Book Review: The Sea Refuses No River by Bethany Rivers | @bethanyrivers77 @fly_press @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

The journey of grief is a strange one

and one not often talked about in our everyday reality of this society,

but I know what it’s like to dive deep,

down to the bottom of the wreck,

feel the ribs of the wreck,

after losing a parent so young in life

In this collection, the sea refuses no river, there is an acceptance of the pain and an acceptance of the healing moments; the healing journeys. To quote Adrienne Rich: I came to explore the wreck’, and in this collection, Bethany discovers how, ‘The words are purposes. The words are maps.’

 

My Thoughts

The Sea Refuses No River is a poetry collection that explores the different facets of grief. I was drawn to this book because ever since my mum died ten years ago I’ve felt a need to read other people’s experience of the same, or a similar, loss as it’s helped me process my own emotions.

This poetry collection is stunning! Bethany Rivers explores grief in a very honest and moving way. Some of the poems felt very emotional to me, and others felt very empowering in the way she looks grief right in the eye in such an unflinching way.

The third poem in the collection, At My Father’s Grave, brought a lump to my throat. It’s an easy poem to understand but there is real emotion and poignancy in the idea of looking beyond a loved one’s grave and seeing the flowers that are still thriving in the midst of the sadness. Life continues.

Look behind the stone.

I shuffle forwards and look down.

Snowdrops peeping

above the frosted ground.

I loved how the penultimate poem in this collection, I turn to the daffodils, looks at their brightness, and it felt like the two poems are the bookends of grief – you go from the depths of a dark winter to finally seeing the sunshine in the emerging spring. The poem before this is Every garden is a gift. This is the poem I’ve re-read most often so far. It initially made me think of the last hours of my mum’s life but the more I read it the more I felt that it’s more about allowing grief to be there in your life, finding a way to feel okay with it being there, whilst also allowing yourself to be happy again.

It’s Not About the Broccoli is similarly moving and is a poem that anyone who’s lost someone will connect with. We all have those thoughts of wondering how someone would have done something, and now we’ll never know. Also, how it’s so often the little things that bring up the biggest emotions once a parent has died.

I read this collection in one sitting to start with, I wanted to immerse myself in the whole book. I’ve since gone back at different times and read each poem on its own to get a sense of the individual works. There is a real sense of coming to terms with loss in this collection as a whole. There are poems that feel more raw but the further into the collection you get there is a sense of exploring how to live without your loved one, a sense of finding your place in a world that doesn’t have them in it anymore. It felt to me that the poems become about acceptance, about keeping a memory of your loved one alive while accepting that they are gone. I felt a whole gamut of emotions as I read this collection and by the end I felt a sense of peace.

The Sea Refuses No River is a stunning poetry collection. It’s an honest and personal journey through grief that many people will be able to connect with. I found real solace in this collection and it’s a book that I will return to time and again. I highly recommend this book.

Many thanks to Bethany, and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Sea Refuses No River is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Bethany Rivers Author Pic

Bethany Rivers (M.A. in Creative Writing from Cardiff University) is a poet and author based in Shrewsbury, who has taught creative writing for over eleven years and mentored and coached many writers from the start of their writing project through to publication.

Website : http://www.writingyourvoice.org.uk/

Twitter : @bethanyrivers77

Author page on Facebook 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

Sea Refuses No River BT Poster

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Book Review: The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt |@joenutt_author @unbounders @annecater #randomthingstours

The Point of Poetry Cover

About the Book

What’s the point of poetry? It s a question asked in classrooms all over the world, but it rarely receives a satisfactory answer. Which is why so many people, who read all kinds of books, never read poetry after leaving school. Exploring twenty-two works from poets as varied as William Blake, Seamus Heaney, Rita Dove and Hollie McNish, this book makes the case for what poetry has to offer us, what it can tell us about the things that matter in life.

Each poem is discussed with humour and refreshing clarity, using a mixture of anecdote and literary criticism that has been honed over a lifetime of teaching. Poetry can enrich our lives, if we’ll let it. The Point of Poetry is the perfect companion for anyone looking to discover how.

