Mike Quille

Mike Quille

Mike Quille is a writer, reviewer and chief editor of Culture Matters.

Fire in My Head
Tuesday, 05 October 2021 16:07

Fire in My Head

Published in Fiction

Moya Roddy’s new collection of stories catapult us into the minds and hearts of working-class people who, despite a class system that offers them very little, reveal their own strength and potential through friendship, community and solidarity.

Whether it’s the young mother in Doctor’s Orders fighting to get the right treatment, the joyrider in Going Nowhere who protects his selectively mute half-sister, the single parent being bullied at work in I Also Had My Hour or the elderly woman whose life does an about-turn in They Also Serve Who Only, the characters in these stories spring to life in memorable situations readers can easily identify with.

Written with a lightness of touch and a compassionate warmth that shines through every story, this outstanding collection is original, profound, and a must-read for everyone. 

Fire in My Head, Stories by Moya Roddy, ISBN 978-1-912710-34-8, is 12 euros or £10.

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Fire in My Head
Tuesday, 05 October 2021 15:59

Fire in My Head

Published in Books

Moya Roddy’s new collection of stories catapult us into the minds and hearts of working-class people who, despite a class system that offers them very little, reveal their own strength and potential through friendship, community and solidarity.

Whether it’s the young mother in Doctor’s Orders fighting to get the right treatment, the joyrider in Going Nowhere who protects his selectively mute half-sister, the single parent being bullied at work in I Also Had My Hour or the elderly woman whose life does an about-turn in They Also Serve Who Only, the characters in these stories spring to life in memorable situations readers can easily identify with.

Written with a lightness of touch and a compassionate warmth that shines through every story, this outstanding collection is original, profound, and a must-read for everyone.

Fire in My Head, Stories by Moya Roddy, ISBN 978-1-912710-34-8, is 12 euros/ £10.

For orders from the Republic of Ireland, use this button...

For orders from the UK, use this button....
William Blake at the Bridge Hotel
Tuesday, 05 October 2021 09:38

William Blake at the Bridge Hotel

Published in Books

This new poetry anthology is edited and introduced by Paul Summers and illustrated with photographs by Dan Douglas. Ten local poets are presented, diverse in style but unified by their progressive politics and class. Their visions of the city and its people straddle an epoch which has witnessed deindustrialisation and the dismantling of traditional working-class communities, and the transition to a more nuanced, multicultural and complex reality.

The anthology is sponsored by UNISON Newcastle City branch and Newcastle Trades Union Council.

The North East poetry scene remains defiantly at odds with the culture of careerism, show business and narcissism disfiguring so much of contemporary British literary culture. These ten poets represent an alternative tradition of the writer as cultural activist, writing about a people, a place and a proletariat.    

 – Andy Croft, poet and publisher

We welcome and support this new anthology of poetry, rooted in the everyday experience of some of our finest creative writers, thoroughly engaged with local history and with current social and political issues, and authentically reflecting many of the problems and difficult situations as well as the joys and satisfactions of working people on Tyneside.

 – Martin Levy, President, Newcastle Trades Union Council

William Blake at the Bridge Hotel: Ten Newcastle Poets, ISBN 978-1-912710-23-2, £10 inc. p. and p.

Bread and Roses Poetry Award 2021: The winners!
Monday, 12 July 2021 08:36

Bread and Roses Poetry Award 2021: The winners!

Published in Poetry

The judges, Andy Croft of Smokestack Books and Mary Sayer from Unite, have picked the following five winners for 2021:

Have Mercy on the Multi-Drop Man by Eamonn Harvey

They Want All Our Teeth to be Theirs by Martin Hayes

The Apple Tree by Alan Sleater

Spray Carnations by Steven Taylor

So Long Mariana by Alan Weadick

Congratulations to the five winners and thanks to all those who entered. The Bread and Roses anthology containing a selection of entries will be available to buy later in the year. If you wish to order copies in advance please contactThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Here are the judges' comments on this year's entries:

It is hard to write about the injustices of contemporary society without slipping into easy denunciations, second-hand phrases and borrowed anger. The best political poetry should also be painful to read, interrogating itself and challenging what the reader thinks they know or believe to be true.

The entries to this year’s Bread and Roses competition certainly share a sense of impatient rage and revulsion at the way the world works; but they are also distinguished by intellectual ambition, literary technique and political resilience. And they say what needs to be said about the subjects that matter most – inequality, work, unemployment, solidarity, struggle, homelessness, racism, illegal wars, environmental disaster.

Andy Croft, Smokestack Books

At a time when the working class struggles to make itself heard in the arts, which are in danger of becoming the preserve of the entitled - we need to raise our voices louder than ever.

When some of us feel as if a protective layer of our emotions has been torn off by the powers that be - it has been particularly heartening to read these resonant outpourings from our comrades. A whole range of emotions live in these beautiful and brave poems: passion, reflection, tender nostalgia and hope – through to urgent and justifiable outrage. Always inspiring and often very funny and comforting. Just the title alone of one my favourite of these poems does it for me: 'Have Mercy on the Multi-drop Man'. Brilliant!

 - Mary Sayer, Unite

Here is one of the winning poems, the others will be published online shortly:

So Long, Mariana
(A Farewell to Employee No. 322952 from Employee No. 323647)

by Alan Weadick

Such a huge sigh, Mariana, containing, I hope,
only a fraction of what we'll both

still have left over after this out of office hours
work that flows from us in salt and water

as we cut a swath through the dust
of dead messages, contemplating beds

of sharpened pencils in the era of eyes
that never blink, trying not to sink

into the special pit reserved
for rapidly cooling corporate benevolence.

Which, I am given to understand,
likes us fine and makes us the subject

of many an after –dinner speaker,
the same Babel all over, Mariana,

out in the nursing homes of the privately
wicked, those who claim to be on your side

while on their way to the revolving door
to snuggle up with their lump sums.

So sigh some more, Mariana,
as often and deeply as it takes

to make your first song
(I can't tell you how many; I'm still sighing

my way through a dozen wet cardboard walls).
But those who have ears will hear it

true and unmistakable as the hand writing
in light that must have made you up

(there is no other explanation for you, Mariana)
with just such a mission in mind

after each Brazilian night to come
with its far from neutral face

has done its worst to erase
whatever it is about you, Mariana,

and what you've left behind
that can't be binned or sold.

Apricot Sun
Monday, 12 July 2021 08:09

Apricot Sun

Published in Poetry

Trisha Heaney’s poems are  sincere, authentic and true. Her polemical pieces show no pity for the pitiless, combining outrage and insight, but the political is often potently personal, whether the focus is on the communitarian solidarity experienced growing up on a Glasgow housing scheme, or on the sense of belonging she discovered as a teacher in poverty-stricken Sudan. 

Sharp of eye and tongue, Trisha Heaney listens with her heart. Though much here is dark and dismaying, hope is never quite given up and this splendid poet’s Apricot Sun glows with warmth and illumination. Empathy, compassion and love are expressed with technical elan, imaginative verve and a natural storyteller’s talent for compelling communication, making this an uplifting and notable debut.
                                                                      — Donny O’Rourke

Apricot Sun, by Trisha Heaney, ISBN 978-1-912710-26-3, 88pps., price £10 inc. p. and p.

Apricot Sun
Monday, 12 July 2021 07:49

Apricot Sun

Published in Books

Trisha Heaney’s poems are  sincere, authentic and true. Her polemical pieces show no pity for the pitiless, combining outrage and insight, but the political is often potently personal, whether the focus is on the communitarian solidarity experienced growing up on a Glasgow housing scheme, or on the sense of belonging she discovered as a teacher in poverty-stricken Sudan. 

Sharp of eye and tongue, Trisha Heaney listens with her heart. Though much here is dark and dismaying, hope is never quite given up and this splendid poet’s Apricot Sun glows with warmth and illumination. Empathy, compassion and love are expressed with technical elan, imaginative verve and a natural storyteller’s talent for compelling communication, making this an uplifting and notable debut.
                                                                      — Donny O’Rourke

Apricot Sun, by Trisha Heaney, ISBN 978-1-912710-26-3, 88pps., price £10 inc. p. and p.

Our Father Eclipse
Thursday, 11 March 2021 13:53

Our Father Eclipse

Published in Books

Our Father Eclipse is a pseudo-apocalyptic, eco-socialist, dystopian vision of the world. Framed amid the realities of global pandemic and climate emergency, it speaks to a post-truth political era where neoliberal capitalism is clearly and dramatically failing. Dark, yet edged with hope, it contains questions of faith, belief and truth at its heart. Visionary and observational by turns, it is both unsettling and provocative, full of radical passion and revolutionary compassion. 

Our Father Eclipse, by Rebecca Lowe, ISBN 978-1-912710-37-9 , 67pps., price £10 inc. p. and p.

Anonymous Bosch
Thursday, 11 March 2021 13:47

Anonymous Bosch

Published in Books

Mike Jenkins once again invites us into the daily lives of austerity-struck residents of Merthyr Tydfil and the Valleys, in this bittersweet collection of poem-monologues, communicated in the sympathetic Welsh working-class voice that has become the poet's signature.

Once again we find them coping with the stresses and strains on the social fabric caused by decades of deindustrialisation and abandonment by Capital, magnified by recent Tory cuts to public services. Nevertheless, in the face of this oppression and depression, Jenkins' picaresque, expletive-rich speakers are defiantly talkative, witty and irrepressibly expressive as ever.

The striking, poignant black and white images of Dave Lewis brilliantly evoke the setting for these gritty, singsong poems. Together they form a modern mythology of Merthyr and the Valleys, which brings to mind the nightmarish imaginaries of Francisco Goya, William Hogarth and, of course, Hieronymous Bosch, all set against a hopeless backdrop of pandemic, poundshop and foodbank.

Anonymous Bosch, by Mike Jenkins with images by Dave Lewis, ISBN 978-1-912710-35-5, 83pps., price £10 inc. p. and p. 

Ballad of the Black Domain
Thursday, 25 February 2021 17:36

Ballad of the Black Domain

Published in Poetry

Ballad of the Black Domain

by Alun Rees

When you’re born in Merthyr Tydfil
you’re brought up in grief and rain.
God himself was afraid to go
alone in the Black Domain.

Recession or Depression -
our loss was someone’s gain.
Living was lean and dying hard
in the terrible Black Domain.

Where body and soul were fed to coal
so that iron and steel might reign
a stern and stubborn race evolved
to survive in the Black Domain.

They say the Viking guys were tough,
stout Swede and dreadnought Dane.
But I tell you, lads, they weren’t a patch
on the boys of the Black Domain.

Some claim the Saxons were harder than us
but their boasts are vapid and vain:
it took a whole gang to martyr Tydfil,
just one girl from the Black Domain.

Where did Keir Hardie roar his wrath
against poverty’s stench and stain?
Where did the Red Flag first fly free?
Here, in the Black Domain.

They wanted to wipe us off the map
for we bore the mark of Cain,
a furious folk and a fierce folk
prowling the Black Domain.

We were born to want and hardship,
we ate grit instead of grain,
but we were rich, yes, rich in rage,
we in the Black Domain.

Smooth talkers will tell you that such days
will never come again,
that they’ve interred and tarmac’d over
the rage of the Black Domain.

But when the valleys dream their dreams
something stalks in my brain.
A bloody something, fury-fuelled,
howls the songs of the Black Domain.

 Ballad of the Black Domain is a collection of poems about the 'Black Domain', the South Wales coalfield and the revolutionary traditions of Merthyr. It’s full of verve and sensitive empathy for the oppressed, with a deep sense of history that doesn't lapse into over-indulgent nostalgia.

There is a tension in the poetry between harmony and dissonance, whereby order can soon break down like society itself, and like the Rising in Merthyr in 1831, where workers claimed the town but paid with their blood. Alun Rees describes the fatal effects of pit disasters, and other examples of the callousness of mine owners to the needs of their workers. But he also conveys character and place with equal directness and telling descriptions. Poems like 'Werngoch Pond' capture a world outside the conflict of the class-divided and dominated Welsh nation.

Rees is a poet too long marginalised within his homeland and little known outside it—and yet his voice is surely as significant as that of his hero Idris Davies. He is a true poet of the people, who has never forgotten his home town and its central place in his imagination.

Ballad of the Black Domain and other poems, by Alun Rees, ISBN 978-1-912710-22-5. 46pps., price £10 inc. p. and p. 

Ballad of the Black Domain
Thursday, 25 February 2021 17:26

Ballad of the Black Domain

Published in Books

Ballad of the Black Domain is a collection of poems about the South Wales coalfield of its title and the revolutionary traditions of Merthyr. It’s full of verve and sensitive empathy for the oppressed, with a deep sense of history that doesn't lapse into over-indulgent nostalgia.

There is a tension in the poetry between harmony and dissonance, whereby order can soon break down like society itself, and like the Rising in Merthyr in 1831, where workers claimed the town but paid with their blood. Alun Rees describes the fatal effects of pit disasters, and other examples of the callousness of mine owners to the needs of their workers. But he also conveys character and place with equal directness and telling descriptions. Poems like 'Werngoch Pond' capture a world outside the conflict of the class-divided and dominated Welsh nation.

Rees is a poet too long marginalised within his homeland and little known outside it—and yet his voice is surely as significant as that of his hero Idris Davies. He is a true poet of the people, who has never forgotten his home town and its central place in his imagination.

Ballad of the Black Domain and other poems, by Alun Rees, ISBN 978-1-912710-22-5. 46pps., price £10 inc. p. and p.

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