Tuesday, 24 November 2015

52 - the book

It provided a year's worth of poetry writing prompts, hints and tips, and now you can get it in book form.

52 was a project that ran throughout 2014, and the new volume from Nine Arches Press anthologises those prompts, from Jo Bell and a team of guest poets, including myself, alongside some fine poetry ranging from John Donne to Kei Miller.

Read more about the making of the book here, or order it here.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Try The Nightwatchman

The Nightwatchman, the cricket quarterly of a decidedly literary bent, will be posting some of the best pieces from its first three years here.

There's also a Select XI of essays from issues 1-11 here, so you can get a taste for this fine publication. And remember, The Nightwatchman is always on the lookout for cricket-related essays, poems, and other pieces of writing.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Daniel Sluman, Cora Greenhill & Stephen Payne, 16.11.15

On Monday night, I was at the last Nine Arches Press/Crystal Clear Creators Shindig of the year, at The Western in Leicester.

As usual, the open mic readers were both varied and of high quality, and it's particularly good to hear pieces of short fiction punctuating the poetry.

The featured readers were all poets whose work I'm familiar with, and all, I thought, shared something in their delivery of their work. They're undemonstrative yet expressive, they pace both the individual poems and the whole set beautifully, and there was always a slight tension underlying their readings, a result, I think, of their ability to create a stillness in the room, a feeling that something is about to happen.

Cora Greenhill's The Point Of Waking is a collection that I've returned to a couple of times over the last year or so, and her reading here will no doubt send me back to it again.

Stephen Payne's Pattern Beyond Chance is recently out from HappenStance, and it's full of collisions between poetry and science, reflecting his day job. Above all, they're poems that constantly ask questions, both about their subject matter and the means of expressing it, and that curiosity is infectious - you start asking the same questions, too.

Finally, Daniel Sluman's the terrible is his second collection from Nine Arches. Judging from what we heard here, it builds on the many strengths of his debut by managing to be even more starkly honest. The result is both harrowing, at times, but also full of astonishing tenderness. The title poem, in particular, was stunning. It's a very difficult balancing act to pull off, but he does it beautifully, and I can't wait to read the book.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Map reviewed

Over at London Grip Poetry Review, there's a review by Martin Noutch of Map - Poems After William Smith's Geological Map of 1815, edited by Michael McKimm and available from Worple Press.

He has kind words for a lot of the poets involved, including myself, for which I'm very grateful. Most of all, though, it's another chance to draw attention to a very fine anthology about a remarkable man and his work. Give it a try.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Nine Arches / Crystal Clear Creators Shindig

Daniel Sluman, Cora Greenhill and Stephen Payne are the featured readers at the latest Shindig, hosted by Nine Arches Press, Crystal Clear Creators and the Centre for New Writing, at The Western, Western Road, Leicester LE3 0GA, from 7.30pm on Monday, November 16th.

Dan will be reading from his new Nine Arches collection the terrible, while Stephen also has as new book out, Pattern Beyond Chance, from the ever-wonderful HappenStance.

As always, entry is free, and you can sign up for an open mic slot on the door.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Poem at Rogue Strands

Thanks are due to Matthew Stewart for choosing to feature a poem of mine - Comeback - on his blog Rogue Strands. It's from my first chapbook, Making The Most Of The Light, which came out just over 10 years ago now. As Matthew says, it is now out of print - I thought for a while I'd even lost the copy that I use at readings, but thankfully i turned up the other week as I was packing to move house.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Alternative realities

A couple of weeks ago I came across this feature online, and only got round to reading it yesterday. All very intriguing, but I'm such a layman, scientifically, that I really need someone to explain a few things to me. 

For starters, how would it be possible to prove mathematically that these many interacting worlds exist (as the article seems to to suggest could happen)? I suspect that the answer is very hard to boil down to a few short paragraphs, although don't let that put you off trying!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

For or after

I've been writing a poem that takes as its inspiration, or at least its point of departure, an album by a favourite songwriter of mine. He's not exactly a household name worldwide, but he's still pretty well-known.

Thing is, I don't want to use his name in the poem's title (because I already have a good title), but I think I do need to give the reader a pointer as to who it's about, because as I've said, he's not so famous that they automatically know.

So how do you do it? Making it "for..." doesn't seem right, given that I've never met the bloke or had any sort of contact with him. I'm not sure, though, that "after..." does either, because although a few words of his lyrics appear in the poem, it isn't really that closely connected to any of his songs. So is there another way? Advice very welcome.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Poetry plagiarism

Really rather good take on the whole poetry plagiarism issue by Channel 4 News here – Ira Lightman comes across really well, I think.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A winning formula

Come on, writerly types, you can admit it to me. While 'working from home', 'waiting for inspiration', or 'doing research', you've watched a ridiculous number of episodes of Murder She Wrote, haven't you? As an aid to procrastination, it's right up there with emptying out the toaster's crumb tray, or rearranging your CDs in alphabetical order.

