Review – The Utu Sonnets by Anthony Etherin

‘Poetry is the mathematics of writing,’ John Steinbeck observed, ‘and closely kin to music.’ If we accept Steinbeck’s analogy, then Anthony Etherin’s The Utu Sonnets is the poetic equivalent of the purest of pure mathematics. In previous publications such as his 2019 collection Stray Arts (and Other Inventions) Etherin has proved himself a master of constrained writing, pushing the boundaries of form in tightly crafted palindromes, exact anagrams and dazzlingly inventive sonnets. The seven sonnets presented here are his most constrained work to date.

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Review – A Celestial Crown of Sonnets by Sam Illingworth & Stephen Paul Wren

Sometime in the 4th century BC, a Chinese astronomer named Shi Shen took it upon himself to map the stars visible in the night sky. The resulting work, containing some 800 stars, is generally considered to be the earliest star catalogue. Shi Shen’s achievements did not stop there; he also observed sunspots and wrote a number of astronomical and astrological treatises. In recognition of his contributions to astronomy, a crater on the far side of the moon has been named after him.

With my Eurocentric education I hadn’t heard of Shi Shen before reading A Celestial Crown of Sonnets, written by Sam Illingworth and Stephen Paul Wren. Each poem in this slim, beautifully produced volume focuses on an astronomer who made significant contributions to the advancement of our understanding of the universe. 

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Review: Elemental Haiku by Mary Soon Lee

Chemistry is one of those subjects that largely passed me by at school. The chemistry labs had their own distinctive, slightly nausea-inducing smell, our lab coats were stained and shapeless, and the teaching was uninspired. While it was with relief that I abandoned the subject at the age of sixteen, I’ve always recognised that my limited knowledge of chemistry is a gaping hole in my scientific education.

I was therefore intrigued when I chanced across Mary Soon Lee’s collection Elemental Haiku, honouring ‘the periodic table/ three lines at a time’. Could I improve my understanding of chemistry through reading poetry? And how does one convey the essential attributes of an element in three lines totalling seventeen syllables? In her foreword, Lee explains her choice of form as well as her objectives:

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Review: Edge by Katrina Porteous

Katrina Porteous is a poet based in Northumberland, England, who focuses ‘on the theme of ‘nature’ in its widest sense, and ‘place’ in its deepest.’ This has led her to consider some of the profound questions that have concerned philosophers, religious thinkers, scientists and writers for millennia: What is the nature of matter? What is reality? How did the Universe come into existence? What is ‘out there’, beyond the confines of our planet Earth?

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Review: Learning to be Very Soft by Callan Waldron-Hall

Callon Waldron-Hall was one of the recipients of last year’s New Poet’s Prize, an annual competition organised by The Poetry Business. His debut pamphlet, Learning to be Very Soft, was published in June and is a worthy prize-winner.    Written in clear, unadorned language with gentle, fluid rhythms, the poems use everyday experiences – a car journey, a visit to the doctor, winding in the lane ropes at a swimming pool – as windows into the inner world of boyhood with all its vulnerability, awkwardness and shame. 

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Review: Science Poems – an Anthology from Penteract Press

Penteract Press has a reputation for focussing on formal, constrained and experimental poetry, for exploring the interface between poetry and visual art, with careful attention to detail in their publications. Science Poems, an anthology edited by Anthony Etherin and Clara Daneri and featuring work by Christian Bök, Gary Barwin, M D Kerr, Kyle Flemmer and Pedro Poitevin among others, is no exception. 

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Review: Ode to Numbers by Sarah Glaz.

In her poem ‘A Woman in Love’, the mathematician and poet Sarah Glaz describes herself as seeing ‘a streak of mathematics/ in almost everything’. The title of her collection of mathematical poetry, Ode to Numbers, is taken from a poem by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda which invokes the passion of mathematical curiosity, the urge to understand the mysteries of the universe in quantified terms, the desire ‘to know/ how many/ stars in the sky’(Neruda, 1999).  

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Review: Smoke that Thunders by Eveline Pye

Mosi-oa-Tunya – the Smoke that Thunders, also known as the Victoria Falls – straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. From its broad, smooth-flowing course across a flat basalt plain the Zambezi river suddenly plummets down a fissure in the rock, foaming and churning into the narrow gorge over a hundred metres below. I remember visiting in my childhood: the roar of water, the arc of rainbows in the drenching spray, the smell of wet vegetation, the unprotected edge.

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