Showing posts with label Claire Crowther. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Claire Crowther. Show all posts

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Maps and Legends

This is out from Nine Arches Press next week, just in time for Christmas. It's an anthology celebrating five years of Nine Arches, and is edited by Jo Bell, featuring poetry from Claire Crowther, David Morley, Luke Kennard, Maria Taylor, Angela France, Daniel Sluman, Alistair Noon, Tom Chivers, David Hart, Roz Goddard, Phil Brown, Deborah Tyler-Bennett, Ruth Larbey and myself.

The anthology will be launched with a reading next Wednesday, December 11th, from 7.15-9pm, at Room 101, Library of Birmingham. Tickets are £6 / £4.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Now it's even easier... buy Nine Arches Press books. The new online shop is up and running, meaning you can directly order copies of Under The Radar magazine, short stories by Joel Lane, or poetry from the likes of David Hart, David Morley, Roz Goddard, Luke Kennard, Myra Connell, Claire Crowther, Ruth Larbey, Simon Turner, Mark Goodwin, Peter Carpenter and myself.

You don't need a PayPal account (no bad thing, given the problems I've had getting my account to work lately), and postage is just £1 per item.

There are also seperate pages for each publication now (here's the one for my collection, hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica), and a sneak-preview of some of Nine Arches' forthcoming publications.

Monday, 12 October 2009

And I thought I'd been a bit hard on Don Paterson...

Issue 3 of Horizon Review is jam-packed with all sorts of goodies, and a fairly brief trawl through it at lunchtime was nothing like long enough to do it justice.

I put the poems themselves on hold for now, and the podcast on West Midlands poetry, and turned instead to the interviews. There's a really good piece on Hugo Williams, always a favourite of mine. I love what he says about line-breaks, especially that last line about the broken thermometer. Carrie Etter and Claire Crowther's piece is good too, as you might expect if you read the interviews with them both on these pages earlier this year.

And then there's Vidyan Ravinthiran's interview with Craig Raine. Among other things, he has some pretty harsh words to say about Don Paterson, words I'd struggle to agree with, despite my previously mentioned lukewarm response to most of Paterson's work. I think there's quite a bit of 'previous' between the two, though, and it's probably safe to assume that that's where all this coming from.

There's one thing Raine definitely gets wrong, though. No one decides to support Leicester City arbitrarily. Why on earth would you, on a whim, decide to subject yourself to a lifetime of gallant, underachieving mediocrity, punctuated by an all-too-brief golden era and not-so-occasional periods of grinding misery?

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Clockwork Gift, by Claire Crowther

Claire Crowther's poems and reviews have been published in a wide variety of UK and North American journals and anthologies, and her pamphlet Glass Harmonica appeared from Flarestack in 2003. Her first full collection, Stretch of Closures, appeared from Shearsman Press in 2007, and was shortlisted for the Jerwood/Aldeburgh Best First Collection prize in 2007. Her second collection, The Clockwork Gift, appeared in February of this year.

She was awarded a bursary by Kingston University to complete the book, and was also poet in residence during 2008 at Dorich House, Kingston on Thames, a museum dedicated to the life and work of sculptor Dora Gordine.

I interviewed her via e-mail about the The Clockwork Gift, and the results are below, along with a couple of poems from the book. I hope you enjoy them...

I write a lot on Polyolbion about pamphlet poetry, and I notice that you had a pamphlet, Glass Harmonica, published before your first collection. Is this a publication route you'd recommend to new poets?

The useful thing about publishing a shorter collection, for your first one, is that you can practice selecting and ordering a smaller number of poems. These are challenging tasks, I find. Get them wrong and some poems can be weakened. But nowadays pamphlet publishers often work through competitions – this must be good for a small press and I can see that it drives the standard up in some cases – but it could make it more difficult for a new voice to find a home. A prizewinning collection has to be strong from the off and I regret that there may be fewer of those personal relationships where a pamphlet publisher discovered a new voice and supported, even mentored, the poet to improve the collection. Charles Johnston at Flarestack performed just that role for me. I am deeply grateful.

There are a lot of ghosts in your new collection, The Clockwork Gift. Are they a necessary personification of memory?

Yes, that’s right, these are personified memory – rather than, say, relating particular memories. I am less interested in memory as anecdote than in memory as a social, political or emotional tool – ghosts are always interesting and they may summon up fear, which is the emotion I am most interested in. I am working on a new collection which has the working title of Afraid. The ghost of a grandmother in The Herebefore is a composite character meant to represent the lost women poets of previous generations rather than a picture of my own grandmother. But my grandmothers gave me lots of source material for poetry. I had an English and an Irish grandmother. When I was very young, my English granny gave me a book of Keats’ poetry which she had bound herself. I still treasure that. She also kept a stack of News of the World papers under the cushions on her settee and I was full of envy for this reading mountain – I had to climb it to sit down. Then I could look at the lurid photographs inside. I still remember one photo of a crowded farmhouse kitchen table – in the middle of which was a small round plate with a human heart on it. What shocked me most was a hand-drawn arrow pointing to the heart – not drawn by my granny but by the murderer whose case the paper was relating.

There’s also a lot of tension and internal debate in the collection about the role and value of books and literature. Do you see that creation of “unnaturally pressed sense” as ever more important in our internet-dominated culture?

Partly I am playing out my role as a writer of poems in such poems – always a source of tension (because what exactly is that role). And I do see the paradox of being addicted to compressing sense, as poets are, when expanding it is so fashionable. I’ve been given an electronic reader and it’s odd to hold 150 perfectly readable books somehow melded together inside a palmtop-sized device. Internet-led forms of writing such as email or updates have their own fascinating habits of compression. I have tried several times to write poems using those forms – but the poems don’t work very well yet! There’s no doubt they have given me other voices to use.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was the willingness (this was something I also liked about Andy Philip’s recent book) to create your own myths. Poets seem to have been scared of this for some years now - is it something you see making a comeback?

That’s an interesting question – I wonder if this is happening. Myth is so often invoked in poetry that I am surprised more poets haven’t had a go at doing their own. Of course, myth must be the repository of a society’s experience and it is a rather grand claim that I’m the voice for that in a myth I have made up. Yet can I be anything else? In the end, I decided the stories about ‘otherness’ and social damage that I wanted to tell were strengthened by creating a mythic figure (the thike).

One of the book’s main themes is the role of grandmothers. Can you tell us a bit more about how you approached this? And was the poem Names as enjoyable to write as it is to read aloud?!

I loved writing Names! Of course I had about ten dozen other names than the ones I used and the fun was choosing which would work together as lines and stanzas. I read aloud all the possible combinations, as I do with all poems as they grow. I did a lot of research – three years’ worth – about aspects of grandmotherhood, medical, economic, historic, mythic, including having several new grandchildren of my own during this time. I collected many many grandmother poems by other poets and wrote a couple of academic papers on those poems. While all this was going on, I wrote a grandmother journal and the poems just cropped up as I went along.

Without making it explicit, there seemed to me to be a very strong environmental concern running through many of the poems, with lots of images of decay and transformation between the human and the rest of the natural world. Is this a strand you see yourself pursuing further?

Yes, without doubt. My partner is a solar energy scientist and his life is dedicated to experimenting with new forms of solar energy to help overcome some of the problems we face as an oil and nuclear using society. We talk continually about the issues that arise from his work and, though I rarely set out to write about those issues directly, they influence the political thinking that is behind every poem I write – as it has to be behind every poem written. The new collection is bringing in some aspects of this more directly than usual – though I need to be sure these new poems are working well before I publish them.

Finally, could you tell us a bit about your experience of Shearsman as a publisher? How do you go about putting together a collection?

Tony Frazer at Shearsman has been an excellent publisher and editor – efficient, visionary and full of energy. I was impressed with his list and so approached him about my first collection. I already knew the feel of the press from Shearsman’s journal which I had published work in. After his acceptance, I made many changes to the set of poems, amending poems, adding poems, subtracting poems – and he encouraged this without ever dominating the process. I feel I managed this process better with the second collection than the first – to me, it’s almost like constructing a long poem or poem series. There are aesthetic and semantic choices (and mistakes) to be made. I understand other publishers can be slower to respond to poets than Tony is and I’m very grateful that he did not keep me waiting for months or years for an initial acceptance. He is also very good at cover design and sourcing cover images. Both my covers are all his work. The only thing we have ever disagreed on is the title of the first collection – he didn’t like mine and I disliked the one he suggested. In the end, I came up with a long list of other titles – he decided his three favourites, I decided mine and the one overlapping title was it!

