Reviews for Live Canon: Lightfalls & Lovely Peripheries

Joshua’s Review of Lightfalls:

Lightfalls is the second collection by the Indian born poet Gillie Robic. It is a collection that explores the human emotion, systematically using the relationship between light and dark as a metaphor for life’s movement. Although, the collection is primarily about light, Robic evidently notices and acknowledges the fact that there cannot be light without first the experience of darkness. This conflict is playfully explored throughout Robic’s poetry with light falling through darkness (as in the title), or the dominance of darkness coming through when the devil is ‘scribbling on the light of God’.

               At first glance, there is a seeming sparseness to the poetry within Lightfalls. However, where the volume of words is light, there seems to be much weight in Robic’s poetry. Exploring questions of theology, memory, and love it is hard to escape the weightiness of the subject but in its execution the poetry falls through the page like the light it describes. Take for example, ‘And so I pray’, a poem that is actually one of the longer ones within this collection but at 15 short lines still manages to capture the existentialism of modern life. In the poem Robic explores love and death with seemingly everyday images ‘Peril paints the horizon…while I butter my toast’, ‘The sun turns a dirty London corner/ and conjures a luminous cityscape/ from cracks in the concrete’. It is in these beautifully illustrated everyday images that Robic’s strength lies.

Reece’s Review of Lovely Peripheries:

In parts humorous, in others surreal, Campbell’s Lovely Peripheries serves up moments of interesting introspection and conjures up some amazing images with his linguistic capabilities.

The poem that instantly caught my attention was ‘Beheading at a wedding’, which by the title alone promises to take you on the strangest of journeys, and lives up to the expectation. Beginning with wax dripping from ‘everyone’, an image strengthened by the structural line breaks, to the ‘father cuffed / to her wrist’ and a veil transforming into an octopus that eats the grain of the groom, the poem impressed me with its ability to become so vivid in my mind for such an odd set of circumstances.

Afterwards we get ‘Asunder on the metro’, starting off in the familiar experience of taking a nap on public transport. However, it wastes no time in taking us into a dream of apocalyptic proportions, where a bear the size of a mountain weeps in a ‘snowy landscape’, causing the snow to melt all around. But, just as swiftly, we are then taken back with a bang to the head to ‘new faces’ on the metro, disrupting for a moment the tired traveller until, once more, his ‘eyes close, the sound of the tram’s wheels fades.’ Thus follows even stranger images of Persian cats and small fluorescent orbs interspersed with yet more disruption that is both dizzying but deftly done by Campbell.

I think Campbell’s strength lies in his expansive imagination and his travel poems, with lines like ‘woollen wisps floating around charcoaled carcasses’ and ‘My neck wilts … the drop-down table creates dents on forehead’ both extremely creative and relatable to travellers and commuters alike. Overall, an interesting collection containing some worthful highlights.

Review – ‘What I Heard on the Last Cassette Player in the World’ by Ben Ray

Words and Photograph by Reece David Merrifield

A cleverly, carefully curated collection that spans across a dazzling number of timelines and topics, Ben’s work had me mesmerised from start to finish.

            The interspersed ‘Knee Plays’ are an inspired addition that offer brilliant tongue-in-cheek relief, personal favourites including ‘Reasons to embrace the rising sea levels’ and ‘Listening to Hitler’s speeches whilst exploring Warsaw’. A brief explanation of what ‘Knee Plays’ actually are could read as a poem all by itself, such is the way that Ben is able to weave his inspirations into the collection, adding gloss via grit which does not go unappreciated by the reader.

            What also comes across is the watertight knack for word structure, where each syllable is like mini-waves coming off an untroubled duck’s back. The impressively specific ‘Meditation on three wooden barrels from a shipwreck found in Gdansk harbour, dated to the early 15th century’ is testament to it, and allows for seamless reading where one could otherwise become instantly lost to the Baltic sea.

            The underlying thread of combatting climate change is deftly tackled with in a flexible manner, with swift shifts from the epic seriousness to the deadpan one-liner displayed in ‘Greenpeace’s final strategy’, and to the utterly cynical yet pinpoint ‘And now we are inside the mind of Nicolae Ceauşescu’. A very prominent and contemporary talking point can easily drag poets down into the cliché pit, but Ben creates clever angles to position his poems in a satisfyingly disorientated manner, which is an apt description for most of this collection.

