Poetry books, especially those published by small indie presses, are never going to sell hundreds of thousands of copies, so every single reader is precious. And you can’t wait to see what those readers will make of your poems. The hope is that something, somewhere within your work, maybe just a word or a phrase, or even a whole poem will connect deeply to the living beating soul of another human being.
So it’s with trepidation that you ask for reviews by trusted sources, not only because you need good PR and not a roast, but mainly because being reviewed helps you to understand what it is that you’ve brought forth into the world.
Seeing your poems through somebody else’s eyes is an act of severance. The words and thoughts are no longer yours, but now belong to someone else to do with what they please. I can’t imagine the jeopardy involved for theatre productions who can be shut down by bad reviews. At least with poetry, it’s not money that’s at stake, only the writer’s heart.
Since its launch in late October 2022, Face the Strain has been endorsed by brilliant poets (more of that in another post), kindly raved about by friends and family (more about that in another post) and reviewed insightfully by two excellent reviewers – Hideko Sueoka and Emma Lee. The reviews are both really good reads.
The reviewers and reviews
Hideko Sueoka is a poet and translator living in Tokyo. Her translation on photography Shigeichi Nagano-Magazine Work 60s was published in 2009. She was the winner of the 2013 Troubadour International Poetry Competition and her winning poem was highly commended in the Forward Prize 2014. Her debut poetry chapbook was published from Clare Songbirds Publishing House (New York State, US) in 2018. Her recent poems were included in online magazines Harana Poetry, amberflora, Porridge Magazine and anthologies such as Arrival at Elsewhere curated by Carl Griffin (Against the Grain Press), and Stay Home Diary Zine (Bitter Melon Press).
She reviewed Face the Strain for her blog CHEERFUL NOISE as in a poem: joyousnoise0509.blogspot.com she says:
“This pamphlet FACE THE STRAIN is written by the Londoner poet Joolz Sparkes, born and raised in the UK. As in the poetry book London Undercurrents (written with Hilaire), the verse stage in the pamphlet is set in London with love and hate. The title serves as a metaphor for Sparkes’s daily life there as a working woman. I, as a freelance translator, can strongly sympathize with her works and feel keenly what she is fighting in society.
The collection covers various forms, i.e., formal poem (‘We’re trying to stop, honest’ with rich cacophony) to concrete poem (‘No title’ with irony). Through it, the current social issues such as diversity and gender are expressed with her own lyricism. From that perspective, it includes works that could be described as political, reiterated as in the previous book.” Read the full review here
Emma Lee is an award-winning reviewer and is a poet herself. Her collection “The Significance of a Dress” will be published by Arachne Press at the end of February 2020. Her collection “Ghosts in the Desert” is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing. Her pamphlet “Mimicking a Snowdrop” was published by Thynks Press in 2014 and her full-length collection, “Yellow Torchlight and the Blues” has been published by Original Plus. Her poems have been nominated for the Forward Best Poem Prize, broadcast on BBC Radio, prize-winners in competitions and widely published in anthologies, magazines and webzines. Her short stories are also widely published and she was one of the editors for “Over Land Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge”.
Emma reviewed Face the Strain for her blog Emma Lee’s Blog, she says:
“Face the Strain is a lyrical exploration of life under patriarchal capitalism as we emerge from the pandemic. Personal actions become political, although individuals are rendered powerless against large conglomerates and politicians in lobbyists’ pockets. Sparkes pulls no punches. The world is looked at through a critical lens, which particularly examines societal attitudes towards the powerless and vulnerable, and the extra loads of caring, parenting and household management that fall on predominately on women. The tone is spare and direct, making the poems’ intents clear and targeted.” Read the full review here
Appetite whetted and ready to face the strain? You can buy a copy here or directly from me.