Sunday, 30 January 2011

Under The Radar 7

The new issue of Under The Radar arrived in the post the other day, and a very handsome publication it is too. It's now perfect-bound, giving a higher quality feel to what's already a fine magazine.

It's a short-story special, too, a welcome boost for a form that has been increasingly sidelined in the last few decades, but which seems to enjoying something of a resurgence. Joel Lane (whose poetry collection The Autumn Myth I'm currently reading) and Tony Williams are among the writers featured. UTR publishers Nine Arches Press are planning to launch a series of short story pamphlets - HOTWIRE - so expect to hear more.

On the poetry side, there's excellent work from the likes of Nigel Hutchinson, D A Prince, Roy Marshall and A C Evans, plus Alison Brackenbury reviewing Anne Stevenson, Roz Goddard on three HappenStance chapbooks, and my reviews of Angela France's Occupation and Deborah Tyler-Bennett's Pavilion. All for just £4, too. What are you waiting for?

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Suitable Girl, by Michelle McGrane

While I was away, Michelle McGrane's third collection, The Suitable Girl, was launched by Pindrop Press. There are some sample poems from the book, and details of how to buy it, here.

I'll be reviewing it in due course, and hopefully featuring some poems from it and an interview with Michelle.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Costa Prize

Hot on the heels of the T S Eliot Prize announcement came the news that Jo Shapcott has won the Costa Prize for her collection Of Mutability.

Most of the papers followed the same line as The Guardian, here, by trumpeting it as a surprise victory for poetry. And so, I suppose, it is, given that it has rarely won in the past, but had done so (in the form of  Christopher Reid) last year.

As with the TSE Prize, I'm not really in a position to make a very informed comment. I haven't read the book, and although I've read quite a lot of Shapcott's work over the years I can't claim to know her poetry that well. But whatever, it seems to be a thoroughly good thing that a poetry collection can scoop this major literary prize again - it can only help raise profiles all round.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

First review

I'm very grateful to Spain-based UK poet Matthew Stewart for this very kind review of hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica on his blog Rogue Strands.

I'm delighted he highlighted the various historical strands, history remaining something of an obsession with me. Hopefully it will be the first of a few reviews - quite apart from the fact that they help to sell a book, it's a relief to get some outside opinions on a book that, during the writing process, you inevitably get far too close to.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Poetry in motion

I came across this earlier - apparently Sachin Tendulkar's father and brother are both poets, but he has no plans to try his hand at it himself.

The Little Master's response is characteristically modest. Most of his fans, me included, might point out that his batting is a kind of poetry in itself.

Walcott wins the TS Eliot

Nobel laureate Derek Walcott won this year's TS Eliot Prize last night for his collection White Egrets, which was described by the judges as "moving and technically flawless".

I'm in the unfortunate position of having absolutely nothing useful to say on the matter, not having read any of this year's shortlisted books yet, although a couple are sitting there on my growing 'to read' pile. And while there are quite a few collections I might like to have seen on that final shortlist, I can't argue with the final selection. The few poems that I have read from Walcott's book, including one that appeared in one of the papers over the weekend, I've liked a lot.

But anyway, Jane Holland has blogged entertainingly about the Prize Reading here

StAnza 2011 brochure

As mentioned a couple of weeks back, I'm delighted to be reading at this year's StAnza, which runs from March 16th-20th. A full brochure is now online here.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Horizon Review 5

I've been out of circulation for the last 10 days or so, and returned to the usual backlog of emails, plus all sorts of interesting goings-on in the poetry world. I'll post more on some of those, such as the TS Eliot Prize Readings and Michelle McGrane's new book The Suitable Girl, later in the week, but for now, I'll just flag up the latest issue of Horizon Review.

I really do think it's going from strength to strength, so kudos to both former editor Jane Holland and new editor Katy Evans-Bush. There's a wealth of reviews. essays, interviews and stories in there, before you even get to the poetry from the likes of Julia Bird, Alison Brackenbury, David Briggs, Ian Duhig, Roz Goddard, Mark Granier, Helen Ivory, Ira Lightman, Rob A Mackenzie, Andrew Philip and Andrew Shields, to name just a few. I've got a piece in there too -  Zugunruhe - which appears in hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

City Voices

Last night I dashed over to Wolverhampton to read with Jane Commane and Matt Nunn of Nine Arches Press at City Voices, at the City Bar.

In fact, it was the 99th monthly City Voices event, a run of over eight years. That's really pretty impressive, given the amount of commitment it takes to even set up any sort of reading series or poetry group. There was a good turnout, and they were an excellent audience - very attentive and appreciative.

Anyway, it was an excellent night. The first half consisted of us reading, while the second half was three young local poets (and I mean young - at least one was 14). They were pretty astonishing, to be honest, not only for their technical skill and sheer imagination, but for the poise with which they performed. I didn't catch the names, stupidly, but I'll find out because I suspect a lot more will be heard from all three.

My setlist was:
Prelude for Glass Harmonica
Request Hour At The Numbers Station
The Limits
Fantasia for Glass Harmonica
The Memory Of Water
Variations On A Theme By J.A. Baker
Worst Case Scenario
Nocturne for Glass Harmonica

Saturday, 8 January 2011


You might not believe me, but I think I may have discovered the first truly great fantasy writer of the 21st century. He's called Will Swanton, and just a brief read of this little masterpiece, in which he constructs a parallel universe that's a mirror image of our own, ought to be enough to convince you of his genius.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Hearing Voices

Monday (January 10th) will see the official launch of the excellent Hearing Voices magazine, at The Western pub, Western Road, Leicester LE3 0GA (it's just off Braunstone Gate and Narborough Road).

It all starts at 6.30pm and will run until around 9.30pm, and admission is free. There'll be readings from contributors, guests and open mic slots, and you can sign up to read on arrival.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Sphinx 15

The latest issue of Sphinx is online, including a couple of reviews by me, of Andrew Nightingale's The Black Madonna, and Alan Hill's No Biography (one of HappenStance's own chapbooks). Both are excellent, in quite different ways.

There are a couple of Nine Arches chapbooks among the reviews, too - Claire Crowther's Mollicle, and Ruth Larbey's Funglish, both of which I'm reading at the moment.

StAnza 2011

StAnza 2011, the 14th annual poetry festival at St Andrews, takes place from March 16th-20th, and the final, full programme is out now. Tickets are available from today.

I'm delighted to be a small part of this year's event. I'm reading on Thursday the 17th, with Dawn Wood, as part of a series of readings called Border Crossings. It's  from 11.30am-12.30pm, in the Supper Room at the Town Hall. Incidentally, my fellow Nine Arches poet Mark Goodwin is doing a similar reading the following afternoon, so it'll be nice to be part of a Leicestershire contingent!

I'll certainly be there for the first three days, and hopefully the whole festival if I can manage it, so there'll be plenty of time to see some of the many fine poets in the line-up. They include Selima Hill, John Burnside, Paul Farley, Ciaran Carson, Penelope Shuttle, Don Paterson, Claire Crowther and Carrie Etter, to name but a few. It'll be a nice bonus that the Fife coast in mid-March should be pretty good for birding, too.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Wolverhampton reading

Next Tuesday (January 11th) I'll be reading with Nine Arches Press founders Jane Commane and Matt Nunn at The City Bar, 2-3 King Street, Wolverhampton, starting at 7.45pm. If you're in the area, come along and enjoy an evening of poetry (and who knows, treat yourself to a copy of hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica or one of Nine Arches' other fine publications).

I'm hoping to do a lot more readings this year, and I'll be posting details of some more forthcoming events soon, but in the meantime, I'm always available...

Monday, 3 January 2011

Out and about

I made a proper start on my birding plan for 2011 today, with a long circular walk from home, through New Swannington, Swannington and Thringstone. There were still plenty of Redwings around, although rather fewer Fieldfares, but the real highlight was finding little groups of Tree Sparrows and Yellowhammers at a farm not half a mile from home. I've never seen either at this particular site before (although Yellowhammers are reasonably easy to find in some parts of Charnwood Forest), so I'll be keeping an eye on it as the year goes on to see if there are any signs of breeding.