Dali: In Verse by Sarah Hobbs

daliSarah Hobbs’ Dali: In Verse is a curious collection of poems that act as strange tours through some of Dali’s celebrated landscapes – not an easy task when one finds time-space so uneven and contradictory. Hobbs does a decent job, weaving in and out of setting description and her own unique observation.

I was expecting Eluard and Breton experiments in this ode to the world’s most famous / infamous surrealist – perhaps this would’ve been more in keeping with poetic reactions to Surrealism, perhaps Hobbs has avoided an obvious route. As a Freudian critic, I was hoping for more shit, sex and incest too. These poems seem more personal than that though; less concerned with Dali’s Oedipal preoccupations, more about her own reactions and to what it might mean in a social context. What she delivers is a hypnagogic topography of the paintings. She does so with a voice that is sometimes like 70s Prog Rock lyrics and sometimes beautifully plain and imagist.

Dali: In Verse experiments with various formal restrictions to varying degrees of success. Her Concrete poems work well, as do her ee cummings style verses, offering a suitably disorientating readly experience – many of these poems would work well as performance pieces, such is the attention to sound and pace. In the main, the formalist poems are rhythmic with lush language choices, however, some of the rhymes do seem somewhat laboured and there are times when the poem overstates or gets a bit clunky.

One thing I do need to mention, and this is a personal issue of mine, is the use of archaic or over-written words and phrases. There are several instances of alas, there’s a thee and even ardently appears. Some of the metaphors and conclusions verge on cliche too.
As mentioned before, Hobbs is at her best when she is in Imagist mode – clean, sharp and concise. My favourite poems from this collection are those straight to point poems that leave unnerving gaps in the reader’s mind: Basket of Bread and Two Pieces of Bread Expressing the Sentiment of Love. Her take on Dali’s images of Christ work in a similar way too. The experiments, fused with a playfulness with sounds, meeting this terse voice come together excellently in Portrait of my Father.

Not all of this was for me. I’m sure many future readers will enjoy what I’ve dismissed. This, I think, is a positive, resulting in a collection that is unafraid to try out different modes of expression. There’s work in these pages that almost every reader will be intrigued by – those with an interest in Dali himself as well as those interested in how a writer works with different forms.

Dali: In verse is available from Amazon.
Find out more about Sarah Hobbs  and her work here.

Review by R. M. Francis


Lunar Tattoos – Available now!

lunar-tattos-front-coverDense Weed is thrilled to announce that the second of their chapbooks – called Lunar Tattoos – is now available from Amazon in both eBook and physical form. It’s a collection of Will Vigar’s poems: landscapes and seascapes, social change, childhood reminiscences and the human psyche.

Click here for the chapbook. (£4.99)

Click here for the ebook. (£3.99)

The Motley Muse – a review of sorts

museMy path toward poetry is marked by the number of things I’ve refused to engage with. I’m a bit late to the party as far as poetry goes, having only really sat down and worked at it for the last couple of years and in that time, I’ve found the concept of live poetry events fraught with horror. Slam? Nein danke! Open Mic nights? Dear God no!

I’m one of those people who thinks that his own poetry belongs on the page, and the page only – fine art projects aside (yay Jenny Holzer!) Consequently, getting out and about simply didn’t appeal. And networking? Well, factor agoraphobia into the mix and you can see why this particular horror sets in.

The very notion of going to an event such as The Motley Muse, for me, seemed a peculiar choice of past time and on the day – and after a fairly appalling hotel breakfast that made me very, very grumpy – we got on the train and arrived in Huddersfield to discover that although we had bought and paid for two tickets, somehow only my name – and not my partners – was on the list of attendees. This was easily and cheerfully sorted out, though. Sort of ironic really, that my partner didn’t really want to be there. He came with me to make sure I got there okay and didn’t have a meltdown, bless him, but most of the time he was dropping in and out at breaks and for lunch.

So, slightly calmed, we sat at the back and let the good times roll.

The first panel, Peter Riley’s “What happened to poetry?” was interesting enough, and charted Peter’s understanding of what poetry is and does and how it has changed since the 1960’s. It’s always good to hear the views of someone who was there, and from an academic perspective, it was a fascinating insight. Sadly, we did tend to disagree on a lot of the meat and bones of what poetry is, but that didn’t make the talk any less interesting. The only problem was with the microphone which kept dropping out at strategic points in the narrative. Had I been closer to the front, I dare say this wouldn’t have been a problem, but as I was semi-hiding, short sections were missed.  But these these were entirely forgivable teething problems and the rest of the day went without a hitch.