Key Stage
for Bessie, who suffered from dementia

In a shop
where keys are copied,
my daughter asks for her own.

The boy takes mine.
His overalls are oily from the machine.
We wait.

She reminds me: ‘You must carry it
always, it locks you out
as well as lets you in. If it sticks

to begin with, don’t panic.’
It wears smooth in time.
She has gone

out for years without me.
Now she will come home alone with my key,
enter my emptiness as an adult,

bar out the night
whose shine
is from dead stars,

and accept what she sees of me
through doors
she has opened.


The woman let off Death Row walked through a gorge
of chaotic limestone left by meltwater
and saw men everywhere.

They were climbing the steep and overhung sides.
Their feet flexed in thin shoes, toeing
crevice after crevice.

Their hands pried the split crag for brokenness.
They hung
and carefully worked out each nodule of rock

rejecting the frailty of this or that stone,
clicking in the knot
that would hold them from falling back to the passage.

She ignored arrows, made her own path
through tall-stalked, small-headed ferns and young ash,
past a feral goat, newish horns knuckling up,

across cinquefoil-buttered grass, near-invisible swellings
of bluebell seed, a memory of leaving home –
or maybe a promise.

The climbers weren’t enjoying the view.
They climbed for the sake of the stone. One stopped
in a patch of sun, refusing to carry on

trusting the handshake of rock and rope
though below each man another looked up
holding a thin string.

She was looking for innocence
like an older woman standing over her young husband
allowing an undoing of long hair.

First published in Poetry Wales

Finally, for an excellent review of The Clockwork Gift, go to Rob Mackenzie's blog Surroundings, or to hear Claire reading some of her poems, go along to Poetcasting.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Promises, promises

I keep mentioning various items that I'm going to post up here, and never quite getting round to finishing them. It's busy, busy, busy over the next couple of weeks, too, so they might have to wait just a little while longer. But they will happen, eventually. Honest.

In the meantime, though, something to really get your teeth into. On Monday, I'll be publishing an interview with Claire Crowther, whose Shearsman collection The Clockwork Gift I've been enjoying hugely these last few weeks.

Her first collection, Stretch Of Closures, was shortlisted for the Aldeburgh Best First Collection Prize, and the new book has already garnered plenty of critical praise, with Matthew Francis writing: "Very few poets create their own unique world. Claire Crowther does, and it's all the more rich and strange for being made of language. She's one of the most original and imaginative poets now writing."

I couldn't put it better myself, so look out on Monday for that interview, plus some sample poems.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Northern (high)lights

Back to work today, after a wonderful weekend in Edinburgh. The reading at Word Power on Saturday, with James Wood, Rob Mackenzie and Andrew Philip, was an extremely enjoyable affair. As so often seems to happen, despite having made our choices wholly independently, the poems we read clustered round a couple of definite themes – an illustration of the poet as social barometer, as James suggested.

It was good to catch up with Helena Nelson, and to meet Eddie Gibbons and Colin Will there, the latter in full highland dress and unquestionably the most smartly dressed man I’ve ever seen at a reading, a consequence of him officiating at Kevin Cadwallender’s wedding the same day (apropos of nothing, Cadwallender is a fantastic surname, isn’t it?). It’s not like anyone else looked too shabby, either, but Colin raised the bar for the rest of us to try to follow. He's a fine bird poet, too, which always gets my vote.

Afterwards, Andy and Rob headed off to do two more readings, and James and I took a more leisurely tour of the city, taking in all manner of architectural and real ale delights, and talking poetry all the way. A huge amount of ground – both literal and literary – was covered, and great fun it was too.

On the way back home yesterday, it struck me that I’ve got umpteen unfinished blog posts that I really need to get cracking on this week. So, coming very soon, expect pieces on The Salt Companion To Lee Harwood and Not The Full Story: Six Interviews With Lee Harwood, an appreciation of the splendid ONE magazine (go and appreciate it yourself in the meantime, at great length), and much more. Claire Crowther and Siriol Troup’s new collections arrived at the weekend, so they’ll feature too, and there are a few other books I’ve been itching to write about. Oh, and there'll be a few thoughts on the poetry business itself, and on selling your collection, in the light of the outstanding success Andy and Rob have had (Andy is already on the third print run of The Ambulance Box - most 'name' poets would be more than a little proud of that).