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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


Islands in the Blood by Geoff Stevens

but black and white is better by ken champion

How to Euthanise a Cactus by Stephen Derwent Partington


Poetry Kit Poetry Books of the Month


Book Notes















Islands in the Blood by Geoff Stevens Review by Jim Bennett



In 2009 Geoff Stevens received the Ted Slade Award for services to poetry and he is a figure well known for his editing of Purple Patch Magazine over many years.   But like many of the figures who are known for what they do for other poets it is sometimes worthwhile being reminded what good poets they can be in their own right.


In this timely collection there is such a reminder.  Here  Stephens writes of islands, both metaphorical and real.   For this reviewer it is when Stevens is writing about the real islands that he knows or has visited that the poetry becomes exciting and evocative, as here in his poem SHEPPEY;


an oatmeal biscuit

dipped in milky tea

rises out of

the estuary

the flat mushy cereal fields

of breakfast Sheppey


He has an ability to show the familiar in an unfamiliar way, to make it new, and bring insights into his poetry that makes each poem fresh and innovative.  Here again in ON BRYHER WITH RICHARD PEARCE Stephens writes;


Rushy Bay and the shadows run indigo

like brushed paint making bladderwrack shapes

on the beach by the deserting sun

the whole scene viewed as though

through a windscreen wet with rain

and cissing cat's eyes


If you decide to buy a copy of this collection then make sure you have a lot of time free because after reading it you will be filled with the desire to travel and experience these places for yourself.


Islands in the Blood by Geoff Stevens ISBN 978-1-907401-11-4


is available from...

Indigo Dreams Publishing

132 Hinckley Road

Stoney Stanton



 Or Bookshop at Publication Date: 1st June 2010




but black and white is better by ken champion


I found it odd that after being familiar with Ken’s poetry for a number of years, through his pamphlets  Africa Time ands Cameo Poly and seeing his name regularly in poetry magazines and online attached to some fine poetry, that this was in fact his first full collection.  Still it was worth the wait.  This is an outstanding debut collection with some exciting poetry.  Here is a writer who deserves to reach a broader readership. 


The title refers to a quote by Truffaut, "colour's more real , but black and white's better." In that case it was drawing the distinction for the purposes of cinema, and I have long believed that cinema can draw a lot from poetic images, and vice versa.  Cinema, theatre and photographic references are all to be found here. Including a wonderful theatre moment, Barbara Streisand rehearsing for her stage role in the musical Funny Girl in London, recalled with effortless clarity. 


Stephen Derwent Partington’s How to Euthanise a Cactus

By Keguro Macharia, University of Maryland, College Park




How to Euthanise a Cactus opens with the word “Nightmare” and ends with the word “war.” For a collection that takes Kenya as its focus, this strategy is risky. Risky because it could appear to replicate popular discourses on Africa: a place where nightmares are realized in wars. Taking Kenya’s 2008 post-election violence as its point of departure, the collection takes another risk. It dares to be a poetry of witness. By now, it is a cliché that poems focused on African locations witness and discuss war and violence. A poet-scholar, especially well versed in Africanist and postcolonial thinking, Stephen Derwent Partington is aware of the risks he takes, and subverts clichéd (mis)representations. And, as he proves throughout the collection, the risks he takes are worth taking. How to Euthanise a Cactus is sensitive to the histories it invokes and attuned to the politics it engages, respectful, but never diffident or shy. 


“Lethe” is the first in a category of media-focused poems that sputter at TV images, yell at newspaper headlines, grieve at the unsaid, and create counter-memories. “Media Framing, Eldoret IDP Camp” affirms that we can choose to read media-circulated images against the grain. Although “Some producer was determined we should weep,”

It seems one toothless homeless woman

wasn’t briefed: top left, off focus

she was doubled up with laughter

like a woman half her age,

her bright tears streaming. (16)

Such “off-focus” figures texture our views of history and contest the affectively simplistic memories offered by official, media-framed narratives.


While Kenya remains the scene for most of the poems, it also serves as a standpoint from which to engage the world. “The Troubles” reaches back to a British childhood that is unfamiliar to Kenyan readers.   Partington’s childhood poem features “the grammar of partition” and “the politics of bowler hats,” distinctions between Northern Ireland’s Catholics and Protestants, their clean shaven and bearded chins, and plastic bullets that kill. Directing our gaze to global practices of violence, “The Troubles” refuses to spectacularize Kenyan violence as somehow unique, as expressing an African propensity for destruction.


Note: while containing official information, the publisher, Cinnamon Press UK, is not responsible for this release.

This review has been edited to remove comments that were not to do with the publication.





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The next PK Poetry Book Reviews will be sent out at the end of September.   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


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