Quick Review: Classic FM One Hundred Favourite Poems

Summary (from back of book)

Here are the works chosen by Classic FM listeners in the poll to discover their favourite poems. This is a rich and varied collection: here are not only the famous poems you would expect to find – and all the famous poets – but also some wonderful less well-known works, together with biographies of all poets by Mike Read.

Review

I really enjoyed reading this collection of poems, but perhaps more than the poems, I found the short biographies the highlight. Everyone one of them was interesting to read.

I was pleased to see some of my favourite poems made the list, and some of them ranked quite highly. Some of my favourites were “The Listeners” by Walter de la Mere, “The Lady of Shallot” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “If” by Rudyard Kipling, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, and “Remember Me” by Christina Rossetti.

There were also well-known poems that I know I should have read by now, but hadn’t all the way through. These included “Ode On A Grecian Urn” by Keats, “The Daffodils” by Wordsworth (though who doesn’t know the first two lines off by heart?) and “To A Skylark” by Shelley.

What I like about collections such as this is that there are always poets included that I’ve not yet come across. They serve as a great introduction to new poets whose style you like – or don’t like – or whose poems resonate – or not – with you, and guide you into searching out more of their work.

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Poetry Book Review: What the Owl Taught Me by Annest Gwilym

What the Owl Taught Me is Annest Gwilym’s second book and first full collection, published by Lapwing Publications in 2020.  My thanks to Annest for providing me with a copy of the collection in return for an honest review.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Beautifully written and wonderfully lyrical. Evocative word choices and vividly described imagery combine to make this poetry collection a rich and rewarding read.  Highly recommended! 5 / 5

Summary (from author)

The book is written broadly on the lines of a bestiary, and in the tradition of bestiaries, includes some imaginary animals as well as real ones. It chronicles my lifelong love of nature and animals. It includes some animals which are often ‘demonised’ by people and our human-centric view of the world, such as wasps and bluebottles. By including these I wanted to show that they too have their own intricate, valid lives and vital roles in the world. In a couple of poems, I share some environmental concerns, as well as concerns about loss of species.

Favourite Quote

The poems found in What the Owl Taught Me were so quotable that I had a very hard time narrowing down my favourite to just one…

beyond the bright cathedral

of the sky, the dark is deep.

(From the poem “Crows”, What the Owl Taught Me by Annest Gwilym)

Review

When Annest Gwilym, editor of Nine Muses Poetry, offered me the chance to review her new poetry book, I jumped at the opportunity.  A couple of years ago, I reviewed her first poetry pamphlet, Surfacing, (you can read that review here) and so was very excited to find a copy of What the Owl Taught Me waiting for me in my inbox.

The first things that struck me were the enchanting title and the beautiful, breathtaking cover, but when I read what the poetry book was about I just knew I had to read it.  Illuminated manuscripts but especially bestiaries have always fascinated me so a poetry book loosely based in the tradition of one was not to be missed.

Each of the forty poems came across as wonderfully lyrical. As I said in my review of Surfacing, “…the poet has a beautiful way with words, creating images that are easy to visualise,” and that remains true for What the Owl Taught Me. Fauna and flora, and landscapes and seascapes, all are vividly painted with evocative word choices.  The natural world is celebrated, and on occasion, mourned. The picture related in The Fox Road could be one in many an urban area across the country, where buildings and developments are sprawling ever outward at a cost to our green and wild spaces.

We are introduced to a wide range of creatures through the poetry, from the usual and regularly seen (I am loath to use the word “ordinary” here), to those more rarely encountered unless you live in a rural area or by the sea, and then there are those of the imagination.  Crows and starfish, herons and foxes, seagulls and pipistrelle bats, owls, mammophants, horses and so many more besides!

Some of the poems are gentle and warm, such as Encounter, whereas others remind the reader of what it means to be wild.  Here the descriptions are not muted or subdued, but neither are they overplayed nor excessively gory.  They just are, as nature just is

As I read Pipistrelle, a poem dedicated to the UK’s most common species of bat, I felt like the closing lines could have been written in the margin of a medieval text, which seemed to reinforce the idea of the bestiary.  This, of course, I loved!

