James Bell was born in Scotland & has lived in Devon for many years.
His chapbook the just vanished place was published in 2008. His
debut collection - fishing for beginners (published april 2010)
- draws heavily from the rural environment in which he lives. Widely
published in the small press and featuring at many readings and festivals
he is also co-presenter of Uncut Poets, in Exeter.
fishing for beginners
The poems in fishing for beginners engage the reader on a
quiet, thoughtful journey where water is never far from the poet’s
thoughts and imaginings. Sometimes cautious, sometimes experimental,
James writes with authority and wit, yet always with a deft eye for the
significant detail that marks him out as a poet of maturity and craft.
This is a collection to savour.
Shifts of water glitter all through this collection. James Bell
shares what he recalls, understands and loves from the cruel cackle
of a gull to the trim of silver on wet sand. He lends us a new awareness
of times and places, sometimes with pawky humour, always with
lyrical honesty. Harry Guest
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A series of ninety-nine, nine line poems, each poem
celebrating the moment that has just passed. Each poem
is in turn evocative and strangely engaging, contemporary
and timeless, there is no surety: arrival and departure blend
with Beckett-like erudition and touches of humour.
Some poets find restrictions strangely liberating and James Bell is one such.
He has nine lines to get his message across, no more, no less, and his nine-liners
are as liberating for the reader as they obviously were for the poet.
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More Poetry Review
Most of the poems in this collection are set in a landscape of rivers edging the sea – and yes, there are cliffs and clouds and cormorants, but it’s not a neo-Victorian eulogy to ‘nature’, it’s just there. The author uses both himself as protagonist and a convincing He, an observing, wondering beachcomber of a figure, a device for metaphor, explanations, for an ordering of the relationship between creatures – fish, birds, etc. – and ourselves.
The descriptions, observations, are mostly simple, matter-of-fact and tellingly immediate, as in – and I chose more or less at random – the first stanza of the other invasion:
today you counted 165 canada geese
who swam like an invasion flotilla upstream
in the light of a dull day
a cold day too where
the river was calm & sharp to the eye
Often amusingly anthropomorphic – and always knowing when he is being so – the poet never gets carried away by a poem, sharing with us his constant awareness of exactly what he is doing.
There is a dry, philosophical humour humming through the pages of this book, and, at times, a quiet, understated sense of the ridiculous. It may well be that James Bell, despite the title of his work, has never been fishing in his life, but it is obvious that he is very familiar with the crafting of good poetry.