Simon Collings

stories, poetry, reviews

Wretched strangers

Stride has just published my review of Wretched Strangers, an anthology of writing about ‘borders, movement, homes’, edited by Agnes Lehoczky and JT Welsch. Describing books as ‘timely’ is common practice among reviewers and publishers – and usually vacuous. It’s not a word I would normally use of poetry. But against the backdrop of the ongoing Brexit saga, this volume is actually in a sense ‘timely’. It isn’t going to change the eventual outcome of ‘Brexit’ – whatever that finally turns out to be – but it is a thoughtful contribution to the national ‘conversation’ about migration and what constitutes ‘identity’.

There are some big name contributors here, alongside less well-known writers. I mention Lisa Samuels thought-provocking prose piece in my review. Other highlights include poems by Alice Notely, Ulli Frier, Jeff Hilson, Rachel Blu du Plessis, and Wilson Bueno (trans. Erin Moure).

One of Notely’s two poems is a witty account of a dinner for ‘international poets’ hosted by the then French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, himself a poet, in 2005. Hardly anyone there knows who Notely is, and the identity of many of the other guests remains a mystery to her.

In the second poem she describes the humiliating and tedious process of renewing her French residency permit in 2002, when she ‘had to go to Boulevard Sebastopol at 6AM stand in line/for 5 hours outside the prefecture with masses of/people Asian Africa Middle-Eastern the world is every-//where mixed up now  I shared a blanket for warmth/with a woman from La Reunion.’ The process in 2012, she acknowledges, was a lot easier.

The volume also contains  moving prose pieces by Kapka Kassabova (about the Turkish/Europe border) and Ethel Maqeda (a chilling account of political violence in Zimbabwe).


I have a poem ‘Postcard to Baudelaire‘ in the online magazine Stride today. This is part of a project called ‘Talking to the Dead’. There are some great contributions from other poets in this series, with more to come. The choice of Baudelaire as a correspondent was influenced by my recently having reviewed Lisa Robertson’s new book The Baudelaire Fractal, which in turn led me to re-read Les Fleurs du Mal.

Remix poem

I have a poem in Stride magazine as part of a ‘remix’ project – contributors were invited to submit a poem along with a remixed version. My contribution – ‘Towards New Distributions’ – can be read here. You can check out the remix poems of other writers who have been contributing to the project here.

Natural remedy

I have a short prose piece in this week’s International Times.  Another Covid-19 related fiction.

On the tourist trail

I have another short prose piece in this week’s International Times – artwork by Rupert Loydell. Will we travel less after the Covid-19 pandemic?

The Whalebone Box

Fortnightly Review has just published my review essay on Andrew Kötting’s latest film The Whalebone Box. Part zany travelogue, part dream narrative, the movie defies easy categorisation, as indeed does much of Kötting’s work.  As the ‘Alpabetarium of Kötting’, published on the filmmaker’s website, says: ‘The work is as much process as framed product. In constant flux, images and sounds migrate, are curious about the elsewhere, are remixed, lose titles and gain new labels briefly; fixity is not the spine here; things arrive into being, are held like water in the hand, then pass on. Are flawed, unfinished.’  Kötting’s output is some of the best work made in the UK in the last twenty years, always inventive, often playful, and frequently challenging. A filmmaker worth getting to know.


I have a short prose piece – Beetles – in this week’s International Times. It’s vaguely coronavirus related. There’s also a nice prose poem by Mike Ferguson in this issue.

New translations of Roussel

Litter magazine has just published my review of Mark Ford’s new book of translations of previously untranslated texts by the eccentric French writer Raymond Roussel. Ford is an expert on Roussel, and an accomplished poet himself. These translations are highly readable, great fun, and come with an informative introduction. A must for Roussel fans.

Lisa Robertson ‘The Baudelaire Fractal’

I have just had published, in Litter magazine, a review of Lisa Robertson’s latest book The Baudelaire Fractal. Robertson describes this work as a ‘novel’ but it’s something closer to a mix of memoir, essay, and fiction. The way Robertson, with her typical elegance, subverts our idea of ‘genre’ is one of the pleasures of the book. Her exploration of the ‘female’ in Baudelaire is also intriguing. Feminist critics have recently been reappraising Baudelaire – some interesting reflections on this here.



The Fire

I have a short prose piece in this weeks International Times I wrote this a while ago but it perhaps has some relevance to the Covid-19 pandemic and those who don’t take it seriously.

Three new prose poems

Three of my prose poems have just been published in Litter magazine. Lots of great material in this online publication – poems and reviews.