Books From The Pantry: Exposed by T.L. Dyer (The second book in the Hidden Sanctuary urban dystopia series)

“We’re living a half-life… And it’s not enough.”

A reluctant leader, Jacob fights to remain loyal to the tribe’s doctrine.

But in an unpredictable city, how far should they go to bend the rules?

With their mentor gone, Jacob promises to care for the Tribe – its members and its values. But as new threats dog the city backstreets, the men are open to flexing the doctrine to serve the fallout as well as to meet their own needs. Fearing he is losing control of the tribe entrusted to him, Jacob is pushed toward despair and the person he used to be.

In the city, Alex bears the scars of rebelling against their corporate-run government and can’t afford to step out of line again. Jobless, paranoid and alone, he considers leaving the city behind altogether. But then he meets Alice, a new reason to stay, even when in the weeks that follow he’s drawn closer to danger than ever before.

In this second book in the series, protagonist Jacob has been passed the role of Tribe mentor. Not a natural leader – or at least not perceiving himself to be – this is not a position he wants, but is obligated to carry out as their previous mentor’s dying wish. To make matters worse, life in the city is becoming more dangerous for those who don’t comply or fit the mould, and in response the men of the Tribe start to challenge their own doctrine and the values they govern their lives by. For Jacob, such challenges are dishonourable to the man who established this alternative and supposedly pressure-free lifestyle for them all, and what follows is a battle of wills that he struggles to win. Torn between loyalty to his former mentor and maintaining the trust of the other men, Jacob sinks further into despair, one exacerbated by his own perceived inadequacies and prediction of inevitable failure. In this second book, Jacob retreats to a state of mind he hasn’t visited since before the Tribe, but which he slides back into easily and which leads him down the path to self-destruction.

Like the first book, Hidden, this one carries themes of mental health – such as anxiety, depression, imposter syndrome, panic disorder and paranoia. It also depicts addiction and drug use.

T.L. Dyer’s website

Get Your copy of Exposed here…

Inky Interview Exclusive: T.L. Dyer

Books From The Pantry: One Journey by Michael Forester: Reviewed by Kev Milsom

The further I venture abroad, the deeper I travel within.’

Across the years with Ink Pantry Publishing I’ve been fortunate to read and review a wide variety of literary genres. Yet, to my knowledge, I’ve never reviewed a book that focuses upon travel writing. Thankfully, any sense of cautious trepidation at confronting this unknown genre has been somewhat lessened by the knowledge that the author is one I am familiar with, and whose words have genuinely touched my mind and heart in the past.

The book begins with a poem and a foreword, both of which immediately whet my appetite for what lies ahead, for Mr Forester is a writer who seeks not only to educate the mind, but also to touch the heart. His foreword immediately nails a variety of exploratory colours to his mast.

Here are four voyages, ventures undertaken simultaneously into the soul and into the outer world, undertaken over a period of fourteen years:

A confrontation with the devastation of the Amazon rainforest and the unceasing exploitation of its resources and people.

An encounter with the power of forgiveness in South Africa, fifteen years after the ending of apartheid.

A pilgrimage of self-exploration and enlightenment to Nepal and the Himalayas.

A learning and teaching tour of the Philippines, evaluating the impact of rapid economic modernisation.’

Thus begins a series of four, lengthy journeys across the world, with the author as our trusty guide. Within each journey, Michael transports us into the heart of each community, allowing the reader sincere samplings of worlds far beyond our daily comprehension. From each country, we are dropped into rich cultures of society; although ‘rich’, in terms of financial security, is often far from the reality of what we are exposed to. What makes this a truly enlightening experience is that Michael Forester isn’t just taking the reader on a physical journey, he is seeking to find the true soul of each location he visits.

Yet, as I look up at an electronic advertising hoarding, I see a young Nepali couple beam down indulgently on their two-year-old son in his ‘I -❤-Nepal’ t-shirt. The same dreams of love and happiness have brought this couple together as are dreamed by young lovers throughout the world, as were dreamed by my generation and throughout all of history. And now, these stereotypical parents dream their dreams for their son, who, when the time comes, will dream of happiness and love, from which will come another generation to be beamed down upon, indulgently.’

