2019 Live Canon Pamphlet Competition – Reviews by Foxtrot Uniform

In January Joshua and I were approached by Live Canon to review the four winners of their competition. With intrigue we took to the task, and here are the results:

Reviews by Reece Merrifield:

Katie Griffiths’ My Shrink is Pregnant

A tightly themed poetical analysis on the intimacy between patient and therapist and its blurring boundaries, Griffiths’ pamphlet effectively explores the emotions involved inside the consulting room.

            The poem that stuck out for me came near the end, ‘My Shrink Brings Back Curious Souvenirs’, with the 2nd stanza reading like a Spanish equivalent of the French national motto but for the mind, giving constructive definitions for the words ‘Recalibración’ ‘Equilibración’ & Purificación’. Most of the poems also contain wonderful images that are likely to stick with you permanently, such as ‘Branches fork in endless possibilities / making endless bids for freedom’ in ‘My Shrink’s Window’, and lines that I can only imagine perfectly resonate anyone needing therapy, the most pertinent being ‘May she gently disturb my turf, / helping me to leave this room / not the way I entered’ in ‘My Shrink Asks Me What I am Hoping to Get’.

            I also find Griffiths’ blending of titles into the next line a subtle piece of ingeniousness, a clever piece of textual imagery that creates a neat contrast, one fine example being ‘‘My Shrink Has to Agree’ / that suicide is the final option’. I also found the therapist’s pregnancy as a two-sided metaphor – one of rebirth but also one of abandon, attending to the needs of another vulnerable being – an original take that offered multifarious expressions to the poems from beginning to end.

            Probably to give it its biggest compliment, Griffiths’ manages to speak not only directly to other patients who can sympathise with the narrator, but also opens up an understanding for those who are unaware of the process of therapy. Truly a read that can and should be had by all.

Tania Hershman’s How High Did She Fly?

There is much to ponder on in Tania’s pamphlet, especially her takes on The Crucible, a poignant play in these wild times.

            Tania exhibits deft technique through repetition, creating a whirlpool that makes the reader zero in on the crux of the matters she is aiming to portray. In ‘Mary Warren (1)’ she lays bare the advantages of peeping, and the knowledge to be gained from ‘a small way to look’, and in the end almost breaking a fourth wall by ending the poem with ‘which of us is the great one now, /and which of us is blind?’. Again, in ‘Abigail (5)’, she creates a bombardment of a poem from the simple line, ‘A wild thing may say wild things’ in Miller’s Crucible, giving punchy responses for those who indeed ‘never did wild things’, a clever counter-response with those without ‘wild words’.

            Although not as strong as a collection, the other half of the pamphlet certainly has its highlights. ‘Alone with Scissors’ is a harrowing poem whose line breaks create a wicked suspense, a narrator obviously in the grips of despair who ‘in the darkness, / cutting’ alludes to just more than cutting her own hair. Furthermore, ‘I am’ is an elegantly simple poem with a rhythm fully suited to a floating, weaving ‘part-leaf / part-lake’ that ends on a rather ambiguous ‘bank / you can never reach’.

            The collection overall has certainly made an impression on me, and wishing her further success with her recently released and what if we were all allowed to disappear, something I would definitely love to come across soon.

Reviews by Joshua Cialis:

Yellow by Miranda Peake:

Miranda Peake’s pamphlet Yellow takes seemingly everyday events and presents them in a rather surreal way: steering planes with ‘music and magazines’ or the unresponsiveness of winter. Peake’s way with imagery allows us to live within the pamphlet, forces us to take on its emotion but also its humour and realness of life. It may be for this reason that Miranda Peake has been published in so many high profile magazines such as Ambit, Under the Radar, and by the Poetry School.

My favourite poem within this pamphlet is ‘Dear Virgo’, the story of a day, of waking up, getting ready, travelling through the rain on ‘wet webbed feet’ and reading the day’s horoscope. The imagery of ‘Dear Virgo’ is so subtle that it cleverly builds the scene using sound and movement: a crowd is grown out of shoulders and knees and people ‘sliding towards sandwiches’. This poem seems to be a triumph of everyday action – or inaction whichever way we might look at it.

