Delighted to be a part of the wonderful Blog Tour to share my thoughts on a stunning poetry collection, IF ALL THE WORLD AND LOVE WERE YOUNG by STEPHEN SEXTON. My thanks to Martina at Midas Public Relations for the copy of the book and putting the tour together.
ABOUT THE BOOK
‘Every poem in this book is a marvel. Taken all together they make up a work of almost miraculous depth and beauty’ Sally Rooney
‘A poetry debut fit to compare with Seamus Heaney. This wonderful long poem is up there with the greats’ Sunday Times
Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection
When Stephen Sexton was young, video games were a way to slip through the looking glass; to be in two places at once; to be two people at once. In these poems about the death of his mother, this moving, otherworldly narrative takes us through the levels of Super Mario World, whose flowered landscapes bleed into our world, and ours, strange with loss, bleed into it. His remarkable debut is a daring exploration of memory, grief and the necessity of the unreal.
I found this to be a stunning piece of work. I wondered how mixing the world of Super Mario World with grieving would work, but somehow it just does! It had me smiling at the memories it created in my mind about playing Super Mario World and the escapism that the game offered, and had me crushed by his descriptions of watching someone he loves be so ill and dealing with loss and grief.
What really comes across is the honesty and emotion that he was clearly going through. How do you make sense of watching the world around you and all that you know crumble away? For him, losing himself every now and then in a fantasy world of a video game was the release he needed. It mixes the memories of different levels in the game – seeing the names appear and the challenges in each level made me smile with fondess! – alongside memories of his family and his mother. Life provides challenges of its’ own and we are all competing in the video game of life – with hopefully no big bad beastie/boss at the end to have to defeat.
I thought this collection was a pure gem that left me in tears. It was beautifully written, poignant but punchy, raw but refined and how the little moments during his life now meant so much to him. Cannot recommend this highly enough!
For more information about the Dylan Thomas Prize 2020 please click the link below…
From Top Left: Bhanu Kapil (poetry), Julia Cho (Drama), Yiyun Li (fiction), Maria Tumarkin (nonfiction)
From Bottom Left: Jonah Mixon-Webster (poetry), Aleshea Harris (drama), Namwali Serpell (fiction), Anne Boyer (nonfiction)
2020’s powerful, female-dominated line-up of Windham-Campbell Prize recipients unites a rich, international collection of writers whose challenging work explores pressing political and social themes across identity, culture and power. Now in their eighth year, the Prizes celebrate writers at every stage of their careers.
In poetry we recognise British-Indian poet Bhanu Kapil, known for exploring crucial questions of trauma, healing and immigration, and the incredible Jonah Mixon-Webster and his unflinching poetry tackling the public health crisis in his hometown of Flint, Michigan.
For drama we celebrate Julia Cho, the incredible talent behind The Aubergine, Aleshea Harris, whose unflinching works confront the wounds of misogyny and racism.
Our prizes for fiction have gone to the prolific Chinese-born author of The Vagrants, Yiyun Li and Zambian author Namwali Serpell who explores themes of identity and belonging.
And in nonfiction we award Australian writer Maria Tumarkin, whose works explore the lives of ordinary people with extraordinarily painful pasts, and Anne Boyer, author of the searingly honest exploration of cancer The Undying.
Mike Kelleher, Director of the Windham-Campbell Prizes said about this year’s recipients, “This is such an exciting group of prize recipients—so many utterly original voices from so many different places. Their work digs deeply into everything from the poisoned water crisis in present-day Flint, Michigan to the vicissitudes of the surveillance state in an Afro-Futurist Zambia. To read the work of these eight writers—seven of them women—is simply overwhelming.”
In 2020 the Windham-Campbell Prizes celebrate eight winners in four categories, each of whom will receive $165,000 USD and whose names will be officially revealed on 19th March at 7pm GMT/3pm EDT.
