My Publications And Their Reviews Good and Bad

Here I list my publications to date by various publishers

Paul Brookes 1

.a world where. writing by paul brookes

stark gutsy words wake from me the attachment, I gobble them as one starving.
I have read him before yet never like this. the dark horse of heightened intent.

gathering this into mind. I read on.

Sonja Benskin Mesher

While A World Where is made up of a series of discrete short poems revolving around a single idea, The Headpoke and Firewedding is a more ambitious work. It consists of two longish sequences, the first of which, ‘The Headpoke’, hovers around the theme of fire, in its domestic and primeval emanations. Where the language of the earlier collection is quotidian, here Brookes plays with mythic, almost ritualistic, registers. In the opening set, the quotidian act of lighting a fire in a grate takes on the weight of a solemn ceremony, undercut somewhat by the voice of the grate urging a return to the everyday.

Old ash and cinders block gust makes for
poor-burning, makes for poor-thinking
prepare my gob for my tongues my gob
packed with ash piled ash in my grate
piled ash in my head crumbles like walls
from incendiaried homes

stop wandering off when I’m talking to you!

ash up against my fire-bars makes them

overheat makes you overthink

so they sag and “burn through” make me
virginal something to focus on something
for focus recall collecting ears of spelt in
reaper’s baskets

The use of formatting to weave other voices and registers to the text is used here and elsewhere to great effect. There are strong echoes of Anglo-Saxon poetry in places:

Heart-ship tugs at its harbour.
My imagination in mere-flood,
in whale plunge, wide in its turns
eager for seas vastness. Gannet yells
as whale-way spirit quickens over holm’s deep

At other times, the influence of Finnegans Wake is apparent:

Her flaps
of the waterbride
of the waveskin.
Her inner lips of the river,
spring and waterfalls,
fermented honey drip.

The second section, ‘Firewedding’, moves away from the domestic world of grates to the natural order. It consists mainly of sections in Brooke’s South Yorkshire dialect followed by versions of the same text in ‘Received English’, the latter generally being longer than the former, which may be part of the point.

breathe in mistletoe oak, rowan, and fir.

watch massive sticky full moon rise amber an gold as if honey outa hive

yon balefires r small suns
t’ massive blaze nar set this short neet


Inhale mistletoe oak, rowan, and fir.

watch massive sticky full moon rise in amber and gold as if dipped in honey out of a hive

These balefires are small suns to the massive blaze above now set this short night

It’s a potentially interesting idea, but it tends to lose impact after a couple of iterations and you’re left thinking that the dialect sections might have been more powerful left to stand on their own merit. Nevertheless, Brookes’ voice is his own, and it’s a voice worth reading for its own sake.

Billy Mills

A World

Appropriately enough for a poet I came across for the first time on Twitter and WordPress, Paul Brookes seems to specialise in being published online. The two e-books under review here represent the boundarylessness of the Internet as medium, being the work of a Barnsley-based Englishman published in the United States and distributed online.
Brookes describes himself as ‘a shop assistant, after employment as a security guard, postman, admin. assistant, lecturer, poetry performer’ and his work reflects the breadth of this life experience, coming, as it does, from outside any kind of mainstream British poetry.
A World Where comprises a series of imaginings of a world where an inversion of norms is the norm, in poems whose title often take the form ‘x is y (‘Youth is Age’, ‘Loss is Good’) or otherwise express humorous paradox. This strategy allows him to reflect on the absurd unfairness of many aspects of the world as is, of lives lived in the margins, but without the ‘romance’ of liminality:

I’ll keep it short.
Folk don’t reckon.
Soft in the head.

To share’s forbidden.
Grip my hand, lad
for sores
and livelong pain.
(from ‘Before “Get Lost!” Nobody Tells Me’)

These poems are full of disease, decay and death, of death, especially, in life:

He touches me. His skin
warm. An abnormal
response. I can tell

he is dead. His heart

will beat. He will walk and run.
This is how death shows itself.
(from ‘A Movement is Death’)

But they find hope in the simple power of language, the power of simple language, as in this poem, which defies extraction and cries out to be quoted in full:

The Undo

Unwalk the walk,
Step back the step forward,

unstride the stride,
exhale the blossom,

unspring the spring
unsprung the sprung,

unsee the seen,
untouch the touch,

unsmile the smile back,
unlaugh the laughter,

unlive the life,
undead the dead.

