Wayne Holloway-Smith interviews & reviews & books of the year

Wayne Holloway-Smith interviews & reviews & books of the year

‘Wayne Holloway-Smith’s Love Minus Love is fiercely playful in its confrontation of truths that are as familiar, and familial, as they are painful: how we are always situated in relation, and how we depend on those dynamics, however toxic, to define ourselves. The work traces the erosion of connection between child and parent, meaning and language, body and self.’ – Lavinia Greenlaw, Chair of Judges, 2020 T S Eliot Prize

'Innovative, attentive and yet surreal, Wayne Holloway-Smith’s Love Minus Love fizzes with a watchfulness that unmoors the reader... This work reminds us, unforgettably, what it means to see.' - Sandeep Parmar and Naomi Shihab Nye, Co-Judges, Ledbury Munthe Poetry Prize for Second Collections 2021


Wayne Holloway-Smith’s second collection Love Minus Love is a book-length sequence of poems looking at masculinity, family, trauma and mental health. It was a Poetry Book Society Wild Card Choice for Summer 2020, was shortlisted for both the T S Eliot Prize 2020, and Ledbury Munthe Poetry Prize for Second Collections 2021.  Love Minus Love includes his National Poetry Competition-winning poem ‘the posh mums are boxing in the square’. 

His debut collection Alarum was also a PBS Wild Card Choice, as well as being shortlisted for the Roehampton Poetry Prize 2017 and for the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize for First Full Collection.  ‘Short’, the final poem in Alarum, won the the Poetry Society’s 2016 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize for the best poem in The Poetry Review during 2016.

Wayne Holloway-Smith was appointed as the new Editor of The Poetry Review.  His first issue will be published in Spring 2023.  An interview with Wayne featured in the Winter 2022 issue of Poetry News and can be read online here.



BBC Radio 3's The Verb featured extracts from the T S Eliot Readings on Friday 29 January 2021, re-ordered and re-introduced by Ian McMillan, host of both The Verb and the T S Eliot Prize Readings. 

‘Wayne Holloway-Smith is a wonderful poet of the body… Here are poems of the mind, of the body, of masculinity, of somehow joining ourselves together, which is want we want to do in these times.  Wayne Holloway-Smith, an extraordinary poet.’ – Ian McMillan, introducing Wayne at the T S Eliot Prize Readings

Wayne's reading was introduced by Ian McMillan at 20:09.

Listen via https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000rnj1


The Sunday Times, Sunday 24 January 2021

Poetry critic Jeremy Noel-Tod reviewed all ten collections shortlisted for the 2020 T S Eliot Prize in The Sunday Times of 24 January. 

‘Distorted masculinity haunts Wayne Holloway-Smith’s second collection, Love Minus Love, which circles without self-pity around a violent father and an eating disorder. Like the “posh mums... boxing in the square” in his winning entry to the National Poetry Competition, Holloway-Smith’s nervy, quick verse has a light touch with real feeling behind it.’ - Jeremy Noel-Tod, The Sunday Times

Read here. Online in full by subscription. Register to see a few articles for free.



The Irish Times, Poetry Books of the Year, in print 12 December, online 15 December 2020

Four Bloodaxe titles were chosen by The Irish Times’ poetry critics for their best poetry books of the year feature.

‘Wayne Holloway-Smith’s second collection, Love Minus Love, is a stunning long poem (or poem sequence). Holloway-Smith images can be surreal, nightmarish, traumatic and hilarious. Best of all, among the book’s heart-rending honesty, he is relentlessly inventive, catching us off guard.’ - Seán Hewitt, The Irish Times (Best Poetry Books of 2020)

Online in full by subscription. Read here.


The White Review, Books of the Year, online 22 December 2020

‘I’ve been enjoying the exceptional poetry books published this year, in particular those that opened out to me new possibilities of what poems can do — like being shaken awake! In particular, Daisy Lafarge’s Life Without Air (Granta, 2020) and Wayne Holloway-Smith, Love Minus Love (Bloodaxe, 2020).’ - Lucy Mercer, The White Review (Books of the Year 2020)

Click here to read.