            A final note to Ben himself, who not only trusted us with his work in one of our previous magazines, but also to grant us this opportunity for reviewing his work. We thank you wholeheartedly, and truly has been a pleasure for myself to read his work in a wider context. It is only one direction Ben is heading in, and it’s not difficult to guess which it is.

Happy New Year Reading

For many of us who enjoy reading, there may have been a lot of flat rectangular shaped presents under the tree. Books are the gift that keep on giving; not only are they a pleasure to open but then they keep on giving with every page you turn – and then a little more after when you carry on thinking about what you’ve read. 
We have compiled a list of the books we received over Christmas and a short review of one of these books each.

Joshua’s New Year reading:

Zaffar Kunial, Us(Faber & Faber, 2018)
Raymond Antrobus, The Perseverance(Penned in the Margins, 2018)
Matthew Dickman, Wonderland(W. W. Norton & Company, 2018)
Jack Kerouac, Collected Poems[ed. Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell] (Library of America: 2012)
Various, City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology [ed. Lawrence Ferlinghetti] (City Lights Books, 2015)
Various, The Forward Book of Poetry 2019(Bookmark, 2018)
Jacqueline Rose, The Last Resistance (Verso, 2017)

Joshua’s reviews so far:
Zaffar Kunial’s debut collection, Us, is a thought provoking exploration of journeys. Journeys of the poet, journeys across the bridges between worlds. Kunial explores the journeys between the Kashmir – of his father’s youth – and the Midland’s of his mother’s birth. The poems in this collection explore the roots of language (in ‘The Word’, Kunial discusses his father’s misplacing of ‘the’ in sentences) but also the roots of people (That although Kunial was born in England, his mixed-race status makes him feel as if he is in a ‘halfway house’, not really belonging anywhere). His beautifully simple style of poetry makes this collection a a pleasurable read while exploring potentially heavy themes such as the poet’s journey and identity in modern Britain. A great way to start the New Year’s reading.

Kerouac’s Collected Poems edited by Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell, is probably the most complete volume of Kerouac’s poetry that I have seen. It contains the complete Books of Blues, collections of haiku, and Kerouac’s more religious Psalms. I’ve always loved the freeness and simple rhythms of Kerouac’s writing and this volume is no exception, it contains the funny poems that are best read-out-loud in jazzed tones, but also the flowing musings on religion and friendships that were sometimes missed in his lifetime due to his image as the King of the Beats.

Reece’s reading list:

James Anthony & William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Retold (Penguin, 2018)
Franz Kafka, The Castle (Penguin, 2000)
The Penguin Book of Haiku (Penguin, 2018)
Richard Mabey, A Brush With Nature (Ebury, 2014)
Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Faber and Faber, 1984)
Penguin Modern Collection (Penguin, 2018)

Reece’s Reviews So Far (all volumes from Penguin Modern Collection):

William Carlos Williams, Death the Barber:
A dazzling set of poems that leave you with razor sharp, visceral images seeming to form a hologram on the page. The self-titled ‘Death the Barber’ and ‘This Is Just to Say’ are my two favourites, but all offer unrivalled poetical pleasure.

Akutugawa & Others, Three Japanese Short Stories:
Nagai Kafū, Behind the Prison
Uno Kōji, Closet LLB
Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, General Kim
Three strangely touching and haunting short stories that resonated with my thoughts stronger than I expected them to. ‘Behind the Prison’ is the danger of insatiable travelling appetites, but also the struggle of familial expectation and homely constraints. ‘Closet LLB’ warns of the misuse of human potential, both by self and others, and the spiral into dangerous dreams and chewing way at what could have been. Finally, ‘General Kim’ is the humorous imagining of national bias that lets us laugh at ourselves and our myths, but poignantly reminding us that the perpetuation of our pride can lead to dangerous and difficult-to-deal-with patriotism.

Wendell Berry, Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer:
Although hard to grasp at first, Berry makes some fascinating points in both his essays about the danger of technology, especially in his rebuttal of reviews relating to his first essay. He dismantles their blind-sighted feminism with slight humour and clear, logical points which is an inspiration in itself for future essay writing. He is also, like myself, ‘not an optimist’, and I feel my original struggle with his essay is the same he had thirty years previously: where do we draw the line?


