A poignant collection – The Year of the Crab reviewed

February 8th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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Peter Ualrig Kennedy’s review of The Year of the Crab, By Gordon Meade, begins:

A diagnosis of cancer must inevitably concentrate the mind … those of us who are in sound health may find it difficult to envision the depths of despair engendered by such a diagnosis, or to think about the pains and indignities of surgery and radiotherapy, or fully to appreciate the burgeoning of hope as the faint rays of recovery appear on the horizon […]

In this poignant collection, in which each poem takes the author and his readers through the various stages of his Year of the Crab, Meade employs an economic and spare poetic style to profound effect. A philosophy shines through these poems – unsurprisingly, given the backdrop of cancer, the mood flickers between darkness and light, encompassing a classic trajectory from despair through anger, resignation, and at last to hope.

The poems in The Year of the Crab take us from Meade’s diagnosis…

His illness has come on him like an overwhelming sea. The early poems brim with fear: “Why fall asleep when you will never know / whether or not you will ever wake again? / … I have decided not to sleep at all. I wonder / for just how long I will be able to keep it up.”

… through his treatment, at first in London, and then a return to Meade’s native Scotland…

He becomes more tranquil; he sees Nature more clearly. The sea in February “looks crisp, like liquid / ice, slowly rolling in, unfurling itself, / and then breaking. I have / never seen greyness look / so bright. The slopes of the waves / have the same sheen on them as / the backs of dolphins …” but all of a sudden, and dramatically, he is plunged back into the maelstrom of hospitalisation and radiotherapy.

Peter Kennedy reveals, at the end of the review, that ‘Gordon Meade is, praise be, in remission, in Fife, and in good form.’ Read the full review on London Grip.

Buy the book for £10 plus p&p: The Year of the Crab.

Gordon Meade has two other poetry collections available from Cultured Llama: Sounds of the Real World and Les Animots: A Human Bestiary, with images by Doug Robertson.

Postage and packing is free if you order two or more books.

A Witness of Waxwings, new stories from Alison Lock

January 10th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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We sneaked one last short story collection into 2017. A Witness of Waxwings by Alison Lock. Please take a moment to look at the gorgeous cover image, by our jacket designer Mark Holihan.

A Witness of Waxwings invites us into worlds of shifting time and identities, where brutal reality is often witnessed through a liminal lens. Within these stories are shifts of light, perception, slips into other realms, where people are inhabited by birds, selkies and sprites. There are ghosts in the ocean, faces in the wake. Alison Lock’s fictional world is a route map to unexplored mindscapes.

Alison Lock writes with delicacy about brutality, with the eye of truth turned equally on reality and fantasy. She glances and looks away, her retinal after-images caught on the page.

Cherry Potts, Arachne Press

Read more and order a copy for £12 plus p&p: A Witness of Waxwings

If you order two or more books from this website, postage and packing is free.

Two other Cultured Llama short story collections were reviewed last year in MsLexia. Reviewer BeeJayDee writes about A Short History of Synchronised Breathing by Vanessa Gebbie:

This collection […] ranges from empathetic through comic to anarchic. In ‘The Properties of Wax,’ ‘Parallax,’ and ‘Wei-Chi’i’, a sense of loss and loneliness is sensitively imagined. […] The final and best story, ‘Skellig’, is a brilliant evocation of a lonely man who might only exist in spirit. on the boat trip to Skellig island, he “stayed apart” from the others, “his jacket … the colour of distance”. Amongst the sounds of the seabirds, wind, waves, he explores. At the end we feel redemption. Michael “picks up a stone” and “starts to rebuild”. It’s a painting in prose worth rereading many times.

Order Vanessa Gebbie’s collection for £12 plus p&p: A Short History of Synchronised Breathing

If you order two or more books from this website, postage and packing is free.

Susan Allott had this to say about In the Wild Wood by Frances Gapper:

The first third of the book contains several stories about a woman whose mother hs Alzheimers and who is increasingly confused about and childlike. I found these moving and emotionally honest […] But then the woman’s mother dies, and this theme is dropped, which feels sad and sudden – I imagine this is intentional.

From then on the stories are more varied and quirky […] All of them are shot through which at times jars with the emotiveness of the story. Again, this feels deliberate and it gives the stories their unique and surprising edge.

Order Frances Gapper’s collection for £12 plus p&p: In the Wild Wood

If you order two or more books from this website, postage and packing is free.

Injustices and small acts of defiance: There are Boats on the Orchard

December 6th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

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Alex Josephy notices more than a “simple elegy” for the vanishing orchards of Kent in her review of There are Boats on the Orchard by Maria C. McCarthy. Josephy writes: “The poet notices both injustices and small acts of defiance in the rural context.”

