Jack Flanders, the quasi-autobiographical poet who forms part of the long line of disappointing men who help to destroy Emily Grimes's life in Richard Yates's The Easter Parade, makes the comment: "A book of poems is no stronger than its weakest poem." This is Yates/Flanders speaking. It has the wince-making directness and honesty that are two of the outstanding qualities of Yates's fiction. Flanders makes the comment about one of his own books. He recognizes it contains five or six poems which will drag the others down. The book will sink like a stone. Is Flanders/Yates right? There's a glib tendency to take the opposite view: if a book contains a handful of strong poems, they'll save it, they'll pull the rest along and the collection will fly. Before reading the fictionalised comment, I tilted to that view. Yet, like so much else in Yates's work, the apparently throw-away observation turns out to be a hard-won insight, clung to because of its honesty even though its implications are hard to live with. A book of poems is read as a book. An individual weak poem which appears on its own drags nothing down but itself. A collection's different. If it's a curate's egg, it's the bad parts you're sure to remember. I wonder how many poets think about this as they get busy putting their collections together and finding publishers. In the long run, and literature is, of course, a long game, there may be some virtue in delay. Let the weaker poems lie in the magazines and journals and make sure only the strong ones get into the books. Yet, like Jack Flanders, poets are eager to make their mark, anxious about being ignored or nudged aside, keen to win the prizes and the plaudits. Yates himself made no concessions to popularity. He got less recognition in his lifetime than he deserved. Yet in the long run? I suppose a novel is no stronger than its weakest chapter and in Yates's best work (Revolutionary Road is rightly deemed to be the pinnacle) one strong chapter follows another. There must have been weak ones in the drafts. Throwing them away is a tough business, but it's what makes a book fly.


The Voice by Josephine Dickinson. Flambard ISBN 1-873226-64-0 7.50  

The best poem in this collection is Where Were You When I Came in from the Evening Milking? It's composed of five four-line stanzas, the first four ending Where were you? The word empty appears four times in the first three. It is glued by domestic vocabulary: chair, fire, cushion, room, house, window, garden, mirror. The truth of the poem lies in its evocation of the desolation of the domestic at moments when what should sustain it fails. The accomplishment is to say what is both profound and tragic without a suggestion of exaggeration or melodrama. Simple and controlled, the poem has something of Lawrence's ability to vividly recapture powerful emotion through plain but carefully constructed means. The ordinariness of heartbreak, the way it resides in common objects and the quiet, pit-of-the-stomach desperation that makes all that's familiar alien, seep from the lines. The four times repeated question calibrates the mounting upset. The final stanza has the setting sun seen in mirror mistaken for the absent loved one. The metaphor works well. Despite its rural setting, the piece is universal. A country house, a city flat, the absence and the emotions it engenders are the same. All of Josephine Dickinson's high gifts are concentrated here. The title poem too exhibits the same qualities. The collection ends, however, with a long poem, On The Wind which charts a month and a half of the foot-and-mouth epidemic in Cumbria and the questionable response to it of those with responsibility. It's good to see a poet addressing an issue of public concern in this way. Most of us, being town and city dwellers, weren't in the thick of the crisis like Josephine Dickinson, but we were all involved and the questions raised touched all our lives. In a series of diary style pieces, Josephine Dickinson tracks the spread of the disease and the nightmare of the slaughter:

They even
seriously moot
culling flocks of starlings -
if it were any use.  

Distraught and exasperated, the farmers must do what the ill-informed politicians and less-than-competent officials dictate.

Alston is like death.
In the Post Office you can
hear the stamps flipping.  

By writing from within this public event, permeating the impersonal with the personal, she shows how poetry can explore the most minute, unnamed emotions without retreating from the public realm which, ultimately, is the ground of our subjectivity.


Germany: A Winter's Tale by Heinrich Heine Translated by John Goodby ISBN 0-9548691-3-3 7.99  

First, let interests be declared: Andy Croft's new imprint has published my latest book. A desire to see the venture succeed together with a decade and more's friendship with its moving spirit mean I'm heavily biased in its favour. Nothing too unusual. Just like the relationship between most of the reviewers in the fat Sundays and the quality dailies and the publishers and writers whose books they treat.