Talking Feminism

Our editor, Joshua Cialis, interviews the director of Freak, Ellie Ward, about The Herd’s upcoming run of Anna Jordan’s play in York and London.

Heart breaking as it is hilarious, Freak is the story of two women, Leah and Georgie. The action unfolds across their two bedrooms, which face opposite each other, with the audience positioned either side of the beds. This is a truly immersive piece, with Georgie and Leah telling their stories straight to the audience. Leah tells us of her plans to lose her virginity; Georgie of her dreams about King Kong, and her ex-boyfriend Jamie. This is feminist theatre, but Freak isn’t a show about how to be a good feminist. It is about two women deeply entrenched in the media-obsessed, misogynistic world of the 21st century. It is about sexuality, rape culture and female friendship. But mostly, it is about giving Leah and Georgie the space to tell their stories.

‘Freak is a bold examination of what it is to be a woman in Britain today’. Does Freak suggest what being a “woman” means or what it could mean?

Freak suggests that being a woman in Britain today is hard. Jordan’s characters; Leah, a young teenage girl, and Georgie, a 30 year old woman, represent just two lived experiences of girlhood and womanhood. What being a “woman” means is a hot topic at the minute, with the #metoo movement, and debates surrounding sexual harassment and sexual conduct between the sexes. However, Freak doesn’t focus on the abuse women suffer at the hands of men, but the abuse women suffer at the hands of themselves: that is, “internalized misogyny”. From Veeting for new boyfriends, to validation via male appraisal, both Leah and Georgie are symptoms of the patriarchal culture we live in. Freak pulls at the fabric of womanhood, unravelling it’s hypocrisies and limitations in hilarious, and sometimes painful, detail.

So what is a good feminist? Or is there such a thing?

I believe the only viable way to be a “good” feminist is to accept you are probably a bad one. Humans are not perfect, after growing up within patriarchal systems of power, rape culture, and a media obsessed with the perfect body, image, life, it’s gonna be pretty hard not to be a hyprocrite from time to time. And that’s fine. What’s dangerous is to put women on the “good” feminist pedestal, which the media like to do. It just means when they slip up we can knock them off and berate them, undermining all the hard and genuine work they have done. Bad feminism underpins Freak. Neither Leah or Georgie would identify as feminist, in fact, they represent what feminism seeks to blunten: obsession with the male gaze, self-hate, perfectionism in body and physical attractiveness. The perfect feminist is a myth that needs busting.

Do you think the definition of feminism is changing? The fight is no longer about the vote it’s about values?

Definitely. There is a huge difference between social change, and political change. Yeah, we’ve had the vote for 100 years, but social value systems that have been engrained in culture for 100s of thousands of years are going to take more time than that to overturn. Also, feminism, especially in the media spotlight, can be very white washed. We’ve got to take time to understand feminism on an intersectional level. I understand that whilst I am up against prejudice as a woman, I also carry with me a lot of white privilege. So yeah, its all about values. And not sitting on our arses thinking it’s all sorted – check your privilege!

I find the different readings of a play very interesting. In your direction of Jordan’s play did you stick fast to the script or was there a little wiggling?

For us, all our characterization was pulled straight from Jordan’s script. It was a bit of a bible, and one of the most beautiful pieces of contemporary play writing I have read. Of course, while the facts we pulled from the script have stuck fast, there is wriggle room in how we communicated the associated emotions. Rather than focus on blocking, we focused on mapping out the reasons the characters were saying what they were saying, what they wanted the audience to think. That’s the joy of Freak – the show feels different every night, as Marie and Caitlin [the two actors in this performance] try out new ways to communicate the intentions they understand so clearly!

Herd is a feminist theatre company…to promote discussion, share ideas and skills and provide opportunities for women and non-binary people’. Why do you think it is important to use the arts (specifically theatre) as a springboard for the discussions of feminism?

After our first run of Freak so many people came up to me, or messaged me, telling me the ways in which they related to Leah and Georgie, and how it made them think about their attitudes to sex, body image, and sexuality. Within Freak, Leah and Georgie do not realize fully how the things they are saying and doing are problematic. This is the audience’s job. Freak is a rare diamond as Leah and Georgie are telling their stories directly to the audience, forcing them to think about not just the fictional situations of the play, but similar events in their own lives. What would I do in that situation? What did I do in that situation? Theatre generates discussion without specifically asking for it: the dialogue which results is complex, personal, truthful. And it is necessary. By glancing at someone else’s life, you are able to hold a mirror to your own, and affect change.

