The Poetry Kit MAGAZINE

Reviews 1




This is the first in what will be an occasion newsletter containing information about new and classic books.  Along with reviews we will publish news of book launches and other related information.  If you would like to contribute a review,  a new or classic poetry book that is still available, please let me know at  You can also provide any other information that you feel is appropriate and we will consider it.

In this issue of PK POETRY REVIEW


Human Chain by Seamus Heaney:  Review by Martyn Halsall

Collected Poems by Bernard Kops - Review by Thomas Land

Clerical Work by Wayne Clements - review by SJ Fowler

Street Psalms – Collected Poems by James D Quinton Review by Ben Macnair

Book Notes


 Human Chain by Seamus Heaney:  Review by Martyn Halsall


Evening in the life and work of Seamus Heaney brings the gathering of influences and their creative reassessment. The collection continues the quiet reflections of District and Circle, but with a more discernible urgency.


One stimulus for this could be the stroke he records in 'Chanson d'Aventure', itself providing a re-connection, and a threatened disconnection with his wife's love: “Our eyebeams threaded laser-fast' in the 'Sunday morning ambulance', a quotation from Donne summarising heart's unease: 'love on hold, body and soul apart'.


'Soul', theologically, is not a concept to which Heaney has indicated much personal consideration, as shown during conversations with Dennis O'Driscoll in Stepping Stones. Yet when 'Apart' reconvenes the 'Chanson' sequence it is church bells that are being tolled, including one by young Heaney 'as college bell man'.


Other essences flow through this collection, including that breaking of the 'human chain' as he left family for boarding school; sensing place and home, and politics that formed them, and negotiations with Classical texts. These influences flow ('breaks like light or water': 'Loughanure; lll), rise and then are submerged within the collection.


In other places, as in 'Route 110', they appear together. In the long sequence 'A Herbal', ever-influential geography defines him, in time ('between haystack and sunset sky') and always in space: 'Me in place and the place in me'. So it seems appropriate to read this wise and generous collection quietly; with gratitude.


Human Chain by Seamus Heaney  faber & faber: £12.99   ISBN 978-0-571-26922-8



This Room in the Sunlight - Collected Poems by Bernard Kops - Review by Thomas Land

AMONG the greatest events of British literature this decade is the publication of the collected poems of Bernard Kops, the doyen of contemporary European verse.

His career began close to seven decades ago when he became the bard singing of the ruthless exploitation and callous neglect endured by the now bygone Jewish immigrant communities of London’s East End -- their old men huddled around the wireless (his words) weeping tears of pride at weather forecasts from Radio Moscow. He has gone far beyond that.

Queen Elizabeth last year rewarded him, at the advice of Gordon Brown, then her prime minister, with a Civil List Pension in recognition of his service to literature. This is a very rare honour that he now shares with Lord Byron and William Wordsworth. Probably the only member of the British poetry-reading public still doggedly unaware that Kops has taken his rightful place among these literary giants is Kops himself.

Kops (b. 1926) is a top British dramatist, his plays performed worldwide for decades. He has written more than 40 plays, nine novels and two autobiographies. He runs a master-class for playwrights. But poetry remains for him, as he put it, the quintessence of everything in literature.

His plays have won many prizes and they have been performed in many translations. One of his recent classics, The Dreams of Anne Frank (1992), has been performed in Hungary, and it is now being translated into Czech to confront the rise of anti-Semitism sweeping Eastern Europe. The play is about the miracle of survival through the Holocaust that claimed Kops’ large extended family in Amsterdam. Anne Frank’s Fragments from Nowhere, a hugely powerful poem in the new collection, is a prayer for peace.

He is extraordinarily prolific. A sense of humour almost never deserts him. Here is how he says he experiences creativity:

Poems are like grandchildren.

You should never bribe or persuade them

to visit you.

...But wait until they enter and overwhelm

and delight you.

Kops is my teacher and my close friend. He is a spellbinding public speaker whose still frequent performances are often remembered in small detail by his audiences for years after such events. He is easily approachable, with informal manners radiating the warmth of a secure early childhood when he was spoilt by the love of his six elder sisters. But his face betrays the suffering endured by him as well as his extended family.

This is Kops’ eighth collection of verse. The poems are mostly deceptively simple, insightful, dark-and-joyful and poignant. Many are already classics, having assumed lives of their own. The book includes more than 40 hitherto unpublished pieces among the old favourites describing the desperation of destitute communities dependent for survival on soup kitchens and pawnbrokers.

They also deal with Kops’ own, quarter-century struggle with drug addition and an attempted suicide. Familiar literary figures crop up in the work, friends and idols like the First World War poet Isaac Rosenberg, another Jewish master from the East End of London, as well as W. H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg and the recently deceased Adrian Mitchell. The collection addresses death much too much for my comfort.

Kops‘ poetry combining touching simplicity with naked passion stems from an 18th century English literary tradition revived in the 20th century by Rosenberg. The poems project great empathy and deep emotional commitment, their power driven by a desperate, unconcealed awareness of the vulnerability of all living things.

The new collection contains something very Jewish but also very rare in Western literature -- a deeply felt recurring declaration of passionate, lifelong matrimonial love. The poet’s muse, wife, lover, friend, editor, mentor and manager and the mother of his four children is Erica, a diminutive woman of enormous intensity, the sort of matriarch you might think Rachel of the Bible might have become if she had been granted a longer life. The collection is dedicated to her.

This is how Kops describes her in a train ride:

Beside me is a lovely girl

with long dark hair.

The sun strikes the amber of her dreaming eyes

where I am trapped like a prehistoric fly.

She smiles.

I must get to know her.

She is my wife.

East London as Kops knew it no longer exists. The dockside Jewish communities once sheltering there from the Holocaust have moved on to the prosperous North-West London suburbs of Golders Green and Hampstead. Their place has been taken by more recent immigrant communities from South Asia, introducing to it their very differently exuberant culture. But East London has not forgotten Kops.

The collection opens with the poem Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East paying homage to that institution, once known as the university of the poor, that the poet used to attend as an ill-clad, hungry child feasting on literature. Today, lines of that poem grace the walls of the library, which now serves a splendid modern museum.

On a recent visit to the museum for a performance of a Kops play -- Whitechapel Dreams (2008), about an Asian teenager seeking refuge from her family at the library -- I watched young girls and stern matrons gaze at Kops fondly when they thought he did not notice. A bartender brought me free drinks when he become aware that I was in the poet’s company.

Kops is a well known figure of the community. He stages plays there and holds poetry readings, lectures and theatrical workshops. The local press reports on his views and activities. Many residents warmly recognize him on streets and in restaurants.

Kops left school at 13 during the Blitz. He tried acting and the second-hand book trade, drifted through the bohemian world of Soho and won sudden, unexpected fame with his East End play The Hamlet of Stepney Green (1957).

That was drama steeped in the Yiddish theatrical tradition. It pioneered Britain’s “New Wave” of “kitchen-sink” drama that was to sweep away a lot of entrenched theatrical conventions. He was hailed for it by the critics of the day as a significant trendsetter. But several of his subsequent plays were slaughtered by the press. A theatre performing his play Ezra (1981) about the anti-Semite American poet Ezra Pound was firebombed. Most of his life he was dodged by financial worries.

This Room in the Sunlight -- the final poem in the collection -- sings the joy of the simple, greatest pleasures of love, creativity and sharing. Kops’ ability to issue such a book after the bleak decades of drug-induced breakdowns praises the steadfast, unflinching support of a strong and devoted wife.

THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent. His last major work was Christmas in Auschwitz:

Holocaust Poetry Translated from the Hungarian of András Mezei (Smokestcack, England, 2010).

This Room in the Sunlight - Collected Poems by Bernard Kops - David Paul Publishing, London, 2010, £9.99p.,

Paperback, 132pp., ISBN 9780954848262




Available from


Wayne Clements – Clerical Work a review by SJ Fowler

Clerical is the latest collection from the Writers Forum poet Wayne Clements, and the latest release from Veer books out of the Birkcbeck based press. Clements action, to form patterns of speech in both physical and verbal delivery, which seem exclusively bound to the repetition in his work, exposes the phonetic behind the philosophical. Clements actively engages in the complexity of his intensions, laying his text very much next to the incisive satire of the reduction he fundamentally employs. That is to say, he evokes the phrases contained again and again, strategically and decisively found as each fragment is, so they show up as traces, as shadows of texts so massive one needs not even to have read them to understand what action is being displayed in front of you.


The works of Marx, Kant, Berkeley becomes the poetic fragment, repeated, ad infinitum, and the great, indulgent works of masculine philosophy and are both held to the breast and exposed as pompous with the ingenious, Loki-esque impishness of the poet. His action is one of great affection and sly humour, of philosophical satire. It is the decision of poet who knows the reduction of thought is the wisest path but one that cannot be followed to satiate the mind of those who read philosophy. The words, the endless sentence, begin to open up the larger texts, and with genuine affection and kinship, the simplicity of the poems begin almost as a footnote or introduction to the spirit of the original philosophy. To take a sentence, a phrase from a work of a thousand sentences to work it into the listeners / readers mind is to make them realise the apparent necessity of an attention to detail in those works which they can never achieve. It is to create an infinite responsibility to the texts, and this, being by its very nature unfulfillable, makes the action humourous and sly and clever.


Moreover, and of central importance, they harry and corral the flimsiness of the language employed. Here again we see the sophistication of the action employed. Clements is exposing the oft-forgotten structuralist realisation, the divergence between signified and signifier. By weaning these phrases across his collection one becomes attuned to the action of absolute focus on each sentence, on each phrase, and as such the meaning of each word reaches a massive prominence. Whether one begins to lose sight of the words power or decency, or whether this becomes acute, the poetry is valid for this – it reminds us of the tenuousness of our linguistic assumptions in poetry and beyond.


Reading Clements work aloud is also inherent in this process,  to work the poems out when being said exposes something inherent in the words, and when read, there is a rhythm, unique to his delivery in fact which maintains the fractious energy of the poet’s originating action. This collection is extremely valuable and productive contribution to the British poetic avant garde. It is well considered, well constructed and intellectually grounded.

For Veer Books ordering or other enquiries please contact:

Stephen Mooney, Department of English and Humanities, School of Arts, Birkbeck College, University of London, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H OPD, or by phone on 020 85210907. (note the new postal address)
Alternatively you can email Veer Books at"



Street Psalms – Collected Poems by James D Quinton Review by Ben Macnair


‘Street Psalms’ is a collection of seventy poems written by the admired poet James D Quinton between 2001 and 2007. In it, he seems to channel the idealism of the 21st century with a way with words that Bukowski made his own.

 Here, he looks at nights out with unsuitable women, at music, at the dichotomy of a job that will pay for your lifestyle, but still expect part of your life in return, at friendships kept and at friendships lost, at the struggle of writing when the whole world seems against you, at music, and at the things that make life that little bit more bearable.


The language used is intelligent, but simple. It is of its time, but there is something that most people can relate to.  Poems range from a few lines, to longer pieces, that are more narrative prose in content, but poetic in form.


In ‘It will never matter how much aftershave you put on’ he watches a friend shot down by the woman he buys a drink for, while in ‘I woke up Early the Day I died’ he looks at a job interview for a job that pays well, but which he does not really want. In ‘Jazz, the Soundtrack to the Evening’ he relates the story of how a five piece band and two married English teachers become a part of his life, whilst in ‘Weekend Warriors’ a week’s wages are wasted in one night in a pub, ‘Everyone is a Writer’ looks at wanting to be taken seriously as a writer, which with this collection, James D Quinton certainly will be.


Street Psalms – Collected Poems by James D Quinton Explosive Books - £6.99   isbn: 978-1-4452-0685-1



Details from mail














Book of Selected Poems of nearly 400 pages published on November 7th.  The book contains poems from Winans' fifty-plus books from 1970 to Present, published by Bill Robert's BOS Press.

There is a signed limited fifty copy hardback edition.  Forty of those copies are already accounted for, leaving just ten copies for sale.  $40, plus $5 shipping.  If any one wishes a copy, they should reserve one now.

The paper edition is $20, plus $5 shipping.  Note:  overseas buyers shipping cost is $11, added to sales price of book.

For further details or to purchase write to




A poem from Victor Richards the author of Poetry Trilogy the Poetry Kit Month in November 2010.


Life is a mirroring art

by Victor Richards


I cannot promise you riches self-gain,

fame, fortune, facelifts or miracles.

That’s just not my department.

But I can inspire you

if you have the time to listen.

I have stories to share tales to tell,

and email messages to convey to the people of the world

that life is a mirroring art

like a science fiction movie set in the future.

I have premonitions that are unexplained.

Living in this global village we call ‘Earth’.

I am one of many cells that has the fortune

or miss – fortune to have a gift of foresight.

It may be a gift or curse, or even a blessing.

I really can’t say, I’m a deep thinker.

The world’s problems issues have become

my favourite topic of conversation.

The restrictive barriers that once filled my mind are gone,

and I no longer block the processing of my mind.

I had developed a sense of logic, intellect,

and a thirst for knowledge, cultures, faith, languages

and  people form all walks of life that fascinate me.

I learn to absorb information and data around me

while at the same time I listen very carefully

to people’s inner thoughts and wisdoms.

I walk down the street now and notice

so many more wonderful and beautiful things.

I practice smiling at people to see

if they would smile back at me or even notice me.

Human greatest desire is to radiate love, respect,

and a greater tolerance to understand,

but I am just a man and cannot achieve this on my own.

So I need a woman in my life to help teach me

how to love and respect her through time.

There is strength in numbers,

finding you inner karma to help heal yourself

and society around you, is one of the greatest things

any man, woman or child could ever hope

to achieve in their lifetime.


(From Poetry in motion production, ‘I Spy through the World’s Eye’)





The next PK Poetry Book Reviews will be sent out at the end of January.   We are always interested in reading third party reviews of any contemporary poetry books, or other books about poetry which might be of interest.  Reviews of older books which have an interest for the reviewer will also be considered.


Reviews from previous editions of this newsletter are available in the Poetry Kit Magazine at


As always we are als interested in poets who would like to be considered for our Caught in the Net series of featured poets editions.


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