Interview | Jenny Lewis, poet

Meet Jenny Lewis in person at the tenth and final BookBlast 10×10 Tour talk at  Waterstones, Manchester, Deansgate @waterstonesMCR 6.30 p.m. Thursday 8 November. Theme: Claiming the Great Tradition: Women Recalibrate the Classics. In conversation with Michael Schmidt @Carcanet, chair, and poet & translator, Jane Draycott. Book Tickets

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Pembury, Kent and grew up in London.

What sorts of books were in your family home?
Milton, in his Areopagitica, advises us to read “promiscuously” and, as a somewhat lonely, post-war London child, I did just that, reading voraciously anything I could lay my hands on from my grandmother’s leather bound classics (Shakespeare, Dickens, Tennyson …); dictionaries; encyclopedias; my father’s old medical books; the modern novels I found on my mother’s bedside table (The Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute) to children’s books such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, comics (The Beano, The Dandy) and, of course, Kellogg’s Cornflakes packets and, most memorably, tins of Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup with the picture of a lion surrounded by bees and the legend “Out of the strong came forth sweetness” which puzzled me. Was the lion dead or just sleeping and why were the bees swarming over him? One of life’s great moments was when I realized there were such things as libraries where there were thousands of books to be borrowed. From then on, I half lived in the Hammersmith Library near where we lived.
Continue reading Interview | Jenny Lewis, poet

Interview | Nafeesa Hamid, poet | @NafeesaHamid

Meet Nafeesa Hamid in person at the BookBlast 10×10 Tour event, Waterstones, Birmingham, 24-26 High Street, B4 7SL  @Bhamwaterstones 6.30 p.m. Thursday 25 October. Theme: The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write with reference to the anthology edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. In conversation with Elizabeth Briggs SAQI BOOKS chair, and poet, Aliyah Holder. Book Tickets

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Pakistan and came to the UK at aged four. I grew up in Alum Rock, inner city Birmingham where I lived until nineteen. There was (and still is) a massive sense of community in Alum Rock, which is lovely for the most part, but also means everyone knows everything about everyone. I attended school in Alum Rock – Shaw Hill Primary and Park View Secondary (involved heavily in the Trojan Horse Scandal).
Continue reading Interview | Nafeesa Hamid, poet | @NafeesaHamid

Review | Four Points Fourteen Lines, Tony Chan | Book of the Week

‘You doing this for charity?’
‘No, it’s entirely selfish’, I reply, ‘A wish to live, before life passes by’.

Tony Chan – originally Australian, but now living and working in England – composes a poem a day as he treks between the four extreme cardinal points of the British mainland. His walk begins on 3 January, 2015, at the northernmost point, Dunnet Head, continuing on to Ardnamurchan Point and Lowestoft Ness, before ending at Lizard Point on 21 March.

There were times, at bedtime, when my daddy
Told the one lonely tale that he knew best,
The sino-story, Journey to the West,
With its magi heroes, Monk and Monkey.
Here I stand, having chased my father’s voice,
Rock under my feet, waves against the rock,
And waves all through the line of nine o’clock:
At journey’s end, there is only one choice.

Continue reading Review | Four Points Fourteen Lines, Tony Chan | Book of the Week

Interview | Tony Chan | Author of the Week

Tell us a little bit about yourself
Well, I’m the kind of person who finds these kinds of questions a tad difficult; perhaps that tells you enough about me!

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Pretty much the usual: pilot, football superstar … but also, for about six months, a hotel concierge.

What books have had a lasting impact on you?
Le Petit Prince has always held resonance, primarily for the way that it deals with distinction between a child’s and an adult’s ability to imagine things. From the canon, Joyce, Yeats, Catcher in the Rye, Huckleberry Finn and Catch-22 have all won my affection at some time. Also, there’s definitely something that has always grabbed at me, out of Steven M. Newman’s biographical Worldwalk – a copy of which I received as a young teenager, after my mother fished it out randomly from the bargain box of a low-end bookseller in Sydney.

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Review | Skies, Alison Brackenbury | Book of the Week

“Alison Brackenbury loves, lives, hymns and rhymes the natural world and its people like no other poet.” Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales

Brackenbury’s latest (ninth) collection, Skies, reflects on childhood memory, Christmas in the country and stories from the WW1 passed down by relatives and friends.

It was the First World War.
Her husband was away.
She knew fear, but also found
new freedom in the day . . . Continue reading Review | Skies, Alison Brackenbury | Book of the Week

Interview | Alison Brackenbury | Author of the Week

Alison Brackenbury’s Carcanet collections include Dreams of Power (1981), Breaking Ground (1984), Christmas Roses (1988), Selected Poems (1991), 1829 (1995), After Beethoven (2000) and Bricks and Ballads (2004). Her poems have been included on BBC Radio 3 and 4, and 1829 was produced by Julian May for Radio 3. Her work recently won a Cholmondeley Award.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in what now seems almost like Victorian England, in the Lincolnshire countryside. I won a scholarship to Oxford, but quickly found that I preferred writing to academic work. So my First and I worked in a technical college library, then, for twenty-three years, in my husband’s metal finishing business. I had a child – and shaggy ponies – and too many cats. The planet heated. I had plenty to write about, and managed to produce nine poetry collections (and do a surprising amount of broadcasting on BBC Radio). Now I am a Retired Person, I at last have time to go round and give readings from all these poems . . .

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A successful writer of historical fiction, with an Irish wolfhound! I don’t regret not having written the fiction. I do wish I’d managed to keep a dog.
Continue reading Interview | Alison Brackenbury | Author of the Week