In many of the poems, McCarthy turns her attention to the slow processes of abandonment and decay, and here, for me, there is a move into particularly interesting territory. She doesn’t romanticise, but invites us to enjoy a borderland between ‘natural’ and human objects, where littered beer cans are as much a part of the landscape as blackberries and ‘bletted plums’ (wonderful word for the softening of fruit that I now know thanks to the poem ‘Strange fruits’). Several poems focus on the orchard’s array of dumped vehicles and domestic machinery, gradually overtaken by natural processes as if caught in a time-lapse sequence. There’s a ‘bramble-clamped car’ (how could you better that description?), the lingering presence of ‘spectres of ponies’ around a semi-dismantled horsebox. I especially liked the small but very telling poem ‘Dry Dock’, in which McCarthy tunnels with great precision into usually unobserved moments; three catamarans become:

hour    minute    second     hands
stilled around the dead tree

and in the rain:

Each new drop arrives by stealth 
as quiet as a theft

Alex Josephy’s review appears on London Grip.

A MsLexia reviewer also notices the wider political and ecological consequences of the decline of the orchards, chronicled in the collection:

The title poem, in five sections, sees boats out of their element: “a parched prow points towards the water / butt that catches the run-off from the outhouse roof. // It’s seen the turning of the seasons twice…” The various boats are absorbed into the landscape “a speedboat … / … sat so long … / … I noticed neither its presence nor absence …” […] and section (iv) draws attention, once more, to what is lost, or what is about to be lost, in the reference to the “floods in fifty-three” where sheep “were drowned / to due loss of local knowledge ‘ left to graze on marshland …’ A “loss of local knowledge” has dire consequences for the ecology.

This reviewer describes the book as: “slim, smooth and crisply illustrated by Sara Fletcher.”

There are Boats on the Orchard is available exclusively from Cultured Llama for £7 plus p&p.


The Year of the Crab by Gordon Meade – sold!

November 20th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

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Sally Evans was reviewing The Year of the Crab by Gordon Meade in the Callander Bookshop, which she runs. On leaving the book on the counter for a few minutes, Sally returned to find her copy of the book had been sold. What better review for Gordon Meade’s poetry collection on his experience of cancer. Sally Evans says:

If you overcome cancer you are a winner, not merely a survivor, argues Meade in one of his poems. Using the craft he has learned writing of birds and animals, he firmly and gracefully describes a whole range of effects of cancer on his life: how the doctors did or didn’t interact with him, how he felt, how he determined to beat it by reading and writing. The poems refer to various gurus including Eve Ensler and Plath. ‘1) Why have you got cancer. 2) Do you want to live?’ Is the header quote in one poem. His reading of cancer is not medical so much as confrontational. Writers who have overcome cancer and dealt with it repay our attention as we follow his poems.

Poetically the book is mature and sound. In its theory and approach, it has relevance for everyone involved with cancer – surely a majority of readers, when friends or relatives are hit by the disease.

You can read all of Sally Evans’s review here.

Buy a copy of Gordon Meade’s new collection for £10 plus p&p: The Year of the Crab

Add in Les Animots: a Human Bestiary, also by Gordon Meade, with images by Doug Robertson, for £13. If you buy two or more books from this website, p&p is free

Spotlight on our best short stories: Anna Maconochie, Maria C. McCarthy and Frances Gapper

November 20th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

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Only the Visible Can Vanish, Anna Maconochie’s debut story collection has been named by Rowena Macdonald as one of the best books she read in 2016. This post appears on Under the Radar 

I really loved Anna Maconochie’s debut collection, Only The Visible Can Vanish (Cultured Llama). It was one of the best books I read last year. Reminded me at times of Angela Carter and Haruki Murakami. Really sharp, sparkling, funny, slightly surreal, occasionally dark stories about love, sex and work in contemporary London. It should be better known.

Anna Maconochie’s book costs £12 plus p&p. Order it here:Only the Visible Can Vanish

Kieran comes home “with his shirt splattered with blood”, on the night of the Guildford pub bombings. His mother knows that soaking the blood from his shirt is the least of her worries as an Irish woman living in England.

Maria C. McCarthy’s story, ‘Cold Salt Water’, appears on East of the Web.

Another story by Maria C. McCarthy appears on East of the Web – ‘Caged’.

‘Cold Salt Water appears in As Long as it Takes, by Maria C. McCarthy, £12 plus p&p, or with free p&p if you order two or more books from this website.

