A Book Review: Robin McNamara – Under A Mind’s Staircase

This is a review of Robin McNamara’s debut chapbook “Under a Mind’s Staircase” under The Hedgehog Poetry Press (c) 2021.

As I was reading Robin’s poems I first felt like this was a lost journey, a poet seeking answers. Diving into every emotion and trying to absorb them into words. To be in a lonely state of mind, a scared state of mind, a worried state of mind (religion), to take in the beauty of nature. To be in panic and seeking quick answers. I identified most with the imagery of this poet as they try to figure out love, lust, lost, what’s left, then death. I appreciate the influences expressed in the poems such as Sins of Soul & Soul of Dust inspired by T.S. Eliot. I am often inspired in my own writings with T.S. Eliot’s inklings left for us to read.

“Sins of Souls” is one of my favorites because it dives into the unknown whether you’re wants might be the lust that the world impulses you in. How you are made to feel ashamed to sin, when hidden. While everyone is behind the curtain mimicking the same sins with a ridicule.

Published poetry by Robin McNamara from “Under A Mind’s Staircase”

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Robin McNamara

The language in these poems I can deeply feel such as in “The Devil’s List” “Have the angels fled?” …. “The angels have fled” I often dive into this same interesting dialogue within poems that leaves questions and ultimately a realization, or an answer from the poet’s perspective, however this leaves the reader pondering if they truly have found the answer at the end, or are they still searching.

Life being so complex. Figuring out what is real, what is ideal, what is surreal, and what is just a feel. This is what this journey is trying to lead you through.

With eyes: observations of nature “Blackbird on the Hill”, “Tides and Seasons” “Apple Picking Season” “Dusked Evenings” “The Fold of the Seasons” this leads to observations, to the mind, what do these images conjure, how can you relate to what you see?

With the mind in static: “It’s Quite Mental, Really” a trip through moments of insanity. Everything that surrounds is surreal, nothing is real, what can I do? To make it real? What does loneliness cause a person to be?

Explore this journey of humanity and take in the beautiful words, relatability (if you’re empathic) and realize we are all hidden and we are also all in front of those curtains in display. Soul and all for the pickings and the observation.

https://robinmcpoet.com/ for Robin’s bookstore on his webpage.

https://amzn.to/3BUKxb4 for Amazon link (U.S.)

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Nina Parmenter

with Nina Parmenter:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Nina: I wrote light poetry as a teenager, influenced of course by Roald Dahl and Spike Milligan. But other than that, until my forties I really had little interest in poetry, particularly anything, god forbid, “serious”!

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Nina: At the moment, I’m suckering up poetry like a hungry octopus and being influenced by everything I read. I’m all new and eager. Most influential things I’ve read in the last twelve months are probably “The Air Year” by Caroline Bird and “Crucifox” by Geraldine Clarkson both for their joyful eccentricity; “Paper Aeroplanes” by Simon Armitage because of what that man can do with wordplay and rhyme and half-rhyme, “And After All” by Rhina P Espaillat because of her effortlessness with form, and “Menagerie” by Cheryl Pearson because of her wonderful playful imagery. But there are so many more I’ve enjoyed.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?

Nina: I’ve noticed that when I set poems in a place, that place is almost always in Somerset (in South West England) where I grew up, or Wiltshire where I live now (next to Somerset!) I’m reasonably well travelled, but nowhere except home seems to make it into my poems. I imagine that tells you something about me.

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?

Nina: I almost always think that the last good poem I wrote is my best. Also, that it will be my last good poem! In terms of “meaningful”, I will often put my more troubled or challenging thoughts slantways into a surreal poem rather than addressing them directly. From a selfish point of view, I find that better therapy than going into a lot of detail; for the reader, they’re there if you need or want to find them. But I think fun and surprise and intrigue are important too. They are the things that bring us to life.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Nina: I don’t remember a specific moment; I always knew I could write, I just didn’t think it was a thing people like me did. I hit my forties and there ere a couple of factors that pushed me towards writing – I wanted to give my inner narrative something to do except worrying, and I wanted to do something that was “me”. I cut my teeth by writing light poetry and posting it on a community site, Poetry Soup. People there were really encouraging which prompted me to explore some different forms, types and styles. Then I realised that to write decent poetry I should also, you know, READ  some poetry and that’s when I started to really diversify. (I do still love light poetry though.)

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Nina: I’d love to reel off an intriguing list of pastimes but the fact is, I’m a working mum, and writing is the main thing I squeeze round other stuff for pleasure! Then there’s a teeny bit of space left for reading, singing, walking and friends and family.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Nina: I’ve just moved my blog across to ninaparmenter.com and you can WordPress-follow it now or follow it via Facebook at Facebook.com/parmenterpoetry. The blog was previously at itallrhymes.com but this became problematic when I started  writing a lot of poems that didn’t… rhyme! I’ve also got a couple of appearances coming up in anthologies – in Hedgehog Poetry’s “Looking Out, Peering In” and Dreich’s “Summer Anywhere” anthology.

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?

Nina: There’s a poem I wrote a few years ago called “Ease in the Ether” where I imagine myself rising above reality. It has this little phrase I love: “Far above the flick-flack of tongues / and the dull tug of duty / I cruise the dewy sky-trails / watching the pedestrians / lessen.”

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Nina: Oh my goodness, lots of people – the majority of them being people I’ve never met in real life! People on Twitter have been amazing – I put out a plea for a couple of people to look at some work a few weeks ago, and so many kind people responded and gave me such useful feedback. Next step is to join a real life workshop where I actually have to look people in the eye – because my poetry only really took off last year, there just hasn’t been the opportunity to do that yet. I need to re-socialise myself first though!

