Title: Everyone Knows this is Nowhere
By: Alice Furse
Publisher: Burning Eye Books
Published: October 2014
In world where university puts students £30,000 plus in debt, Alice Furse’s novel about a disillusioned, newly graduated woman is startlingly relevant. Furse writes with the weary weight of personal experience about a young woman trapped in a mundane job, despite her intelligence and university degree. The tedium of the job drives her (the un-named protagonist) to try and discover some kind of meaning in her life. This slow realisation forms the start of her journey.
The protagonist’s romantic relationship with a man known only as “The Traffic Warden” is a metaphor throughout the novel for her internal struggle- their relationship wavers parallel to her psychological journey. As their relationship grew out of meeting at university, this aspect becomes especially poignant when Furse chooses to describe the absurdity of the current educational system. The Traffic Warden relationship is also a gauge for the journey of the protagonist towards a mature understanding of herself and the outside world. This extended metaphor is amplified by the symbolism of the protagonist’s dreams- she dreams repeatedly of feeling trapped in her soul destroying job and tedious relationship.
Don’t worry- there are no New Age style revelations in the book. Instead it is about finding contentment in the ordinary and moving forward towards larger goals at a steady pace. Furse’s focus is how the characters ARE as themselves. She manages a large cast and range of characters with detail and characteristics that anyone who has worked in an office will recognise.
This book is for anyone who has done a degree and quickly become disillusioned with life after it. And that is a pretty broad audience.
My other blog: http://diaryofanautodidact.wordpress.com/ has been nominated for the BLOG NORTH AWARDS. Please take a look and then vote for me here: http://www.blognorthawards.com/ !!!!
My ebook “CATHARSIS” a collection of found poems, drawings, diary entries and a play script is available on offer at only 77p for another two weeks.
The book has mental health themes, looking at The System, manic-depression, personality disorders, self-harm and psychometric testing across a variety of media.
Using words “found” in my hospital records the poetry in the book tries to unite the confusion of experiencing mental illness and taking on difficult themes.
One of the main themes of the book is the reduction of psychiatric symptoms to statistics and psychometric tests. Mental illness is not based on numbers, it is based on emotion, uncontrollable impulses and subjective visions.
The play script in the book is called “Flat Space” and looks at the uncomfortable issue of “revolving door” patients who are frequently admitted to hospital and find it increasingly difficult to handle the real world as a result.
Meanwhile the drawings and diary entries in the book are raw examples of things I created whilst actually in a psychiatric hospital.
This book was difficult for me to write, but I felt I NEEDED to write it and get it out into the world. For me the journey towards this book has been a process of catharsis- looking at issues I have experienced with brutal honesty in order to face and conquer them.
So please take a look if you have a spare couple of hours to read a first-hand account of mental illness: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Catharsis-Azra-Page-ebook/dp/B00MW6EPH4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410687080&sr=8-1&keywords=catharsis (there is also a physical copy available on the same amazon page).
Recently some of the poems from the book have been used on Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s (the author of “The Boy Who Could See Demons”) blog: http://www.carolynjesscooke.com/blog/
Title: Single Skin
By: Steve Dearden
Steve Dearden seems to see humanity as coming under one “Single Skin”. His stories reflect this by taking on the full range of human experiences.Yet this bigger picture is mostly achieved by focusing on the small stuff. Dearden has a talent for isolating minute details to the extent that he leaves the reader’s suspension of disbelief little space to doubt that the stories are real.
Dearden is also a heavy user of vivid imagery. He spots extraordinary details in ordinary occurences. This creates a surreality similar to the odd realisation that we are made of cells when skin is examined under a microscope. Adding to the sense of the surreal in the collection, are the obsessions and dreams of Dearden’s characters. These elements are usually metaphors for larger themes, but they still result in the errie surface image of the unexpected.
Eroticism (though not in any traditional fashion) is also an important trait of the stories. I was struck particularily by the description of a man who gets an erection whenever he is arriving home on a plane: “This is not an erection, but as the plane banks along the river bank my penis hardens against my leg”. This one of many references to bizarre sexual experiences throughout the collection.
The sexual occurances are also a marking of the larger existential thought patterns that most of Dearden’s characters have to a certain extent. All of the characters are lost. Some of them are in denial about being lost, or are actively trying to not be lost anymore, but they are all ultimately waiting to be found. The beautiful torture of Dearden’s writing works because most of them never are found. Yet their existential wonderings are fascinating in the meantime.
Avaliable on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Single-Skin-Steve-Dearden-ebook/dp/B008JFMFR4
My friend Azra Page has just published an ebook. Catharsis is a collection of ‘found’ poems, diary entires and a play script about mental health and the psychiatric system in the UK. It is brutally honest in its gaze over a variety of mental health issues.
The ‘found’ poems are made out of quotes from Azra’s medical notes whilst she was in the system. They are accompanied by Azra’s drawings and diary entries during the period the notes cover. The play that forms the second part of the book was written soon after she was released from hospital and looks at the ‘Flat Space’ between remission and relapse in mental illness.
It is only 77p ($0.99) for a limited amount of time, and is avaliable from amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Catharsis-Azra-Page-ebook/dp/B00MW6EPH4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408556848&sr=8-1&keywords=catharsis+art+page .
It will make an interesting read for anyone with a mental health issue; or anyone that wants to learn about the experience of madness. However it may be triggering for some people, so take care.
Publisher: The Emma Press
At first glance The Emma Press seems to produce quaint little books complete with meticulous illustrations. This is of course true, yet beneath this exterior The Emma Press Anthology of Fatherhood also contains some seriously hard-hitting and emotionally profound poems. All aspects of fatherhood are included and under an unforgiving light. In her introduction Emma Wright says that “The book has become a snapshot of our times”.
The voices of fathers, children and wives all express themselves in a variety of poetic styles. However some kind of formal poetic techniques are usually obeyed; giving the raw emotions discussed a taught, on-the-edge feeling.
The fathers in the collection watch over their children throughout their lives, in incubators, on ultrasound screens, tragically ill, going to school or on holiday… Other viewpoints are mixed in with these- the opinions of wives, children and husbands are taken into account.
I have two favourite poems in the collection- “Digitalis” by Martin Malone and “Ultrasound” by Harry Man.
“Digitalis” is a dark poems about a father returned to youth “Between his first and third heart attack”. We know from this first line that the father is going to die; but this seems to only add to the miracle of his “sudden awareness of hip-hop and rap” and other activities of “bending life-long rules”. It is a poem that has stuck with me, and compelled me to read it over and over.
Meanwhile “Ultrasound” shows a father looking at his child’s ultrasound, and describing her as if she was a magical creature. He gazes longingly at her minuite form such as “the white artery of your (her) spine”. By the end of the poem he is imagining what it will be like when his child is born. Again- a beautiful poem bursting with emotion.
This collection could be the perfect present to, or from, a father. It tirelessly explores difficult themes with elegant language and illustrations.
Title: Comfortable Knives
By: Stephen Emmerson
Publisher: Knives, Forks and Spoons Press
In this short book, Emmerson rises to the challange of writing a poetry collection entirely in sonnets. His sonnets crystallize his usually more chaotic creativity. He uses the prescribed rules to bring order to wild themes of madness, relationships and the realities of living. Yet the carefully placed line breaks also bring a stuttering voice to the poems. Thoughts are broken up part way through, giving a surreal effect that follows the logic of an almost schizophrenic brain pattern.
The poems at the beginning of the collection frequently discuss memory and false memories: “I know how memory is a/ language. It is the worst, most/ illiterate language” but by the end, Emmerson’s focus seems to have moved to the memories themselves. Many of the memories described seem to be polluted with psychosis. This makes them challanging to comprehend, for example: “Not cert/ that the phone is stinking, but the/ re-source holds debate.” It is as if the voice of the poems expects that we can easily understand his words, yet what comes out of his mouth isn’t even close to what he had meant. Emmerson practises irony by forcing this illogical voice to adhere to the rules of sonnets.
My favourite poem is on page 36 (none of the poems have titles). It includes the lines: “Sat at home with a box of/ dead skin. So dedicated, we/ eventually embrace. Trapped/ in that painting again.”