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

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.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Sean O'Brien on Jack Underwood

There's been a very interesting thread over on Jon Stone's Facebook page, about Sean O'Brien's review of Jack Underwood's book Happiness.

I'm going to repeat what I said there, so apologies to those who have already read all this. I don't know Jack Underwood's work well enough to be able to make an informed judgement on what O'Brien says - I've no idea if he really does slip into "a kind of indie house style that can be read (and perhaps more significantly, heard) almost anywhere at present...".

Some of the criticisms of O'Brien's review are that he has paid insufficient attention to the poets that have emerged in the last decade or so, and that he ends up sounding like a father bemoaning his offspring's taste in music. The problem for me, though, and with so many reviews in the broadsheet press, is that he's paid too much attention to other poetry - surely if you're going to engage with the more casual reader of poetry, you need to assume that they haven't already read a lot of similar-sounding poetry (and as I say, I have no idea if Underwood is part of a wider trend). I'm not saying you need to take each collection in absolute isolation, but equally it's unlikely that any individual reader has had the chance to become quite so jaded by what's out there as the professional poet/reviewer. Unless, of course, you're assuming that the only people reading are other poets, which is worrying in a whole different way.

I don't think this is a problem peculiar to poetry reviews, incidentally. It seems to happen in most fields these days - reviews too often rely on comparison to other examples of the artform, genre, or whatever.

Anyway, O'Brien's more positive comments only reinforce what I'd already felt about Underwood's poetry - that it's well worth checking out. In that sense, it's a good review, because it has only piqued my curiosity.