Elliptical Movements – Billy Mills review of Scarecrow

I’ve been rewarded this year by being introduced to the poetry of Billy Mills, whose recent The City Itself is one of those occasional collections that can make you question why you write the way you write. It simplifies the complex, and finds huge space for exploration in what is seemingly simple. It’s about place, and about the elemental and the supposedly insignificant, the particular and the universal, and the relations between them. It’s words, but it creates a soundscape – a rising and falling of the whispering air around us. It’s great, basically, and is part of a continuity of work Mills has been working on since the late 70s – a series of books that form one long book, or one long conversation/interrogation, at least.

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Poet Michael Begnal notes here of The City Itself, its “compact and intricate soundplay, occasional lyric flashes, documentary historical material, and even personal narrative in order to make an argument about the interplay between urban and natural spaces and human beings’ place in the network of things.”

Nicely put, and one of the reasons why I’m delighted that Mills has reviewed my recent debut collection of poems, Scarecrow, on his Elliptical Movements blog, alongside work from Peter Philpott, Sonja Benskin Mesher, John Phillips, Daragh Breen, and Anna Cathenka.

You can read the reviews here. It’s a blog worth subscribing to.

100-Word Fiction: ‘The Old Cupboard’

Pat turned the key in the gloom and the old cupboard door opened. Shining a light, he gasped. Inside, boxes were piled high. A year calendar hung on the back of the door with days circled. Files were stacked and labelled meticulously. Civil Partnerships and Church, ‘Trouble’ Families, Euroscepticism and the Public, Standards and Sleaze: the topics ranged widely. The old cupboard was much deeper than Pat had expected – or hoped – and there was something strange about it too. The cardboard files were crisply rigid, the boxes bright and unsagged. Where was the dust? The calendar was from this year.

100-Word Fiction: ‘New Dress’

Eschewing the flamboyant (critics said “grotesque and overindulgent”) designs of the previous decade, the new couturier at the fashion house picked up his scissors and set to work. He had chosen a heavy material and was mulling over words: sackcloth? Too pious. Workwear? Blandly utilitarian. He sighed and snipped – and snipped until a small, minimalist dress was made. In at the waist (tight at the belt) and accentuating the bust, he thought. But not one of his models would wear it. All they saw was snippets of cloth lying across the floor – and the dress, a tiny, useless remnant of fabric.