A Review: Alexa, what is there to know about love? By Brian Bilston

From the title to the very last page this collection of poems feels like perfection. It will stir just about every emotion within you. It will have you laughing, crying, nodding in agreement and just about everything else in between. It is a collection about life, about those things that are topical in this crazy world but also those things which have been with us for time immemorial.

It’s title, Alexa, what is there to know about love? sums up the premise of this work perfectly. These poems are in equal parts about the things that have changed, i.e Alexa, and those things that will never change, that is the subjects we are continually asking about.

And indeed there are many poems that focus on the age old questionsof love in all its many forms. Here you will find love poems for the ages; for the past; for the future. All quirky, all clever and all deliciously original. Take for example Five Clerihews for Doomed Loves, a tribute to some of the most iconic recorded lovers. No spoilers here but I will say that the poets views of Romeo and Juliet had me cheering in agreement!

Drudge Work is a beautiful tribute to the many different manifestations of love , of the impossibility of one solid definition. A theme returned to in Minutes from a Multidisciplinary Symposium on ‘What is Love. And the simple, churning tale found within Status Update: A Lonely Cloud will fell you with it’s final line.

And for a bookworm like me the shape poem Tsundoku is just perfection. To the point where I am sure Brian Bilston has bugged my home and is tapping into a recurring argument with Mr C!! ( And if you want to know what that argument might be, you will have to buy the book!)

This collection is quite simply a work of quiet, unassuming brilliance. Where the use of the familiar, of the rhyming couplet soothes, enhances and then suddenly, unexpectedly destroys. Within these pages is comfort, humour and delicious levels of challenge. The role of the poet feels like the role of an medieval fool, to entertain but also to speak the truth. To tell the passive onlookers of their beauty and their triumph, but also to expose their weaknesses, their foolishness and at times down right stupidity.

For despite it’s universal themes, this is very much a poetry book for our times. With a comforting, a times sing song voice and a crucial bite Bilston offers us commentary and sharp, powerful insight in to recent political and societal events. The eight lines of The White House will have you reeling and for anyone despairing about the rise of the right, Brexit and wider social conditions there are poems within this book that will have you nodding in agreement , even if that agreement is tinged with despair.

Take for example Hold my hand and let’s jump off this cliff. I defy you not cry out at it’s brilliance and start recommending it to anyone you might make eye contact with in the next week!

There are poems here that will break your heart; Penguins and Bird Watching spring immediately to mind. Others will make you smile, maybe even laugh out loud; ee Cummings attempts online banking is a great place to start.

But each page contains a little gem, a word, a line, a verse, most often a whole poem to tuck away for later and savour, and most definitely to share.

Camilla Elworthy, thank you for sharing this pocket rocket with me. I promise you I am busy exploding it just everywhere I go!!!

Rachel

Alexa, What Is There To Know About Love By Brian Bilston is published by Picador on 21st January 2021.

I don’t review enough poetry… #Inherent and #Medusa; Poetry Reviews.

The title says it all…I don’t review enough poetry! And in all honesty I probably don’t read enough poetry either. Despite being an English Graduate poetry has always intimidated me just a little bit. I am worried I will be missing some deeper meaning and feel wholly unqualified to comment and explain.

But maybe it is living through a pandemic or maybe it’s just a confidence that comes with age but suddenly I am finding that I am reading more poetry and approaching it with a wholly different attitude. I am finally asking what this poem says to me, rather than what it is supposed to mean. I am taking the pressure off myself and finding it all the more accessible and enjoyable.

So when Isabelle and Kayla from Fly on the Wall Press offered me the chance to read and review not one, but two of their new titles I grabbed the chance to bring a long overdue poetry review to the blog.

First up is the collection of poems written by Lucia Orellana Damacela , entitled Inherent. These poems form a beautiful patchwork quilt of poetic memories, of touchstones in the poet’s life. They read like a time capsule, providing the reader with lyrical,stolen snapshots of a lifetime of memories.

Throughout the volume there is a sense of the poet growing up and, moving through her consciousness, are the fragments of the things that stay and make her what she is today. These poems are a tribute to and a record of the people, places and experiences that have formed the building blocks of her life.

Throughout the poems runs a deep vein of love, loss and family. Take for example the powerful and tangible expression of grief found in the poems Mourning and Embroidered Past. Sand Burial sees the evolution and progression of this grief and a gentle sense of moving on. There is nothing assumed or trivial about change, in fact it’s disconcerting nature is expressed beautifully in the poem Allitude

Hope and joy, also litter this work, interspersed with pain, a true reflection of a life well lived. The words that form Drenched are heartfelt and moving, a simple poignant portrayal of the birth of her son.

Taken as a whole this collection had a haunting sense of who and what has been important to the poet; of how their essence is found in snatches of memories; memories that imprint themselves on our very senses.

From a very personal collection of individual poems, we move to one longer but equally accomplished lyrical poem. Welcome to the unique and edgy retelling of the Greek myth Medusa; welcome to Medusa Retold by Sarah Wallis.

In many ways Sarah Wallis has stayed true to the essence of the myth. Nuala, our central character is fiery and vivid right from the off. With her natural and apparent affinity with sea, the links to the original myth and Poseidon resonate immediately. But the modern setting is sharp, crystalline and raw. From Nuala’s snake like dreads to her quirky nature, Sarah had harnessed a vibrant, punky feel. There is a sense of wildness and power around Nuala, driving her forwards and pushing the boundaries.

When tragedy strikes, when the sea turns against Nuala in the cruelest way, taking not only someone she loves but turning a passion to pain, her strength hardens to hate. When she finds herself outcast, blamed and vilified all her internal fire becomes uncontrolled.

In her grief Nuala seems to become a monster and the links to Medusa, broken and misunderstood, begin to resonate more strongly. The poem rings with a powerful and heartbreaking portrayal of anger, rage, grief and revenge. The escape from her pain is jagged and raw; it is hard, flint like and darkly compelling.

Here are two poetic works; completely different, but both moving, authentic, powerful and filled with skill, passion and emotion.

If this is taking me out of my comfort zone, I need to stray more often.

Rachel x