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Reviews and Critical Works

Jade Cuttle is a full-time Commissioning Editor (Arts) at The Times. 
She was a category and final judge in the Costa Book Awards (2019). 

The Times

Author profile
The Guardian

Author profile

The Poetry Review

'Underneathness', reviews of Richard Scott's Soho, Zaffar Kunial's Us, and Ben Wilkinson's Way More Than Luck, The Poetry Review, Volume 108, No. 3, Autumn 2018 (forthcoming). 

The Times & The Sunday Times

'Beyond the page', opinion piece on the importance of diversity in literary criticism, The Times Literary Supplement, June 25, 2018.

'Fears for Iran’s Warhols and Picassos', The Sunday Times, May 1, 2016.


Poetry Book Society 

'Next Generation Poets 2014', review of Luke Kennard's The Harbour Beyond the MoviePoetry Book Society, Jan 26, 2015.

'Next Generation Poets 2014'review of Alan Gillis' Here Comes the NightPoetry Book Society, November 25, 2014.

'Next Generation Poets 2014'review of Rebecca Goss' Her Birth, Poetry Book Society, Jan 26, 2015.

'Next Generation Poets 2014'review of Emma Jones’ The Striped WorldPoetry Book Society, December 22, 2014.

'Next Generation Poets 2014'review of Jen Hadfield’s Nigh-No-Place, Poetry Book Society, December 22, 2014.


Sarah Corbett’s A Perfect Mirror, reviewed for Poetry Book Society Summer 2018 Bulletin, May 2018.

Poetry School

Sean Borodale's Asylum, reviewed for Poetry School, March 2018.

J.R. Carpenter's An Ocean of Static, reviewed for Poetry School, May 2018.

Helen Mort's The Singing Glacier, reviewed for Poetry School, October 2018.

Wayne Holloway-Smith's I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE WENDING, reviewed for Poetry School, forthcoming.


                                                         Reviews of Adonis' Concerto al-Quds, Jane Commane's Assembly Lines, and Meryl Pugh's                                                               Natural Phenomena for Magma, issue 71.

                                                         Reviews of Jo Burns' Circling for Gods, John Challis' The Black Cab, and Hera Lindsay Bird's

                                                         Pamper Me to Hell & Back for Magma (forthcoming).

Modern Poetry in Translation

'The World’s Underside', reviews of Venus Khoury Ghata's A Handful of Blue Earth, and Henri
Michaux's Storms Under the Skin: Selected Poems, 
Modern Poetry in Translation, Profound
2018 issue 1.

'Fog Settled on Barbed Wire', Ceija Stojka's Paroles d’artiste, reviewed for Modern Poetry in
July 2018.

Poetry London

Reviews of Tadeusz Dabrowski's Posts, Mária Ferenčuhová's Tidal Events: Selected Poems, 
and Doris Kareva's Days of Grace: Selected Poems, Poetry London, Autumn 2018 (forthcoming).


                                           Tishani Doshi's Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, interview & review for Mslexia (forthcoming).

                                  Poetry Wales

                                           Review of Tishani Doshi's Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, reviewed for Poetry Wales,                                                               Volume 54, No.1, Summer 2018.

                                  Brixton Review of Books 

                                          Reviews of Vahni Capildeo's Venus as a Bear, and the Laureate's Choice pamphlets, Brixton Review                                                  of Books (forthcoming).

Culture Trip

'Using Words to Conquer War', review of Adonis' Concerto al-QudsCulture Trip, May 5, 2018.

'Montmartre's Prolific Modern Day Existentialist', interview & review of Laurent Derobert's Fragments of Existential Mathematics, Culture Trip, August 23, 2017.

Culture Trip profile (details of all articles published in Culture Trip).

Write Out Loud

Write Out Loud profile (details of all articles published in Write Out Loud).


Stephen Sexton's Oilsreviewed for Cadaverine, October 2016.

Jade Cuttle Reviews ‘Asylum’ by Sean Borodale for the
Poetry School

A landscape of stone has never been so alive as in Sean Borodale’s Asylum (Penguin): freckled with bones that refute their own burial, and feed off ‘the flesh of the shade’ as though trying to grow back their bodies, these poems are brimming with life in unexpected places.

