Three Contemporary Wordsmiths You’re Missing Out On

People say poetry is a dying art. This is simply not true. Poetry came from the streets and it may have retreated there but it’s still prevalent in our culture. One line is all it takes to fall in love with words.

Art changes to adapt to the times, the form, the structure, the language… And in our age of ephemeral Internet attention spans, it may well be the time for our friend the poet to use those seconds and make you see the world slightly differently. You may not be down for a full length novel, and that’s fine, but may I suggest a text-message size version that fits right in your pocket?

“I think this is where I belong – among all your other lost things. A crumpled note at the bottom of a drawer or an old photograph pressed between the pages of a book. I hope someday you will find me and remember what I once meant to you.”

(Lang Leav, Lost Things, Love and Misadventure)

1) R.M. Drake

R. M. Drake is the nom-de-plume of self-published writer Robert Macias, who started out life as a poet by posting his works on Instagram, using what has now become his signature style; printing words in typewriter-esque fonts on spotted or lined paper.

“Sometimes you have to shatter the mirror in you to see all the pieces that make you beautiful.”

(Beautiful, Beautiful Chaos)

From Instagram posts to self-published books, Drake has garnered quite a following, having celebrities share his work and not only selling his books on his own online shop, but breaching the top ten publications in the poetry category that made it as Amazon best-sellers. But, how does one go from writing on social media to having an audience in the millions?

This utilisation of social media as a tool to boost ones artistic reach is an interesting idea, one that has undoubtedly been the cornerstone of Drake’s success. It has become even easier for people to claim their way to fame with viral videos and images, however, for most this is short-lived. To sustain a viewership as large as 1.5 million and for a long period of time surely takes expert craftsmanship and dedication to said craft.

2) Steve Nash

With all the sonnets, stanzas and soliloquies we all had drilled into our skulls in school, it can be easy to lose sight of any personal connection with a text. Nash’s work will blow that notion from every inch of your brain.

“A woman stands./ There is no stage./ There is no audience./ There is nothing for her to stand upon/ And nobody to watch her.”

(Stage Play, Taking the Long Way Home)

Taking the Long Way Home may be Steve Nash’s only poetry publication, but it has a power about it unlike everything we think we know about poetry. He adopts a unique kind of diversity across the form and structure of his work, making each piece take you to a very different place while somehow maintaining this unbreakable string of knowing that makes you feel both complete and incomplete.

The anthology has a universal intelligibility to it, regardless of subject matter it would be difficult not to find it engaging. You don’t have to be a great lover of poetry to appreciate Taking the Long Way Home, you just have to be able to read English.

3) Daniel Rowland

Also known as The Pavement Poet, Daniel Rowland travels around the UK painting his poetry on the pavement, for the whole world to see. In this way, he has effectively transversed the medium itself and launched into a whole new kind of social statement.

“My chalk is tinder,/ My words a spark,/ My ink it’s fuel,/ As the fire starts.”

(Leeds)

Rowland has stated in a TEDx Talk that he focuses on challenging social norms, so not only does he lay out his work in this way, but he has the unique ability to gauge the reaction of the public seeing him unveil his words on the pavement. It can be easy to walk down a path and not notice your surroundings, but the work that Rowland does encourages people to look above and beyond and appreciate the written word in all its humble glory.

These people all share the quirk of being able to manipulate emotion with only a small amount of words; we can’t let them be anything other than what they are. After all, we are all poets, some of us just don’t have a medium for our verse.

“Sit still and grip the wheel,/ just don’t look back –/ behind, in the next layby,/ all you left wait/ with the engine running,/ still in gear.”

(Helen Mort, Passing Place, Granta Magazine)

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The Five Books That Have Defined My Life

The written word is an important aspect of our culture as human beings and plays a huge part in shaping who we are as individuals. Here I will compile a list of books that have done so for me, in ways I can only begin to describe. 

1)Matilda – Roald Dahl

One of the first novels I ever read by an author who is a staple of most British childhoods, Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda‘ is what I believe sparked my love of literature. The eponymous character was the first idea I ever associated myself with, this coupled with the notion that maybe the nerd can be triumphant makes for a captivating tale for the alienated child. That’s what ‘Matilda‘ was for me anyway. Seeing myself as something other than just a target for bullies really helped boost my self-confidence and from then on, it was okay to throw myself into the things I loved simply because I loved them.