The Windham-Campbell Prizes are one of the richest literary prizes in the world, with $1.32 million USD given to eight authors every year writing in English from anywhere in the world. Nominees for the Prizes are considered by judges who remain anonymous before and after the prize announcement.
The Prizes were the brainchild of lifelong partners Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell. The couple were deeply involved in literary circles, collected books avidly and read voraciously. They also penned various works, such as novels, plays and short stories, amongst others. For years they had discussed the idea of creating an award to highlight literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns. When Campbell passed away unexpectedly in 1988, Windham took on the responsibility for making this shared dream a reality. The first prizes were announced in 2013.
In September 2020, Yale University and the Beinecke Library will host a week-long festival of events to honour the winners.
About Windham-Campbell Prizes
Established in 2013 with a signiﬁcant gift from Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy Campbell, the Windham-Campbell Prizes are among the richest and most prestigious literary prizes on earth. The community, camaraderie, diversity, and inclusive nature of the Prizes honours the spirit of their lives.
Bhanu Kapil is a British writer of Indian origin who now lives between the United Kingdom and the United States. She is the author of a poetry blog, The Vortex of Formidable Sparkles, and six full-length poetry collections.Her most recent publication, Ban en Banlieue (2016), takes a mysterious being called Ban as its protagonist. “Ban,” Kapil tells us, is not an immigrant. She is not even a body, but a “bodily outline.” A passive-violent, beautiful-monstrous, familiar-strange, present-absence, “Ban” recalls but refuses to represent those individuals who are despised, displaced, or even “banned” by the neocolonialist nations in which they live. An earlier collection, Schizophrene (2011) likewise disrupts the familiar tropes of the diaspora story, arguing that “it is psychotic not to know when you are in a national space.” Of course, as Kapil shows us, national spaces are themselves a kind of mass psychosis, their border walls built not with bricks but with the bodies and minds of the marginalized. In all her work, Kapil’s primary interest is on these marginalized: those living on the bottom, along the edges, citizens of what she calls “the floor of the world.” Kapil taught for many years at Naropa University and Goddard College. In 2019, she was awarded the Judith E. Wilson Poetry Fellowship at the University of Cambridge. During this time, she completed her first full-length poetry collection to be published in the United Kingdom, How to Wash a Heart (2020).
Jonah Mixon-Webster (United States) is a poet and conceptual/sound artist from Flint, Michigan. His debut poetry collection, Stereo(TYPE) (2018), was awarded the 2017 Sawtooth Poetry Prize and the prestigious PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry in 2019. In his acceptance speech, Mixon-Webster declared that his first ambition as a poet is “to tell the truth about what is happening in Flint, Michigan.” An artful and powerful work of poetic activism, Stereo(TYPE) uses oral history, government documentation, photography, and found text to tell the story of the ongoing public health crisis in Mixon-Webster’s hometown. With driving lyricism, he invites us into a Flint devastated by economic and racialized violence: its businesses, homes, and streets battered, its population winnowed. Intimate and violent, provocative and tender, mythic and ritualistic, Stereo(TYPE) compels its readers to become witnesses to environmental and social evil, and in so doing, to choose between radical solidarity with Flint—or complicity with those who have enabled the government’s relentless predation and persecution of its people. “Resistance,” Mixon-Webster writes, is to “occupy a wound / with a mouth.” Mixon-Webster is co-leader of the PEN America Detroit Chapter and is a 2019-2020 Writing for Justice Fellow. He has earned degrees from Eastern Michigan University and is currently completing his doctoral degree in Creative Writing at Illinois State University.
