Chez Nous

Poetry & Wine/Music: What We Recommend

In a world of broadband internet and mass bland branding, V. Press wants to offer readers something a little more unique: poetry and fiction that aren't just printed text on the page but an experience.

While good poetry and fiction can be enjoyed alone anywhere at any time, they may also be savoured alongside other pleasurable things, such as fine wine, exotic cocktails, fragrant teas, gentle harmonies or vibrant rock music.

The original Chez Nous section drew on disparate experiences – impoverished undergraduate in Rouen, afternoon tea and Pimms at Oxford, tapas and spice in London, and Manchester's 'The French' restaurant's choice of wines to accompany each dish – to bring you the V. Press 'sommeliers': our poetry-&-wine advisors.

V. Press is very very pleased that the new incarnation of Chez Nous will feature music...thanks to V. Press Cultural Intern, Kibriya Mehrban. Her new initiative - Kibriya's 'Top Notes' - will offer 'playlists' for the music she'd recommend as capturing the sounds of forthcoming V. Press publications.

EXPERIENCE, SAVOUR, ENJOY!!!                  

Our Recommendations

KIBRIYA'S 'TOP NOTES' FOR WITH BRENDA READ-BROWN'S LIKE LOVE



Frank Turner – Reasons Not to be an Idiot

The Beach Boys – God Only Knows
Adele – When We Were Young

Iron and Wine – Upward Over the Mountain
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Learning to Fly




At first glance, this playlist is a strange mix of sounds. Like Brenda Read-Brown’s collection Like Love, it changes as you go through it and – also like the collection – it can surprise you.

The first song in the collection, Frank Turner’s 'Reasons Not to be an Idiot' came to mind when reading the very first poem of the collection ‘Decay’ and remained with me throughout. For me, both pieces show up how our self-involvement can affect us, and both offer an alternative viewpoint, one that lets us take a step back and laugh at ourselves, getting a better perspective on our place in the bigger picture. As ‘Decay’ ends: “it’s not all about you, Brenda.”

The second song, 'God Only Knows' by The Beach Boys came from this recurring theme in the collection about how relationships – brief or extended – can change us forever. It feels like the soundtrack that might play in the background of the poem ‘Volcanoes’, over the image of two people settled into the domesticity of reclining on the sofa watching Love Actually. Equally, I like the way it might take on ominous irony as other poems like ‘Late Harvest’ suggest the irreparable damage a person inflicts on the speaker. While this is a cheery song on the surface, it also teases out the more troubling themes of the consequences of dependency and the fear of redefining oneself after losing somebody important.

Continuing with the idea of loss, the third song on the Like Love playlist is Adele’s 'When We Were Young'. To me, this song perfectly captures a tone that is present in many of the poems in this collection. Straddling the line between nostalgic and bitter, the singer is at once wistful for the past, desperately trying to capture the present moment and afraid for what disappointments the future might bring. The speaker in many of Brenda’s poems is equally fixated on the past; in ‘Will Happen’ they analyse the secret meaning of a finger brushing theirs years ago, while ‘Like this’ tries to describe an image of a mother in an attempt to dictate how they will remember her. It’s also a collection that builds slowly, much like this song, starting off like a gentle and eventually swelling into something more confessional, music rising, revealing depths and dimensions to earlier motifs hitherto unseen.

Like Love, as I’ve said, inspired a playlist as broad as it is, but the songs are not unconnected. The revealing honesty of Brenda’s writing that prompted my first choice later goes on to expose some painful truths about child- and parenthood. For this reason, the next track on my playlist is 'Upward Over the Mountain' by Iron and Wine. This song, like many of the poems in this collection, never fails to deliver a heart-wrenching depiction of how much pain can manifest in those relationships. Both works also focus on the way that pain comes through in the smallest of moments of domestic life: a grandmother cries watching her family pick apples, a child leaves the house to see their friends, exasperated at his mother’s concern.

Finally, we have Tom Petty’s 'Learning to Fly', suggested by Brenda herself. While the collection does tackle some painful things, no one who read it could feel that it was bleak. Like Love is full of appreciation for small instances of joy: the moment a middle-aged woman is the first to sunbathe topless, a suicide attempt halted on Buffalo Bridge and even the rare occasion of the bus arriving on time. Far from being brought down by the honest appraisal of the more painful aspects of life these seem to be enhanced and elevated – there is joy in learning to fly “feather-free and wingless” as in Brenda’s poem ‘Not falling’, refusing to see even that endeavour as hopeless.

Kibriya Mehrban

For a sample poem from Like love, please click here.

