Poetry Roundup #5: January – June 2021

15 07 2021

So, in an effort to update this blog more (HA!), I thought I’d move my biannual Poetry Roundups from my now mostly defunct work blog to here. You can view Poetry Roundups 1, 2, 3 and 4 here.

For the uninitiated, I read a lot of poetry books and I point out those I liked and loved over the past six months.

Here we go!


Kayo Chingonyi – Kumukanda [Penguin]
Bhanu Kapil – How to Wash a Heart [Liverpool University Press]
Kit Fraytt – bodyservant [Shearsman]
Jeff Mann – Redneck Bouquet [Lethe Press]
Ella Frears – Shine, Darling [Offord Road Books]
Charlotte Geater – poems for my fbi agent [Bad Betty]
RJ Gibson – Scavenge [Seven Kitchens Press]
Eavan Boland – In Her Own Image [Arlen House]
Ben Kline – Dead Uncles [Driftwood Press]
Gustavo Hernandez – Flower Grand First [Moon Tide Press]

Kayo Chingonyi’s Kumukanda is an excellent first collection with great wit, verve and control. My favourite from the collection was Guide to Proper Mixtape Assembly which opens with the line “The silence between songs can’t be modulated by anything other than held breath”

Bhanu Kapil’s short, but intensely packed, collection How to Wash a Heart was magnificent. Telling the story of an immigrant living in an increasingly unwelcome house, Kapil is a master of craft.

Kit Fryatt’s bodyservant is a lexical conundrum full of seriousness but also puns, word games, allusions and, importantly, laughs. A major work.

Perhaps Jeff Mann’s saddest collection, and almost certainly his best, Redneck Bouquet tells of an aging gay redneck lusting after the men around him to supplement what’s missing in his relationship. Sad, sharply observed and beautifully written.

Ella Frears’ Shine, Darling was wonderful but, for me, it’s the central section Passivity, Electricity, Acclivity – previously published as a pamphlet – that is the absolute hands-down standout.

A book kind of about Twin Peaks? I’m there. And Charlotte Geater’s poems for my fbi agent doesn’t disappoint. Clear, weird and febrile; one to read and re-read.

RJ Gibson’s Scavenge is one of those books that holds you as if it were a pair of hands up against the wall until you’ve finished. Essential.

I’ve been reading Eavan Boland’s collected, In Her Own Image (alongside the previously mentioned Night Feed) is one of my favourites so far.

Full disclosure. I was asked to read and blurb Ben Kline’s Dead Uncles – and both were a joy. Here’s what I said: “When parents dub their friends as Uncles to their child, it sends a message that family can be earned, attributed. But it works both ways. Kline’s Dead Uncles highlights these men, some of whom are related, some not, some of which are cautionary tales used to scare the little ones – these men, dead and dying, the ghosts in the barn, the embodiment of lines being crossed – and some perhaps are just outcast and queer like the narrator’s burgeoning, and terrifying, sexuality in world where swelter // that feels like heaven and hell. We learn the lessons society, religion, and family expect us to from those who came before us, whether we want to or not. Kline’s Dead Uncles is immaculate, vital and febrile, it’s a keening for an adolescence whose shocks are still being reckoned with, and the best thing he’s ever written.”

Finally, in the recommendeds, and as you can guess, I’ve had a hard time keeping some out of the top 4 – Ben and Gus could have easily been in there too! – Gustavo Hernandez’s most, most excellent Flower, Grand, First: a real powerhouse of a first collection showing the depth of his interests and craft in one book.

Highly Recommended:


Victoria Kennefick – Eat or We Both Starve [Carcanet]
Nell Regan & James Hadley – A Gap in the Clouds [Dedalus]
Travis Chi Wing Lau – Paring [Finishing Line Press]
Peter Scalpello – Acting Out/Chem and Other Poems [Broken Sleep] – ROUNDUP PICK! 