Julia Cho (United States)a native of Los Angeles, is the author of nine plays. Subtle, intimate, and wildly intelligent, Cho’s work explores the power and frailty of human connection—between cultures, between individuals, between generations, between institutions. Her characters are full of feeling but never sentimental; her plots are simple but rich with implication, their submerged meanings arising gradually, line by line, scene by scene. In Aubergine (2016), food becomes an act of translation between a young man and his dying father. In Office Hour (2017), Cho imagines an array of possible resolutions—some moving, some terrifying—to the story of an angry creative writing student unable to communicate with his classmates or instructors. In The Language Archive (2010), a scholar of dead and dying languages must confront his inability to express himself, and his own existential loneliness, to his estranged wife. Alternately lyrical and sharp, rigorous and whimsical, Cho’s plays demand that we listen: to feeling, to language, to one another. An alumna of Amherst College, UC Berkeley, the Julliard School and New York University, Cho also writes for television and film. She has been a recipient of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (2010), the Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwright Award (2005), the Claire Tow Award for Emerging Playwrights, and a Lilly Award among many other honors.
Aleshea Harris (United States) is an American playwright, performer, and screenwriter. Her debut play Is God Is won the American Playwriting Foundation’s Relentless Award in 2016. Critic Jeffrey Fleishman has described Harris as “a playwright in fierce struggle with America.” Is God Is and its follow-up, What to Send Up When It Goes Down (2018), confront the physical and psychological wounds of misogyny and racism, respectively. In the latter play, which Harris calls a “play-pageant-ritual response to anti-blackness,” a character tells the audience: “I looked down and realized the joke was on me, literally, all over me and in me.” Calling upon fairy tales and the novels of Toni Morrison, Greek myth and police reports, Harris’s work centres black bodies, celebrating them in their full spectrum of beauty and complexity: Love, rage, delight, recollection, speculation, and defiance all have a place in her character’s lives. A two-time finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (2020, 2018), a two-time MacDowell Fellow (2019, 2016), a winner of the Helen Merrill Award for Playwriting (2019) and a winner of the Obie Award for Playwriting (2018), Harris lives in Los Angeles and performs her work around the world.
Yiyun Li (United States) was born in Beijing, China and is the author of fournovels—the latest, Must I Go, is to be published in August 2020—two short story collections, and a memoir. Li started writing in English in her twenties, and from the beginning of her career her work has earned praise for its formal beauty, imaginative daring, and intense interest in both the small flames of ordinary lives and the sweeping fires of political and social change. Her first novel, The Vagrants (2007), paints a portrait of a provincial Chinese town at a moment of crisis, with a young woman about to be executed as a counter revolutionary. In recent years, she has continued to write about the complex and often difficult relationship between personal freedom and political agency. Kinder Than Solitude (2014) follows a group of friends after the Tiananmen Square protests; Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life (2017), an essay collection, is both an examination of the exterior forces that power Li’s writing—literary, personal, and political—and an interrogation of selfhood. In all her work, Li displays a piercing clarity of vision, and a committed, sometimes painful empathy for individuals and for the fragile bonds between them. A former fellow of the MacArthur (2010) and Whiting (2006) Foundations, among many other honours, Li is a Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages.
Namwali Serpell (Zambia/United States) is a Zambian writer who lives and teaches in the United States. Her short story “The Sack” (2015) won the Caine Prize in African Fiction, and her first novel, The Old Drift, was published to global acclaim. Praised as “dazzling” by Salman Rushdie, short-listed for two L.A. Times Book Prizes, and long-listed for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, The Old Drift was also named one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times, one of the 100 Must-Read Books of the Year by Time, and a book of the year by The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, and National Public Radio. The Old Drift tells the story of three families—with people of African, European, and Indian descent—living in Zambia over the course of two hundred years. Part historical adventure, part psychological realism, part futuristic thriller, and part magical realism, the novel is an audacious, lush, sprawling, and altogether brilliant celebration of the artifice of fiction. An associate professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, Serpell is also the author of a book of literary criticism, Seven Modes of Uncertainty (2014), as well as a forthcoming essay collection, Stranger Faces (2020). She currently lives in San Francisco.
Maria Tumarkin (Australia) is a native of Kharkov, Ukraine and the author of four works of nonfiction: Axiomatic (2018), Otherland: A Journey with My Daughter(2016), Courage (2007), and Traumascapes: The Power and Fate of Places Transformed by Tragedy (2005). Tumarkin’s primary subject is the interrelatedness of past and present. For her, the continual presence of the past is generative as well as traumatic, each incursion a source of aesthetic, emotional, and ethical energy, an opportunity to imagine new ways of understanding collective and personal histories. In Axiomatic, for instance, Tumarkin uses a complex play of meditation, storytelling, and reportage to represent the lives of ordinary people with extraordinarily painful pasts. Her protagonists are asylum seekers, grieving parents, and holocaust survivors, and Tumarkin shows us how their pain both shapes them and is shaped by them; how, in a profound sense, their pain is them, just as it is now us, who have heard their stories. “As to us, me and you,” Tumarkin writes, “we are the broken vessel containing, spilling all over the place, those who came before us.” Tumarkin lives in Melbourne, Australia where she teaches creative writing.
Anne Boyer is an American essayist and poet. Her boundary-blurring body of work includes two books of nonfiction, a poetry collection, and several chapbooks. Most recently, her book The Undying: Pain, vulnerability, mortality, medicine, art, time, dreams, data, exhaustion, cancer, and art (2019) earned accolades for its formal inventiveness and searing prose. The story of Boyer’s experience with a highly aggressive form of triple-negative breast cancer, The Undying is not a traditional memoir but something altogether different and new; a fierce and funny experiment in cultural criticism and personal history, malediction and requiem. Here, as in her essay collection A Handbook of Disappointed Fate (2018), Boyer reveals herself to be a kind of intellectual knight-errant, a wanderer through territories difficult and diverse—cancer hoaxers, John Donne, Roman dream diarists, corporate greed—in search of an always elusive, often painful, but occasionally enchanting truth. Boyer’s honors include a Judith E. Wilson Fellowship from Cambridge University (2019-2018), a Cy Twombly Award for Poetry from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (2018), and a Whiting Award (2018). She lives and works in Kansas City, Missouri.
A huge delight to be part of this wonderful tour, and to share my thoughts on STUBBORN ARCHIVIST by YARA RODRIGUES FOWLER today with you all. My thanks to Martina at Midas Public Relations for the copy of the book and putting the tour together.
ABOUT THE BOOK
For fans of Chemistry and Normal People: A mesmerizing and witty debut novel about a young woman growing up between two disparate cultures, and the singular identity she finds along the way
But where are you really from?
When your mother considers another country home, it’s hard to know where you belong. When the people you live among can’t pronounce your name, it’s hard to know exactly who you are. And when your body no longer feels like your own, it’s hard to understand your place in the world.
In Stubborn Archivist, a young British Brazilian woman from South London navigates growing up between two cultures and into a fuller understanding of her body, relying on signposts such as history, family conversation, and the eyes of the women who have shaped her—her mother, grandmother, and aunt. Our stubborn archivist takes us through first love and loss, losing and finding home, trauma and healing, and various awakenings of sexuality and identity. Shot through the novel are the narrator’s trips to Brazil, sometimes alone, often with family, where she accesses a different side of herself—one, she begins to realize, that is as much of who she is as anything else.
A hypnotic and bold debut, Stubborn Archivist is as singular as its narrator; a novel you won’t soon forget.
I found this to be such an intriguing read as it looks into your own identity if you don’t really know yourself!! You’re somewhere in between and often feel like you don’t fit in! Are you Brazilian? Are you English? And this book follows the journey of a young woman as she tries to discover just how she is – personally, sexually, politically, relationships, history – and all that comes with it.
It’s told in a stunning way with a mix of story and poetry, and this did take a little bit of getting my head around for a while. BUT once I’d got into the flow and the mindset of the narrator it all came together beautifully and was so rewarding when it all clicked into place for me as a reader! There are many issues to do with family and growing up is a complicated process anyway, but even more so if you’re of mixed backgrounds and trying to make sense of it all!.