This doesn’t mean that physical descriptions within the book aren’t abundant, for within each village, town, city and country, we are served sumptuous portions of descriptive text, along with a variety of Michael’s personal photographs; more than enough to feel us mentally walking alongside the author as he seeks to unravel the inner truths of each place. Most importantly, Michael gives detailed insights into the people he encounters, from shopkeepers who chase the author through several streets in order to sell him their wares, to enlightened Buddhist monks feeding pigeons in a town square.

Lost in thought, I take the departure gate to the car park. On the ride back into the city, my driver asks where I am from in the UK, for he has spent three years in Hastings, learning business studies. I do not ask why, after such training, he is driving a taxi. He and I both know his time is yet to come.’

Michael’s writing style throughout the book portrays both his depth as a formidable writer and also as a caring, spiritual human being. His words drip with honesty and curiosity, as we are taken to the Rain Forests of South America, then onward to South Africa, Nepal, Thailand and The Philippines. Within each place, we are treated to the highs and lows of the location, with a special emphasis on the native people; how they think, how they act and how they dream. The themes of spirituality and global conservation are common within the book and Michael addresses these issues truthfully, leaving the reader to make up their own minds on the matters addressed. At no point does the reader feel pressured into adopting the author’s personal stance on anything we observe. We are merely there as witnesses and Michael’s words makes us feel like we are his friends. Along with each part of every journey, we are treated to Michael’s changing perceptions on the world around him, such as a piece of self-internalisation when wondering whether to buy a stone pendant.

The questions I habitually ask myself are ‘Why do I want this? Will it enhance or retard my journey?’ The inner answer is surprising. I want it because the energy around me is changing, and yes, this stone is indeed on my route map. I buy. I have long been aware that my journey is taking me in directions I could never imagined. But change brings the opportunity for newness and growth. I am open to change. I am open to growth. I am open to the journey’s moving into new territory.’

I’ve glanced at several travel books in the past, usually the kind of fare one finds within hotel rooms, or laid neatly upon coffee tables in self-catering cottages. In truth, I’ve never felt the urge to pick one up and read it from cover to cover. However, One Journey is a definite exception and, like Michael’s previous books which I have had the pleasure to read, it is likely one that a reader will return to many times after it is complete.

A stunning book and very much recommended.

Michael’s Website

One Journey on Amazon

Inky Interview: Michael Forester with Kev Milsom

Books From The Pantry: Vicious by Michael Forester: Reviewed by Kev Milsom

Books From The Pantry: Forest Rain: Spiritual Learnings for a New Age by Michael Forester: Reviewed by Kev Milsom

Books From The Pantry: ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’: Complied and Edited by Isabelle Kenyon for MIND: Reviewed by Claire Faulkner

Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’, published by Fly on The Wall Poetry, is a stunning and unique collection of poems about mental illness.

The book is divided into sections, the idea being that the sections grow with positivity, and that by the end of the book, you will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The sections are untitled, and the reader is invited to name them.

I wasn’t sure how I would react to this collection. How would it make me feel? Would I enjoy it reading it? Mental illness can be a difficult subject, and as this collection shows, it affects us all in different ways. The poems cover a wide range of topics including; depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide.

If I had read the poems individually, and at different times, the collection may not have had such an impact on me. But brought together and presented this way, I found the anthology powerful, inspirational and at times quite emotional. I can guarantee that there will be at least one poem included in this collection which every single reader can relate to.

It’s a strong and beautiful book. Thoughtfully and courageously edited by Isabelle Kenyon. The more I read, the more I appreciated the poets who contributed their words, emotions and bravery.

The opening poem ‘Battle’ by Bethany Gordon, highlights the unwanted struggle, and is a poignant introduction for this collection ‘Mental illness / is a battle I never agreed to fight.’

There are so many outstanding poems, to mention only a few seems to do an injustice to the others which I can’t fit into a single review. I enjoyed the strong imagery which runs throughout the anthology, and I found Angela Topping’s poem ‘Deferment’, about bereavement and personal belongings, particularly effective. ‘Grief is a cruel handbag – / its catch snaps shut like jaws.’ The poem makes us question how we deal with grief, and if we opened that bag what we might find. ‘…It cannot be thrown away. / Best hide it in the bottom of the wardrobe / an unexploded bomb.’

‘Black Rot’ by Andrew Barnes describes the onset and ongoing fight with depression. ‘She throws her arm around my shoulder, / pins me down until action weeps from me, / creeps back in the morning to stop me rising. // Depression is a friendly face, / she takes her time with me, / lets me shuffle on.’

