Planet excerpts

A selection of our reviews from Planet 222

More excerpts from Planet 222  

Losing Israel by Jasmine Donahaye | Seren £12.99

The history of Wales is filled with stories speaking of loss. Loss of language, loss of land, loss of independence, loss of livelihood: it is something that seems at times almost to define the Welsh psyche. Here, then, is a story that will undoubtedly chime with the experiences of the Welsh. But it is, in fact, the tale of another land and of another set entirely of alienations altogether.


Dyddiau Olaf Owain Glyndŵr by Gruffydd Aled Williams | Y Lolfa, £9.99

Owain Glyndŵr’s reputation has been extraordinarily varied. In the early Anglo-Welsh ‘establishment’ view his revolt was wholly destructive, a national disaster. But an early alternative vision saw him as a folk hero, sleeping in a cave surrounded by his followers, waiting for Wales to call him back in her time of need. Shakespeare presented a more nuanced figure. But this last, lost Welsh prince began his real career as National Hero in the late 18th century thanks mainly to Thomas Pennant’s initial interest in him in his Tour in Wales of 1778. From then on Glyndŵr’s fame grew, thanks to a number of works in both Welsh and English, culminating in A.G. Bradley’s 1901 volume, Owen Glendower, in the series ‘Heroes of the Nations’, followed at intervals by Sir John Edward Lloyd’s Oxford study of 1931, R.R. Davies’s The Revolt of Owain Glyn Dŵr and most recently the remarkable 600-page examination by Michael Livingston and John K. Bollard, Owain Glyndŵr: A Casebook (2015).


House of Small Absences by Anne-Marie Fyfe | Seren, £8.99

Anne-Marie Fyfe’s fifth collection, House of Small Absences, unfolds a series of partial glimpses, like apertures, onto moments when the secure and the familiar are infused with the unknowable and unpredictable. We are in familiar Fyfian territory: hinterlands, both psychic and geographic, often shadowy and filled with unspecific threat. Like the four walls of a house, the four sections of the collection provide a sense of movement round a many-storyed structure, full of windows which each reveal a small drama of unsettlement. They are peopled with characters – both living and ghostly – who negotiate these quirky intersections between the quotidian and its reversal, and with no map but their own, unstable, perception. The borders between reality and unreality are volatile. Memory may push into the present with a devastating surreality. Consciousness is a tremulous and risky business – what surrounds it even more so. The poems take us from physical height, the upper storeys – and indeed, stories – to the mid-levels and deep foundations. On the way the ‘house’ contracts and expands, can become a skyscraper or a hotel or the cockpit of a light aircraft. Locations, too, are mutable. We travel from Ireland to Ravensbrück to Bucharest to Paris to Manhattan with varied stops between. But although the space traversed is vast and nuanced, the same themes and tropes recur, like a dream obsession, taking one guise then another.

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