Reviews of the Ephemeral

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Sage and Time 23/03/11 (The Charterhouse Bar)

In Performance Poetry on March 29, 2011 at 11:12 pm

-Reviewed by James Webster

The Night
Sage and Time is quickly becoming my favourite poetry event in London. Run every fourth Wednesday of the month at the Charterhouse bar in the Barbican, it’s organised by the incomparable Anna LeDoesPoetry and features some truly accomplished poets. The format is fun and not too heavy, mixing the open mic slots in with the featured poets punctuated each of the three halves, which, while mathematically dodgy, gives a very laid back and enjoyable atmosphere. The atmosphere is truly lovely, the featured performers seem so happy to be there and provide much encouragement for the open mic’ers. You get the impression that most of the poets know each other and after attending only two of the events I’ve started to feel like I’m getting to know them too, and they are a welcoming bunch, making Sage and Time a really nurturing environment for aspiring poets.

The Hosts
• Host duties were split this month between Anna LeDoesPoetry and Will Stopha and they struck a neat balance, Will’s warmth and occasionally bumbling charm, and Anna’s poise, humour and wit, both were quick with a joke and even quicker with words of encouragement for their poets.
Anna LeDoesPoetry’s poem ‘My Poetic Blend’, in the form of a recipe for her own brand of verse, teemed with lush language, its tone exotic, sultry and comforting. Her performance was a joy, all teasing and inviting at the same time, occasionally sizzling with energy. Together the two hosts set the tone for a hugely enjoyable evening.

The Open Mic
Open Mic’s are often hit and miss, but my experience of Sage and Time has been an overwhelming majority of hits. The quality of poetry is almost universally high and a huge variety of styles, subjects and forms are welcomed.
My highlights:
Elizabeth Darcy Jones (the nation’s unofficial ‘Tea Poet’) and Lisa Handy were the highlight for me with a poetic exchange, starting with Lisa’s ‘Verbal Assault is Still a Form of Assault’, we then had Elizabeth’s response and Lisa’s response to said response. It was a dynamic dialogue between the two poets, Lisa’s raw and visceral language was fired out like a rattling machinegun. It gives you a sense of a natural disaster of an insult, the language fills you up and makes your skin itch at the sound of insults that we didn’t receive. It’s abuse dissected around verbal gymnastics and it’s fantastic and near-frightening.
• Elizabeth’s response blended well, referencing Lisa’s verbal violence, but mixing it into her warm and malty poem. It was a loving and caring offering, full of respect and empathy for Lisa’s work. It shared its co-feeling with the audience, as if we all were sharing our feelings over a cup of lyrical tea.
• Lisa’s poem closed the dialogue, again the words tumbled out, but this time they built on each other and on Elizabeth’s, reinforcing the respect and continuing creativity of the two of them. As Anna put it, being inspired by another poet is the ‘highest accolade’ and these two piled the accolades on each other.
‘Angry’ Sam Berkson was another highlight; his poems of urban sprawl blend streams of colloquialisms with a simple elegance. His poems push your perceptions of both places and people, doing what all truly excellent poetry should do: make you see the world in a different light. Plus he rhymed ‘metropolis’ with ‘oesophagus’, what’s not to like? Plus he’s one of the charming people who run Hammer and Tongue in Camden and Hackney.
• The Wizard of Skill was a strange, but enjoyable addition, his ‘freaky delivery’, as Will put it, was well received by most, though I found it a little smug and disengaging. It was funny, with confident delivery and a little social commentary, but was mostly a fluff piece.
Mark ‘Mr T’ Thompson sums up one of the things that makes performance poetry great for me: political engagement. His inversion of Martin Niemöller’s “First They Came” was a statement of political intent, a powerful call to arms for the Saturday 26th demo in London. ‘When they came for the students, I stood up because I had an education/ When they came for those with disabilities, I stoop up because I could.” His other poems were equally strong and socially engaged, dealing with youth culture from different perspectives. He doesn’t pass judgment, but he does make you think.
EP or Ed Parshotam was the last highlight I’ll mention, his improvised rap referenced most of the other poets in the room and summed up a truly inclusive and entertaining evening. He and Elizabeth Darcy Jones can both be seen at The Tea Box on the 8th of April by the way.

