Weekend Miscellany – the skip, the novels and the poems.

It’s been a busy week, mentally and physically. I picked up several extra playground duties due to staff absence on trips etc, I’ve had a skip outside my house into which I and our local builder/handyman have been clearing one end of my garden – the shed was so rotten I put my foot through the floor when I went for a flowerpot the other week. He did a great job, it’s up to me to finish the pruning of the ivy that broke the pergola too etc. The skip is nearly full of rubble, rubbish and garden waste now – I just have a mattress to top it off.

I have managed to read some great books, some of my own, and several for blog tour reviews to come next week and beyond. I’m gearing myself up to read our book group choice for May – Bear by Marian Engel – watch this space in a couple of weeks!

I also reviewed the simply gorgeous Orbital by Samantha Harvey for Shiny (read my full review here), which follows the lives of six astronauts over one day of 16 orbits around the Earth in the International Space Station. We share their awe for the Earth, and their hopes, dreams and anxieties. It’s not SF, just set in space and Harvey gives us just the right amount of technical info, ensuring that the main message of the story – of why aren’t we looking after the Earth better – isn’t obscured. Why this wasn’t longlisted for the Women’s Prize I don’t know!

But I do have one review for you now before I leave. Chris Emery, who founded Salt publishing kindly sent me his latest book of poems…

Modern Fog by Chris Emery

I first encountered Emery’s poetry back in 2020 when I was sent a copy of his chapbook Depth Charge. Those poems were mostly inspired by his time in Norfolk, where Salt was founded, and Modern Fog continues in that vein, be it the wildlife and landscape, the buildings or the people, typically seen from unusual angles.

At the centre of the book is a cycle of 12 poems dedicated to St Helen’s Church, Ranworth – known as the ‘Cathedral of the Broads’ for its famous medieval painted rood screen.

My favourites though, as with the chapbook before are those where modern life intrudes through the fog, or where wildlife might reclaim it back, such as in ‘All the Routes Home’:

It might be the Roman road beyond Burnt Lane
where bats occupy a partial disused bunker
beyond the corporation park, rusted goal posts
and fossilised rides above a perished rubber mesh,
where one dog barks its way into the kingdom.

I can just picture that unloved playground now home for wildlife once more. Another big favourite was ‘The Sadness of Radio’ which is full of wonderful imagery, here are two quotes from the first and last verses:

Working through peach bathrooms
it lets us whine about boys.
All skin and bone
and moodless margarine,
below each monocled moon
the cold news thaws.

a million women gather to ignore the violet rooms
while boys officiate through hours like cigarettes.

And the wallpaper shrivels, the wax melts
and tonnes of chiffon
and taffeta expire with deluxe anniversaries.

Radio crops up a lot in Emery’s poems, as in ‘The Memory Box’ which describes its title with brilliant nostalgia. I also loved ‘The Stylist’ to whom giving a haircut is a spiritual thing, “I cut them free and watch their smiles return”, “the locks falling in heaps in what could be contrition.”

I’m aware that this piece is becoming more quote than review, but no apologies, its hard to talk about poetry without quoting it. Emery’s imagery very much appeals to my own sensibilities and preoccupations, so he is a poet to whom I will definitely return.

[By the Way: Salt are celebrating their 25th birthday this year. They have loads of brilliant authors. I plan to read a few more, and go back through my archives to highlight some of them soon.]

Source: Review copy – thank you! Arc Publishing, paperback original, 79 pages.

BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link (free UK P&P)

11 thoughts on “Weekend Miscellany – the skip, the novels and the poems.

  1. A Life in Books says:

    I hope you’re feeling pleased with your garden clear out, and no injury was incurred with that floorboard! I’ve seen so many recommendations for Orbital, I’m adding it to my list.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Orbital will definitely be on my best of list at the end of the year. Best novel(la) I’ve read so far this year.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Last week was hectic in all senses of the word.
      I love being able to visualise a poet’s words and Emery’s show me lovely images.

  2. Rebecca Foster says:

    When we moved in here two years ago, the shed looked like it would imminently fall apart. That it is still standing is a miracle! It is certainly not water-tight, though. Knocking it down and replacing it with a much smaller tool store in the back corner of the garden, plus some kind of bike store by the house, is a high priority. I hope we can get away without hiring a skip, though.

    I quite like those quotes from the Emery. And I do intend to try Orbital again this November; I had it out from the library last year and didn’t get anywhere, but so many readers I trust have said it’s brilliant.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I admit I was slightly disappointed to discover that my shed wasn’t seated on a full breezeblock base (which is, of course, why I put my foot through the floor into one of the gaps!), it’s not pretty, but it’s round the corner behind the garage and a shed base of sorts for the future.

      With Orbital, it took me maybe 10 pages to get into it, then it really clicked.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I gave it a mattress topper (so to speak) this afternoon and that’s me done for now, it goes tomorrow. Very therapeutic!

  3. Dark Puss says:

    Just for a few ms I thought you meant the electronic music duo Orbital ! I have just released my first music video, but it certainly isn’t going to challenge anyone for number of likes 🙂

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