Reviews

For Like love:
 

“The poems in Like love are uncluttered. They are simple, profound, and immensely touching. There is great empathy at work here, an empathy without which no real poems can exist. Read-Brown deserves a far wider readership than hitherto, and one hopes with this collection she will find it."

Brian Patten

 

"These poems remind me of the tingles. I’m so happy to feel them. This collection makes me want to run outside, kiss, fall in leaves and then write."

Hollie McNish

 

“These approachable poems are full of humour and life experience. Like love faces up to ageing, loss and injustice with an eye for contradiction and detail. Poems about clearing out a child’s bedroom after they have left home, about angels, first love and sunbathing topless exude unquenchable enthusiasm for living! A collection to relish from a seasoned and generous poet.”

Chloe Garner, Artistic Director, Ledbury Poetry Festival

 

“The most prolific slam winner the UK has ever had; a joy of a performer with a huge range of material that varies in style and content.”

Steve Larkin

 

Brenda Read-Brown’s poems are made to be spoken and heard. She’s won more poetry slams than most people but that’s not important here: how do the poems work when captured in her book, Like love? The answer is, rather well, perhaps even surprisingly well. Of course I shouldn’t be surprised as I’ve known Brenda as a performer and an old-skool arts administrator for many years and would expect no less. She writes a poem that wants to be understood and that wants a punch-line, but within these two reasonable demands a lot of emotional ground is

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For Arbitrary edges:

 

Beware! Anything can happen in Brenda Read-Brown’s poems. They will make you laugh, cry, and (to judge from our household) supply you with catch phrases for years to come. Look out for the penguins, next time you go down Oxford Street…

Alison Brackenbury
 

In "Arbitrary edges", Gloucester's Poet Laureate, Brenda Read-Brown, has succeeded in producing a book of poetry which is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking and uplifting. A hugely experienced performance poet who has won countless slams over many years, Brenda's prolific output is reflected in this generous and diverse collection.

Whether she is writing about prison inmates ("Not reading"), supposed pumas ("Talent"), or even apples ("Cox"), Brenda's poetry displays a remarkable ability to subvert the reader's expectations, not through some twee, hackneyed last-minute volte-face, but through subtly challenging us: about prisoners, or women, or, very possibly, by making sure we'll never see a Cox's Orange Pippin in quite the same light.

Many of these poems are characterized by expansive narratives and rolling rhymes, whose momentum carries you through to their exhilarating conclusions. Human warmth, insight, genuinely funny moments: all have their moments in the spotlight at various stages throughout this collection, and the variety makes for a very satisfying read.
 

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All too often, performance poets paint crude sonic pictures with the poetic equivalent of a fire-hose, relying on exuberant performances to paper over the inadequacies of their writing, and their work translates poorly to the page. By comparison, Brenda deftly uses something more akin to a feather to write poetry of deceptive delicacy and lasting integrity: not many poets can convincingly transform an NCP car park into a place of romantic wonder, or write about the death of a partner with such quiet, un-self-pitying sadness.

It's often been said that everybody writes poetry, but nobody reads it (sales of poetry books tend to bear this out). Buck the trend. Buy this book. Read it.

Fergus McGonigal

covered. She is devilishly self-deprecating and can lay out a line of thought with a deft dead-pan delivery (the poem ‘Decay’ is priceless in this respect, very funny indeed). But she also knows how to step out of the lime-light back into the shadows. In ‘Pyre’, for instance, she fires the lie of rural bliss:

 

Not a caravan for holidays

a worker lived here

rooted with his trees

 

He pruned pears

like a farrier trims hooves

until he was felled

 

And in ‘Fruits’ a whole life is examined through the revelations of a diary:

 

But what remained

told me the story.

That’s not my baby

were her words

when they returned me,

warm as field-fresh strawberries,

from the incubator.

 

That lovely image of the strawberries is so brilliantly inserted into the poem; it holds us for a moment before we are forced to confront a more important truth as the poem develops.

 

The title poem, ‘Like love’, is long for a Read-Brown poem, but develops its argument, its narrative, with control and wit. Are we allowed to say that some poems make us sad, for others but mostly for ourselves? Well, this one did and I don’t care who knows it. I shan’t quote an extract because it needs the whole. It is, incidentally, a beautiful piece to read out aloud, as so much poetry should be. Written for the spoken voice, it has a stark intimacy, and whether it was a performance piece of not, it sits well in this very enjoyable collection.

Jonathan Davidson, Under the Radar

 

This is an excellent collection.

 

'Empty rooms' and 'Writing some notes for my eulogy' are both classic Brenda tours de force, and I love them. It's great to see 'Buffalo Bridge', '1471 all over again' and 'Like love' in print and to be able to read them. 

 

It's full of great poems (and great lines 'spare wives/ don't come in boxes' is as good as any punchline). Brenda is very hard on herself, but she has managed  to write a collection of poems around love which is real and authentic and sees its beauty and its sometimes awfulness (my word) in many different guises, and not the pretend version of lerrrve in crap novels and even more crap TV. Which makes her a true poet. 

Fergus McGonigal