Wednesday 24 November 2010

How to buy hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica

Following Sunday's launch in Nottingham, you can now buy hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica for £9 through the Nine Arches Press website here, in conjunction with Throckmorton's Bookshop, Atherstone.

Just click on its cover (or that of any of the other excellent Nine Arches titles), and follow the instructions. If you're an international customer, you'll need to contact Throckmorton's here to get an accurate postage price.

Alternatively, you can pay by cheque, payable to Nine Arches Press, sent to this address.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be creating a little 'satellite' blog for Polyolbion devoted to all things related to hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica - some brief introductions to the poems, reviews, idle chit-chat and a little bit of glass harmonica trivia. It's very much a work in progress for now, but you can find it here.

Monday 22 November 2010

I declare this collection well and truly launched

Being late to your own launch isn't a good start, but I badly misjudged the A42 and A453's ability to produce delays at any time of the day or night. Add to that a problem finding parking close to the Jam Cafe (I gave up and went over to the Playhouse), and I walked in halfway through Jane Holland's open mic slot. A shame, too, because the sci-fi-themed poem she was reading fairly fizzed with energy.

There were loads of good open mic-ers, in fact, leading into Robin Vaughan-Williams' reading, which included plenty from his HappenStance chapbook, The Manager, as well as some new material. Having lived in Iceland, he's now based in Nottingham, so I look forward to hearing more from him soon.

The same goes for Sarah Jackson, who gave a really poised reading that highlighted the taut, tense atmospheres of her poems. I bought her chapbook, Milk, and it's terrific. Really nicely produced, too (by Pighog), in a large format that gives the poems space to breathe.

After the musical interlude, and more open mic, David Morley read from his forthcoming Carcanet collection, Enchantment. It's the final part of a trilogy of books (the others were Scientific Papers and The Invisible Kings) that explore both Romany culture and the role of story-telling in all our lives. It's another handsome volume in physical terms, too, with two great drawings by Peter Blegvad (yes, that Peter Blegvad), and I can't wait to get stuck into it.

I read a set entirely drawn from the new book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's strange how, even though you've spent months seeing first drafts and proofs and so on, to the extent that you don't think anything about it can surprise you, the actual book in your hand looks entirely new, fresh and exhilirating. For that, thanks are due to Jane Commane and Matt Nunn at Nine Arches Press, who are utterly unflagging in their effort.

A word, too, for LeftLion Magazine, who co-hosted the reading. It does a great job for Nottingham and the East Midlands in general, and long may that continue. Great venue, too, with an attentive and appreciative audience (which included an Amazon Parrot*). Oh, and they sang Happy Birthday for me at the end - how nice is that?!

More information on how to buy hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica is here, or you can email me for more details.

My set-list was:

Prelude for Glass Harmonica
The American version
Worst Case Scenario
Fantasia for Glass Harmonica
Variations on a Theme by J. A. Baker
Drinking With Godberd
Warning Against Using These Poems As A Map
West Leicester Lullaby
Nocturne for Glass Harmonica

* The parrot was an excellent listener. But on Saturday, I'd been doing a quick run-through my reading while watching a small flock of Lapwings and a Curlew about 100 yards away. The Lapwings hunkered down and stuck it out, but the Curlew gave up and flew away, calling loudly, about halfway through.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica at Peony Moon

There are four poems from my new collection featured over at Michelle McGrane's splendid Peony Moon today, along with details of Sunday's launch event at the Jam Cafe in Nottingham, with David Morley, Robin Vaughan-Williams and Sarah Jackson.

Much more on the book (it's at this point I realise I need to think of a shortened version of the title) later in the week...

Monday 15 November 2010

The Plucking Shed - Gill McEvoy

Back in 2006, Gill McEvoy's Uncertain Days was one of HappenStance's earliest, and most successful, chapbooks, selling out in no time at all, and gathering all sorts of critical praise along the way.

She followed that up with an equally popular HappenStance sampler, and earlier this year her first full-length collection, The Plucking Shed, was published by Cinnamon Press.

Quite how she finds time to write such consistently fine poetry I'm not sure, given that she also runs a poetry reading group, a workshop, and the Zest! poetry night in Chester, but write it she does.

If you've already encountered Gill's scrupulously honed, yet always heartfelt poetry, you're probably not going to need any more recommendation, but if you do, I really don't think I can do better than quote Helena Nelson's words about the collection:

"These poems are like jewels. Incalculable pressures underpin their creation. Luminous and compelling (but by no means reassuring) they offer themselves to the light."

It's another collection I'm looking forward to settling down to read (and I'll be reviewing it before long), and it's another reason to look more closely at Cinnamon, one of the most interesting small presses around.

Magma 48

The new issue of Magma arrived the other day, and very good it is too. The poetry itself is excellent, with particular favourites so far being DA Prince's three pieces (especially Bog oaks), and poems by Jonathan Edwards, Helen Mort and Michael McKimm. There's loads more too - they seem to be packing an awful lot in these days.

The articles are the highlight of this issue for me, though. I enjoyed the ten poets writing on 'beauty', and Eavan Boland's piece on Robert Herrick. Best of all is Karen Solie (one of my favourite poets) on first coming across Frank O'Hara's poetry. There are a couple of poems by Solie, too, which are almost worth the admission price alone.

I reviewed books by David Briggs, Rebecca Goss and John Ash for this issue (all very different, but all with a lot to offer too), but the review I really want to highlight here is David Morley's take on Martin Figura's Whistle, a book I've mentioned on here before, and which I'll return to soon. It's a brilliant piece of work, and the review does it perfect justice.

Sunday 14 November 2010

The plot thickens...

You may know her only as the founder, owner and life-force of the chapbook phenomenon that is HappenStance, but Helena Nelson is also a very, very fine poet.

As she's not doing nearly enough trumpet-blowing of her own (well, none in fact), it's time to point out that her new collection, Plot and Counter-Plot, is out now from Shoestring Press. It's been a long time since the superb Starlight On Water (Rialto, 2003), but I'm guessing it'll have been worth the wait. More on this soon...

Saturday 13 November 2010

Long live the King (of Saxony)

My God! Just look at the video here at Bill of the Birds. Of all the birds we saw in Papua New Guinea, the King of Saxony Bird of Paradise had to be the best, and the most bizarre. It looks like an alien lifeform with those weird, weird face plumes.

Friday 12 November 2010

It was a dark and stormy night...

...but that didn't seem to deter many from making the trip to last night's New Walk launch reading at the University of Leicester, part of Literary Leicester.

There was a really good turnout, which meant that I was a bit on the nervous side when I got up to kick off the readings. Lovely lecture theatre to read in, though, with really good acoustics. It's always nice reading first, too, because it means you can sit back and enjoy the rest of the event.

I must admit I didn't know all that much of Grevel Lindop's poetry before last night, although he's a very familiar name as a perceptive reviewer. But anyway, I enjoyed his reading, and bought his Selected Poems later to bring myself up to speed.

Alice Oswald, on the other hand, is someone I've read avidly in the past, but even so I was surprised by just how surefooted her set was (I was probably expecting more of a stereotypical floaty, vague 'nature' poet). And what a great reading voice!

I was surprised, too, that the highlight was the new material - from her forthcoming 'selective' translation of The Iliad - rather than the stuff I know well.

Of course, readings are also a great place to put faces to names, so it was lovely to meet the team behind the magazine, including co-editor Rory Waterman. They've done a really superb job, and it sounds like Issue Two will build on and surpass the debut.

Among others I chatted with were DA Prince and Roy Marshall, who has two finely honed poems in Issue One. Oh, and a friend that I've barely seen since university showed up, too - turns out he lives and works in Leicester. A good night all round.

And finally, my setlist:
Prelude for Glass Harmonica
The Meeting Place
Summer Breeze
The Limits
West Leicester Lullaby

Thursday 11 November 2010

New Walk launch tonight

Leicester-based literary magazine New Walk (you can read a really good review of the first issue at Rogue Strands) will be officially launched tonight (Thursday, November 11th), with a reading at the Library Lecture Theatre, University of Leicester, starting at 6pm. Alice Oswald will be reading, along with Grevel Lindop and myself.

If you plan to attend, you need tickets, although they're free. Call 0116 252 2320, or email with your name and address.

Oh, and the picture is of New Walk itself, by the way. One of my favourite bits of Leicester.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Current reading

The latest issue of Tears In The Fence arrived the other day - so far I've only had time to browse it, but I've enjoyed good poems from the likes of Ian Seed, Jane Commane and Sheila Hamilton.

As always, too, a lot of the pleasure is in the reviews - they're given the space they deserve, which isn't always the case in magazines.

Over at Peony Moon, meanwhile, there are some excellent poems by Ruth Larbey, whose Nine Arches Press chapbook Funglish is out now. Enjoy...

EDIT: Oh, and there's four fine poems from Helen Ivory's The Breakfast Machine over at Dan Wyke's Other Lives, too. I may get round to some work, later.

Monday 8 November 2010

Damn fine viewing

Just noticed that the Horror Channel is showing Twin Peaks from the beginning, starting at 9pm tonight. I'm one of those sad people who, even if they've got a series on DVD, feels obliged to watch it when it turns up on the TV (finally). In fact, it seems to be on at 9pm every night this week, so it's time to buy in a supply of coffee and doughnuts (never a big fan of cherry pie), and veg out in front of what I reckon might be one of the most influential TV series of all time.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Lazy Sunday afternoon

Shorter days do at least mean more time for catching up with reading, and that's pretty much all I've managed to do today.

Before I got onto the Sunday papers, I still had yesterday's Guardian Review to read. Now the Guardian's far from perfect, but it's still the only one of the broadsheets that takes poetry remotely seriously (to the extent of actually running at least one review each week, I mean - most of the others manage a once-a-month round-up).

Yesterday's main review was of Hodge, the fifth collection by Welsh poet Oliver Reynolds. As reviewer David Wheatley points out, it's not exactly hot on the heels of his fourth book, which came out in 1999, and Reynolds seems to be living proof that winning an Eric Gregory Award and being published by Faber isn't always a charm against obscurity.

But anyway, I've always had a soft spot for Reynolds. I bought his first three collections in a secondhand bookshop in Leicester quite a few years ago, when I really didn't know anything about him (or the contemporary British poetry scene). I then ordered his fourth book, Almost (his best, in my opinion), and I've enjoyed all four a couple of times each. If he re-emerges into the limelight a little, I won't be complaining.

There was also a piece by Nicholas Lezard about the anthology A Poet's Guide To Britain, edited by Owen Sheers. I haven't read the book, and in all honesty I doubt I'll buy it, however much I enjoyed Sheers' TV series on the same theme last year. One of its strengths was that he didn't always go for the most obvious choices, but Lezard makes the point that the anthology leaves out Geoffrey Hill and Basil Bunting, which suggests it might be steering clear of what's seen as 'difficult' territory. Still, one to flick through next time I'm in a bookshop.

Saturday 6 November 2010


I've got a couple of launch readings for my new Nine Arches Press collection, hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, lined up.The first is with David Morley, Robin Vaughan-Williams and Sarah Jackson at the next Nottingham Shindig, at the Jam Cafe on November 21st. David Morley is always a fine reader, and it's nice to have another HappenStance poet (Robin) on the bill.

That's also the case at the next Leicester Shindig, at The Looking Glass, Braunstone Gate, on December 13th, where Marilyn Ricci will also be reading, along with Nottingham-based poet Alan Baker and Malcolm Dewhirst, the man behind the Polesworth Poets Trail.

As always, there'll be open mic slots available at both events.

The book itself will be priced £9 - keep an eye on this blog for more details of it over the next fortnight or so.

Friday 5 November 2010

A bit of browsing...

Short of poetry reading over the weekend? Here's a few things that have caught my eye...

Alan Baker takes a look at the Roy Fisher/Matthew Welton reading at the Flying Goose last week over at Litterbug. There are links to a couple of good Fisher reviews, too.

Over at the Salt blog, meanwhile, there's a fine interview of Tony Williams by Mark Burnhope. Very thought-provoking (not least where 19th century novels are concerned).

Finally, at Michelle McGrane's Peony Moon, Nine Arches poet Milorad Krystanovich's Improvising Memory is featured, with an excellent selection of pieces.

Whale Sound

My poem The Quickening is featured today over at Nic Sebastian's rather wonderful Whale Sound. It's a great idea for a website, with Nic selecting a wide range of poetry to read aloud. I think any only really alive when read aloud, whether that be in the privacy of your own living-room, at a reading, or wherever, but hearing someone else read your poem adds another dimension altogether.

I've been trawling through the past posts, too, and there's an absolute plethora of great stuff on there, so have a look, and enjoy!

Thursday 4 November 2010

New Walk launch

Just a quick reminder that Leicester-based literary magazine New Walk will be officially launched next Thursday, November 11th, with a reading at the Library Lecture Theatre, University of Leicester, starting at 6pm.

Alice Oswald will be reading, along with Grevel Lindop and myself.

If you plan to attend, you need tickets, although they're free. Call 0116 252 2320, or email with your name and address.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

If you're anywhere near Polesworth tonight...

Just a quick reminder that tonight, 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 and entrance is free. Refreshments are available.

Monday 1 November 2010

Umbrella Issue 14

I have a poem - Coolidge - in the Fall/Winter 2010-11 issue of Umbrella. As always, it's a pleasure and an honour to be included in what's one of my favourite online poetry mags - editor Kate Bernadette Benedict does a consistently fine job, as you'll see if you trawl through a few back issues.

Incidentally, the poem appears in my new collection, hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, which will be published by Nine Arches Press in a couple of weeks.