Monday, 17 December 2012

Commercial break

Got any poetry-loving friends or relatives who you still haven't bought a Christmas present for? Short on ideas, or time to go shopping, or both?

Well, I'm here to ruthlessly take advantage of your desperation. For just £6, you can have a shiny new copy of hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica. I'll even sign it for you, if you want. Just drop me a line in the comments box below this post, or email me using the link on the right.

You can also buy the book direct from Nine Arches Press, and my first collection, Troy Town, is also available again from Arrowhead Press.

Finally, there are two or three copies of Making The Most Of The Light knocking around - I'll chuck one in free with the first orders.

Right, I promise that's the last bit of crass commercialism you'll get from me, at least until the January sales.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Poetry by heart

I'm probably not going to make myself too many friends by saying this, but Michael Gove's poetry recitation competition for schools doesn't seem, on the face of it, to be too bad an idea.

I can quite understand that many people may have been put off poetry by learning it by heart in school, but equally I suspect lots will have carried at least a few poems around with them for the rest of their lives as a result of this sort of thing (my mum, for example). I'm not entirely clear whether or not taking part will be voluntary, so I do have reservations on that count.

What does seem a bit disappointing is the fact that those taking part will have to choose poems from an approved list. I've got no problem with putting the poems mentioned in that article in front of the teenagers, as suggestions, but surely you'd go much further towards encouraging a love of poetry by letting them pick poems themselves?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Giles Goodland at Peony Moon

Michelle McGrane features so many excellent poets and collections on her wonderful blog Peony Moon that it would be a major achievement to buy and/or read a tenth of them, but this one, Giles Goodland's The Dumb Messengers, is going to be must.

As a couple of the reviewers quoted there suggest, Goodland's a poet who often makes the tired old mainstream/innovative debate look rather redundant, as well as one who's, above all, entertaining. I look forward to reading it.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

In praise of editing

I'm in the process of putting together the manuscript for my third collection. Pretty much everything's written, although plenty of the poems will get further revision over the next few weeks, but it's at the stage where the individual pieces are starting to coalesce and form little clusters.

It's got me thinking about the process of editing. I have spoken to one or two poets in the past who aren't keen on the whole thing, which I can understand up to a point. It is difficult surrendering control of what you've written, even if you'll probably have done the same in submitting work to magazines, webzines, anthologies, etc, and even though you're unlikely to have to surrender ALL control.

The important thing, I suppose, is to remember that the editor must like many aspects of your work, or they wouldn't be offering to publish it. When they're suggesting changes, they're more often than not honing your strengths a little bit, making them leaner and, yes, stronger.

There's also the way in which being edited makes you consider your own work afresh, and argue for the merits of individual pieces of work. There's a tendency, especially when you first start getting published in magazines, to assume that anything that has been accepted is worth putting in a book, without much regard to how it fits with other work. A good editor will make you make the argument for each poem, sometimes for each line.

Which is all a long way of saying that I enjoy the process - I'm not sure whether that's partly because I don't routinely get feedback on poems as I'm writing them, although I do sometimes send them to friends. I like having to think that bit harder about poems that have often been sitting around for years at a time. More often than not, the collection turns into something rather different from what you first envisaged, rather in the same way poems themselves do.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Books of 2012

I started trying to put together a list of my favourite poetry collections of this year, but it struck me that most of what I've read and enjoyed this year has been back-catalogue stuff (with a few notable exceptions, which I'll write about over the holiday period), or anthologies. There are also two or three new collections that I've bought but not yet read.

So, with a month left, I want some recommendations. In the unlikely event that I've got a few quid spare in the next four weeks, what do I need to read?