Tuesday, 31 May 2022

OUT NOW: Face in the Mirror: A Students' Guide, ed. by Judy Morris (ZunTold, 2022)

A new student anthology of poetry, featuring my poems 'Isti Mirant Stella', 'table', 'Your Poem Here' and 'Delaunay's Dye'...

Who am I? Is it okay for me to be different? Just what is my place in the world?

Life can be a difficult path to walk. But poetry can be a powerful and loyal friend, bringing light and joy when things seem dark, helping us find our way.

This book is a unique collection of classical and modern poetry for young people, covering a vast range of human experience. You will find the voices of young people in these pages as well as poets who lived many years ago. Their words can touch our minds and hearts, unlock our emotions and help us maintain good mental health.

A poem can help you to say, 'This is how I feel: this is my reality.' And that can be the start of a journey towards personal happiness, inner peace and wellbeing.

Poetry by:

Paul Morris, Emily Dickinson, Peter Kalu, Edgar Albert Guest, Abbie Farwell Brown, Hannah Kate, William Blake, William Shakespeare, Rosie Garland, Judy Morris, Tesni Penney, Mojisola Oladiti, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, George Eliot, Mary Frye, Aya Ahmad, Marian Allen, Wilfred Owen, Elaine Bousfield, Emily Jane, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Christian D. Larson, Emily Brontë, Robert Louis Stevenson, Wang Zhihuan, Rudyard Kipling, Charlotte Brontë, Robert Frost, Sara Teasdale and William Ernest Henley.

This text accompanies Face in the Mirror: A Teachers’ Guide for using poetry to support good mental health in the classroom and beyond.

For more information, or to buy a copy of the book, please visit the ZunTold website.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Beltane: Day 7

The big day is here! And, to be honest, we're absolutely shattered now! I think it's fair to say we've given our Beltane celebrations a really good go this year. We weren't quite as full-on as we are for Halloween, but I think this was a good try. Maybe next year we'll go even bigger with it, because I have to admit I love Beltane now (though, obviously, Halloween and Christmas are still the best).

Friends of Crumpsall Park Beltane Litter-Pick

The Friends of Crumpsall Park litter-pick is held on the first Sunday of every month, so it fell today. And, like yesterday's litter-pick, it had a Beltane theme this time. We had another go at making Beltane story sticks while we travelled round the park, though mine turned out a bit more Goth than the one I made yesterday.

Springtime Bath Bomb

A lovely little gift from Rob for a bit of seasonal relaxation!

Beltane Dinner

May Day concluded for us with the (now) traditional Beltane Dinner of sausage casserole, followed by strawberries and cream.

The Wicker Man

And what else could we watch to accompany our Beltane Dinner than The Wicker Man (the 1973 version... obviously!).

Beltane Gifts

We ended the night by sharing our (now) traditional gifts - more whisky (or Calvados this time for Rob) to add to our seasonal tasting sets that we'll enjoy at Christmas.

And so the wheel of the year turns... We'll be celebrating again at Midsummer.

My Year in Books 2022: April

Time for my monthly round-up of the books I read for fun in April. It's a little longer than my previous two posts, but it is a bit of a mixed bag this time. I did read one really good one this month though!

In case you're interested, here are my posts from the year so far: January, February, March

Black Mountain by Simon Bestwick (2021)

The first book on this month’s list was originally published as an eBook serial in eleven parts, but later rereleased as a collected paperback edition. I read the collected novel-length version, so that’s what this review is based on. Black Mountain is a horror story about an area of North Wales known as the ‘Bala Triangle’, which surrounds Mynydd Du (the eponymous Black Mountain). Over the years a series of strange occurrences have taken place in the Bala Triangle, suggesting something very old and very bad resides there. But that’s not really what hooked me in with this one. The way the story is told is very much the selling point of this one. The book begins with Rob Markland, a horror author, who stumbles on an odd little story about a place called Hafen Deg on an urban explorers site (and the initial description of Hafen Deg really hooked me in). From there, Markland discovers a couple of articles by a writer called Russell Ware, also a one-time horror author, who had done some investigation into strange events at Hafen Deg and the surrounding area, but who died before his work could be completed. The nested, unreliable narrations, incorporating a variety of supporting sources, are utterly compelling, leading the reader through a maze of unsettling vignettes that take in everything from religious history, farming, mining, archaeological research, an executive holiday village, and the perils of trying to open a B and B in a cursed landscape. Loved this one.

The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean (2020)

I have to admit, I really thought this next one would be right up my street. And, in some ways, it was. The story begins in the early 1970s, with twins Abi and Tim deciding to fake a ghost photograph in the attic of their suburban home. Proud of their creepy creation, they choose a suitable target – a girl from their school who they believe will be a good candidate for being duped by their fake photo – but then things go horribly wrong. Their target reacts in an unexpectedly dramatic manner, and then Abi goes missing. A few years later, Tim is introduced to a group of paranormal researchers who are investigating a supposedly haunted manor house called Yarlings in Suffolk, and various demons begin to surface. While I did enjoy the set-up and the initial setting of the story, I struggled a bit with where it went. The ghost-hunters in the mansion seemed to belong to a very different story to the fake ghost photograph, and I found the book a bit fragmented. (There is something that tentatively unites the two narrative strands, of course, but I won’t say what that is, as I think it would constitute a spoiler!) And while I’m more than happy with open and opaque endings, this one suffers for its lack of resolutions. None of the storylines (the fake photo, the missing sister, the incidents in Yarlings) reach a satisfying conclusion, which was a bit disappointing, and the book’s ending is somewhat abrupt.

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse (2021)

I’m at a bit of a loss what to say about this one, as I’m genuinely struggling to say anything positive (and I don’t like these mini-reviews just to rip books to pieces). I bought this one from the supermarket, because the setting sounded intriguing. The blurb promised a murder mystery in a former sanatorium, now a luxury hotel, in the Swiss alps. An avalanche cuts the hotel off, and there’s a killer on the loose. While not the most original premise, it certainly sounded like something I might like. Unfortunately, the execution was surprisingly poor, given the huge marketing push the book has had. The central character is an apparently ‘rising star’ detective, who is taking extended leave after nearly being killed by a suspect. She’s at the hotel for her brother’s engagement party, but she intends to use the time to confront him about the death of their younger sibling twenty years previously. I’m afraid to say that this character is one of the most woefully inept detective I’ve ever read. She makes no headway with her unofficial investigation into the series of gruesome murders that take place while she’s at the hotel, and she puts herself pointlessly in danger on several occasions. She also takes a long time to recognize the meagre clues presented. Combined with a surprising (for the genre) lack of secondary characters/suspects, and very poor writing and editing (including continuity errors, unclear prose and a distractingly choppy style), this one was an utter let-down.

Beltane: Day 6

Another day of festivities... and oh, we do have a busy weekend planned! Today we combined Beltane with Walpurgis Night for an added celebration.

Friends of Bailey’s Wood Beltane Litter-Pick

The monthly Friends of Bailey's Wood litter-pick was on today (it's the last Saturday of every month). This time, there was (of course) a Beltane theme. As well as doing the regular litter-pick, we also made Beltane story sticks as we travelled round the woods.

Quick Lunchbreak

Not exactly Beltane-themed, but it was nice to take a bit of time out after the litter-pick for a quiet lunch with Rob, before heading off to buy some important stuff for tonight's celebrations.

Walpurgisnacht Earrings

I wore my Green Man earrings for the litter-pick in the morning, but I switched them in the evening for some little silver witches in honour of Walpurgis Night.

A Visit to Heaton Park

One of the Walpurgis Night traditions that I read about and was quite taken with is visiting 'the high places'. Luckily enough, the highest place in Manchester (the Temple at Heaton Park) is just around the corner from us. We had an early evening walk, and then a bit of quiet time contemplating the view. To accompany the peace and quiet, we had a little cup of tea as well - Bonfire Toffee from Bird and Blend Tea Co. (saved from last Halloween).

Walpurgis Night Dinner

The other Walpurgis Night tradition I wanted to observe was 'gathering with loved ones' and 'making lots of noise'. So, we had an awesome and rather boisterous family dinner tonight. I brought balloons that were meant to look like flames and a Beltane-themed cake. And me and my brother created a playlist of music for the evening, which was a bit of a rollercoaster, given how different our musical tastes are!