Billy Mills

A world where, by poet Paul Brookes is a great trip through the life of a real original. These poems take you on a smart and interesting journey. Paul is a writer of unique talent and an original world view. He does not write like anyone else, which is rare in itself, that these poems are so good only makes you all the more glad you have them in your hand. This is a book worth reading over and over. Paul is a real talent and a powerful poet as I am sure you will agree.

Matt Borczon, author of “The Clock Of Human Bones”


A world where words make conundrums. Words make a memory café of contradiction. Counterfactual worlds. Words dance into newness, strange and startling juxtapositions. Big is small. Age is youth. Love is murder. Poems precipitate friends into strangers. A choreography of definition, fractured into dialect. There are no maps, only words bear witness to dark and light, and grow more famouser in their glow… Paul Brookes kicks words until they crack and splinter, hard, hard and harderer…

Andy Darlington

“Brookes poetry is true and unsettling, hands on the human heart, feeling the beat without flinching. Every poem is a narrative that distills the moment while effortlessly recalling for the reader the necessary context of past and future, one instant in a visible stream of time. He is skilled at twisting the expected into the uncomfortable and allowing the reader to see that this spin was always the truth. A masterful short book of poems that creates an entire world of voices.”

Julie Carpenter , editor of Sacred

“A World Where” ————

Paul Brookes is a rare & wondrous poet. Fully vested, mature, his poems work the line & surprise the reader & the English language with quantum muscularity & delightful, metaphoric insight. — Ron Androla, author of “Confluence” (Busted Dharma Press) & many other books.

I enjoyed the collection immensely — the familiar turned on its head, the play of the language, the bone deep subjects he tackles. He uses language in a wonderful way, at once intimate to the point of blood and challenging. No easy trick. A wonderful and unique voice here which he maintains throughout, even as the collection gathers its rhythms. “Birth is a Time for Grief” is a particular favorite, as is “We Wait for Sick Sunblaze To.”

Jeff Weddle

I really enjoyed your collection – so imaginative and strange, but actually felt real, like a good sci fi or fantasy story should, and in poems at that

“After reading the poems in A World Where, anything seems within the bounds of possibility. At times dark, but with plenty of humour, the absurdity of our own world is renewed again and again through the kaleidoscope view of Paul Brookes’ imagined realities. A fascinating collection.”

Kate Garrett, editor of Picaroon Press and Three Drops From A Cauldron

I enjoyed the read very much!  The collection is well written and strong throughout, but some of my favourites were: Folk Are Born Tall, Bairns And Old Codgers, Delicious Concrete, My Strangers, Life Is Meant, You Must, and The Sunlight (my personal favourite of the collection.

“Whether it is experiencing the past lives of his granddaughter or the interior design of a street person or imagining sweat as rain, Paul Brookes lets you peer into his life, but always at a distance.  His friends are strangers in a ravaged British landscape of crushed cans and sweet wrappers and bird skeletons.  Themes of otherness and disease and memory and loss permeate Brookes’ work.  The language is at once accessible and refreshing without ever falling prey to what is expected.”

Ryan Quinn Flanagan (author of The Blue of Every Flame)

“Words are not the dark, they bear witness to the dark” writes Paul Brookes in his poignant and alluring new collection of poems titled “A World Where.” The words Paul shares with us do indeed bear witness to the dark and are illuminating. The poems collected here are a vast assortment of many emotional plateaus. The poems are beautiful, gritty, humorous, tender and seductive in their abilities to grip a reader. This is sensory overload in all the right ways and I treasured being able to breathe it in.-

Dan Flores III

The Spermbot

I’ve been following the author’s work for some time online now and was excited to receive this in the mail. It did not disappoint. Brookes’ style is very unique and hard to describe. I do know that most of it is strange and hard hitting, just the way I like it. Right out of the gate he belts you with this line in the first poem of the book: “You had an impact on my future, I’m not sure I forgive you.” The illustrations are a well chosen compliment to the words.

