Monday, 25 October 2021

Luke Kennard wins The Forward Prize

Good to see Luke Kennard winning this year's Forward Poetry Prize for his excellent Notes on the Sonnets, first and foremost because it's a great collection and just the latest in a line of superb books that he's written, but also because he's a thoroughly nice chap. Good for Penned in the Margins, too, for publishing it – it's heartening to see a small press winning. 

Lots to enjoy (and to catch up with) in the rest of the shortlists, too, and well done to Caleb Femi for winning Best First Collection. 

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Clarity and obscurity

This is a very interesting blogpost, from Jeremy Wikely, about clarity and obscurity in poetry. I wouldn't say I have any answers to the questions raised, although I don't generally enjoy poetry that 'explains' itself too much. I do have several exceptions, having said that, so it's probably something to do with how skilfully it's done. 

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Europe's bird extinction crisis

This, I'm afraid, is utterly depressing and terrifying in equal measure. I'm used, like any other birdwatcher, to reading about worrying declines in all sorts of species. Turtle Dove is one which has been much talked about (although to very little effect), and then there are the likes of Willow Tit, and Curlew. The former has disappeared from large parts of the UK, as has Willow Tit (with some small glimmers of hope in old industrial areas), while the speed of the latter's decline is alarming.

But the species being talked about here are absolutely everyday birds. Rook, for heaven's sake. Swift. If they too are starting to shrink back into ever-smaller breeding areas, where they raise ever-smaller numbers of young, then it's hard to avoid the conclusion that we have broken the natural world beyond repair.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

It's all happening at Nine Arches Press

I'm not going to apologise for giving Nine Arches Press another plug. It's all going on over there at the moment. As well as Daniel Sluman's nomination for the TS Eliot Prize, Primers Volume 6 has been announced, featuring 10 new poets. And of course, there are years and years of great collections, anthologies and other books there to browse through. 

Monday, 18 October 2021

Brendan Kennelly, 1936-2021

Very sad to hear of the death of Irish poet Brendan Kennelly today. When I first started reading a lot of poetry, having drifted away from it a bit after university, I remember seeing and enjoying a lot of his work in anthologies. Maybe because of that, I was surprised in later years that he perhaps didn't always get the attention he deserved (in the UK, at least, I suspect things were different in Ireland). Time to find those anthologies, I think, and the collections of his that I have. 

Saturday, 16 October 2021

Daniel Sluman on TS Eliot shortlist

Great news this week that Nine Arches Press poet Daniel Sluman is on the TS Eliot Prize shortlist for single window, a hybrid memoir of poetry and images. I've loved Dan's previous collections, Absence has a weight of its own, and the terrible, so I'm looking forward to having a good look at this one. He's a terrific poet, and the nomination is very well deserved

Friday, 15 October 2021

Dominic Couzens wins top award

It's always nice to be able to post about good news, and Dominic Couzens winning the British Trust for Ornithology's Dilys Breese Medal earlier this week is certainly that. 

It's awarded by the BTO every year, to someone who has championed and spread the word about their work, and who has encouraged people to take part in citizen science themselves.

Dom has certainly done that. He's an author, broadcaster and all-round naturalist, and also an all-round good guy and a pleasure to travel and go birdwatching with. I've been lucky enough to go on foreign trips with Dom over the years, and the thing that strikes you is just how much he notices. I know, I know, you'd think that all birders and naturalists would do that, and they do, but Dom takes it to a different level.

That comes out in his writing. Throughout the 15 years I've been at Bird Watching, he's written a feature in each issue, taking a close look at a particular species, always with the main focus on behaviour. Every issue, when the feature arrives by email and I read it through before it goes to the designer, I find myself amazed at how many new facts he has uncovered, even about very familiar garden species that you thought you knew really well. And yet, although the features are packed with research, they're written in such an engaging and accessible style that you can imagine anybody, even the most casual birdwatcher, being absolutely enthralled. 

Congratulations Dom!

Friday, 8 October 2021

Iamb Poetry

Yesterday was National Poetry Day, a fact which I have to admit had escaped my notice until it was too late to do anything about it. Busy week at work, and all that.

Mark Antony Owen, who has created the fantastic Iamb poetry website, very kindly tweeted a link to my appearance on the site last year – you can hear me read three poems (including Grail Birds, inspired by the Ivory-billed Woodpecker referenced earlier this week).

But take the time to have a browse through the whole site. It's a superb resource, an inspiration, and a reminder that however good it is on the page, poetry needs to be heard, too (or at the very least, it takes on a whole new dimension when it is heard). 

There are new poets being added there on a regular basis, too, so it's a site to bookmark and keep returning to.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Tony Greig

After reading that John Snow article the other day, I came across this fine piece from the same writer, James Mettyear, about his hero-worship of Tony Greig. Greig was a hero to a whole generation until his move to help set up World Series Cricket, but the years since have put that in a different perspective.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

New at Nine Arches Press

Angela France's collection Terminarchy is one of Nine Arches' most recent publications, and it's a fine book that explores subjects such as climate change, among others. I've enjoyed Angela's past work, but this takes it on to another level, and I recommend it very highly.

There's plenty more to enjoy at the Nine Arches website, too – have a browse of the collections and anthologies on sale there, and don't forget Under The Radar magazine.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

The Lord God bird

So, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is officially no more, although I suspect that won't be the last word on it. Those like Tim Gallagher, who claim relatively recent sightings and who have led exhaustive searches for the bird, are unlikely to be convinced, and I'm far from sure that I am.

I was lucky enough to go on a birding trip with Tim a few years back, and in the evenings he talked to us about his sightings and his searches. Some of what he told us can be found in interviews such as this.

When I got back, I went straight out and bought his book The Grail Bird, and having found it enjoyable and fascinating in equal measure, bought Imperial Dreams, his book about the search for the Imperial Woodpecker (the world's largest) too. If anything, it's even better.

Whether the Ivory-bill is still out there somewhere, only time will tell, and probably a lot of time at that. But even if it does hang on in some swampy forest of the American South, it's future can't be bright.

Monday, 4 October 2021

The cricketing poet

To be fair, the title of this post is a bit of a cheat. John Snow, the former England fast bowler who's the subject of this article, was of course more of a cricketer who did a bit of poeting, but there you go – poetic licence and all that.

I was too young to see Snow at anything like his best - my memories are of seeing him in a test against the West Indies in 1976, and a few Sunday League games. But reading about his career, it strikes me that he is not given the credit he deserves. Beyond the bare statistics, he saved most of his best performances for the Aussies and the West Indies, and in 1970-71 he won the Ashes back for England with a performance that shaped a whole generation of Aussie cricketers, bizarrely – Ian Chappell consciously set out to create a team that played the way Ray Illingworth's did, with one or more John Snows dishing out the short stuff.

Anyway, it's a really excellent article. Take a look, and enjoy.