Reviews

Schools Work:

“Angela really engaged and enthused our students, not only by sharing her work with them but by also making them know that their contributions were both valid and appreciated. The pupils listened carefully so that they could respond, but it was as if they had known Angela for years; they were so at ease with her. They had a fantastic time and we were inundated with poems from all faculty areas on the Thursday (National Poetry Day). We were seriously impressed by some of the vocabulary and ideas generated when they produced Kennings in the workshop. Definitely to be recommended, especially if you want to enhance your curriculum and give your students a fun, fresh approach to poetry.”

Jo West, Woodchurch High School, Wirral 2012

‘Every girl and boy enjoyed the poetry workshop with Angela. From Kennings to collaborative poetry, we were all given the opportunity to write and explore our own thoughts and feelings. Each child recited at least one poem to the group and they were all well received and appreciated.

My girls were desperate to share what they had learned with the rest of the class. Even I was motivated to write possibly the best comparative, descriptive verses I have ever done! Thank you’.

Wayne Rhodes, Year 6 class teacher (Tunbridge Wells) 2010

Angela Topping is well known for her adult collections such as The Fiddle, I Sing of Bricks, and The Way We Came. She has also, however, made a big splash in the world of children’s poetry with her recently published The New Generation. I had the pleasure of watching her perform a variety of these poems to children (aged 11-14) in two local secondary schools. Her performances are interactive, entertaining, educational and full of nuggets of poetic brilliance and inspiration for the poets of tomorrow. She has a lovely way with students and they warmed to her personable manner. Watching her perform was a wonderful demonstration of what can be achieved when a skilled poet, with a warm personality, meets with students.

Paul Hughes, Assistant Headteacher in Reading 2010

The children were wonderfully engaged and hard-working throughout the morning. Angela’s exercises were demanding and inspiring with lots of sharing and thought-provoking moments. Today’s challenge was to let our imaginations fly.

Anna Dreda, Wenlock Books 2011

Books:

I Sing of Bricks Salt 2011):
Like Frost, the clarity of the language – that initial spark – ignites a fire in our imagination which lasts long after our first reading; a poem tempts us back time and again (I’m hesitant to say ‘demands’, but only because Topping wants to inspire, delight, not to prescribe or instruct). The title poem juxtaposes something religious, devotional, magnificent (singing) with something mundane and unremarkable (bricks). Its title is an apt one for the pamphlet, which is very often about seeing old, stale things afresh: shoes, a glove, grass, snowdrops (‘Each Blade Singly’ and ‘Three Ways of Snowdrops’ are among my favourite titles here). Topping’s writing is clever, but cleverness is never made a virtue for its own sake; it’s always a means to an end, which is to reach the heart. In ‘How To Capture a Poem’, the poem is made into an unseen, elusive entity which constantly evades capture; wriggles from our grasp whenever we try to pin it down. Topping understands that none of us has a monopoly on what a poem is or should be, does or should do.
Mark Burnhope in ‘Naming the Beasts’

Sphinx

Niall Campbell:
I’m tempted to declare that there’s a careful confidence about Angela Topping’s I Sing of Bricks. But perhaps it’s more accurate to say that there’s a confident carefulness: a pleasurable crafting of poems on house-holding, life-sharing (‘In His Eyes’), the coming in from outside (‘Sunset over Galway Bay’). Yes, the themes in the beautifully produced pamphlet do range to include sea-faring and ultraterrestrial transcendence; however, these share with the less grandly themed poems an assured phraseology that marks this pamphlet apart.

James Roderick Burns:
I Sing of Bricks stretches the definition of the pamphlet: at 31 poems and 39 pages, it is as long as all of Larkin’s main volumes, and has similar heft. It might perhaps be better described as a compact collection. The book certainly works as we expect books to—cohering around a core set of themes which are reasoned, well-developed and rich. In short, it erects an impressive building from a small pile of bricks. For this is a book about work — actual work, be it drudgery or stimulation; the work of starting and sustaining relationships; the dreadful work of mourning, remembering the (many) people who have died, and moving with their memory into something new; the work, in short, of life. All the best poems explore it with a wonderful, earthy solidity. This collection shines when it brings the focus round relentlessly to the ordinary. We “grow fat” with Topping in the kitchen; watch for a dead friend’s weeds “that hopefully you sowed” (‘Keeping Faith’); and corner each poem, though “it won’t tell you all it knows”. As we learn at the conclusion of ‘How to Capture a Poem’:

……Release it. It has nothing more to dowith you.
……You’re no more its owner
……than you hold the wind. Never expect gratitude.

Yet, in this solid little house of words, that is exactly what we feel.

Donald Gardner in Horizon Review:

Angela Topping’s Catching On is also an occasional work, but of a different order. It’s an elegiac cycle of poems about the death of her friend, the poet Matt Simpson. All the elements of a traditional elegy are there — how the news of his death arrived, her memories of his life and of her, perhaps awkward, relation with him — friendship with desire as undercurrent — and their shared love of poetry as the thread through their relationship over the years. These are honest poems that hold their nerve, grieving, loving and yet tactful and restrained to the last line.

Matt Simpson, Stride
On The Way We Came (bluechrome 2007)
Angela Topping’s poetry is now fully-fledged: her poems are as finely-crafted as she can make them – the products of always being in quest of perfection, the elusive only-words in their only-order. They are, in a word, self-assured, the genuine article.

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