Life After Life After Death, a collection of poetry by Felix Hodcroft
Published by Valley Press. www.jamiemcgarry.com/valleypress

It's impossible to remain unmoved by this new collection of poems. Jagged, thought-provoking, raw, they demand attention and deserve to get it.

The sharp, sometimes to cutting point, observation brings to mind Philip Larkin. He also brought foibles, discomforts, hurts into a tight focus. He also crafted with a considered choice of word sounds and rhythm.

There are deliciously lyrical images here. "...those lush afternoons when the world seemed to poise in our grasp like a peach" from Inasmuch. "There'll be stillness, something/waiting, there'll be sunbeams melting mist./There will be buds that gently ripple into/scarlet, snow and gold." from Bequest. And you can almost taste the words off the page in Jackets 'n' Skins.

Side by side with the appetising comes the tough, unrelenting and tortured. We Fought, in particular, has this balance teetering on an edge but always satisfyingly maintained.

No subject - love, death, murder, cancer, relationships (familial and otherwise) - is too difficult to be tackled - and brought down in the box (since we're all in World Cup mode). Each is explored unflinchingly, all its dark corners poked at.

And the form follows content, being unsettling too. We're not quite sure who or what or when, we have to grasp at meanings that are relevant to us. Making these poems not an easy read, but a fulfilling one.

If I wanted to be nit-picking, I might suggest some of the endings lose this trust in the reader and become a little too explanatory. A few more commas would not have gone amiss either.

That aside, this collection is worthy of much re-reading and contemplation. I went through it almost in one go and I can see there will be poems that I will return to again and re-discover in a different way.

Narratively strong, Hodcroft's poetry holds that fine balance between ugly realism and lyricism; bleakness and hope; death and life, and even life after life after death.
Back from a two week holiday and wondering what I should put in this post. Our trip away was indeed a fine one, with a fair mix of walking, sightseeing and relaxing. I always have a writing journal with me, but this year, for the first time, as well as the reflections on each day and the snatches of prose or poetry to be crafted later, I was sketching and painting.

Some time ago I moved away from lined paper in my writing journals - too restrictive - and recently I've been buying what are essentially sketch books to write in, so that when I do paint, the paper is absorbent enough. Writing on the thick pages is delicious, but occasionally I get knocked by the thought, are my words worth this weight of paper? Much of what goes down is scrawled, imperfect, not thought through, will remain as notes. But these are the seeds from which more crafted, more communicative work, which can touch others, will grow. And you wouldn't sow your prize marrows on scanty earth.

As a young secondary school pupil I was told by my art teacher that I was not good at his subject. That comment has stuck all these years. It is a joy now, therefore, to find out that I can work visually and am captured by form and colour. And I am discovering how what I draw complements and nourishes what I write in a satisfying symbiosis.