Poetry Basket Reviews

Review of Bunty, I Miss You! By Heather Moulson

By Sharron Green @rhymes_n_roses

Heather breathes raucous life into the spangly, gangly sixties and seventies of her youth. Her wonderful collection evokes all the cheery chintz and gritty gloom of those indomitable decades. Here’s a brief summary of each of the poems featured…

Why? – were other people’s homes so snug and inviting?

Bridesmaids – a bitch about being left out of the line up

Tea Time – rather away than at home

Mrs Ross – a spiteful old cow who prized art

Sunday Nights –miserable monotony heralding the horror of a new school week

Sixties Seasons – sweltering summers in bed before dark vs punishing poorly, heated winters “but all year round there were violent parents and slappy teachers”

I’m Sorry  – but in the end, not sorry

Nasty Old Bitch – bursting happy bubbles with hateful bile

Evelyn’s Mum  –lazy and not a great hostess

Evelyn –in too much of a hurry to grow up

Seventies – those tween and teenage trials from 1970-75

The Regent Cinema – faded glory that couldn’t compete with new multiplexes

Bigger Girls  – wanting to be one, until the secret got out…

Lisa – a show-off cousin who exaggerated her promiscuity

Traitor – jilted for Jane by best friend Julie

Scrubber part I, II and III  –the rollercoaster love life of a troubled tart

Boys – doing a runner to avoid a duffer

Bloody Liar – falling for Julie’s porky pies

Joyce – rather a romp in Brian’s van than his respect

The Walk Home  – snogging and smoking in the cemetery

The Cigarette Affair – parents forbade married man – who moved swiftly on

Paper Boy – he broadcasted the bra size but rejected a free feel

At its heart, and this book is ALL heart, are the ups and downs of friendship and crushes; the have and have not comparisons that often only crystallise in retrospect and a wistful but generally grateful look down the paths not taken.

A treasure trove of evocative references from David Cassidy to pink blancmange; from Sindy in bed with Action Man to wearing hot pants – we empathise with missing those days, while recognising the timeless trauma of being a teenager.

A must read for anyone nostalgic for their youth but well aware of its cruelty, especially if it spanned the 60s and 70s, as the rich tapestry of popular references will sweeten and bring smiles to the stewed tea of those tawdry times.

Hooray!! Susan Evans is in the Poetry Basket……

I was thrilled to get a copy of this vibrant poet’s collection, a joy to read and review – I’m proud to share this. Now, see for yourself.

Shift Happens by Susan Evans

I’d long anticipated getting my mitts on the vibrant Susan Evans’ debut collection – Shift Happens – and my patience paid off.  With wry observations, genuine humour, tangible nostalgia, there is also an underlying tension, such as terror and jealousy behind romantic gestures.    However, we don’t lose the significance that Susan fights back and is ultimately triumphant.  Carrying on sensually through journeys and cherished places such as bohemian Brighton and beyond, these are all presented in a descriptive and well-paced style.   

Published by independent micro press Read Fox Books, this colourful collection of 64 poems is full of paradoxical and exciting variations on the poet’s relationships with people, places and politics.    

 We’re greeted with Amsterdam, that recounts an amazingly detailed journey, with relatable experiences of finding yourself, however briefly.  The nostalgic tones still keep its integrity and self-discovery.   All these elements are involved as the poet reveals so much of this incredible city, with art, street theatre, ‘cake’, red light districts, and flowers.  The fraught journey home, including an encounter with the airport fag machine, says so much.

Jealous Guy and All Because the Lady loves… reveal terrifying underlying mental and physical violence behind romantic clichés, and sheer control from men.  A dark seemingly endless trap.  These pieces jumped out at me.

I was drawn to Meat of the Matter with Les’s sad and humorous musings on his relationship with Tracey.  Reflective and true, and brutally frank.  A real human observation.

