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REVIEWS

“Essential reading on any expedition – especially on long cold bivouacs!!!”
Sir Chris Bonington

"This is grass roots stuff ... marvellously entertaining"
Ken Wilson

"I bought the 'Owl and the Cragrat' the other day after meaning to get a round to it for a long, long time. Its excellent. really, really brilliant. I read it to anyone who would listen on the beach this weekend. B****y well done!"
'JoH' on UKClimbing forums, July 2006

"I agree, JoH, it's on my bedside table! :)"
'Sandrine' on UKClimbing forums, August 2006

"Good stuff, and great to see such a display of creativity. Well done to all of you for having the gumption to get it published!"
'Steve' on UKClimbing forums, November 2005

"I am not a climber but was pointed in the craggy direction of this book by a climbing friend (I had just sent him a poem I'd written after he told me of his experiences at Alpine Hut Dix). As a poet I approached 'The Owl and the Cragrat' with some trepidation. Two hours later - I couldn't put it down - my face is streaming with tears, my jaws ache from laughing and if my neighbours had been in, no doubt they would have called the funny farm. Even my non-poetry husband will read these - maybe he'll learn a thing or two about our rich poetical heritage. I'm not normally a 'rhymer' - I like to feel my way along the crevices of free verse - but I can see the appeal. These poems are a delight. If you ever think of publishing more climbing poems I'd be interested in sending you some from the other end of the rope, so to speak, as a patient wife of someone who always has his eyes scanning the rocks for possibilities. I recommend this book to climbers and non-climbers alike and will take it to my writing group tonight - I know they will love it. Star-rating: ***** (five is tops) Best wishes .."
Moira Clark, April 2005

"When this volume was dropped into my hands, my first thought was that it was a compendium of all those rather rude songs and verses we used to recite in the pubs of the '60s, before getting slung out by the irate landlord. But no. Neither is it a collection of modern climbing verse which, though often good, is sometimes abstruse and unapproachable to all but the regular poetry reader. It is, in fact, a collection of all those familiar poems that we have come to know or half know over the years, cleverly transformed for the climber of rock. … It's all there, life and death, soloing, fear, bouldering, you name it, and in the main it works remarkably well, sometimes almost as well as in the original version … Roger McGough's 'Let Me Die a Young Man's Death' had me tittering into my broth: 'Or when I'm 91 With silver hair, & soloing Hubble for a dare, May rival climbers, With high-powered bolt-guns shoot me down, And leave me dead and bolted to the ground". Many of the poems are amusing, some are more serious and others touch the heart such that we say 'Yes, I know that, I've been there too'. Hidden within the many topics are well-ground axes poised above the hated chippers, the despised top-ropers that hog the crag all day and the bands of no-interest outdoor groups stuffing plastic bottles under boulders and scratching their initials on to our rocks. Marc Chrysanthou as well as being a very competent climber is also a distinguished poet who has contributed much to the world of climbing poetry. Aided and abetted by Gordon Stainforth, sort of climber and landscape photographer extraordinaire, and contributions include a sprinkling of verses from other climbers. This is a smashing little book to dip into at any time and left around our house, climbers and non-climbers alike have been spotted flicking through the pages and grinning over the contents. Take it with you to The Alps, pack it in the camper-van and settle down while the rain drums on the roof. Essential reading."
Chris Jackson, High magazine, October 2004