The most powerful and evocative of the poems I found to be The Nightmare Bird, which blended the mythological with nightmarish description so easily and authentically that it could have come from medieval folklore:

Cauldron born, in the icy grip of Ceridwen. 

Moon-bitten, storm-struck eater of stars

and dreams, its scream strangles the night.

(From the poem “The Nightmare Bird” from What the Owl Taught Me by Annest Gwilym)

There is lightness to be found in the collection too…The Blackheart Malatrix had me smiling in places, as I read of all the things, some evil, some absurd, the creature would do (including stopping all the grandfather clocks in Milton Keynes!), until the very last two lines, which, punching out of nowhere, sobered me as I thought on the consequences this terrible creature wished to inflict.

Some of the poems are also visually striking. Still Life with Flotsam and Litter gave a voice to each flotsam and litter, one using found text, the other found objects and were presented in different ways. Then there was Wasp’s Nest, where the lines of the poem are shaped to form the shape of a wasp’s nest against the whiteness of the page, while Golden Child forms the shape of a ray.

If your idea of the natural world is of cuddly bunnies and fluffy lambs this might not be the read for you.  But if you want poetry that reflects the British countryside and its wildlife, as well as locations much further afield, not to mention the creatures of the poet’s imagination, you will find What the Owl Taught Me a rich and rewarding read.  Highly recommended!

To learn more about Annest’s poetry collection, check out this link to Lapwing Publications.

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Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #14 in the list: a book of poetry or short fiction

Quoting the Poetical #1 – Else Lasker-Schuler

Inspired by today’s Google doodle, and with one of my goals for 2020 being to explore more new-to-me poetry and poets, I’m starting a new series on Sammi Loves Books, Quoting the Poetical.  Like the “Quoting the Classics” series I posted a few years ago, I aim to share beautiful and inspiring snippets of poetry, but unlike that first series, it won’t be a weekly challenge rather, a series I can add to perhaps once a month or so…

So, for the first post in this new series, here is a beautiful quote from a poem by Else Lasker-Schüler:

*

Strand by strand, enamoured colours,
Stars that courted each other across the length of heavens.

(From An Old Tibetan Rug by Else Lasker-Schüler,

original and translation found via Wikipedia) 

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Book Review: Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

Twas the Night Before Christmas, or A Visit From St Nicholas by Clement C. Moore, with illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Beautiful, charming and timeless.  A delight to read. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

This poem first appeared in a newspaper in Troy, New York, USA, on December 23, 1823, as “A Visit From St. Nicholas”. No one claimed authorship until 13 years later. Clement Clarke Moore, a professor and poet, said that he wrote the piece for his children. Unbeknownst to him, his housekeeper had sent it to the newspaper to be published. However, the family of Henry Livingston Jr. contended that their father had been reciting “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for 15 years prior to publication. Regardless of the true author, the poem is now a Christmas classic.

Favourite Quote

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself

Review

This Christmas was the first time (that I can remember) reading this poem from beginning to end.  Of course, this poem is so well known that, even without having read it, some of its lines are easy to quote.  But I’m so glad that I found the time this year to read it.

The edition I read was from 1912, via Project Gutenberg, and was beautifully illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith.  My favourite picture was the stockings hanging from the mantlepiece – it’s such a typically festive Christmas scene.

I don’t think I quite realised just how old the poem is. It was first published in 1823 and, to give that a little context, it was published twenty years before Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  Neither did I realise “Twas the Night Before Christmas” isn’t actually its title, but “A Visit From St Nicholas”, though the poem is more commonly known by its first line.  Something else I discovered this Christmas is that there is argument for attributing the writing of this poem to a different author.

The poem is beautiful and charming and conjures up many ideas we associate with Christmas to this day (for example, Santa’s sleigh is pulled by eight reindeer – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen – stockings hanging from the mantlepiece, St Nick entering the house via the chimney).  And, apart from a few archaic words, which have been changed out and modernised with later publishing, it could have been written much more recently for the audiences of today.

Even as an adult reading it, there is much joy to be found in the poem, and I have no doubt I will read the poem again, in its entirety, next year, and probably for all the Christmas’ after that!

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Poetry Pamphlet Review: Surfacing by Annest Gwilym

Surfacing is Annest Gwilym’s debut collection of poetry, published by Lapwing Publications in 2018.  My thanks to Annest for providing me with a copy of the collection in return for an honest review.

About the Author (from back of pamphlet)

Annest Gwilym lives in North Wales, near the Snowdonia National Park.  Her writing has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies.  She has been placed in competitions winning one in recent years.  She is the editor of the webzine Nine Muses Poetry (https://ninemusespoetry.com/)

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Surfacing is a brave, powerful collection of poetry, charting a journey through darkness and back out into the light.  Well-written and moving, it leaves the reader feeling inspired by the time the final poem is reached.

Summary

Surfacing is a collection of nineteen poems, divided into three parts, that documents the author’s personal experience of mental illness.

Favourite Quote

…whisper that even / my broken glass / can become sea treasure

(from Beach pottery mosaic)

Review

I found the cover to this poetry pamphlet eye-catching.  The stark minimalism and the black and white photo draw the eye through the tunnel of the trees in centre of the cover, inviting the reader to open it and begin reading.

Immediately I discovered the poet has a beautiful way with words, creating images that are easy to visualise.  The collection is powerful and well-written, and each poem captures the attention of the one reading it.  There is no doubt that Annest Gwilym is brave and unwavering as she shares with the reader a glimpse into what she has endured.

Label is perhaps is the starkest of the poems, possessing a rawness of emotion in its simplicity.  Its topic is clear, there is no ambiguity within the words.  Those who have ever suffered from mental health issues will be able to point to it and say, “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel /felt.”  This poem moved me more than I say.

It was when I reached the end of Beach pottery mosaic (see the quote above) that I could really feel the movement and energy changing in the poems.  Those three lines speak of realisation, of awareness, of a joy in unearthing the possibility that the darkness might not last forever.  The poignancy of this really shines through.

The final poem of the collection, Today’s birdsong is turned up loud, was a joy to read and the perfect ending to the pamphlet.  The energy of the words, combined with the fluidity of the lines, evoke a sense of lightness…of happiness.

Surfacing is an emotional read, but one that leaves the reader feeling inspired.  I highly recommend it.

To learn more about Annest’s poetry pamphlet, check out this link to Lapwing Publications.

Rating

Poetry Book Review: The Silence Between Moonbeams by Sarah Doughty

Summary (from Goodreads)

The Silence Between Moonbeams is about life — not always romantic, and not always easy, but often beautiful.

Everything is a product of the universe, the one thing about life we all share. It binds us together not only on a cellular level, but it’s also quintessential to the human condition. Thoughts, feelings, triumphs, love, loss, and much more are covered throughout these pages.

Discover what it feels like to live.

Favourite Quote

Let’s paint the stars

with our fingertips

Review

I knew I was already a fan of Sarah’s poetry before downloading a copy of The Silence Between Moonbeams because I follow her blog, and this collection of poems has ensured that won’t change anytime soon.

This was a powerful, beautiful, emotive read, full of honest words and raw emotions. As I moved through the poems, I couldn’t help but admire the strength of the one writing them.  The focus of the poems is a subject close to my heart: the night sky.  Stars, the moon, constellations, galaxies and more are mentioned as the author uses poetry to help with her complex PTSD.

The poems are often short, with a crispness softened with sentiment, that left me thinking before moving on to the next.  I liked how the poetry was broken up by short blocks of text, giving the reader space to process the words being read.  Although I couldn’t pick just one poem as a favourite, for the words of many of them resonated with me, the final line of “Burning Twilight” struck a chord.  “Run free, feel the wind upon your face, and never forget to howl at the moon,” is one line that has stayed with me since I read it.

There is no doubt, this is an inspiring poetry collection, one that I will return to, again and again.

