Short and sweet poems and sonnets or lyrical and lengthy epics, sit back and relax while you enjoy the work of these wonderful wordsmiths.
Edited by Kate and Sarah Beal, the industry innovators behind Muswell Press, writer and poet Golnoosh Nour, and editor Matt Bates, who curates the publisher’s LGBTQI+ list, Queer Life, Queer Love is the glorious result of a global call-out for original submissions. Keen to not only push "the boundaries of gender and sexuality, but also the boundaries of literature itself," no constraints were set on the form submissions might take. And the result is a triumph - a showcase of variously stirring, subversive, intoxicating and moving poetry and prose, short stories and narrative non-fiction that delivers the anthology’s desire to “honour a young, lost, queer life”, “to create more space to encourage and salute the diversity of queer writing, and to celebrate the richness of queer life experience”. Among the anthology’s engaging non-fiction offerings we have Jonathan Kemp’s piece on identity and the early 1990s re-appropriation of the word “queer” as a “critical and disruptive force rather than a stinging insult”. Then there’s Sal Harris’ beautifully inventive writing on transition - its meaning, its reasons, its magic - and Katlego Kai Kolanyane-Kesupile’s punch-packing piece on being a Black transgender woman. The fiction and poetry is every bit as dazzling and varied, too - a striking, shifting kaleidoscope of lived experiences and wisdom that speaks to the soul. Brilliantly curated, the dynamic, diverse writings in Queer Life, Queer Love will have readers in their thrall.
‘Midnight Light’ by Michael Pace and Brian Paglinco is a compilation of art in two forms: a mixture of photography and poetry. Each poem is paired with an atmospheric photograph of a final resting place. As the photographs and the poems alternate I would say that this book would be best enjoyed as a hard copy, so you can appreciate them as a pair. The photographs vary in subject and composition. One is black and white, with sharp contrasts, with a single flower stark against an almost black headstone. Others are more vibrant, an angel turned away in the middle of an autumn graveyard. You can spend time on each photo, contemplating the whys and whens of each shot. There are 23 poems in all, each one of varying length, from a line to a page. I did find that I personally preferred the longer poems, 'Midnight Light' and 'Paris' were a little lost on me. Focusing on the themes of love, death and redemption there is a haunted atmosphere to each one, I feel this was intensified by their photographic companion. I thought each poem was well constructed, with an image or moment shared with the reader. As with the photographs, these are pages to turn slowly, to ponder over what happened before and what will happen after. As each piece varies in length they also vary in style, with different rhythms and pace to keep the reader engaged.
An interesting way to record the events of March 2020 to March 2021, ‘Rhymes and Reason (Pandemic Polemic and Prose)’ by Alan McDonald provides a diary of limericks covering a lot of the key events and talking points during a year like no other. The bounce in the limerick style and the overall brevity of each poem means each subject is handled in a way that’s quite light, you’ll find no in depth or balanced political arguments here. ‘Rhymes and Reason’ is a personal record that will serve as a reminder, for those that want it, of most of what transpired throughout 2020. There is humour and satire within the text and each poem is introduced with a brief sentence or paragraph about the events unfolding. I think that this is a creative way to document the year and found it to be a light-hearted reminder of just how much has happened in the last year. I found each limerick well written and each introduction sufficient to set the scene without detracting from the main feature of the diary. A unique diary that I’m sure will inspire those who pick it up to reflect and remember their own experiences. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth grader who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sarai questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, learning to celebrate herself in a way that she has been denied. When We Make It is a love letter to anyone who was taught to believe that they would not make it. To those who feel their emotions before they can name them. To those who still may not have all the language but they have their story. Velasquez' debut novel is sure to leave an indelible mark on all who read it.
Hannah Lowe taught for a decade in an inner-city London sixth form. At the heart of this book of compassionate and energetic sonnets are 'The Kids', her students, the teenagers she nurtured. But the poems go further, meeting her own child self as she comes of age in the riotous 80s and 90s, later bearing witness to her small son learning to negotiate contemporary London. Across these deeply felt poems, Lowe interrogates the acts of teaching and learning with empathy and humour. Social class, gender and race - and their fundamental intersection with education - are investigated with an ever critical and introspective eye. The sonnet is re-energised, becoming a classroom, a memory box and even a mind itself as 'The Kids' learn and negotiate their own unknown futures. These boisterous and musical poems explore and explode the universal experience of what it is to be taught, and to teach, ultimately reaching out and speaking to the child in all of us. The poems in the first section of the book draw on Hannah Lowe's experiences as a teacher in the 2000s, but the scenarios are largely fictitious, as are the names of the students. The Kids is a Poetry Book Society Choice.
Raymond Antrobus's astonishing debut collection, The Perseverance, won both Rathbone Folio Prize and the Ted Hughes Award, amongst many other accolades; the poet's much anticipated second collection, All The Names Given, continues his essential investigation into language, miscommunication, place, and memory. Throughout, All The Names Given is punctuated with [Caption Poems] partially inspired by Deaf sound artist Christine Sun Kim, which attempt to fill in the silences and transitions between the poems, as well as moments inside and outside of them. Direct, open, formally sophisticated, All The Names Given breaks new ground both in form and content: the result is a timely, humane and tender book from one of the most important young poets of his generation.
‘Echoes of Light’ by Jani Viswanath is a collection of poetry and lyrical short stories that focus on kindness, hope and an appreciation for what is around you. Introductions before each poem and story display the title and a paragraph that sets the tone, I liked this as it helps you decide which piece to read, if you were reading the book out of order, or works as a literary palate cleanser, giving you a time to come out of the previous narrative and prepare for the next. All of the poems and the short stories are well written and well-structured. ‘Requiem’ was a poetry highlight to me, I liked the slow subtle revealing of the scene before me. The short stories all hold lessons about humanity and kindness being displayed in different forms and the tolerance and patience shown in ‘The Brahmin’s Karma-Sundra’ made it stand out to me. This is a very peaceful anthology of work. Each piece is separate but they all coexist perfectly in this collection. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an uplifting and pleasant read. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
When I first read the title of this book, I was unsure what to expect. To my delight I discovered a collection of quite beautiful and extremely emotive poems. To analyse any would be to completely spoil the intense feeling that I had when I read them. Frequently I find poetry collections from a single poet rather disappointing as I will only engage with a few of them. Here, however, I found myself drawn in by the subject matter and beautifully evocative language of each individual poem. This is a book that I should like to own and to read and reread. I welcome the experience of discovering it. Val Rowe, A LoveReading Ambassador
From the Haiku to Xanadu, a well-crafted poem can speak of an experience of our world in a way that stays with us for a long time; often for life. Everyone has a poem they learned in school that holds increased sentimental importance as time goes by.
The ability of words and language to define us and the poet’s ability to harness it are what makes poetry such a powerful genre. The field is huge, the subjects covered too numerous to list. From the fields of Flanders to the kitchen sink there are poems that encapsulate all of human life. Funny, thought-provoking, challenging, evocative, story-telling, satire and tribute. All are here. Why not use our special recommendations to find something to inspire you today?