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


"Clinic – Earth Angel

Bon Iver – The Wolves (Act I & II)

Radical Face – Kin

James Morrison – Too Late for Lullabies

Sleeping at Last – Aperture

The first song on this playlist for Jinny Fisher’s The Escapologist  is a recommendation from Jinny herself, Clinic’s song Earth Angel. The first sound when this track begins is that of waves coming up onto the shore, so I immediately linked it to the coastal setting featured in poems like ‘Retrofocus’ and ‘The Always Ireland Holiday’. Listening to the opening bars, you might think this is a feel-good song and yet it surprises with dissonant notes, and lyrics that are at once opaque and ominous. This feels like a musical iteration of a trick that Jinny plays frequently on the reader in The Escapologist, making us think we’re looking at one thing before pulling the rug out from under us with an incongruous detail, some tiny revelation that changes how we see the whole scene. A mother and daughter sing along with a band at a concert and yet there is something uncomfortable in the danger of stepping on a pair of misplaced wellies. A family eat Sunday lunch together but the careful deliberateness of the “chew and swallow” hint at an unspoken tension. A memory of being washed in the sink is probed in a murmur by a disembodied voice… There’s something uncanny about how skilfully Jinny balances the emotions of the reader somewhere between intrigue and trepidation, and for me, the sounds of this track have a great synergy with that experience.

What Jinny highlighted about the track were the lyrics that describe words of assurance from a sister, at which point the music becomes briefly less discordant. In the same way, the speaker in these poems often finds a glimpse of hope through momentary communication. In ‘Ana’s Therapy, Day 168’, a “few crumbs” of a “thought-cake” are nibbled and then regurgitated, and in ‘Half Sisters’ Lunch’ the speaker compares experiences with their sister as a way of processing them. Like in the song, the respite from discord isn’t a perfect or lasting one, but it hints at the possibilities for developments.

Our second track is The Wolves (Act I & Act II) by Bon Iver. This song is referenced in the pamphlet in the poem ‘Antiphon’. The song itself is broadly about loss and regret. In the poem, featuring a mother and daughter singing, its lyrics seem ironic, followed as they are by the image of a a pair of wellington boots, “half-buried in the mud”, the poem disrupted by something lost or misplaced. Things in The Escapologist are never quite as they seem. The song lyrics allude to the destructive nature of past pain, and how fixation on what has been lost can consume a person, as it consumes the end of the song. Within this pamphlet, we revisit the past repeatedly, and are frequently unsettled by the juxtaposition of what once was/what should be and what is. In some ways it feels like a game of what’s wrong with this picture? ‘The Always Ireland Holiday’ comes to mind, the reminder that the speaker’s mother “was once a sprinter” overlaid by the image of her “trudge[ing]” up a hill. This song speaks to that experience of reader being left asking about what has been lost, what more is being left unsaid.

The third track on this The Escapologist  playlist is another whose place is earned by what is not being said rather than what is. Radical Face’s Kin came to mind for be because of its link with the poems in this pamphlet that offer tableaux of family life. ‘Sunday Lunch’, ‘Shaggy Dog Story’ and ‘Fish-paste Sandwiches’ are all poems that come to mind. Again, we have the sense that there are things we’re not being told. Even the foregrounding of the fact that these scenes are memories is unsettling – in the song because the present tense gives the figures a ghostly presence and in the poems because we wonder why the speaker is fixated on this image. We look for what might have changed or details that suggest things are more than they appear. This song, like the first on this playlist, has an unsettling effect, which definitely illustrates how I often felt while reading the poems in this pamphlet.

Our fourth track is Too Late For Lullabies by James Morrison. Focused on a parent-child relationship, the title and many of the verse lyrics give the sense give the impression of a resentful or at the very least regretful emotion towards the parent, yet the truth is not so simple. This bears similarities with the depictions of relationships in this pamphlet: looking at a poem like ‘Hare Mother’ you might believe that the primary emotions towards motherhood are anger or disgust and in the title poem ‘The Escapologist’, the mother is a mocking, belittling figure. Yet we also have ‘Antiphon’ in which mother and daughter attend a concert together, and ‘Mother and Daughter Fold Sheets’ in which this domestic task becomes a metaphor for their relationship, a play of push and pull.

