7 minute read

I’ve been meaning to do this for a couple of months, but during that time Christmas has come and gone, then I’ve packed to move house, moved to the countryside and prepped for minor surgery. So no wonder I haven’t had time to put thoughts to paper. I’m settled into our country house now and the quiet is welcome. This is what I’ve put into my brain from December 2022 to the end of February 2023.


  • The Sonnets by William Shakespeare & Notes on the Sonnets by Luke Kennard- I’ve never read anything quite like Notes on the Sonnets, which responds to each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets with a prose poem. Oh and all the responses are set at the same house party. Sometimes Kennard comments on the language used, playfully pulling it apart , and sometimes he follows a theme to it’s often absurd conclusion. Kennard threads the house party with recurring characters and motifs that come back, much like the original sonnets. I loved the fun of this collection and the surreal nature of the poems. Shakespeare’s sonnets are also tonally weirder than I was expecting, often petty or jealous and not always devotional.

  • Make time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky- A bit like Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman but more practical and less philosophical. This is a guide on how to do more by doing less. The central idea is you chose one thing to focus on a day, call this your highlight, then block out time to really focus undistracted on it. It’s useful to restrict yourself to one highlight a day, especially in this modern world where the temptation is to try and do everything. Some of the suggestions on how to achieve this aren’t practical for everyone however and it assumes a certain level of autonomy in your life and career that not everyone will have. Useful, but not essential.

  • Radical Normalisation by Celia A Sohaindo- I read this why I was down with a cold, which maybe why it didn’t leave a huge impression on me. The poems felt technically accomplished but I didn’t connect with them emotionally. Probably more me than the book.

  • Viaducts and River Views by Barry Hollow- I’ve known Barry for a while through the Bristol poetry scene, so it was a delight to read his debut collection. I also read at his book launch, which was a real honour. These are poems rooted in specific places that are evocative and precise. Barry is excellent at experimenting with form and he plays with language artfully. Really recommended.

  • How High We Go In The Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu- A linked series of stories set after a global pandemic ravages the earth. All the stories have a mournful, melancholy tone as the characters attempt to grapple with the huge amount of loss. Death becomes a central part of society, with funeral houses controlling money and twisted rollercoasters being accepted as normal. I would have liked to have seen more of a variation in the various protagonists and tone of the stories, but the ideas and the way it links together are fascinating. Feels like the first modern novel I’ve read that captures the feelings of the plague years.

  • Coward by Tim Clare- An exploration of anxiety, both scientific and personal. Tim Clare suffers from extreme anxiety and panic attacks and attempts different methods in order to cure it. There is a lot of scientific research in this book and it has a tendency to get a bit lost in the technical detail, but the descriptions of his personal experiments to cure himself are engaging. Ultimately, it’s a reminder that no one size fits all cure exists for mental health.

  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia- A short novel that transplants the tropes of gothic novels to Mexico, then completely turns them upside down. It is a testament to how well the novel lays out it’s clues and breadcrumbs that I didn’t see the twist coming, but it made total sense. A fun, well written genre mash up, I breezed through this in a couple of days and found it really enjoyable.

  • The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisen- The first book in the Broken Earth trilogy. This had me absolutely gripped. Jemisen writes so well about the impossible, bringing emotion and warmth to the magical occurrences that are just part of every day life. The world is rich, strange and unlike anything I’ve read before, with it’s own rules and customs that you absolutely believe. At the same time, Jemisen manages to make the characters unique, interesting and flawed. I raced through this book and immediately wanted to read the others in the series. Between this and The City We Became, Jemisen is quickly becoming my favourite modern speculative author.

  • Rain by Don Paterson- A technically stunning series of poems with an undercurrent of despair and existential doubt. Paterson makes form and rhyme seems effortless, with a unique perspective.. At the same time, I would have liked some of the poems to loosen up just a little as something seemed to be held back across the collection. I liked it, but wasn’t completely blown away.


  • Encanto- Animated Disney film about a Colombian family with magic powers and a house that is alive. There’s some surreal moments mostly based around the house and some explorations of intergenerational trauma which I was not expecting. It’s mostly fun and enjoyable, but the songs aren’t as good as Moana. It being a Disney film, the story is tied up a little too neatly as well.

  • Pinocchio (2022, Guillermo del Toro)- I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. I generally love del Toro’s films, but I found his more adult take on Pinocchio a bit lacking. The stop motion animation is beautiful, and there’s a sequence set in a fascist training camp that almost justifies the film, but I found it meandering and unfocused. The plot is unable to settle on one moment for too long, rushing to the next sequence too quickly. A shame as there’s some good stuff buried in here.

  • Glass Onion - Broader and sillier than the first film, this is still a delightful skewering of the ultra rich and how they think the rules don’t apply to them. The cast is having a lot of fun, with Daniel Craig and Janelle Monae being standouts in a strong line up. The mystery is satisfying, if not as twisty as the first film. I’d quite happily watch a whole series of these films with the only link being Benoit Blanc solving mysteries.

  • Jungle Cruise - Way more fun than a film based on a theme park ride has a right to be. It’s an old school adventure film, the sort Hollywood gave up making in the mid 2000’s. The CGI sequences are mostly forgettable, the plot is paper thin, but the cast are having a lot of fun, especially Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. The script is also pretty decent, with some terrible jokes. It counts for a lot and elevates what could have been a fairly generic slog.

  • Turning Red- A 13 year old with overbearing parents turns into a giant red panda at emotional moments. It’s a big old metaphor for puberty and growing up, but well done and with a core female cast that feels refreshing. The characters are unique and the story is a little predictable. As someone who was a teenager in the early 2000’s, the fact that films are now starting to have nostalgia for that age feels a little strange to me, but I guess it was inevitable. Still, the animation is beautiful and the film is enjoyable, if not one of Pixar’s best.

TV Series

  • Andor- Disney accidentally makes the best Star Wars vehicle by seemingly ignoring all the rules it had set. This doesn’t really link into the main films, instead showing side characters that develop and change as the series goes on. It’s about the bureaucracy and terror of fascism and when people start to resist, and as such feels way more adult and considered than anything that was in the Star Wars saga. I was burnt out on the galaxy far, far away after The Book of Boba Fett and Obi Wan, but this is the best thing they have made in an age. More of this approach please, using an existing framework to tell more interesting, nuanced stories.

I’m going to try and keep this up more regularly. I’m also going to keep updating this blog with poems, erasures and whatever I feel like.

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