View from the Cheap Seats by Barry Holland

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View from the Cheap Seats by Barry Holland

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Category: Anthologies
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Poems and imaginings from a single father, brother, rugby fan, Welshman, and struggler with mental illness. Striking pieces that will stay with you for a long time.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 108 Date: June 2016
Publisher: AuthorHouse
ISBN: 1524633127

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A little bit about Barry Holland: he was born in Newport, South Wales, to working class parents. He loves rugby and his son - his son is his favourite rugby player, which is just as it should be. He is a qualified engineer but is unable to work because of mental ill health. All of these things feed into View from the Cheap Seats, which is a collection of poems and imaginings as vivid and immediate and striking as you could hope for. Barry sounds like a thoroughly nice bloke and his book was a pleasure to read.

I loved Chester Drawes - a funny portrait of a man with a penchant for waistcoats - only one at a time, of course - because woolly jumpers take your mind to sheep and we all know the stories about Welshmen and sheep. Chester has nothing to do with James Bond at all but if Barry suggests he might, he'll get you interested, won't he? Chester and Barry made me laugh out loud here. It's a perfect flight of fantasy and it kind of reminded me of the Monty Python word association football script.

I'm So Proud of You speaks of a parent's love for his child. It's heartfelt and earnest and genuinely striking in its simplicity - When people say your name, I beam inside and the light shines from me, I am so proud of you. I wish I had written that about one of my sons because it is exactly how I feel, too. There are times, as a parent, when you feel as though you are about to combust with the size of the love you feel and Holland captures it perfectly.

Other highlights for me included Crumpled, which repeats the title word in a whimsical cameo, Comedian, which illuminates the joke teller as a person with a secret, hidden inner self, and The Cheap Seats, which speaks very, very clearly of the stigmatisation of poverty.

These are just my highlights, though. Elsewhere, Holland talks of his struggles with mental ill health, overflows with more love for his son, tells stories of people he has met throughout his life, and just generally offers his own unique perspective on just about everything. I found the poems vivid and striking and often unexpected. There's kitchen sink comment, romantic musings, and a dollop of cri de coeur. There is light and shade, pleasure and pain. I can't imagine a person who wouldn't find something to like here.

It's always nice to find a writer with a clearly genuine and original voice. Barry Holland is one of those. I would like to read more from him.

You might also enjoy Walking Home by Simon Armitage - an engaging walk down the Pennine Way, told by a poet with a great command of the English language. You get thoughts on loneliness and some poems, too.

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Buy View from the Cheap Seats by Barry Holland at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy View from the Cheap Seats by Barry Holland at


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