Poetry School, Poetry Books of the Year, online 16 December 2020

‘Wayne Holloway-Smith’s second collection, Love Minus Love, takes the form of a long sequence of untitled poems, where moments, phrases, and even individual words bleed into each other, deconstructing notions of a singular ‘speaker’ and transforming the sequence into a fragmented pattern of recurring, intrusive anxieties. It’s a book preoccupied with trauma and harm, at both the individual and societal level: … But amongst these blistering critiques there is also love, tenderness, and hope…’ - Andy Parkes, Poetry School (Poetry Books of the Year 2020)

Click here to read.

Out-Spoken, Books of the Year, online 11 December 2020

Heidi Williamson’s third collection Return by Minor Road was chosen for Outspoken’s books of the Year online feature, as was Wayne Holloway-Smith’s second collection Love Minus Love.

Love Minus Love by Wayne Holloway-Smith — This book is cool as hell. So cool it throws titles into the gutter, it sticks words together, it swings narratives round its little finger and it jumps on any preconception you have about poetry. This book runs like a comic strip, turning you on every page leading you up a path and then throwing you over a fence. Wayne is the don at the unexpected and I feel this trumps Alarum in its ability to speak things under the surface.’ - Arji Manuelpillai, Outspoken (Books of the Year 2020)

Read the feature here.



'…it’s so intimate and direct: the story of growing up with a single mother, abuse, poverty and bereavement, told with wit and kindness and love....it’s hard, these distracted days, to find something so focused and intent, such an entirely immersive read.'  - Kate Clanchy, New Statesman, recommending Love Minus Love in her diary piece.  Read it here.

An excellent review of Love Minus Love has gone online at The Arts Desk.  Read the full review here.

Love Minus Love is perhaps best understood as a collective, albeit fragmented, verbalisation of this tormented poet’s psyche, with many of its poems reading as snippets overheard from a story already-in-the telling… A heartfelt putting of pen to paper, it is best defined by a single, summative word: bravery. – Daniel Baksi, The Arts Desk


The New Statesman recommended Love Minus Love in their 11 September 2020 issue. Read the full review here.

'The Wiltshire-born poet’s primary concerns – masculinity, abuse, disease – are threaded with wit and a disinterest in sentimentality. He is as playful with form as he is honest with language: in one poem, “the pain of childhood” is literally crossed out on the page, its letters welded together, no spaces between the words. But look closely and you’ll find the grief, hidden in plain sight.' - NS Recommends


Love Minus Love was one of three books reviewed in depth by Ben Ray in the autumn 2020 issue of Oxford Review of Books.  Read the full review here.

‘Perhaps Holloway-Smith’s biggest accomplishment here is in successfully convincing the reader that his introspective subject matter—incorporating identity, masculinity and family turmoil—can be best expressed in this explosive, singular poetic style.’ – Ben Ray, Oxford Review of Books


An in-depth review of Love Minus Love went online at SPAMzine on 13 October 2020.

Love Minus Love is one long sequence, the primary formal effect of which is a kind of layered time in which multiple things are happening at once, a looping track of intrusive thoughts full of recurring meanwhiles and elsewheres and temporal imprecision… Within this narrative unravelling, individual lyric moments are distilled, revealing themselves just as linear biography collapses into itself: here the terrain of memory and experience is mapped out precisely by the speaker’s desire to erase it.’ - Helen Charman, SPAMzine

Read the full review here.

Wayne Holloway-Smith’s Love Minus Love was well reviewed in the Winter issue of The Poetry Review.

‘Wayne Holloway-Smith’s Love Minus Love… reckons with loss and the limits of contemporary masculinity. The collection is a long, fragmented sequence that loops across timelines and distorts expectations of trauma, family, grief, pain, love… With its distinctly uncanny, elastic logic, it suggests that feelings are not whole or quantifiable, and asks what remains when you subtract love from itself – and what expressions of feeling, what conceptions of the self, can be grasped from within this blurred, airless space.’ – Joanna Lee, The Poetry Review

Read the full review here.


Love Minus Love was given a brilliant review on the US-based RHINO.

‘Disease, trauma, wit, sex, love, addiction, looping time, family history, a changing world, work—all evaporate and condense into the best collection I’ve read in 2020… Shortlisted for the 2020 T.S Eliot Prize, Love Minus Love could win, should win, might win, better win—who knows with such things… In my humble 2020 ranking, Holloway-Smith takes top slot.’ – D M O’Connor, RHINO

Read in full here.



