Hi everyone, it’s Thursday 13th of
December and I thought I would bring you a video that is two things mushed
together. So, it’s part weekly vlog and it’s part book reviews. For the past year
I’ve been working with the Poetry Book Society reviewing their seasonal
selections. They get poets and critics to pick what they think is the most
exciting, innovative poetry being published at the moment and you can sign
up to receive a subscription box filled with poetry. For the past year I’ve been
reviewing those poetry books and they’ve asked if I’ll do it for another year and
I said yes because I love doing it. So, in this video I’m going to be talking about
their five winter picks as I read them but interspersed between those book
reviews will be a vlog of what I’m up to over the next four or five days. If you
fancy signing up to the Poetry Book Society I’ll leave all details in the
description box down below, as well as a discount code. It’s a great last-minute
gift for someone for Christmas or for yourself, whatever you fancy. So, as
I said, today is Thursday 13th December and what I’m mostly doing today
is writing a book review for TOAST. I’m reviewing When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
for their book club and I also need to film a video for Youtube as well “What do you want? …. Are you going
to let me film my video now?” The first book I thought I
would show you is Selected Poems by Kathleen Jamie. This is a collection
of poems that have been previously published. in other works. I’ve read some of her
other books before. She primarily writes about nature, so I thought what I would
do today is do a close reading of one of the poems, a kind of “annotate with me”
segment, so if you’d like to pause the screen when I show you the un-annotated
poem you can have a read and then I’m going to scribble my thoughts on it and
chat with you about it. Let’s take a look at the notes that I’ve
made. So, firstly, let’s look at the title it’s called Fragment One and I’ve noted
that that’s like a crime scene or a clue, a piece of evidence — being named and
numbered in this way. So, is this a fragment of a larger poem or picture? are
there more parts that we can’t see? Is the narrator seen as fragmented by
someone? As you can see, the poem itself is fragmented, broken up in these very short stanzas that come together as a whole when we read it. Initially it begins “A roe deer breaking from a thicket.”
‘Breaking free’ is what is implied but the word ‘free’ is missing. Also ‘breaking’ is
the first on a new line showing breaking into that line, literally. Then ‘from a
thicket’ — a thicket is thorny, difficult to navigate.
It says “bounding over briars between darkening trees.” The alliteration of ‘b’
creates a bouncing to reflect the word ‘bounding’ and this is an image, therefore,
of a deer breaking out of the trees. But then it switches very quickly to the
personal, and it’s almost like this then becomes a fragment or a glance of our
own. It says ‘you don’t even glance at the cause of your doubt / so how can you tell
what form I take?’ This is accusatory but also quite playful. There is no car
mentioned in this poem but I don’t know about you but when I read it I imagined
people driving in a car, two people and the driver noticing out the corner of
their eye this deer, but then quickly glancing back at the road and keeping
focused because obviously they can’t look into the trees. The passenger,
someone who’s in a relationship with the driver, laughs and says ‘you don’t even
glance at the cause of your doubt / so how can you tell what form I take?’ So, they are saying ‘you don’t focus on me either, you only look at me in glances as well; you
keep your eyes on the road, you’re focused on yourself; you don’t look at me.’
They say ‘how can you tell what form I take?’ and that’s very tongue-in-cheek
because form is also, obviously, poetry. ‘So how can you tell what form I take?’ what
form am I as a poem, and as a person as well. Is the identity of this person
formed by the author? The narrator? Is it formed by the reader? Our view as the
reader has been outward – so we’ve been looking at this
deer and then suddenly we are told about this narrator, who is off the page
to our left, who we can’t really see. They are like the deer; they are ‘adrift in a
wood in wintertime at dusk always a deer breaking from a thicket / for a while now
this is how it’s been.’ I read this as someone who was maybe trying to break
free from a relationship, someone whose unhappiness hasn’t been noted, someone
whose potential hasn’t been seen. Let me know your thoughts in the comments
section down below, I’m going to get back to doing my work and also this afternoon
I’m expecting a rather exciting delivery. It’s later on in the afternoon now and
my books for the Somerset Maugham Award just arrived. This is my third year
judging this prize, my third and final year; you do it it’s a three-year
stint. I can’t show you the books, obviously, but they are all piled up here,
and I’ve just been going through them sorting through them and separating
books I’ve already read before. This time I’d already read seven of them, so
that’s good… there are still dozens and dozens of books here that I need to
read but seven is all right. There are some really interesting titles and
there are actually some books that I haven’t heard of before. The Somerset
Maugham Award is really interesting because fiction, poetry and non-fiction
can all be entered and we pick either one person to win or several people to
win and we split the prize fund and the authors or poets who win that prize
money have to use that prize money to travel somewhere new
because Somerset Maugham was very big on traveling to new places as inspiration
for writing. So it’s really interesting to judge such different books against
each other. That’s some of my reading for the next several months. I think I
have to send over my favourites by March. I’m looking forward to it! Good morning! I’ve been finishing my
article for TOAST this morning and I’ve just packaged up some orders to take to
the Post Office so I’m gonna take those down and then I’m joining Leena and Sanne
for… I was gonna say a study day. I always say study day but we’re not
studying because we’re not students, so a freelance –day a working day, a
working afternoon because I’ve been working from home this morning. This
afternoon I’m going to be working on editing. As part of my job, I offer
editorial services to writers, so I have a poetry manuscript to finish going
through because I’m providing critique and notes, and then I’m also helping a
picture book writer with a cover letter that she’s sending to an agent. So, that’s
what I’m going to be doing this afternoon and I will catch up with you
guys later. Lola, are you sneaking? So, I want to talk to
you about the next two poetry books that I’ve read from this seasonal selection.
The first one was one I thought might be my favourite of the five but I don’t
think it’s going to be my favourite of five and this is Chris McCabe’s ‘The Triumph
Cancer.’ In fact, I know it’s not going to be because my favourite so far is the other
one that I’m going talk to you about in a moment. The one, main reason that I thought this
one might be my favourite is because it’s about disability, illness etc and it’s talking about
genetic mutation. In fact there is one poem that symbolises genetic mutation,
let me just find it for you. So, yes, that one is quite experimental and playful. What I’ve written in the margin of one of the other poems called ‘Kipper,’ if I
can read my own writing, is “Kerouac, Hughes, Lewis — referring to previous bodies of
work to discuss bodies.” So, in these poems the poet refers back to bodies of texts
from previous poets and he’s included some extracts or themes from those works
in his own poetry. What he’s doing is taking something, changing it slightly
and inserting it into this new body so it’s like a mutation of text, while he’s
also talking about mutation of cells within bodies to cause cancer, so I found
that very meta and coo. My favourite poem in this book was one that was talking
about Alice in Wonderland, which is probably not surprising, and my favourite
lines from that poem read: “Her body of text disappears in asterisks. Asterisks to
the ancient Greeks meant little stars Wikipedia says Alice’s asterisks are section
breaks. Asterisks in Alice are Alice’s ellipsis of thought. Her body goes out
like little stars.” So, yeah, I recommend checking this one out; I think it’s great.
My fave though, my fave so far is this one here by Raymond Antrobus and
it’s called ‘The Perseverance.’ This this one knocked my socks off is is
going to be one of my favourite books of the year. In this book Raymond talks about
being Jamaican-British and also it talks about being deaf, and dispersed
throughout the text we have some British Sign Language. Those signs show a
different way of communicating and I’m sure for many hearing readers as well
those will be silent to them, something that
they will have to investigate to work out what it says; they have to put in
that effort to find out what those symbols mean. So, it’s a way of using
negative space that actually isn’t negative space and I found that really
quite fascinating. There was a wonderful wonderful poem in here which I think is
available online so I’ll link it down below but it’s an answer to ‘Deaf School’
by Ted Hughes, which was a poem of his that I had never read before. This is
a complete erasure poem; it’s a silencing of this poem, it’s gone, and then the
response is the next poem over. So I Googled the poem, so I could read the
original before reading Raymond’s response and my goodness that poem is so effing offensive, I wow …wow, and Raymond’s response is just absolutely wonderful. It
goes back to what I was just saying before about hearing society dismissing
silent things — silencing those silent things — because they think that they have
no substance or are a lesser form of communicating, simply because it’s
something that they don’t understand. Three of the lines in this poem, the
answer to Ted Hughes’s poem, say: ‘The mouth of the river laughs, a man in a wet suit emerges, pulls misty goggles over his head. “Couldn’t see a thing,”