The inspiration for this book was mined deep within the caves and quarries of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, and, like Borodale’s previous two books, Bee Journal and Human Work, Asylum was written  live on-site:


to be alone,
with the population of collapsing drips
as they flash apart;
with no sight, no hearing, no shallow breath


Each poem is sculpted in the shadow of a geological and archaeological history that stretches back to the late Bronze Age, with no fewer than twenty Palaeolithic sites to its name. But this unusual technique has cultivated a collection that is raw as well as rich in historical reflection, the gems of its narrative carefully exhumed whilst still conveying a split-second urgency and spontaneity:


Nearly impossible to say what I look for,
walking fast through trees, […]

How can speech be unlaboured;
a single word issue
at the rate of stone, out of rock


Borodale classifies his writing as ‘documentary poems’, and from recording his response to finding a fossilised fern, to chronicling the challenges of a hob-nailed boot released from silts in the Upper Mells Stream, the cinematic focus in this collection is wide-ranging. The live streaming is particularly thrilled by darkness, investigating its effect on the voice for 30 minutes at Goatchurch Cavern:

I bring fear of the dark,
a length of rope, and abject desire. […]

I strike a match – lightening the dark sound. […]

[Torch on.
Torch off.]

It is not far away.


Despite the documentary ideals, a curious image of reality creeps into focus. Blinding his way into the black pits of the earth, such as ‘the troubled landscape of hollows’ at Grebe Swallet Lead Mine, the poet lends a muscular quality to the presence and absence of light. Its material becomes meat-like; ‘lean’ as in the poem ‘Singing River Mine’:


Into the percolating leanness of light,
into blackest earth.
A slight wind chafes at the cave mouth.

Into the percolating leanness of light,
into blackest earth.
A slight wind chafes at the cave mouth.

Into the percolating leanness of light,
into blackest earth.
A slight wind chafes at the cave mouth.


The idea of materiality is masterfully produced — a rarity for repeat manufacture. A more subtle example comes to the fore when the skeletal elements of a woman surface from a grave-plot at Stanton Drew:


Glancing back: they could not have foreseen
the wash of her litter; bones like wave-spume
drifting up discharged and naked,
like anthers of flowers.


But really, the plotting of ‘her post-self’s inner furniture […] teeth that still shine’ leads towards a final image that focuses on the graveyard roots skewering ‘the flesh of the shade’. The bones are fixed together as by sinews, knitting back the proof of their bodies (‘Furies who do not decompose / but interact, as bodies matting’).

The muscular darkness lingers as a living, breathing menace, pressing its mass against the page like a palpable tumour. But this ‘black tent of shade’ also brings comfort to the ‘Bones, loved or not’,  tucking them away safely from the threat of their former selves.

Light is not the only phenomenon to gain material conviction, as the linguistic universe gains texture too:


Names of people fall with the quarry rock,
gathering a woollen dust about their moisture


Elsewhere, an ‘echo frays’ around the fringes, and whilst the dead voices of ancient ghosts are shelved out of sight to the ‘seizured turmoil of tumbling sludge’, they dig themselves back up like worms:


The whole yard is lifting its burial;
the sun
hinging its inhumations
into the spill of the everyday.


Ultimately, the materiality of light and language serves as set décor for what is acknowledged as ‘The Mendip as a stage for acts of writing’. Each page is a performance, a ‘diagrammatic experience’ that choreographs a spectacular ‘discipline of decline’:


This is a wide theatre,
thirty miles long.

It dips down at one end
and I can visualise its boreholes
like cast-moulds for bronzes,
scattered at points quite buried.


The notion of ‘The Mendip as a stage’ is highlighted throughout by the italicised stage directions (‘This could be a woman’s glass cup [picking it up], / the wine of her sanctuary’). But whilst the stage is ‘drawn in the three dimensions’, the usual tensile consistency of time is stretched taut:


Time not as we know it;
but another time quite skilled in losing things.

Time pressed flat in a thousand directions
the fern’s delicate gap resists.


Like the lack of temporal order, these poems rarely commit to the confines of structure (except for ‘Aveline’s Hole’, ‘Sump I’ and ‘Shatter Cave’, whose triadic repetition is similar to ‘Singing River Mine’). The poems prefer to mine the transformative potential of poetry-in-motion, and such a style is fitting given that not one corpse to have graced this ground has shown commitment to its coffin:


the same marked plots
which have erupted their principle of eternal sleep,
risen as flamed out of burial and gone awry,
wreaking jigsaws of havoc.

The brief order of a corpse
stapled in with sods and soil weight.

The coffins must have been soft, you say.
They must have been soft coffins.

[…] Teeth and vertebrae on tumbled-up soil;

[…] the fractured littering
through oxide, blood-coloured, heavy-clay earth.


There is some guidance to be found in the interweaving of poetic thought, as certain lines routinely weave in and out, losing their thread, before resurfacing to even the poet’s surprise. ‘Nothing has come here / that is more than flicker, / that has not brought / the bright, hurt language of its sun’. Another line that echoes across poems is ‘pressing the voice / back into the blackness of the throat’.