‘On the Shelf’ by Jacqueline Pemberton is about escaping unhealthy thoughts and relationships. Emphasising finding inner courage and strength. ‘And I knew he’d got it wrong, / He was the damaged one / Made small with spite, / He wasn’t worth the fight.’

Some of these poems, by their very nature and subject, are a challenging read. However, you will also find some that they are inspirational, courageous and many have important messages about mental illness and societies’ reaction to it.

‘Blue Square with White ‘F’ in the Middle’ by Jade Moore is one of my favourites from this collection and details the impact and addiction to social media. The language used is direct and unapologetic, powerful and effective. The poem cleverly recognises our love hate relationship with social media, our desire to belong and our fear of failure. ‘There’s a button with the whole world on its face / and I click it and wonder if I’ve stopped the human race.’

I’m glad I read this collection. It was thought-provoking and inspiring.

Proceeds from the sale of ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’ go to UK Mental Health Charity Mind.

You can purchase copies from:

www.flyonthewallpoetry.co.uk
https://www.waterstones.com/book/please-hear-what-im-not-saying/isabelle-kenyon/karan-haveliwala/9781999598600

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Please-Hear-What-Not-Saying/dp/1984006649

Books From The Pantry: The Writer’s Pen and Other Poems by Kevin Morris: Reviewed by Giles L. Turnbull

(The cover photo shows one of Kevin Morris’s clocks with him in the background, close to a window).

The Writer’s Pen

You accuse me of hiding in my ivory tower.
I answer that I have no power,
Other than my pen
Which, when
It scratches,
Sometimes catches
The truth of the matter,

That is the opening of the title poem and it is a perfect introduction to the collection. Kevin casts a sharp eye at the modern world while drawing heavily on the rhyming style of previous centuries; that opening poem continues,

The wise well
Know that those who go
Down that path
Oft produce great art.

When I say that Kevin casts a sharp eye over the world in which we live, mine and Kevin’s paths crossed a long time ago. We were students at Swansea University at the same time. I was sighted and he was, and still is, blind. I remember seeing him and his guide dog at the Junior Common Room bar, though never thought to go speak to him … and now here we are and I too have lost my sight, so it is a delight to be a blind person reviewing a blind person’s poetry, utilising our sharp eyes!

In the wood’s dark heart,
The breeze
Whispers in the trees
Words that I cannot comprehend.
May God send
Me peace
And this breeze
Never cease.

Kevin’s poems, frequently a single stanza or two, hark back to the days when poets celebrated the countryside and revelled in the sights, sounds and scents of the great outdoors. Blind people do not, contrary to many people’s assumptions, have superpower senses; but we learn to pay more attention to the ones we encounter or whose absence we notice. The poem, Wisteria, exemplifies this for me:

Wisteria

Wandering around Hampton Court
In late May, a thought,
Prompted by Wisteria hanging on a wall.
A few purple flowers, their scent
Already spent
And ready to fall,
Did to me call.

There are myriad examples of how the world sounds, from a bird singing in a tree (Autumn Bird) the sounds of clocks (The Hands Are Almost at Half-Past, and This Ticking Clock Calms), all of which are one after another, ending with the hum of a fridge.

The fridge’s hum
And the clock’s tick tock
For the most part run
Unnoticed, as background
Sound
Until they
One day
Stop.

This collection of succinct poems can metaphorically lift the blindfold from a reader’s eyes and point out the things that maybe had stopped being noticed because of the domineering sense of sight. It is an accessible and delightful read.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1730814883/
Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07GD1LBMV/
Audible http://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Writers-Pen-and-Other-Poems-Audiobook/B07KPPQ2K2

Books From The Pantry: Loving Lou Salomé by Stefano Santachiara

Loving Lou Salomé by Stefano Santachiara:

An historical novel based on works, correspondence and random thoughts of Lou Salomé, free as the travels, encounters and relationships that she lived through in the cultural centres of Europe between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Santachiara interprets even the most subtle nuances of Salomé’s spirit and narrates an extraordinary life: scholar, traveller, poetess, writer, philosopher, psychoanalyst.