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2)Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling

Closely following Matilda came the Harry Potter series by her majesty J.K. Rowling. I’m classing this as one entry because it comes as a whole and you all know it! (For the record my favourite book is Prisoner of Azkaban because Sirius is amazing and if you disagree, you’re wrong). It’s really difficult to know where to begin with such a fundamental part of my life. I have such fond memories of reading over my older brothers shoulder and this one time he convinced me that there was one more sequel called  “Harry Potter and the Curse of Hagrid” in which Hagrid is evil. I was so sad I cried because Hagrid is one of my favourite characters. I grew up with Harry Potter and yes, even though I’m 18 now and for all intents and purposes an “adult”, it still makes me so excited. Because realistically, who doesn’t want to go to Hogwarts and learn magic?!

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3)The Animals of Farthing Wood – Colin Dann

So this one is a little different from the rest. Most of the books I read nowadays are part of a trend of popular young adult novels I find on offer at Waterstones (books are expensive, don’t judge me!) and I admit, I don’t use the library for fiction books anymore. But The Animals of Farthing Wood is a book that I happened upon by chance at a book sale at my school; 20p for a story that has stayed with me for over a decade. Happening upon books just doesn’t happen enough to me anymore, if at all. If there’s something I wish I did more, it’s picking up a random book to read. Second hand books at car boot sales are some of the best reads I have ever had, it’s such a special thing to read and love something that has had a profound effect on someone else too.

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4) The Last Dragon Chronicles – Chris D’Lacey

I was going to write about a different book series but then I remembered a project I did in high school about my favourite books and I thought about The Last Dragon Chronicles, which I haven’t thought about in years but I just did a quick Wikipedia search and I have now remembered the sheer awesomeness and how much I loved reading it. Naturally, I’ve gone straight to Amazon to order all eight books… The great thing about these books is that it was just so different to anything I’d ever read. Yeah, it’s fantasy and we’ve established that I’m a huge dork for fantasy but The Fire Within (the first book) just blew my tiny mind. It’s one of those series’ that you have to read all at once because you SIMPLY MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. (Don’t you just love it when that happens?)

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5)Paper Towns – John Green

This one was also really important to me, because I read it at a time when it was applicable to my life and I felt like the mysterious character of Margo just mirrored everything I felt about education and life in general. Some of the people I recommended the book to thought that the ending was unsatisfactory but personally, I feel like the ending is perfect and exactly what Margo would do. Paper Towns is by far my favourite John Green novel, another one you just can’t put down. I think everyone going through major transitions/existential crises (namely moving on from high school to college or university) should read it, it is the perfect coming of age book.

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I hope this gets you thinking about stories that have helped to shape your life and just how important books and ideas can be! Let me know what your top five books are in the comments below or on my Facebook page!

 

Feminism, Romanticism and the Gothic

Gothic texts make for interesting reads, whether it is traditional Gothic, neo-Gothic or anything in between. Here is a list of Gothic texts that every literature geek should read.

Firstly, a quick definition of the Gothic genre. Unfortunately, Gothic doesn’t really have a single definition. Put simply, the Gothic is about transgression, but what does that mean? The main element of a Gothic text is that it transcends social boundaries. It combines horror with romanticism to create an aesthetically pleasing sort of terror that combines nature and the unnatural in a sometimes fantastical way, such as monsters like vampires, and in other instances it is grounded in reality through realistic settings or characters.

Macbeth – Technically,  Shakespeare’s Macbeth predates the Gothic movement which is thought to have started in the mid to late 17th century, as Macbeth was written and performed in 1606. That being said, there is an astounding amount of elements associated with the Gothic genre that are interwoven in the narrative and symbolism. The witches of Macbeth provide a creature that only vaguely resembles the human form and is laced with demonic evil. This coupled with the personal plight of Macbeth and his “vaulting ambition” that spurs his inhumane actions, not to mention his wife who fuels his black desires make for a truly harrowing story. Regardless of the genre, everyone should read Macbeth.

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Frankenstein – Arguably, Frankenstein marked the birth of the Gothic and is also seen as the first true science-fiction novel. (The initial first Gothic novel is The Castle of Otranto, but Frankenstein triggered a whole line of Gothic fiction, more so than the former). Mary Shelley completely revolutionised fiction in this way, such a dark story had not been seen before and it set the tone for the entire Gothic era in history. Although nowadays, Frankenstein is seen as a cheap backyard effect monster compared to the modern space age craze, the gruesome tale of Doctor Igor Frankenstein stitching body parts together is still the hallmark for all Gothic horror.