 

My Thoughts

I have a few favourite few poems from over the years but I aren’t much of a reader of poetry generally, I’ve always found it really intimidating. I did discover some love for poetry when I did an A-Level in English Lit as a mature student and was tasked with analysing Philip Larkin’s Mr Bleaney.  I loved reading and re-reading this poem, and went on to read everything Larkin had written. I still find other poets intimidating though. The Point of Poetry is a wonderful book that has opened my eyes to the joy of poems.

Joe Nutt opens this book with an introduction that immediately made me feel at ease and in safe hands. He takes away the fear of poetry very quickly. Each chapter looks at a different poem and Nutt takes us through the poem giving some background, relating it to present day and making you eager to actually read the poem for yourself and see what you can discover in it. I loved that the poem discussed is placed at the end of each chapter as by the time I got to it I was excited to read it, whether it was a poem I already knew or one I’d never heard of before.

I also really appreciate that Nutt didn’t just pick well-known poems, although there are some in the book, but also that he didn’t just pick poems that he loves. There are poems such as Vicki Feaver’s The Gun which he has issues with but still felt it warranted being read and explored in this book. The selection really made me think about my own reactions to the poems individually and as a whole as I got further into this book, and left me mulling over my thoughts long after I’d finished reading.

I think the chapter that grabbed me the most was the one about Holly McNish. I’d heard of her before but had never read (or watched her perform) her poetry before. I was fascinated by her poem Famous For What? and am definitely going to buy one or two of her collections very soon. I also very much enjoyed the chapter on Rita Dove’s The Bistro Styx, and the comparisons with Philip Larkin’s Church Going so I will be seeking out more of her work too.

I also want to mention the chapter on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I had to study this poem in my second year at secondary school and I hated it! I loved English, it was my favourite subject and I loved reading but the way the teacher taught us that poem made it feel never-ending and unbearable. I’ve loathed it ever since because it always takes me back to those lessons. However, Nutt’s exploration of this poem has made me see it in a different light – I’ve since sought out my copy and re-reading it now as a 40 year old I found so much more in it and I’m so glad that I had my eyes opened to it.

I’ve always been much more drawn to poems that make me feel something. Often poems that make me cry are the ones that stay with me. I feel like this book has reminded me that different poems bring out different emotions and that I should be more open-minded and actually have more faith in my own abilities to find things in poems from now on.

I do have to quickly mention how beautiful this book is. It’s a gorgeous hardback and the endpapers have a lovely illustration of keys on them (which immediately made me feel that perhaps this book could unlock the world of poetry for me, and it did just that!).

I absolutely loved this book! I feel that it’s given me back the confidence to start picking up more poetry collections again and to spend time reading poems out loud and taking time to really think about them. Not only that, it’s made me excited to read poetry again!  I’m so glad I read The Point of Poetry and I whole-heartedly recommend it!

Many thanks to Unbound for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Point of Poetry is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Joe Nutt Author Picture

Joe Nutt’s nineteen years teaching experience in the UK unusually ranged from the highly selective, private sector to challenging, inner city state schools. In 2000, he was seconded to work on a Department for Education project from his English teaching post at the City of London School and quickly established a new, commercial career but continued to write for English Literature students. He has written books on Shakespeare, John Donne and most recently a Guidebook to Paradise Lost arguably the most difficult poem in the English canon, for one of the world’s leading academic publishers. He publishes educational research internationally and is a national, and international conference speaker. He is now one of the leading educationalists in the UK and writes a fortnightly column for the Times Educational Supplement.

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

FINAL Point of Poetry Blog Tour Poster

 

 

#BookReview: All Her Starry Fates by Lady Grey @starryfates #starryfates

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About the Book

In all her starry fates, grey explores how the otherworldly relates to the everyday— with poems about love, loss, memory, inheritance, and belonging.

 

My Thoughts

I’ve always enjoyed reading poetry but have got out of the habit of picking up poetry collections in more recent years so I was thrilled when Anne Cater of Random Things Tours offered me the chance to read and review All Her Starry Fates for the blog tour.

I was expecting to enjoy reading this collection, and I really, really did,  but I wasn’t expecting it to speak to me in the way it did. I found part one of the collection really connected with me and I found I had to stop and really think about each poem before I moved on to the next one. There is one poem in particular that I haven’t stopped thinking about: ‘was i too hard on myself / or / not heart enough / – question’. I love the play on the sound of hard and heart and how they seem similar, but also how it makes you think about how hard you are on yourself and whether there was any heart there. There is a real theme of isolation and loneliness, and of trying to find the courage to seek your place in the world and it seemed to reflect so many of my own emotions at the time I was reading. It brought me a lot of solace.

I really enjoyed how for the most part the poems were free flowing without a set structure. Most of the poems don’t have a title at the top of the page but a lot of them do seem to have a short title, which also becomes a small conclusion, at the end of a poem. Some of the later poems do have titles at the top of the page, which made it feel like the characters throughout the poems were showing themselves more, were becoming more confident and I loved that.

Parts one and two seem to be more an exploration of feelings whereas the poems in the third part seem to be telling more of a story which encapsulate the emotion from the earlier poems. It felt to me like the people expressing their thoughts in the early poems could be the people whose stories where being told in the later poems. The following two parts are a mix of story and emotion, which brings the whole collection together. There is a real cohesion through the parts of this poetry collection: it feels like the collection as a whole is a musing on the things in between that matter to us and about finding where we belong. The themes of finding a place where you fit definitely runs throughout. There were poems that felt they were about a lover, others about a child; some were musings on life in general – the happy and the sad. All seem to be about being who you are: finding the courage to be yourself and not letting others bring you down or affect you.

All Her Starry Fates is a poetry collection that I would recommend to everyone as it’s very accessible but also has a real depth to it that can be enjoyed on many levels. I adored this collection and am so pleased that I had the chance to read it; it’s a book that will really stay with me and I know I will return again and again to these beautiful poems. I highly, highly recommend this collection.

 

All Her Starry Fates is out now in ebook and print and available here.

This blog tour was organised by Anne Cater at Random Things Tours. I received a free copy of the ebook. All thoughts are my own.

 


 

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at the following stops:

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National Poetry Day 2015

Nat Poetry Day

I can’t believe that I’ve only just realised that today is National Poetry Day! I want to share a few poems from two of my favourite poets.

The first two are from Wendy Cope, whose work I adore. Wendy Cope has such a warm and wonderful style that makes every single one of her poems a joy to read. Some are amusing with a touch of sadness underneath when you stop and think, and others just really make you laugh. I have all of Cope’s collections and often just grab one of her books off my shelf to read some poems at random.

serious conserns tape

Flowers

Some men never think of it.
You did. You’d come along
And say you’d nearly bought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.

The shop was closed. Or you had doubts –
The sort that minds like ours 
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.

It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile. 
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

I love this poem, there is much under the seeming simplicity of it. Sometimes I read it and think it’s a wry and cynical poem about an ex; sometimes I think it’s echoing the sentiment we all have that someone shouldn’t have when they do buy you something nice; and then other times it feels like it’s a poem about grief. Ultimately, it’s a poem about what someone almost had, and now they’re left with only memories. So from what seemed like quite a cheery poem at the start ends up feeling full of melancholy. I adore that about it because poetry should invoke strong feeling when you read it.

And my other favourite by her is:-

Lossserious concerns

The day he moved out was terrible –

That evening she went through hell.

His absence wasn’t a problem

But the corkscrew had gone as well.

I have sent a copy of this poem to so many friends over the years when they’ve been going through a break up, I just think it’s perfect!

My other favourite poet is Philip Larkin. I first read one his poems when it came up in my English A-Level class and I loved it. I then sought out all of his other works and devoured them. When it came to choosing a university I chose based on which one had the best opportunity for me to further study Larkin’s work. I have many favourite poems by him that I could pick but the first one that always comes to mind is this one.

whitsun weddings

Home Is So Sad 

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,

Shaped to the comfort of the last to go

As if to win them back. Instead, bereft

Of anyone to please, it withers so,

Having no heart to put aside the theft 

And turn again to what it started as,

A joyous shot at how things ought to be,

Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:

Look at the pictures and the cutlery.

The music in the piano stool. That vase.

The first time I read Home is so Sad I sobbed because it reminded me so much of going into my close relative’s house just after she’d died and everything was exactly as she’d left it. It was the weirdest feeling because I knew she was gone but it didn’t make sense when her cardigan was still over the back of her chair from where she’d left it just hours earlier. I’m sure many people will have the same feeling when they read this poem, that it could be about their own life. It still makes me emotional every time I read or hear this poem but poetry is supposed to have an impact on us and it’s a wonderful thing when something you’ve read many, many times can still give you goosebumps and make you cry.

Who are your favourite poets? What are some of your favourite poems? Please share them in the comments below, I’d love to hear your choices.

Review: Six Poets: From Hardy to Larkin by Alan Bennett

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Six Poets: From Hardy to Larkin is a wonderful anthology of poetry; it’s a book that I know I will go back to time and time again. I was already a fan of Philip Larkin but I knew only little of the other five poets so it was a chance to learn more. Alan Bennett’s voice comes through as you read this anthology, his wonderful personality and enthusiasm run right through the book. It was fascinating to learn in the introduction that Bennett used to feel that ‘literature was a club of which I would never be a proper member’ and that there are still poets that he has never managed to read, and how hearing about them even now reminds him ‘how baffled one can feel in the face of books’. Immediately this is reassuring to anyone who picks this book up that they are in good hands, that this isn’t an academic book, this is a book for everyone to enjoy without needing any prior knowledge or understanding of poetry.

Alan Bennett selected over seventy poems from six poets –  Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman, John Betjeman, W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Philip Larkin for this anthology. Each poet is introduced with a brief biography, which is followed by selected poems interspersed with candid commentary. The way the book is set out, with the poets being written about in chronological order, allows the reader to easily understand how one poet was influenced or inspired by his predecessor. Some of the poems Bennett has chosen from one poet link together with poems form another in the anthology, which again makes it easy to grasp common themes and how each poet put his own stamp on a sometimes similar idea.

Bennett strikes a great balance between serious biographical information and amusing anecdotes. We learn that Larkin ordered that all his papers be destroyed after his death; that Hardy wrote a poem in tribute to the wife he treated terribly when she was alive, and then proposed to his second wife by pointing out a plot in the cemetery next to his first wife’s grave and explaining that it would be hers! Auden couldn’t bear to edit his work so he would take the best of what he’d been working on and put it together with his favourite lines saved from his other unfinished works and make it work as a single poem!

Six Poets was an utter joy to read. I thought I would enjoy the part on Larkin the most seeing as he is one of my favourite poets already but Bennett introduced the other five poets in such a way that I very much enjoyed reading about them too and feel that I have a better understanding now. It’s actually made me want to seek out more poetry, and how wonderful that is when a book can make you enthusiastic to want to find out more on a subject that has previously felt a little intimidating!

I rate this book ten out of ten and I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

Six Poets: From Hardy to Larkin is out today on Amazon.

I received this book from Yale University Press via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Accidental Emeralds by Vivienne Tuffnell

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This is a wonderful collection of poetry, it really does capture the feeling of longing in a beautiful and thought-provoking way.

I have to admit to having a favourite poem – Autumn Leaf. This poem just captured so much of how I’m feeling at the moment, not just as we approach the end of summer and the change of season into autumn but the many changes in my own life that I’m having to come to terms with. I just felt a feeling of not being alone in my struggles wash over me on reading these lines:

How long I may travel

I shall not know

Until I begin to sink;

The source and the sea,

They are still certain,

But the journey,

As you know, is not.

I also took a lot from Mind Mountains for similar reasons to Autumn Leaf. Just the much needed reminder that however much my own life contains me, there is so much more beyond the garden fence than my own thoughts.

Spring is…? was also a lovely poem, one that made me smile. I loved the line ‘It changes the rules and snows in May’ because that is just so much of how life is. Unpredictable and yet somehow still beautiful.

And of course I adored Urban Springtime as it gave insight into the title for this collection. Accidental emeralds is such a lovely title and to know where it comes from is a much-needed reminder that there is beauty even in things that are broken. This poem in particular will stay with me, it’s something to cling to.

Overall the collection can be enjoyed at face value as a group of poems about the changing seasons, but deeper than that is the underlying reminder that things change, things break, things pull you in different directions but there is still something beautiful in all of it if we just sit a while and take it all in.

A 10/10 star read.