Anonymous Reviewer on Amazon

Paul Brookes, The Sperm Bot Blues, Oppress Books, contact at  complete catalogue at, 27 poems, 76 pages no price listed.
This oversized, illustrated with many “revealing” photos, and a truly unique font calculated to drive most people insane, is billed as a novel told in poems.  I guess what it is, is a sci fi/futuristic/fantasy/ novel, of sorts, in the mode of William S. Burroughs. A flipped-out Burroughs, that is, reveling in aggressively obtuse, erotic situations.  In this world, sexuality, seems to have become fluid: robots are taking over everything, especially sexual congress and there seems to be a lot of S/M going on in futuristic dungeons.  Everyone seems to be having a wild time, especially the bots and the consenting adult women, in various stages of bondage, the subject being the context of the man photographs that illustrate the written work. Decidedly not for everyone’s taste. If you can get by the font and you enjoy Burroughs, this may work for you. I assure you I may have missed perfectly obvious things to people who are into fringe lifestyles which I am most decidedly, not into. For instance: maybe those aren’t studio dungeons but orgone boxes. Burroughs liked Orgone boxes for self-stimulation along with his Steely Dan.  (No not the musical group, the dildo Burroughs called Steely Dan, that the group appropriated the name from.)  Nothing would surprise me. Once you’ve entered the sperm bot universe just about anything is possible.

From The Misfit

Paul Brookes 4

Another fabulous read by the indefatigable Yorkshire poet, Paul Brookes. This time with his singular style and and acute insight into the human condition, Paul takes us through five stories, pictures of the great and small ironies of life drawn as we observe the daily routines, rituals and reactions in lives where birds have jam sessions on rooftops, mausoleums live on fridge doors, the memory of a touch stays with the skin; lives where hands are telling and people hunger, give what’s not wanted and take what’s not given. In short, Life with all its pathos and ethos. She Needs that Edge is well worth your time and pennies.

Jamie Dedes

In the universe of this exquisite collection, Paul Brookes merges desire and menace, the nature of aging and hidden despair to show the wonders of the human experience filtered through several varieties of darkness. Brooks is too cagey to fully tip his hand, but repeated readings of these poems reward the reader with new and sometimes breathtaking epiphanies. “Life is boring when there’s no edge to it,” one of his characters observes. This is a truth in which Brookes delights. You – yes, you — need to read this book.

Jeff Weddle, author of Comes to This and Heart of the Broken World

Brookes is a good poet but you must read all parts of his sequence poems to get at his genius that weaves in and around each stanza and leaves you in slack jawed awe. His words are often sexy, humorous, clever, surprising, multi-layered and mysterious, sometimes at the same time.

“His blood keeps their house lubricated and his steady rhythm beats through their working day.” In another poem, “Longiforum lilies attract askance bees to their sacred perfume chimneys.” There is brilliance and beauty here but always “a swan’s wing away from brokenness.”

Belinda Subraman,

Author of Blue Rooms, Black Holes, White Lights

Port of Souls

Readers of Paul Brooke’s blog will be familiar with his interest in ekphrastic writing; these two books, collaborations with the Dutch painter Marcel Herms, are a logical extension of this interest. It’s clear that poet and artist have discovered a shared set of themes and concerns resulting in work that goes beyond the limitations of ‘poems about pictures’; each in its own way, both books represent an integration of text and picture into a more organic whole.

Port of Souls is the nearest to the expected model, with individual text/painting pairings that reflect each other, albeit obliquely. I claim no art expertise, but there’s something in Herms’ palette and the simplified humanoid forms that fill these pictures, often in exploding postures of pain or anger, that remind me of Francis Bacon, and Brookes’ matches the technique and tone by adopting a form that generally teeters between verse and prose, a kind of prose/verse poetry in which syntactic disjunction echoes the way in which the paintings are organised:

Beware windows keep faces behind two panes

eyes, cheeks, teeth captured when you glance through a wrong glass at the outside.

From these travels circumnavigation of my ocular orbs I have discovered:

My chameleon is a wild goat that neither eats or drinks always mouth open it lives on air.

[from ‘Our Rats are Hounds’]

Interestingly, it seems that these were originally conceived as short free verse lines, but the change to longer, semi-prose lineation disrupts the reading in a manner analogous to how the facing painting (also at that link) disrupts the movement of the eye. This is even more apparent in the poem/painting pairing called ‘Warlord’, where the exploding, fire-crowned head is brought to verbal life:

After a battle where skulls are blown apart he sits and laughs at Anthem For Doomed Youth.

After a skirmish in which men are screaming With half a leg or arm bone shattered By shrapnel, he guffaws at Dulce Decorum Est.

The more graphic, the more comic to him.

He says if you don’t laugh you’ll cry.

Laughter is healthy. Laughter is human.

The embedding of some ‘famous poems about the war’ serves to both highlight the inadequacy of conventional verse to do justice to the realities of carnage and explore new ways of doing just that. It’s a project that is encapsulated in the final pairing here, ‘A World Where’:

I don’t orientate

without signposts or landmarks or signatures. All is blur. Meaning elusive.

If I make it could be false. There is grief at a loss of shape, of pattern.

Brookes and Herms seem determined to confront this grief by discovering new patterns of expression.

-Billy Mills (Elliptical Movements, blog)

Please Take Change

 Ian Badcoe Poetry: Review: Paul Brookes “Please Take Change”

Review: Paul Brookes “Please Take Change”


Paul Brookes is a poet I know through the internet.  We used to hang out on Poetry Circle, an online forum…

Before I begin this review I must reveal that I live a charmed life.  I have always found it easy to get jobs, and places I have worked have been more akin magical kingdoms, than grey Kafkaesque distopias.

I try to remain aware that this isn’t true for everyone (should be… isn’t) but awareness is one thing and knowing what living it is like would be something else again.  The main power of this book is it gives you a window into exactly that, and furthermore it paints subtly, neither glorifying, nor playing up to the grimness.

From the biography on the back we discover Paul has been a security guard, postman, admin assistant, call centre advisor, lecturer, poetry performer and now works as a shop assistant.  He has recently been interviewing almost every poet in the UK in  The Wombwell Rainbow Interviews and very interesting they are (you may find yourself, or even myself, in there if you look hard enough…)

This collection draws heavily on Paul’s employment history.  Not all of those are the most glamorous of jobs (except “poetry performer” — literally the most glamorous job there is…) and you might expect there’s a degree of arduous toil, unsympathetic bosses, wearying drudgery to be expressed.  In this you’d be right, and these poems do reveal a world of quotidian working days.

However, also running through this are threads of razor-sharp observation, human warmth and humour which keep the collection alive and make reading through the 75-odd short poems a light and rewarding experience.
Let’s start with:
some systems don’t work
so you have to do
a work around
when this becomes the system
I don’t know
my bus
takes a detour for roadworks
or accident
something tells me
this is not temporary
I love the sheer universality of the experience related here, I have encountered the same thing in fields as separated as software design and cafeteria queuing; my home town had a “temporary car park” for four decades; and I’ve even worked for major international corporation entirely devoted to working around the things it failed to address previously.

Also the skillful way everyday language is put to work to illustrate the general principle, but simultaneously narrate the concrete example, is typical of the poems here.  Another that demonstrates this point is:

The List

Their companion gone
old men stoop lower
with less in their basket,

try to recall her shopping list,
was it Robinson’s marmalade,
or Hartley’s lemonade?

Spam. No she never liked spam.
Never enough fat on bacon.
Yes, I need a receipt, young man


Which is touching, humorous, and heartbreaking in roughly equal measure.  People who do or don’t need receipts are a recurring theme, almost a running joke throughout this collection.

These two poems are perhaps a little unusual in using a symbol as a metaphor for something larger.  More pieces are essentially biographical, in the sense of relating wonderfully observed moments and characters from the author’s working life, take:

Two Lads

at my till. I put first lad’s
goods through while second

says to his mate,
I’m gonna get a kitchen knife
and rip your twatting head off.


I’m gonna put it in shoebox
Set fire to it. Piss on the remains.


Do you want a receipt? I ask
the first lad.

There’s the slyly comic receipt again 🙂 and also here is the acute observation of real everyday behaviour, skilfully juxtaposed against the mundanity of the till queue.

