Books From The Pantry: The Green Man Awakes: Legends Past, Present and Future edited by Rose Drew: Reviewed by Claire Faulkner

The ancient story of The Green Man has always fascinated me. Whenever I visit a new church or woodland, I always look for his face. When I recently found him in Manchester, on the cover of a poetry book in the middle of a stall at a publisher’s fair, I knew I wouldn’t be leaving him behind.

The Green Man Awakes: Legends Past, Present and Future is a wonderful collection of verse published by Stairwell Books. Edited by Rose Drew, the collection covers the myth, symbols and stories associated with the ancient pagan forest deity.

There are some beautiful poems in this anthology. I enjoyed how each poet expressed their own vision and interpretation on the myth. Some investigate old Norse rituals or ancient belief; some offer a more recent interpretation. The Green Man by Andy Humphrey is one of my favourites in the collection. A present-day setting for the ancient god.

Each evening, his labours at an end,
the green man
catches the number ten bus
and makes his silent way
through the glistening, lamplit streets.

I like how this poem sets the Green Man living in the now, and I love how the poet describes looking at him.

I sneak a glance
when he’s not looking, try to make out
stray twigs poking
from under the cap, the stubble-fuzz of lichen
on his jowls, the weatherbeaten
crags of brows.

Some poems relate to a darker, deeper presence. Green Man by Pauline Kirk, describes the still powerful god trapped, not only in stone, but also in our collective memory.

You barely glance upwards
but your ancestors knew me,
changed me to new faith, and into stone…

Kirk encourages the reader to keep searching for the lost in order to rediscover forgotten knowledge.

Look up! towards arch
and ceiling boss. Find me,
and I will show you what lingers still,
deep in the groves of your mind.

Another of my favourites in this collection is The Green Man by Dave Gough. In it the god speaks directly to us. And he’s waiting. His world was cleared for stone buildings. ‘Let them come,’ he says, because he knows the power he holds over people, and that one day he will return.

I moved the hand that carved my face…
..The great forest will return
with the seasons and the stars
the sun and moon and rain.

Poems about superstition and forgotten history also weave through this collection. Midsummers Eve, 1840 by Tanya Nightingale is a magical poem, with beautiful descriptions of friendship and youth.

It describes two young girls walking through a graveyard to perform a ritual to help them find husbands.

Suddenly they are both circling, spinning,
Throwing fern and hempseed
And saying words
They don’t believe in and have always heard.

Boxing Day by John Gilham examines how we perceive and remember ancient earthworks. Although we can never truly understand the true meaning of such monuments, Gilham concludes that we should accept

that the gift of God is the land and the people
and the voices whispering through the last leaves.

If you enjoy reading about myth and legends, and have a passion for poetry, then this collection is definitely for you.

The Green Man Awakes. Legends, Past, Present and Future is published by Stairwell Books.

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

In this last book of the Hidden Sanctuary series, the Tribe face their greatest threat yet. With Prosperity intent on expanding their city of excellence footprint into every corner of Brumont, the mass clearing of the abandoned industrial units begins; part of a regeneration that will leave no place for the Tribe left to hide. More than that, Prosperity’s methods of eviction are swift and brutal, meaning hiding has become a deadly option, one with only time as its protector – and that is fast running out. Just as Jacob was beginning to fit into his role as mentor, it falls to him to ensure the survival of those he’s been entrusted to take care of. The only options left are to leave Brumont City behind altogether, or return to their old lives in the city under Prosperity’s watchful eye. Either way, it will mean going their separate ways, and the abrupt end of their once peaceful existence.

Themes of mental health run through this final book as they have done throughout the series. In Unmasked, we see one of our characters descend into depression while another tries to fight their way out of it. Also depicted are issues resulting from PTSD such as panic disorder and anxiety.

“There’s another option… We go back.”

The city closes in on Jacob and the tribe he has sworn to protect.

With nowhere left to run, will they be forced back to the lives they had once escaped?

As the city grows ever more unstable, those living on its outskirts fear their once peaceful existence is almost at an end. In the shadow of this fear the members of the tribe connect on a level they haven’t before, defying the doctrine to share stories of their past. But for Jacob the time is drawing close when he must decide to put their safety above all else, a move that would see them go their separate ways and bring about the end of the tribe for good.

Sada has returned to her old life in the city to stay near her daughter. But its grip on her is as suffocating as it ever was. Yearning to be free from the glass confines of her husband’s penthouse, she seeks out reasons to meet with Jacob and the tribe. Even though doing so puts all their lives at risk.

UNMASKED is the third and final book in the Hidden Sanctuary urban dystopia series. Check out T.L. Dyer’s website.

Books From The Pantry: The Last Thing She Told Me by Linda Green: Reviewed by Kev Milsom

There are babies.” I looked up. I hadn’t expected to hear another word out of her. I took her hand again. Her eyelids flickered open. “Babies? Where?” I asked. “At bottom of garden.” I frowned at her. Maybe this was a sign that she as at the end now. “No, Grandma. Fairies.” I said. “You’ve got fairy statues at the bottom of the garden. The ones I used to dance around when I was little.” There wasn’t a pause on her part. “Not fairies, babies,” she said firmly. “Look after my babies for me.”

I always get a huge thrill out of reading books that perhaps initially I have glanced at and thought to myself ‘Oh no, this isn’t going to be my thing at all’. Followed, three minutes later, by being completely awed by the author’s writing and, by page two, knowing for certain that I’m reading something very special. Linda Green’s book, The Last Thing She Told Me, is such a treasure.

Linda’s plot weaves a superlative trail across the pages of her novel. Written from a first person perspective, we follow Nicola, a wife and mother to two girls. Initially, we meet Nicola as she gently cares for her grandmother, Betty, who is experiencing her final moments of earthly life. Before her grandmother slips away, she tells Nicola that there are babies buried at the bottom of the garden. From that mind-blowing revelation, Nicola’s world is turned upside down, as she investigates her grandmother’s bizarre claims.

This is my first experience of meeting Linda Green and it’s very clear from the opening page that she is an excellent writer. Her carefully chosen words weave everything together very tightly and the fast pace of the action keeps readers on their toes, or at the very edges of their seats. The sense of mystery is maintained right through to the concluding chapters; again a firm testament to the author’s literary talents. The balance between ‘show and tell’ is absolutely on the mark, meaning that all characters, and their wide range of expressions & actions, are very memorable; living on in our minds beyond the final page. Each character’s voice is strong and depicted with utter believability. Furthermore, each chapter is separated with a thread that goes back to wartime Britain in 1944. Over time, this thread becomes a vital part of the overall plot and helps the reader to gain further insights into the actions of the characters.

He had woven a web and I was trapped in it. It was my stupid fault for getting caught in the first place. When the knock came, I walked to the door, opened it and let him in. He wasn’t carrying flowers this time. There was no need for pretence. We both knew what he had come for. “Best get the kettle on, lass” he said. He drank his tea, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Right then.” he said. “Better go upstairs, unless you want world and his wife watching.”

Linda’s ability to portray realistic voices is another testament to her impressive writing ‘toolbox’, with characters ranging from small children to much older facing the end of their days. The secrets that many characters clutch painfully to their hearts is a vital aspect of the story, as Nicola turns detective and seeks to uncover many skeletons; both metaphorically and literally. The links and connections between all characters are made clear and the reader is left in no doubt as to who is who and what is happening; again a display of fine talent for a story line that bobs and weaves at a steady pace throughout the novel.

It’s very clear that Linda has researched this novel extremely well. It’s also a nice touch to have a short explanation from the author at the end of the book, describing her initial reasons behind writing it.

Because Linda has achieved a fine balance in the action and portrayal of characters, the pages turn very quickly and, for me, it is a literal definition of a ‘page turner’. We care about the characters because Linda makes them important to us, ranging from the background characters to the main protagonist who is relaying the story to our eager eyes.

This is a brilliant read across all three hundred and sixty-five pages and I thoroughly recommend it. I would also dare you to put it down, once it has utterly gripped your literary mind.

Linda’s Website

Twitter

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.”

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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