The Features
Amy Acre and Peter Hayhoe were our fabulous features this month.
Peter Hayhoe mixes comedy and substance in his poetry in a way to be envied. He’s not content to just make people laugh, he crafts geekery and amusing imagery with a message. Sometimes the message is just ‘don’t spend what little money you have left eating a steak on your own’, in other poems it’s the dangers of over-thinking your relationship, where his pace and overlapping rhyme gave a sense of being bogged down in itself that really brought the point home.
Amy Acre is such fun. She makes graceful, powerful performance seem effortless. Her poems mostly stuck to her musings on relationships, but those musings still had a range, going from slick double entendre that still manages to be sweet (and how apparently you should never trust a man with perfect teeth) to a sensual awakening of feelings for a waitress in a café (with a shot taken at Katy Perry that made me very happy). But the set piece of her set was a sexual fairytale set to a backing track from The Chemical Brothers. It was funny, rude, sweet and well phrased, a kind of BDSM love story. The backing track gave it an extra dimension, setting a dark rhythmical tone and adding a nice sense of urgency.


‘Cloud Pibroch’ by James McGonigal

In Pamphlets on March 24, 2011 at 10:01 am

-Reviewed by Afric McGlinchey

Poetry is a matter of personal taste, of course. This pamphlet, McGonigal’s third, appeals to me because the images are particularly distinctive, although sometimes they are so striking as to be distracting. But where others might lapse into lyricism rather than substance, McGonigal’s magical and surprising imagery has an assuredness which does hold up under scrutiny. In ‘This was the Year of Waking Up’ he writes: ‘I felt rooted like a tree at first/but soon caught the trick of moving with the wind.’ This captures the essence of his style: poems of depth, carried lightly. There is an appreciation of the slightest moments: ‘Even a stray glance has its lifetime now/as we synchronise bodies like dancers/back to back.’ Ostensibly unconnected titles provoke the reader to seek further meaning. For example, a beautiful little poem opens with: ‘How could we have held clouds in both hands/and wrung them out like dishcloths? Our children/woke with snowflakes on their brows.’ This poem is titled ‘Release of Prisoners’. The reader senses a new consciousness in the poet: ‘voices just outside the tent/have sung us wide awake.’

The chapbook is dedicated to McGonigal’s father, whose presence is sensed obliquely in many poems: ‘his skull resonated with epochs of snow’ (Fathers and Sons); ‘The day the fever turned a Mondrian shade of blue – /I thought they were selling the air above me;’ ‘sorry earth that was crushed and torn’ (Time of Fever). While his father is not mentioned directly, there is a low-key mourning that hums just below these lines.

Language is a motif,  appearing frequently in one form or another: in ‘water vowels’ (‘Anniversary’); in ‘a sign language of teeth and tongue…a cursive script of drool’ (At Mutehill Farm); in the ‘blarney’ of light: ‘uttering whole fields…articulating every thorn upon the bough’ (First Light); and in writing: ‘the wind puffed some words from its script’ (Hesitant start); ‘the wooden staircase spirals to a loft where texts/are still composed:/their bed a desk where love is written and re-reread.’ (Low Country and Western).

Sound (or the lack of it) also forms a subtle backdrop: ‘listening for the voice of water (The African Sun); ‘silence: its throat open as a cloud’ (the Elgin Marvels); ‘a shuttle clacked for hours in the loom of his throat’ (Fathers and Sons); ‘the bees would play their old-time tune/with wing beat, fore-feet, the nectar jazz.’ (First Light). ‘What noise did it make, how like a river’s breath,/how different from the rain’s persistent questioning?/No, I don’t think we heard.’ ‘Not a bird to be heard among riverbank leaves…./So whistle your own bird-thrapple tune to the air.’ (Soundings.)

Essentially, there is a lightness in this collection, with recurrent images of clouds, wind, moving water, leaves on trees – things of an ephemeral nature.

Throughout, clouds continue their persistent presence: ‘clouds rushed along the sky’s corridor’; (Last Thing)  ‘a gambol of clouds re-passing trees and so forth’(Season of Frost); ‘Evening of the end of clouds’ (Appearances) ‘clouds swinging bucketfuls of rain’, (Sleepwalking); ‘clouds across the moon/were fingers tapping a drum.’ (The Prize). They are the epitome of the transitory, yet an endless presence in the landscape of the poet’s life.  A strong undercurrent of nature is felt, not only clouds and wind but rivers and trees, fish and deer, frogs and bees too, and it is these things which enable the poet to keep his bearings, to remain rooted.

Some poems are a kind of anthem for émigrés: ‘I was watching pinball moves of ants across porch timbers/and thinking how in all their syncopated searchings out and/overturnings they left scent trails for the brothers to follow (New World). There is also a sense that all of us are exiles, in time if not in space: ‘In the dust were prints of every soul who’d walked/between grassy banks, driving a herd of hurts/down to the sea.’ (Migrant).

While there are intimations of something altogether darker (‘Can I return to the main point of this illness,/ the immediate wound, after some attempts/to stop its tongue of blood?’ (Release of Prisoners) ) on the whole, the direction of McGonigal’s latest collection is contrary to today’s cult of the sensationalising of dramatic subjects. It is in his nuances, underneath the tranquillity of his voice, that the more long-term impact is felt: ‘starlight must have blessed the skin/and broken it’; (Release of Prisoners); ‘Soon I wore the part like horse skin/visible only when bleeding or pestered by flies.’ (Understudy).

These poems pay attention – not only to the nuances of language, but of life. McGonigal focuses on the beauty of strangeness with his surreal and delicate images. His is a world of the natural, with small human touches added, while the subtle charge of occasional stings adds a piquancy to an otherwise pastoral collection.

Saboteur Awards 2011

In Saboteur Awards on March 20, 2011 at 10:16 pm
Saboteur Inaugural Awards 2011

At last, here is an award that will celebrate all that is good and wonderful about literary magazines, be they online or in print. We hope that you will be a part of it. 

How will it work?

The longlist will be made up of magazines reviewed in Sabotage from 31st May 2010 to 1st May 2011. There is still time to have your magazine reviewed if it hasn’t yet, get in touch. Similarly, we welcome suggestions of magazines that you think should be reviewed. Please write to

The shortlist will be created from our reviewers’ nominations.

There will be no more than six prizes, with at least one prize awarded to the best Poetry Magazine, best Fiction Magazine, and best Collaborative/Mixed magazine. Prizes for outstanding writing are at the jury’s discretion.

Results will be announced as close as possible to Sabotage’s first birthday, on 31 May 2011.

p.s. No more than one issue of a magazine has been reviewed for Sabotage*. We will stick to this and count the issue reviewed as representative of the general output of the year.

The Jury

YOU can be a part of it. Yes indeed, we are looking for readers of varied backgrounds to be part of our Grand Jury.

Who do you need to be?

-Human, preferably.

-Not associated with or published in any of the magazines on the shortlist.

-Willing to read a lot of stuff and give your opinion on it.

-That’s it, really. You don’t need to be a superstar, or a writer (though you can be of course) you just have to be a reader. You will stay anonymous; no angry editors will come knocking at your door at 2am.

If this is something that appeals to you, please get in touch at


A super slick award to hang on your website, satisfaction, and quite possibly a home-made trophy made out of red candles, what’s not to love?

*except for MMR who faced an issue-off in a single review, we’ll ask the reviewer to pick one as most representative.


‘The Winter Triptych’ by Nicole Kornher-Stace

In Novella, Short Stories on March 18, 2011 at 12:27 am

-Reviewed by Tori Truslow

A kitchen girl creeps through a winter-wrapped tower, crossing paths with the ghost of a long-dead queen. A hundred years ago, in a different winter, the same queen swells with child and ruthlessly quells rebels. Nicole Kornher-Stace’s strange, whispering novella darts back and forth between the two, slowly drawing them together

It’s structurally brilliant. The two halves are told in alternating chapters with titles like “The Maid: detail, right panel” and “The Tower: detail, left panel”. The reader quickly picks up that the right panel is the present and the left is the past, each scene a ‘detail’ of the bigger picture, and each picture one half of the whole story. The artistic terminology works well, evoking the image of an actual triptych and thus the question: where is the central panel in all of this? As the two halves of the story draw inexorably closer the question becomes more pressing, the blank space all the more noticeable by its absence, so that when the first piece of the ‘centre panel’ appears and brings the two halves together, the payoff is as aesthetically satisfying as it is enthralling.