This is a fascinating collection.  The early copy I had was a little unevenly edited, but I hope that will be sorted out in the final edition.  The scenes from everyday life are compelling, and the understated humour and good will with which they are presented lifts them well above the mundane to a plane of their own.

The conflicts, insults and travails presented here are something to be accepted, but not surrendered to, and the ultimate message we take from this is one of optimism and — I said it before — good humour.

Lets just end with this:


One of two young girls with flushed cheeks
who buy cans of coke and energiser asks

Please can I buy a lotto scratch card, #7?
I ring for the manager as per rule.

He asks the girls for i.d.
No. I haven’t. I’m eighteen.

We need to see your I.D. he says.
You’re an embarrassment, one replies

How dare you embarrass me?
Both girls flounce out the shop.

Did you hear what she called me?
Says the manager, smiling ear to ear.


Please Take Change is published by  Cyberwit.

Ian Badcoe

Paul Brookes’ writing is stark. There isn’t any word pyrotechnics in here. The use of everyday language is, unfortunately, not much used, or even accepted, in a lot of poetry – poets like to show off and dazzle with their use of complicated words and intricate plots laying metaphor on top of metaphor until the meaning of the poem often becomes almost impenetrable. This is not the case with Brookes’ writing. Take this poem –

I Repair

with sellotape and put back on shelves

frail crisp packets that open before sale.

Kinked cans of beans, frozen cardboard boxes

lids open goods inside. Some marked down.


Take delivery, in urgency to unpack, knife

catches corner of a bag of sugar. Sellotape the dribble.


My mam told me don’t buy damaged

cans. It’s not healthy. Once the seal


was broken on her trust she refused

to consider the goods worthwhile.


This is the stock that Paul Brookes deals with. The simplicity of the language describing an everyday routine event – part of the job – adds tremendous power to the poem in my opinion.

Most of the poems are about the workplace – another thing that the poetry world often ignores or finds itself unable to accept. It’s a dirty subject is work done by people with dirty hands – how could they know anything about poetry? Brookes works as a shop assistant – behind a till – though this isn’t the most important thing – it could be any retail store, any call centre, any restaurant or hardware shop where a shop assistant interacts with the public. But they are also far more than just about work – his writing captures the shadows of an event – a transaction – that Brookes has seen actually contains far more than what just happened. And from that you get a unique insight into people’s lives – the minutiae of them – a throwaway comment that Brookes uses to explore the possibilities of, amongst other things, existence, loneliness, poverty, addiction, camaraderie and community. 

A Breathless  

small boy in an angry bird t shirt,

mock flight jacket,

Hawaiian shorts and trainers

bursts into the shop shouting




I’ve got fifty pee.”


I reply that we close at eight,

so he has an hour.


“Just ran all way here.

What can I buy? he answers

mouth before a wall of sweets.


I show him in one corner trays full

of small chocolate eggs at 49p.

“Yes. Yes one of these.”

His delight makes me smile. 

The humour and warmth Brookes has for the ‘customers’ who are members of his community is evident throughout the book. In fact, I think one of the best things about these poems is the sense of community that permeates through them – which in an age where it has become increasingly more difficult to find any sense of community anywhere other than on-line is both heart-warming and uplifting.

A lot of writing is now about isolation and loneliness, finding some kind of identity or meaning in amongst the big cities and masses of people. And you wouldn’t really expect anything less considering that we now live in a post-Thatcherite, post-New Labour society where the dissolving of industry and the replacement of full-time work with zero –hour or part-time ‘hire and fire’ alternatives has caused so many communities to break up into little bits.

Some say that this was just an economic inevitability what with the high wages of the old manufacturing and miner jobs – others are a little more cynical and say that this was engineered, encouraged and goaded into happening so that the working class wouldn’t be able to stick together anymore as the only meaningful opposition to stand against neoliberalism and free market economics – clearing the way forwards for their progress – well, as evidenced by this poem called Caravan, those little bits still exist and they sometimes come together in Paul Brookes’ shop –


Three women in the queue

The first empties her packed trolley.


Do you need any carrier bags?

I ask.


Three to start with. I have to sort out

What we’re taking in the caravan.

Why did I buy so much?


Help packing?


Yes please while I empty this.


We’ll do it for you offers one of the other women.