This song too acknowledges the good and the bad of a child-parent relationship; it talks of reconciliation alongside the recollection of the mistakes or even abuse that has occurred. In the end, the thing that is most foregrounded is what this fraught relationship has taught the singer – what they gained in the stead of a perfect or even healthy relationship. In the same way, the poems in The Escapologist eschew judgement in favour of a more restrained, withholding voice preferring to linger on snagging details rather than attempt to tie everything up in a neat bow.

Finally, this playlist wouldn’t be complete without a song that mentioned photography. One of Jinny’s suggestions, tellingly, was The Kinks’ Picture Book – my own selection is Aperture by Sleeping at Last. What I love about the latter in particular is its use of photography as a theme to reference how we adjust memories, changing the way we see the past, experience the present and imagine the future. This is a recurring theme throughout The Escapologist, with ‘Retrofocus’ foregrounding the models of camera used to encapsulate the memories while ‘Screen Memory’ analyses an early one, questioning its veracity and zeroing in on a single detail in a process much like the fine-tuning – visual and moral – portrayed in Aperture... I also appreciate the ambivalence of the song, the way it sounds at once hopeful and mournful. The chorus hints at hardship and a desperate prayer for things to get better and yet throughout is the exertion of effort, the determination to improve. The Escapologist similarly has elements of sorrow and loss and yet there is a resilience running through these poems that stares out at the reader right up until the final poem of the pamphlet ‘Regeneration’ which, while it mourns a significant loss and acknowledges that the speaker still holds onto countless “grains” of the past, also alludes to the process of renewal as a natural process that might be worth waiting for."

Kibriya Mehrban

For a sample poem from The Escapologist, 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 


"Sam Sparro – Black and Gold

The Cure – Jupiter Crash

Gruff Rhys – Space Dust #2

Counting Crows – Einstein on The Beach (For an Eggman)

Making Waves Albert Einstein: Science & Life by Martin Zarrop is probably, of the pamphlets V. Press has recently published, the one with the most focussed and defined subject matter, exploring, as the title suggests, the theories and life of Albert Einstein. When reading it, I got the sense that we were looking at this one topic from all possible angles; it felt like a physicist’s approach to the subject – question everything, break it all down to its fundamentals, draw new connections, pose new theories. Of course, this is also the poet’s practice. Keeping with this methodology, it seemed natural that this playlist was formed of tracks that stay tight on the theme, even as the genres and sounds change. For me, these songs reflect on the themes that stood out most to me from the pamphlet, from the tension of science and faith to failing relationships to the tragedy of living in a universe where the most valued developments are those that improve the efficiency of destruction.

The first track, Sam Sparro’s Black and Gold was chosen primarily because of its focus on uncertainty and the search for meaning in a world that is being torn apart. Many of the poems in Making Waves  explore those same themes. In ‘Thought Experiments’ the speaker writes “I must question everything”, put in practice in poems like ‘Unseen’ and ‘No Theory of Everything’ – not to mention the title poem – in which we see line after line of Einstein questioning his world, questioning his work, questioning himself.

Martin Zarrop not only conveys to the reader how the physicist’s deconstructive ways of thinking cast a sense of instability over his whole life but makes us feel that way too. Again and again we come back to the question of reality, what it is and how we influence it – each poem in the collection seems to draw out a new facet of the universe we should think twice about, from the forces of gravity to how a marriage works. Black and Gold, which uses the imagery of scientific thinking (evolution, the formation of planets, the expanding and unknowable universe) to create a surreal landscape, evokes those same feelings of instability and uncertainty.

Many of the poems in Making Waves  concern the personal relationships in Einstein’s life, exploring how the qualities that made him a great scientific theorist also jeopardised his friendships and marriages. The next song reflects this, coming to mind for me when I read ‘Objective Reality’, a poem in which Einstein speaks to his wife, laying out the sad situation of their relationship in the bleakest of terms, at once completely calm and disconnected and desperately sad.