Why? And other questions by Robin Houghton

Robin Houghton’s pamphlet Why? And other questions successfully blends art and everyday life with poetry. As you might expect from a title including a question, this pamphlet asks many questions which makes this pamphlet moving in ways it wouldn’t be if we were merely told answers. Houghton also does something that lacks in a lot of contemporary poetry (and something that I personally would normally steer clear of), rhyme. Houghton uses rhyme in a strong and subtle way that hammers home his point quite clearly.

Something that I love about this pamphlet is the mention of art throughout the poems; there’s mentions of Rodin, the act of sculpture, photography, and even two poems dedicated to T.J. Cobden-Sanderson the co-creator of Dove typeface. The blend of art and poetry has always been something that intrigues me and allows the reader to build a better image using these well-known artistic motifs. One poem that so successfully manages to blend the line between visual art and poetry in this pamphlet is ‘I ask what colour is the sea’; a poem which is synesthetic in its approach to answering the question.

I find it greyscale of gull belly caught in a squint, a hint of gravestone.
Some days a sick greenish grey. But I ask the world and it says blue.

Some days I see a red horizon, its neat cut staunched by blotting paper,
a frieze of container ships like comedy castles, a spot of shadow play.

These lines successfully and beautifully answer the question posed while simultaneously regarding a certain annoyance at the simplicity of how others might answer ‘But I ask the world and it says blue’. The poem not only answers its question about the sea but also poses many more questions about the power of vision and of comparison.

I enjoyed reading Robin Houghton’s Why? And other questions, if you think you’d like to buy it go visit Live Canon Press’ website to order yourself a copy.

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.

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

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


Words by Jade Wolf and Holly Royle. Picture from the YouTube video of ‘Real Sex Tips’

For the article this week, I decided to merge together two topics: poetry and feminism. Recently watching Desireé Dallagiacomo & Kaycee Filson’s – ‘Real Sex Tips’, performed at the 2014 National Poetry Slam in New Orleans; this discussion started:

The poem raised the question of women, sex, and how literature can be a medium to expose the paradigm in society. I showed the video to Holly, and it prompted the following discussion between the two of us:

Holly: The performance was interesting, particularly when they discussed magazine articles on how women can improve their sex lives, but only including tips on how to pleasure their boyfriends/ husbands. It shows that the media represent sex as focused around women pleasuring men.
Jade: It excludes LGTB+ women in these magazines, as it presumes that every reader is straight.
Holly: It seems outdated that the media is reinforcing ideas of women being subservient to men in their relationships.
Jade: Even though it is from 2014, it is still relevant to today as I don’t believe anything has changed – at least by a significant amount anyway. But it is an excellent example of how literature and poetry can be used to discuss and draw awareness to these issues.
Holly: Mainstream media reinforces typical views of a relationship; a straight couple with a subservient woman, which is preventing this ‘normalised’ view from being changed because it is the most widely broadcast idea in society.
Jade: It was a particularly moving performance, and you could tell that the women were very passionate about the treatment of women and sex. It definitely resonated with me and my own experiences, but it also drew awareness to it when I hadn’t considered the way the media treats women and sex before.
Holly: It was interesting to have an alternative perspective of sex portrayed in the media, but it is concerning that it is surprising to suggest that women can ask for what they want in the bedroom. It is more socially prevalent that the man instigates the events, that it is the man’s pleasure that is more important.
Jade: I think Hugh Heffner is another example of this; he’s being celebrated for encouraging the idea that men have sexual power over women.

Holly: I’m very appreciative of different people wanting different sexual relationships, I feel frustrated when certain ideals of sexual relationships are presented as though they should be the norm. With the Playboy Mansion, all who were involved had the knowledge of the situation and agreed to it, but I feel that it has suggested that men should be able to have sexual relationships with numerous women on the basis that they are ‘superior’. Of course this is a more extreme example and many are not in agreement with this.
Jade: I agree, and I believe that calling Hugh Heffner a ‘legend’ is encouraging this idea which is damaging to women and how they are treated as sexual objects, as they are suggesting he is someone to be looked up to. Sex is a difficult topic though, as the concept of bdsm does conflict with these ideas of subservience, as the dynamic between two people tends to involve one dominant and one submissive; but that is within a consensual environment between two willing participants, rather than the media enforcing this concept on every women.

