The Poetry Kit MAGAZINE


Reviews 2







How Hall:  Tom Rawling.  Reviewed by Martyn Crucefix

Larkhill: Jim Bennett.  Reviewed by Martyn Halsall

Over and out from Down Under; Waiata Dawn Davies  Reviewed by Jim Bennett

Framed and Juxtaposed; Lesley Burt.  Reviewed by Jim Bennett

Antisocial: David Blaine.   Reviewed by Gill O'Halloran




Tom Rawling, How Hall: Poems and Memories, a passion for Ennerdale (Lamplugh and District Heritage Society, 2009), £7.50, ISBN 978-0-9547482-1-0

How Hall: Poems and Memories, a passion for Ennerdale: Tom Rawling.  Reviewed by Martyn Crucefix


Tom Rawling, How Hall: Poems and Memories, a passion for Ennerdale (Lamplugh and District Heritage Society, 2009), £7.50, ISBN 978-0-9547482-1-0

Tom Rawling, How Hall: selected poems of Ennerdale poet Tom Rawling, read by the author (Lamplugh and District Heritage Society, 2009), £??, CD audio recording


As a child in the 1920s, Tom Rawling grew up in the Ennerdale valley in what was then called Cumberland. It was not until his retirement in the 1970s and ‘80s that he began to write poetry as a man “haunted . . . even bullied by his memories” as Anne Stevenson’s insightful introduction explains.


How Hall is a new edition of more than 70 poems, three pieces of autobiographical prose and some wonderfully evocative photographs. The accompanying CD is an audio recording of an extensive reading given in 1983. Rawling shared with Heaney the kind of vivid recall of childhood that yielded the title of his first book, Ghosts at My Back. Anne Stevenson – who met Rawling in Oxford in the late 1970s – rightly directs us not to dismiss his work as “romantic retrospection” because he “wrote poems to tell the truth and in them rehearsed the daily rituals of life and death”. There is no room for sentimentality in Rawling’s view of nature: a pig was to be cared for only till the “pole-axe fell” (‘Hooks in the Ceiling’) and chickens are nurtured carefully, but in their “due season, each neck pulled / . . . the admired knack of killing” (‘Feathers’).


Perhaps his most distinctive poems are those that deal with angling, especially fly-fishing for salmon and sea-trout. These poems take us to the riverside at night, “to the dub / where sea-trout rest” where we might “hear an old ewe’s husky cough, / the water slopping, slapping” (‘Night Fisherman’). It’s easy to see why Ted Hughes admired these poems as Rawling celebrates man’s ability to encounter the Other in what often becomes a frankly spiritual communion. Profound, vivid, honest, accessible – these are poems that at once connect us to a lost past and prepare us for a world in which the environment must again become our close companion.






Larkhill: Jim Bennett.  Reviewed by Martyn Halsall, Poetry Editor, Third Way.

Jim Bennett is a generous poet and this collection is a small library of open-hearted experiences. Larkhill summarises the work of a writer who observes closely, and translates what he sees and feels into responses that engage, amuse and extend our perceptions. Pithy, wry, witty and wise, this is poetry that embraces our world in all its paradoxical potential. Revelations are seasoned with questions; a nod at the familiar with a recognition of pain behind a brave smile. This magnetic poetry often contests the expected, by working from a broad canvas to a telling detail, like a three legged newt, a squashed fly, or a staple’s rust-print on old papers. There is the constant delight of acute observation: ‘clambering clouds’, or birds that are ‘just a flash of pepper’ in sunlight. Such detail re-opens expansive topics, summoning our re-appraisal. Children, sieving gravel for bullets, summarise the aftermath of war. An older couple, with their comfortable fantasies about literature and fine art, offer a deep reading about love and imagination. So, smile at the clown in the workplace, mourn with the bereaved mother, pause by the charred books and investigate the detective’s post-script. Jim Bennett writes of ‘the new world’, and also presents one, in all its intriguing promise. 



Over and out from Down Under, is a pocket sized booklet of poems available signed from the author for $NZ 12,50 post free 


Waiata Dawn Davies

for details.

Over and out from Down Under; Waiata Dawn Davies  Reviewed by Jim Bennett


(pub Sviako Associates, Petone, New Zeeland  isbn  978-0-473-15851-4  ($NZ 12,50 post free from publisher or author)



This is a long awaited fourth volume of poetry from the irrepressible New Zeeland poet Waiata Dawn Davies.  Well known in the UK from her regular visits and for her virtual presence through the internet, this collection of new poems contains excellent poems about places and things important to her including several that look at the process of writing poetry and what happens at poetry readings.  Although often considered poor subjects for poetry here Waiata has found something worth saying.  In THE READING for example she uses titles and phrases from many well known poems to lead the reader to define poetry, and really finds it to be so many things that it is actually indefinable as a single thing because it is so much. 


In her poem PROCRASTIPOLOGY she looks at all the reasons for not writing, and in it shows just how easily distracted a writer can be. here she deals with Thursday;


I started to write a serenade.

But saw my dressing gown was frayed

I know I really should have stayed

at work, instead I quickly made

my way to the shops for a new gown, plaid

and never finished the serenade.


Waiata’s use of half rhyme and visual rhyme here is inventive and makes the poem memorable and extraordinary.


She is not frightened off by form or rhyme though her best work is in free verse.  In CAPE WANBROW, she shows a great deal of craft, and avoids obvious clichés, but at the same time delivers a 10 line free verse poem which is outstanding in the way it uses images in just a few words to give a picture of place which is outstanding.  Here she shows that her free verse contains many poetic devises to keep the poem moving along, as here with very good use of enjambment, and assonance.   She writes;


calm harbour waters

mirror moored launches


a red courier van speeds

downhill then stops


She writes with affection about places she knows well or has visited.  Whether it is  about a wasted afternoon at City Lights Bookshop in San Francisco, or hunting on Dansey’s Pass she takes the reader there to stand with her and share the experience.   It is her ability to capture a feeling for an event, person or place in a few well chosen words that make her poems memorable and outstanding.  And it is her ability to recognise the details that make a place unique and at the same time recreate that in words that makes her poetry ring true with a unique vision and voice.


Over and out from Down Under, is a pocket sized booklet of poems available signed from the author for $NZ 12,50 post free  contact  waiata.davies@INFOGEN.NET.NZ   for details.




Framed and Juxtaposed by Lesley Burt


Framed and Juxtaposed; Lesley Burt.  Reviewed by Jim Bennett


In this collection of poetry Lesley Burt invites readers to join her on walks along the promenade, while we listen to the screech of birds.   Look intro a secret garden, into courtyards and lives.  She shows us landscapes populated with wildlife and people who could almost be us.  In short these are fine observational poems that reveal much about the world as Lesley sees it.


In Landscapes for example she reveals Cornwall as;



dark cliffs, standing stones,

King Arthur’s castle hunched against gales.

Seascapes churn and roar;

surfers rough-ride them.


And contrasts this with Tuscany as;



olive trees gather in groves,

like gnarled, grey-headed grandmothers,

to watch crows rummage

through fields of dry sunflowers.


It is this sharp edge of contrast which for me marks out this poet as someone special, her descriptive style and timing exceptional.  Before you get the impression that this is a collection of poems about the natural world, can I just say that it is that but it is also much more.  It is perhaps when Lesley brings together all of the areas that she writes about that the strongest poems emerge.  She writes with clarity about nature, evokes a sense of place in her descriptive poems, and is able to characterise places and people with a deft stroke of detail. Here in Love, Cappuccino and Almond Cookies, she contrasts two couples seen in a cafe;


The young couple whisper,

mouths and noses close,

laugh, leave hand in hand;

the old ones sip,

watch the street in silence.



If successful poetry is that which stays with you long after you have read it,  then there is a lot of very successful poetry in this collection.  There are images here that are exact and memorable. Precise encapsulations of life.  In the poem Last Goodbye for example Lesley contrasts a characters remembered parting from her mother, as she made her way to school, to a final parting when she died.   In lesser hands this contrast might have become maudlin or melodramatic, the people lost in emotion, the event drowned, but here it is handled perfectly;


she sinks into the seat:

"If this is it . . . I hope it’s quick."

I, speechless,

pat her arm; start the car.


This uses sentiment without sentimentality, a powerful use of words to evoke a moment with finesse, and many of the poems in this first collection display the same sure footedness.  


Framed and Juxtaposed; Lesley Burt.  Pub Searle Publishing 2009



Antisocial by David Blaine

Antisocial: David Blaine.   Reviewed by Gill O'Halloran


David Blaine, ‘the allusionist, not the illusionist’ is an editor with the Outsider Writers Collective. His poetry has appeared in numerous online and print magazines. Antisocial is his third collection, published by Outside Writers Press.


David Blaine’s ‘Antisocial’ is an intelligent book – a wry look at the world and its misdemeanours, whether greed, political skulduggery or the misappropriation of religion. But it’s not a rant, neither is it polemic; it’s far more clever than that.


In Assholes Pantoum an unauthorized composition of Dick Cheney,

David makes skilful use of the pantoum form to expose a politician’s lies and counter-lies.


‘We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.

It must have something to do with his background, his upbringing.

Well, you can’t anticipate everything;

I did misspeak…we never had any evidence that he has acquired a

nuclear weapon’.


Or more witty, as in the dark humour of ‘Won’t You Come to my House for Supper’


In Sudan the children are starving

while we're turning food into oil.


I'm getting eight miles per baby this week.


What time can I pick you up?


Or the lighter touch of B.S. Mentality


What Christ needed

was more concrete imagery

like the son of man…now that must have pissed his mother off.’


A happy surprise was that in re-exploring these poems after the first read, I found myself piercing the outer layer to find, not just underlying grit, but tenderness too:


Let’s live for a while on the less severe side’  ‘Infidelity’




Fuck fact

Tell me your story’  History’s Child


Blaine is not standing above us, or pointing the finger at others

We are all implicated, as in the shockingly beautiful Psychosis,


‘This is where the saints come

When they’re just no good anymore..


A thin man cries

So people won’t notice it’s raining


This is where the Saints come

When we’re just no good anymore’


and at the end of The Usual Suspects


Because they are the hands of all

Because we are the Usual Suspects’


My one question is that David names his ideal reader as someone ‘who doesn’t usually read poetry’ whereas there are references to Dylan, Ginsberg, Kerouac, JD Nelson, which require some knowledge of poetry to appreciate them, eg Apophasis  - a response to one of JD Nelson’s experimental poems.


But this is a small point about a small number of poems. Blaine’s ‘Antisocial’ is a dazzling collection that will make you wince, grin and then pause to reflect. You can buy it as an E book, which is how I first read it. But I’m sending off for a hard copy. I want to feel my fingers turn the pages for this one


You can buy it from