Anthony Lawrence

The storm had passed through –
the bric-a-brac, hurly burly, the rough and tumble
racketing down the road:
a clothes horse at full sail

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The Welfare of My Enemy is an unusual experiment in narrative poetry. Taking as its theme ‘the disappeared’, it is a set of narratives, a kind of anthology that imaginatively documents the myriad ways in which (and the different reasons for which) people go ‘off the radar’ and end up as missing persons ...

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Taken as Required

by Ynes Sanz

An age ago, ill-matched,
ignorant but willing,
we set the rules.
‘Step by Step’, we said. ‘No Bullshit.’
Today, thinking of something else
I stumbled across the grey metal bracelet
you looped over that stick of a wrist
where your thin blood stained the skin
to resemble an antique map or a bad tattoo
(like the one they inked on for that photo shoot in the ’50s).

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Stephen Kelen’s new book is an ambitious, wide and free-ranging journey through past and present, war and peace, family life, travel and technology. It has all the hallmarks of Kelen’s previous books: a marvellous ear and restless eye, a gift for narrative that challenges as much as it reaffirms, and a willingness to tackle anything that takes his attention. These (mostly) narrative poems have a relaxed, conversational style, even when Kelen’s subject matter is bleak and charged with menace: ‘The gun going off / made us laugh till even our / humanity couldn’t give a shit // The police came and went / and we thought about that’ (‘Deadheads’). This relaxed, colloquial style is at the heart of much of the book, and the opening poem, ‘A City’, works as a short, lyrical template for what is to come: rural, urban, celestial, domestic, political, technological. Kelen works a spell and places them all into fourteen lines. It is a tight, promising beginning.

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