Richard Thomas’ Zygote Poems in sonic form

January 26th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Published by Cultured Llama in 2015, ‘Zygote Poems‘ documents the journey into new fatherhood, and Richard Thomas has collaborated with local producers Veneer and Dragonfruit Planet to give two of the poems a more audible dynamic.

The first, ‘She Craved Tinned Pineapple Chunks’, about a regular walk to Mutley Plain in Plymouth to find the aforementioned tinned pineapple, takes what could be deemed as a mundane task and puts it through Richard’s own lens of father-to-be-responsibility. Comparing himself to Roald Amundsen in the poem may seem like a giant leap for some, but as a doting father-to-be, Richard’s quest felt just as critical to ensure the needs of both mother and baby were met.

Plymouth producer, Veneer, reiterated the mood of the poem with a soundscape he said ‘…explored the sounds of trepidation and uncertainty; not everything is perfectly in time. In contrast to this, a beat does remain, hidden beneath the amalgamation of sounds, solid, stout. There are sounds of hospital machinery, counting down the nine months of pregnancy, and sounds reminiscent of space exploration and sci-fi movies. A trip into the unknown.’

The second, ‘Zygote Poem’, was prompted by an email newsletter Richard subscribed to comparing the size of his human-in-the-making to different fruits, vegetables, and seeds as it grew within the womb.

Richard had recorded his daughter’s heartbeat from within the womb during an antenatal appointment, which Dragonfruit Planet incorporated into a soundscape that would capture the womb’s atmosphere and, as he puts it, ‘was inspired by the heartbeat of an urban rainforest, existing within the heart of a modern day person, like a hidden forest of dreams beating away quietly beneath the surface of their daily thoughts and activities.’

If you’d like more ‘Zygote Poems’, you can read them all in Richard’s book available from the publisher, Cultured Llama or from (head to ‘Shop’).

Find Richard online at:

Find Veneer at:

Find Dragonfruit Planet at: and

A journey through people in Family Likeness by Michael Curtis

June 17th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Neil Leadbeater finds much to enjoy to Family Likeness, Michael Curtis’s collection of poems in ‘Four distinct sections covering family history, childhood and adolescence and married life.’ Neil Leadbeater’s review appears on Write Out Loud.

The first section, ‘Familial’ is an exploration of his ancestral history that is at times both surprising and disturbing as Curtis attempts to get as near as he can to the truth of what happened in the past. Here we read of relatives killed in the first world war just before Armistice Day, of a brother who died as a result of an explosion of live shell casings packed by a batman into his lieutenant’s luggage, a favourite uncle who shared his cigarettes and whisky with his nephew after school, and a father who ran away from home and enlisted as a soldier at the tender age of 15, fearing he had killed his elder brother with a blow to the head. These personal poems will resonate with many readers, given the current revival of interest in genealogy and our fascination with the past. […]

In ‘Halted’ Curtis describes the sheer beauty of the captured moment as this series of poems reflects on the different moods of the countryside, its weather and the changing seasons. It is a far cry from Liverpool 12 and a fitting conclusion to a journey that Curtis has allowed us to follow in this well-structured book, which is as much about a journey through people as it is about landscape.

You can order Michael Curtis’s latest poetry collection for £10 plus p&p: Family Likeness

Also by Michael Curtis, for £10 plus p&p: The Fire in Me Now 

Order two books or more and postage and packing is free.

The Cultured Llama Hour at Faversham Literary Festival

April 1st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Anna Maconochie, photo by Ben McLoughlin

Cultured Llama editor and author Maria C. McCarthy hosted an hour of readings by 7 authors at The Cultured Llama Hour, Faversham Literary Festival, in February 2019. The  audience was treated to a selection of Poems, Stories and Curious Things, and we were delighted to get some great photos by Ben McLoughlin. One of these, a photo of Anna Maconochie reading from Only the Visible Can Vanish, appeared in the Faversham News, alongside a picture of Will Self, under the title, ‘Big names star as thousands head to town’s literary festival’.

Some videos of the readings are on the Cultured Llama YouTube channel, including this of Stephen H. Morris reading from Do It Yourself: A History of Music in Medway

A forensic style in The Hospital by Ben Barton

April 1st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

The Hospital, by Ben Barton, is reviewed by Rachel Playforth in The Frogmore Papers 93:

Anyone who has ever spent time in hospital will instantly recognise the experience depicted in this collection, from the disrupted sleep to the bittersweet excitements of visiting hours: They leave me smiling/Tears desalinated, the sting removed (‘Friends’). The heavily medicated dreamscape that is the inpatient’s mental life is punctuated with terrible routine indignities and dehumanising red tape, each day filled with a new embarrassment (‘Two’). Ben Barton has an appropriately forensic style as he considers how our bodies can betray us but also fascinate: Limbs piled up like old books/An atlas of this distant body (‘Body Horror’). Ever present is the shadow of death, leavened by glimpses of new life, hope, and recovery, and the NHS staff to whom this book is dedicated.

Order Ben Barton’s poetry collection for £10 plus p&p: The Hospital.

A rich and giddy tour of poems inspired by Spanish Art. The Other Guernica

April 1st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

The Other Guernica , by Derek Sellen, is reviewed by Fiona L. Bennett on The High Window:

The Other Guernica is a rich and giddying tour inspired by Spanish Art and artists and the poet’s own encounter with the country and its culture. Acute in its observation, surreal in its imaginative leap of thought this is a project that rewards the reader with poems fired by provocation, storytelling and the sumptuous power of visual description […]

The third section, ‘The Circling Bee – poems on art and artists’, hums with a thrilling register that brings the experience of the paintings to life in extraordinary ways. Here the deft turn of phrase that is one of the hallmarks of this collection, ‘Phoebus tailgates Mercury’ in ‘The Sky of Salamanca’ and ‘plates and nations butt together’ in ‘Still Life’, lifts us out of mere viewpoint and into a visceral encounter with the world and the work that is at one and the same moment hallucinatory and grounded.

Peter Stewart writes, in The Frogmore Papers 93:

Some of the poems I read on their own, trying to guess the period and theme of the paintings to which they referred; with others I Googled the works before reading the poems; and with some I simply read through the poems in sequence, as if it were any other book. I have revisited many as I’ve found out more about the artistic periods and works illustrated by the poems. At their best, the poems are as delicately allusive and mysterious as the visual works they reference.

Links to all the paintings

Order Derek Sellen’s poetry collection for £10 plus p&p: The Other Guernica 

A breath between breaths. Family Likeness by Michael Curtis

April 1st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Janet Sutherland reviews Family Likeness by Michael Curtis in The Frogmore Papers 93.

In Family Likeness Michael Curtis brings alive his family history spanning the generations in poems which tell the truth that we’re a breath/between breaths honouring what we know and don’t know about our forebears, their lives, their work, their wars […] There is much to admire in the narratives in this collection and I particularly enjoyed ‘Twelve’ a long poem sequence in 24 stanzas, which charts the poet’s first twelve years in Liverpool Twelve.

Derek Sellen also lights on ‘the truth’ in his review of the collection, in The High Window:

Any harvesting of the past however needs to temper nostalgia with clear-sightedness and significantly the opening poem is titled ‘Truth’. This fine poem lays out some of the collection’s preoccupations: that the ‘whole truth’ is something worth the search even though our knowledge is inevitably imperfect and that we are ‘in parenthesis’ between past and future generations. The poem seems to me to qualify all that follows by stating both the value and the limitations of the attempt to understand our place in family history:

all the stories we think we are
begin and end with a sentence
that put us in parenthesis.

[…] It is evidence of the richness of the collection that each poem demands attention rather than being merely a component part of its section. Words and ideas illuminate one another across the volume and the same discerning and exact consciousness is always at work. It is not a book to read quickly. The poems are rarely difficult or obscure but they require intellectual as well as emotional engagement.

Order Michael Curtis’s poetry collection for £10 plus p&p: Family Likeness

Unusual Places and London Calling reviewed in The Frogmore Papers

April 1st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Two Cultured Llama short story collections are reviewed in The Frogmore Papers 93. Charlotte Gann reviews Unusual Places by Louise Tondeur:

Derek Sellen and Louise Tondeur at Faversham Literary Festival. Photo by Ben McLoughlin

I found this short-story collection compelling. Louise Tondeur has a way of writing that catches the reader up, and carries her with her. I’m drawn in by a story that starts, for instance, Silence. I can hear…  Her writing seems generous, and her imagination boundless, while skilfully channeled in a collection that works well as a unified set. Yes, these stories take us to unusual places. But the people we encounter there are all-too familiar, if we allow ourselves to relax and recognise them. (Her open, good-natured style of writing helps a lot with this.) Isolated, bullied, brave and resourceful, they seem to me, simply, our most vulnerable selves: i.e. human. A writer of imagination, purpose and compassion.

Order Louise Tondeur’s story collection for £12 plus p&p in paperback, or £5.99 as an e-book: Unusual Places 

Jules Winchester reviews London Calling by Jeremy Page:

As well as relating to each story in the here and now, we are transported to a recognisable past world in London Calling, and to a potential future world seen through the eyes of the Professor of Language Death Studies in ‘Pravda’, worlds in which characters face significant social, as well as personal, changes with stoicism, pragmatism or optimism. The relevance of the stories to today’s world is enhanced by the masterful use of language and imagery in their telling, which impress and entertain in equal measure.

Order Jeremy Page’s collection for £12 plus p&p: London Calling 

Order two or more books and postage and packing is free.


Flood, The human desire to know where we are

April 1st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Flood, by Jessica Mookherjee, is reviewed in both The Journal and The High Window. Chrissy Banks writes in The Journal:

Mookherjee inhabits the place where fantasy, myth and magic mingles with everyday reality and where two cultures (at least) overlap.

Jessica Mookherjee at Faversham Literary Festival. Photo by Ben McLoughlin

In The High Window, Alison Jones writes:

In ‘1967’ we stand with an immigrant bride, scarlet clad and strange to her newfound place, “Her sari billows in English winds”.  The poem turns through the poignant parting of walking away, to the challenges of being from elsewhere “How quickly the shame sets in”  the sense of being on the margins, moved through places on the energies of tides beyond control echoes throughout the collection […]

As the waters surge to flood proportions and draw the collection to a close, I was left wondering, whether Mookherjee’s words speak of something greater, the human desire to know where we are, and who we belong to, without the danger of our histories unravelling everything we know.  In ‘Time Minus’ the man who holds the woman’s hand tells her:

“It is time to leave the past behind and

trust                                                  in your own velocity.

Love just does the work.”

Order Jessica Mookherjee’s debut poetry collection For £10 plus p&p: Flood

Match of the Day and Winter Dance

January 10th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

If you were wondering what could be the link between a World Cup match and an orchard, look no further than Maria C. McCarthy’s poem poster, Match of the Day. Maria was part of an art project, celebrating Rainham Community Orchard, culminating in an exhibition. Her poem posters, Match of the Day and Winter Dance are avaialble as A3 high-res prints, sigjned by the author. They cost £5 ech plus p&p, but postage is free if you buy both, or add them to an order of There are Boats on the Orchard.

Maria writes:

The day of the England–Columbia match, unwisely bare-legged, I walked amongst the nettles as the orchard volunteers strimmed and mowed. ‘Match of the Day’ highlights the offbeat connections between the World Cup match and the volunteers’ work. Sara E. Fletcher’s drawings on the ‘Match of the Day’ poster are from my pamphlet, There are Boats on the Orchard. Mark Holihan designed the poster and pamphlet.

On a cold February day, the “slow Esses” of the trees performed a ‘Winter Dance’. Lines from this poem, and another, ‘Mulch’, appear on Sara E. Fletcher’s poem bowls [not pictured]. Mark Holihan reflected Sara’s lines in the Winter Dance’ poster design.

Order the poem posters here. And Maria’s pamphlet on the disappearing orchards of Kent, with images by Sara Fletcher: There are Boats on the Orchard.

London Calling, funny, touching and very human, plus the engaging oddness of Louise Tondeur’s characters

January 10th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Peter Kenny writes about two Cultured Llama story collections on his blog, Peter Kenny: a writer’s notebook:

In Jeremy Page’s London Calling and Other Stories. I particularly enjoyed the novella-length title story London Calling. Its protagonist, a University drop-out called Eustace Tutt, is brilliantly drawn, and was for me like meeting someone from my own past.    Sadly, my past did not feature sharing a squat with two German girls with a propensity for nudity.  Jeremy’s stories are funny, touching and very human. I devoured the collection.


Unusual Places  by Louise Tondeur‘s style is fascinating, she has an alien’s eye for detail, and observations are made without the expected filters and hierarchies of importance. Louise is writing a crime novel at the moment, and I can’t help thinking the engaging oddness of her characters and description would make her foray into crime something to be greatly anticipated.

Each collection costs £12 plus p&p, with postage and packing free if you buy two or more items from this website. Unusual Places is also available as an ebook. Order at: London Calling and Unusual Places.