Friday, 20 December 2019

John Ash: Selected Poems

Following on from last week's post about the death of John Ash, I've been reading through his Selected Poems, from Carcanet. It's consistently excellent, but my favourite poems there are generally from his 1991 collection, The Burnt Pages. He's great at creating an air of disquiet from seemingly vague and disparate details (something I seem to remember from the poem Visigothic, that I mentioned in that previous post), and history and the present day are in constant conversation with each other.

A particular favourite is Smoke, which starts:

"It was late in the year
and forests were burning a long way off
the day the smoke arrived, almost unperceived"

before ending with the wonderful:

"But don't vanish, don't take the path to the river.
It is cold there and lonely,
and the sky is a burnt page. Stay –

you and you others. If we are not to become
a dispersed people of smoke
the monument that is us must be built soon."

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Hwaet next?

Fascinating article here if you have any interest in Beowulf, Anglo-Saxon poetry more generally, linguistics, the Sutton Hoo burial, or early medieval history.

What's intriguing is that it focuses on the work of an archaeologist, Bo Graslund, who links it to the climate crisis of the mid-6th century, and whose detailed analysis of the material cultures of early Dark Age England and Sweden informs his argument.

Sadly, at the moment, you need to be fluent in Swedish to read the book, but hopefully there'll be an English translation before too long.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

John Ash, 1948-2019

Very sad to read this morning of the death of John Ash, a very fine poet who somehow often seemed to slip below the radar of surveys of contemporary UK poetry (perhaps because he had lived and worked abroad for so long).

I first came across his work in a Bloodaxe anthology in the early 2000s. One poem, Visigothic, caught my eye more because of my interest in early medieval history than anything else, but its quality got me hooked, I read the rest of Ash's poems in there (maybe half a dozen), and he became one of my favourite poets, one of those names who you really want the rest of the poetry-reading world to know about, but who you also regard as your own secret.

Carcanet have what I think is his last published poem here – typically of him, it's elegant and witty on the surface, with a very serious centre. He'll be very much missed.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

New poem at Ink, Sweat & Tears

I have a new poem – Peninkulma – posted today at Ink, Sweat & Tears. I hope you enjoy it, and that you'll enjoy looking through the many fine poems on the site.