Do you have a favourite line from the play?

This is tough! Possibly, “I smoke fags out of the window, try on every piece of clothing I own and see how many times I can cum during Homes Under the Hammer!”

Finally why should I come and see Freak?

Freak is hilarious, hearting breaking and vivid. You will literally be sat within Leah and Georgie’s bedrooms, listening to their stories. Freak kinda feels like you are being told fresh secrets at a sleepover, or chin wagging with your best friend, whose had kind of a rough week. More importantly, you will see part of your life in Georgie or Leah. Whether they remind you of yourself, your Mum, your daughter or sister. Freak has something for everyone, and is not one to miss.

Freak is showing at the City Screen Picture House, York on 25th-27th July as part of Great Yorkshire Fringe. And at Cecil Sharpe House, London between 19th-22nd August 2018 as part of the Camden Fringe. Make sure you order your tickets to support this emerging feminist theatre company.

Molly’s Lips – A Review

Words by Joshua Cialis. Picture by Molly’s Lips

Back in April I was contacted by Phil, from Molly’s Lips, asking if I could have a listen to his new EP. It did not disappoint so here is what I think of Molly’s Lips II:

The atmospheric blend of acoustic and electronic sounds on Molly’s Lips’ new EP manage somehow to take the listener to somewhere between late night musings and mid-summer evenings in the garden. Molly’s Lips’ first release was recorded in their kitchen and printed up totally by hand. They’ve really stepped it up for this release; drafting in Joel Magill (of Syd Arthur) to record it and getting brilliant musicians such as James Gow (Knee High, Lunch Money) and Raven Bush (Syd Arthur, Kate Tempest, The Gaslamp Killer) to play on the EP. The eclectic mix of collaborators shines through on this release making it an EP to go listen to.

Molly’s Lips is made up of some of my favourite musicians: Billy Glinn and Phil Self of Cocos Lovers, The Hellfire Orchestra and, Will Varley. Knowing each of their past works I was expecting a gutsy folk-rock album. What I heard coming through my speakers was a surprise; the thought provoking harmonies and poetic lyricism of this album are emotional and full of feeling. Mixed with the atmospheric addition of reed organs, synths and live electronics the listener can expect to get hit hard by the emotional punch of these songs.

Although the instrumentation of this experimental folk album is sublime, it is the lyrics that really hit the mark. Some of the best lines come from ‘Hornet Man’ – in my eyes the best song on this EP. ‘I’m confident not drinking tonight / there’s a drink in the hand of every poet by my side’. This couplet perfectly sums up a scene, with that superb half-rhyme summing up the feeling. The whole EP goes on with its emotional journey through pastoral scenes and contemporary sounds making this an album to lay back and listen to.

 

The EP is released on 16th June 2018 and can be bought online at https://mollyslips.bandcamp.com/album/mollys-lips-ii

An Informal Review of Irvine Welsh’s ‘Dead Man’s Trousers’

Words and Picture by Reece David Merrifield

*Warning: Spoilers may occur*

At first it struck me as odd that Welsh was releasing, in essence, ‘Trainspotting 3’, after the film was released just one year before. However, I should never have doubted that the man was going to make it work, and in his usual prurient, political and priceless manner, he manages just that.

Begbie deserves the first mention, for how Welsh manages to turn one of the most violent psychopaths in fictional memory into the sober family-man artist enjoying the sunny climes of California turns out to be a masterstroke, in terms of representing the increasingly symbolic working-class as just another branch of capitalist exploitation: the rugged man making it large, a mockery of the almost defunct idea of the American Dream, where rags ‘make’ riches. Of course, it is too good to be true that Begbie is now a ‘changed man’, and the sinister side still resides in a now more clinical, calculated fashion which could be argued is considerably more terrifying than the impulsive, alcohol-fuelled rage concomitant with that of Begbie past.

Renton, still out in Amsterdam, still in the music business, still owing money to his former friends, follows a path fairly linear to that of the previous novel: doing well, gets dragged back into the world of old, is screwed over, but manages to find a way to become better off in the end. I interpret the existence of Renton to be that of middle-class stature, where there shall always be pits to fall into (in his case pretty large ones) but a ladder is always miraculously there to bring him back in his place. This is not to insult the character in any means, but rather that I feel as if Welsh has achieved for Renton what he always wanted him to have, in line with his aspirations and previous achievements compared to that of the others. It is with wicked irony however, that our aforementioned bad guy gone (slightly) good both saves Renton and leaves him with a ‘wee lesson aboot ripping yer mates oaf’ as a truly moral ending that must (I say with caution) signify the end of our tale with the Trainspotting crew.

The Ewan McCorkindale sub-plot that runs throughout the novel has to be one of the despairingly cruellest yet funniest reminders of how even the most careful of men can have their life turned foul; Sick Boy being our port of call for both mischief and political wittiness is kept wonderfully modern with the times; but it is to Spud, our man wearing the trousers, that unfortunately lags and falls behind the rest, that I found myself feeling true sorrow at his wretchedly innocent life come to an end, with his sub-plot being the most typical Spud way to set off the chain of events leading to his demise. It is fitting then that Welsh gives him the last hurrah that interlinks both film and novel with the transcript he leaves Renton behind, immortalising himself in a way that neither of his counterparts have been able to do.

Cocos Lovers – A Review

On Saturday night the Deal-based band, Cocos Lovers, graced the stage at the Ramsgate Music Hall for their Christmas Shindig. The support act came in the form of The Selkies, a young female duo – it seems taking influence from the likes of Laura Marling and King Creosote. Singing mainly about animals and the unstable nature of our world make these girls even more interesting to listen to. With the added bonus of poetic lyrics and guitar/vocal harmonies which make this a duo to watch.

At 9:30pm the main event came in the form of a stellar selection of Cocos Lovers, saws and all. The folkedelich harmonies mixed against the poeticised lyrics and heavier drum beats, such as those of ‘Elephant Lands’, make the Cocos Lovers a great live band to see perform. Going way beyond the label of alt-folk, Cocos Lovers have evolved away from the pastoral style folk that they used to be known for and now play pieces, like ‘The Spirit That Swallowed You Whole’, that build from something calm to thumping squalls and bursts of guitar or violin against Will’s sometimes haunting, sometimes playful vocals. The evening finished on an interesting rendition of Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ with lyrics written on coffee filters and sung in true Cocos Lovers/Slade style.

This is a poem I wrote after watching Cocos Lovers on Saturday, its free and unhindered form does not come close to the beauty of their music but using mismatched lyrics and thoughts I had while watching the performance I have tried to capture the spirit of a night with Cocos Lovers:

Crooked Road – by Joshua Cialis
(for Cocos Lovers)

Christ leads me down the crooked road
and I sit in haze – choosing
where to go – but He leads me,
through hauntings and freedom
we land in old Elephant Lands

weary, go from here
through flashing lights
and riffs bending and stiff
but we end up in the land
where no one dies.

Burning guitar bass
thumps and questions
pass through lighted air –
“who’s that”

Melodies whisper in chimneys
blown on a breeze
to far off cosmic seas
crossing boundary lines
and shine – off into the rising sun.

The November Review

Words and Picture by Joshua Cialis

Another month has passed and we now enter December. Everyone is darting around looking for presents for loved ones and colleagues. Well if you haven’t yet bought all your presents maybe our review of November’s books will help you:

Palm trees and rain
by Natasha Dubalia (Movement Publishing)

Dubalia’s journey through the seasons and emotions takes us through thought, poetry, prose and hidden dance. As Dubalia tells us in her synopsis:

‘the thing about emotions
is that they are unforeseeable
precisely like the seasons’

Palm trees and rain, although not technically perfectly literary poetry, is a complete and passionate exploration of the poet’s mind, an exploration of personal emotion, and it is these slight-imperfections that make the book quite so pure. The merging of the senses and emotion brings the reader closer to love, closer to what we’ve ‘never tasted before’.

Natasha Dubalia’s book is one that is deeply personal but with the ability to share, it’s simple poetry which although a seasoned poetry reader may find it difficult not shout ‘show don’t tell’; those new to poetry will love its simplicity and pureness.

Reviewed by Joshua Cialis

Artemis
By Andy Weir (Crown Publishing Group)

Jazz Bashara is a young Arab woman, living in the first city on the Moon, Artemis. She sees her chance to commit to perfect crime to fund her debts – but her crime throws her into something unexpected: a plot to take control of Artemis itself.

By the author of The Martian, there were high expectations in place when it came to reading this novel. However, something seems to fall short in this book. The character, a young Arab female (which is excellent representation), seems to lack something. It appears much like Weir is struggling to put himself in the perspective of a female, and transplants his own awkward sense of humour (which worked so well in The Martian) onto her – and it fails. It is still worth a read to make your opinion about it, but I am overall slightly disappointed.

Reviewed by Jade Wolf

‘Who Built the Moon?’
by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Sour Mash)

Maybe it was a matter of time that, as the band name suggests, Noel felt the need to escape the two-dimensionality of Britpop and his brother, and fly off into a whole new realm of musical genre: ‘sonically advanced, electronic, space Jazz future man with shiny little booties on’, in his own words. However, it would be in Noels interests, when embarking on future endeavours, for him and his birds to stay firmly bound to earth, as it seems they cannot cope outside atmospheric confines.
Maybe with a tinge of irony, ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ is my favourite record on the album: a well-blended soul-pysch track that is able to convey the same message in 4 false-hope, children’s rollercoaster stanzas and 2 voices, with the ending refrain ‘the day will never come…’ haunting in conjunction with the ritualistic chanting of the female voice carrying us until the bitter end.
However, it’s where the praise must end. ‘Holy Mountain’ is a rattle full of cliché that fails to capture anyone ‘under [his] spell’; ‘She Taught Me How to Fly’ is painfully simplistic in both musical and lyrical composition, you wish that she taught him how to write like he used to; ‘Keep On Reaching’ is a sub-conscious reminder of what Noel should not be striving for, and when he asks ‘can you keep a secret?’, unfortunately this time Noel, you need to be told, this album is not full of ‘sunshine and flowers’. Instead, he needs to ‘dig [back] out [his] soul’ and craft songs we all know he’s capable of.

Reviewed by Reece David Merrifield

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
By Ruth Emmie Lang (St. Martin’s Press)
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of a boy called Weylyn Grey; it is told from the perspectives of people around him. Weylyn is not like other people for he was orphaned, raised by wolves and owns a horned pig named Merlin. Weylyn’s abilities are amazing but, they are also a risk to himself and Mary, the woman he loves.

This is Ruth Emmie Lang’s first novel and it is a wonderful debut. It is fairy-talesque with quirky characters and the exploration of nature. The narrative style of Weylyn’s life being told through other people’s perspectives adds a mysterious quality to his character as the reliability and interpretation of his personality may not be accurate. The story also explores the nature of human relationships particularly through Weylyn’s desire to help others. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance fabulously displays themes of magic and nature to create an enchanting story.

Reviewed by Holly Royle

Review: ‘Turn Off the Lights’

Words by Reece David Merrifield; Review by guest writer Ben Stewart; Photo courtesy of http://www.commercialappeal.com

We don’t usually put out a Tuesday article, but I felt obliged to post this as soon as I could. Here is a review of a new album, written by a good friend of mine:

Tennessee singer-songwriter Julien Baker’s second full length record, titled Turn Out the Lights, is a melancholic collection of songs, reflective and dark. It takes on complex themes such as substance abuse, addiction and depression, and in doing so Baker pushes us to emotional extremes, leaving the listener perpetually teetering on the edge, from one track to the next: a relentless pendulum of depression. This album draws many comparisons to Elliott Smith, perhaps the master of crafting dark/melancholic songs. Pieces often so fragile and devastating, it’s impossible not to become anchored, letting the words wash over you.

Baker’s first LP Sprained Ankle’ received positive reviews, but limited exposure. Baker toured extensively and has grown in stature, thanks to heart stopping sessions on Audiotree and NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, whilst also recently signing to Matador Records. Her brand of slow core/ sparse indie ballads has resonated with a growing audience. Baker continues where she left off from Sprained Ankle, pursuing a narrative that’s ‘stream of consciousness meets nervous breakdown’. Lead single ‘Appointments’ casts a forlorn image of adulthood: An exponential growth of responsibility coupled with perpetual time leaving us less than even half-full: ‘Nothing turns out like I pictured it. / Maybe the emptiness is just a lesson in canvases’. The track ‘Happy to Be Here’, perhaps the most poignant lyrically, has Baker pondering why there’s ‘A fix for everything’ so ‘then why not me’, beating on her guitar strings as she rasps:

‘If I could do what I want
I would become an electrician
I’d climb inside my ears
And I would rearrange the wires in my brain’

A realistically surreal description of her thought processes whilst suffering with mental health issues. With such evocative lyrics, and heartfelt story-telling, it’s hard to believe Baker is just twenty-two.