In an interview with Frances Gapper on Flash Frontier, Frances explains the title of her story collection, In the Wild Wood:

The name comes from a conversation I had with my mum, Patience. At the time I was staying in her house and trying to look after her – she had Alzheimer’s and I was heading for a breakdown. She asked me “Are we going to the wild wood?” Part of me hoped there might be an actual wood nearby, somewhere between the main roads in dusty Brentford, West London. I asked her “Where is the wild wood?” and she replied “I’ve no idea.” Of course the Middle English word wode also means mad or insane; in that sense we were already in the wild wood together. The title’s associations for me also include the opening of Dante’s Inferno: “In the middle of the journey of our life / I found myself astray in a dark wood…” (Seamus Heaney’s translation).

Frances also talks about the beautiful cover image, by her friends Jane Eccles.

This beautiful book costs £12 plus p&p, and can be ordered here: In the Wild Wood

There is free p&p if you order two or more books from this website.

‘Never mind the bucolics’ and other poems

October 25th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

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There are Boats on the Orchard, Maria C. McCarthy’s illustrated pamphlet of poems has been reviewed in The Frogmore Papers, and two of the poems have been posted on Abegail Morley’s The Poetry Shed. Jeremy Page writes:

There is a distinctly elegiac feel to many of the poems in Maria C. McCarthy’s latest collection, which ‘chronicles seven years of living alongside the disappearing orchards of Kent.’ A sense of loss together with a keen awareness of what we are losing is expressed in language that is deeply felt but never mawkish.

Our favourite comment following the launch of the pamphlet, courtesy of Roundabout Nights in Chatham, is ‘Never mind the bucolics, here’s Maria C. McCarthy.’ Others have said:

I love the juxtaposition of the extraordinary and the mundane, the natural and the human … the human as natural. The clever crafting that doesn’t wear its heart on its sleeve. A beautiful elegy to lost ways of life, parts of life that we leave behind (willingly or unwillingly), and a gently spoken hint at renewal. Moving and accomplished; it’s a lovely thing.

The two poems posted on The Poetry Shed are ‘Boy on a Ladder’ and the title poem of There are Boats on the Orchard,  both of which are accompanied by Sara Fletcher’s illustrations (see below).

Order the pamphlet for £7 plus p&p: There are Boats on the Orchard

Order two or more books from this website and postage and packing are free.




Two Cook(e)s reviewed – poetry by Rose Cook and David Cooke

October 25th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

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Robert Garnham reviews Rose Cook as both a performer of poetry and a page poet with ‘the deftest of touches’. Of Rose Cook’s latest collection, Hearth, Garnham says:

The family is at the core of this collection. Many of the poems are meditations on her relationship with her mother, or the shock of a life-threatening injury to her own son. At such points there is real emotion, though never overblown or overwrought. Rose has the most deft of touches and can, with a very simple or honest phrase, provoke real emotion and universal sentiments […]

The world is a better place with Rose in it, from the turns which bring truth to the fore throughout her poems, to the humour she brings to the everyday. And if, like me, you’ve been lucky enough to hear her perform, her voice will stay with you throughout this wonderful collection.

Read the full review here.

Order a copy of Rose Cook’s latest poetry collection for £10 plus p&p: HearthAdd a copy of Rose Cook’s Notes From a Bright Field to your order, also £10, and postage and packing is free.

David Cooke’s After Hours is reviewed by Rachel Playforth in The Frogmore Papers:

This is a subtly elegiac collection, dedicated to the poet’s late father-in-law. The title sequence switches between the days and weeks following his death and scenes from his ‘stage Irish’ life, adding up to a lovingly realised portrait of a man and his allegiance/ to a place that doesn’t exist/ beyond exiled memories. Memory and history within Irish immigrant families and beyond are explored throughout the book, with decades melting away and generations united through a painting, a voice, an heirloom or a ritual. This culminates in ‘Biscuits’, an unlikely and masterful sestina conjuring up not only abstemious teatimes but a whole way of life.

Order a copy of David Cooke’s collection for £10 plus p&p: After Hours

A Short History of Synchronised Breathing – ‘quirky blueprints for getting by’

October 19th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

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A Short History of Synchronised Breathing and other stories, by Vanessa Gebbie, has been reviewed in the lovely Frogmore Papers (a favourite litmag at Cultured Llama HQ). Here is what Charlotte Gann has to say:

These stories are elegantly varied while strangely united. Peopled by characters living in some degree of dislocation or isolation, they’re funny, serious and compassionate. (I’ll remember the divorced taxi driver, Frank, carrying his fare without direction.) Often surreal, many contemplate past relationships, especially marriages, and are riddled with irreverence, ribaldry and flights of fancy, as well as reflections on the process of writing. Overall, they seem to me quirky blueprints for getting by – most, arguably, more sustainable than a nationwide programme of synchronised breathing!