Her life is split into different sections and tells of trips to Brazil to see if she can find connection there, and living in England and how isolated she can often feel here. She just never really feels settled anywhere and that affects her mood and how she sees herself. I loved the simple conversations that are mentioned and all those words left unsaid.
What makes the story stand out for me though is the way it’s told – the use of language, how the words are displayed on each page and something you can only really understand by picking the book up yourself. The poetry alongside the memoir side to the book adds a different depth to the story and builds up on that ‘mix’ of the use of language being similar to the mix of nationalities.
This was a truly fascinating read and I can see why it has been longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize 2020 and highly recommend picking up a copy for a different kind of reading experience.
For more information about the Dylan Thomas Prize 2020 please click the link below…
The Perseverance is the remarkable debut book by British-Jamaican poet Raymond Antrobus. Ranging across history and continents, these poems operate in the spaces in between, their haunting lyrics creating new, hybrid territories.
The Perseverance is a book of loss, contested language and praise, where elegies for the poet’s father sit alongside meditations on the d/Deaf experience.
My thanks to FMCM Associates and The Sunday Times/ University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Awards for sending me a copy of this poetry collection in exchange for a fair and honest review. This was the winning book for 2019.
.A stunning collection of poetry by a very talented young deaf writer. Within this collection he really shows how powerful even just a few words can be especially when dealing with subjects I know very little about. But he shares with brutal honesty the challenges and issues and how they impact on him as a person and I found the poems about family and dementia the most hard hitting and easiest to relate to. The issues with sign language were also brought depressingly to light with the sign for ‘alive’ looking like the sign for guns and the consequences that brings. Miami Airport and Dementia were also 2 poems that hit home the hardest for me.
It’s a fascinating and stark insight into the world of deafness, mixed heritage and family and how he views the world around him and I eagerly await more from this extremely talented and competent writer.
Brian Bilston has decided to write a poem every day for a year while he tries to repair his ever-desperate life. His ex-wife has taken up with a new man, a marketing guru and motivational speaker who seems to be disturbingly influencing his son, Dylan. Meanwhile Dylan’s football team keeps being beaten 0–11, as he stands disconsolately on the wing waiting vainly to receive the ball. At work Brian is drowning in a sea of spreadsheets and is becoming increasingly confused by the complexities of modern communication and management jargon. So poetry will be his salvation. But can Brian’s poetry save him from Toby Salt, his arch nemesis in the Poetry Group and potential rival suitor to Brian’s new poetic inspiration, Liz? Worst of all Toby has announced that boutique artisan publishing house Shooting from the Hip will be publishing his first collection, titled This Bridge No Hands Shall Cleft, in the autumn. And when he goes missing Brian is inevitably the number one suspect.
Part tender love story, part murder mystery, part coruscating description of a wasted life, and interspersed with some of the funniest poems about the mundane and the profound, Diary of a Somebody is the most original novel you will read this year.
PUBLISHED BY PICADOR
They often say you need to find the right book at the right time, and this is exactly how I felt whilst listening to this book on audio. I was in need of light relief and a book that would make me laugh and smile, and this did exactly that and I loved every minute of it!
Following the trials and tribulations of the character ‘Brian’ on a daily basis, you get a glimpse inside the life of a man who is struggling with work, struggling with family issues and struggling to focus on his writing career! He is easily distracted by the going on in the world, the world of Twitter, the inability of leaving a bookshop with just one book, and will find comfort in eating a custard cream or 6!! I know that feeling well!
He’s dealing with his ex wife and how she’s moving on with her life in the arms of a new man, whilst also trying to be the best part time dad he can to his son Dylan. Throw into the mix the trauma of work related issues, and the rivalry at poetry club with Toby, and I just found this full of great cultural references and so quirky and engaging that it was just delightful to listen to! It was brilliantly read to and all the characters brought to life so well by the narrator which really helped.