Kibriya Mehrban is a recent graduate of English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham and is working with V. Press as part of her internship with Writing West Midlands. She loves poetry in all its forms and looks forward to working with V. Press and contributing to their continued success. Kibriya’s poetry featured in the anthology This is Not Your Final Form (Emma Press, 2017) and she has also written for the Apples and Snakes website. 
Twitter: @KibriyaTM 



WITH NINA LEWIS' FRAGILE HOUSES

Sit by a window, probably an old one criss-crossed with leading, overlooking a lawn, but just as well a sunny dormer across roofs sketched in aerials. Pick up Fragile Houses and open it. The photographic art of Sarah Leavesley is rye bread to Nina Lewis' relish, these bitter-sweet poems.

I am going to let in the frosty air, breathe in "electromagnetic memories." It's these little moments when life runs most real. Lewis writes with class and clarity. Her poetry is earthly but inhabited by spirits. A grandmother looks at a photo, "the young girl turns."

Let's try food laced with tradition to go with this. Identity, and a simplicity that is not easily achieved. "Dining tables with black and white prints, a tablecloth of lives" make me want to admire exquisite dishes of sushi, before carefully selecting each one.  A little square plate on the cushioned window seat.

Nina Lewis' precise household scenes are deceptively colourful, blackly outlined. I have chosen Japanese food to go with this book, to throw the Englishness of her work into high contrast. In both cases, I am nourished by the strength of cultural identity and belonging.

Like Leavesley's accompanying illustrations, the poems are assembled from bric-a-brac and love. Each is rounded off with such a deft flick, unexpected or even abrupt but satisfying every time. I'm thinking of neat Japanese single malt to follow, smooth going down and fiery on the inside.

The poetry is "split like a spilled yolk / between love and something darker". The family history Lewis invites us into is tender to the point of hurt, and inseparably loyal. The rice has a gentle vinegar to it, the seaweed brings with it all the flavours of the deep. Then you taste the wasabi.

Gram Joel Davies

For a sample poem from Fragile Houses, please click here.


Photo by Robbie Elford


Gram Joel Davies lives in Devon. His poetry has appeared in Lighthouse, Magma and The Moth, to name a few. You can find him at http://gramjoeldavies.uk.








WITH ALEX REED'S A CAREER IN ACCOMPANIMENT

A Career in Accompaniment by Alex Reed draws us into an intimate experience of caring for a lover that leaves your palate aching for tea – strong, comforting tea.

I recommend the high-tannin punch of the mighty Assam leaf, or for the connoisseur, the coppery tones of Sapphire Earl Grey, with just a touch of bergamot and blue malva flowers. Infuse longer for a more robust flavour – you will need it to be strong to help you through this journey of love, loss and challenge in the face of long-term illness. 

From a "beery dance" club on a Northern quay to a lonely café table in Padua –the observations of a trip that becomes a fall and then "the trace of a limp" will leave your palate dry. Dry as the "flame licking dry wood" of Reed’s love and stifled rage (in ‘Woken by your Cough’) as he tries to hold on to what he is about to lose:

“Ambiguous loss. But I’d prefer
to say that I am haunted
by the ghost of her motion,
the flow of her - ”
(from ‘Ghost’)

This is definitely a read for a rainy day, tucked away with teapot and cup in a dusk-filled room. Let Reed take you to his lover sitting "at her table by the bay window - a flask of tea…within easy reach" (‘Long Day’). 

Sip. Savour. Reflect.

“The trees almost bare
just a few leaves hanging.
Rothko red. Framed by nothing
but pure air.”
(‘Leaving’)

Jane Campion Hoye
www.inspire2speak.com


For  a sample poem from A Career in Accompaniment, please click here.

Jane Campion Hoye is a poetic writer, storyteller and performer, who has gathered knowledge of a diversity of wines from around the world…whether filming in a German vineyard or sampling the liquid silk of a smooth cabernet on Stellenbosch’s wine route in Cape Town.  And not only wine. Her poem 'Waterfall Glory', recently selected for international publication Inspired By My Museum, was first penned on a visit to the Guinness Museum in Dublin.




WITH KATHY GEE'S BOOK OF BONES

The thing that strikes me most about Book of Bones is the wealth of knowledge held within its pages. Here is a book that wants to take us on journeys. From the poet’s beginnings: “Her Yorkshire vowels are horizontal…hard as millstone grit” (‘Stratified’), we go on to visit many parts of Britain, travel to different countries, and voyage back in time.

With such a variety of settings, it is tempting to set about a whirlwind tour of tastes, to match the varied locations of the poems:

A full-bodied Tempranillo to summon the “red and black and ochre” Spanish setting of ‘Woman to Woman’.

Maybe a Sicilian Marsala to toast ‘Prince Edward’s Banished Lover’.  

A summer-sweet fruit punch would nicely match the “scent of orange blossom, raspberries, dew-damp Earth” of ‘Examined’.

Perhaps a Gin and Tonic - with a heavy twist of lemon - to really taste the sharp final lines of ‘Provenance’: “Goering, finding his Vermeer/ was fake, was shocked, as if he’d just/ discovered there is evil in the world”.

This wish for a variety of tastes is applauded in ‘Orientation’: “Don’t worry/ Home is always split/ between at least three different maps”. Yet, when I spend time with these poems, there is one particular location that never seems far from the mind.


Wherever we go on this journey, ultimately, we seem to return to those Yorkshire roots: “…tooth enamel proves that you / were Yorkshire, faking Southern ways” (‘Book of Bones’). With this feeling, the place I truly imagine being over any other, is at the poet’s kitchen table, pouring over the words as though being shown the scrapbooks of these adventures, the albums of these pasts; a cup of strongly brewed tea in hand, the pot close by, ready to refill.

Claire Walker

Photo by Geoff Robinson 2020zoom
For a sample poem or to order a copy of Kathy Gee's Book of Bones, please click here.

CLAIRE WALKER is a poet based in Worcestershire. Her poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and websites including The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat and Tears, Nutshells and Nuggets, And Other Poems and Snakeskin and has been in anthologies such as Crystal Voices and three drops from a cauldron. She often reads at spoken word events and was runner up in the 2014/2015 Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition. The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile is her first poetry pamphlet and published by V. Press in October 2015.



WITH CLAIRE WALKER'S THE GIRL WHO GREW INTO A CROCODILE

Claire Walker’s The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile is a pamphlet that I can imagine dipping into deliciously anywhere – café-bar, beach, garden or even a busy train. In part, this mirrors the various settings found in the poems. In part, it’s a reflection of the poetry’s pull on me, so that I’m desperate to keep reading wherever I may be.

I could recommend enjoying this with a gin and tonic, as in ‘Stephanie’, allowing the liquid to slip down the throat smooth as silk, smooth as the words – a clean, clear drink that “cracked the cold ice”.

Alternatively, a refreshing  jasmine tea would perfectly accompany the zen-like care of poems such as ‘Miniature Garden’.

Another option for later in the day is a glass of white wine, enjoyed on the lawn, with unmown grass, the “simple yellow greetings” of wild flowers  and surprising long light of an evening in June where “we’ve hours before it gets dark” (‘Isn’t it light tonight?’).

But The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile is a collection, like its title poem, that also has teeth. For these poems, and the poems of beach air, the sharp salt tang of a tequila – a strong drink for strong poems, with a hint of fire and sunshine in every mouthful.

The one important characteristic is a flavour that lingers and tempts, like the pamphlet, long after the cup or glass is emptied.

Anon Poet

For a sample poem or to order a copy of Claire Walker's The Girl Who Grew Into a Crocodile, please click here.











WITH CARRIE ETTER'S HOMETOWN

Hometown by Carrie Etter is flash fiction so charged with repressed emotion that you’ll want time to savour all its layers.

Set in the American Midwest, it’s a world of journeys. Not always on the road. Cars get mentioned a lot…as they weave their hidden secrets amongst the ‘neatly trimmed lawn’ and ‘clapboard houses’ of suburbia in the towns of 'Downs or Towanda Mayb'e.  A roadside diner is where you could imagine reading this book - the kind where the waitress lets you linger over the menu.

This is no time for American Pie, though.  You’ll want your coffee strong, espresso style, with dark silky chocolate.  I’m thinking death-by-fudge-cake or pancakes with molasses and a jug of cream on the side.

You’ll need deep, lingering flavours to savour as you view Etter’s take on these fractured hometowns where trouble comes to the door and knocks. Sometimes the door gets opened – usually to a surprise: a woman who hides her drinking eyes behind dark glasses in 'Prospects' or a strange paper ball containing ‘the iridescence of tears’ in 'Mauve'.

To complement this complex cast of characters, may I recommend a bourbon - New Richmond Rye - with its fine blend of grains that may just be the match for savouring Etter’s linked fictions 'Manslaughter'…or when considering the effects of generation upon generation, perhaps a Border Straight Bourbon, made from traditional aging with no shortcuts, is the one to whet your juices.

Wait.  We’re not in the bars of Minnesota or Wisconsin now. It’s going to have to be a Jack Daniels or nothing.

Perhaps it’s time to pour another coffee.


Jane Campion Hoye
www.inspire2speak.com


For a sample flash or to pre-order/buy a copy of Hometown, please click here.