We’d love a caravan holiday. Don’t take up much space.


Five carrier bags full later she says. I’ll have to fetch my car round. I’ll never carry all this.


We’ll carry it for you. We’ve only got these odd goods propose the other two women.


I can’t have you doing that.

Yes you can.


A caravan of women carry bags

out the door.

Please Take Change is full of this life affirming feeling. Even when Brookes deals with the grimmer unluckier or sadder side of life he does so in a considerate way – never judgmental or vindictive and always with humour – dark or otherwise – because that’s the only way how Brookes – and so many more of us – can even hope to survive.

That’s His

We’re together, but not.

If you know what I mean?


No, this is my shopping.

That’s his. It’s all for


in the same bag. He carries

the bags. What I married him for.


Aye he says Fetching and carrying.

I bag ’em up and lug ’em home for her.


She adds we don’t live together.

If you know what I mean.


Old Gent


Regular old gent works his stick

buys a loaf of bread, his stutterful


fingers offer a palmside up

full of change for me to focus


upon and pick out the correct change

whilst his uncut nails tremble.


On one occasion he told me,

“Never get to ninety, lad.”


As usual I loudly and clearly

wish him a grand day.


He pauses then says “I was woken

up this morning to hear my wife had died


in old folks home.”

I say I’m sorry to hear that


give condolences as he pauses

and the queue at my till grows.


The next customer who overheard

says “He needed to tell someone.”

Martin Hayes
StubbornStubborn Sod is a continuation of the Pagan Year project Brookes began in The Headpoke and Firewedding. Where the earlier book covered the months of June and July, this current instalment runs from January to May, the turn of the year and the burgeoning months of spring. Herms provides a headnote painting for each month and a series of others that reflect images and themes from the texts in a less one-to-one manner than is the case in Port of Souls. Appropriately enough, much of the writing here focuses on an earth-mother goddess figure, pregnant with new life and demanding of devotion, and with the conflict between her devotees and an incoming, aggressive Christianity. The hymns to the goddess are lyrical and graceful:

She is a presence,
a voice only, no image.
A post of cypress-wood,
draped in cloth, perhaps.

Otherwise a living tree
to recall her sacred grove.
Her rites are done outside.

She spares our daughters
heavy with bairn,
spares our wives
in pangs of labour

Cares for the mams
who fret over their bairns
carrying on now,
and how they fare.

[from ‘Chanter’]

But all is not sweetness and light. The play on stubborn sod is crucial, being both the land to be farmed and the determined farmers who work it being central to the sequence. Although Brookes frequently draws on Classical mythology, his tone is darker and more northern, as in ‘Atti Loses his Bollocks’, his Yorkshire reworking of the story of Attis from Catullus 63, a story that is dark enough in itself, but which Brookes expands to draw out the relationship between blood and fertility.

At this quick cry from her blood red lips

Cyb, his mam let lions out

goads one on left, enemy of flock

“Come on now,” she says, “Tha fierce, get thee sen off, away

See to it madness drives her,

see madness set her back into me wood,

she who scarpers from my rule.

Come, whiplash tha back with tha tail, suffer tha own tailpain

make all places echo

with tha bellow and roar.

Cyb utters these threats and with her hand frees lion from it’s yoke.

Lion urging

himsen to rage, rushes, roars,

breaks brushwood with flit paws.

And Brookes is not just concerned with the past, but also with the here and now of housing estates and industrial wastelands, where the pagan, sacred landscape is buried but not dead. The final poem in the sequence, ‘Oaksong’, works to bring these two worlds to a single focus around the most symbolic of Northern trees, the oak:

moors were once forests

national parks heavy industrial

this oak headland a pitsite

lads snap off livelimbs

anarchic coppicing

black dogshitbags sway

on limbs left alone

don’t visit in a storm

oaks are lightningtrees

people can be oaks

oakgroves of druids

duir means a door

exit and entrance

raw open wounds of sacrifice

still bleed sap

The bleeding is multi-layered, the broken tree, the broken land, and the bleeding of past into present into past, as the once forest, once pitsite, becomes forest again. It’s the yearly cycle writ large. Brookes’ Pagan Year project is concerned with the recovery of a world that is damaged but not destroyed. I look forward to the final instalment.