Killing Me Softly brings us devastating news of the Twin Towers broadcasts in iconic and glamorous surroundings.  The stark reality and the horror in the splendour of Sadler’s Wells. Wistful film references are included, if only Clarke Kent could come to the rescue!  Meanwhile the actor is waiting for the audition.  Every actor knows this time span.  Returning to a stagnant setting seemingly unchanged by this terrible world-changing event.  Except the writer.  Absorbing story

God is a DJ   gives great references including the ‘Lentil Brigade’.  Sharp, with a short-lived elation.  Misconceptions about the Rave Set and the God Squad.  A great life experience.  

Brighton is vivid and colourful.    The poet paints a whole picture of

her homeground.  A detailed study and affectionate look at its residents,

some loved, some not, but still drawn together. 

 Capturing the personality and enigma of this seaside town,

A bonus is the engaging opening line, “Brighton for me is a Dirty Martini:”

That image captures it all.  Nothing is spared, nor would we want it to be.

Murder on the Gatwick Express is a nicely paced stream of consciousness. 

The tables turned on ‘Let the train take the strain’. Painfully vivid in its detail,

making the very real point that something is lost.  Hankering for that ease of

a quiet train journey long gone.  Humour tinged with bitterness, and a terrific last line.  

Never Mind The Riots is a clever mixture of a tense political situation, combined with the backbone of English life.  The cup of tea, or teas as listed so beautifully here, brings home our ultimate comfort during troubled times.

Rough Guide to Poetry Gigs at Music Fests simply tells it like it is.  Wry, depressing (for some of us!), with great terms in a vernacular beat.  We’re out in that field ourselves.   

The unique, rhythmic Desensitised is brutally cynical, with good reason, and borders on cruelty.  These are words that resonate with us. 

After the Honeymoon, and Thoroughly Modern Marriage, two completely differently worded poems of love turned sour, could be said to be spiky and sad.  They also carry tenderness as they take us along on their journey.

A personal favourite, Walthamstow, is where the poet truly excels as she pays homage to her childhood stomping ground.  A moving piece for even the harshest of critics. For myself, Walthamstow Dogs brought a pang of nostalgia. Where did those wonderful lit-up nights go?  Greatly paced, and lively childhood memories.  With so many iconic names and places, and how vitally it is still embraced.

It seems fitting that this is followed by A New Era for E17, with its urgency of protesting against gentrification and holding onto working-class values and homes for the residents of this borough.

 Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time!  opened up the term frolleagues for me, making this piece even more enjoyable.  We all know the references in this upbeat reflection, and perhaps there’s a part of us that would all like to spend Christmas ‘home alone.’  Followed by Wish List which actually hankers for the elusive perfect Christmas.  This carries a familiar wistfulness.      

Evolution is a description of human nature, and despair at a shop going bust, taking a part of you with it.   Making the very real point that charities can lose their way.

Uncle Tim’s Vinyl a great title in itself, is a tender tale of cherished heirlooms, and nostalgia.  The term “stereo Nazi” will stay with us. 

Moths is a hard and personal journey, and the poet spares us nothing.  The traumatic experiences that’s followed by numbness strikes a painful chord.   

Joie De Vivre is reflective on the people we thought we could rely on.  Jealousy and self-gain, and other disillusionments of the friends we thought we knew ring hollow.  Summed up neatly with the firm ending – “Thank you”.

A Beautiful Blur with Brown Sauce on…in memory of Chris,is a quirky yet humanely told story.The forming of a full and long-standing friendship, the brown sauce the only bête noire between them.  Then finding out the hard way that it wasn’t the worst thing after all. 

I loved the simplicity of Lapsed and all that our purses, and false starts can actually tell us.  This poet really uncovers every stone.

Co-op on a Saturday Night, now a regular experience, is quite deceptive.  Expecting loneliness, it instead paints a heartwarming picture of human nature.

 Lost to the Menagerie of the Night Buses is a great title, and features that thing that looms up at us on a dark and late night.  That red saviour when all other transport is in bed for the night.   Sordid?  Lonely? No.  Just a great story.

I feel I’ve just got off a joyful bus journey myself, and would gladly pay the fare again.

A great collection.

