Popshot Magazine: The Hope Issue

Title: Popshot Magazine: The Hope Issue

Author: Various

Summary: Popshot is an illustrated literary magazine that publishes short stories, flash fiction, and poetry from the literary new blood.

Our sixteenth issue, featuring a timeless collection of poems and short stories that explore hope in all its weird and wonderful ways. Nestled within its pages, we’ll find a daughter extracting memories from her mother’s mind, a couple feasting on slices of rainbow, refugees spreading roots in friendlier lands, a woman who begins to disappear from sight and someone with a small, bright bird inhabiting their chest

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: After reading and reviewing The Adventure Issue, I have a few Popshot magazines on my bookshelf to read. I’m glad I finally managed to pick one up to read!

The illustrations are, as previously, outstanding. They set the tone for the individual stories and poems, as well as the magazine itself. They are mellow, lulling the reading into the words at a sedate pace, making you really consider and appreciate every sentence. The detail, the colours, the space… although they are different artists, they fit and compliment each other, pulling the entire magazine together.

My favourite story was The Disappearance, a quiet tale about people fading away. It surprised me how quickly and completely i became immersed in the story, invested in the one character we meet, and how quickly the tale flew by. I Hope This Email Finds You Well and Bird Girl are other stand outs, for the writing, the way the stories are told, and the concepts they are exploring. I found them fascinating. The other few stories were fine, but none quite grabbed me enough to leave a lasting impression.

There were a few notable poems this issue, as well. I’m not a huge poem lover and I freely admit a lot manages to go over my head, but here i found several to love. Small Animals, the last in the magazine, is a clear winner (always saving the best till last). It talks of bad days and good, and sharing your sadness and embracing the happiness… except it’s so much more than that and so, so beautifully written. The Cavern, about the good things we hold within us, afraid to let them out for fear of failure. Ash, about someone helping your burned heart grow something new. Rainbow, Refugee, This World No Deeper Than The Eye… the poems stood out in this issue, far and away.

As much as I loved a lot of the stories and poems, overall this issue didn’t pull me in as much or as strongly as the previous issue. Maybe because i’m too much of a cynical person, and adventure speaks to me more than hope. Either way, i still very much enjoyed it, and look forward to grabbing the next issue soon.

Ash by Kieran Cottrell

I had a heart like an upturned ashtray.

I spoke smoke. People held their breath.
When I found you, ash was all
I had to pile at your feet.

I did not know what you would do
with my dire, dirtying heart
crumbled there, burning.

Would you brush it off, blow it out,
heap it, beating, in your palm
offend the wind with it?

No, you found soil, seeded it.
You poured my heart in, stirred
what I had wasted. And we waited.

Now here’s a sapling. Soon, an ash tree.

Illustration by Leib Chigrin

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Graffiti (and Other Poems)

Title: Graffiti (and Other Poems)

Author: Savannah Brown, Ed Stockham (illustrator)

Summary: These poems are about growing up, budding and grappling and shedding, about how wonderful it feels and about how deeply it aches.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: This book’s been on my radar for a while, but i’ll admit, in the end it was this second edition cover that had me buying it (black > white). I also seem to be a bit hit-and-miss with poetry. Sometimes i love it, sometimes it just doesn’t click with me; i’m always apprehensive going in.

It was the third verse in this collection that got these poems clicking for me. I so immediately felt like an adolescent again, old and familiar emotions swept over me so effortlessly. And the best part was that they weren’t unwelcome or uncomfortable. Often, remembering emotions from my teenage years can stir embarrassment and shame, but that’s not what i felt and recalled when i read this book.

The poems are written from a place of introspection, but with enough perception to make them astute and mature. Poems like a poem just for me, real estate, and the only things i know to be true reveal an author who knows herself, but knows she’s not infallible, and knows she’s going to grow and change. While i relate to many of the feelings and sentiments in these poems, it’s with hindsight–i would never have been this self-aware as a teenager.

To me these are the poems of someone processing their own experiences and emotions in a safe and intelligent way, and that makes them massively relatable and fascinating. If these were written during and about Brown’s teenage years, i–as a woman a few years into her 30s–would be very interested in reading any poems she writes in her 20s.

And the art! The accompanying pieces amongst the words. They’re perfect little visual snippets of the poems. There is one in particular of a capsizing ship that I would consider having tattooed on my body. Such simple artwork speaks volumes, in just the same way three verse poems contain as much depth as a novel.

Ariel

Title: Ariel

Author: Sylvia Plath

Summary: Ariel, first published in 1965, contains many of Sylvis Plath’s best-known poems, written in an extraordinary burst of creativity just before her death in 1963. This is the collection on which her reputation as one of the most original and gifted poets of the twentieth century rests.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 1.5/5

Review: I’m aware i’m not well-versed in poetry, but i do keep trying. This, however, has been my most unsuccessful attempt yet. What the hell was this?

Plath is so revered as a writer and a poet, the reviews of this collection are flooded with four and five stars. I read The Bell Jar and i loved the prose, the writing style, the depth and emotion. But here, in these poems, i didn’t feel that. I didn’t feel… much of anything, to be honest.

I love the lyricism of poetry, the often ambiguous meaning but a more intense sentiment. I love that they can mean different things to different people, and even different things to the same person at different points in their life. I really enjoy music and lyrics for the same reason. Someone once pointed out to me that songs are poetry set to music, and i’d never considered that before, but i love it.

These poems, though, lacked any kind of lyricism to me. They didn’t flow, they didn’t convey emotional depth or meaning. I felt i needed some sort of key or cipher to translate and understand what i was reading–it read like gibberish! If anything, i felt confused and amused by most of it.

The other does that,
His hair long and plausive,
Bastard
Masturbating a glitter,
He wants to be loved.

…How the hell does one ‘masturbate a glitter’?

Three days. Three nights.
Lemon water, chicken
water, water make me retch

…Is it some kind of terrible cook book?

In eight great bounds, a great scapegoat.
Here is his slipper, here is another,
And here the square of white linen
He wore instead of a hat.
He was sweet

…Yeah, he sounds lovely?

I’m sure in some way, to someone, these poems make sense. The tens of thousands of positive reviews mean i must be one of the few people they don’t make sense to. Alas.

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Popshot Magazine: The Adventure Issue

wp-1472915662992.jpegTitle: Popshot Magazine: The Adventure Issue

Author: Various

Summary: Popshot is an illustrated literary magazine that publishes short stories, flash fiction, and poetry from the literary new blood.

From the pavement to the pubs to the playhouses, our peculiar little planet is full of storytelling. Popshot aims to publish just a few of the more articularte and well-observed versions of these stories, illustrated by some of contemporary illustration’s finest.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: My partner bought this for me randomly, thinking it would be something i’d enjoy. It is. A collection of short stories and poems, beautifully illustrated and brought to life. This magazine is wonderful.

It started off strong with two sci-fi stories. Shadows, the tale of two spacemen who get lost in darkness and time and aren’t quite sure they make it out unscathed. Seventh, set following an unspecified apocalyptic event, follows a girl travelling, trying to find the one person left who means something to her.

All the stories here include–i’m hesitant to say twist, as it’s not always as shocking as that implies, but they have something. The end reveals enough to change to mood of the entire story, to give more meaning and depth to everything you’ve already read. And that is how the best short stories are told.

A young girl accused of being a spy, or an elderly lady in a hospital? A shipwrecked man gradually exploring a trail of islands, or going backwards and forwards between two? A young boy leading his little sister into a dangerous situation, or attempting to share a touching moment they’ll remember forever?

My favourite story was Bucket List, in which a group of strangers share a balloon ride that turns dangerous. One of them saves the day and completes his bucket list at the same time. It actually brought tears to my eyes, which is quite a feat for a short story!

I’m not a poem buff, and they were more hit and miss for me here. I enjoyed several, while others feel flat for me. Without a doubt, though, the last poem–and final piece in the magazine–was the best. Some Other Day just captured something wonderful about personal growth, about change, and about leaving parts of ourselves behind.

Standout throughout the magazine is the artwork. Each piece is gorgeous in itself, but they both give and receive so much in relation to the words they represent. They string the stories and poems together and make the magazine as a whole a piece of art.

This was issue number 15 of Popshot magazine, and i’m extremely tempted to subscribe for future issues. They seem so wonderfully light, interesting and beautiful; i want more.

Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis

cocoaTitle: Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis

Author: Wendy Cope

Summary: Already well known for her hilarious send-ups of contemporary writers, Wendy Cope is perhaps the most accomplished parodist since Beerbohm. This first full-length collection includes work by Jason Strugnell, the subject of the Radio Three programme, Shall I Call Thee Bard?, as well as other parodies and literary jokes. There are, in addition, telling lyrics and a number of remarkable love poems–candid, sometimes erotic, and very funny indeed.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 2/5

Review: I’ll admit straight away that i only read this book to tick off a couple of boxes on my Bookish Bingo. I can’t recall having heard of Wendy Cope before and I’m not a connoisseur of poetry… so it was highly unlikely this endeavour was going to end in anything above three stars.

I’m particular when it comes to poetry and verse. I like either dramatic and epic, like Shakespeare and Poe, or silly and rhyming, like limericks. Some of the poems in this book, on the whole, are walking a line somewhere close to silly and rhyming, but while still being meaningful. Others were just silly enough for me. Others still just baffled me, to be honest… i didn’t “get” a lot of them.

My favourites were definitely the nursery rhyme parodies. Baa Baa Black Sheep in the style of William Wordsworth and Hickory Dickory Dock in the style of T.S. Eliot. They were clever and funny and perfect. I could happily have a read an entire book of those. (Still craving an E.E. Cummings nursery rhyme, not going to lie.) I also really enjoyed the love poems, ‘From June to December’ and ‘My Lover’. These are the poems i can see myself wanting to go back and re-read.

The rest… the rest i was pretty unimpressed with. None of them were bad, per se; i didn’t dislike any of them. I just didn’t like them, either. I’m sure a factor in this is that i’m not too familiar with the some of the work, writers and themes Cope was toying with. So, while the poems read fine to me, they failed to interest me because i was missing their depth.

I’m unlikely to buy more of Cope’s work, but i will certainly remember and re-read the few poems i genuinely loved.

This knocks two squares off my Bookish Bingo: Author with your first name and author with your initials.

The Little Book of Vegan Poems

littlebookofvegampoemsTitle: The Little Book of Vegan Poems

Author: Benjamin Zephaniah

Summary: Benjamin Zephaniah dedicated this collection of 22 new poems to “the caring, dedicated young vegans of the world…who will not stand for any exploitation whatever the species.” Filled with the unique “radical rapper” poems that Zephaniah is famous for, this book also includes an extensive contact list of international vegan and animal rights organisations.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: This was a quick little read. I found it in the room i’ve been staying in over Easter while visiting relatives. The cover attracted my attention (minimalism ♥) and the subject matter gained my interest. It’s short, at 41 pages, and only took me half an hour to read.

The topic of veganism was the most interesting thing for me and these poems explore several aspects of veganism. The fact that eating meat is so ingrained in our culture that no one thinks to question it and the idea that causing harm to other beings should never be so easily accepted and taught. The fact that all beings are equal; animals are just trying to get on with their lives and that humans aren’t in any way better than them.

Some of the poems I really liked. Some for their message, some for their style, some for the fact they made me laugh. Others I was less enamoured with. Some fell flat, some used language in a way that just didn’t work for me, some were just okay.

Benjamin Zephaniah is known more for his dub poetry, and although I’ve not seen him perform, I think these poems would work much better read live. With emphasis, inflexion, personality and energy. I just think they would hit their mark more accurately and punch much higher.

I think this book is a nice reference piece or accompaniment, but as a stand alone is lacking something.

This knocks two squares off my Bookish Bingo: Chosen because of its cover and a book of poetry.