Thursday, 24 April 2014

Maps and Legends reading, Much Wenlock

I'm at the Wenlock Poetry Festival on Sunday, reading with Jo Bell, Mario Petrucci and Maria Taylor from the Nine Arches Press anthology Maps & Legends. It was launched back in December, in Birmingham, and celebrates Nine Arches' first five years of existence, with selections from all the poets they've published in pamphlet or book form.

The reading takes place from 3.30pm, at Much Wenlock Methodist Church, and full details are here.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Argentinian interlude 4

Apologies for the picture quality here. My two excuses are:
1. It was taken through a slightly tinted and dusty minibus window; and
2. I have only the vaguest idea of what I'm actually doing with any of the settings on a camera, and even less about Photoshop.

But anyway this is an Aplomado Falcon, photographed near Bariloche in Patagonia. They're about the size of a small Peregrine, but more slender in build, and longer-winged, and act more like Hobbies, pursuing birds in level flight but feeding on large insects for much of the time.

And of course, all you students of Spanish out there will already have worked out that the name means 'leaden' or 'lead-coloured'.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Argentinian interlude 3

At the Bristol reading on April 11th, a gentleman bought a copy of my book The Elephant Tests on the strength of a particular poem, A Long Dry, which is set in Australia's Northern Territory. He wanted to send it to his daughter, who lives out there.

When I visited Northern Territory a few years back, one of the first birds I saw at Fogg Dam, not far outside Darwin, was the Jabiru, a large and hugely impressive stork. Even though the name sounds rather Australian, it is in fact named after the above bird, the original Jabiru, seen here in the Ibera wetlands.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Argentinian interlude 2

This Field Flicker was photographed at Rincon del Socorro, on the edge of the Ibera wetlands in northern Argentina. It was far from the only place that we saw this charismatic bird, but they were always a welcome sight.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Cthulhu Cymraeg launch day

There's a launch event for the horror anthology Cthulhu Cymraeg taking place at Swansea Library, from 10am on Saturday, April 26th.  Here's the timetable - I'm looking forward to it, plus the chance to catch up with old friends.

10.05 - The Shadow from Wild Wales : HP Lovecraft, Arthur Machen and Wales
H P Lovecraft is one of the key figures in modern horror. After a short introduction to his life in New England and New York and his work, this talk will look in particular at the Welsh author of decadent 
and mystical horror Arthur Machen, often cited as one of the main influences on HPL. How did Lovecraft find out about Machen, “a Titan” as he called him, and how did it influence his own stories, 
including The Call of Cthulhu itself? How has Wales featured in later mythos works? Is Wales, as some have claimed, the location of the dread Necronomicon? Illustrated talk by Machen expert Gwilym Games.

10.50 - The Spawning of Cthulhu Cymraeg
This panel, featuring the editor Mark Howard Jones, publisher Steve Upham and many authors from the anthology, will discuss how the book was born and the twisted gestation of the stories within it. There will also be a chance to buy copies!

11.25 – Author Readings

12.00 - Lunch

12.30 – Author Readings

1.10 - The Call of Lovecraft – Lovecraft in the 21st century
What is the strange and growing attraction Lovecraft exerts on readers and writers? Countless writers have written Lovecraftian books and stories and his impact extends to inspiring films, comics, games, 
television and even religious and occult movements. After years of neglect and dismissal of Lovecraft as a pulp writer he is now regarded by publishers as a classic author, and academic work on Lovecraft is becoming common. Why is this and where is modern mythos fiction going? How are we to judge the quality of Lovecraft’s own work and his followers? What are we to make of Lovecraft’s racism in a more tolerant age? Why do the works of the atheist Lovecraft inspire religious ideas? Discussing these and other questions the audience might throw at them is a panel featuring Rhys Hughes, Mark Howard Jones, Gwilym Games and others.

2.00 - The Technicolor out of the Screen
There have been rather a lot of Lovecraft-inspired films and adaptations of Lovecraft’s stories. Many of them are hideous abominations which test the sanity of any who might see them. In this mind-blasting survey Gwilym Games and author John Llewellyn Probert, will be reanimating some highlights of Lovecraftian cinema before your very EYES in a devastating montage of film clips and commentary. Watch if you dare!

2.50 Break

3.00 The Call of Cthulhu (Film)
Amongst other elements of tentacular terror there will be a rare chance to watch this silent classic! Trailer here:

3.50 The END
Adjourn to The No Sign Wine Bar for drinks after the event, where there will be a further chance to talk to authors.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Argentinian interlude 1

Just in case updating slips my mind over the next week or so, I've scheduled a few more posts from my recent trip to Argentina. Here's a White-headed Marsh Tyrant, taken in the Ibera wetlands - glorious little bird.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

And Other Poems

A nice bonus at last Friday's Park Street Poets reading was that I got to meet Josephine Corcoran, whose And Other Poems is one of those poetry blogs that's always worth a read.