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Dracula – Bram Stoker’s Dracula is timeless. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire as he was going off various myths and legends from across the world that predated his birth, he did define its modern form and characteristics. This novel depicts traditional vampires in all their glory, bringing together all the tales and folklore into one amazing package. Though the vampire has changed over the years, it is impossible to stray too far from the absolute basics, like the need to drink human blood which is completely horrific. On the other hand, the way it is written provokes a kind of perverse pleasure in the reader that is completely unparalleled.

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Skellig – This one is children’s book and is slightly different to the preceding novels as it has been classified as Gothic by yours truly, so you could potentially disagree with me on this one. This was most likely the first Gothic novel I ever read and it made a lasting impression on me. The reason I call it Gothic, is because of the dark themes that lie under the narrative. It’s the darkest book I read as a child because it challenged my beliefs of the world that I had been exposed to through other children’s books. David Almond’s Skelling is a quintessential book to carry you through into “the real world” as it challenges naïveté but not so much to be scary to a child.

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The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter is a huge influence upon the sub-genre of the feminist Gothic. This is a particularly interesting sub-genre as while the original Gothic plays on conventions in order to transgress and rework the norm, the feminist Gothic does the same thing again but with a feminist spin. The Bloody Chamber contains several short stories written in this fashion that reworks fairytales in keeping with the feminist Gothic, with empowering women. However, Carter also simplifies some fairytales to their sexist cores and exposes their true meaning.

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That concludes my top five Gothic novels, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Wolf Gift and Wuthering Heights were omitted due to word count.

I hope you have enjoyed this list, let me know if you read them or if you think I missed something in the comments below or on my Facebook page!

Happy reading!

Five Shows Likely To Be Renewed

If you’re as sad as I am about the cancellation of Utopia, (which if you haven’t seen already, it’s available on Netflix) here’s something a bit more positive; five great shows that will probably get renewed if they aren’t already! (Yay!)

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Admittedly, this one could go either way… Although it’s got mixed reviews for the later episodes, I still really rate this show. It is set in the Marvel universe, featuring a small band of SHIELD agents, including our very own Phil Coulson. The thing about Agents of SHIELD is that it can be a bit of a tossup and may make you lose faith in humanity. Whether that’s a good thing or not is really a judgment call. Okay, Agents of SHIELD can be a hassle to watch and you’re screaming at the TV but the writers did their jobs well of making you fall in love with the characters in the first place. For that, Marvel, bravo.

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Castle – Now, if I was the betting gal, I would bet all of my possessions (because I’m a broke ass student writer who has zero money to gamble with) that Castle will get renewed for another season. Why? Because it’s f**king brilliant. The story follows a mystery novelist and a detective as they solve “unusual crimes” in New York City. The interwoven comedy and satire is so brilliant, it is beyond my capabilities to describe it. Basically, if you like Sherlock, you’ll probably like this too. Heads up if you’re going to binge-watch though, there are seven seasons.

Castle-Season-3

Once Upon A Time – This is pretty much a sure thing because let’s face it, if you haven’t watched this already, you’re going to. That’s not a threat, it’s a promise. Who doesn’t enjoy exciting new spins on fairy tales? This show is seriously contagious. You see a GIF on Tumblr and next thing you know you’re cramming in “one last episode” at 4am, your essay is long forgotten and you are lying in a pile of empty snack packets. True story.

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Gotham – Yes, Gotham has officially been renewed for a second season, which is super exciting news for my fellow comic book fanatics. If, like me, you have been following along in Britain, you’ll be a little behind our friends across the pond, but so far the first season is everything one could hope for a pre-Batman crime-filled city.  The casting is great, the narrative is top-notch and the character arcs are tantalising – I cannot oversell this show.

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Hannibal – Another personal favourite of mine, Hannibal is a cult classic. It’s based on a character from a novel Red Dragon, but you will most likely have heard of the Dr Hannibal Lecter; the forensic psychiatrist that moonlights as a serial killer with cannibalistic tendencies. This programme will have you all over the place, you’ll be torn between seeing him as a victim or a villain… It’s the perfect thriller-horror series that will keep you in suspense until you just can’t take it anymore and then immediately take you to a place so beyond your understanding that you’ll feel physically sick. You’ll watch it for the sadistic pleasure but you’ll stay because you start to have sympathetic feelings towards a cannibal… Deep stuff.