Brian Lewis of Longbarrow Press – who has been mentioned on this page before – discussed his career as an independent publisher and gave us an insight into doing more than simply chuck a PDF at lulu.com (no disrespect, I’ve done that myself several time!) He spoke of an completely different ethos as far as publishing was concerned and went on to find new ways of promoting poetry. Not simply by the usual PR strategies, but by guided daytime and nighttime walks, preparing tailored print runs and unusual formatting, etc. A fascinating and illuminating talk that – once I get some money behind me – may well impact on my own output.

Panel two was, for me, the highlight of the day. There was a sterling discussion of translation and diversity within poetry and how the nuances of poetry from other cultures can be successfully transcribed. Translation is foremost in my mind at the moment as I’m in the process of learning – or at least trying to learn – Norwegian to be able to read Olav. H Hauges poetry in its native form. It’s going to be a long road as there are two Norwegian Languages and many, many dialects. My Norwegian friends, when speaking Norwegian, don’t understand really each other as one is from Oslo and the other from Tromso and the dialects are radically different. I’m assured that the dialect from Hauges hometown is archaic at best, so wish me luck there!

Next up were Vahni Capildeo and Chris McCabe who presented a different kind of translation; one of a more ‘artistic’ nature. I should point out that my main areas of study for my Fine Art Degree was sounds and words. I would select words a phrases from random sources and either project them, put them on scrolling marquees and slide shows and filled walls with words, trying to make up random and transient poetry from the juxtapositions. Sometimes I would record and cut up conversations and play them as tape loops through several reel to reel players, so that what started out in sync would fragment and form new sentences and meanings.

One of my MA Creative Writing projects was about experimental writing, cut-ups, dada, sound archives and concrete poetry. I love experimentation with language. So when Vahno and Chris described a poetry project using oscilloscopes, wave patterns and fish spines, you just know I was going to lap it up. For me, this 30 minutes was worth the price of admission alone. Wonderful, challenging and thought provoking. Kudos also for mention XTC’s sublime ‘Sacrificial Bonfire’.

After lunch came the readings, and I must confess I left early, not because of quality but because of train timetables and having to get back to Southampton. I saw the first three readers; Warda Yassin gave us tales of culture clash and the understanding that comes from that, mostly via the medium of Grandmother’s tales that were both charming and alarming (no web presence, otherwise I’d link upi to her excellent work); once again, Brian Lewis took to the stage to perform some of his sublime ‘White Thorns pamphlet (published by Gordian Projects and reviewed here). And finally, Kelvin Corcoran performed some of his Article 50 (published by Longbarrow Press and reviewed here) a dissection of the shambles currently known as Brexit.

AS much as I loved the Article 50 pamphlet, the segments that were read out worked an awful lot better as spoken word. Perhaps its the sarcasm and the warmth in the performance that gave it an extra edge? Given my reluctance to perform any of my work live, it made me wonder if I’m missing a trick. The fact I’m even thinking about it as a result of The Motley Muse, to me at least, indicates a bloody successful day.

Sadly, this was the point at which I had to leave (after being directed to cake, of course), tired, happy, thrilled I’d got through a day without a meltdown (a couple of wobbles, but I was fine) and a wanting to go to more of this sort of thing.

I came back with a huge bag of goodies (all but three of the books on sale, which I already had). I’m currently reading those and will get back to you with reviews of some of those soon, but in the meantime, congratulations to everyone who worked on this symposium. Wonderful work and a highly enlightening day.

Best of all, we missed that damned wedding.






44bfbe257bbebe0405ccff3646e0831e--phd-student-doctoral-student-humorIf I’ve seemed a bit quiet of late, there are a number of good reasons. Firstly, a certain well known blogging site managed to lose my last four posts – something to do with settings their end – and frankly, I’m not in any mood to write them up again just yet, so they have disappeared off to the review neutral zone for the time being.

Secondly, I’ve been chasing up a PhD for myself and after several months, I’ve got myself at place at Portsmouth University where my proposal, entitled ‘The Poetry of Nowhere’ was rapturously received. To my eternal surprise. I start in October. I’ve also learned that four of my poems have been selected for publication – more of those nearer the time – and a book I wrote last year is 95% certain of being published next year. I like to give myself a percentage leeway as I’m never convinced things like that are real until I hold them finished product in my hand.

Thirdly, I also went to my very first poetry related event – The Motley Muse – in Huddersfield. More about that later, but those of you who know me will understand what a colossal achievement that was for me.

So… busy busy busy.

But irregular service will be resumed… especially as I picked up some great stuff at said symposium… speaking of which…

‘Article 50’ by Kelvin Corcoran

article 50Brexit is a subject that I can’t really approach without getting hugely emotional. I was nine when the UK joined the EEC and from then, to the end of school we were told time and time again how wonderful being a European was; how wonderful all these different cultures were and how they would enrich our lives. Europe was our home.

I believed that. I bought into it wholesale. I’m still there. Europe is my home. My identity has, since the age of nine, been European first, English as a sub-set of European.

When the referendum result came through, I wept. Wracked with huge sobs, it felt like my entire identity had been stripped from me. If Europe was my home, I felt – and still feel – like I had been placed under house arrest.

I still struggle with the whole concept, even with much research trying to find a single, good, solid reason for the divorce.

The thought of finding something beautiful coming out of the whole Brexit mess, was inconceivable. I’d tried writing some poetry about it myself, but it always ended up being ghastly gnashing and wailing sixth form angsty kind of stuff.

So, thank heavens for Kelvin Corcoran’s ‘Article 50’, published by the increasingly magnificent Longbarrow Press. Corcoran makes a much better job of the intricacies and confusions caused by invoking the titular Article 50 than I could, and with a much more delicate hand. Mercifully, there is a distinct lack of sixth form angst!

Framed as a personal journey, flying home from the continent, Corcoran introduces the main proponents of the Brexit debacle in ‘Biographies of the Brexiteers’ almost as a Commedia dell’arte troupe. Their excesses, such as the stanza from on of the Biographies:


‘As the girl Europa struggled all at sea, Guido looked on dreaming,

arranged the limbs of the drowned to spell Breakthrough Britain;

and gathered the spoils to build a new nation for old time’s sake.’

…are tempered and questioned.

There is, of course, exasperation and occasional anger but it’s never ‘chest beating’ or tubthumping and despite an obvious political position, there is no explicit polemic, something that would have killed the topic dead in an instant. This instead,  is beautiful, lyrical poetry that comes from a position of anguish, but rather than knee-jerk railing, it calmly asks for rational answers to an irrational situation.

There is pantomime in the descriptions of the politicians, and of the situation, but there also  is a steady hand guiding the conversation and a world weariness that demands balance. What impresses me most is that despite the seriousness and horror of the situation, Corcoran is keen to point out that Brexit or no, those things that are truly important – more than mere borders – will still be available to us; people, hope, friendship, art.

Reading ‘Article 50’ is the first time I’ve felt anything but despair regarding Brexit, and for that, I can only applaud.

Viva Europa!


Article 50 is available for £5+ £1 (UK) postage from Longbarrow Press  by clicking here

Far be it from me to brag…


…but I’ve had a rather lovely review from Amy Kinsman at Riggwelter Press, for my pamphlet ‘Lunar Tattoos’.

“He has shone a light on all those dark corners of childhood and exactly what lurked in them with great dexterity.”

Have a read of the full piece HERE and feel free to click the link at the end to buy a copy!

Or go straight to Amazon and get a copy from HERE for the physical version, or HERE for the kindle edition.

Thanks for your support, guys!


Flesh and Feather

PSX_20180330_190906Drab brown drag bustling

with the snap and jitter

of twelve frames a second.

Squabble tweedling with dickering

kin scrabble-flickering for errant grain.


The farmers sons with .22 strength

strode to rid the field of pests. I watched

with disapproval as once common

sparrows met their lead shot end.


Then  peer-pressure forced my hand.


Always clumsy, I took the rifle, aiming

to miss and killed with my first shot.

Mocked for the tears I shed on finding

the twitching smear of flesh and feather,


I ran, inconsolable and desolate,

pneumatic smack still echoing

it’s blank indifference in the level

fostered fields and blasted meadows.