2 poems by Nina Parmenter : Down by the River & How to Count Your Fingers

5 Poems from Nina Parmenter ” The Twist”,”Bright Future”, “Strings” “Stargazing in a time of Plague” “Where Tears Are”

https://formalverse.com/2020/11/28/potcake-poets-choice-squelch-by-nina-parmenter/

https://www.greeninkpoetry.co.uk/poetry-submissions-all/nina-parmenter-araucaria-araucana

Bio: Nina Parmenter is a poet and Mum from Wiltshire, UK. She has appeared in numerous journals including Ink, Sweat & Tears, Snakeskin, Light, Better Than Starbucks and The Lyric, and is a contributor to the Potcake Chapbooks series. In 2021, she won Hedgehog Poetry’s ‘Looking Out, Peering In’ contest, and was nominated for the Forward Prize. Her job that pays her actual money is in marketing.




A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Vicky Allen

with Vicky Allen:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Vicky: I loved writing stories from early childhood. I used to make up stories and draw elaborate pictures to go with them, and in some form or another that has continued all the way through my life. I went on to study illustration at art college, and in the years since then have continued to weave writing and art of all kinds through the tapestry of my life.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Vicky: I hardly know where to begin with this question! The poets Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry, as well as George Mackay Brown have been really important to me in adulthood. But I am probably most influenced by the people around me, who live quietly extraordinary lives and are faithful to their gifts and dreams. I love observing that and reflecting on what that means.

A Mary Oliver Collection: A Thousand Mornings, Dog Songs, Blue Horses, and Felicity

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work/describe?

Vicky: Until I was eleven or twelve my family lived in Lincolnshire in England, and then we spent my teenage years in Scotland – first the Shetland islands and then Aberdeenshire in north east Scotland. I’ve lived in Scotland ever since, and my identity has blurred from a displaced English person to someone whose deeply at home in Scotland. I write and reflect about this in my writing in small, personal ways quite often, with the watchfulness of an outsider in some ways.

Q4: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?

Vicky: A few years ago, just after my mum died, I had a deep longing to create a piece of work which recorded and reflected on the lives of some women who have been important to Scotland’s spiritual legacy, but who are perhaps not quite as well known as they should be. This eventually took the form of “Wonderlines”, a piece of storytelling and poetry which intertwined the stories of three of Scotland’s female saints connected to the part of south east Scotland I now live in. The loss of my mum gave me an impetus to hold onto women’s stories in a fresh way. I went on to share “Wonderlines” at the Edinburgh Book Festival Fringe, and two other events over the next year, and the script is being reworked into book form. It is a project that is deeply important to me.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Vicky: Not really…it’s all felt like the unrolling of a long mysterious scroll – endlessly surprising and precious! I have always loved to be creative so in some ways that mysterious scroll is telling me the story that was already written inside me.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Vicky: Reading, of course! Ever since I was small I have always read past my bedtime, under the covers with a torch, and my favourite way to spend any spare time is to read. Finding the peace and time to do that is another matter! I really love to get in the sea and go swimming with friends, it’s a transformative and restorative delight.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?

Vicky:

I’m really excited to be taking part in a Hedgehog Poetry Press Showcase as part of the Eastside Arts Belfast Festival in August. This virtual event will look at the connections between Scotland and Ireland, through a group of poets, like myself, who have had their work published by Hedgehog recently.

https://www.eastsidearts.net/event/who-needs-bridge-hedgehog-poetry-press-showcase?fbclid=IwAR08Sy6_YEu_INb7iha22l6Op-7a36TspKveyCfN4G8AStWJa7ZwypE79qE

Q8: One of your favorite lines from a poem of yours or others, or favorite piece of art or photograph?

Vicky: This is a print I created as a thank you for a group of poets who helped me to celebrate the first anniversary of my debut poetry pamphlet “Broken Things and other tales”. It is such a special thing to discover how we are held by the support and kindness of those around us. The image is important to me because it reminds me of that community of kindness.

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Vicky: Oh dear. Where to start?! As a child I remember my dad having a novel under development for a long time. As far as I know he never did anything with it, but there was definitely something about that early sense of possibility – what if I wrote a book? told this story I have burning inside? – that I have carried with me ever since. Over the last few years I’ve been part of a wonderful writers’ group, and their encouragement and thoughtful comments have been so important and valuable to me. I’ve had the joy of attending two of Joel McKerrow’s online writing courses, and they have been a massive influence and very formational for my writing as well (he’s an incredible writer and performer too – take a look at his website for details https://www.joelmckerrow.com/). And family and friends have been my constant encouragers and most honest critics – I’m so thankful for them.

Links:

3 poems by Vicky Allen : ‘The Circle’, ‘I Am Not a Fortress’, ‘Honesty’

New poems by Vicky Allen : “Buzzard” “five hundred and forty three years” “Kingfisher”

4 poems by Vicky Allen “Starfish”, “Nightfall” “Supplicant” “6:30 AM”,





Broken Things and other tales

https://www.amazon.com/Poetry-Vicky-Allen-Literature-Fiction/s?rh=n%3A10248%2Cp_27%3AVicky+Allen

Bio: Vicky Allen’s debut poetry pamphlet is “Broken Things and other tales” (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2020). She’s been published in print & online in Mslexia, Stravaig, Bonnie’s Crew, Writers Cafe and others, & in anthologies by Proost, Black Agnes Press & Dove Tales. She is a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives on the south east coast of Scotland.

%d bloggers like this: