Skip to main content

Guest Review: Ward on an anthology that would make a good Christmas gift from Bloodaxe



Christian Ward reviews
edited by Bernardine Evaristo and Daljit Nagra
  
Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word is an exciting anthology showcasing ten black and Asian poets, with the eventual aim of being published by a major poetry publisher. This stemmed from a shocking discovery that very few poets of colour were being published in this country.

A report commissioned by the Spread the Word Writer Development Agency to investigate this issue found only “1% of poetry books published in Britain are by black and Asian poets.” Evaristo was determined to do something about it and the result is a two-year mentoring project called The Complete Works, which aims to redress this paucity. Ten poets were chosen anonymously – Rowyda Amin, Mir Mahfuz Ali, Malika Booker, Nick Makoha, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Janet Kofi-Tsekpo, Roger Robinson, Denise Saul, Seni Seneviratne and Shazea Quraishi. They would be mentored by poets such as George Szirtes and Paul Farley, who introduce each poet to the reader in the anthology.

Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word opens with Karen McCarthy Woolf’s selection, a sequence of poems entitled ‘Yellow Logic’, which is a response to the death of her baby son. Woolf writes with energy and her lyrics are filled with memorable images such as “the river hums like a PC” (‘The Weather in the Womb’), “a broken bird/ song explodes/ on a frequency of earth and lime” (‘Mor Bleu’) and “thick-bladed grass/ green as astro-turf” (‘Yellow Logic’). Faith plays a major role in the sequence and she questions God in ‘Mort Dieu’, asking “Was this/ dear God/ your will?”

Mir Mahfuz Ali is, for me, one of the standouts in the book. He grew up during the Bangladeshi war of liberation and came to England in the early 1970s. Ali has a film director’s eye and his poems waste no details in trying to create an exact picture for the reader. In ‘Midnight, Dhaka, 25 March 1971’, searchlights are “dicing the streets like bayonets. /Kalashnikovs mowing down rickshaw pullers, /vendor sellers, beggars on the pavements.”  

While his poetry is graphic and intense, there are moments of stillness and sensuality. In ‘My Salma’, the speaker compares Badho, his addressee, to a “camellia bush” while the titular Salma is vividly described as having a “perfect fullness” which appealed to him as a “boy who was hungry in shorts”. These snapshots of innocence and discovery are contrasted with the bluntness of soldiers entering the scene and the rape which follows. Ali doesn’t flinch with the details, showing us the soldier “who was decorated with two silver bars” being the first to “dive on top of Salma”, laughing as “he pumped/ his rifle-blue buttocks in the Hemonti sun.”

My final pick is Denise Saul. The winner of this year’s Geoffrey Dreamer Prize, her lyric encompass a geography stretching from Paris to Africa but manages to be intimate with her subjects, which range from poems about her father (‘City of Coffee and Rain’), a quartz cave (‘Quartz Cave’) and a prehistoric primate (‘One’).

Saul feels comfortable writing about the natural as she does with more personal subjects. ‘Quartz Cave’, for instance, is a short lyric that celebrates the processes involved in creating the mineral. The piece opens with the stunning “As if the day depended on it for brightness,/ the sky above begins to lighten”, reflecting on the crystal’s shimmering quality. Each line rises and falls like the stalactites in the cave, mirroring the “smell of salt” which “rises from this geode” and from “orange earth through a fault”. ‘Moon Jelly’ is a beautiful lyric about a polyp which Saul compares to the moon’s light. Although it is “an outcast”, a drifter with ‘seven inches/ of nerves, no brain or heart”, the creature still retains an identity, becoming the moon’s light “in the last hour”.

Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word is an enjoyable anthology and the ten poets showcased in the anthology should go on to greater things. Bernadine Evaristo and Daljit Nagra must be commended for their efforts in producing this book.  

Christian Ward is a 32-year-old London-based poet. His work has appeared in Poetry Review, Magma and Poetry Wales. The Tin Man's Lover, his first collection, will be released next year by Valley Press. He blogs at http://christianwritespoetry.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

THE MOB

STATEMENT FROM AN OBSERVER


It has become clear that an online mobbing has emerged to cyber-bully the Canadian-born poet Todd Swift.

The first response is to ask, why, what has he done?

But that is victim-blaming.

The fact is, mobbing is a widely-studied social phenomenon, and, according to experts, occurs most often in academic and artistic environments – its target is often an outsider, the foreigner.

As a target is identified, to be picked on, there is a natural instinct, exacerbated and encouraged online, to join the group that is dominant.

It is terrifying, but accurate to say, it is now fashionable to speak negatively of Todd Swift.

Of course, the justification is that he deserves this treatment, because he is a bully.

But even the most basic of reflective pauses would suggest daily bullying from a mob is hardly the best or most ethical way to respond to alleged bullying.

However, often, the bullied victim is blameless, innocent, or not-as-guilty-as charged. That’s not why they are mobbed…

Review of the new Simple Minds album - Walk Between Worlds

Taste is a matter of opinion - or so goes one opinion. Aesthetics, a branch of pistols at dawn, is unlikely to become unruffled and resolved any time soon, and meantime it is possible to argue, in this post-post-modern age, an age of voter rage, that political opinion trumps taste anyway. We like what we say is art. And what we say is art is what likes us.

Simple Minds - the Scottish band founded around 1977 with the pale faces and beautiful cheekbones, and perfect indie hair cuts - comes from a time before that - from a Glasgow of poverty and working-class socialism, and religiosity, in a pre-Internet time when the heights of modernity were signalled by Kraftwerk, large synthesisers, and dancing like Bowie at 3 am in a Berlin club.

To say that early Simple Minds was mannered is like accusing Joyce of being experimental. Doh. The band sought to merge the icy innovations of German music with British and American pioneers of glam and proto-punk, like Iggy Pop; their heroes were contrived,…

THE WINNER OF THE SIXTH FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS...



Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.



Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand