Algebra of Owls does *not* print reviews, but when my co-editor Hannah Stone volunteered to write a review of Prole magazine I was more than happy to accommodate it, as it is a journal for which I have a lot of respect.
Review of Prole, Poetry and Prose, Issue 22
“According to the rubric for its Pamphlet Competition, Prole ‘always seeks to publish work that challenges, engages and entertains.’ Issue 22 meets the brief with energy. I did not equally enjoy every piece that I read, but the standard of writing was high. The variety of content, the care with which the items are ordered, and the production values are all to be commended. The image used for the front cover draws you in to a meaty collection of writing, split roughly equally between prose and poetry. In addition, there are results and adjudication comments of the Prole Laureate Poetry Competition, and advertisements for the forthcoming Pamphlet Competition and a couple of publications, including the editor’s own debut pamphlet. Taken as a whole, this is evidence of a (successful) bid to make a serious contribution to the community of printed contemporary writing. That is not to say that the contents are always serious. There is dark humour in Rebecca Sandeman’s fantasy dystopia, and wry smiles in the beautifully pitched reinterpretation of ‘family’ in the multiracial world delineated by Dave Wakely.
Over 40 poems, most of them sole offerings of particular poets, allow for considerable diversity. A ‘house style’ is however evident, in the dominance of free verse. Much of the poetry speaks very immediately; some requires – or invites– re-reading. In particular I enjoyed Robert Nisbet’s ‘In a Strange Land’, which uses four brief but shapely stanzas to delineate the dynamic between alienation and belonging, showing how experience is, literally, translated. Tom Moody’s ‘Taboo’ asks difficult questions, again with apparent economy of effort. Margaret Beston’s ‘Commodity’ reworks the imagery of sheep-shearing in a first person account of a village girl whose poverty drives her to sell the ‘crop’ of her hair. The prompts to the poems include perennials such as love, death and losses both literal and metaphorical; there’s also ekphrastic response in Jo Colley’s ‘My dress hangs there’, and urgent re-evaluations of political posturing: Nick Lovell’s ‘All for some not some for all’ and John Hawkhead’s ‘A Cook’s Hand’ speak with authority on the imbecility of war. Male poets predominate in this issue; this is just how it pans out sometimes. I was certainly engaged and entertained and at times challenged; congratulations to all who contributed to Issue 22, and to the production team and editors.”