A Short History of Synchronised Breathing and other stories costs £12 plus [email protected] Order two books or more and post and packing is free.

Readers have great things to say about The Lost of Syros, stories by Emma Timpany. An anonymous reader says:

This short story collection is a joy to read. I had a sense of the generosity of the writer, as I entered each story and found it to be a different world. In a strange way, the experience was somewhat like the satisfaction I had reading ‘The Examined Life’ by Stephen Grosz (a brilliant, heart-warming book), because what Emma gives the reader is a series of insights into very varied lives. Emma Timpany is a writer’s writer: one of the best. Her style is unobtrusive, but lyrical. Often I don’t read every story in a collection, but with this one, I found each one had something very different to offer. These stories are revealing, intriguing, funny at times and shot through with beauty.

Victoria Field adds:

Accomplished and riveting short stories mostly centred on the experiences of girls and young women, always vividly located in a specific place. There’s a sense of loss and confusion, of things not always being what they seem, a kind of fugitive grief., even if as in one story, there’s a happy ending when the lost child is found. I loved this book.

The Lost of Syros costs £12 plus [email protected] Order two books or more and post and packing is free.

Poetry of hope – Hearth, by Rose Cook

October 16th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

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Rose Cook’s Hearth has been reviewed on Literature Works:

From the outset of this powerful collection, there is an inescapable warmth of feeling which is clear and consistent in the poetic voice. As one delves deeper into it, every passing poem causes one to consider that term ‘hearth’. There is a real sense that these are poems to be shared at the epicentre of one’s home considering as they do matters of life, death, togetherness, loneliness and what it means to be alive.

Sandra Tappenden says:

I needed this book, and didn’t know until I’d read it. It’s a mindful, sensitive collection of poems that echo life’s hidden work, where fracture is a constant threat but wholeness is promised through reflection. It’s poetry of hope, and how good is that?

Buy the book for £10 plus p&p: HearthAdd in Rose Cook’s Notes from a Bright Field, also £10, and get free post and packing, as you will when you buy two or more books from this website.

Frances Gapper – one of the most exciting imaginations producing fiction today

September 13th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

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We knew we had chosen well when we tracked down Frances Gapper and asked her to submit her stories for publication. Now, Rachel Fenton has described Frances Gapper as ‘one of the most exciting imaginations producing fictions today.’ Here is what Rachel has to say about the title story of Frances’ new collection, ‘In the Wild Wood’:

The story details the metamorphosis of a mother into a child due to the symptoms of dementia, but really what’s being described is the fear of a child forced to become a parent to their parent, the grief of losing their own life to the shepherding of the person whose care consumes them. Old age, filtered through a child’s lexicon, is made new, a contrast symbolised beautifully by the cover illustration for In the Wild Wood, an original artwork by Jane Eccles that evokes Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant” for me.

Read Rachel Fenton’s review of In the Wild Wood on snow like thought

To celebrate the publication of In the Wild Wood, Frances Gapper visits Jessica Patient at her imaginary bookshop, on Writer’s Little Helper.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
My bookshop would be very different indeed from all the other ones. The emphasis would be on relaxation. Women over 60 would be invited to stay over free of charge for as long as they liked in private book-lined bedrooms with large bathrooms and writing tables.

Order Frances Gapper’s story collection for £12 plus p&p at the link: In the Wild Wood.

Postage and packing is free if you order two or more books

While we’re on the subject of stories and fiction writers, Nigel Jarrett is interviewed by Rupert Dastur on The Short Story. Rupert asks if Nigel has a favourite story in Who Killed Emil Kreisler: 

I don’t have one! But in the opening story, Old Roffe, I like to think that I managed to combine big themes –  human innocence, human frailty, and our relationship with the animal kingdom – in an almost minimal style […] Affairs of the heart confuse Evelina the zoo keeper but she alone is privy to the amazing behaviour of Roffe, the aged but delinquent gorilla. The story is set at a failing zoo in Sweden for no reason other than that creating a variety of geographical settings is my way of dealing with universals: it could happen here, it could happen there, it could happen everywhere.

Who Killed Emil Kreisler is reviewed by Katie Witcombe on The Contemporary Small Press:

Jarrett’s most successful stories, and the ones that burrow deepest under the skin, are those concerned with the ghostly traces we leave behind after we’re gone, like fingerprints on a windowpane […] One of his narrators asserts that ‘So much dies of us when we die’, but many of the characters in these stories leave indelible traces which reach out to warp and stain the lives of others, like watermarks on a page.

Order Nigel Jarrett’s story collection for £12 plus p&p at the link: Who Killed Emil Kreisler 

Postage and packing is free if you order two or more books