Jane Campion Hoye is a poetic writer, storyteller and performer, who has gathered knowledge of a diversity of wines from around the world…whether filming in a German vineyard or sampling the liquid silk of a smooth cabernet on Stellenbosch’s wine route in Cape Town.  And not only wine. Her poem 'Waterfall Glory', recently selected for international publication Inspired By My Museum, was first penned on a visit to the Guinness Museum in Dublin.


WITH DAVID O'HANLON'S ART BRUT

art brut by David O’Hanlon is the kind of poetry collection you want to savour with a smoky single malt or a peaty real-ale.

As you muse on the poems and their literary connotations, I would recommend a Laphroaig 10 Islay Single Malt whiskey: its mix of iodine rich medicinal notes, upsurge of pepper and chilli spices, with just a dose of saltiness, is a perfect match for O’Hanlon’s sharply focussed trek through his teenage experiences.

"I open a drawer, the one where things
Rarely come out.  With the old love letters,
The plectrum thrown into a crowd
By James Hetfield, and my leaver’s book.."
(from 'Report')

Add a measure of water to open up the flavours, the hint of vanilla ice cream that evokes the child-like perception of the dark unknown and the taste of plasters and medicine that evoke institutional life.

"It was rumoured, and wry smiles confirmed,
That somewhere within that labyrinth
Of wards, units and clinics in a dark corner
Like a repressed desire, was..."
(from 'Contained')

Or try these poems with a ‘Peat Smoked Ale from Loch Lomond brewery’: its tarry black texture and hints on the palate of honey, pine and caramel biscuit will mellow the senses as you imbibe the profound truths and insights of these poems, discovering wit, light and warmth in the midst of darkness.

"...understand the worth
of what you write.  Speak it.  Go on.
Like ink into a fish tank, pour it into the air:"
 (from 'The Summerhouse')


Jane Campion Hoye
www.inspire2speak.com

For sample poems or to buy a copy of art brut, please click here.


Jane Campion Hoye is a poetic writer, storyteller and performer, who has gathered knowledge of a diversity of wines from around the world…whether filming in a German vineyard or sampling the liquid silk of a smooth cabernet on Stellenbosch’s wine route in Cape Town.  And not only wine. Her poem 'Waterfall Glory', recently selected for international publication Inspired By My Museum, was first penned on a visit to the Guinness Museum in Dublin.



WITH JACQUI ROWE'S RANSOM NOTES

"This fascinating narrative built up from fragments of unlikely found texts and poem drafts by Rowe, would be a great accompaniment to a blue soft cheese like Cambozola, the name of which is a cunning combination of Gorgonzola and Camembert. It resembles a blue Brie, and Rowe’s poems offer the same surprising pockets of salty unexpectedness, such as in these lines from ‘GHAZAL’:

            sanctified by silverpoint mistaken
            pinioned by the evening star anyway
            I put you in a century

The deliberate lack of punctuation allows the readers to spread the creaminess on their crackers in any size portion they like, and nibble or gobble as the poem requires. ‘Henna’ is definitely a nibbling poem for me, so every morsel can be savoured. From the start, it needs to be taken slowly:

            I go on like a henna labyrinth
            contact print of onion skins
mildewed rose crushed into the weave

Now isn’t that just lush? A supper for a poet, to be washed down with a crisp, dry Chablis on a summer evening, sitting outdoors as dusk falls. I love the faded colours of the henna and the rose. The poems might appear as random as a cottage garden but the careful crafting and shaping makes it a well tended one. Each poem has a single word title and takes the reader into a meditation which is often dreamlike, for example in ‘Glacier’:

            inside this glacier of art
            the wolverine dived back
            into the sea and felt his limbs
            retract into a dolphin

When you have scoffed your Cambozola and drunk a few glasses of the Chablis while relishing these poems, you too may feel like the wolverine."


Angela Topping 

For sample poems or to buy this pamphlet, please click here.

THE VAGINELLAS

“An anthology of voices on a strong theme, The Vaginellas, is the kind of book best enjoyed with a mixed crate of drinks while having a laugh and a giggle with the girls. A lemony twist for some poems, the dark tang of blackcurrant, a series of shots knocked back or a cocktail or two when in the spirit of a Long, Slow Comfortable Screw Up Against A Wall on a dirty, flirty night-out.”

Anon Poet

Sample poems from this anthology can be found here.
The book may be purchased through Amazon or in the V. Press bookshop here.



How do you enjoy yours? Email your finer things accompaniments for your favourite V. Press publications to vpresspoetryAThotmailDOTcom. Please put 'How do you like yours?' and the publication title in the subject line. A selection of the finest will be featured on the site.(These need not just be wines, it could include coffees, desserts, chocolates, places, music...please include a brief explanation as to why it suits the book.)

poetry & flash fiction that are very very*

* Obviously, we'd advise all fine foods and beverages be enjoyed only in healthy amounts.

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