Howie Good: frowny face, Redhawk Publications, 2023
Finding power in brevity, Howie Good's frowny face attacks the reader with a seemingly clashing juxtaposition of words and images, causing us to linger for longer on each and unearth new meaning amidst myrioramas of apocalypse, advertisements, classic paintings and displaced figures. A triumph of Weltschmerz and humour.
Lara Dolphin: Chronicle Of Lost Moments, Dancing Girl Press & Studio, 2022
With one eye full of love, and one eye wary of life's dangers, these poems peer into “this crude thing we call existence” where “there is room enough here for us all”, all the while whispering to you confessions that they really shouldn’t be admitting to. If intelligence is, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time, then Dolphin shows us the shackles and ridiculousness of modern life one must protest against, while revelling in the small miracles that we should all cherish.
Linda McKenna: In the Museum of Misremembered Things (Doire Press, 2020)
Doire Press is a mighty champion of new voices in Irish poetry, and as expected, In the Museum of Misremembered Things is everything you might want from a debut: a voice that feels singular, unique and informed. Stepped in intimacies and peculiarities from yesteryear, McKenna is as much historian as poet here. Not afraid to question, ridicule or adulate where necessary, these poems show us that while the centuries may change, civilisation – and what we inherit from the scope of humanity – rarely does.
Glen Wilson: An Experience on the Tongue (Doire Press, 2019)
Many 'exciting new voices' have been heralded in poetry, but this debut at once feels familiar and yet uncommonly fresh. Wilson has made the pastoral tradition his own, blending together echoes of Heaney and Hughes with a modern voice that touches upon feelings of loss, humility and celebration. The poems move from simple astonishment with nature, to the often complex pressures of contemporary life, showing a writer who is keenly aware not only of past ways, but also the dangers of an encroaching future. An Experience on the Tongue is sure to be realised as a cornerstone of Northern Irish poetry in years to come.
Gaynor Kane: Memory Forest (Hedgehog Press, 2019)
From exploring our fragile temporality, to finding celebration, Memory Forest never strays too far from the ultimate certainty: death. Kane's stance is one of assurance, always believing that rebirth is possible, whether through a shift in perception, or the mining of memories. Direct and defiant, these poems mix grim pathos and good humour to find a mood beyond bereavement, where there may be suffering, yet it still feels good to be alive.
Joseph Allen: Clabber Street Blues (Greenwich Exchange, 2018)
Allen, as always, is reflective and forward-looking in his writing, balancing in his hand the certainty of death against the uncertainty of time. These poems read like existential death notices, thick with the ‘betrayal of childhood’, where ‘youth is old’ like the character of a Tom Waits song. Allen’s universe is inhabited by family, the lost and the unemployed, each unable to share their pain. Within, a damnation is painted where hope is found in music, in writing, and in keeping oneself a sensible distance apart from the world, a distance frequently impinged by the young and the dead.