Saturday, 30 October 2010

Electric Polyolbion

Thanks to Alison Brackenbury for pointing out that BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting this - The Electric Polyolbion - at 4.30pm tomorrow. I'd heard that Paul Farley was working on a modern version of our hero Drayton's enormous poem, so it'll be interesting to hear what he comes up with.

EDIT: I did listen to it, and very interesting it was, too. I should also be thanking Paul Farley as, no doubt as a result of the programme, visitors to this blog have increased massively over the last few days.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Fisher and Welton

It was standing room only at the Flying Goose last night - I got there at about 7.15 and was one of the last to be allowed in, I think.

I'm glad I made it, though. Matthew Welton and Roy Fisher read two shortish sets each, and both were excellent.

Welton's published two collections with Carcanet - The Book of Matthew and We needed coffee but... (it's the longest title collection ever - Google it), both of them highly praised. On this evidence, I can see why. He's interested in patterns and repetition, in the mathematics of poetry, but not in some dry, dusty way. In fact, virtually all of what he read - in a quiet, Nottingham accent, and from memory - struck me as extremely musical. I need to read more of his work, I think.

Roy Fisher was everything you'd hope for, really. He's an elder statesman of the British poetry scene now, and to some extent he's become the non-mainstream poet that virtually all mainstream poets read and praise, but hearing him, I was struck by the same thing that hit me when I first read his excellent collected works, The Long And The Short Of It. Which is to say, it's strange that he should have previously been marginalised for so long - he strikes me simply as a very fine poet who's willing to use whatever subject matter, and whatever tools, come to hand.

Anyway, it was a great way to close the Beeston Poetry Festival, and for those of us who haven't been to the Flying Goose before, a good advert for a really nice venue. I don't think I'll make it to the regular reading there next month, but I'll definitely get to the Alexander Hutchison reading on December 14th.

Oops, nearly forgot. There are pictures and videos of all the Festival readings here.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Don't miss this!

Just a quick reminder that Roy Fisher and Matthew Welton are reading as part of the Beeston Poetry Festival tomorrow night (Thursday the 28th) at the Flying Goose Cafe. It starts at 7.30pm and entrance is £3.

Fisher's one of those poets who manages the difficult act of straddling the so-called mainstream/avant-garde divide, although I'd have to say that the main reason I started reading him was that he's such a distinctively Midlands poet (rarer than you might think). Whatever - he's a real giant of the UK poetry scene, and I'm looking forward to hearing him a lot.

I have to admit that I've encountered very little of Matthew Welton's poetry, but I've heard nothing but good things about it from people whose opinion I trust. And it's always good to hear someone new. Anyway, get along to the Flying Goose if you can - you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

More PNG

If you want a more in-depth look at Papua New Guinea, with much better pictures, take a look at Bill Thompson III's excellent Bill of the Birds over the next few weeks.

The first instalment has reminded me just what a horrendously long journey Bill faced from his home in Ohio. By comparison, our route (Birmingham-Amsterdam-Singapore-Port Moresby) was a breeze.

Incidentally, just after the photo of us in the airport lounge at PM was taken, I fulfilled my obligations as a British birder by eating a chicken pie from the cafe there. It wasn't bad at all - plenty of meat, nice gravy, and good shortcrust pastry. Mr Ginster please take note.

EDIT: I see Bill has just added a second instalment, in the first picture of which, taken at Tabubil, way up in the highlands, we're also tucking into pies (lamb this time with chips). We did do something other than eat pies during the trip, honestly.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Unusual Kestrel behaviour?

I spent most of my birding time over the weekend at various Charnwood Forest sites, looking for Waxwings, Bramblings and Snow Buntings, but without any luck.

As I was returning home yesterday afternoon, though, along the road between Oaks-in-Charnwood and Whitwick, I caught sight of a raptor flying low over a field at High Sharpley. Partly in the hope that it might be a Merlin, I stopped the car and got the bins on it just in time to see it land on a low rocky outcrop, and could see that it was in fact a female Kestrel.

Over the next 10 minutes or so, it repeatedly glided from this perch, landed on the bare earth of the field, then flew back to its vantage point again carrying a large worm or an insect of some sort. At times, while grounded, it walked around a considerable amount. It was all very reminiscent of the Red-footed Falcon at Ingleby a couple of years ago.

Thinking about it, I've seen an awful lot of Kestrels these past couple of weeks, but that may be partly down to the fact that my journeys to and from work currently coincide with the hour after and before dark.

Friday, 22 October 2010

A taste of Papua New Guinea

I'm gradually wading through the pics from my recent trip to Papua New Guinea (the view from Ambua Lodge, in the Western Highlands, is pictured above). They need a bit of work on them, because I'm really not much of a photographer. There are a few decent bird record shots though, all digiscoped or, in the case of the three I'll post here today, digibinned. I used my ancient Fuji f-31, a Swarovski scope, and Swarovski 8.5 x 42 ELs.

First up is a Brown Sicklebill Bird of Paradise, snapped on the 'table' (actually a huge platform) at Kumul Lodge in the Western Highlands. This place was a photographer's heaven - all sorts of great birds come in to feed. As an added bonus, we had what amounted to an en suite BoP - a Crested Bird of Paradise appeared in the tree just outside our cabin window.

Next we have two Belford's Melidectes, one of the more striking honeyeaters we saw. Again it's at Kumul.

The third bird is a Superb Fruit Dove, taken near Walindi on New Britain. I love the band across its breast, imitative of shadow and adding a bit of camouflage to a bird that otherwise looks as if it was painted by a small child.

Lastly, here's a few of us enjoying an early morning start near Ambua - you'll notice that wellies were the essential fashion item of the tour!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Coming soon...very soon

My second full collection, hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, will be published by Nine Arches Press next month - there's a taste of what it looks like and what it's all about here.

Still a few tweaks to make, but it should be out by mid-November.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Polesworth poetry

Here at Polyolbion it's always good to be able to report that poetry is alive and well in Polesworth, original stamping-ground of Michael Drayton, the man who gave us the poem whose name I pinched.

On Wednesday, November 3rd, Polesworth Abbey Church is the venue for Fizz 4, which features four poets from Cork - Paul Casey, Joseph Horgan, Billy Ramsell and Sue Cosgrave – plus an open mic. The evening starts at 7.30pm.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Poetry for charity

I'm not always mad on the idea of actors reading poetry, but on the other hand, Peter Capaldi can rarely do any wrong, so this might be interesting...

Friday, 15 October 2010

Poems at Peony Moon

I'm delighted to have three poems - Gabble Ratchet; Wader Flock, Thornham Harbour; and The sea at Ashby de la Zouch - published over at Peony Moon, Michelle McGrane's fine webzine.

I've also got three - Summer Breeze; Dotterel; and Windjammers - in the first issue of New Walk, a new Leicester-based literary magazine. There's also work from Tom Leonard, Andrew Motion, CJ Allen, Rob Mackenzie, Hilary Menos, Jonathan Taylor, Leontia Flynn and Mark Ford, among others, some good (and satisfyingly lengthy) reviews, and a letter from Alison Brackenbury to Wilfred Owen.

The magazine launch takes place at the Library Lecture Theatre, University of Leicester, on November 11th. Alice Oswald will be reading, along with Grevel Lindop and myself.

Beeston International Poetry Festival

Beeston, a small town now swallowed up by the urban sprawl of Nottingham, might not seem like the obvious place for a poetry festival, but that's just what's happening there over the next couple of weeks.

Full details are here, with many of the events taking place at the excellent Flying Goose Cafe. At the very least, I'll make it along to the Roy Fisher reading on the 28th, but there are several other events there that look appealing.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Pocket Spellbook

The latest mini-anthology from Sidekick Books is out now - Pocket Spellbook contains work from a dazzling array of poets, including Mark Waldron, Rab Green, Rowyda Amin, Tony Williams, Jack Underwood, Ian McLachlan, Cliff Hammett, Sophie Mayer, Declan Ryan, Helena Nelson, Edward Mackay, John Clegg, Amy Key, Luke Kennard, Jack Underwood, i-lib, Alexandra Lazar, Oliver Townsend and Saroj Patel. At just £5 plus postage, it's an absolute bargain.

Incidentally, I notice that Tony Williams' splendid The Corner Of Arundel Lane and Charles Street is on the shortlist for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. It's richly deserved recognition for a superb book, and it'd be nice to see it win.

East Midlands Book of the Year

I'm trying to catch up on some local poetry and writing news, so I'll be posting a few snippets here today...

Writing East Midlands has announced the first annual East Midlands Book Award. £1,000 will be given to a writer of fiction, creative non-fiction, or poetry. The aim of the award is to promote writers who live in the East Midlands, to raise the profile of the thriving literary scene in the region, and to reward exceptional work.

Nominations are invited from local and national publishers. A panel of judges will be chosen each year to shortlist submissions and make the final award.

A shortlist of up to eight books will be announced in April of each year and promoted through bookshops, libraries and reading groups. An award ceremony will be held each June – in the first year at the Lowdham Book Festival.

Actor Robert Lindsay joins BBC Nottingham’s John Holmes and Derbyshire County Council’s Jaci Brumwell, to judge the inaugural East Midlands Book Award.

Visit for competition rules, and contact Aimee Wilkinson for further information at or 0115 959 7929.

Back in circulation

I've not been posting much recently, mainly because I've spent the last three weeks in Papua New Guinea, on a trip for work. Although, work isn't really the right word. It was physically pretty demanding at times (4.30am starts every day, extreme heat and humidity, some very steep trails, and the inevitable mosquitoes), but the rewards were some astonishing views of 18 bird of paradise species, plus all sorts of other goodies, with the kingfishers, parrots and pigeons being the highlights. It's a fascinating country, too, with an amazing number of different languages and cultures.

I'll be posting much more about it over the next few weeks, along with a few digiscoped and digibinned photos - I'll also direct you to some much better images by some of my companions on the trip.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Leicester Shindig!

The latest Nine Arches Press Shindig takes place at The Looking Glass, Braunstone Gate, Leicester, next Monday (the 11th) at 7.30pm.

Featured poets are Roz Goddard and Michael W Thomas, and there'll be music from Jen Elvy too. As always, open mic slots will be available - you can sign up on the door.

Roz Goddard's The Sopranos Sonnets & Other Poems is a streetwise, bittersweet pamphlet collection from Nine Arches, based around 10 sonnet-portraits of characters from The Sopranos, the TV series about a dysfunctional mafia boss and his family. I've been enjoying it since hearing Roz read from it earlier in the year, so I recommend it highly.

Port Winston Mulberry, Michael W Thomas's new collection, takes its name from the artificial harbours used for the D-Day landings in June, 1944. The title poem highlights one of the poet's abiding interests – giving voice to anonymous witnesses when history throws a fit. It's a varied collection, though, with many other strands to explore.