I know, I know… Don’t say it. I started a new job, left an old one, and both of those things, while being dependant on each other, actually have separate processes of their own that take up so much energy and mental stress, that I’ve just had to put everything on hold for a while. On top of that I’ve also had to deal with some personal matters. So sadly, even writing AND reading have been on hold this month. This does not bode well for the June post. Eep.
So without further ado, here is what I read (in paper form) in May, which seems to have been a ‘short pieces’ month (I don’t plan these out, honest). And by short pieces I mean poetry, short stories, flash fiction and everything in-between. Not as much reading as I would have liked, but in my defence, I read the poetry collections a couple of times to absorb them wholly because these were just so darn good.
Homesickness and Exile – The Emma Press (2014)
“How does it feel to be a foreigner? Can you choose where you call home? What if you reject your home or your home rejects you? Poets from across the world offer moving insights into the emotional pull of places in this fascinating collection of poems about the fundamental human need to belong.
This anthology is inspired by the Tristia, a collection of poems written by the Roman poet Ovid after he was banished from Rome by the Emperor for an unknown misdemeanour. Homesickness and Exileexpands on Ovid’s themes and considers spiritual as well as physical exile in the modern world.”
The issues of belonging, not belonging, where you call home, moving from home and going back to it, and the fluctuation of identity in relation to the places we occupy is relevant now more than ever. This anthology contains poems about wandering, being homesick, being a stranger, a foreigner, yet also moments of belonging, of finding the self and somehow ending up right where you ought to be. The vulnerability of some of these poems are laid bare on the page. They moved me, hit a deep spot in my chest, made me smile, made me think and rethink, and in the end, made me feel connected and strangely at home. It really is hard to choose any that stood out the most to me. The collection is so excellently curated, and my only regret is not reading it or any of Emma Press’ other collections before. But as they say, better late than never.
Mildly Erotic Verse – The Emma Press (2016)
“Aren’t mildly erotic things the most erotic of all? Sometimes eroticism isn’t just about sex – it can be about anticipation, desire, intimacy and romance. It can be wild, hilarious, beautiful and alarming, and it may be hard to define but you’ll know it when you see it. Mildly Erotic Verse skips the mechanics and dives straight into the emotional core of sex, celebrating the diversity and eccentricity of human sexuality.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I bought this anthology. Not that it felt seedy, but I did wonder why I was buying it. And I guess that is the point of this anthology; to create an open conversation about topics like desire, intimacy and romance which are often made into hush hush taboos. Mildly Erotic Verse lays them bare (though not too bare, as the introduction explains), eloquently, wittily, and humorously. Gone are the ye old romance days where women were the object of affection, to be chased and written about. Mildly Erotic Verse reflects romance and relationships in the 21st Century. Some of the poems are experimental and play with form, and the idea of loving someone imagined or not present. A few definitely stand out, amongst which, one was ‘The Best Lovers’ by Annie Brechin. This collection is also excellently curated, the poems are honed, honest, refreshing, and even dark. I would say it is a must-read.
The Secrets I Let Slip – Selina Nwulu (2015)
“Selina Nwulu’s frank debut is a catalogue of dichotomies and an exploration of unbelonging as she straddles cultures, politics, and values, seeking identity. In the itchy-footed job-seeker, the independent romantic or the disillusioned activist, she strives to reconcile the warring elements of her character.
Fusing the personal with the political, The Secrets I Let Slip is a tribute to modern angst, a bittersweet celebration of the everyday outsider, and an irresistible invitation from an emerging poet of considerable talent.”
Not only is the cover of this collection beautiful, but so is the writing within. This collection perfectly captures what it means to have global and national identities and concerns, from poems that comment on Syria (‘Be Silent’) to the everyday as depicted in ‘Curriculum Vitae’:
“I’m falling in love with jobs that pay me back
in silence and automated emails.
“I’m having my heart broken by rejection messages
informing me of unsuccessful applicants
I used to think I was somebody.”
‘Curriculum Vitae’ is probably my favourite. But poems like ‘Before’, ‘Homecoming – Pt.1’, ‘Encyclopaedia’ among others, also stand out. Nwulu plays with form a lot too, and the lines seem to come from within. There is a really strong and personal sense of voice in this collection, and I lapped it up. She really captures what it means to be a young female in our current society and has a skill at observing and commenting. This is a stunning debut and I would highly recommend you read it.
The Lonely Crowd Spring Issue
The Lonely Crowd is an excellent magazine, dedicated to short stories, poetry, flash fiction from the very best writers in and outside of Wales. I picked up my copy at the launch in Cardiff, which had readings from Kate Hamer (Shortlist Wales Book of the Year 2016), as well as Zelda Chapel, Susie Wild, Leila Segal, Bethany W. Pope and others. The writing in this issue is brilliant, with a range of topics and writers. There are usually no set themes for the issues and submission windows open every couple of months or so. If you are interested in submitting to magazines/reading poetry, short fiction, and want to keep up-to-date with the current writing journals, especially in Wales, then The Lonely Crowd should definitely be on your to-read list.