Sunday, 30 September 2012

The future at Polyolbion

Following on from what I was saying yesterday, it's nice to be able to report that there seems to have been a sudden leap in visitor numbers to this blog over the last three weeks or so. I'm not exactly sure shy, but I would like to hear from any and every regular visitor if they've got strong opinions on what they'd like to see more or less of.

Interviews have always been popular in the past, and fun to do, so I plan to get some more organised in the near future, but any other ideas are welcome.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The future at Poets on Fire

Someone recently pointed out to me that I don't plug the listings site Poets On Fire nearly enough on here, and they were quite right, so here we go - go to Poets On Fire to see what poetry events are going on in your area. NOW!

If you want your event listed there, send me details at - my usual practice is to list every event two weeks before it happens, and then again the day before. I might make that a month before, thinking about it. Jpegs of posters, etc., are always welcome, but it's always best to send text unformatted and in the body of the email, if possible. If not, in a Word document will do.

I generally manage to update the site every day, but that's not always possible, so I'm also looking for a couple of co-editors to join up and share the load a little.

That's partly because I'd like, perhaps starting in the New Year, to turn it into more than just a listings site. I'd like to see regular articles and reviews (generally of live poetry, though not exclusively so), and perhaps interviews with a featured poet every week or so. It's all up for discussion, and it might involve migrating the site away from Blogger.

So, if that appeals to you, make yourself known in the comments box below, and we can start thinking about how to move forward.

Friday, 28 September 2012

30 years and still going strong

I blogged last year about the glory days of Jason and the Scorchers, but still managed to completely miss the fact that they're playing a 30th anniversary tour this autumn. I was pretty sure they'd call in at The Musician in Leicester, and sure enough they do, next Friday, but I can't make it.

But, deep joy! They're playing in Sheffield on Monday. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Whistle, in Warwick

If you're not already going to this, I can only suggest that you put that right straight away - there are still tickets left. It's a truly unique poetry experience, based around Martin's Arrowhead collection Whistle, and is taking place as part of the Warwick Words festival.

The location's an added attraction - Warwick's a lovely medieval town, with a superb castle. They used to make kings there.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Bloggers are killing criticism?

I suspect this interview with TLS editor and Man Booker Prize judge Peter Stothard will stir up a fair old storm online. I think he's got a fair point with regards to the decline of literary criticism in newspapers and journals, but I'm not really sure what the blogosphere has to do with that. I suspect word of mouth has always been as big a driver of sales as reviews, and surely the internet is just that on a large scale?

His claim that "People will be encouraged to buy and read books that are no good, the good will be overwhelmed, and we'll be worse off," is rather strange. Even if you accept that the professional critics generally get things right (and they clearly don't, as they often disagree violently with each other), the book-buying public don't necessarily pay that much attention to them, and never have. I don't remember critics encouraging people to buy Jeffrey Archer's novels, for example, but his sales never seemed to suffer.     

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Hearing Voices again

Issue 5 of the excellent Hearing Voices is out now, costing just £3. I could tell you more, but I'd only be repeating what Roy Marshall says here, so why don't you read what he has to say about it, and then go and buy a copy?

Monday, 24 September 2012

New at Sphinx

There's a fresh batch of pamphlet reviews up at Sphinx - as always, each chapbook is reviewed separately by three people, which makes for some interestingly varied takes on the same subject. My own reviews were of Ian Seed's Threadbare Fables, and Gregory Woods' Very Soon I Shall Know, both of which I enjoyed a lot.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Some current reading

Back in March, I bought this book at the States of Independence book fair in Leicester. I started it with great enthusiasm, got sidetracked with other reading for reviews, and then picked it up again last week. I'm glad I did.

Matthias isn't a poet I knew anything about before (that says nothing about anything other than the self-guided nature of my wanderings through Poetryworld), and one thing that immediately struck me was that if these are his shorter poems, I'd like to see the longer stuff. There are some very short pieces here, but most clocks in at about the length that seems to be the standard in the UK. That's not to say it's over-written - it's sometimes sprawling in the very best sense, but that's all.

It just made me wonder about the length of poems. I'm as guilty as anyone of thinking that a piece is turning into an epic if it gets onto a second page, or past the 40-line mark (usually the limit in competitions), but maybe that's a peculiarly British thing?

Anyway, regardless of all that, it's a fine book (both the poetry within it, and as an object, which is always a plus for me).

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Martin Figura's Whistle

There are, as ever, many fine things going on at Warwick Words this year, but if you've not already got tickets for this, then may I humbly suggest that you do. The book's terrific, and I've been waiting to see the show for a while now.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The uninvited guest

You know an open mic night is beginning to make a name for itself when Ezra Pound makes an unscheduled appearance, and refuses to sit down.

The father of modernist poetry/great man/mad old fascist, as he was variously described by readers (and the three are, of course, not mutually exclusive), first cropped up in Robert Richardson’s open mic slot at last night’s Shindig in Leicester (he read three short poems by Pound). And, as seems to be the way with these nights, and with all good open mic nights for that matter, other readers responded by reading his work too, or by reading work informed by or influenced by Pound.

Such themes and tropes have a habit of turning up, as Jane Commane of Nine Arches Press pointed out, but uninvited or not, they’re ultimately welcome, giving the evening something to coalesce around, or work against, on occasion.

Some of my highlights among last night’s open mic-ers included Charles Lauder Jr’s poem The Rocking Chair Thief (think that’s the right title), Kerry Featherstone’s two pieces, Gary Carr (incidentally, here’s the terrific poem he read at the last Shindig) and Graham Norman’s short, taut poems themed around the canonical hours, but in truth there was barely a dud note all night.

The same was true of the featured readers. I’ve blogged previously about Angela France and Daniel Sluman, who made up the Nine Arches half of the bill – both are fine poets who also read well. Angela’s newer work (due to appear in a book from Nine Arches early next year) is intriguingly different from her earlier pamphlet and collection – much more personal and direct. I particularly liked the piece she read about family superstitions.

Daniel read, as ever, with great poise. There’s a contrast between the often difficult subject matter of his poems (the loss of a leg to cancer, troubled relationships, and last night, abuse) and the relaxed and witty introductions that works well, but he’s not a poet to settle for the easy laugh. I could say a lot more, but I want to keep my powder dry for the review of his book that I’ll post soon, especially as two of the poems he read last night are two that I focus on.

In the second half, Sarah Jackson read well from her Bloodaxe collection Pelt. I heard her read in Nottingham a couple of years back, but the newer work was the highlight for me.

Rory Waterman closed the night, with poems from his debut collection from Carcanet (due around this time next year). I knew some of them already, having seen his work in Carcanet’s New Poetries V, but there was an awful lot to enjoy right across the board – the creeping sense of menace in his American-set poem was great. I think it was probably a more rounded selection of his work than appears in New Poetries V, good as that is, and it augured well for that collection next year. 

Monday, 17 September 2012


On Saturday, I travelled up to Leeds with Leicester poet Roy Marshall for the Stand60 events being held at the university.

First among these was a masterclass with poet Ian Duhig. We’d all supplied a poem in advance, and Ian then gave feedback on what he felt did and didn’t work about it. Given the number of us there, it equated to about 10 minutes per poem (that’s actually quite a lot, when you’re considering one of your own poems intensely), but he packed an incredible amount in. By the end of three hours I had pages of notes, and not just about poetic technique and the like. If you know Ian’s books you’ll know that one of the great pleasures of them is his ability to move seamlessly from ‘high’ to ‘low’ culture, and to make connections between seemingly disparate pieces of information.

I’d sent a recently-written piece that I’d put aside to go back to later, and I ended up reworking it yesterday along the lines Ian suggested. Essentially, it just feels leaner, harder-working now, and far more like the poem I originally had in mind.

In the afternoon, we went to a couple of the readings. I particularly enjoyed Elizabeth Baines’s short story and David Gaffney’s flash fiction, while in the poetry section, Vahni Capildeo and Alison Brackenbury were the highlights. It’s always good to catch up with Alison, and I owe her a great debt of gratitude for all her help in the past, but this was actually the first time I’d heard her read. It didn’t disappoint – she achieved what, I think, are the two hardest feats to manage at any reading, namely to make each individual poem and the reading itself feel perfectly paced. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Digging poetry

On Saturday, I was over at Polesworth again for the Heritage Open Day at the Abbey, the culmination of this summer's archaeological dig there. As it was also carnival day in Polesworth (postponed from earlier in the summer) and gloriously sunny and hot, a good time was had by all.

As well as those of us who had led workshops as part of the project - David Calcutt, Jo Bell, Jacqui Rowe, Jenny Hope and Maeve Clarke - many of the participants read the work that they'd produced as a result of them, too. In fact, a couple of the archaeologists got in on the act to good effect, and there were songs, too.

There were displays of the poetry, the archaeological finds, and by medieval re-enactors, and it's also just a lovely old church, full of history.

The man who made it all happen can be seen above. Mal Dewhirst's tireless work has already put Polesworth firmly on the poetry map (or back on it, rather, given its connections to Drayton, Shakespeare and Donne), but this was something else. What's really impressive is the feeling of sheer enthusiasm you get from the townspeople - there's a real sense that the project (and those that have gone before, such as the Poetry Trails) has made a lasting impression. Walk around for five minutes and you're confronted with poetry everywhere, as a living, vital force that engages with both contemporary life and history.

It was great, then, that Mal had just been appointed Staffordshire's new Poet Laureate (Polesworth is just across the border in Warwickshire, but it's possible to drive through four counties in 400 yards in these parts). I know he'll bring the same drive and innovation to it that he has to his other projects, so watch this space for more news.

A couple more pictures to finish - Gary Longden and Jacqui Rowe reading in front of the dig.

Monday, 10 September 2012

September Shindig

Next Monday (September 17th) it's the latest Nine Arches Press/Crystal Clear Creators Shindig! at The Western, Western Road, Leicester.

Featured poets are Angela France, Daniel Sluman, Sarah Jackson and Rory Waterman, and as always, you can sign up on the door for the open mic slots. Entry is free.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

More from Kumquat

Just a note to draw your attention to the fact that Kumquat Poetry are planning an annual anthology - an excellent idea, and another good reason to read the daily updates and maybe submit some work.

Friday, 7 September 2012

How much is too much?

Poet Marion McCready's blog post here raises a very interesting point - when does a recurring image or theme become a tic, or threaten to tip over into self-parody? It's certainly a good idea to be reminded to be on the guard against recycling and repeating your own work, and it's something that I'm uncomfortably aware of a lot of the time. I might spend Sunday going through my own work, with some trepidation.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Kumquat Poetry

It's lovely to have a poem posted over at Kumquat Poetry, which publishes new work every day and which, as you'll see if you have a bit of a browse, has refreshingly eclectic tastes.

The poem, Pagham Harbour, is one of a mini-sequence I wrote last year, unashamedly inspired by Lee Harwood, and by a first visit to Pagham Harbour and Bosham in many years. I won't leave it as long next time.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Polesworth Abbey Heritage Open Day

On Saturday I'll be back at Polesworth Abbey for one of a series of Heritage Open Days (they also take place tomorrow, Friday and Sunday).

You'll be able to enjoy a guided tour of the archaeological dig that has been going on there this summer, and to hear about the intriguing finds by the dig team, and you can also hear me and a number of other poets (including Jo Bell and Jacqui Rowe) reading work inspired by the abbey, the dig, and Polesworth's whole poetry-rich history (it was the home of Michael Drayton, Shakespeare may have been schooled there, and John Donne was a regular visitor).

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Free Verse: The Poetry Book Fair

This Saturday, September 8th, sees the second Free Verse Poetry Book Fair, at the Candid Arts Trust galleries, Torrens Street, London (close to King's Cross).

I was at last year's inaugural event, and it was excellent - lots of good readings, the opportunity to browse the wares of a wide variety of small presses, and of course the opportunity to catch up with old friends and to put faces to names you've previously only known from the pages of magazines, or from computer screens.

I can't make it this year - it clashes with the Heritage Open Day at Polesworth Abbey, but I can recommend it very highly. Take a look at the programme of readings and workshops - there's something there to suit most tastes.

Monday, 3 September 2012

I Don't Call Myself A Poet

I've been enjoying reading many of the interviews posted at I Don't Call Myself A Poet - there are new ones appearing all the time, so keep an eye on it.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Antiphon Issue 4

I'm delighted to have a poem, Metamorphoses, published in issue 4 of the online journal Antiphon. There's loads of good stuff in there - as always, it's good to be in the company of C J Allen and D A Prince among others.