It was hard to pick just four for this round-up’s Highly Recommended, and even harder to pick a Round-Up Pick. Like, I dithered over it for days.

Victoria Kennefick’s Eat or We Both Starve has been long-awaited. Her 2015 large-format pamphlet White Whale was incredible and this book is just as good, if not better. Intense, funny and full of craft, this is one I will reread for years to come.

Nell Regan & James Hadley’s A Gap in the Clouds is a new translation of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, a standard Japanese text that is so common its not only taught in schools but is a card game too. It’s 100 tanka by 100 poets and Nell and James’ translations are fresh and vibrant. Shoutout to the beautiful book design, incorporating the original Japanese in script form.

Travis Chi Wing Lau’s first chapbook, after his excellent micro-chap The Bonesetter, is out now. Regular readers of this will know that I really respond to excellent craft and throughout Paring, aptly, are poems with such amazing precision and imagery. Essential readings.

So, to the round-up pick. Peter Scalpello’s Acting Out/Chem and Other Poems is a double pamphlet (and his first) and it stuck with me long, long after its reading. Influenced no doubt by his day job in sexual health, it deals with chemsex and queer fragility and these dark, finely wrought, beautiful poems talk about something I’ve never seen talk about – at least not so well as Peter is doing here. Also, the layout of a double-format flipbook, works incredibly well exploring the two sides of the same coin. Absolutely essential. And as is tradition, we end with a poem from the book, this one is from chem & other poems:

pass it on

i don’t know who it was.

from the lapse in time, an interval which
defined, thus a lapse in also judgement,
i could speculate – a set of
clenching shoulders, freckled from burn –

his inner thighs, angled in longing –
the sting of your beard, abrasive unto
my grimacing cheek – a feeling
of presence, motion that declares he is there,
so then i am here , too.

no, i don’t know who it was,

& yet i concede the relevance
of certainty, for are we not cumulative; a seed
surely provoked by proximity, so willingly
invaded, to receive quota of a shared grief?

reciprocal bite made
unique, our cellular rivalry
has domesticated. I ponder you now,
faceless clone- baring mutual insignia,
how to each other we

remain unknown.

Notes from the Margins #50

18 11 2020

So, here we are again, with me not having blogged in six months, so I best do something about that, eh?

Well, it’s been a delightfully busy six months. Since we last spoke I’ve had 13 poems published – including a poem placed in Banshee (!!) and one haiku, with another six or so scheduled to come out over the next while. Special mentions to two forthcoming anthology appearances, the first, Burly Tales: Fairy Tales for the Hirsuit and Hefty Gay Man, includes my very first commissioned work and will be out in February from Lethe Press; secondly, coming in summer 2021 is Hit Points : An Anthology of Video Game Poetry from Broken Sleep Books which features two poems of mine (topics: Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. You can view the full list of publications here.

Rather exciting in the past few months was that I was officially (I say officially because we knew a few days before Lockdown 1 and then everything ground to a halt) announced as a Poetry Ireland 2020 Introductions poet, which is a massive honour and I was thrilled to bits over it. As well as doing workshops with Vona Groarke, Annemarie Ni Churreain and Jessica Traynor, we did a reading as part of ILF Dublin and had poems published in an anthology of our own. Oh, and they named the anthology after one of my poems! How exciting (You can buy it for 99p here).


Oh, I did my first ever writing retreat at County Down’s wonderful The River Mill, ran by poet extraordinaire (and chef and host extraordinaire) Paul Maddern. I highly recommend a few days there – and it’s very reasonably priced to! I’ll be going back as soon as I can!