As Toby goes missing the spotlight falls on Brian as to whether he might have been involved and he’d share his daily thoughts in a poem or two and this mix of poetry and story telling was an exciting way to tell the story, and he even starts playing detective to get to the bottom of the missing Toby!
This was so much fun and I really connected with the sense of humour and was a real treat of a listen so if you’re looking for a fun and quirky story, then look no further!
Managed to get back to some 20 Books Of Summer reading last night, and another one from my original list so this is book 9 all done and dusted!! Yes, it’s another little one so I still have the chunkier books still to read but my brain can’t cope with a bigger book at the moment so I’m taking baby steps to achieving my target haha!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Poet, writer, and Instagram sensation Nikita Gill returns with a collection of fairytales poetically retold for a new generation of women.
Traditional fairytales are rife with cliches and gender stereotypes: beautiful, silent princesses; ugly, jealous, and bitter villainesses; girls who need rescuing; and men who take all the glory.
But in this rousing new prose and poetry collection, Nikita Gill gives Once Upon a Time a much-needed modern makeover. Through her gorgeous reimagining of fairytale classics and spellbinding original tales, she dismantles the old-fashioned tropes that have been ingrained in our minds. In this book, gone are the docile women and male saviors. Instead, lines blur between heroes and villains. You will meet fearless princesses, a new kind of wolf lurking in the concrete jungle, and an independent Gretel who can bring down monsters on her own. Complete with beautifully hand-drawn illustrations by Gill herself, Fierce Fairytales is an empowering collection of poems and stories for a new generation.
A mix of poetry and re-tellings of fairytales to empower, inspire and just make your heart glow!!
I loved this collection which may be little but is very fierce in the message it is putting across! Using a variety of well known fairy stories and characters it allows you to look at things in different ways, to imagine a different narrative for the weak or downtrodden characters, while making it more relevant for the world we live in today!
You can read about Tinkerbell, Wendy Darling, Alice, The Fairy Godmothers… they are all here but with different stories to tell. It touches on depression, self loathing, eating disorders to name but a few things but it isn’t gloomy or depressing to read. I found it to be so powerful and thought provoking – all the things you should be telling yourself every day about being strong, loving yourself, and being yourself is all in here!
It features strong women standing up for themselves and knowing their worth – they aren’t there to be rescued or pitied – and is very telling of the world we live in nowadays. We all need to hear more positive messages about not being perfect, or dealing with negative influences and I loved how this book allowed those messages through loud and clear!
A delight to be the latest stop on the Blog Tour for TAKE ME TO THE EDGE by KATYA BOIRAND today. My thanks to the author, publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for putting everything together and letting me be part of it all!
ABOUT THE BOOK
A beautifully presented collection of poems accompanied by striking photographs of the people who inspired them
FIVE WORDS IS ALL IT TAKES TO PROVOKE A CHAIN OF CREATION.
That is what Katya Boirand discovered the first time she asked a friend for five words and then turned them into a poem, using the words and the subject as her inspiration. This spark started a movement, and soon Katya was asking friends and strangers alike for their five words of choice. Take Me to the Edge is a selection of these poems, sitting alongside a portrait of each subject, in this stunning and joyous celebration of language, connection and art.
Sometimes you can make the biggest impact by using the fewest words and that is how I often felt whilst reading this stunning poetry and photography collection from Katya Boirand. It’s amazing to me how just a few words can convey such a powerful message or idea and with this collection of poems, created from random words, does that with bells on! I loved it!!
I think it’s the simplicity of the concept that intrigued me the most about wanting to pick this up – the fact that different people around the world were asked to choose some random words for her to use in each poem – and alongside some beautifully shot photographs of those people, these poems have been excellently portrayed and put together and I’ve gone back to read them over and over!
The images are stunning throughout and just add that extra dimension to the words on each page, and I also loved the little potted bios of those photographed and the 5 words that inspired each poem as it helped give each more meaning. It perfectly demonstrated how different words from different worlds show us all how connected we all are and can be and it’s a collection I highly recommend getting hold of!