To bag a signed author copy of Shift Happens, follow this link:


You can follow Susan Evans’ work on Facebook and Instagram @SusanEvansPoet.

Well, look who’s here! The amazing Barney Ashton-Bullock’s vibrant new collection.

Published by the high-profile Broken Sleep Books and is available on http://www.brokensleepbooks.com, and plain old Amazon. Plus follow Barney on Facebook or Instagram.

A wonderful collection that has so much intelligence and energy, do get yourselves a copy.

Meanwhile sit tight for a hot review!

Review of ‘Café Kaput!’

Twenty-four gripping titles are contained in this powerful collection by talented and prolific poet, Barney Ashton-Bullock. Coming from ten years of work, and an impressive literary and musical background as a member of the hybrid poetry, pop and theatre collective ‘Andy Bell is Torsten’ and as the featured verse narrator in the Downes Braide Association prog-pop band, his new collection is published by the top notch, radical, alt-lit poetry specialists Broken Sleep Books. 

A packed paradox of observations in the vernacular.   Brutal -or is it?  Are we shying away from these words or are we embracing them?

Painfully detailed, challenging to the point of discomfort, it’s a colourful journey, and you will need to hold on tight.  

The poet’s calibre shines through with a good first choice of poem.  Done For is a poignant story facing the cold core of music business disillusionment; young artists seized by management and commodification’s looming kiss of death.  You feel the poet is leading us in gently into deep waters.   

And that’s where it stops.  The kid gloves truly come off.  The powerful imagery of Joggers, gives us a graphic bolt and unique images, but, an underlying sincerity lurks beneath.  Then the painfully vivid First Time, the significance of a first tryst will make uncomfortable reading – or will it?  These are genuine people, and so personal.

What can I say about And liked it….? Perverse and twisted, graphic, sad – and enticing. The very human Alone, with its profound desires, have tenderness between their lines. Bordering on a stream of consciousness, the harsh words do work.

The atmospheric Unbidden, is a clever paradox, with no stone unturned to find the horror there.  The last line “Lick at the static air unbidden” is so, so tangible.

Sezincote looks at the poet’s own background and our middle England life, and attitudes.  Then he tears it apart with his bare hands!  Yet his words would warm the heart of the harshest critic.  These are words we really do need to hear.

In Cruisers’ Creek, brutality brings us the harshest of truths.  Things we try not to see in daily life.  Yet, the tenderness of these people with a need live between the words. The sordidness is palpable and the hardest terms bring their own significance.  And an end line that blows us away.  “Devant les bricolage des periodic tables of potential STDs.”

The Bros of UnMersey is violent and disturbing but with stunning details and observations.  Perhaps we need what he tells us. There are shades of Berkoff in this unique poem, but with the whole collection, I’m also feeling undercurrents of Hubert Selby Jr’s ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’. Despite the sordid bitter notions and actions of these people, there is a vulnerability about them. They can also be enticing.  There is a gentleness between these harsh lines.

 Its follower, Men is profound and lonely.  And beautifully spaced. “Their suit behaviour as if an erasure of the private world they lived in fleetingly with me” is a monumental line. 

Volte-Face (About Face) is explicit and uninhibited, and takes on the issues we try to ignore.  The words jump out at us, as the poet laughs in your face.  One’s soul is turned inside out.  The language is unique and brazen.

Odd Oeufs (de Sant-Denis), a twisted bilingual piece that goes into sinister ground.  We just keep reading the relentless flow.

Anteroom builds a picture so tense and grim, but is it not beautiful too?

Emeritus is a curious piece containing the stunning line “diphthongs serially elongated beyond the breath for irritant effect.” Read on…

Motel Strange is full of wonderful dark humour followed by a very human situation.  And our    ultimate bête noire, loneliness. 

Shoscombe is a very ambitious block of consciousness, tight, brazenly truthful about our heritage and tinged with a poignant ending.  “There’s a Viennese Finger left in the pantry, and I can always send Roger out to get some more.” Justifiably sad.  

