary reviews, not least a piece on Merrill Chleier's study of architecture and gender in American film, Skyscraper Cinema, and Michael Hofmann's translation of Gottfried Benn's poem, 'Englisches Café'. But I'd like to point you in particular towards the poetry reviews, not only because of pieces on new collections from Selima Hill and Antony Dunn, among others, but because there's a review of my own included of Sian Hughes's excellent debut, The Missing. It's a real shame that this book didn't come away with a prize or two, having been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and chosen as a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. As I say in the review, the collection is a short one of, often, short poems: something that perhaps belies its exactitude, hard-won emotional truths, and long road to completion. At any rate, it really is a great debut collection, and one which I've returned to on several occasions recently. So I'll end by saying that, as well as subscribing to a poetry magazine today, you should really push the boat out and go and order The Missing, which you can pick up from Salt's website, here. And if you need any more convincing, you should first read this powerful and emotive elegy, 'The Send-Off', which won Hughes the Arvon International Poetry Competition a few years back. Moving isn't the word.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Drive-By Truckers



Drive-By Truckers perform "Birthday Boy", taken from their new album The Big To-Do, on Jools Holland's Later.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Chris Morris's Four Lions



There can be weeks when I find very little to engage on BBC2's The Review Show (formerly Newsnight Review, though the name change seems to have accompanied nothing more than the sickly new colour scheme of its redesigned set), so it was a pleasant surprise to see Chris Morris, Britain's foremost satirist and creator of series The Day Today (1994) and Brass Eye (1997), featured on the show this week, having finished his latest project, a darkly comic film about a bunch of hapless, amateur terrorists based in Sheffield.

I'd almost forgotten about the movie, having last read about Morris's current project when I stumbled across a letter, "The absurd world of Martin Amis", in the Guardian a few years back, in which Morris takes the bestselling author to task for "prowling the thickets of his research [into Islam and terrorism] like a demented flasher".

But as Morris's first film, and given his reputation for dealing with difficult topics (such as drugs, war, paedophilia, and AIDS) with biting satire, sharp observations and prickly wit, Four Lions promises to be impressive. In the meantime, I'm returning to DVDs and online clips from Morris's previous work, particularly the excellent The Day Today. For those who haven't seen it, here from the fifth episode of that series is Morris's rebarbative newsreader character at full tilt, deliberately sparking off a war after an unlikely peace accord in order to capitalise on the ensuing pandemonium with up-to-the-minute news coverage, invasive, sensationalist footage, and even (later in the episode) marketing a CD titled 'Our War', including pop songs inappropriately set to war footage.