Monday, 23 August 2010

Birdfair 2010

It's a very busy time at the moment, hence the relative silence of Polyolbion recently (a welcome bit of peace, you might think).

Anyway, the last three days were spent at the British Birdwatching Fair, at Rutland Water. Now, although strictly speaking it's work, and despite the fact that this morning my feet and back ache like you would not believe as a result of standing on the Bird Watching Magazine stand for hours on end, it's also a huge pleasure. It's good to meet readers and contributors face to face, and to talk about what's right and wrong with the magazine. OK, we can't always guarantee that we'll please everyone, but at least we can try to get things right, with the help of this feedback.

But it's also a good time to catch up with old friends, from right around the world, not just the UK. Not for the first time, three days wasn't quite enough to get around everyone, but I had a damn good try!

Not long before the end yesterday, I popped into the Events Marquee and saw part of Stephen Moss's talk and presentation on his forthcoming BBC4 series, Birds Britannia. It looks excellent, and the bit I saw was notable for featuring two poets, Andrew Motion and Helen Macdonald. It's probably fair to say they're at opposite ends of the poetic spectrum, stylistically, so well done to the producers for casting their net widely.

Friday, 13 August 2010

That old chestnut

Two different views of the old 'lyrics as poetry' debate here and here - it also touches on the 'it's not like it was in my day' argument. For what it's worth, I don't think there's been any great change in the quality of lyrics, or rather in the proportion that might be considered as of poetic value on their own. On the other hand, I often don't want lyrics to work as poetry - that's why they're set to music in the first place.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Sweet sole music

Monday night saw a book launch with a difference, as Mark Goodwin's new Nine Arches Press collection Shod was unveiled at The Looking Glass in Leicester.

Rather than the traditional format - poet reads selection of pieces from new book - Shodfest saw a number of Midlands poets (Steve Carroll, Pam Thompson, Lydia Towsey, George Ttoouli, Simon Perrill, Stevie Blue, Katie Daniels and myself) picking four pieces each from the book (which tells the story of shoe messiah Sidney Realer), then reading them in turn. If the poet before you read the piece you'd been planning to read, you moved on to your next piece, and so on. It'd be hard to pick out highlights, although Simon's breathless recital was great, while Lydia injected real tension and drama into the proceedings.

It worked really well, I thought. It was fascinating to hear different people's takes on the book, and I only hope we did Mark some sort of justice. The collection, incidentally, is terrific - you can read more about it here.

The open mic was excellent, too, with some familiar faces and some new, the latter including conceptual poet Ira Lightman, who was passing through Leicester and popped in. All things considered, a triumph, not at all dampened by an absolutely torrential downpour as I drove home.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Food for thought

Not been getting much chance to blog recently, but here's something to stimulate a bit of debate. I think Jon Stone has encapsulated a lot of what I feel about the subject. I'll return to it later in the week...

Monday, 2 August 2010

Monday browsing

The new issue of Blackbox Manifold has gone live - you can find new poems from the likes of George Szirtes and Sharon Olds here, and there are some good reviews too.

I've also been enjoying this, over at Ink, Sweat & Tears. Now it's probably fair to say that I'd look kindly on any poem that took a Carry On film as a starting point, but it's also fair to say that Helen Mort has taken it way, way beyond any novelty or curiosity value.