Stefano Santachiara (born in 1975, Carpi, Italy) is a former journalist of Il Fatto Quotidiano, and of the periodical Left Avvenimenti. He also collaborated with the Italian TV Channel Rai3. He is known for his reports on corruption and environmental damage, as well as for the scoop in the first case of relations between the Democratic Party and the ‘Ndrangheta, when the businessmen involved filed a claim for compensation, but the court rejected it by stating that Santachiara’s investigation was based on true and documented facts. His first book The Dirty Laundry of the Left (I panni sporchi della sinistra), written with Ferruccio Pinotti for the Chiarelettere publishing company, has reached five editions. His other works include self-published essays Soccer, Carrion and Leopards (Calcio, carogne e gattopardi) and Social Feminism (Socialfemminismo). Recently he has completed a movie script based on his historical novel Loving Lou Salomé.

Books From The Pantry: Deep Dark Light by Mark Sheeky

Congratulations on your new book, Deep Dark Light, which is a surrealistic work in three parts, combining poetry and prose. Can you tell us about it?

Deep Dark Light is a combination of poetry, with lots of images, and a short story. It’s an experiment in form, inspired by classical music and how each section or movement of, say, a piano concerto is organised to portray a certain idea or mood, yet the whole thing is inter-related, too. The majority of poetry books are simply collections of poems about various things. Sometimes collections are themed, which gives the reader more of a strong sense of what the poems are about or how they are supposed to make you feel. I wanted to structure a book like that but include any form of text, breaking free of poetry to include stories, letter-like essays, thoughts, notes, and images. Perhaps the closest analogues are William Blake’s mythological books, but there was no intentional influence from those.

Deep Dark Light has a theme too. It is a somewhat surrealistic work that has a feeling like a journey or quest, always searching and trying to understand, looking for light. Some of my writing is rather abstract, and this is designed to evoke a music-like feeling, a journey from darkness to light, rather like a symphony by Beethoven or Sibelius.

I bet everyone thinks this is a very odd book already! Perhaps it is. For me, the writing process was something of a quest; I find that many books are. I think that many writers quest and seek things while writing, and that this often manifests itself in the story itself. So many books are about looking for an ending, the narrative reflecting exactly the psychology of the author. Do the writers notice? As a reader, I didn’t until I began writing, and then I saw this pattern in so many novels. I hope some people will find it inspiring.

How did you structure the novel?

The first part consists of short poems with illustrations. These arose from a period of introspection, a searching for artistic meaning. This opens the gateway to a second part about a larger quest for meaning. The reader is also asked questions and, hopefully, engaged in this unusual dialogue. Parts of the second part involve physics and philosophy.

The final section is a surrealistic story that brings together some of the thoughts and ideas explored, and on some level unifies and concludes these. It is the story of George, a man searching for his lost love who has been kidnapped or taken somewhere. George begins before a vast door at sunset, and is pulled forwards through various fantastical worlds, ultimately towards love, daylight.

What philosophy do you explore?

The short philosophical pages, which are often something like prose-poems, are generally about the nature of thought and reality. They’re strongly related to Descartes; my own Meditations on his.

What inspired you in the first place?

The first section was written in a short period when I wanted to push some sort of boundary in poetry, to write something that was somehow universal, rather than social, or about something specific. In effect these poems were about art and the serious matter of living a life of creativity. I set those poems aside for some time, for over a year, then looked at them again and thought that they deserved to be put together. They were not long enough to make a book from, so I had the idea of making those the first ‘movement’ of a larger work, a grand experiment.

You have also illustrated the book, with pen and ink. Is a lot of your writing imagery based, would you say?

Definitely. I find writing easier when I form an image and describe it, and my narrative writing is always a sequence of images. In this book, as in all of my illustrated books so far, the illustrations were all created after the poems; I wanted to make a multi-media work, but I certainly had some images in my mind before I started to write, too.

Perhaps the most image-rich area in the writing is the story at the end, which isn’t illustrated. Sometimes illustrations can strongly colour a story. Can anyone now imagine Alice in Wonderland without the famous drawings? In prose, one has to be careful not to ride over the reader and the images that their mind makes. Illustrations, in the technical sense, can do that, so my images are more like complements to the text, devices to augment the mood rather than depict anything.

The ultimate motivation for the images is that I wanted the book to look beautiful, to create a book that was a work of art in every sense. These things can’t be hurried along. All beautiful things take time and care to construct. Addition. Subtraction. Addition. Subtraction. Sculpting until everything feels right.

Did your imagination surprise you along the way, or did you have a definite plan for the whole novel?