I Cannot Deal With Praise Today takes on the elements with a full force.  Disturbing and religious overtones.  I would say atmospheric and near-gothic.   

Tarot Cards As Thrown takes on these quintessential things with strong vivid images.  We are kept rooted though.  If we turn away, its for other reasons

A personal favourite, Guest House is set in Bridlington and harks painfully at old values.  Seaside ‘Bed and Breakfasts’ fading away. It gives a paradox to the twee images we have of these old English places. The ones we carry hazy memories of.  Had we really been there?  Or has it been an ideal we’ve carried around?   The uncomfortable truth about our heritage is right here.  “We, bay-window shuttling, chamois shine the mottled Deco glass. For those who shuffle by, To shufty in it to straighten hair, coat, hat, tits, tie.”  – such a common place picture that leads us gently to the bitter ending.  And what other ending could it be, with the fate of these institutions? 

Radipole – Out Of It (Deluxe) seems Thomas Hardy-esque, and reflects on youth and the pain of revisiting the things we have shed.  Very strong home territory for Barney Ashton-Bullock, born and bred in Dorset, that evidences the lost souls, addicts and the all too often hopelessness of life, off-season, in England’s heritage seaside towns. The strong undercurrents carry us along.    

I embraced the seedy glamour and grimness of Frau Totton with incredibly sordid yet beautiful descriptions.  The imagery is very, very strong, and may make us shy away.  But not for long. These lines are reflective too. 

Snuck jumps out at us but we’re ready to embrace it.  “Injectable cruelty without beauty” – will stay with me.  The poet delivers strong and advanced vocabulary.

The gory pictures from I Pray From God My Soul Escapes sink into us, and Pathological Narcissism takes us by the neck and guides us to a brutal unforgettable climax to the collection.

Despite the pounding heart, the reader will not regret reading a single word. 

Thanks for a great trip, Barney.

Well, look who’s in here! The lovely and prolific poet, Sharron Green’s collection ‘Introducing Rhymes_n_Roses’. A very personal pamphlet, designed by the poet herself, and if you wanted to purchase a copy, contact Sharron on rhymesnrosespoetry@gmail.com, or look at her website rhymesnroses.com Plus Instagram @rhymes_n_roses or her Facebook page, Rhymes_n_Roses.

Now, get ready for the hot review

Introducing Rhymes_n_Roses

By Sharron Green 

I was lucky enough to acquire this beautifully designed collection from Sharron at the Cranleigh Arts Festival.  Twenty poems revolving around English life, and the life-changing gates that we enter, if we haven’t already.  We cannot lose with this collection.    Everything is covered from weather, nightclubs, shopping centres, Love Island, Ebay, Fitbits, and my favourite, The Menopause

These rhyming poems are in neat and trimmed blocks, and are deceptive with their underlying emotions, and random shades of anger.  The discreet quirkiness goes at a regular pace. 

The amazingly detailed The Tree Lined Village Square, opens up like a theatrical production with very personal reflections on how we embrace our birthplace.   Plus how often we tend to return.  A whole story of who and what we grew up with emerges with this first piece.

Our Weather shares our feelings, and the valid question of where it is actually going. And where will it take us?   

The reflective Walls scrapes deep and tenderly to our own home memories, carrying us on a vivid and emotional journey.  Those often painful, but blissful stages of life are seeped in these words.  A tender decoration.

  The Oasis Nightclub can come across sordid, bringing up uncomfortable memories.  Did we all wait in that queue during the misery and anticipation of youth?  Cynical – or is it?  Sharing sweat, and intimacy between strangers.  Isn’t this also very human?  

The Oasis Shopping Centre is painfully descriptive in its rituals, for some an ordeal, for some it’s freedom.   The poet sums up the emotions and competitiveness and true friendship of people who exist within these familiar buildings. 

The clever Oasis Spa has quite a savage beginning with predatory, single women but pans out the reflections and needs of these strangely enticing characters.  There is an air of ambivalence about these pampered surroundings. 