But the pivotal idea that seeps through these stalactite poems – tossing the reader to the tidal whim of ‘wave-spume’ bones as they break their silence upon the earth, spontaneous and apparently stream-of-conscious – is that you’re only lost if you turn back, and getting lost in this landscape is half-the fun anyway, learning to ‘blind’ one’s way out.


You can find out more about Asylum from Penguin.

Jade Cuttle Reviews ‘An Ocean of Static’ by J.R. Carpenter for the Poetry School

In between the billows of foaming brine, tucked away behind stacks of salt, lurks the pearl of a poetic endeavour completely unlike any other. An Ocean of Static (Penned in the Margins) is the debut collection by digital writer J.R. Carpenter, whose cryptic stream of ever-shifting code spectacularly reinvents the seascape.

From the late 15th century onwards, a flurry of voyages were made into the North Atlantic in search of fish and the fabled Northwest passage. After scavenging through the dense archive of these accounts, J.R. Carpenter has spun a stunningly inventive narrative about the sea that flits between facts, fictions and fragments.

The reader is thrust into a thick slush of synonyms from the very first section, aptly entitled ‘Once Upon a Tide’. Carried by a sweeping command over tone and register, ‘[‘good deal’, ‘wee bit’, ‘tad’]’, Carpenter replicates the experience of being ‘engulfed in a textual sea’ and with spectacular conviction.


Once upon a [‘high’, ‘spring’, ‘slack’, ‘neap’] tide we
[‘drifted’, ‘coasted’, ‘slid’, ‘slipped’, ‘tacked’] past a [‘bay’,
‘beach’, ‘cape’, ‘cove’, ‘dune’, ‘lagoon’,]


Both these words and the waves they describe are ‘heavy to the oar’, ‘sluggish and solid’, ‘scarcely penetrable […] the consistency of a / jellyfish’;  they are set on mirroring the meteorological setting.


The rain [‘came down with such rapidity’,
‘fell in such quantities’ ] that every object
was totally obscured


More like walls than waves, Carpenter’s words are ‘a thick and tactile curtain’ and simultaneously ‘a temporal fabric’; they construe poetry as a parallel universe in which everything seems more exciting. In ‘Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl’, she flits liberally between various possible dimensions.


They took a [‘bushel’, ‘barrel’, ‘bundle’] of [‘honey’, ‘money’]
and an [‘almanac’, ‘astrolabe’, ‘barometer’, ‘chronometer’]


The section ‘TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]’ feels like it should come with a warning to ‘brace yourself’, or at least to draw breath. In a leap of typographical boldness, the text spills over into the margins and is sucked into the space where the two pages join. The text plays tangible mind tricks, where reading this poem feels like diving into dark murky waters even though you know you can’t swim (‘Begin Transmission.’; +choose(w) +’?’; ‘With a ‘ +choose(question) + ‘.’; […]).

The impenetrability of these codes sometimes conjures a feeling of frustration, but it’s nonetheless a fitting way to convey how ‘The sea mocks our frustrated search’.

The poem ‘Etheric Ocean’ spins circles of code with a particularly mischievous intent. In attempting to explain why the reader isn’t picking up any sound of static from the pages, phrases like ‘you have your speakers turned off.that you have your speakers turned off.that you have your speakers turned off’ play on a loop, hijacking four whole pages. Such repetition is a common feature in her work, though elsewhere she repeats herself to a more measured rhythm of serenity.


_____a gale
of wind
_____a heavy gale
of wind
_____a furious gale
of wind


As a tribute to treasure hunting, or simply as a gesture of poetic goodwill, Carpenter scatters clues throughout the collection for how a reader may navigate this astonishingly original work.


How do we piece together a story like this one?
_____A mystery.
The title offers more questions than answers. […]

This story has to do with time.
This story has to do with place.
That much is clear. […]

No answers.
More questions.


The numerous prefaces, complete with a helpful transcript guide for translating the language of code, already inform us that these poems serve as scripts for the live performance of a body of web-based works. But the underlying purpose to this unique approach only truly becomes clear in the preface to ‘Ten Short Talks About Islands… and by Islands I mean paragraphs’.


A reader is cast adrift in a sea of white space […]
The horizon extends far beyond the bounds of the browser
window […]

Navigating this space (with track pad, touch screen, mouse, or arrow
keys) reveals that this sea is dotted with islands […] fluid paragraphs


She goes on to say that each of these textual islands represents a topic (pointing out the etymological origins of topos, meaning place) where each paragraph separates the narrative body from ‘the referential mainland’. This poetic mapping lends itself to a ‘reading and re-reading and writing and re-writing’ so liberal that the sky, quite literally, represents the only limit.


