Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Salt Book of Younger Poets - now available


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


RRP £10.99; currently available to buy from from Amazon for £7.54.

Review: John Whale's Waterloo Teeth

The opening poem in John Whale’s debut collection concerns a species of chameleon-like octopus: a flexible and capable creature, we are told, “at the invertebrate zenith”. With “three pumping hearts” and “no rigid form”, its appeal to Whale is clear enough: his poetic voice revels in its own adaptability, switching between scientific jargon, emotional verve, and subtler, insinuating tones. This allows for a smorgasbord of subjects, and lends Waterloo Teeth an intellectual range that is beyond most slim volumes: moving from the eerie yet touching quatrains of “Mary Toft”, who amusingly ruined the reputations of several eminent eighteenth-century physicians by fooling them into thinking she had given birth to rabbits, to the tumbling rhythms and blunt close of “Mimicries”, which catalogues birds imitating modern technological sounds.

Beneath the book’s surface variety, however, a handful of recurrent themes emerge. Whale is a professor of Romantic literature, so it is not surprising to find his work haunted by the presence of Wordsworth & Co, as well as the celebrities, politics and attitudes of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries more broadly. Titles such as “Lines on the Death of Mary Wollstonecraft” and “Brioche” jump out; a long poem, “Sugar”, harbours a Romantic sensibility in its associative reflections; and the grim title poem examines the mercenary practice, common to the age, of pulling sets of teeth from fallen soldiers. Even the lone apple core that garnishes the collection’s jacket stems from a vignette which reworks an entry from Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journal. But the book is not without cohesive focus, as each poem attempts to bridge the gap between our refined sensibilities – sentimentalized bite marks in an apple – and the blunt, clinical facts of our corporeal lives: “a jet of arterial blood” bursting from Jean-Paul Marat’s chest; Lady Hamilton’s recurring dream of “Freddy drenched in Flanders”.

That said, Whale’s protean interests can get the better of him. Cwm Idwal, a hanging valley in Snowdonia is surely a spectacular landscape and a natural wonder, but Whale’s paean to it lacks any real consequence. A shame, then, that his book’s latter half is padded out with these dull landscapes, when his more natural milieu is the drama and diversity of life as it was, and is, variously lived. For as much of Waterloo Teeth reveals, it is here that Whale excels; revivifying the “phantom life / which lies beneath our feet.”


first published in the Times Literary Supplement