The Cultured Llama Hour at Faversham Literary Festival

April 1st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


Confluence – captivated by Louise Tondeur’s stories; Michael Curtis at the height of his powers

January 9th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

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Confluence reviews are anonymous, so we are unable to namecheck the reviewers who give glowing accounts of Unusual Places, by Louise Tondeur, and Family Likeness, by Michael Curtis. The reviewer of Louise Tondeur’s stories writes:

‘Fragments Found in a Tunnel’ is one of the pieces of flash fiction that separates part one and part two of short stories. Immediately, you’re transported into the tunnel, and you’re stuck there with no escape. This is a terrifying piece that will make even the bravest of us hope desperately for a way out […] This is a fantastic collection of short stories and flash fiction. Tondeur is fantastic at captivating the reader and transporting them to new and unusual places.

​Read the full review here

Order Louise Tondeur’s collection for £12 plus p&p for the paperback, or £5.99 for the ebook (free postage and packing if you order two or more items from this website): Unusual Places


The reviewer of Michael Curtis’s poetry collection, Family Likeness , writes:

…Curtis, a writer who is in my opinion at the height of his powers, knows how to step back with the right amount of detachment and view the archive, knowing when to state his feelings and when to report what he and his immediate ancestors have experienced as he shows in the poem: ‘Nellie’: “Me? Well, I had to stay lyrical, tied to the pull of rhyming memory / with what can’t be seen / crooning to the you I /  never knew down / these accidental years / from an upstairs room”. […] This is history told in the best way, as someone once said of Eduardo Galeano: History told upwards from the bottom, from the street.

Order Michael Curtis’s poetry collection for £10 plus p&p (free postage and packing if you order two or more items from this website): Family Likeness 


Poetry reviewed – The Other Guernica and The Hospital

November 29th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

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The Other Guernica: Poems Inspired by Spanish Art, by Derek Sellen, is reviewed by Steve Xerri in The Poetry Shed. Xerri writes:

The balance, though, tends to come down on the side of the wryly amusing, the beautiful and the joyous in these paintings : what Sellen gives us in his responses to them is not a series of art-gallery selfies dominated by the poet but evocations of the work themselves – not, I repeat, superficial descriptions of, say, a painted quince or historic slaughter, not even a mere account of the process of transferring still life or teeming crowd scene to the canvas.

Read the full review here. Buy Derek Sellen’s poetry collection for £10 plus p&p here:The Other Guernica: Poems Inspired by Spanish Art

The Hospital, by Ben Barton is given a highly personal and heartfelt review on Confluence. Confluence’s reviewers are anonymous, so thank you, Anon.

Reading it for the first time in the park – vaguely grumpy after waking with a stiff neck – I found myself breathing in deep gulps of autumn air: kicking like a kid through the leaves. I’m not sick, I chanted softly. I’m not sick.

But the nursing homes stared back at me. And the sirens told me Medway Maritime was just a stone’s throw away. Someone is. Someone is.

And so, these poems evoke both compassion and fear. They flood through me until I feel the selfish pulse of healthy blood in my veins – the desperate affirmation of life. Fish and chips. Sex. A pounding race to the end of the street.

Read the full review here. Buy Ben Barton’s poetry collection for £10 plus p&p:The Hospital 

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

Look out for Events with Ben Barton and Derek Sellen. Coming up in February 2019, Words on Waves, Whitstable, and The Cultured Llama Hour at Faversham Literary Festival.