The first set of poems were certain and written in a short period, then it was a case of making things that fitted with those, parts that made sense and chimed. I like to make a plan before starting things, working out all of the main points out, then fill in the contents with a relatively high level of detail so that a first draft is largely complete. As a painter, musician, and occasional sculptor too, I can see that all art is about starting rough and then refining. All writers probably do this too, even when they don’t form a conscious plan: by the end of the first draft, they can start to refine.

I prefer to have a skeleton that lists the main flows of scenes and characters and emotions, and use that crucial blueprint as my guide. Once you stick to that plan, the rest can be anything and the result will still work. No matter how many layers of refinement an artwork receives, one of my tenets is that a good artwork can be called finished at any stage and still work.

A global plan also gives an author a sense of feeling in advance. The key to writing, as in any art, is to feel what you want to express, then express yourself through your medium. This is a lot easier if you know what you are supposed to be feeling.

Could we have a snippet from Deep Dark Light, with commentary?

This is from the Dark section:

Dearest Lucine, I have discovered the most wonderful thing, that we are connected. Each of us lives only in the minds of others. We can know ourselves, but we cannot ever know what came before us, or what comes after us. Our lives, from our perspective, are infinite. Life, death, the passage of time, these are social constructs, things only exist in others, the people we see. We know death only through seeing it in others, and by feeling the decay in ourselves. We cannot die ourselves; we exist, then do not. How can anything experience non-existence?

We are all citadels of cells, tiny animals that work together to make us. Tiny animals, trying hard to make their own way, each sharing, loving, giving.

Our perspective of the universe is unique. This makes our experience of the universe unique, but also makes our knowledge unique, our truth unique and therefore our universe unique. There is no shared universe, we each have a personal universe, and you are in mine.

There was a time when you were alive in mine.

You exist in my memory.”

Like a lot of that section it is a written thought about existence and what is real, what is true, and what is a right path. It has elements of searching, and coping with loss, but also something larger and beyond normal life. This part also links with the story at the end, as the (unnamed) narrator here is George, the protagonist, and Lucine is his partner, the love that he has lost.

Are you working on any other literature at the moment?

I’ve been working on poetry, recently. The poems here were written some years ago, well, maybe not that long ago, but for me, they seem to be from a different epoch. So much has changed in my literary life this year, due to getting to know some really good poets and writers, and reading more of the best poetry. I want to focus on producing a good poetry collection for its own sake, and have created a theme of the circus, a rich area for characters, and also, hopefully, an alternative reflection of life. I may structure it like Deep Dark Light to some degree, adding an overall shape to it. Good aesthetics is a balance between order and chaos. Structure adds order, and looser forms add chaos. These are the condiments of literature.

Where is the best place to get a copy of Deep Dark Light?

Amazon, available worldwide.

I’d like to end with a few words from the foreword, a third party perspective on the book which your readers might find informative. It was written by Ink Pantry author Dr. Ken Pobo, Professor of English Literature from Widener University:

If you are looking for a straight-up narrative work, move along. Connections happen here—in each illustration and written piece—but these are not built from traditional forms of narrative. The words converse with the illustrations. Sometimes we clearly overhear what they say; other times we have to go strictly by impulse and intuition. In John Lennon’s song “Intuition” the speaker says that intuition takes him everywhere. Everywhere, nowhere, light, dark.”

Mark Sheeky’s Website

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Just A Boy From Bristol by Michael J. Kelly: Reviewed by Kev Milsom

‘On September 3rd, 1939, a war started that would not only change the course of history, it would also deny millions of children across the world an opportunity for a normal childhood. I know, because I was one of them.’

A personal autobiography remains one of my favourite genres of writing, because it allows the reader into a seemingly private world of memories, both positive and negative – heartwarming and sad. One potential danger with this genre is that the writing becomes too personal, or that the wealth of memories become so scattered that it sends the reader bouncing around like a pinball, as we try endlessly to make sense of what is being relayed. Therefore, the emphasis is strongly upon the writing to be easily understandable and exciting enough to carry us the length of the reading journey.

In Michael J. Kelly’s memoirs of his early life, Just A Boy From Bristol, thankfully we have a master storyteller, who produces top quality prose with effortless ease.

Michael’s story begins in 1939. War has just been declared and his father is away fighting in the Royal Navy, leaving his mother to bring up Michael and his baby sister, Mary. The book follows the plight of the Kelly family as they move around Bristol, dodging air raids and looking to settle down, to wait for the war to end and for Michael’s father to return to the house.

Each chapter of the book takes us into new challenges for the young family in such dangerous times and, as readers, we are carried along with Michael’s skilful writing and allowed to explore everyday life around 1940, in a Britain rapidly becoming devastated by rationing and bombing.

We get to see the good side of life during wartime; the kindness of strangers, counterbalanced with the social judgement of some towards others. Michael’s growing passion for sport and the games of football that led him into new friendships. The simple thrills of being able to go to the cinema. We read of the devastating impact on schoolchildren and schools, especially when the names of some children would be forever missing from the register. We get to see the impact that the American G.I. soldiers had upon Bristol and how they brought dangerous excitement into a grey, fearful world.

‘Good morning, Ma’am. We’d like to give your young brother a packet of gum. I hope you don’t mind!’ He tossed me a packet of chewing gum and Mum nervously started to explain that I wasn’t her brother. She had only just started speaking when they both started laughing and then they moved a little way up the road. They stood smoking, talking and laughing for several minutes. I was struggling with the packaging on the gum and one of the other G.I.s jumped down from his jeep to help me. His name was Buddy…what a lovely name. We were hurrying up Perry Road now. Mum was wearing that look on her face; the Hedy Lamaar look. It was the look that usually spelled trouble. ‘He thought I was your sister. Do I really look that young? I didn’t reply. I just knew there was indeed trouble ahead.’

Michael’s writing style is superb – simplistic and no-nonsense, he merely states it as it was. Indeed, a major effect of the book is that it is written entirely through the eyes of an innocent child; a young boy who dotes on his mother and wants only the best for her.

Personally, I was fascinated by this book, as it covers a lot of ground that I knew from my own childhood in Bristol, including some of the very same people that I grew up with. However, this is a book for everyone with a passion for social history and a curiosity about life in 1940’s Britain.

I hear a follow up book is on the way from the 82 years young, Michael Kelly. It will be a genuine pleasure to read it, as it was to glide through the pages of this astonishing book.

‘Britain in 1945 had no supermarkets, no motorways, no tea bags, sliced bread, microwaves, dishwashers, CDs, flavoured crisps, mobile phones, duvets, contraceptive pills, trainers or ‘Starbucks’. But we did have shops, pubs, fish & chips on every corner, cinemas in every high street, trams and steam trains. We had Woodbines, Craven A, Senior Service, smoke and smog. There were no launderettes, automatic washing machines, but we had wash day, every Monday, put through a mangle and hung out to dry. No central heating or hot water, but we did have a hearth, coal fire, chilblains and impetigo. Abortion, homosexuality and suicide were all illegal. We treated our ailments with Vicks Vapour Rub, Andrews Liver Salts and Germolene. We were happy. We were winning the war. Mr Hitler was on the run and our fathers were about to return home.’

Buy your copy of Michael’s book here

Books From The Pantry: Ghosting for Beginners by Anna Saunders: reviewed by Claire Faulkner

Ghosting for Beginners by Anna Saunders is a wonderful collection of poems centred around the themes of haunting and loss. The poems expertly weave in and out of each other using characteristics of mystery, folklore and tradition. It left me with an overall sense of ancient fairy tales and contemporary ghost stories. A concept which worked incredibly well as a collection.

Saunders is haunted by many things. Grief, politics, environmental issues, humanity and religion all feature throughout this collection. She writes with strength and clarity, in a style I find extremely effective.

In ‘A Murmuration is Seen Above the City’ instead of starlings, Saunders invites us to see the ghosts or souls of Cabinet Ministers. Describing them as:

Black spots, iron filings, broken particles..

and a

fluid mass with one mind

Circling in the sky Saunders tell us that they are:

wishing that in life
they had acted differently
but airborne, and dead, it is too late.

We look up from Food Banks
to watch the sky teem

The poem finishes with a reminder that the Cabinet Ministers are “fat from stolen fruit”, but the reader is left watching:

…them wheel and turn,
our bones almost through our skin

Powerful words indeed.

There are some beautiful lines and poems in this collection. One of these, focusing on memory, is ‘Ghost Horses’. It starts with:

Do not think that after death
the Mind dismounts.

Do not think that once the race is run
the Mind puts down the reins

I’ll admit that this poem stayed with me for a long time after I’d first read it.