Also, I have been doing readings left, right and centre.
– In June, I read as part of the Trim Poetry Festival, in Cultivating Voices’ Poetry Pride Parade, and I was interviewed on Liffey Sound FM’s Umbrella, where I also read two poems.
– In July, I took part in Cultivating Voices’ New Books Showcase where I performed Blue Boy from Carcass, and I read my poem ‘Withdrawn’ for RTÉ Lyric FM.
– After a brief illness in August, I was back in September with two readings: firstly, I read a new poem, ‘Creation Myth’ on Lyric FM and I took part in the Bray Literary Festival’s round robin event, Four Poets Walk Into a Bar.
– Last month was somehow even busier, taking part in Cultivating Voices’ National Coming Out Day Reading and reading for the Wild and Precious Life Reading Series, as well as reading poems for Poetry Ireland, taking part in the Poetry Ireland Introductions readings in ILF Dublin and finally, reading my spooky poem ‘Sleep Over’ on the Words Lightly Spoken podcast just in time for Halloween.
– As for now, I was thrilled to be on Arena yesterday (17th November) reading my poem ‘A History of Empathy’ and talking with Sean Rocks about my upcoming event for Dublin Book Festival, forthcoming on 3rd Dec (The Queer Body with Seán Hewitt, Liz Quirke and Mark Ward, hosted by Sasha de Buyl) – the event is online and tickets are free. I’ll also be their #AskAnAuthor feature soon, so get your questions for me ready!

Finally, I’ve also recorded poems for The RTÉ Poetry Programme, which will be coming up in a forthcoming episode (in which I’m also interviewed) and I will be taking part in their Christmas episode also! LOTS going on! I shall try and post again before six months has passed (and I will fail, we all know I will)


Notes from the Margins #49

18 05 2020


You can buy your copy, direct from the publisher Seven Kitchens Press.
Here is the info page, and the direct purchase page.

I will also have copies available to purchase (which might make sense if you’re Europe-based, as 7KP is in the US)

FIRSTLY, I will be going live on Facebook at 6pm (GMT) today (18th May 2020) to read a poem or two from the book. You can check it out here.

So, I’ve been doing lots of bits and pieces to promote the book’s release. In our last post, we had a reading of The Great Reduction. Since then, I’ve uploaded an archive recording of me performing the one-act play-in-verse Blue Boy which features in the book. You can watch it here (all the trigger warnings for graphic violence and sexual assault):

Oh, I’ve also added the book to GoodReads here, so if you use that, please add it to your shelves and feel free to leave a review if so inspired!

All last week, I’ve been sharing advance reviews of the book. I made some nice graphics of them (you can see the reviews as just text on the Press page here) which you can see here:






Notes from the Margins #48

27 04 2020

And, of course, instead of updating this sooner, it has been longer this time.

FIRSTLY, regarding news, I have a new book coming out on the 18th May. A chapbook called CARCASS. Gaze upon its beautiful cover by Inkspiral Design:

CARCASS Front Cover No Bleed

I mean, how beautiful is that?
A dark little book, I’m going to be posting reviews, readings and more over the next few weeks. Today, I put up a reading (my first from an actual hard copy!) of the sci-fi poem, The Great Reduction, featured within.

You can watch that here:

The book can be ordered from Seven Kitchens Press and is a limited edition, so don’t wait! There will also be a virtual launch on the 18th, details tbc.

SECONDLY, this year I had some lovely things happen. First and foremost among them was that I was selected for this year’s Poetry Ireland Introductions Series!

I was also delighted to receive an Arts Bursary from South Dublin Arts Office as well as being shortlisted for the 2020 Cúirt New Writing Prize, with my poem ‘Home Invasion’

THIRDLY, I’m delighted to say that since my last update, I’ve had lots of work published.
Poems in Softblow (4 Poems!), Skylight47, Bleached Buterfly, Animal (the title poem from Carcass), Visual Verse (two times), HIV Here + Now, The Honest Ulsterman, and Boyne Berries. I have also been writing quite a bit of poetry in response to (mostly queer) news and, latterly, the Corona virus, with some queer news poems here, here, here, here and here.