An interview with Wayne went online at The Ink Pantry on 8 April 2020.  He spoke to Claire Faulkner about his Bloodaxe collection Love Minus Love, and about the amazing response to his offer to read poems sent to him via Twitter during lockdown.  Read the interview here.



Robert Elms, BBC Radio London, Saturday 15 February 2020, 10am-1pm

Wayne Holloway-Smith was interviewed for a fourth time on the Robert Elms show on 15 February.  He is ‘Poet in Residence’ for the show. (He was interviewed again on 5 September 2020,  2 January and 20 March 2021, but those programmes are no longer available on BBC Sounds.) 

Wayne was on the show to talk about Valentine’s Day, love poetry, writing, spectacles and much else besides.  Wayne read a new love poem that has given the title to his next book, but is not included in it: ‘Love Minus Love’.  Wayne’s second collection Love Minus Love was by Bloodaxe in 2020.

The full 22-minute interview is no longer available to listen to online, but a clip of Wayne reading the poem, illustrated with a photo of him in ‘spectacular’ new spectacles, remains available:.

Wayne read his National Poetry Competition-winning poem on BBC Radio London's Robert Elms show in March 2019.  Click here to listen (available as a separate 14-minute clip). Wayne has made four further appearances on the Robert Elms show on 18 May, 5 October 2019, 15 February 2020 and now 5 September 2020, and has been made ‘Poet in Residence’ for the show.


Cillian Murphy’s Limited Edition, BBC 6 Music, Monday 2 November 2020, midnight

Wayne Holloway-Smith recorded his poem ‘the posh mums are boxing in the square’ from his T S Eliot-shortlisted second collection Love Minus Love especially for Cillian Murphy’s BBC 6 Music show. This poem won first prize in the 2018 National Poetry Competition.

‘Wayne Holloway-Smith is a poet you should really look into. He’s incredibly talented.’ – Cillian Murphy

‘Cillian Murphy curates a nocturnal playlist, made for after midnight. Featuring music both old and new -ranging from afrobeat to electronica, jazz, spoken word and poetry. Music comes from J.J Cale, Loyle Carner and Tom Waits. There's also a specially recorded poem from Wayne Holloway-Smith. And in Songs From Under The Stairs Cillian rediscovers a piece of music that he hasn't played in years.’

The programme was broadcast on 2 November 2020. Wayne’s poem featured  from 51:00. No longer available to listen to, but details here.


Wayne Holloway-Smith filmed by the T. S. Eliot Prize

Wayne talks about his work and collection Love Minus Love, published by Bloodaxe Books and shortlisted for the 2020 T. S. Eliot Prize.


Wayne Holloway-Smith reads from Love Minus Love, extract one: 'when he is dancing in a red field at nighttime'


Wayne Holloway-Smith: Love Minus Love launch reading

Wayne Holloway-Smith launched his new collection Love Minus Love in a Bloodaxe online launch reading shared with Pascale Petit and Phoebe Stuckes on 8 September 2020. This video is an excerpt from that event which went out on YouTube Live.



Reviews & interviews in connection with Alarum

The Echo Chamber: Live at the Contains Strong Language Festival, BBC Radio 4, Sunday 7 October 2018 - re-broadcast on Radio 4 Extra, Sunday 17 January 2021

Wayne Holloway-Smith took part in special live edition of The Echo Chamber that was recorded in front of a theatre audience at the BBC Contains Strong Language Festival in Hull on 30 September 2018.  All four interviewed poets spoke about how they came to poetry.

‘Jacob Polley, Caroline Bird, Wayne Holloway-Smith and Mary Jean Chan join Paul Farley on stage for a special edition of BBC Radio 4’s contemporary poetry series The Echo Chamber.’

The full programme is no longer available, but a separate clip is still available to listen to via BBC Sounds. It features Wayne Holloway-Smith speaking about what he thought about poets & poetry when growing up: "I don't think I really knew that poets existed."   Click here to listen.

Rebroadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra on Sunday 17 January 2021. Details here.  Available until 16 February 2021.


'A vital book about working class identity' - Andrew McMillan on Alarum, his Winter Guest Selection for the Winter 2017 PBS Bulletin

'enviably good.. hilarious and witty, it’s also terrifically sad, but wears its tragedy so lightly at first it’s hard to notice. - John Challis writing about Alarum for The Poetry School

Click here to read the full review

An interview with Wayne is in Honest Ulsterman magazine here.

[07 September 2020]

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