Review of No Spider Harmed by Rachael Smart

This has been hiding in a corner of our web, with the intention of finding a magazine to take it, but the world doesn’t quite work like that, so here it is, front and centre. Thanks Rachael!

Spiders frequently get bad press but according to folklore, the spider represents strong feminine energy, creativity and strength. Perceived to be portents of good luck I have long cherished the spider who lives in my car’s right-hand wing mirror, a miniscule and fine-legged specimen who shivers on her web whilst withstanding the most turbulent of journeys.  On cool autumn mornings there is nothing more beautiful to my camera than the belly of the sun bringing hundreds of dew-laden spider webs into plain view.

To celebrate eight years of publishing, Arachne Press are quite aptly celebrating their success with an anthology of spider literature. This volume of poetry and short fiction explores all things spider at close range, a reading experience which lends itself to being mutually magnifying and yet strangely distorting in its small world exploration of darkly haired creatures who straddle the borders of good and evil, of myth and folklore, of past and present. Crucially, nature meets with human in these narratives full of imagination. Skewered perspectives turn myth and stereotypes on their heads to bring readers the type of spiders that literature needs.

Stella Wulf’s Femmes Fatales is a five-stanza poem which personifies the spider via the timescale of human life from childhood through to adolescence, then adulthood followed by two climax stanzas in which we view the spider’s attack. It is akin to watching a nature documentary in which the spider’s life plays out before viewer’s eyes as we watch the courtship, the struggle. The female as both human and spider is located firmly in the male gaze and potent in the possession of her aesthetic power. The protagonist’s mother warns: it takes more than long legs / and fine bones, to get on in life. Here, we find a girl in adolescence who learns to climb proficiently and challenge social expectations yet discovers her ability to manipulate men reigns supreme. Assonance is shot through this poem, a soft assured chain of stealthy words that sound out the spider’s attack: ‘slip of silk’ ‘see them squirm’ ‘subdued’ ‘watch them sleep’ ‘spin my dreams’’ ‘skitter light’. This is a stunning poem dense with sibilance and sound which echoes that of the spider’s slow seduction of the fly and concludes fittingly: with the female triumphant.

Natalie Rowe’s If You Kill a Spider, the Rain Will Come is a touching poem about the significance a spider takes on following the loss of a father. The weight of grief is beautifully threaded through the close daily observations of a house spider. Longing for conversation, the protagonist:  ‘…began to talk to her / wishing her a good hunt’  As winter approaches, so comes dependence:  ‘I could not stand to lose/ one more  living thing.’ Grief is projected onto the spider’s survival as substitution for the loss of a father and fuelled by a desire to nurture her pet with cockroaches and flies to prevent further loss. Rowe captures that colossal fear post-death of having no control over external factors and exhibits quite painfully, in this tender piece, how we attempt to cling to hope and how futile our caring tendencies can be.

Phoebe Demeger’s Clearing Out the Shed is a flash fiction which features a narrator sorting out her parent’s shed before the house is occupied by a new family. Emotional restraint in the voice ensures that not all of history is given up, allowing the reader to fill the white space with their own interpretation of the parent’s last decade in the building. Setting is conveyed as stagnant and freeze-framed, the protagonist reluctant to ‘disturb the tomb-like atmosphere’ as though the undisturbed spiders in the shed are guarding her parent’s ghosts. A transitional story threaded through with nostalgia and loss, and yet, also, silvery beginnings, and the spiders who seem to represent guardians.

Elizabeth Hopkinson’s piece, Web of Life, draws on the myth of Arachne the weaver who challenged Athena to a tapestry duel and was subsequently turned into a spider. This is such an acoustic story which draws on crochet instructions to convey the process of web making: Chain four. Double crochet. Slip one. Repeat.  The repetitive labour of humans crocheting is closely associated with the spider’s spooling, a sound which can be heard and soothes the ears. A web big enough for the world is created, a handiwork way beyond any spider’s web. This is no lair but a safe house for all of nature’s winged creatures: Silver-Spotted Skipper, Adonis Blue. Hazel Pot Beetle. Language is used so economically, here, but the authentic species names and the specifics of the weaving process gives this small but global story an energy of its own.

This is an inspired and diverse collection of poetry and fiction which sharpens the focus of the lens on the life of the spider. Small-world is magnified for readers who get to see nature in action and often from slant perspectives. Sacred value is given to arthropods who inject their venom and snare with silk, who protect and guide, who attack and seduce, and in seeking out such a range of literary imaginations, the spider really is given new legs.

Review of Tymes goe by Turnes on Blue Nib

This is probably the last review we will get from Blue Nib, as it is closing – due to an unsustainable funding gap.

I don’t know whether it’s yet another unforseen outcome of C-19, but a number of poetry and other literary magazines are on hiatus or have folded since I last checked for people to send books to for review.

As well as Blue Nib; Arete, Compass, Iota, and Antiphon have the shutters down on their website or have disappeared completely.