The album closer, ‘Claws in Your Back’, addresses self-destructive behaviour and fighting suicidal thoughts. On writing this song Baker wanted to reach out to a friend like her, who was fighting an overall feeling of hopelessness. Turn out the Lights finds Baker perhaps looking from the other end of the tunnel. Although throughout the record there’s some of her darkest moments to date, Julien embraces us. This album is a cautionary tale and holds a certain wistfulness that comes from battling such demons. There’s a weight to this LP that is rare in even the most intimate of indie/folk artists. Baker doesn’t have a filter, and leaves herself always open, strengthening her creativity. She’s standing on the shoulders of those giants before her: Nick Drake and Elliott Smith. Crafting songs of such sincerity and emotion, I hope she is here to stay.

The October Review

Words by the Founders; Photo by Rafe Usher-Harris

Each month Foxtrot Uniform will be reviewing new books, poetry, plays, music or events that we have experienced over the passing month. October has held a lot: Catalonia declared independence, ending in Spanish arrests and crisis; Hollywood and Westminster have been gripped by sexual assault allegations. Yet, the month has been a good one for us, with the publication of the first issue of our magazine. It’s also been a good month for the literary community as you’ll see in this month’s review:

Penguin Modern Poets 6: Die Deeper into Life
By Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, and Denise Riley
Published by Penguin, 26th October 2017

A reboot of the 1960-70’s series, this sixth volume of the Penguin Modern Poets series bridges the gap between poetry and prose with long and short pieces by two American and one English poet. An amazing place for the seasoned poetry reader to rekindle a passion, Modern Poets is also a great way for new readers to delve into the world of poetry. With sweeping poems that fall onto both portrait and landscape pages, this really is the world of contemporary poetry. Each of the poets in this collection have jobs outside poetry ensuring that the poems are truly ‘real-world’ poems; from history and philosophy to Marxist politics this really is poetry for the world.

From Here To Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death 
By Caitlin Doughty
Published by. W.W. Norton & Company, 3rd October 2017

In a search for the ‘good death’, Caitlin Doughty explores different cultures’ ways of treating their dead. She discovers and participates in powerful death rituals, that are mostly unknown in the Western world, and discusses a topic which society usually avoids.

Coupled with beautiful illustrations, and Caitlin’s own experience of being a mortician and running a funeral home, it is a book which allows you to explore various different cultures ways of treating their dead. From Japan, Bolivia, Indonesia, Mexico, to Spain, it is both eye-opening and wonderfully intriguing. Definitely one for those interested in the treatment of death and cultural differences.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing
By E.K. Johnston
Published by Penguin Young Readers Group, 3rd October 2017

Set in the near future, That Inevitable Victorian Thing follows the princess of the empire, Victoria–Margaret, who is a descendant of Victoria I. The princess, due to marry, first has a summer of freedom.

Johnston inventively explores the significance of Queen Victoria as a strong, powerful figure who made significant changes in the course of history with a futuristic twist. The novel involves Victorian values of marriage in a postmodern setting using DNA to create suitable matches. This exploration of the nature of relationships and attitudes towards social conventions is applicable to our current society.

A Glossary of Years
By Linda Rose Parkes
Published by Under The Radar, Issue 19, Summer 2017

Synopsis:

A poem in fragmented structure discussing the struggle translating German words learnt from her years spent in Germany into English.

Review:

Structuring the poem with very little punctuation and harsh gaps between sentences represents the gap in translation between German to English in a very broken way, almost saying ‘these are German words, not perfect in English but why must they be?’. The narrator comes across as breathless in the first part of the poem, compressing definitions and historical artefacts together, making the reader uncomfortable on purpose (and I suspect I feel something very different to a reader who could speak both English and German.) The one stanza that stands out is the smallest: ‘die Scheide vagina / Separation   die Scheidung’. Such clever use of form, space on the page and translation in just six words: a perfect microcosm of the poem that I think sums up what the poet is trying to get across.