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Sarah Crewe at the Tears in the Fence Festival

Sarah Crewe at the Tears in the Fence Festival

I am thrilled that Sarah Crewe will be reading at the Tears in the Fence Festival, on Friday evening, 24th October. (

Sarah is rapidly emerging as a strong poetic voice. Her uncompromising poetry has a distinct musicality, draws the reader into strange worlds and creates a wonderful fusion of vocabulary and identity to probe, irritate and celebrate. She gives voice to a range of identities and produces a wide range of poetic effects. Ian Brinton has noted her eerie and uncomfortable voice. S.J. Fowler has described her work as a stone’s throw from Maggie O’Sullivan and Geraldine Monk.

Her collections include Aqua Rosa (Erbacce, 2012), flick invicta (Oystercatcher, 2013), sea witch (Leafe Press, 2013) and Signs of the Sistership, with Sophie Mayer (KFS Press, 2014). Her work has also appeared in Shearsman, Tears in the Fence, Molly Bloom, Peony Moon, Litter and Litmus magazines. She co-edited the anthology Catechism: Poems For Pussy Riot (2013) with Mark Burnhope and Sophie Mayer, and the anthology Glitter is a Gender (Contraband, 2014) with Sophie Mayer.

Her poetry, rooted in the Port of Liverpool, which features as a backdrop to her contrary visions of the social world, is characterised by its stunningly luminous language use. She inhabits and lavishes
concentrated sound and language work with vibrant identities.

My wife is the Devil!

tap.rain metal reverb.lost boy daddy-o.
kiefer/brandon/russell raise wax stained
glasses to my branded breath.tap. did
someone say brandy?don’t mind if i do. part-pantheon
homage to the wettest
boldest broad echo runs
12 feet deep.tap.a slash could make
this city toxic.dix-huit soixante-quatre.
tease my tongue i’ll scratch your skin.

Note the distinct and precise notation, recalling early Bill Griffiths, and the unencumbered fluidity of this poem.

Her musical sense is gritty and sparkles with variant female figures, identities pouring forth in splendour to arrest and beguile the imagination. She has a strong sense of the value of Liverpool’s women over time, her heritage, political warriors and goddesses, and speaks from a space of pride and indignation. Her work inspires, has presence and force. Her poems matter and resonate in their intensity.

tap.the sandstone blast sets off my eyes.
cyan circle matches my’s winter
but you wear a spring dress with heels.I
stroke at the walls while you wait
on barbed wire.

I can’t wait to welcome Sarah Crewe to our Festival.

David Caddy 7th October 2014

Mark Burnhope’s Species (Nine Arches Press)

Mark Burnhope’s Species (Nine Arches Press)

Poet, disability activist and co-editor of Boscombe Revolution, with Paul Hawkins, Mark Burnhope has produced an energetic and thoughtful first collection in the Nine Arches Press Debut new poet series. Species explores bodily identities, disability and ideas of ‘otherness’ seeing the body as a point of loss, beauty and conflict. There is a degree of anger and protest against, amongst other things, Social Darwinism and categorisation that emerges through a penetrating playfulness. The distinction between human and animal is blurred. I admire both its provocativeness and use of unusual angles and approaches to realign and probe.

‘The Species That Begat The Binaries’ is an impressive poem playing with ideas of ordering and naming of species and dualistic thinking, and serves to establish the book’s theme.

The Moral is a magnificently resilient mammal:
both natural / unnatural, and neither thanks
to its ability to buck the competition rider
off its saddled back.
Police and Paralympians owe much
to its domestication, the increasing rarity
of its wild-stampede ways of working.

The poem leads to consideration of the meaning of constriction, the impact of disability on identity and the chameleon nature of binaries, such as figure and disfigure, obedience and disobedience, beast and burden, and so on. This forceful poem precedes the deadpan ‘ “Am I Disabled?” A Self-Diagnosis Questionnaire’ which asks whether ‘you wrestle with what your feet are for?’ and ‘Can you throw over your shoulder a) a tennis ball? b) a school satchel? c) a school teacher?’

Playfulness is given full rein in the ‘Abnominations’ sequence of poems and the ‘Paralympic Lessons: The Atosonnets’. An abnominal is a twenty line poem, developed by the poet, Andrew Philip, using only the letters of the dedicatee’s name, each of which must appear at least once per stanza. The title must be an anagram of their name, and should begin and end by addressing the dedicatee in some way, as in ‘Deviancy as God’ an abnomination for David Gascoyne.

A caved saying: dang dingoes dosing!
Vain dogs, ego-divas, edgy agony-codas

Did as David does: danced giddy, de-
Seeded. Ovid aced yogi’s inane, aged

Voyage. Dived good, snagged a gonad,
Donor in a saved Degas-coven. Navy Dave:

Gay voice, no novice, delicious screed,
Envoy via avid disco-gods and devices:

The poem ‘fragments from The First Week of the World: The Herpetological Bible’ is full of depth playing off different ways and approaches to the natural world.

Sudden mutism,
Idea-death, resort to
‘freedom’ within himself

(Rilke’s transformation,
Heidegger’s institution
of being the poet’s part).

Bonnefoy speaks:
logos, universe, impulse
towards salvation.

This vital and affirmative book concerned with placing and naming of self, species, and other within a split and dangerous world lingers after the first few readings and gets under the reader’s skin. I felt compelled to re-engage.

David Caddy 29th July 2014

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