Upon researching men’s magazines in order to formulate a comparison, we then had the following discussion:
Holly: It’s very gender stereotyping towards the masculine features; the picture of the formula one car alongside the subtitle ‘Sex isn’t a race’ reinforces ideas that men must be interested in things that are socially considered masculine. It is implying that men must be masculine and laddish instead more emotional.
Jade: And another tip was basically ‘don’t cheat’ – I’m not sure how that’s a sex tip, but the fact that it’s even in there is quite shocking. The whole article is very generalised, ‘it’ll take her twenty minutes’, ‘she’ll love this’ – which presumes that every women will enjoy the same things and they are lumped together just because they have the same body. There is nothing that is teaching men to ask women what they like, which is what the poem touches upon. These sex tips are very depersonalised and seems to feed into the social norm that men are the ‘superior’ sex, and therefore everything they do is right.
Holly: The expression ‘South of the border’; why is it such a negative thing to refer to a woman’s vagina? It is almost demonised but then expected to be a source of a man’s pleasure whenever he wants. And there’s also advice to give objective compliments – complimenting a partners body and objectifying them rather than complimenting them as person. It also generalises women as though they are defined only by approval of their bodies.
Jade: I’ve never liked these magazines but now I dislike them even more, the ridiculous extent at which they generalise, objectify and reinforce negative behaviours. It is attitudes like these that lead to issues of men mistreating women.
Holly: Sex tip no.30 ‘One of the biggest reasons women can’t relax during sex if body image. Keep the lights low.’ So…Instead of making her feel better about her insecurities (like any partner should do), just turn the FUCKING LIGHTS OFF?!?!?

And we decided to end the discussion here.
To conclude: we understand that some of these examples can be more extreme (such as Hugh Heffner) and we are not implying that everyone agrees with this, but it is clear that this poem has sparked conversations and questions about the treatment of women; as seen in our discussion. Men’s magazines tend to be very presumptive about women and their bodies, which supports the poems message.
It is important that we continue to use literature and poetry to discuss issues within the world to draw attention to them and to hopefully make a change within society.

We have included the link of the article should you wish to peruse them for yourself.

Listen to the Poem here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmR_HdXDtw8

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


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


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.





Performance: Chester Speakeasy

Words by Joshua Cialis, pictures by Jade Wolf

Last Friday our very own editor, Joshua Cialis was the support act for the renowned poet Mike Garry. This event took place at the launch of the Chester Speakeasy at the Live Rooms. Here is his account of the experience:

Back in august I saw a post on the Speakeasy Facebook page advertising a paid opportunity to support Mike Garry at the Live Rooms. After several takes and a varied selection of poems my audition tape was ready and sent off to await its fate.

Two months pass and an email arrives saying that I won the opportunity to perform. So I select my set list, a varied amalgamation of my better work. On to the venue, notebook in hand. Sit down have a beer and watch all the great open-mic performers (of which Jade and Holly from Foxtrot Uniform were among). Then my turn, Shelly – who was such an amazing and energetic host – introduces me with the warmest welcome to the stage and I do my poems. I am one of those people who is rubbish at remembering things so I had to have my book with me but thankfully I now know my poems enough to only glance. Being a lit stage made it difficult to gauge reaction as I could only see silhouettes of faces and could not actually see their expression but the audience made appreciative sounds so I must’ve done something right. It was only when I sat down after my performance that I remembered that I’d forgotten to perform my newest poem but never mind.

After my poems are performed I leave the stage and wait for the main even, the main man Mike Garry. For those that don’t know Mike’s work; he writes amazing sounding poetry which is accessible and recognisable for all. His blinding performance encompassed all my favourites which I had seen before plus some newer poems. As a swimming teacher, I especially liked ‘Armbands’ and for sentimentality of school days ‘Signify’. Finally Mike Garry finished with my all time favourite Garry poem ‘Ode to St Anthony’. Adding extra feeling and atmosphere by bringing on a viola player to play the backing track. An all round great performance by all.