The Cure’s Jupiter Crash can be interpreted as another version of that same conversation. What links the two together for me is the desire to understand people and personal relationships as governed by the rational laws of the universe, and the frustration when they don’t abide by those rules. Martin Zarrop does this in many of the poems in Making Waves  – the aforementioned ‘Objective Reality’ along with the haunting ‘Entanglement’ and ‘Thought Experiments’ in which love is rationalised as ‘a quantum thread’ and ‘Disappointment and guilt’ are laid out as elements of a bigger scientific puzzle.

In a similar vein, the next track on the playlist for this pamphlet is Space Dust #2 by Gruff Rhys. The story of the song, a relationship from meeting to break-up is again told through the language of bigger systems, volcanoes and lightning as well as the titular space dust. I like that despite these huge frames of reference, the structure and repetitive melody of the song as well as its brevity mean that the story seems to be over almost as soon as it starts. It is disappointingly linear, the steady decline and anticlimactic ending reminiscent of the entropy to which it refers.

This sense of disappointment can be found throughout Making Waves , not only in relationship-focussed poems such as ‘Objective Reality’ but also in those that consider how ideas that were beautiful in Einstein’s mind were made ugly by the way they were eventually put to use. When Martin Zarrop writes ‘He dreams of another universe/without nationalism, slaughter,’ there’s a sense of inevitability about the universe we do live in – and of course, the reader knows how the story ends.

The final track is one I couldn’t resist putting onto this playlist, Counting Crows’ Einstein on the Beach, which shares its title with one of the poems in the pamphlet, both presumably working from the Phillip Glass Opera of the same name. Despite its poppy sound, this song has some heavy lyrics, which, like many poems in Making Waves , refer to the sense that Einstein’s intentions were warped by the world in which he lived, how a letter sent to the U.S. President concerning developments in Germany could have been a crucial factor in the process that eventually led to hundreds of thousands of deaths. For me, the contrastingly upbeat music serves to add to the sense that things are out of control, echoing that disconnect between intention and consequence.

This has a synergy, in my eyes, with how Martin Zarrop approaches this particular subject in Making Waves . It appears understated, first as an unexpected conclusion to the ‘Amusing Thought’ that light carries mass, then an awkward subject to discuss – ‘What about the H-Bomb?/I was coming to that’ – then a ‘Dilemma’, a “great mistake”. What this does for me is create the idea of something so huge and complicated that it is impossible to deal with in its entirety. Martin Zarrop instead leads us to it several times through following familiar structures: a reasoned theory or a conversation or a weighing up of pros and cons; we get a sense of horrible inevitability without the satisfaction of a neat explanation, blame or innocence.

This is what is so wonderful about Making Waves: it seems to embody the idea that there is ‘No Theory of Everything’. I wrote in the beginning of this Top Notes that Martin Zarrop takes a scientist’s approach to looking at Albert Einstein’s life and work, yet it is left to the reader to draw the conclusions. I hope you enjoyed reading how I as one reader responded to the collection but of course as Martin Zarrop writes, “when you look at something/you change it”, a reminder to us all that there is no such thing as an objective reality or an objective reading of poetry. I’m excited to see how this focussed pamphlet elicits a plethora of responses that speak to how many angles this particular subject can be seen from."

Kibriya Mehrban

For a sample poem from Making Waves, 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 


"Hudson Taylor – Left Alone

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Distant Sky
Peter Gabriel – I Grieve

Joe Purdy – Good Days

Putting together a playlist for Alex Reed and Keren Banning’s work These nights at home presented a very particular challenge for me. When reading this, there is a painful clarity that it is grounded in a very real and very specific experience of grief on the poet’s part. I was wary of adding to that, for fear of intruding on something so personal, and which I have limited experience of. There is also, of course, grief that is ‘empty of song’. However, this pamphlet is one that opens itself to the reader rather than excluding them, evoking emotion with its honesty. There’s also the fact that the selection is already a collaboration, featuring a series of photographs from Banning. This playlist is my response to the poems, the photographs, and the atmosphere and emotion that both conjured for me as a reader. The songs on this playlist have a unifying quiet intensity to them, but like the pamphlet, they express many different aspects of grief, creating an intriguing and multifaceted experience.

