The Unknown Bird

While reading through the poems and prose of John Clare recently in order to compile a quiz for literary ornithologists, I found references to mystery birds, an unexpected treat in this poet who sees and finds a name for everything. ‘I frit them up from Swordy well a pond so called by the roman bank which … Continue reading

Beat the Ban!

New rules, implemented last November by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, mean that UK prisoners are banned from receiving books and other items in the post. The effect on the prisoners is inevitably demoralising and has led to much discussion (see today’s Bookseller) and public protest. ‘In prison you exist on dreams’ writes Erwin James of … Continue reading

Poetry Reading: Julie-ann Rowell

  Julie-ann Rowell Reads Two Poems   ‘Photograph by Shomei Tomatsu’   PHOTOGRAPH BY SHOMEI TOMATSU, MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK      Black and white, it resembled a carcass on a hook,   the kind of image Francis Bacon would have coveted, owned up to:   human or animal, origins uncertain, could be … Continue reading

Reader 54

Reader 54 Summer Issue is now on sale (£6.95), featuring novelist Salley Vickers (The Cleaner of Chartres); Guardian writer Erwin James; novelist, biographer and critic Margaret Drabble (the 2000 Oxford Companion to English Literature and The Radiant Way, 2014), together with philanthropist and retired IT businesswoman Dame Stephanie Shirley, who writes about her flight as a young girl from Nazi … Continue reading


It has been the guiding principle of the Reader magazine that new and established writers should find a home side by side on our pages with no distinction drawn between them. The quality of the writing is what matters. And in the same spirit we want our readers to feel close to the quick of the … Continue reading

Erwin James: Where A Good Book Might Take You…

In prison you exist on dreams, nightmares and fantasies. When you are locked and isolated in a cell for twenty three hours out of twenty four you try to block the nightmares, enjoy the dreams and occasionally indulge in fantasies. I found this out after I was sentenced to life imprisonment and taken from the … Continue reading