-Billy Mills (Elliptical Movements blog)

“Enter her grove barefoot,/no leather here,/no blood sacrifices/done.//Offer her honeyed milk,/not wine,” the speaker says in Paul Brookes’s collection of poems, Stubborn Sod.
Stubborn Sod is the second installment in a trilogy of collections which surround Pagan cycle of year. Stubborn Sod begins in January, with the Pagan Sabbat of Imbolc, and ends in May, with Beltane, which gives the book a sense of waking up after a long sleep. The poems are accompanied by the abstract, visceral artwork of Marcel Herms.

In the poem, “Red the strong,” the speaker says: “Belief is a ship/on the fish-flecked sea,/close-hauled and tacking,/against this Christian gust.” This sets up the scenario. He goes on to describe the ship as having a dragon’s head and gilded–a veritable Viking ship. It ties in Pagan lore and history in a really powerful image. At the same time, the action of the poem seems to occur on a ship.
“I’m brought before me boss/who offers me baptism./”And,” says he, “I will not/take thy property from thee,//but rather be thy mate,/if thou wilt make thysen/ worthy to be such.” Thus, the speaker’s dilemma is this: become a Christian and deny his beliefs. Naturally, the speaker says that he won’t. Thus, the boss here tells him that “thee/ shall die the worst of deaths.”
So, the speaker is killed by a snake down the throat. I chose this poem to discuss because it ties in perfectly with the title, Stubborn Sod. In one sense, the book is about the ground as the seasons change, the thick grass that takes root. But it’s also about the Pagan in “Red the strong,” because he’d rather die staying true to himself and his beliefs. Paganism is, ultimately, about taking care of oneself and the earth and those around you. It’s about embracing nature and making things better.
I really enjoyed Stubborn Sod and I highly recommend it. Brookes’s poems are a masterful display of craft. It’s a celebration of Paganism that doesn’t try to argue or proselytize, but stands steadfast in the rich and ancient traditions and lore.

-Jessica Drake-Thomas

As Folk Over Yonder

.as folk over yonder. paul brookes.

have said before how the forward of this book leaves me emotional before even starting on the verse. not many will write of simple kindnesses

“Time has not,

nor will not help this grief.”

i find an underlying sadness from small tales of everyday, fragile stories of vulnerability, humanity

a unique voice from a sharp intelligent ear, the words flow as ordinary, yet extraordinary in the telling

the truth told which many of us hear, it takes Paul to record them beautifully in this book

a book of triumph over the ordinary; raising his stories to a magic world with pith and accent

a black and white movie of current lives

i suggest it is read at least twice over

and kept to read some more

i have read it four times over, and the words remain fresh each time, a new nuance with each reading

a little delight in every corner

bravo Paul

Sonja Benskin Mesher RCA 




Neighbors Have Eyes (And Sometimes Hearts)

Brookes’ mixture of rumor and reality sets the table for a feast of characters leaps and bounds above the standard stereotypes of the neighbor versus nurture debate. Humor helps the collection handle the topics of loneliness, privacy, independence, dependence and isolation of those deemed unfit to be normal. The English/British verbiage gives the book a deeper cultural standing due to the cockney wordage that lends a charm missing from American or Canadian efforts of similar taste.
Paul S. on Kobo

Compassionate and Moving Collection

In this age of anger and hatred it is reassuring to come upon this book of poetry which is laden with goodness and kindness. In this book of poems about the character and quirks of our neighbours there is something everyone can relate to. In subtle and careful ways the author reminds us that life is not always how it might seem from the outside and reminds us to think kindly of those living alongside us. There is an underlying darkness in some of the poems, especially the opener, “Unhooks”, which lends weight to the collection. There is also surprising and often jarring depth in many of the poems. “Black Dog” in just six lines, teems with so much life that I found myself reading it over and over again. The hope and sadness is almost intoxicating at times. The love and loneliness in “All The Girl’s” is just so beautiful. There is so much compassion in the writing throughout and humour too in poems like “Harmony” when an older neighbour pines after the younger man next door as he gardens. It’s so refreshing to read poems like these. This is a wonderful and incredibly strong collection.
Steve Denehan on Kobo