Child of our Times succinctly puts the contrast between our own childhoods and how children are brought up today.  We’re pushed into uncomfortable territory. The pang of nostalgia will be familiar, plus the cynicism of helicopter parents and kid gloves upbringing. Something is truly lost.   

One of my personal favourites, Stolen, is a beautifully detailed lifespan from a young woman taking that relevant journey to motherhood. Sit back and enjoy the ride of no return.  An absorbing and tentative piece on how much life can change.     

Another favourite is The Menopause, the ultimate and natural further stage for women.  Lack of choice? nature being cruel?  Or an exciting new phase in life?  Painful, quirky and humorous.   

Then we’re taken to The Roundabout Way that is a detailed life lesson, bordering on philosophical.  Strong and deep questions arise.                                                            

The well-structured Poetry cleverly covers the endless aspects of this elusive art form, that the most experienced poets still chase after.  Very succinct and well laid-out.  

There is also the glamour of Rose, colourful yet dusty.  Sad almost. I reached out to her.  

Saving our Earth naturally goes into eco territory but the message is clear and relevant.  We can also relate to the stunning beauty of Chants for Nature, vivid, simple and yet complex. 

Then the tender The Tale of Buddy Green, an ode to the poet’s much-loved dog.  His lifespan and highs and lows are heartwarming.  There is such strong human love.  

A strong collection, and a joy to read. 

Well, look who’s in the Poetry Basket today – the hot off the press collection by the prolific and talented poet Thomas McColl. Read on for an even hotter review….

A stunning and vibrant work from Fly on the Wall Press and available from this link https://www.flyonthewallpoetry.co.uk/product-page/grenade-genie-by-thomas-mccoll

or good old-fashioned Amazon. Now, prepare to be burnt…..

Review of Grenade Genie by Thomas McColl

The second collection from innovative poet, Thomas McColl, takes us on a surreal journey into four profound sections, with an abundance of intelligent and humorous observations from his 25 poems.  There are also deep black connotations, and he is ruthless with his words.   Truly relentless but far from unwelcome, and very compulsive.    

He takes us straight through to the first section headed Cursed

This intriguing roadway gives us the surreal, yet sympathetic, branch terrorism of No Longer Quite So Sure.  A bus ride will never be the same.   Followed by The Evil Eye, a father’s chilling advice to his son about Social Media, the desperate and gripping Carry My Eyes, and the contemporary horror of The Bunker highlights the real risks and vulnerability of a tower block. 

The Greatest Poem with references and paranoid comparisons to TS Eliot, is laugh out loud material.  Followed by the disturbing Grenade Genie, the title poem. 

We leave that section and take a right into the next road which is Coerced.  The self-doubting, bordering on paranoid Security Pass.  Joined by Jackpot and Invisible Twin, full of innovative strong notions. Nightclubbing in Brum 1988 tells us a beautifully spaced and human story. 

The situation remains human as we leave that section with Jan, Jen or Jean. Sharing the   writer’s sheer discomfort, making us anxious to move on quickly!

We drive into the strong heading of Combative, and are welcomed by the wonderful, intelligent and witty Shopping with Perseus.  An original take on the fashion victim involving the Greek Myth hero. 

Common observations, things we don’t mean to ignore, are lit up by Socialist Workers on Oxford Street.  Quite certain I will never take that endless street for granted again. 

Then we are embraced with one of the highlights of the collection Statement by the  Pedestrian  Liberation Organisation.  Wonderful wit, terror and vivid observations.

The Phoney War is tender, frightening and ends heart wrenchingly. The image of the sobbing grandmother at the stove will stay with us.   

Our journey takes us on to the last section, Corrupted.  No less enticing than the other three chapters.  Just One Comma Away is clever with meaning and punctuation, and Said Contents is true and sinister.  Hooked is very chilling, but the last thing it leaves us is cold.

The Surgery I go to has a Two Headed Doctor is simply a great work of black humour. An enjoyable read.   

As with the First Kiss, despite its discomfort.  However, Thomas McColl never promised us a smooth ride.

The climax of Literal Library is extraordinarily surreal, and profound.  And like all of this collection, acute. 