Its very regular updates feature a different poet each time, some well-known, some emerging, and some new, so there's simply a wide variety of quality poetry. No frills or adornments, just somewhere to sample voices that you might not have come across before. I recommend it.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Poems from the Road

Robin Vaughan-Williams is looking for ‘poems from the road’ for a podcast that'll be made available in July.

It's part of the Apples and Snakes Home Cooking series, and will be broadcast on and then made available for download. Poems from the Road will be a poetic journey down Britain’s A-roads, and will include work by poets from around the country.

Robin explained: "I am looking for poetry that is born from the road, addresses the road, inhabits it, or otherwise explores our experience of the road.

"The road is many things to many people: a place of alienation, danger, abstraction, release, solitude, speed. It takes up vast chunks of much of our lives, yet is often neglected as one of the spaces we inhabit in the rush from A to B. What of the inner world, the landscapes, the journeys, the people that populate them?"

If you’d like to submit (up to three poems), you can contact Robin directly here. Audio recordings of the selected poems will be used, but at this stage Robin only needs the poems in written form. Final selections will be made by June 1st. 

From May Robin will also be collecting poetic tweets from the A-roads, to be edited into an audio collage for the programme. Keep an eye on his Twitter account - @robinrvw - for further details.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Park Street Poets, 11.4.14

Friday saw me whizzing down the M5 to Bristol to read at Park Street Poets, held at the excellent Boston Tea Party, which not only boasted a really nice upstairs reading room, but also some great carrot cake. It's a quarterly event hosted by the poet David Briggs, whose Salt collections The Method Men and Rain Rider I can warmly recommend.

I read first, mainly from The Elephant Tests, although I did give a rare outing to The Meeting Place, from Troy Town, thanks to the generous time slots. The good-sized audience were more than kind, and it was, as I've said, a really nice space to read in, with the university clock chiming dimly in the background.

Alasdair Paterson's reading was excellent, taking in work from Brumaire and Later, the Flarestack pamphlet that marked his return to writing poetry after 20 years away, as well as his two recent Shearsman collections, On The Governing of Empires and Elsewhere or Thereabouts. His poetry wears its considerable learning and wit lightly, moving beyond mainstream lyrics while never forgetting the value of a good story or the musical potential of language. He reminds me of a favourite poet of mine, Lee Harwood, as well as a name that cropped up during the reading, Harry Guest, in his ability to create and inhabit a space entirely his own.

The same could be said of the final reader, Carrie Etter. Being an American expat who has taught in the UK for the last decade might be partly responsible for that, but whatever the reason, she's able to move between poetry genres and schools easily and without self-consciousness. She read from Imagined Sons, her new Seren collection, and delivered what must be difficult material (the book concerns the experience of giving up a child for adoption) with quiet confidence that had us all, I think, utterly enthralled.

I'm not going to say anything more about the poems for now, because I've spent part of today reading the book straight through twice, and I'd like to review it properly in the near future. Suffice to say that  the chosen forms work perfectly with the material, and best of all, that this is poetry that always feels as though it needs to be written.

Finally, it was great to meet Carrie at last, having been online acquaintances for several years, along with Alasdair and David, and thanks are due to the appreciative and generous audience.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Poems, Places & Soundscapes

This exhibition of digitally-produced sound and poetry kicks off this morning at the Cube Gallery, at Phoenix Arts in Leicester. There's a panel discussion about sound poetry and film-poems on Thursday at 6.30pm, too.

I'll miss the latter, unfortunately, but I'll look forward to catching up with the exhibition next week (it runs until April 25th).

Saturday, 5 April 2014

It's not just birds...

One of the greatest pleasures of my recent trip to Argentina was that there was plenty of non-avian wildlife to see. The howler monkeys above were in a patch of forest in the Ibera wetlands, one of a couple of groups that we saw while up there.

The caiman below, on the other hand, was one of hundreds we saw in the same area - the many pools, streams, channels and cuts are a paradise for them, you'd imagine. I don't think they're much of a threat to anything larger than a jacana, but they're satisfyingly fierce looking.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Poets and biography

It probably wasn't a huge surprise to many that Jonathan Bate's biography of Ted Hughes - originally being written with the co-operation of the poet's estate - has now effectively been 'outlawed' by the same. Bate intends to continue with it, but it will be with a different publisher (Faber were originally due to bring it out), and without the blessing of the poet's family, notably his widow, Carol.

I won't go into all the ins and outs of it here, but you can read Bate's side of things, and some interesting questions are raised. For one thing, as Bate and others have pointed out, there's a strange situation surrounding quotations from documents in the British Library. As they've been bought with public money, why should the public only be allowed to see them, but not quote from them at length? That feels rather like the estate trying to have their cake and eat it.