I loved the idea of humanity and missed recognition which appears in the ‘The Prophet is Mistaken for a Fare dodging Hipster on the London Overground’, and the humour of a confused angel over wind chimes and scented candles in ‘The Angel of Revelation visits a New Age Centre.’

Dressed only in a cloud, he can bear the temperature
of the central heating turned up high,
but the scented candles are noxious
with their chemical rendering of Heaven

As you read further into the collection, the poems seem a little darker and a lot more personal. Saunders’ Father is mentioned throughout, and her grief is evident in ‘The Ghost Room’ and ‘The Ventriloquist Dolls of the Dead’.

I enjoyed reading this collection, and I’m sure it’s one I will return too and look at again. I found the concept original and creative, the poems individual and thought provoking. The collection is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Anna’s Website

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Books From The Pantry: Did You Put the Weasels Out? by Niall Bourke: reviewed by Giles Turnbull

Niall Bourke’s poetry novel Did You Put The Weasels Out? was a hard one to review … because there were so many lines that I wanted to quote that I nearly ended up quoting the whole darn thing! I confess that I love novels in verse. The first poetry I ever owned was a copy of Sir Walter Scott’s verse novel The Lord of the Isles which I bought aged 8 from a school jumble sale for the princely sum of 2p — its poetic images captured my imagination.

Available from Eyewear Publishing, Did You Put The Weasels Out? is Niall Bourke’s début poetry collection and it is a novel in verse. Even the numerous footnotes are in verse. It is an impressive undertaking and is written with aplomb.

it is worth getting the following out in the open:
his oaty breakfast resolve has broken.
That is: he usually eats porridge but, and without warning,
has decided to have toast this morning…
…But there is no bread!

The protagonist of the poem is Mark.

I chose my words, whetting them
so they came out edged. I chose them
so they slotted out flat and cornered,
like the tray under the toaster that collects the crumbs,
And I delivered them
in between your fourth and fifth ribs
like I was sliding in that rusty fucking crumb-tray
to collect the little croutons of your heart.

This is a story infected by science:

(Seconds dictated by the rate
Caesium atoms dissipate )
[…]
Elsewhere in the cosmos, perhaps,
Electron death is not so sure;
Jobs and work-days would collapse,
9 to 5’s could not endure,
Dependent on what weird speedings
Atoms release their quantum seedlings.
Death to Chronos, whose scything hands
Control our lives!’ Mark demands.
But, on arriving late for working,
He sees that here on earth the clock
Still roars a tyrannical TOCK
And mechanic tick, as, irking,
Red of face and unimpressed,
His boss stands waiting, by his desk.

Sometimes the difficulty with end of line rhyming is that the words can seem a little contrived in order to create the rhyme. Here at the start of section VIII of Part The First is one that I felt a little forced:

‘Why did you leave old Dublin city?
Was it to choke on swallowed bile,
And wallow in your own self-pity,
You left behind the Emerald Isle?’

But just 5 lines later we get this fantastic slant rhyme

He works hard, earns good wages
Has good friends and pays his tax

If you read that on the page it can be easy to miss the subtle rhyme between ‘wages’ and ‘pays his’ which is why this story deserves your time to absorb the full flavour by hearing the words as you read them.

It’s very Dylan Thomasesque in the characters and tales, evoking Under Milk Wood. This section, which first introduces the title of this book, being a perfect case in point:

the lad with the ferret on the sparkly lead who always
buys four Carling and a six-pack of rashers,
that degenerate Toes who drank himself legless the night
he fell asleep in his own bonfire and the shins only burnt
claane offa him, his total spunksprout of a father who
turfed Toes out on the street after the sixth time he’d
pissed the stairs while trying to crawl to the jacks, your
wan who lived only on cider and porridge for a whole
year and contracted the first case of scurvy since 1837, that
chap with the wife who looks a bit like a curtain, the poor
auld Sniper’s Nightmare who got polio when he was little
and now zig-zags up the street, that quarehawk who sits
on the wicker chair in the sweet shop muttering did you put
the weasels out?

Maybe not so politically correct these days to describe a man who had polio as a child as a sniper’s nightmare, but in the same vein as Thomas’s Evans the Death (the village undertaker), Organ Morgan (the church organist), Mrs. Organ Morgan (his wife), Ocky Milkman and Butcher Beynon.