Not many native English speakers are fluent enough in German to cope with Heine's original of this long poem. Famous though it is, I suspect a good number of contemporary readers aren't familiar. Goodby acknowledges a translation by TJ.Reed which appeared in 1997. It's always good to have versions to compare and this one comes with an introduction and notes all but the most expert will find enlightening. The question of the quality of the translation always arises. John Goodby explains in his introduction what guided him .There's all you need to know about the ballad form and its iambs and how Heine modified it with dactyls and trochees. Enough to say Goodby's version reads easily and nowhere clangs with renderings which ring out as inauthentic. Sympathetic readers know that translations are just that and make the necessary allowances for the nuances that shift badly from one language to another, what matters is that the translation truthfully renders tone and content.

Germany: A Winter's Tale was first published in 1844. Heine was by then in his late forties. The poem takes the form of a journey across Germany during which Heine lets fly at the targets of his disdain which can be summed up in single word: Prussia. From its inauspicious beginnings in 1415 when the Hohenzollerns took control of Brandenburg, Prussia had, of course, grown, notably after the incorporation of East Prussia in 1618, into a state controlling two thirds of the land and three quarters of the people of Germany. In Caput 3 (the poem is divided into 27) Heine typifies the Prussian military as "a wooden, pedantic breed". Later he predicts, but without too much foolish precision, where Prussian militarism combined with bourgeois narrowness and political reaction might lead. Today we have not only the appalling facts of history but also literary evocations of the essence of the Prussian mentality: among others, Lawrence's The Prussian Officer and Maupassant's telling depictions of the mechanistic efficiency of the Prussian military machine, as well as the vicious bullying that powered it, in some of his best short stories of the Franco-Prussian War . Here's a flavour of Heine's tone:  

They still walk about so stiffly
bolt upright, starched as the washing-
as though they'd swallowed the stick
which once gave them a thrashing

The whole poem has this kind of lovely irreverence , the slightly arch mockery of anger held in check; and the bitterness of a man who can see stupidity all around him but has no power ( but the word) to do anything about it. Heine is reputed to have given Marx the phrase "the opium of the people". Apparently, when they met in Paris in 1844 their friendship was warm, if brief. There is something of Marx's impatience in Heine's style. He is ironic, scathing, dismissive, satirical, iconoclastic. Influenced, like Marx, by Hegel he has an acute sense of historical circumstance as the maker of mind. Consider this on how Christ might have fared in the 19th century:

It's a misfortune that in your day
publishing wasn't an option;
in our times you'd write Towards
Understanding The Heaven Question

Such delicious mockery, flying in the face of the buttoned-up proprieties of the middle-classes opens the window on the exasperations of high intelligence and principle trapped by low manipulations and dogma. Heine makes sure, however, his seething is always coated in wit (rather like Joe Orton) so that quiet inward laughter always attenuates sourness and indignation.

Impatient with established religion and power and hungry for change Heine may be, but he has no illusions about the masses. In the first caput he speaks of:

that dozing lout
the People

He is no historical optimist. There's an implied criticism of the expectations raised by the French Revolution in this aside:  

Danton, you were wrong (and you
paid for being so self-deceiving);
you can take your homeland with you
on your boot-soles as you leave it

Is it to encourage cowardice to suggest Danton should have escaped Robespierre and the guillotine by fleeing? Or is it rather a recognition that there was something time-serving, reactionary and hopeless in Danton's famous question: Est-ce qu'on emporte sa patrie a la semelle de son soulier? (Can you carry away your homeland on the soles of your shoes?) Nostalgic for Germany, Heine all the same mocks the sentimental possibilities of attachment to homeland. He likes to travel. He almost celebrates nomadism. He disdains the dullness of hidebound towns. He's looking for the land of imagination.

The most telling section of the poem is the final four caput's when its narrator meets Hammonia, the godess of Hamburg. Through her he gets to smell the future and the stench is truly sickening. All the same there are poets. The final caput celebrates them and evokes the playful, subversive spirit of Aristophanes:

The rabble, rather than applauding,
would be stirred up against him
the police would be under orders
to keep him under surveillance

The narrator issues a warning to the powerful;

Don't affront the living poets!
They wield fire and brimstone

Heine certainly did. This poem is brave and high-minded. It sneers at time-serving in a way most of our modern poets, in search of a ready audience, a market, daren't. Imagination, it says, is all that can save us. Behind all its clever, sharp, funny vitriol is a quiet plea: let power cede to imagination and insight and we may make a world worth living in. We haven't yet, but Heine has been proven right: we look back on the powerful of his time with the same disdain and contempt in which he held them, but for Heine, who could write as marvelously as this, we can have nothing but affection and respect.


Imagined Corners by Keith Armstrong ISBN 0-9548691-0-9 5.99.  

It's sometimes argued that rhyme is backward-looking: poetry of the modem world has something of the time's flux and lack of regularity. All the same, there are seven rhyming poems in this collection, Keith Armstrong's first since 1990, and the last thing you could accuse him of is being reactionary, in any sense. Woody Allen once quipped that in an Ibsen play someone always opens a window to let in a breath of fresh air and everyone dies of influenza. Armstrong's poetry is the window opened to let out fetid air and everyone feels their lethargy evaporate. Although he's been writing and performing for over thirty years, he's still a marginal figure. Shame on the poetry czars! But it's easy to understand: his thirty years of writing coincide with the rise of tight-gutted reaction in a slick and mendacious Tory party hitting the crest of its final wave of power, the systematic strangling of infant joy in the Labour Party and a consequent generalised atomisation and pusillanimity in which simple enjoyment of life has become an offence against decency and parading wealth, power and ignorance the order of the day. In such an atmosphere, the joyous, subversive, delightful, unpretentious, funny, anarchistic free spirit which underpins Armstrong's work is likely to elicit calls for the bell, book and candle. All the more reason to read this book. It will cheer you up. If you are old enough to remember Britain before it fell under the malicious spell of those who believe to catch a bus if you're over thirty is proof of failure, it will remind you of gentler, sweeter times. It includes a poem called 'All Rich People Are Parasites'. Even celebs, I guess. This is from An Oubliette for Kitty:

And who can teach you a heritage?
Who can learn you a poem?
We're lost in a difficult, frightening age
and no-one can find what was home.

Simple but very clever. The first two lines could be spoken by Lear's fool, the second two by Lear himself. This stanza is typical of Armstrong straightforward, clear, wearing its learning and wisdom lightly. Yet there is a great deal of thought and of precise emotional response behind these lines. They are also surprising lines, and what else do we read poetry for? The hollowed out sense of history that drives the idiocy of the heritage industry is neatly caught, the creative solecism of learn you a poem is both funny and striking, and the final line sums up our current disorientation and its tragic consequences. The poem repeats the lines:  

The blood is streaming from fresh wounds in our city
and old scars are all over the place  

and the fourth stanza begins:

There's this dirt from a history of darkness
and they've decked it in neon and glitz

I think it needs to be stressed just how far out of step Armstrong is in insisting on this emphasis on history. There was a moment (the years between the General Elections of 1983 and 1987) when it became accepted wisdom that the history of 1945 to 1979 was a mistake and its sensibility to be definitively discarded. Armstrong, however, keeps alive a way of thinking and feeling by which we are all supposed to be embarrassed . The effect is that in place of the empty, near-manic, self-congratulatory but superficial and compensatory sensibility of modern culture, Armstrong gives us a sense of what we have lost, how we have gone wrong and reminds us of the dirt and darkness beneath the neon and glitz. He does so in poems that are technically achieved, funny, witty, touching, and sufficiently various for there to be something to light up every brain which responds to poetry. The final three-page, seven-part poem includes these lines:  

This is a time for love
if ever there was one.
A joy that will lift
the concrete
off our bones,
free the song from our throats,
release the words from libraries..

He's right isn't he? There have been lots of worse times of course, but ours has a peculiarly sickening feel because we have the knowledge and the means to live much better and yet we repeat the old mistakes.

One way to make the world better would be to give poets as good as Armstrong their due. That he isn't a nationally known writer is just silly. This book should be on sale in every Waterstones in the land. Think how much you spend on your car, your holiday, your mobile phone. This is culture and it's only six quid! Buy ten copies and delight your friends.


Dunstanburgh by Katrina Porteous ISBN 0-9548691-1-7 5.99  

Broadcast on Radio 4 in February 2004, this long poem is Katrina Porteous's pean to Dunstanburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast. It conveys precisely and poignantly her love for the place and brings it alive even if you've never seen it. The castle, built in the 14 century is, of course, a ruin; time and the corrosive power of nature have worn away its substance and significance. It is out of this that the poem is built, an irony - building from a ruin, raising significance from what has had its significance eroded. Inevitably, therefore, the poem is pre-eminently concerned with the forces nature:  

As if it was searching for something lost
the wind interrogates the walls  

It is the sense of nature's interrogation of human enterprise that keeps the poem moving. The absence of humanity, of economic, social and cultural activity, above all of conversation ( in its widest sense) endows the poem and the locale its about with an atmosphere of loss and desolation that is nevertheless combined with wonder and attraction as the poet finds herself caught between the history and myth which are attached to the castle and the slow but relentless utterly indifferent forces of nature which erode all our meanings and return them to the physical elements from which they arose:  

Fossil of topshell, cowrie, lime
Sliding under it. Taking its time.  

Poetically, Porteous makes use of chants, rhymes, couplets, competing voices. It all works well on the page but some sections clearly require voicing to really live. That's not to say the poem isn't a good read. On the contrary, but it's obviously written for broadcast and you can sense as you read how its full realization requires voices to read it allowed.

What I liked about it was its humming reminder of how temporary and subject to erosion all things human are. In an age when we are pushing up against the physical limits of our depredation of the planet it's salutary to read a poem which brings you face to face with the brute fact of nature's rocky disregard for our petty stewardship of the miraculous accident that is the earth. Dunstanburg, both the castle and the poem, are well worth a visit.



Women Who Dye Their Hair by Janet Fisher ISBN 1-902382-25-0 6.95  

Janet   Fisher's second collection is to be welcomed warmly. It describes the big events in her life, like ageing but in a quiet humorous way, not making huge dramatic tragedies out of them. She describes them with a relish for everyday detail. Take the description for instance.  

And when the roots start to show we carelessly
pop into the hairdresser and book a colour
which means a cut and finish and takes all morning
so we can catch up on our reading, extending
our knowledge of the stars and multiple orgasm.

And this from Raspberry Jam:

When we meet at Heathrow, him dressed
in scarlet Masai cloak and sandals, it's as if
he's never been gone, and we drive home,
the coming day a red smear the size of Africa.  

She doesn't overdo the poeticism; the description is quiety matter-of-fact but all the same effective.

My favourite poem in this collection is She Thought She'd Found God. The poem describes a woman's search for God, trying everything from aromatherapy, to the small things like spiders:  

She wasn 't sure of her discovery
except the air felt different
And she 'd begun finding good points
in people she didn 't like
(this worried her)

In the end:  

and God carried on being
more of a question than an answer
and not of her asking.

I hope you will buy this book of quiet moments and support this remarkable poet.



The depiction of poverty and its associated conditions-violence, ill-health, deprivation and crime - in English and American writing has taken a number of forms. There have been the economic studies (usually in Britain) and the sociological ones (mostly American). There have been over the years many autobiographies, or fiction drawing on biography or autobiography. (In America one could point to the work of Dreiser, John Steinbeck, Jack London, Alice Walker, among many - in Britain there appeared recently Andrea Ashworth's autobiographical work Once In A House On Fire.) George Orwell, who was from a privileged background, attempted to write about poverty from the inside, as did Jack London. However, literature based on the tradition of what has come to be called 'immersion journalism' appears to have a relatively short pedigree.

There are undoubtedly countless pieces of journalism published in newspapers and magazines throughout the world, as well as documentary film and TV programmes, based on the reporting of life in families and communities where the hopelessness of poverty, violence and crime dominates every aspect of existence. But Adrian Nicole Le Blanc has created a major work of literature from immersing herself for many years in the lives of Hispanic families living in the Bronx. And in doing so, she has produced a work whose only comparable antecedents are James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men ( one of the greatest works of literature of the 20th century) and the Mexico-based studies of the socio-anthropologist Oscar Lewis ( most famously, The Children of Sanchez).

Random Family ( an extraordinarily apt title for the work) starts by introducing us to Jessica Martinez, a teenage girl renowned for her attractiveness:  

Jessica lived on Tremont Avenue, on one of the poorer blocks in a very poor section of the Bronx. She dressed even to go to the store. Chance was opportunity in the ghetto, and you had to be prepared for any thing... Her appearance on the streets in her neighbourhood usually caused a stir.....Jessica was good at attracting boys, but less good at holding on to them. She fell in love hard and fast.

Le Blanc switches to a description of Jessica's neighbourhood.  

It was the mideighties, and the drug trade on East Tremont was brisk. Car stereos thudded and Spanish radio tunes wafted from windows. On corners, boys stood draped in gold bracelets and chains. Children munched on the takeout that the dealers bought them, balancing Styrofoam trays of greasy food on their knees.  

Within the first four pages, Jessica is pregnant and gives birth to the first of her five children, a daughter, Serena, or "Little Star", as Lourdes, Jessica's mother, calls her.  

It was understood that Lourdes would have to raise her; Jessica didn 't have the patience. Even if she hadn 't been young, and moody, Jessica wasn't the mothering kind. Lourdes wasn't either - in fact, she wished she'd never had children - but circumstance had eroded her active resistance to the role. She 'd been raising children since she was six.  

LeBlanc never inserts her own personality into what she is writing - the book is entirely about her subjects and their social situations, the lives they lead - but she does have the journalist's ability to sum up a person or situation with a few striking, carefully-chosen words.

So a new generation becomes part of the story - and for most of the book it is hard to remember that these are real people, not fiction - almost from the outset, and it is not long before Serena at age three has been sexually abused, the awareness of which affects Serena badly, as she herself was abused as a small child. The chaotic nature, the 'randomness' of these family's lives, means there is no sense of when or by whom, the abuse occurred. However, for a while, the focus remains on Jessica and on her younger brother Cesar, who is running wild by the time he reaches his teens. Jessica is fatally attracted to the wealth and glamour of the big players in the neighbourhood, who of course are the kingpins of the drug-dealing scene. She becomes involved with a larger-than-life character called Boy George, a character whom one thought, until reading this book, existed only in gangster films, and who eventually is trapped by the police and goes down for a long stretch.

Jessica too ends up doing ten years after pleading guilty to one count of involvement in a narcotics conspiracy, but refusing to testify against any of the others in Boy George's gang. The judge is unusually sympathetic to her, but the sentence is mandatory.

Before long, her younger brother Cesar is also in prison for a long stretch, but not before he has fathered a number of children by the various girlfriends who are inevitably attracted to him. One of these, Coco, then becomes, with her four daughters, the first and third of whom are Cesar's , the primary focus of the book's story ( she has a fifth child towards the end of the book). So while LeBlanc maintains an interest in Jessica and Cesar and how they are coping in prison, we now follow Coco who moves out of the Bronx and gets housed in Troy, a rundown town some miles upstate, so in fact, although this is a story of the Bronx, much of it occurs outside that district. We follow Coco's struggles with her four children, the youngest of whom is seriously handicapped from birth, problems with agencies over housing, health-care, child welfare and education, attempts to find work, extreme poverty, brushes with various agencies, with men, with friends and relatives, her attempts to keep drugs and drug-dealing at bay, attempts to keep the children in touch with their fathers.

Coco is a likeable character with whom we sympathise, she doesn't resort to crime, drugs or violence, and she always tries to put her children first, and she is a battler, but circumstances determine that most of her battles are losing ones.

In the last quarter of the book, the focus is gradually shifting more and more to the younger generation, in particular Jessica's daughter Serena, and Coco's eldest, Mercedes, the latter being a particularly troubled child. Again, LeBlanc's understanding of and empathy for Mercedes is clear:  

Academic performance has never been Mercedes's problem; she passed with little effbrt;the trouble always has to do with discipline. When confronted, Mercedes became defensive, but her fear was hard to see because she acted so tough. She was opinionated. She also had a slang street style, which some adults found off-putting or intimidating; it was actually her way of testing people's interest and reaching out. But her new teacher enjoyed her spiritedness and had deciphered from her meetings with Coco that Mercedes's chores at home included parenting; she understood that having such a young mother made Mercedes older than her age.

On a visit to relatives in the Bronx, Mercedes also suffers sexual abuse, and she makes a claim to a teacher that she has had under-age sex, which is never clearly verified. LeBlanc does not flinch from summing up the problems:

But Mercedes had already had more than enough hardship and fear and humiliation for several lifetimes - nights in unsafe buildings; cold waits on the hard benches of homeless shelters, police stations, courtrooms, and welfare offices; she 'd been uprooted eight times in eight years. Her mother struggled every single day of her life. Her father was in prison. Terrifying seizures plagued her little sister. Drugs rendered the adults she loved incoherent; her godfather was permanently paralyzed. Sadness threatened to engulf every corner if her anger couldn't keep it at bay. She'd witnessed countless acts of violence involving parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, strangers, police. Raised in poverty, Mercedes had weathered innumerable sudden crises, but perhaps even more insidious was the fact that - despite them - little changed. Fear organized whole seasons of Mercedes's experience, and she was probably still frightened; she just didn 't show it anymore.

Most of all, Mercedes misses her dad, she wants Cesar home with her, she wants to visit him far more frequently than her mother's financial hardship allows:  

Mercedes had turned eleven in April. For the first time ever, Cesar had forgotten her birthday. It was then that her good behavior at school suddenly ceased.  

But she still does graduate from the fifth-grade with her classmates. There's an amusing, and touching, description of the ceremony and Mercedes's involvement:  

Coco grabbed a balloon for Mercedes, who reluctantly received it. Mercedes held her arm rigid, as though the balloon were a misbehaving child, while the other kids bonked the balloons and plucked at the strings...Mercedes rolled her eyes. She seemed reluctant to extract herself from the admittedly goofy ritual, yet equally unable to enjoy its simple pleasure. The children counted, "One, two, three!" Mercedes turned away from her balloon as she released it, disowning the gesture of hope.  

But the book itself does not entirely disown hope. Despite everything, LeBlanc is determined to finish on a happy note. Jessica has been out of prison a little while, and has been somewhat uneasily reunited with her eldest daughter, who has moved back to the Bronx and celebrates her eighteenth birthday with family and friends. Cesar is still inside, but finally a visit full of childlike joy and laughter from Coco and their two daughters occurs, happiness which Mercedes is able to share.

This gives just a glimpse of the main characters. The scores of others, children, friends, relatives, partners, lovers who move in and out of the pages of the book, nearly always bringing chaos, nearly always bringing illicit drugs, and quite often violence and crime, cannot be summarize here. This book throws much-needed light on the advanced world's underbelly through helping us come to know the fundamental humanity of its protagonists, through presenting their stories so full-on it's made to seem like a fictional world, while reminding us all the time it's our own, and finally, by reaching through all the hopelessness and harrowing pain to show us sensitivity, respect, understanding and hope. This book is a bestseller in the States but appears little known over here. It should be read by us all. 


Leslie Williamson was born in Eastwood in 1924. His father, who had fought and been injured in the first world war, had to take whatever work he could find in order to feed his wife and three children of two sons and a daughter born profoundly deaf. As an adolescent, Leslie Williamson worked as a laundry boy, collecting and delivering washing, ran errands for a local engineering firm, and also found work on the shop-floor at Aristocat, a hosiery business. With the coming of the second world war he joined the RAF and was eventually posted to Malaya. Peace, however, did not bring the demobilisation he expected. Instead, his squadron was ordered to Indonesia because the Indonesians refused to allow the Dutch back in to recommence the administration of their country. However, in Leslie's own words, "to ail those Indonesians wanting their freedom we became the Dutch, it was like being an American soldier in Iraq." A bomb exploding near by cost him the hearing in his right ear and he was invalided back to Lincolnshire before eventual discharge.

Once on civvy street he rejoined Aristocat, in which business he rose to become a manager, and, having taught himself short-hand, also found work as a reporter for local newspapers. He began to write fiction and poetry, and among his published work are three novels, The Crowded Cemetery, Death of a Portrait, and Jobey, which is set in 1926, during the General Strike, and which Methuen paper-backed at the time of the 1984-5 Miners' Strike. It has recently been re-published in a large print edition. (The Ulverscroft Foundation, 2002). Leslie Williamson is, in addition, the author of the verse sequence, D H Lawrence and the Country he Loved, and Bread for AH, which he describes as "a dramatic interpretation of the Pentrick Uprising", that forlorn effort by early nineteenth-century Derbyshire miners to overthrow the government, and which led to execution, transportation (the largest prison in Australia is called Pentrick), and prompted among other things Shelley's great essay on Liberty. A dramatic version of Bread for All, adapted for the stage by its author, is to be presented by a local school later this year. In the late autumn of 2004, Leslie Williamson's three short plays on Byron played to packed audiences in Eastwood.

In the next issue of The Penniless Press John Lucas will consider Leslie Williamson's writings and those of the novelist Walter Brierley, whose fictions, written between those of Lawrence and Williamson, are also set in coal-mining areas of the East Midlands.