The story is like winter: seemingly sparse but with dark things brooding underneath, hidden under drifts of dreaming prose. Ghosts, witches, cursed princesses and other such familiar fairy-tale figures haunt its pages, and it has all the blood and cruelty of the old tales, but certain details – the kitchen maids chained up to sleep; the fate of the rebels – make the characters’ pain less mythic, closer to the bone. The monster, when it appears, is chilling and gruesome, all the more so in contrast to the quiet snowy story-scape it appears against.

The Winter Triptych, by Nicole Kornher-Stace, reviewed by Tori Truslow for Sabotage

The language is at once folkloric and incisive: witness sentences like ‘she wrapped stories round her sins like poultices, but the guilt still paced her like a caged cat, far too wakeful for her peace.’ The dreamlike tone works best when there is little dialogue; the first few chapters are heavier on the dialogue than the rest, and the numerous ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ feel somewhat awkward, if suited to the setting.

It’s visually gorgeous, too. Oliver Hunter’s cover art is a luxurious picture-story in itself. The book comes from Papaveria Press, who produce limited edition hand-bound books as well as paperbacks like this one; their website is worth a browse for anyone who likes beautiful books. Now is a good time to check them out, because Papaveria are currently donating all their profits to the work of Doctors Without Borders in Japan.

[ED: Following the tsunami devestation in Japan, Nicole Kornher-Stace has also pledged to donate royalties from copies of The Winter Triptych sold before March 21st – you can help out this cause by buying from her publisher’s site at]

‘The Thief’ by Gill Andrews

In Pamphlets on March 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm

-Reviewed by Afric McGlinchey

Gill Andrews delivers a lightness of touch in her chapbook, The Thief, which opens with a poem called ‘The man who paints the bridge’ (a title that reminds me of the simplicity of Wislawa Szymborska ‘People on a bridge’.)  The first two stanzas ring with clarity: ‘His left hand holds a can/or dark red oxide paint. His right hand//lowers and lifts the cradle,/ slides it along to the next diagonal.’ But as the poem progresses, a more surreal note slips in: ‘People on Battery Road/set their clocks by him. They measure his beard//to see how long they’ve slept.’ The man who paints the bridge understands his craft intimately, and Andrews captures his work with vivid visual detail: ‘how it barnacles unevenly/how its colour degrades. And the claws/within salt, the sugar in rain.’ The poem becomes more lyrical, meditative, rising to a beautiful climax: ‘He knows/why teals and swans migrate/and the happiness of steel at the hugeness of trains.’

This is an attentive poet, then, and a reflective one. Her next poem, ‘Skein’, is conversational in tone, and starts with a surprising line: ‘What we make is finer than on the Earth.’ Immediately there is intrigue: where are we? ‘Folk can’t fathom us/living up here but there’s not much weaving work/back home nowadays’. One imagines it’s out in space somewhere: ‘it’s all to do/with gravity, and the starlight not being filtered/ by any atmosphere……’

There is a light dusting of humour in many of her poems; wry portrayals of self-satisfaction (‘Is’) or the way the public is so readily judgmental (‘The candidate’).  In both these poems, repetition is used to very good effect: ‘You should get one of these….You should have one of these…You should plant some of these…’

There is also the incongruous charm of imagining the speaker in ‘Lawyer’, attaining his dream ‘when all this is over’: ‘I want to lie awake at night/listening to little oinks and snorings,/ eleven siblings in a row alongside their mother’s teats’.

Occasionally, I felt a poem might have been more effective if it had ended earlier, as with the appealingly titled ‘On not being able to phone you because I haven’t got your number’. This poem is two and a half pages long. One would have sufficed, with a potentially powerful final image: ‘mistakes a baggie of heroin for a baggie/of cocaine/and overdoses’.

In her personal poems, such as ‘Greater love’, Andrews makes effective use of dialogue and, again, repetition. The surprise of this poem is on the facing page, where there appears to be a separate, untitled poem, as it begins half way down the page and is justified right. But the linking word ‘remote control’ connects the two – and also gains symbolic meaning in the reading of this second, very poignant section.  Another personal poem ‘Pleasure beach’ again uses dialogue to create a sense of suspense and rising panic: ‘No you didn’t. You didn’t ask me. I never heard you ask me./ I was up the arcade I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.’

Other poems in this chapbook are responses to artworks by Picasso and others, sassy with attitude. One, entitled Caryatids, describes sculpted female figures with ‘marble hips, magnificent/hairdos’, adding ‘There’s nothing//chaste about their robes.’ Andrews uses eclectic sources for her subject matter: for instance, one poem is inspired by a nineteenth century diary entry, while another describes a ‘Rickets Display’ in a museum. Before turning to writing, Andrews was a lawyer. A couple of poems, ‘Workstations’ for example, draw on her experience of this world, where ‘trying not to cry always takes so long.’

The title poem, ‘The Thief’, is an exhilarating and surreal play on words, where each stanza begins with a word from the previous one. ‘Oxygen, you’re the red dress of a thousand sequins/and your hemline has purple round the outside.// Red dress, you’re the bad parent, driving in the small night/to unfamiliar streets and leaving me there without any money.’

Sometimes this chapbook feels a little too mild, or playful for its own sake – but the competence is undeniable and there’s a charm about Andrews’ imaginative world that allows for these small flaws. Throughout ‘Thief’, Andrews shows a light but sure touch, and the colloquial ease with which she handles her subjects ensures that her work is accessible rather than over-poetic. Yet the counter-point to this lightness is what makes her work striking and memorable: the surprise, the turn, where something altogether unexpected happens. Her work is both the ‘singing of sky and scrapings of white cloud.’

Hammer and Tongue 14/03/11 (The Green Note Café, Camden)

In Performance Poetry on March 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm

-Reviewed by James Webster

The Night

The London Hammer and Tongue, based in Camden’s charming Green Note Café, is an offshoot of the slam competition that was founded by Steve Larkin in Oxford in 2003. Since then it has grown to become, in their own words, “the biggest promoter of Slam Poetry in the UK” and has now spread to Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, and two London chapters: Hackney and Camden.

In Camden the slam is run by Michelle Madsen (who founded the London H&T chapter) and was hosted on the night by ‘Angry’ Sam Berkson and Sophia Blackwell who provided a lively and warm welcome to the audience, Angry Sam’s rough humour and enthusiasm perfectly complimented Blackwell’s elegant wit. The two of them helped stress Hammer and Tongue’s only two rules: 1. You talk about Hammer and Tongue, and 2. You TALK about Hammer and Tongue. And they certainly delivered something to talk about.

Both hosts gave us some poetry to warm up the evening:

Sophia Blackwell showed off her Dear Deirdre poems, inspired by the problem pages of The Sun; these poems gave us some fast paced, foul-mouthed fun, both very light hearted and filled with clever verbal gymnastics. Sandwiched between them was a tender and intimate poem that can be found in the Erotic issue of Diva magazine, and it was loaded with, well, loaded and sexually charged language; a great contrast to her other sillier poems.

Angry Sam gave us his poem ‘Poison Ivy’, a great slam poem where the rhyme overlapped with rich alliteration as he presented an image of the world where humanity seems to strangle the planet, human weeds wrapped around our natural resources.

These poems set a tone for the evening that was both enjoyable and thoughtful, which is only to be expected from two such accomplished performance poets.

The Slam

The Slam is one of Hammer and Tongue’s great draws. Eight poets, three minutes, five judges: the winner the poet with the highest score. Unlike many slams at the moment, Hammer and Tongue does not use a proscribed scoring system (for example 1/3 quality of writing, 1/3 performance, 1/3 audience reaction), but instead choose random judges from the audience and let them give scores out of ten based entirely on how good they thought the poets poems were. To give a balanced score the top and bottom scores are discounted and the poets all receive a mark out of thirty as their final score. And to try and combat what is known as ‘score creep’, a phenomenon where the judges give higher scores as the night goes on as the poets warm them up and they have a few more drinks, the order is decided entirely at random.

The Slam kicked off with Michelle Madsen (London H&T founder) as the ‘sacrificial poet’ (as no one likes to go first) who performed a love poem that was both tender and tense, that wound itself up using raw and wild language that is gradually unwound by the lover its addressed to. A warm and familiar offering that received a 23.4 from the judges, a score that seems low for such a strong poem, which is the very reason they have a ‘sacrificial poet’.

Then came the slam proper, first up:

  • Naomi Woodnuf: an entertaining poem about Facebook stealing her soul. Funny, but wasn’t able to lift itself above being a fluff pop-culture piece and failed to put an original poetic stamp on the subject. Her 19.7 might have been higher with a stronger performance.
  • Charlie DuPrés: a barnstorming poem dissecting the question “What’s your real accent like?” asked before sex. This was hilarious in content and delivery and opened the subject up to ask questions about class and identity. Any poet that threatens his “lyrical gun will spray this room with lyrical cum” deserves his 28.5 in my book.
  • Dan Simpson: a faux-bitter poem about being changed then left by an ex because you’ve changed. It had some laughs, but the obvious punch line left me cold. The 23 he received owed a lot to the strong poem before him in my opinion.
  • Dave Flores: a character comedy poem about the Foxton’s Christmas Party. Started out weak and relying on his ‘posh voice’ being intrinsically funny, but increasing surrealism (including the image of Rupert Murdoch riding a gold horse-drawn carriage pulled by people) led to a great and very funny poem. Just pipped DuPrés to first place with 28.6. I can’t help thinking ‘score creep’ worked a little in his favour.
  • Alan Wolfson: former slam champion with an impressive moustache, whose name comes up on predictive text as ‘Anal Yoghurt’. Sadly his poem about a tour of the world’s edges seemed a little pointless. 23.1.
  • Nathan Thompson: a poem about over thinking your chat up lines went down well, but needed better punch lines and more punch to the performance. 24.5
  • Bingo Pajama: a great stage name combined with an intriguing concept for a poem, but the performance filled with awkward pauses and uneven writing made it seem bitty. 22.5.
  • Dave Devon: His poem had some great imagery and some lovely touches, with a conversation about a recent holiday that is interrupted by his entertaining internal monologue. But it was hampered by continual pausing that gave the impression he’d forgotten his material or was making it up as he went along. 19.9, but lost around ten points due to overrunning by 2 minutes: 9.9.

Overall: a very entertaining slam with a high level of quality. It suffered slightly from all the poems having similar tones, all trying for comedy without always reaching it. I think a few of the poets would do better if they stopped trying to be funny and started trying to write good poems.

The slam finished with performances from Selena Godden and MC Chester P, both of whom will be reviewed at a later date.

Horizon Review #5

In Magazine, online magazine on March 13, 2011 at 5:04 pm

-Reviewed by Juliet Wilson

Horizon Review is an online journal produced by Salt Publishing, which takes its name and its inspiration from Horizon, the magazine Cyril Connolly ran from the outbreak of the War in 1939 until it closed in 1949. Horizon Review is currently edited by Katy Evans-Bush who says she wants Horizon review to be

‘an experience, a message, a feast like a meal where all food groups are represented and the amino acids and vitamins all complement one another’.

So, is that what Horizon Review really feels like? From the contents list, the reader can see that here are poetry, short stories, essays, reviews, an interview and a couple of cartoons. So in that sense, the journal certainly fulfils Evans-Bush’s vision.

Most of the short stories are quietly insightful dissections of every-day life and relationships. Steven Maxwell’s ‘The Festival’ outlines the way a father and son relationship changes when the two go to Glastonbury together.  Maire T Robinson’s ‘Even the Sea Dreams of Escape’ is a story of how Sophie – stuck in a boring job in a small town – finds transformation.

The poetry ranges from quiet understatement to experimentation, with impressive use of rhyme by almost all the poets included. I loved Maryann Corbett’s poems ‘Portent’ and ‘Holiday Concert’. The former is a struggle to understand a dream about a ballet and ends, as the ballerina is lifted and carried away with the line ‘How do I know this isn’t victory?’; the latter is a description of a concert, full of precise detail and the seventh grade boy who in the future

‘will wince at the thought
of singing, yet will ache to sing, in silence,
silence even to the generation to come’

Both these poems convey the intrinsic oddness in the ordinary social event that is going to a performance.

Matt Merrit’s ‘Zugunruhe’ is a quiet poem that steals up on the reader; it’s a haunting evocation of the unsettling feeling evinced by migrating birds. (‘Zugunruhe’ is a German compound word made up of the elements ‘Zug’ – move and ‘Unruhe’ – restlessness that is used to describe the restlessness of migratory species).

Another poem that spoke to me was ‘In the Garden’, Sophie Nicholl’s poignant imagining of poems that had been buried by a poet fleeing the authorities later becoming part of the orange trees that were planted in the same ground. A beautiful symbol of transformation and hope. I also enjoyed David Troupe’s minimalistic and atmospheric ‘Bob and Jackie Watch Heat Lightning From Their Porch’.

Robert Archabeau’s intelligent and readable essay on Nick Cave was also particularly gratifying. This starts by drawing parallels between Archabeau’s own childhood in provincial Canada and Cave’s youth in small town Australia. There is an exploration of the Romantic poets concludings that they felt ill at ease in the modern world and that this feeling (combined with society in turn not supporting poets, no generous patrons for the Romantics as there had been for earlier poets!) gave them a great amount of artistic freedom. A detailed critique of Cave’s song There She Goes My Beautiful World analyses how his writing aligns with the Romantic movement. Not only was this essay interesting and fascinating, it also got me to pick up the Nick Cave CD which I have neglected for far too long.

Horizon Review certainly offers a wide range of different types of writing and the pieces complement each other well.

A little bit of fiction…

In Conversation, Website on March 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm

-By Richard T. Watson

March 2011 is a significant month for fiction in the UK. Mostly for readers of fiction, but I guess that’s most people involved with fiction at one stage or another.

This month is significant for two main reasons. The first is the widely-popular World Book Night, which involved 20,000 people giving away thousands of copies of books. The second is the much more important fact that the Sabotage blog has undergone some changes, including the appointment of a Fiction Editor (hi!). Forget Comic Relief – this is the heavy stuff.

World Book Night was most successful in generating a buzz around the idea of reading a printed book; largely thanks to extensive use of Twitter and a dedicated night on BBC Two, it brought the reading of literature to a mainstream audience. The remarkable act of giving away thousands of books for free has been shown to have a positive social impact, when it was revealed that homeless people in Manchester love to read and are encouraged to hang out in libraries. Though perhaps the appeal of a library is not its reading matter but its heating.

While I admire the spirit of the mass giveaway, I can’t help feeling that World Book Night missed a trick in only giving away printed books. Sabotage has been highlighting the rise of the online publishing since 2010, and World Book Night may have reached an even wider audience by giving away e-books or Kindles.

Speaking of Sabotage, the other event to rock the literary world this March is our expansion and re-structuring. As of March 2011, Sabotage has someone specifically in place to commission reviews of fiction. It means that Claire can concentrate on poetry reviews without limiting the scope of the site. So I’m looking for short stories, novella, fiction journals, zines, pamphlets etc. for review. I’d also love to hear from you if you’re interested in reviewing for us. I’m prepared to be open-minded on the form of things we review, but we won’t be reviewing novels or larger works: they have the PR machinery already. Every now and then, maybe I’ll liven things up a bit with a feature article or a non-review.

If you want to get in touch, I’m at, and you should probably have a look at too. Our fiction reviews should offer intelligent critique of work, be fair (even if not balanced) and allow space for debate. The internet means that criticism is no longer the closed shop it once was, and this site has already seen the increasingly interactive nature of criticism playing across its comment threads. That’s the future and we fully endorse it.

I’m off to raid iPlayer for Faulks on Fiction and to ignore Comic Relief. Do drop me a line on

The Night of the Day by David Morley

In Pamphlets on March 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm

-Reviewed by Rose Davies-

The Night of the Day by David Morley is a pamphlet of poems which traverse the bleak difficulties of a life lived on the edges of society. In the early section of the book the content of the work deals with the tragedy of domestic violence, witnessed through the eyes of a very young boy. Towards the later parts of the volume there are sombre representations of the experiences of those who work within a circus. These depictions are as stark as the tales of violence, which opened the volume. The latter poems also focus on issues to do with racial prejudice. The poems in the centre of the volume offer some relief as they focus tenderly on adventures with friends within the natural environment. However, The Night of the Day focuses largely on the darker aspects of the lives of men who live on the outskirts of society.

‘Three’ is one of the poems, which opens the pamphlet. It tells the tale of a boy who is only three years old and who is subjected to violence at the hands of his young brother and also his father. Within the space of five lines this poem ranges from an emotionless reportage of the crime committed ‘One of us has taken biscuits without permission…’ to ‘he slices our arteries open in the air between us. His house is his abattoir.’

In the centre of the pamphlet a piece called ‘Fresh Water’ is written about and dedicated to the memory of a friend whose life was cut short. The exuberance of depiction of the character of this man, contrasts sadly with the dedication which opens the piece, as the reader know from the outset that this being and his free spirited response to being lost in a field near Woodstock, is someone now gone and that his life was not particularly long. In this section of the pamphlet, tales of adventures with friends in the natural environment occur. The representations of nature are not romantic to any degree. The same code, which dictates the machinations within the other poems, is also present here. The natural world is depicted as having its rules but the world depicted here is one that is far less harsh then the one in which racial prejudice is rife. There is an identification here between the dangers of the natural world and those of performing within a circus, but there is a joy to be found in the pieces which are about nature, wherein making a mistake with a map bring the surprise and joys of finding horses in a field.

The later pieces in The Night of the Day focus on the stark realities of racial prejudice and the bleak employment prospects faced by workers within the circus. The later poems in this volume focus on the cold realities of the commercial and technical decisions made within the circus, which underlie the excitement of the spectacle that the audience perceives. The author depicts the cold commercial decisions made by those who run the circus. He shows us a world where workers are chosen for banal commercial reasons based upon the possession of physical beauty. In ‘Colin Clown’ the lines ‘(o) n every poster, let’s face it, my face. Not Mike’s face. Why is that? Is it because I am so handsome?’ The Night of the Day is an austere and sometimes bitter-sweet collection of poems finely wrought which tell of the experiences of men inhabiting the shadowy underside of the day.

Literary Blogs

In Blogzines on March 5, 2011 at 10:52 pm

At a recent Identity Parade event at Paris’ Shakespeare & Co, the four invited readers, A.B. Jackson, Annie Freud, Sally Read,  Ahren Warner, as well as editor Roddy Lumsden were all asked about their opinion on blogging. I was surprised to hear that none of them were particularly active on the internet, preferring the spoken word. Annie Freud said she had great admiration for those who do it with ‘application’ but couldn’t stand word ‘vomiting’.

In that spirit, I would like to share a few blogs who do ‘do it’ with application. Having said that, in compiling this list, I found myself rather torn as several of these blogs are also, to varying degrees, magazines (or blogzines if you will). Blogzines are those fluid entities that give us the same material as a literary magazine would (without the unity of purpose of singular issues)  peppered with more personal subject matter. Their effect is very different from, say, thumbing a copy of Poetry Review, or even a specific internet magazine like Diagram, but I am not implying that in a negative sense. The atmosphere is different, less stilted, more inviting, you can dip into them on Tuesday, check back a week later and find new exciting things to take your fancy. These blog-zines manage that seductive blend of uniting quality with accessibility and candidness. They are forces to be reckoned with.

(in alphabetical order)

Baroque in Hackney

Katy Evans-Bush’s blog is an incontournable feature of the blogosphere. Here you will find, jostling comfortably together, politics and poetry, presented in a wry, informed and entertaining manner. Katy is not afraid to dive into incendiary subjects head on and emerge victorious, she might almost convince me to use an Oxford Comma.

Cut Out & Keep

The blog of the excellent magazine Fuselit edited by Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone. Much more than a promotional tool for the magazine, the blog wittily reviews and promotes other presses and authors, provides insights into the Fuselit machine, and, much like the rest of the website, makes you hope they achieve everything they set out to do.


Todd Swift’s personal blog, also happens to be a rather impressive magazine (so impressive that the British Library are archiving it for posterity). It combines insightful reviews of poetry, features poets and also discusses politics and pop culture. Also, on a shallow note, I love the different images used for the header.


There is something eminently refreshing about Caroline Crew’s blog, whether it’s feeling the same excitement when discovering the new poet she decides to share or eagerly nodding as she summarizes a current trend in the poetic world. She is also a fine reviewer, y’a know.

Hand + Star

Although I enjoy the ‘New Writing’ section of this webzine, I have to confess to preferring its blog even more for reviewing live literary events which is something not done enough, IMHO.

Peony Moon

Michelle McGrane’s blog of contemporary poetry puts most blogs to shame for the regularity of its qualitative output. Here you will find reviews, find out about events and discover new poets in the process.

Raw Light

Jane Holland’s blog is not just a recording of her trials and tribulations as a writer (though there is some of that), she also posts plenty of sound advice for writers. Both are written with this sort of gusty bravado that make you want to roar, if you want to taste some of that medicine, you could do worse than start here.


This list is far from exhaustive (and doesn’t pretend to be) these are just a few of my favourite blog(zine)s. You are very welcome to add your own favourites in the comment.