                       In this constantly shifting sea of variable
texts a reader will never wash ashore on the same island
twice… and by islands, I really do mean paragraphs.


Carpenter not only cultivates an impressive sense of self-reflection, evidenced by these prefaces of thoughtful speculation, but also casts a playfully cynical eye upon poetic exploration itself, highlighting the ‘dubious [‘accuracy’, ‘origin’, ‘usefulness’]’ of her own words.


Through the act of looking the [‘writer’, ‘travel writer’,
‘geographer’, ‘naturalist’, ‘survivalist’, ‘tourist’]
[‘describes’, ‘objectifies’, ‘classifies’, ‘mystifies’,
‘tells a story of’, ‘searches for’, ‘appropriates’,
‘equates with the desire to possess’, ‘possesses’,


Ultimately, these cryptic poems strive to prove how ‘This watery planet can still keep secrets from us’. Indeed, as we fumble among the fraying cords and soldered wires, there’s the lingering hope that we just might be tapping into the mystical unknown; a rumour that references how Marconi believed his radio signals would pick up the sounds of sailors drowned in the Atlantic. Not dissimilar from the way ‘The ether [‘beckoned explorers to navigate its unfathomable depths’], these intrepid poems demand persistence in reading but eventually reward it.

Admittedly, the reader must be nimble-minded to leap between these parallel realms, for it’s a challenging feat. As the poet concedes herself, ‘This story keeps shifting’. But as she conjures up the childish delight of imaginative free reign, it’s a sure fact that seasickness has never  been so thrilling.


You can buy An Ocean of Static from Penned in the Margins.


Review of Paroles d’artiste by Ceija Stojka, translated by John Doherty, Fage Editions, 2017

Ceija Stojka (1933-2013) was born in Austria, the fifth of six siblings in a family of Roma horse traders from Lovara. Deported at the age of ten with her mother and other members of her family, she survived three concentration camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belsen.

It was only forty years later in 1988 that she began to share her experience. Although considered illiterate, she wrote several powerful works in a searing poetic style. This made her the first surviving Romani woman from the death camps to testify about her experience.

Ceija Stojka (Paroles d’artiste) is one of these harrowing collections. Most of the text (62 pages in total) is extracted from Je rêve que je vis? Libérée de Bergen-Belsen. Translated from German to French by Sabine Macher, then French to English by John Doherty, it clings fiercely onto the original’s metaphoric flair.

The dead fly off in a rustling of wings. They rush out, they
shake themselves. I can feel them. They sing, and the sky’s
full of birds. It’s only their bodies that are lying there. They’ve
left their bodies […] we’re carrying them along with our own lives.

The vivid reflection weaves into fragments of conversation and interview answers, albeit haunted by their own impossibility. ‘You can’t imagine the smoke that came gushing out’, Stojka says of the Auschwitz chimney. ‘The real truth, the fear and poverty, and what they did to us, I can’t tell you.’ There are no words that could possibly communicate the horrors of being imprisoned in three concentration camps, but that’s where her paintings come into play.

The book presents an innovative poetic-visual dialogue, animated by Stojka’s poignant artwork. The most haunting is the helpless eye that gapes from the page, Untitled (1995). It’s feathered by a fringe of eyelashes representing the forest’s boundary, then bloodshot with barbed wire snagged with a human skull (‘during the night, the fog settled on the barbed wire, and in the morning we sucked the moisture’).

Elsewhere, she depicts chilling ghost-scapes of drooping faces (‘pain turns to melancholy’), occasionally brightened by idyllic homages to pre-war tranquillity; roaming care-free in a caravan across the Austrian countryside.

Increasingly, her reflection becomes snagged on the struggles of reintegrating back into daily life. The notion of duality lurks behind each line, revealing a split and broken self that cannot be pieced back together (‘Why did they | steal my childhood from me?’).

She appears caught between the need to forget the horrendous ordeal (‘I was always sitting among dead people. It was the only place | that was calm’) and to step forward to the future (‘I want to say, “I’m free, and I’m going to put plants on my balcony. It’s all very well.”’). But of course, any forward-motion is tugged back by the need to share the truth (‘we have to come into the open. We have to open up’), which is to step back into the past.

For me, it’s as though it’s always just behind me. I turn round, and I’m back there again. Nothing has changed.

The freedom to testify, to at least try to share the truth, resounds with utmost importance. ‘Most of the women ate their blankets’, she writes, but Stojka refuses the suffocation of silence. ‘There’s a hope that, before losing my way, those who are still silent will find a voice.’

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