First to go on this playlist is Hudson Taylor’s Left Alone. I remembered this song while reading the first poem, ‘Bindwood’. The prose poem paints a surreal portrait of a couple haunted by illness and by a fear of failing each other. For me, Left Alone evokes those same fears, the hopelessness of a relationship that is forever fighting against some external or internal unsolvable problem and yet also the love involved in that struggle. There is complicated depth of feeling in both these works which reveals itself slowly, surprising us with their tenderness even as they explore pain and loss. This is an overall theme with These nights at home, as Alex Reed continually reminds us that grief is terrible and cruel and yet is also another form, a proof, of love.

The second track on this playlist is If There’s a Rocket, Tie Me To It by Snow Patrol. This song begins with the singer finding a relic of a lost love, in the form of a fallen strand of hair and goes on to detail what he manages to keep with him after her departure. Many of the poems seem to be working to the same ends. Reading the pamphlet, we wander through an empty house and visit each room asking, as the speaker does in ‘half lost’, “was it ever lived in?” The poems are littered with the remnants of a life: folded clothes, a Netflix watch history, a wedding ring. The most vivid traces, the things we go back to again and again are the most unassuming of memories. How she walks towards him in a hallway, stands by a window or goes to answer the door. If There’s a Rocket... has similar theming, with the feeling of the person’s heartbeat and the comfortable quiet between them being remembered over and over. There’s a synergy between these repetitions and the relentless revisiting of certain motifs in Alex Reed’s work. They share a sense of amplification – the notion that prolonged absence makes the old mundane memories expand to fill up the space.

Our third track, Distant Sky by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was suggested by Alex Reed, as a song that he was listening to while writing the poems. As soon as I listened to this track, I immediately connected its ambivalent mood and gentle vocals with the atmosphere of this pamphlet. There’s a slow, heavy sadness in the lyrics and the beautiful delivery by both vocalists seems to speak to the restrained yet deeply moving voice in the poems of These nights at home. There’s something about the fact that it is a duet that also earns it its place on this playlist. In many ways, this pamphlet is a duet: between the poet and the photographer, between the speaker and his wife. Again, we have this balance between hopeless despair and tender affection which is at once painful and awe-inspiring to witness.

The fourth track is probably the most on-the-nose selection for this playlist, a song explicitly about the aftermath of a loved one’s death, Peter Gabriel’s I Grieve. It bears some similarities with the previous song, with its controlled vocals and deep emotional core. What really drew me to this one as a track with links to this pamphlet, is its focus on the long aftermath of loss. We find connections in the depiction of the speaker being left to inhabit a newly emptied life and the presence of outside voices saying “it takes a year” or “two years” or reminding the bereaved that life goes on. The repetition in this song echoes the repetition in These nights…, but the song also changes over the duration, like the pamphlet. There seems to be a sense of initial emotion, all-consuming grief which transforms into something more tiring; grief as chore, as a weight that forces the speaker into the “pacing hours/they say last years”, unsatisfying ‘imperfect grief’ which there is no hope of avoiding or even speeding up.

My final track for this playlist is Good Days by Joe Purdy. What I really love about this song is the way it complicates the basic understanding of darkness and light, something it shares with both the poems and the photographs. When the singer talks about fearing light over the dark, it speaks to a sense in this pamphlet that death isn’t the difficult part, rather, the time after that, when the sun rises and you’re supposed to continue with your day, alone, is the true dread. In many of these poems, the dark is where the speaker communes with his wife’s memory: “the shade/here, in the evening, radio playing/we chat about the day”, while the light (the poem here quoted is titled ‘sun in an empty room’) only serves to illuminate what has been lost – the light in Keren Banning’s photographs isn’t one that reveals, but one that casts strange and unexpected shadows, complex and fragmented. In the same way this track – like all of the tracks on this playlist, and like the poems in this pamphlet – doesn’t allow for a one-dimensional experience. We have to see the darkness in light, the love in loss and the tenderness in grief.

Kibriya Mehrban

For a sample poem from These nights at home, 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 


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 


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


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.”

Jane Campion Hoye

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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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

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.


"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.


“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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