Thursday, 17 August 2017
This Is Sarah is the debut novel from writer and poet, Ally Malinenko. A duel protagonist narrative about the titular Sarah. A teenage girl from a small town in Colorado, who goes missing. The duel protagonists are Sarah's next door neighbour, and boyfriend, Colin, and her younger sister, Claire. The story follows the year in their lives after her disappearance, and how they each deal with the pain of their loss, and the frustration of not having any tangible answers about what happened.
I wasn't too sure what to expect when I picked this book up. I partially expected a lighthearted YA mystery, where the heartbroken boyfriend and the plucky younger sister team up to uncover the mystery of Sarah's disappearance, Paper Towns-style. However, this is not that. At all. Sarah is no Pixie McQuirkyname and there is no intricate trail of breadcrumbs that lead to her whereabouts. She is gone. Taken. Probably murdered. She has left a gaping hole in a lot of lives, and nobody really knows how the fuck to deal with that. This is a character study. A study in love, loss and the absolute kick in the bollocks that is ambiguous grief.
There are not many books that truly hook me, and force me to keep reading when I know I should be going to sleep, but this was one of them. I have always hated the term "page turner", because I so rarely come across them, but This Is Sarah is one of them. 100%. A gripping story, about everyday people, attempting to deal with a fucked up situation. Highly recommended. Before this, I had only ever read Ally Malinenko's poetry, but I will now be awaiting her next novel with bated breath.
Follow Ally on Twitter @AllyMalinenko
Monday, 7 August 2017
Published earlier this year by PCPoetry, this is an incredibly powerful and inspiring collection. The word "powerful" is banded around a lot (too often, perhaps) when describing poetry, but in this case it couldn't be more fitting. These are poems about life, love, longing, existing and surviving all of the shit that this cruel world can throw at you. Beautiful poetry, not just in content, but also in form; lines that are so delicate and delightful that you find yourself wanting to read them aloud from the page as you go. Wonderful stuff. Grab one yourself, directly from Alice.
"This is my epiphany,
The glory of my Spring
All I ever longed to be:
ZEN IN THE ART OF DRINKING BY BRADLEY MASON HAMLIN
Who doesn't love a drinking poem?! If per chance you don't love a drinking poem, then this collection may not be the one for you. The latest in a long line of great chapbooks from Holy&intoxicated Publications, this collection is just my cup of tea. Or pint of cider, as is slightly more fitting. I had not heard the name Bradley Mason Hamlin before this chapbook fell through my letterbox, however I quickly discovered a few favourite poet! Stripped back, minimalist, bare knuckle poetry, from the gut to the page.
FFO: Charles Bukowski, Dan Fante, Doug Draime, John D Robinson, Scott Wozniak
Buy one now from publisher John D Robinson via firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, 19 July 2017
It is immediately evident reading The Best of a Bad Situation that Jamie Thrasivoulou is a very passionate individual, and a proud resident of his native Derby. This emotional rollercoaster of a poetry collection is a visceral and hard-hitting showcase Jamie's work; tackling issues ranging from drug and alcohol abuse and racism to living and surviving in austerity Britain. To capture the intensity of his live performances on the page is no easy task, but Jamie has pulled it off with flying colours. This is certainly not a collection for the faint-hearted, but one you'd be foolish to miss out on. Grab one now from Silhouette Press.
PWR VOL BY NICK SCANDY, AARON ZONKA AND MINI AND THE BEAR
PWR VOL is a series of weird and wonderful philosophical vignettes, loosely stitched together by various threads and themes that run throughout. Reading this book, no *experiencing* this book, was like watching Richard Linklater's Waking Life, if it had had a pounding punk rock soundtrack. PWR VOL may not be everybody's cup of tea, and will likely split opinion, but one thing is for sure, you have definitely never read anything like it before! Buy one from B.O.S.S Underground Press.
Tuesday, 6 June 2017
Scott Wozniak has seen some shit. This new poetry collection from Moran Press offers a sobering snapshot at a life of hardship, pain and regret. Wozniak puts it all on the line and pulls no punches. At times it can be hard to swallow, but it is necessary. This is vital and honest poetry.
One particular poem that stood out to me and hit me right in the feels was Numb, a poem that highlights the stark reality of heroin addiction - as he watches his friends die one by one from overdoses, he finally realises that he needs to get clean:
"I stood numb,
thinking to myself,
"They finally got
what they wanted,"
"What the fuck
That, to me,
is more mysterious
could ever be."
This is not poetry that glamourises the struggle, or celebrates reckless behaviour, but poetry of survival and redemption. Of fucking up and learning from it. Of taking every blow that life can throw at you, getting back up and throwing right back.
Littered throughout the confessional big hitters are astute and oftentimes comical observations about modern life, delivered in Wozniak's concise and succinct style. The juxtaposition of these lighthearted interludes make Crumbling Utopian Pipedream a fascinating and enjoyable read. I am incredibly proud to have published Scott's work in past issues of Paper and Ink Literary Zine (#9 and #10) and shout out must be made to the striking cover artwork by Marie Enger (whom illustrated the covers of Paper and Ink Issues #6 and #9). Grab a copy of Crumbling Utopian Pipedream from publisher Moran Press.
Friday, 12 May 2017
Wednesday, 10 May 2017
John D Robinson is my new favourite poet. Bar none.
I do not make that statement lightly, and to make it abundantly clear, it is not because we are both from the same town, nor is it because John's Holy & Intoxicated Publications recently published my own collection of poetry (Worse Things Happen At Sea), and it is definitely not because having met the man I can attest that he is a genuine, lovely bloke whom also bought me a cup of tea. No, it is because having devoured this book in double quick time it was instantly clear that John D Robinson specialises in writing a very particular form of poetry: That which I wish I had written.
Poet John Grochalski puts it perfectly in the book's introduction; "what has always struck me about a Robinson poem is how stark the language is, the grit that comes off the page, and the life that is distilled into each line". Robinson's no nonsense style is refreshing to behold. The no bullshit front cover sets the tone and that distilled, direct approach is carried through each line of every poem. No word, syllable, letter or full stop is wasted.
You will find no flowery, metaphorical head scratchers here, just stark and honest poems about life, and all of its absurdity. From shitty jobs, to shitty girlfriends, to one heart breaking poem towards the end about a cat, which I am not ashamed to admit made me cry. That's right, a poem about a cat made me cry. I don't think a poem has ever made me cry before. Maybe I hadn't been reading the right poetry. I certainly am now.
John D Robinson is somewhat of an elusive character. No website, no social media, and unfortunately you are unlikely to find When You Hear The Bell There's Nowhere to Hide on the shelves of your nearest Waterstones, nor languishing in the algorithms of Amazon. If you wish to purchase a copy you will have to contact the man directly and you can do so via email@example.com. Do it. Do it right now. You will not regret it.