Many magazines, like small publishers, rely on volunteers to survive at all. I’m as at fault as the next person, I can’t afford the subcription (or the time) to read more than a couple of magazines, and yet we rely on them to spread the word about our books, and as discoverors and nursery grounds for writers who aren’t ready to offer a collection.

So maybe now is the time for an extra resolution for this year – to read a literary magazine, and support the work done by its editors, writers and reviewers.

In the meantime, a big thank you to prodigeous reviewer Emma Lee, for her review of Tymes goe by Turnes on Blue Nib.

‘Tymes Goe By Turnes’ is a timely anthology. Some pieces could be interpreted as being about the current pandemic, but all have a sense of timelessness. A sense that they could be picked up in several centuries in the future and, although the language would look archaic, they would still be understood.

Recent Reviews of Mamiaith and No Spider Harmed

Eat the Storms review of Ness Owen’s Mamiaith

A long, thoughtful and very enthusisatic review from Damien B Donnelly

The collection cleverly deceives the reader with its light appearance; delicate forms of short poems with few words but that too is its strength, like a language not used enough so that words are forgotten and we must cut to the truth without the fluff and frills.

Following on from Dawn Dumont’s quote at the beginning of the poem One Name, Cymru- to be born indigenous is to be born an activist- we realise that the fight is happening here, within the considered calls rising up from these carefully chosen lines, each word perfectly formed into a sense of identity often bashed, often silenced but ever resilient.

buy Mamiaith here

Review of No Spider Harmed on Blue Nib

an appreciative review from Chloe Jacques

Pieces in the collection rarely seek to impose an anthropomorphized interior experience onto their spiders, and the anthology is filled with musings and suggestions that speak both to things shared between humans and spiders, and to the ultimate mystery of a spider’s inner-world.

The myriad voices in the collection – and the many ways they have interpreted the call for submissions – make for a stimulating read, at once serious and moving, as well as light-hearted and frivolous.

This collection is a refreshing, detailed and compassionate take on an under-loved and fascinating creature.

buy No Spider Harmed here

Review 2: No Spider Harmed

a second review for No Spider Harmed this one is from Helen Whistberry on her book review site

A definite must for any spider-lovers but also a very rewarding read for fans of good writing.

…Moonlight is Web-Coloured by Emma Lee, a short piece but every word sings. I stopped and reread this one several times, so taken with the rhythm and melody.

read the whole review here

Review: No Spider Harmed

Our first review for No Spider Harmed

from P D Dawson

Beautifully lyrical and powerfully descriptive

endlessly inventive

No Spider Harmed, is a wonderfully diverse anthology, with many different styles coming together to create a tremendously entertaining read, and yes I’ll admit, a new appreciation for our furry neighbours too.

read the whole review here

buy a copy direct from us here!

 

Another review from Norwich Radical, this time for Time and Tide

Carmina Masoliver has been busy reviewing our books on Norwich Radical, and she has some excellent things to say.

such as…

At times it’s amazing how so much can be said in such little space…

wonderful descriptions…

an incredibly well-structured rhyme that lulls us like the lapping waves of the sea…

with thumbs up for Roppotucha Greenberg, Diana Powell, Cindy George, Barbara Renel, Holly Magee, Paul Foy, Claire Booker, Kate Foley, Sarah Tait, Susan Cartwright-Smith and Julie Laing.

 

Read The full review here

buy a copy here

Norwich Radical, Review of The Significance of a Dress

A new review of Emma Lee‘s The Significance of a Dress from Carmina Masoliver on Norwich Radical

Lee’s strength is in the moments of clear imagery and engagement of the senses

read more here:

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A DRESS BY EMMA LEE – REVIEW

REVIEW of Story Cities on The Short Story

We’ve been reviewed by Becky Tipper over on The Short Story website

Hilights:

What emerges from this collection of stories is a sense of the infinite variety of the city – fleeting, contradictory, transcendent, prosaic, intimate, familiar, surprising – full of people we’ll never really know, whose lives briefly touch our own.

And after reading this book, I moved differently through my own city – stopping to look and listen in new ways, and noticing things I might have overlooked. Story Citiescertainly lives up to its promise as a ‘guide for the imagination.’

read the review in full here

buy a copy…

Story Cities reviewed on Sabotage

And they liked it…

…a true reflection of the metropolitan experience…

 

Next time you sit down in your favourite cafe, or when you pop in some earbuds as you settle into a plastic chair on the metro during your commute, make sure you have a copy of this anthology.

read more of Kristin D. Urban‘s review here

Poetry Book Society review In Retail

An unexpected email today from the Poetry Book Society, sending me a PDF of the Summer bulletin, ‘with review of In Retail‘.

Really? I thought, we got a review?

It doesn’t say who wrote it, but thank you, whoever you are.

 Treading the line between wry absurdism and abject despair, In Retail is like reading anthropological field-notes from what should be an alien world but is, unfortunately, our own.

You can buy a copy on In Retail by Jeremy Dixon direct from our webshop, (post free in UK) or from your favourite independant bookshop.