Rating

I downloaded a copy of The Silence Between Moonbeams for free via Smashwords

Winter Magic – an anthology update

You might remember a few months ago I was looking to put together an anthology of short fiction and poetry on the theme of “Winter Magic”.  At the beginning of December, the anthology was released on Wattpad.

final-cover

To learn more about the anthology, what it’s about and what talented authors have their amazing work featured in it, click the cover above.

You can read the anthology for Free, by clicking here.

Not on Wattpad but still want to read it?  Click here.

Winter Magic – An Anthology Update

Autumn Colours

I thought I had better post an update here as well as on my writing blog, in case anyone who was interested missed it.  The anthology I mentioned in this post, “Winter Magic” is going ahead and is now open to submissions of microfiction, flash fiction, short stories and poetry.  All the details can be found here.

Thanks so much for your support.  Enjoy the rest of your week! 🙂

Would you be interested…?

UPDATE: the anthology “Winter Magic” is now going ahead.  Yay!  Check out the submission guidelines for this project and to learn about future projects, by following this link.  Can’t wait to read what you’ve come up with.

I posted this on my writing blog (Sammi Scribbles) yesterday, but thought I should post it here too, for anyone who missed it that might be interested 🙂


This week has been a whirlwind of ideas.  Sometimes it feels like having too many ideas is just as bad as having writer’s block.  Or is it worse? 😉

So, I thought before I go any further and get carried away (which may or may not already have happened), I might put one of these ideas out there and see what kind or response it gets.  And my!  Am I nervous about doing it.  Take a big, deep breath, Sammi!

So what is this idea?  I was thinking of launching a little side project that would release multi-author anthologies out into the e-world.  And the first of these projects would be an anthology of short stories, flash fiction and poetry inspired by the theme of…wait for it…”Winter Magic”.

Now, all the details are not finalised and what follows is not set in stone, but if you think this might be something that interests you, please read on to see what I have already come up with:

  • The most important point to note is that the primary purpose of this endeavour is to help get writers work seen by as many people as possible.  After all, that’s what we as writers want isn’t?  No, it’s what we need if we are going to get anywhere in this industry.
  • The deadline for submissions would be around 17 November 2016
  • The proposed release date for the anthology would be around 1 December 2016
  • The anthology will be posted online – probably on Wattpad via an account set up specifically for the anthologies.  Yes, I have ideas for many, many others 🙂  This way I won’t be taking credit for anyone else’s work.  You will need a Wattpad account (they’re free to set up and it only takes a matter of minutes) but you are not required to be active on the site.  This is so that I can link your work with your own account / profile as well as having the work attributed to you within the anthology. (Why Wattpad?  Because there is already a strong, supportive readership in place, and work that is posted there is protected.  Also anthologies and collaborations are quite popular on the site too).
  • Unfortunately, you won’t get paid, but all authors will get a PDF copy of the anthology – which won’t be available anywhere else, to anyone else (one small exception might be for book reviewers not on Wattpad as part of the promotional side of the anthology).
  • All genres will be accepted except fanfiction.
  • Reprints will be accepted as long as you hold the rights to the work.
  • Rights remain with the authors at all times.

So those are the bare bones of it.  There are more details, but I thought they could wait until the submission call is released, if it is released.  This will depend if anyone is interested in submitting something for consideration.  The question is, are you?  If yes, please let me know by commenting below or contacting me – don’t worry, you are not committing to anything, only giving me an idea as to whether this little endeavour would be worth my time and effort, and yours.

Thanks so much for reading.  It’s appreciated 🙂

Only One More Sleep To Go…

…Before Indie Only 2016 begins!  Yay!

Indie OnlyI have been busily catching up with all my non-indie reviews so that I can dedicate myself fully to this fun reading challenge.  Yes, it is one of the highlights of my book-reading year 🙂

I am still accepting review requests.  If you are interested in seeing your work – whether you have posted it to a blog or published it as an ebook – reviewed on this site, check out this post for details.

Looking forward to hearing from you and sharing what amazing Indie works I have discovered this year.  I have a feeling that July is going to be a great month!