I found a section about a ‘symphony that has been written by a foot / when its sock has fallen down below its heel’ and performed by household appliances — an open beeping fridge, microwave, ‘the dishwasher pipes up with its falsetto’ with a tumble dryer completing the quartet — as fascinating as Hungarian composer György Ligeti’s Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes; sometimes it’s the new perspective on everyday domestic scenes that can make you see things differently.

If we pan up along the stairs
We can now watch them, unawares,
Snuggling down under cotton seams.
Around the house, cooling lightbulbs clink
As outside orange streetlights wink
Against the night. Jen turns in her dreams.
‘Did you put the weasels out?’
‘I did,’ says Mark, ‘without a doubt.’

There is a continual sense of humour bubbling through the story, such as when the character Lushy pops into a bar for a pint

‘Ah, sure, one’ll be grand.’ And sure, just one
woulda been grand. Maybe even a couple
But it was the twelve that got him buckled.
[…]
but enough sense
still to realise that vengeful recompense
would surely be paid if he dared return
to Bernie empty-handed and so, taciturn
with woe, but not ready to admit
defeat (meaning her going pure ape-shit)
he concocted an ingenious plan of attack:
a large sausage supper from Wonder Macs

which all goes wrong after he stops to take a drunken piss, placing the chips on the ground whilst he does.

that some quick relief
would help him avoid the aperitifs
of Bernie’s anger as then he could billow
in, leaving the supper on her pillow
as a deft anniversary surprise,
before sneaking down and inside
the sheets like he’d never been out on the tear.
[…]
But wasn’t Lushy forgetting something?
Sure he lived on a hill. And pumping
down the slope was a yellow and steaming
river of piss, one that was now streaming
all over the chips. And what was worse?
Hadn’t the mangled strains of his cursed
singing only woken up Bernie, now leaning
out the doorway in the nightgown, her keening
eyes like murderous floodlights, as she watched
the sorry excuse for a poorly botched
shambles that was unfolding before her.
But Lush was not one to be deterred.
Over he staggered, picked up the chips
and offered them out to Bernie – the thick
trickles of warmth running over his cursory
gift.
‘Shere,’ said he, ‘Shappyshannyvershary.’

This story in verse is totally engaging, very refreshing and an absolute delight to read.

Niall’s website

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Books From The Pantry: Fealty by Ricky Ray: Reviewed by Claire Faulkner

Ricky Ray’s collection Fealty took me completely by surprise. It’s a magical mix of surreal, dream-like verse with reoccurring themes including the environment, politics, overcoming difficulties, and survivorship. Ray is skilled in storytelling, and his work has that rare mythic quality which leaves the reader contemplating the past, present and future all at the same time. It’s an impressive first collection which took my breath away.
I found that many of Ray’s poems have a beautiful meditative quality to them. ‘Listening’ and ‘They Used to be Things’ help the reader to escape, if not briefly into the past to understand where they are now, from ‘Listening’:

He puts his head
to the table and listens.

It speaks through his skin, his skull, his mind, tells him all he can
remember of tables – of wood, trees, seeds and growth, of splinters
termites, rotting and soil

From ‘They Used to be Things’:

In the book were pages
and on the pages was ink
and in the ink were words

that were once ideas
we made of things

I find poetry like this takes you to another level before you’ve even realised it.

I also enjoyed how this collection made me question human nature and our belief systems. One of my favourite lines in the book comes from ‘Way of The Bear’:

Have the ghosts lost touch or have we lost the art of how to hear them?

The way of the bear stays in the bear, though we wear its head
and coat as we chant and pray to the forces for guidance

Every time I feel I’d found a favourite poem in this collection, I’d turn the page and see another. ‘A Neighbourhood of Vertebrae’ stood out to me for the way it described continuous pain and the effect this has. Not an easy to subject to tackle, but Ray does it with sensitivity and compassion:

…what would you think of
me if I admitted to hearing the spine speak in ten different
tongues?…

The other poem which stood out for me was ‘The Seven Hundred Sights in a Horse’, which reminded me of old legends and superstitions we carry around with us:

A wild horse ran through town.
It was always running.
Gospel was: something had
to be wrong with you to see it.
Everyone had seen it.

If you like reading poetry which makes you question everything and can stay with you for days after you’ve first read it, then this is the collection for you.

Ricky Ray is an outstanding poet and definitely one to watch for the future.

Ricky’s website

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