Well, a gentleman called Tom Francis has come up with the formula for the stock episode of the gentle whodunnit, and it's right on the money. Thing is, funny as it is, it does also highlight how TV audiences tend to like to know what they're getting.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Sleep paralysis

I read this in The Guardian earlier, although I haven't seen the documentary that it talks about. I used to get sleep paralysis on a regular basis, and it could be terrifying at times, although other times it was merely weird, and once or twice funny.

What's interesting, I suppose, is that SP has spawned such a range of folkloric explanations across the world, as well as playing its part in creating the whole alien abduction phenomenon.

I'd be interested to know if anyone knows of any poetry that deals with sleep paralysis - I've written one or two unpublished pieces myself, but it's hard to find the right tone, because however frightening it can be, briefly, it doesn't really have any lasting effects.

Incidentally, I haven't had an episode for about four years - avoiding falling asleep lying on my back seems to have helped, as does simply getting more sleep.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Forward Poetry Prize 2015

I have a lot of doubts about 'prize culture' in poetry generally, but in recent years, the Forward Prize shortlists have become a great deal more diverse, and they deserve a lot of credit for that. Anything that gets a wider range of poetry and poets into the public eye has to be worthwhile. So, congratulations to all Monday night's winners - plenty of future reading for me to do.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Autumn Poetry @ Upstairs at The Western

There's a special one-off event celebrating new poetry with Nine Arches Press and the Centre for New Writing at the University of Leicester, on Monday, 5th October, 2015.

It takes place Upstairs at the Western, Leicester's only pub theatre, at the Western, Western Road, Leicester, LE3 0GA. Doors open at 7.30pm for readings by poets:

Alistair Noon was born in 1970 and grew up in Aylesbury. Besides time spent in Russia and China, he has lived in Berlin since the early nineties, where he works as a translator. He has published poetry, including translations from German and Russian, in nine chapbooks from small presses, a collaboration with Giles Goodland (Surveyors' Riddles) and Earth Records (Nine Arches, 2012, short-listed for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize). The Kerosene Singing is his second full-length collection.

Myra Connell grew up in Northern Ireland and now lives in Birmingham where she works as a psychotherapist. Her stories are published in various places, including the Tindal Street Press anthologies, Her Majesty and Are You She? Her poems have appeared in Under the Radar, Obsessed with Pipework and The Moth. Her first pamphlet was A Still Dark Kind of Work (Heaventree Press, 2008), and her second, From the Boat (Nine Arches, 2010). Her debut full collection is House, also just published by Nine Arches Press.

Jonathan Davidson’s new collection: Humfrey Coningsby - poems, complaints, explanations and demands for satisfaction (Valley Press, 2015) purports to be a collection of poems written by the 16th Century traveller and other observers, with a curious contemporary ring to it. It may be. It may not. We may never know. What we do know, is that Jonathan Davidson is a citizen of Coventry and a poet and writer of radio dramas

Rennie Parker comes from West Yorkshire but now lives in Lincolnshire, a county which influenced the poems in her latest collection, Candleshoe (Shoestring Press, 2014). She is currently writing towards a booklet, The Complete Electric Artisan, and recently released two short novels as Kindle e-books, Trust and A Perfect Vicarage Affair.

Entrance is FREE, but you should book tickets to be sure of entry - click here or visit https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/autumn-poetry-upstairs-at-the-western-tickets-18631285677

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Become an Eyewear micro-patron

I recently signed up to become an Eyewear micro-patron - for £10, you get two of the press's titles, 40% off other titles, and exclusive news and invites. I was keen to buy Andrew Shields' book anyway, so it was a bit of a no-brainer - great value. They are, it should be pointed out, really nicely designed books, too. I look forward to reporting back on them soon.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Richard Skinner on Geoffrey Hill

Terrific blogpost here by Richard Skinner, on how he came to appreciate the poetry of Geoffrey Hill, and also about the joy of discovering a much-sought volume in a secondhand bookshop. Hay-on-Wye, of course, is the best place in Britain for such happy accidents, and the Poetry Bookshop in particular is an absolute treasure trove. I'm long overdue another visit.

My own discovery of Hill's work was somewhat similar. I read a handful of poems, including parts of Mercian Hymns, in a university textbook of my sister's, then read the whole of that collection when I was at university myself – I was trying to dig out stuff for an essay on the 8th century Mercian church, and the computer suggested it in the search.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Corbyn and the anthem

Good blogpost here on why Jeremy Corbyn should be applauded for not singing the national anthem - he'd have been a hypocrite to do so, he showed all the respect appropriate to the occasion anyway (which is more than some of the singers did), and thirdly, it's a lousy and absurd anthem anyway.

The real debate, of course, ought to be why we can't have an anthem that isn't offensive to Scots, Catholics and republicans, but I don't suppose we'll have that any time soon. The right-wing press, who have generally had a strange way of showing how much they respect the monarchy in the past, have their own very obvious agenda here. Incidentally, I wonder how many of their 'journalists' and photographers were singing? I wonder, too, how many of those who have criticised Corbyn could sing the anthem in its entirety?

Monday, 14 September 2015

Brian Close, 1931-2015, RIP

"How can a ball hurt you? It's only on you for a second". Not sure if that, like so many other remarks attributed to Close, is apocryphal, but it certainly sums up his attitude.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


"Oddly pointless...but utterly lovely". I think that's probably a fair assessment of Stuff Like That There, Yo La Tengo's new album, which attempts to recreate the laid-back, semi-acoustic vibe of their classic 1990 record Fakebook. Not that pointlessness ever worries me too much where pop music is concerned - I don't mind someone trying to change the world with a song once in a while, but first and foremost, it's supposed to be entertainment, isn't it?

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Leicester Shindig, September 21st, 2015

The latest Nine Arches Press/Crystal Clear Creators Shindig takes place at The Western, Western Road, Leicester, LE3 0GA, from 7.30pm on September 21st – guest readers are Richard Byrt, Robert Peake, Sarah James and Rosie Miles.

As always, open mic slots will be available on the door, and entry is free. And also as always, it's a good idea to get there early to get a good seat.

Monday, 7 September 2015

PJ Kavanagh

Nice obituary of the poet PJ Kavanagh here – I had no idea that he had played the Nazi priest on Father Ted! Possibly my favourite episode of all, and that's saying something when talking about such a consistently great programme.

Interesting to read about his meeting with the poet Patrick Kavanagh, too. They're both poets whose work I like a lot, although it doesn't sound as though the older man would have been a barrel of laughs in person.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The importance of county cricket

Excellent piece on CricInfo today about why the administrators of our cricket should stop meddling with the structure of county cricket - it actually works pretty well. It also touches on the way that the richer counties, those with test match grounds, carry too much clout, despite their often poor record of producing international players.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Primers - a final reminder

The Poetry School and Nine Arches Press  are delighted to announce the arrival of Primers, a new annual scheme creating a unique opportunity for talented poets to find publication and receive a programme of supportive feedback, mentoring and promotion. The scheme will select three poets whose work will feature together in the first volume of Primers, a book showcasing short debut collections of work.
The Primers scheme aims to provide an important platform for emerging poets who are seeking to develop their writing and build towards a full collection of poems. With the involvement of Jane Commane (Nine Arches’ poetry editor), Kathryn Maris (poet and guest editor) and the Poetry SchoolPrimers’ intention is to nurture and support new talent that may otherwise not find an outlet. It also aims to provide an important opportunity for poets to develop their skills, work on their poetry practice, and find audiences for their work. Following editing and mentoring with Kathryn and Jane, the Primers collection will be published by Nine Arches Press, and a further series of live events will showcase the three chosen poets at festivals and shows around the country.

Primers presents a really exciting opportunity; for poets it will offer an excellent first step, with the full support of Kathryn Maris, the Poetry School and myself. I am already looking forward to seeing the new writing that will be submitted. It also enables Nine Arches to do more of what we like doing best; nurturing talent, working closely with poets to support their creativity, and keeping our finger on the pulse of contemporary poetry’
Jane Commane, Nine Arches Press
‘The Poetry School has a long history of working with poets to develop their creative talents. Primers is the next stage in this work, taking poets out of the classroom and onto the bookshelf and the festival stage. We’re very excited about the new poets and poems that are going to emerge from this scheme.’
- Ollie Dawson, The Poetry School
 ‘Primers is, potentially, a more meritocratic take on anthologies and other introductory platforms for which the usual procedure is the hand-picking of writers already known to an editor. By contrast, the poets to be included in Primers will be chosen from anonymous submissions, so poets need not have a proven track record of publication nor ‘visibility’ within the poetry world.  There is so much strong work being written by poets of all ages who have not yet had their first break, so I expect the decision-making will be difficult. But I look forward to the process, and I’m delighted to be involved with Nine Arches, a press that consistently delivers attractive books by first-rate poets.’
- Kathryn Maris, poet and guest editor

How to Submit
Download Primers’ rules and regulations here … Primers Submission Guidelines. Submissions will only be accepted online, via Submittable, to keep administration costs as low as possible.
The important dates to note are …
  • Submission deadline: 1 September 2015
  • Shortlist announced: late October 2015
  • Final selection announced: late November 2015
  • Publication of Primers Volume 1: April 2016
Good luck with your submissions! For more details, contact John Canfield at coordinator@poetryschool.com

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

More on Lee Harwood

I came across this excellent piece on Lee Harwood last week - it sums up many of the things that make his poetry so special for me, in particular what is says about him using the techniques of modernism to recover a directness of address in poetry.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Hen Harrier poems

At the weekend, the Guardian ran this review of Colin Simms' Hen Harrier Poems, from Shearsman, to rather neatly coincide with Hen Harrier Day.

Any extra publicity that it gives to Hen Harrier Day, and to the shameful persecution of these birds by shooting interests, is very welcome, but it also shouldn't be allowed to obscure the brilliance of Simms' poetry. I recommend any one of the volumes of his work that Shearsman have been bringing out - his is a highly individual and rigorously exact nature poetry that is a world away from the stereotype of the genre that's sometimes decried.