he breathes heavily. “My face was in darkness.” No one heard him. The river
drowned him out.’ I adored this book please pick it up. A reminder to myself
also to do better at captioning my videos. So, now it is Friday night it’s
gonna be the weekend (obviously that’s what comes after Friday night). This
Saturday I’m going to be doing some work but mostly relaxing; we’re going to
be putting up our tree. And then on Sunday I have Jean and Lauren coming
round for Friendmas, so I’m making them Christmas dinner. That’ll be very
nice. Hi everyone, it’s Monday, we had a lovely
weekend. I need to edit this video now to send it over to the Poetry Book Society
so I can crack on with the rest of my working day but before I do that I need
to tell you about the final two books from the Poetry Book Society winter
selections I read over the weekend. I maintain that, out of the five. the Raymond Antrobus collection is still my favourite which was their Poetry Book Choice, so
we’re in agreement, but let me tell you about the other two books that I read. So,
first off is this one here which is ‘The Weather in Normal’ by Carrie Etta. She
writes in this about her family and memories of growing up in her small town
in Illinois. She compares the weather to her memories, how her memories are now almost blizzarding and there are gaps in her
memory as if you’re watching, you know, snow on the television — and by that I
don’t mean the weather snow, I mean when you can’t get a signal. So she uses
negative space in a really interesting way in this book. Let me find a page so I
can show you. Here there are lots of gaps where you could suggest that things
aren’t as they used to be when she was a child when she’s looking back on them
because people that she loved such as her parents are not there anymore. It also invites the reader to become a ghost in these poems which I thought was
really interesting. My favourite were two poems that create a really interesting
juxtaposition at the beginning of the book. This one called Fatherhood on the left
which is a prose poem and then this one here is called my Father and the
Blizzard. So, ‘Fatherhood’ begins ‘The weather belongs to everyone so you may say but in our family it was his…’ It’s a really moving poem about how her
father took his role in their family as someone who explained what the weather
was going to be that day and why it was going to be like that and when she moved
away from home he would research the weather where she was, and that was his
way of feeling close to her. In the next poem which is called ‘My Father and the Blizzard,’ it’s about her father who is very sick
in hospital and there’s a blizzard outside. She’s watching the blizzard
and how it’s stopping people leaving their houses, people are getting snowed
in and then she contrasts that with her father being really ill in bed as if
asleep under lots of snow and weighted by it — as white as the snow outside and will he make it? Will he return to them? Will he
thaw? I I thought there were really beautiful elements to this book. The final book that I read was Roy McFarland’s ‘The Healing Next Time’ which is a play on James Baldwin’s book ‘The Fire Next Time’ and this book is in part
inspired by Claudia Rankine’s ‘Citizen.’ In that, there was an exchange in
the UK which says “Will you write about Duggan? The man wants to know. Why don’t you?” There are quite a few very important books in America and more so every day
which is fantastic where poets are writing about police
brutality against black people in America but there aren’t as many poetry
books about that over here, so this is what Roy wanted to do. So he begins with
the Stephen Lawrence Report and he talks about police brutality and racism in the UK. There are lots of long poems in here that read almost like sermons and are very narrative
driven, which i think is poignant because a lot of the narratives in here are of
course being silenced or pushed to one side by society. Also some of these poems
begin as sonnets and then morph into something else, and Roy said he wanted
to play with form, a bit like jazz, and experiment. I think that’s a really
lovely comparison, too. So if that sounds of interest do check that out and as
I’ve mentioned in previous videos what I love about the Poetry Book Society is
that they have the Bulletin here and in that they ask each of the poets
that they’re recommending to recommend other poets, so you can find Roy’s
recommendations in that bulletin. Here, if you’re interested in Roy’s
poetry book, I’m going to insert some poetry books on the screen of other
books that you might want to check out on similar topics, both in America
and in the UK too/ I’m going to wrap it up here. That’s what
I’ve been up to over the past four or five days plus my thoughts on the PBS
winter selections. As I said there’s a link down below to their website plus a
discount code if you would like to buy a poetry book subscription for yourself or
for a friend. I hope that you’re all well and I will speak to you all very soon. Lots of bookish love. Bye! x

