Review of Mark Haddon’s poetry collection, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea

 

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In truth, the dwarf worked in a betting shop / and wore an orthopaedic shoe. / The ugly sisters were neither sisters, nor, indeed, women, / nor were they remotely interested in the prince. –‘The Facts’

Haddon’s subject matter is wide-ranging and, characteristically, quirky. He deconstructs the everyday, thereby raising interesting questions for the reader. Such as in ‘The Penguin,’ which is about a trip to Cotswold Wildlife Park, where he muses, ‘A whole world and every part of it / a short walk from the tea-room.’ In ‘Nuns’ he speculates on the personal histories, and potential futures, of women who choose to live such a chaste, ascetic existence. ‘The Model Village’ is written from the point of view of an old man who has lived in the same village all his life.

These brief moments, which Haddon reveals, are both simple and profound, as well as being highly amusing at times. Take the poem, ‘Woof,’ for example, written from the point of view of a dog speaking to his human: ‘You bite me, everybody wants to know. / I bite you, no one gives a damn.’ Or in ‘Poets,’ where he writes, ‘There are whole streets / where their work is not known.’ My favourite poem in the collection is ‘This Poem is Certificate 18,’ which is a humorous assemblage of references to poets and poems both modern and traditional.

Although I’ve read (and enjoyed) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I was unaware that Haddon also published poetry. I came across this collection in my local library, while searching for another book. The title instantly attracted me and, seeing as it’s such a slim volume, there was no reason not to borrow it. And I’m glad I did. The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea is an enchanting assortment of poems, full of the same imaginative intellect which created The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

If you’d like to learn more about what lies behind these poems, you can visit Haddon’s website: http://www.markhaddon.com/poetrynotes.htm

Follow him on Twitter: @mark_haddon

Buy the book from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Talking-Horse-Girl-Village-Under/dp/0330440039

And don’t forget to pay a visit to your local library. You never know what treasures you might discover there. 🙂

 

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Review of The Lockerbie Writers’ Anthology

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Edited by Kerrie McKinnel and Godfrey Newham and published by Kerrie McKinnel on behalf of Lockerbie Writers.’ Foreword by Bryan Armstrong, Editor of Annandale Herald/DnG Media. All illustrations by Lewanna Stewart.

An ambitious and diverse collection of short stories and poems from a talented group of writers based in Annandale and Eskdale (South-West Scotland, for international readers). The group is formed of members Frank MacGregor, Kerrie McKinnel, Steph Newham, Richard Sharp, Kath J. Rennie, Paula Nicolson, Angela Haigh, Chris Openshaw, Godfrey Newham and Pat MacKay. The anthology is divided into six sections:

Life, Love and Loss in South-West Scotland

In ‘It’s Never Too Late!’ by Frank MacGregor, retiree and recent widower, Andy Johnston, rediscovers the joys of friendship by trying something new. Similarly, in ‘Pulling the Wishbone,’ by fellow MLitt-er, Kerrie McKinnel, lifelong neighbours, Betsy and Ada, decide to spend Christmas together. But will it be what each hopes for?

Ghosts and the Supernatural

A local fisherman continues his time-honoured tradition of throwing a coin into the river prior to commencing fishing, in Richard Price’s ‘An Overpaid Fare.’ Surely a few pence is a small price to pay for a good day’s catch, he reasons. Or is it?

Pat Mackay provides a humorous and clever take on the traditional haunted house story in ‘A Ghost Story.’

Historical Connections

Steph Newham vividly describes the final journey of a dying Australian woman in ‘Moss Wall.’

Modern Fairy Tales

‘The Dragon of Annandale’ by Paula Nicolson is imaginative and accomplished in its mythologizing.

Nature

The atmosphere of spring is perfectly captured by award-winning poet, Kath J. Rennie in her poem, ‘The Shepherd and his Flock.’

Mark takes his beloved fiancé, Ali, on a scenic detour when she comes to visit him from afar (they’re in a long distance relationship). But when he parks at the local police station, Ali isn’t quite sure what to expect, in ‘A Sight to Behold’ by Angela Haigh.

Chris Openshaw’s poem, ‘Autumn,’ beautifully evokes the colour of the season and its possibilities of renewal.

On Writing

Steph Newham muses on the trouble her characters give her in ‘The Problem with Characters’ while Richard Sharp reflects on what to write for the next meeting in ‘The Drive Home.’

This collection brought Annandale and Eskdale to life for me, and is no doubt a huge achievement for the group. There is something for everyone here, from the lover of mysteries to those who prefer nature poems. And it’s beautifully illustrated too, by local artist, Lewanna Stewart. I enjoyed discovering the work of these up-and-coming authors, and look forward to reading more of their work in future.

You can buy a copy of the Lockerbie Writers’ Anthology: Stories and Poems from Annandale and Eskdale from Amazon for £6.99 for the paperback, or £4.99 for the Kindle version: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lockerbie-Writers-Anthology-Stories-Annandale/dp/1530333245/  Visit their blog: https://lockerbiewritersanthology.wordpress.com/  Like their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lockerbiewritersanthology/  Or, follow them on Twitter: @LockerbieWriter

If you’re lucky enough to live in the area, you might even consider attending their launch event in honour of World Book Night, this coming Thursday the 21st April at Lockerbie Library, where you can relax and chat to group members over a cup of tea, as well as hear short readings of their work. For more information on their upcoming events, visit: https://lockerbiewritersanthology.wordpress.com/upcoming-events-and-meetings/