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So there you go, five shows that you can dig your teeth into and in the near future, you won’t feel the soul-crushing pain of cancellation. Happy watching! 

Like this list? Want more like this? Let me know by leaving a comment or posting on my Facebook page!

Fanatical About The Flash

As an avid DC fan, it’s surprising that The Flash is one superhero that I personally haven’t had a lot of exposure to, here is a take on their current TV series ‘The Flash’ from the point of view of a ‘Flash virgin’.

*SPOILER ALERT: This article will contain spoilers for the latest episodes of The Flash aired in the UK, this may also include theories on future episodes based on The Flash in other media.*

Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to review the first episode of The Flash as I did with Gotham, so now I thought I would amalgamate all the previous episodes to form what is my understanding of the franchise so far. I haven’t had a lot of exposure to The Flash at all, only 90s TV series, which I don’t really remember. Most people view Aquaman as the ‘lame’ superhero, but as a child, I loved Aquaman and I thought The Flash was lame. Having super-speed as your sole ability always seemed a little less cool than say, Batman, who has no powers at all but is agile and smart, therefore can defeat his foes using his own resources. Having said that, now I’m older, I find it more interesting how in the new series, Cisco and Caitlin are helping Barry do all sorts of things with his speed, so it doesn’t seem like it’s ‘just speed’. I’m writing all of this a lot more personally, simply because I’m new to this franchise, so this is just my take on what’s happening so far.

Firstly I just want to bring your attention to something I did recognise, which I probably shouldn’t have and the only reason I knew this was because of the game DC launched a few years ago, DC Universe Online. In case you’re not aware of this, DC Universe Online is an MMORPG set within the DC comic universe, centring around Gotham and Metropolis. In the game, one of the first levels is a partnership with the Flash (if you choose to be a superhero that is!) against a gorilla with superhuman intelligence called (General) Gorilla Grodd. Some of you may recognise the name, it appeared on a cage that Doctor Wells was contemplating a few episodes ago at STAR labs. From what I gathered about Grodd on DCUO, is that he was a human at one point but he feels that by devolving into an ape he’s gained more than he gained by being a human. His aim is to basically devolve the general populace to their ‘ape form’. Because of the cage, I’m inclined to believe that the genetic work that Doctor Wells mentioned he did alongside (that other guy he killed) may have experiemented on Grodd and therefore caused his superhuman intelligence.

Gorilla Grodd as depicted in DC Universe Online

Gorilla Grodd as depicted in DC Universe Online

Speaking of Doctor Harrison Wells, I had my suspicions from the start of the series that he’s not part of the Flash canon. I googled it and there’s a number of theories flashing around about who he really is, implying that Harrison Wells may be an alias. Some of these theories include him being Flash from the future or a descendant of Reverse Flash (who presumably killed Barry Allen’s mother). An interesting thing to note about Doctor Wells is that he has the ability to see into the future. He asks Oracle (again, something I know because of DCUO) to look for the Flash in future headlines. I say this is interesting because this is something I have a theory about. This isn’t crystal because of how little I know about it and the fact I’ve never actually read about it and only heard of it but I have to mention… The Crisis on Infinite Earths. For those who don’t know, this was a twelve part series of comic books by DC that initially started to celebrate the 50th anniversary, but evolved into a way of correcting the continuity errors that DC were (and still are!) reknowned for. We all know the go to method of rectifying errors in the fantasy genre… Yep, it’s time travel.

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Doctor Harrison Wells

I now bring your attention to the latest episode, The Man in the Yellow Suit… At the very end, we see Doctor Wells looking at a yellow flash suit. So we know that he is a liar but “how so?” is now the question. Cisco mentioned that there were two Flashes, one red one yellow, but the one Wells has is yellow like the man in the yellow suit or Reverse Flash. We saw Doctor Wells get beaten up by this guy, so how is it that he has a yellow suit when the other Flash must be red? My thoughts are that either two Harrison Wells’ exist in the same time stream or one was his past/future self (yes I am focusing my theories on time travel). Or maybe there’s another Flash or even a robotic Flash that Wells controls… Either way I am completely hooked.

The Flash and Arrow

The Flash and Arrow

I also have to mention the Flash vs Arrow crossover episodes, of course. I have to admit that one of the reasons I was apprehensive about before The Flash started was DC taking advantage of crossovers and using them too much in a cheesy way to launch their new show. Arrow is absolutely brilliant and I was initially scared that DC would ruin Arrow in an attempt to make The Flash just as successful. I could not have been more wrong. The crossover was quite tasteful and I enjoyed how Felicity was brought in earlier to create more of a rapport between the characters so it wouldn’t be disjointed in the future. If DC really are planning to eventually create a TV Justice League, I’m actually quite excited to see it.

Overall, I think the series is going really well and it has definitely drawn me in. If you haven’t seen The Flash yet, I highly recommend this series. I sincerely hope it continues to soar to new heights in the new year, along with Arrow.

Honcho-SFX Christmas Jumper Review

It’s getting really cold as we set into the core of winter and Christmas is approaching. It never fails to surprise me how fast December goes by, but here we are with less than two week until Christmas!

As a general rule, I purchase a lot of fandom themed merchandise and something that is becoming increasingly popular this year is fandom Christmas jumpers. So I decided to jump on this bandwagon and get myself a Frozen Christmas jumper from Honcho-SFX.com, a website that sells fandom apparel and accessories. I haven’t ever bought a product like this before, as usually I would opt for a t-shirt, but this presented me with a refreshing change.

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First of all, I’d like to mention the shipping. I was pleasantly surprised to receive my order within three days. As a consumer that buys products online frequently, I can say without doubt that for this kind of item, I usually would expect it to have arrived a week later than it did. On top of this, the shipping is free in the UK, I think I speak for most Internet shoppers when I say that in most cases, free shipping takes the longest.

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Stitching and detail before washing

I was surprised that on the website a size 12 is classified as a ‘large’ as opposed to the usually classification of ‘medium’ for this size, however I found that the sizing worked well for this product. I say this because I purchased a size 12, a size I would usually get for t-shirts and I anticipated it being too small, but it was actually a very comfortable fit. It was baggier than I expected, which works well for this sort of product.

The quality of the jumper is nothing short of excellent and I say that with complete conviction. The item was exactly as pictured on the website, with the glitter snowflake detail and print. It was relatively warm with just a vest top underneath it. I was worried that the glitter would come off in the wash, but to my surprise it stayed intact in a cold wash (as specified in the care instructions).

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Detail after washing

Priced at £25.99, it’s not too expensive and for a product of this calibre, one would usually pay a lot more. Fandom t-shirts are often priced at around £15-£25 for a good quality product that won’t wash , as this is a jumper I would expect it to be this price in comparison.

Overall, I was very pleased with this product and although it is no longer available on the website, I would recommend buying a Christmas jumper from Honcho-SFX as the quality and service I received was brilliant.

See their range of Christmas jumpers here.

The Force Awakens

Star Wars fanatics unite for the first teaser trailer for the newest instalment in the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Back in 2005 when Revenge of the Sith was released, everyone was certain that was the end of the Star Wars films. But then, Lucasfilm got bought out by Disney nearly seven years later, and we’re all aware of Disney’s fixation when it comes to franchising, so hope for the fandom was reborn. Although technically, does this make Princess Leia a Disney Princess?

First of all, the title has finally been confirmed. Fans have been speculating about the title of this film for years now, it has often been referred to as simply ‘Episode VII’ but now we have an actual title to go with. This could possibly signify something about the storyline or more simply, the reawakening of the franchise.

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The second thing that has been confirmed is the time frame of the film. It is going to be set about thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi. This means that it will keep in with the theme of having the episodes in chronological order. This also means that they have factored in the ages of the actors in George Lucas’ trilogy so there won’t be any anomalies in the film.

In the trailer, we see a new kind of lightsaber, with a kind of cross on it. This could signify some sort of evolution of technology which will be exciting to see. Even people who aren’t fans of Star Wars have to admit, that lightsaber looks awesome. Fans will also be pleased to note the return of the Millennium Falcon.

lightsaber

Furthermore, it has been confirmed that J.J. Abrams will be directing The Force Awakens, although it isn’t known whether he’ll be doing this entire instalment of films. It has also been established that he has co-written the screenplay, which is surely going to have fans clamouring for more.

Some of the actors have already been confirmed, including British actress, Daisy Ridley. She was largely unknown before her casting and is rumoured to be playing Han Solo and Princess Leia’s grown-up daughter in the film.

Daisy Ridley

Until the release of the film in 2015, may the Force be with you!

Watch the trailer here: