My pamphlet ‘Those People’ was published in May 2015 by Smith/Doorstop. The competition judge, US poet Billy Collins said of the poems:
‘Funny and quite serious at the same time, these poems cast a fresh, ironic eye on contemporary life and find a wild variety of fields in which to play. The colloquial tone and satirical brilliance might make a reader wish to hear more, ideally over a pint or two.’
To my knowledge, it has since been reviewed by/on:
Kim Moore (May): ‘I really enjoyed the whole of Paul’s pamphlet. All the way through he is experimenting with language and form – I think it’s really exciting stuff. If I had to pick three other favourite poems in the pamphlet they would be Do You Have Any Questions, Gare du Midi and The Pull.’
Rogue Strands (June, Matthew Stewart): ‘Paul Stephenson is a linguist, and this background shines through in his first pamphlet, Those People (Smith-Doorstop, 2015). Stephenson’s awareness of the nuts and bolts of language has been heightened both by having learnt a foreign language and by having lived abroad among non-native speakers of English.’
WordsUnlimited (July, Pam Johnson): ‘The poems are inventive and risk-taking, achieving a fine balance between the witty and the humane […] the pleasure with words, their playful associations, is threaded through your work.’
Sabotage Reviews (August, Anthony Costello): ‘The effect is a kind of off-poetry or near-poetry or new-poetry that is too inchoate to name indelibly. Sean O’Brien plumps for “faux-urbane” to explain a style of poetry that is guarded in its self-expression. I feel it is poetry exploring an ambition to draw riches from the benign […] The novella poet notices everything, is honest – sometimes mercilessly so – is amusing and witty, and writes in a languidly elegant style with pitch perfect phrases. He can be undaunted, intelligent, charming, talented, and all things jazz.’
Nomadic Permanence (August, Rob Packer): ‘The first thing you notice about the poems here is the nimble use of language […] there is an inescapable sadness to them [the images] that on one level picks apart the very appropriateness of them, but on another is complicit with the jokes. As improbable as it may seem, Stephenson manages to explore the deepest of feelings through kitsch. And that is some achievement.’
Sphinx Reviews (January 2016, D A Prince): ‘Playful, intelligent, generous, working in us softly – Stephenson’s poems often work this way’.
Anna Saunders, Festival Director, Cheltenham Poetry Festival (May 2017) ‘A clever, playful, highly original book. Full of surprise and invention. Some of the poems are incredibly moving and poignant. Some are playful. They are all masterful. I love the way you use humour and balance it with pathos, for example in Birthday Cards. Your voice is brave and you have the timing of a comedian with that thin line between farce and tragedy, such as that nervous brittle humour during grief. I like the way you lure the reader into a sense of ease, then in such succinct and imagistic stanzas you bring them crushing down with a killer last line. There’s a clear, colloquial voice with sparing but hard-hitting images. And the way you use dramatic characteristic in your poems and reported speech makes them really engaging, human and grounded.’
Maria Isakova Bennett on her blog in a review called ‘The Poignancy of Being‘ (November 2019).
Maria Isakova Bennett in Orbis magazine: ‘Paul Stephenson’s book, ‘Those People’, is comprised of twenty-three poems revealing a fascination with language, word-play and syntax, an acute ear, and an eye for the poignant in the humour of the everyday, but also an eye for humour in the poignant, each almost voyeuristic and concerned with an overview of a neighbourhood, are accessible poems which hold more than is initially apparent beneath the surface […] I recommend ‘Those People’, a book to be savoured by reading with the same acute observation with which it was written.’
And here are a few comments from readers.
Hilary Custance Green: There is a delightful mixture of his impish (Passwords) and tragic (Birthday Cards) take on life and delight in words (Wake Up And…) and sharp and hilarious observations (Angle End) and all these elements crossfire within the poems.’
You can order a copy here.
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