These poems travel flawlessly from the witty to the terrifying.  Well worth the bus fare!

Can I go round again please?   


This is the Poetry Basket feature – and in the basket this week is the vibrant Donall

Dempsey’s new pamphlet The Smell of Purple, a moving and touching account of fatherhood. Well worth a review.

In fact, I can’t think of a better way to start this page.

Donall Dempsey and his touching collection The Smell of Purple published this year.

It’s a very poignant collection. Do order it if you can – available on Amazon.

Review of The Smell of Purple

by Donall Dempsey

The latest collection from vibrant and prolific poet, Donall Dempsey, gives us

102 pages of insight into an emotional wallet of fatherhood. 

Yet, it goes further than that, as we live our experiences through Tilly, the small

child at the centre of this book’s core, and poet’s ‘makeshift’ fatherhood.   

The sheer love for this magical child comes through strongly but never overly sentimental. 

We are simply presented with human nature, not indulgence.   

Beautifully designed, we are given an awareness of conciseness and intense focus. 

These words are emotional polaroids, with all their faded colours.  Donall sets off a daisy

chain of haiku’s growing organically into poems and vice versa.   

Nothing gets away unscathed and every stone is unturned, with dolls being repaired, a

father shaving, crayoned houses, an ice cube melting. Things we’ve tended to ignore or

forget, rise up and greet us again. For instance, the line of a rag doll weeping in Sticks –

makes uncomfortable but not unwelcome reading.  The memory of being scared of a jack in

the box makes us face our own childhood bete noirs.  It’s these references that turn this

collection of poems into the strong and vivid picture it is.   

We go on a detailed journey from Becoming Tilly, sharing the wonder of this child coming

into the world, embracing life.  And tangible love in And the Sun Always Shines Magenta. 

Donall takes on so many elements of nature, yet never once does this overshadow his

 devotion to Tilly.  Being Adam in the Garden of Eden gives us such loving detail of animals

and the magic of a farm. 

Many Children Ago makes one misty-eyed sharing the sadness of a broken forgotten doll.

While Many Remembers Ago, we are with Tilly from the child to a young woman –

“her hand fallen from mine” would resound with the most hardened observers. 

Makeshift Daddy cleverly unravels Tilly’s story.  And we are swept along with the simplicity

of As Above So Below, explaining the stars and moon to a child. 

Becoming the Rain’s Language makes slick reading, with a fascinating footnote.

The witty haiku Weather Forecast, and the sheer painfulness of trying to dress a small child

in Girl Squirrel resonates more than we’d like.    

More Tea? with Aunt Mabel borders on sitting room farce, and Granny gets involved too

with Being Little.    One of the elements that make these recollections far from insular.

The poem of the book’s title is apt and unique, not to mention moving.

  There are poignant moments in Cuddle, taking Tilly to see her real Dad’s gravestone. 

And her interpretation of the father she will never know.

Tilly’s relationship with the cat – talking about cat things (Girl Talk) and that ‘Cats is people

too!’ (En Lakech!!) is warming.  Along with the intimacy of Ponds cream and contact lenses,

that a family captures in Mummy Dyes Her Eyes.

Being Tilly opens such a picture of childhood, but it is not painted as idyllic. 

Despite wording these things so succinctly, our feet are kept on the ground.

Word Bags, and The Smell of the Light are astonishingly vivid.  These are things that are

obvious, and yet they’re not.  And the wonderfully titled Stew of Déjà Vu was a stunning


A Fairy Tale of Rain is an image of soaked little girls metamorphosing into disdainful and

embarrassed teenagers.  Box of Memories – the grown girl/young woman who weeps over

the Tilly’s Memories box.  The observer wants to comfort her too. 

If Paradise is half as nice is the sheer realisation that the little girl has actually grown

up. Only a gradual dawning for most parents.

The last poem – Here Now I hold you, travels from holding the newborn to comforting the

heartbroken teenager.  This cleverly comes full circle. 

Such an insight into a father’s deep love. 

  Thank you for taking us through these gates. 

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