Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Salt Book of Younger Poets


THE SALT BOOK OF YOUNGER POETS
edited by Roddy Lumsden & Eloise Stonborough
Salt Publishing, October 2011. Paperback, £10.99


The Salt Book of Younger Poets showcases a new generation of British poets born since the mid-80s. Many of these poets embrace new technologies such as blogs, social networking and webzines to meet, mentor, influence and publish their own work and others’. Some poets here were winners of the Foyle young poet awards when at school. Some have published pamphlets in series such as tall-lighthouse Pilot and Faber New Poets. All of them are working away on first collections. This is a chance to encounter the poets who will dominate UK poetry in years to come.


Rachael Allen | Daniel Barrow | Jack Belloli | Jay Bernard | James Brookes | Phil Brown | Niall Campbell | Kayo Chingonyi | Miranda Cichy | John Clegg | Nia Davies | Amy De’ath | Inua Ellams | Charlotte Geater | Tom Gilliver | Dai George | Emily Hasler | Oli Hazzard | Dan Hitchens | Sarah Howe | Andrew Jamison | Annie Katchinska | Andrew McMillan | Siofra McSherry | Ben Maier | Laura Marsh | Annabella Massey | James Midgley | Helen Mort | Charlotte Newman | Richard O’Brien | Richard Osmond | Vidyan Ravinthiran | Sophie Robinson | Charlotte Runcie | Ashna Sarkar | William Searle | Colette Sensier | Warsan Shire | Lavinia Singer | Adham Smart | Martha Sprackland | Eloise Stonborough | Emily Tesh | Jack Underwood | Ahren Warner | Ben Wilkinson | Sophie Yeo


Available to pre-order from Amazon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Lorraine Mariner's Furniture


The title poem of Lorraine Mariner’s debut volume tells the story of two young women in their twenties: one who has “acquired” a family, home and furniture, the other “who’d only ever known the fully-furnished, / the three white goods”. As both a metaphor for unrealised, misplaced aspirations and an emblem of modern life’s clutter, furniture in the broadest sense is ubiquitous in Mariner’s poems. Many specifically address such objects, intent on uncovering the social significance they embody, as in the complex staff-room politics of “Chair”, or the collapsed Ikea wardrobe of “There is nothing wrong with my sister”. Elsewhere, the cultural detritus of Littlewoods catalogues, CDs, predictive texts and London Lite newspapers grows irritatingly to litter the book with their almost programmatic contemporaneity, though frustration is usually offset by Mariner’s natural, charming and engagingly chatty free verse.

The best poems in Furniture tend to be the longest, affording Mariner room to unpick everyday subject matters in often surreal narratives. In its study of human infidelity, “Feathers” sustains an impressive (if unlikely) extended metaphor based on birding, while “My beast” brings children’s fairytale and adult reality into literal collision, the poet imagining her father’s “Volvo reversing into a beast’s carriage” while she “end[s] up at the castle as compensation”. “Assertiveness role play” treads a similar line between contemplative seriousness and wry comedy. “Thursday” is an accomplished and original perspective on terrorism, detailing in lengthy stream of consciousness the poet’s journey to work on the morning of the 2005 London bombings.

It is in the short, first-person lyrics which dominate the collection that the shortcomings of Mariner’s verse appear. Too many of her poems fail to develop their slight subject matters: in “Shop names”, a brief discussion of retail puns yields nothing beyond mild amusement; “My wedding” sacrifices a more provocative engagement with the personal implications of our digital era to throwaway, crowd-pleasing effects. At its best, Mariner’s work is sure-footed, energetic, and often strikes an original tone; at worst, it exhibits prosiness and chick-lit triviality. But the strongest poems – foremost among them the fully realised character study of “In my worst moments” – successfully combine a witty light touch with intelligent reflection.


first published in the Times Literary Supplement