FOURTHLY, I have, over the past year or so, been writing haiku and they’re starting to make their way out in the world, with haiku, senryu and sequences published in Eastern Structures, The Bamboo Hut, Better Than Starbucks, What Rough Beast, and some Covid-themed haiku at Pendemic here and here.

Finally, I’ll try and update the blog in a more regular fashion! (ha!)


Notes from the Margins #47

29 09 2019

Okay, okay, it’s been less than three months (my usual speed) but I’ve had a lot of news.

FIRSTLY, and biggest of all big news possible, my full-length collection Nightlight has been accepted for publication with Salmon Poetry (!!!!!!!!!)

salmon contract

It’s coming mid-2022 and I can’t wait for you to read it! I still can’t quite believe it – it’s a dream come true!

SECONDLY,  I’m just back from Iniskeen where I was Highly Commended in this year’s Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award and read at their event. Here’s some pictures from the day:

THIRDLY, my poem ‘Vegas Epithalamion’ was awarded 2nd place in the Bray Literary Festival Competition by judge Nessa O’Mahoney, which is my first time ever being long and shortlisted in a poetry competition, never mind placing! I was on a plane home so sadly couldn’t attend the event.

bray lit

FINALLY, I had a blast hosting and reading at Takin the Mic in the Irish Writers Centre this weekend, with me aul mucker BeRn. A good night was had by all!


P.S. I’ve a new poem out on Tuesday over at Animal Literary Magazine. It’s the title poem from my new chapbook, Carcass. Check it out (when it’s up!)

Notes from the Margins #46

12 08 2019

So, it’s been less than three months (my usual speed at updating this blog) but I have NEWS.

A new chapbook, Carcass, has been accepted for publication by Seven Kitchens Press, as part of their Editor’s Series. Expect it Spring 2020.

No cover yet, but I thought I’d share the news! Carcass is weird and dark and I can’t wait for you all to read it. (Oh, and this isn’t the sequel to Circumference, which is still in progress, but nowhere near complete).


Notes from the Margins #45

4 06 2019

or, again, adventures in how this blog never gets updated in a timely fashion.

So – what’s happened since January? Well, lots!

Firstly, I was one of the winners/published poems in the February 2019 Hennessy New Irish Writing, featured and published in The Irish Times here. The sheer number of people that read the Times is staggering and so many people who never spoke to me about poetry said “Oh, I read your poem in the Times!”. It was lovely.

In other news, I had a good few poems published, which is wonderful!
Circadian in Visual Verse in January
Ellipsis in Panning for Poems in February (part of PoetryNI)
College Roommate in The Ekphrastic Review in February
– Bus in Boyne Berries #25 in March (print only, also attended and read at the launch!)
Discord in HIV Here + Now in April
– 2 Poems in the Wussy #6 (print only) in April
Apologia in Cordite #91 in May

I’ve also been lucky enough to be featured in some anthologies also, most notable was Raymond Luczak’s Lovejets: Queer Male Poets on 200 Years of Walt Whitman, in which I had two poems, one an homage to Thom Gunn and one to John Wieners.


In other news I’ve completed my yearlong (Sep 18 – May 19) mentorship with Nell Regan under Words Ireland’s National Mentorship Scheme which was wonderful, revelatory and thoroughly essential – it changed and deepened my writing in lots of wonderful ways I didn’t expect, and Nell was a wonderful mentor.

Also, after a year of work, and having worked on it at length in the mentorship, I have finished my first full-length collection, Nightlight which I currently have out for consideration with some dream publishers – keep your fingers crossed for me.

Also, the past month or so, I’ve been reading and writing and experimenting with haiku/senryu/tanka etc, which has been very interesting.

Finally, submissions for Issue 6 of Impossible Archetype are open now until 1st August: all LGBTQ+ poets feel free to submit (details here).

Notes from the Margins #44

19 01 2019

More lovely reviews of Circumference!

First, from Jerry L. Wheeler at Out in Print Queer Book Reviews:

“In just a hair over twenty-five pages, Irish poet Mark Ward presents fourteen pieces which form a clear, concise narrative with an emotional ending yet still retain their individuality. In concert, these poems tell the story of a gay man coming home again to comfort his mother at his homophobic father’s deathbed, but he’s also looking for something the old man stole from him. Something vital. The connection between the pieces is always clear, but it never binds them in place. From the shy and charming first date flashback of “Monsters in the Closet” to the four part title poem examining his father’s death, the emotion is always front and center but not always about his father. His mother was as complicit.

…I wonder what story she told/the town when they whispered what happened/to us that night all those years ago./Did she marry me off to some heiress,/some lovely, lonely dowager/in an unspecified state with her own estate/too far away to travel to,/too far to visit?

Ward keeps his images sharp and his meanings clear, whether observing death or remembering how he came to live. This is work that scars as indelibly as the map etched on the skin of the cover model (a beautiful package credited to Inkspiral Designs). Highly recommended.”
[Link to the review, and the rest of their poetry roundup is here]


Secondly, from novelist and poet, Jeff Mann on Amazon:

jeff mann review
[Link to the review page here]


Wowzer, thanks so much guys! I think I need a lie down after that!

Notes from the Margins #43

9 11 2018

or, Further Adventures in how I can never update this blog in a timely fashion.

So, CIRCUMFERENCE is out in the world! [This post is mostly about Circumference, but there’s news and new poems at the end, so stick with it!]

You can get it from the publisher, Amazon US, Amazon UK, The Book Depository and more.

Here’s me seeing the book for the first time:

me and the book 2.jpg
me and the book 3.jpg

Here’s some readers with their copies:

It’s dedication:


Here it is, in glorious, Ladybird-esque, hardback:

circum hbk.jpg

We had a launch for it this week, and here’s some pix from that:

And finally, here’s two reviews of the book!

First from author ‘Nathan Burgoine (Light, Triad Blood):
nathan review
[Link to ^this review on Goodreads here.]

And a lovely review from author Deirdre Sullivan (Tangleweed and Brine), who also launched the book:

book review deirdre.jpg
[Link to the review on Amazon here]

So, regarding Circumference, I think that’s everything.

Other news, I have tentatively started work on book 2 *eee*.
I have a poem in [redacted until I’m allowed to say it] which is wonderful and insane and I can’t wait to share it with you!

I’ve had two poems published recently. Firstly, Mitko Responds in LUNCH in August, and secondly, The Doctors Say in Cordite Review #88: TRANSQUEER, a few days ago. Oh, and I’ll have a new poem, The Lads, in WUSSY next week.

So, I finally blogged. Expect a new update in like six months.

Notes from the Margins #42

13 07 2018

I never seem to be able to update this blog in an timely fashion! Grr!

Anyway, news.

Polari was fantastic! It was an honour and a pleasure to share the stage with Hillary, VG, Paul and John! And I was super happy to be able to read the long centre poem from Circumference! Here’s a pic of me from the evening:


In other news, things have been busy. I have two chapbooks, Onslaught and The Brink of Sunlight out for consideration (one with a publisher, the other entered in a competition).

I also recently finished my first short story in a hundred million years. It’s called Envoi and about a gay mental health nurse having to deliver conversion therapy to a gay patient in the 1950’s.

I’ve been writing a lot of new poems. Titles include: 25 Beautiful Homes, Inheritance, Every Time, The Lads, A Poem for Actors and An Avalanche, Interrupted.

I’ve also very recently started putting together my first full-length poetry collection, and you guys, I am super happy with it. It feels like the most book I have ever book-ed.

In other news, I’m still editing Impossible Archetype (currently open for submissions until 1st Aug) and this issue (#4) is going to be huge – we’ve had so many wonderful, wonderful submissions. Can’t wait to put it altogether.

Finally, Circumference will be out in just a few weeks! You can order a copy here (please go do so!)