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  1. Hope you enjoyed this weekly vlog/book review mash up. How are you all at the moment? If you'd like to find out more about the Poetry Book Society head over to and you can use the code WINTERVLOG18 to get 10% off any subscriptions. xx

  2. Firstly, I loved this video! Secondly, wow, I read that poem quite differently! I assumed the narrator was walking through the woods, rather than driving. I saw the deer bounding away (without glancing to see what form the narrator would take) as a form of rejection…and that this rejection has been the case “for a while now”. An isolated existence. 🙁 And since the narrator scarcely knows what form they will take do they need to be viewed to find out? It could also be a poem about prejudice and fear because the deer runs away from something it can’t really identify but knows ‘must’ be dangerous. Anyway…as always, you craft wonderful content!

  3. All that I was excited about yaay! I love reading/writing vlogs, even more than straight reviews. Random question though, where do you get your glasses (the frames) Jen? Would you recommend them? Are they a specific brand? I've put Perseverance in my TBR now cause those bits you've shown have blown my mind. I'm still mostly intimidated by poetry but it seem so clear despite its complexity. Thanks for the recommendations as always!

  4. In the poem, I agreed with so much of what you already said, I also thought that it was addressing a partner they were not satisfied with and thought the fact they used a deer, and 'dear' is a term of endearment too, so there's the play of addressing the deer and addressing their own personal 'dear'.

  5. I’m catching up on videos and was so glad to get to this one. Loving the poetry/vlog format – it made me feel so inspired to check out PBS and especially The Perseverance. That sounds incredible! I’m hoping to read much more poetry in 2019.

  6. i read the Ted Hughes poem and i kind of got what he was getting at, i think my face is like that because of the autism so it isn't fully correct (with autism, you offend people but you don't know what it is that you are failing to do but this failure puts people off, it's the active failure to show the correct facial expressions, because the whole world of constantly signalling and responding in the meta social context world is impossible for you because it's invisible to you – young people now get trained in this, but old people like me just get told we're all wrong but they refuse to tell you why, so you get paranoid and guess) so i feel about my face like what Ted Hughes is saying about the faces in the poem. I don't think the poem is offensive, people think other people's faces are weird or different or disgusting or odd all the time, it's saying it, it's not polite, as if people were blank and could never hear, which shows their powerlessness in the world of that time, that you could take it for granted that they would always just be subjects not actors. With women was different, their role was to shut up and be talked about and obey emotionally with men's conclusions, but with deaf or black people it's the assumption they will never be powerful or multiple enough to be heard that i think is offensive in the stuff from that time.

  7. Oh my gosh I just found Book Tube and your channel, which I love! I’m so going to get Perseverance and the Weather in Normal. I’ve studied American Sign Language and my cousin is a teacher of the deaf in Las Vegas of all places…and I live about an hour and a half away from Normal, IL. Please keep up the wonderful channel and thank you for sharing. (I’m also going to try to get some of your books).

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