"What if Shakespeare had been a slab climber? Would Hamlet have questioned 'To smear or not to smear; that is the question?' Or, indeed, what if William Wordsworth had been a gritstone hardman? Would he have written 'I wander'd once up to Hen Cloud / that floats on high o'er Staffordshire's hills, / when all at once I saw a crowd, / a host of toproping imbeciles?' If the great laureates had climbed, we wouldn't have had to wait for The Owl and the Cragrat, a collection of 78 poems written by average British climbers, 'adaptations' of verse, whose original authors range from Kipling and Poe to Bob Dylan and Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor.
The poets' deep love and respect for UK cragging, with its associated eccentricities, history, people, and places, flows from every page. There are odes to routes (
Grooved Arete V Diff at Best); indoor walls (Upon Leeds Wall Stairs); footwear (Sonnet to an Anasazi Slipper); as well as celebrated heroes like Joe Brown. 'He did not cease from mental strife,/ nor did the skin stay on his hands, / He put up routes that we still fear: / He's England's greatest mountain man.'
There are enough references to classic routes, little-known crags, smoke-filled club huts, the BMC (British Mountaineering Council), greasy-spoon caféés and tea drinking to make the typical American weekend warrior feel somewhat out of the loop. Not to worry, though, as there are many poems in here that cross all borders – poems that cover every element of the climbing experience. Who wouldn't be buoyed byt the version of Kipling's 'If' that ends: 'If you can brave the unforgiving mountain / with sixty metres' worth of nine-mill line, / yours are the heights and all the honours, / and – much more – the title "Climber" will be thine!'?
The subject of grades, bouldering, and change, refreshingly, get plenty of coverage, and a clever spin is places on A A Milne's 'Buckingham Palace': 'They're changing the grades, and I think it's callous, / headpointed, toproped, soloed with a mattress. / We saw a young man strapped to a mat, / "See how his Mum has knitted his hat,"/ says Alice.'
Whole poems are devoted to single moves, as with 'Brad Pit': 'How do I climb thee?! Let me count the ways. / I'll climb thee by a stretch and lunge to the height / my arms can reach when the jug that's out of sight / will feel my fingers slot into place.'
This book is best dipped into at random, and while every once in a while you may pick out a dud, strained and overburdened with inside jokes and forced rhymes,
The Owl and the Cragrat bulges with hilariously irreverent 'piss takes', and words to inspire all climbers, whether they're beginners, lifers, poetry lovers or not. 'I give my chalk-warmed hands a shake, / and squeak my boots (so no mistake). / The only other sound the leap / of soul to rock and hand on flake.' "
Andy Gill, Climber, October 2004

"Just a quick note to thank you for my copy of The Owl and the Cragrat, following the Summit competition - fantastic!
All the best,"
Jim Sheldrake, August 2004

"Congratulations on publishing such a masterpiece"
Dr. Jon Sussman, Consultant Neurologist, Greater Manchester Neuroscience Centre, June 2004

"What a great book!"
Sam Taylor-Heard, Lancaster University Hiking Club, June 2004

"Inspired by a thread on ukclimbing.com, this is a great little book featuring all sorts of poems and songs adapted for climbers. ‘If I should die think only this of me; that there is some corner of some … gritstone edge’, you get the idea. Anyway, it works – very well."
Alex Messenger, Summit, Summer 2004

"Here's a new read that's destined to seep its way into climbing culture ... The Owl & the Cragrat is an anthology of poems in which the world's classics have been reworked into climb rhymes. Many are great and read as if they've been about climbing all along, while others take on a playful tongue-in-cheek tone..."
Trail, June 2004

"I had forgotten about 'Jerusalem' until I picked up a new anthology of climbing poetry the other day - to find that the hymn had been turned into an 'Ode to Joe Brown'. Sacrilege? Well, it may be quirky and irreverent, but the idea is hugely entertaining.... My overall verdict? The re-writing of classics may have its critics, but the poems are great fun."
Tom Waghorn, Manchester Evening News, May 15, 2004

"Ken 'Daffodils' Wilson and Geoffrey Chaucer, thinly disguised as Gordon Stainforth, made unscheduled appearances on stage, reading effective spoofs from the previously undiscovered and newly published classic The Owl & the Cragrat."
Kevin Borman, High, June 2004

"Very clever ... always funny"
Bernard Newman, Climber, May 2004

"I've just got my copy of The Owl and the Cragrat anthology of poetry and recommend it to EVERYONE, a real tour de force. John Horscroft will be singing its praises everywhere, I have no doubt."
Michael Pinder, minutes of the BMC Peak Area Meeting, April 2004

"A fantastic little book.... I took this book on a recent trip to Fontainebleau and put it on the dining table one evening ... it was passed around with great interest.... I'd highly recommend getting a copy. Leave it in your bathroom, take it away on holiday, give it at Christmas."
Matt Heason, PlanetFear.com

"Wonderful, witty, sensitive, funny, moving poetry"
Peter Jones

”I have just spent twenty minutes over an excellent cup of real coffee - mainly undrunk and cold thanks to The Owl and Cragrat."
Chris Fitzhugh

 
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