ANTICIPATING ‘A CUSTOMISED SELECTION OF FIREWORKS’ BY DOMINIC FISHER

Congratulations to Dominic Fisher, long-time Leaping Word poet, whose second collection, ‘A Customised Selection of Fireworks’ (Shoestring Press) is on the brink of publication.

Dominic will be launching his book at Bristol Folk House on Thursday 16th June at 7.30pm, with guest readings from fellow-IsamBards, Pameli Benham, David Johnson and Deborah Harvey. If you’re in the locality, do come along and help the evening go with a bang.

Learning Finity

Here at the Leaping Word, we’re delighted to announce that Deborah’s new collection, Learning Finity, is to be published on 14th March.

Learning Finity is Deborah’s fifth poetry collection, and is published by Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling of Indigo Dreams Publishing. Many of the poems are set in Deb’s native city of Bristol, and explore the themes of mythic time and how stories appear to repeat themselves:

How much of the past, its people and memories, stay imprinted on the landscape? Are the trees lining the nave of a bombed-out church busy rebuilding it? And does the valerian that thrusts through cracks in walls on streets climbing from the city centre remember when the hillside was woodland called Fockynggrove, rising beyond the city walls and a very well frequented spot indeed? Yes, everything is mutable, but stories persist.

Learning Finity can be ordered now from the Indigo Dreams website or directly from Deb at admin@theleapingword.com. Please follow Deb on Facebook and Twitter for news about forthcoming real life and Zoom launches.

Introducing a specialist counselling service for writers and artists

The Leaping Word is delighted to announce a specialist counselling service for writers and artists, delivered by our own Colin Brown.

This service is primarily intended for those engaging with personal experience through their work. Counselling support can be sought in relation to specific issues that are being explored, or the feelings engendered by such exploration. Or maybe you are struggling with issues of privacy – both yours and that of people who feature in your work. Perhaps you need to consider how to exercise self-care whilst turning your experiences into art.

And of course, Colin also offers more general counselling for anyone who seeks it, regardless of how they express their creativity. His areas of special interest include bereavement, domestic abuse, emotional regulation, estrangement, anxiety, identity issues, long-term health conditions, loss and grief, low self-esteem, narcissistic abuse, relationships, suicidal thoughts, trauma, victims of crime, and work and career issues.

For more details, please see Colin’s counselling website, Longships Counselling.



Anticipating ‘Fontanelle’ by Helen Sheppard

We’re delighted that another Leaping Word poet, Helen Sheppard, is about to deliver ‘Fontanelle’, her debut collection of poems.

Helen is well-known in the Bristol poetry community and always keen to champion the work of others, which is why the prospect of reading a book of her poems is such a pleasure.

And what a book. You often hear people call poetry collections ‘important’ when they aren’t particularly, whatever other value they might have. However, ‘Fontanelle’, which compares and contrasts Helen’s experiences as a midwife working in the NHS during the 1980s and 90s, with that of her Aunt Doreen, who delivered babies in an earlier, more perilous yet less impersonal era, fully deserves this epithet.

‘Fontanelle’, which is published by Burning Eye Books, will be welcomed into the world this 23rd September, and its launch is taking place at Waterstones in Bristol the following day, Friday 24th September at 7pm.

A review of chaucer cameron’s pamphlet, ‘in an ideal world i’d not be murdered’

‘In An Ideal World I’d Not Be Murdered’

Photograph by Louisa Campbell

Chaucer Cameron

Against the Grain Poetry Press   £6.00

Explorations of the sex trade are expected to include the sort of realism usually referred to by television critics as ‘gritty’ or ‘hard-hitting’, and there’s plenty of that in this newly published pamphlet by Chaucer Cameron: for example, in ‘Erotic’, the narrator says: ‘Sodomised/ they called it/ but I don’t/ remember details./ The papers said/ no underwear,/ reported every/ action/ as erotic’, while in ‘I Will Leave You For A Moment While I Trade’, the reader is given a glimpse of how the inconvenience of a period might be handled in a doorway while waiting for the next punter.

These details act as a foil for matter-of-fact and shocking lines, such as ‘I know the rules: no names, no dates, just numbers’ and ‘beneath this rose tattoo – a barcode – ’. Almost all the women and girls inhabiting these poems are identified by little more than their first name, speciality, and occasionally fate. This dispassionate approach reaches its apogee in the poem ‘Coup de Maître’, in which the dressing of a crab is used as a metaphor for the consumption of a sex worker, and is described from the point of view of methodical punter possessed of a cold, psychopathic detachment.

There’s also a strand of surrealism running through these poems, and this gives them a sudden depth, to the point where the reader, wrong-footed, finds themself frantically treading water. In the startling opening poem, ‘128 Farleigh Road’, a client, or maybe a pimp, is found dead at the foot of a staircase, and a strange, dislocated intimacy is engendered:

‘But here we are, just he and I gazing at each other

The way dead people do when caught together intimately.’

This sensation of being removed from an experience as it is happening is familiar to anyone who’s been trapped in an abusive situation, and a sustained incidence of dissociation is brilliantly captured in the poem ‘Cartoons’: 

‘It’s funny what you think of/ when you’re gagging/ for your life

when you hear the car doors/ click/ …

Tonight/ it was the Flintstones/ I watched them as a kid … ’

Often these forays into surrealism prevent the reader from being entirely sure of what’s happening. You think you know where a poem’s going, but there are layers of doubt and ambiguity, and it could all turn out a lot worse than you want to imagine. This reflects the situation the poems’ subjects find themselves in, with little to no control of what will happen next, or even whether they will survive their current job. In ‘Love’, one woman, Ash, holds off a stab wound with a laugh that becomes increasingly animalistic and dehumanised, while in the title poem, Crystal announces: ‘I refuse to compromise my safety,’, as she is in the process of ‘inviting strangers back to her room’ and, a line later, adds ‘there’s a safety in jeopardy, ain’t there?’ ‘She was lucky’, the narrator tells us, ‘never murdered, she understood erasure, turned it into/ artforms, pinned it to the walls’.

As this title suggests, there are moments of humour to be found in these poems too, although inevitably it’s dark. Much of it comes from Crystal, who ‘often throws in random facts’, is ‘always wanting the story’, and is one of the few women we become acquainted with, if passingly. Another woman, Trixie, declares:

            ‘I’m a work of art, I’m a sex magnet

            just look at these, she said

            as she pulled down her begonias

            from the shelf – ’

However, such interludes of apparent levity are always tempered by what comes next. Trixie, it turns out, is a child, not a woman, and in the following poem, a punter, who claims he adores her, unashamedly details the way he exploits and degrades her. 

In an interview with Abegail Morley of Against the Grain Press, Chaucer Cameron has said it took her thirty years to have sufficient emotional distance to write these poems. I, for one, am profoundly grateful she has, and that the song sung by Canary Wharf in the final poem of the collection is, for her at least, one of emphatic survival.  

Deborah Harvey

This review was first published in April 2021 by London Grip.

Chaucer Cameron is a former member of one of the Leaping Word poetry groups, and we are delighted everyone now has the chance to read this important work.