Saturday, 30 May 2009

Blog tours

I'm not sure what I think of poetry collections doing "blog tours." I suppose they're most useful for people who don't themselves blog, to give their book a greater online presence. 

Michelle McGrane asked to present The Tethers on her blog Peony Moon, with a sample poem; it's up now. I guess that's my first stop! Thanks, Michelle.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Facebook discoveries: Joseph Lease

One of the pleasures of Facebook has been learning about poets I hadn't previously known of, whose work interests and moves me. Today that poet is Joseph Lease. A ten-minute recording of his reading from his second book, Broken World, can be listened to here. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Poetry Days in London: Wednesday, 13 May

(That's right, there were three days in a row of this delight.) I spent the afternoon at one of my favourite places, The British Library, doing some research for my introduction to the anthology I'm editing for Shearsman, Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets. I'm very pleased with the anthology's range, with such poets as Caroline Bergvall, Elisabeth Bletsoe, Carol Watts, Claire Crowther, Zoe Skoulding, Sophie Mayer--the list goes on! To my surprise and pleasure, a while into my research I started writing the intro--it poured onto the paper, and I could see the structure for the essay as a whole. After worrying about how to present and structure it for some months now, I was relieved to have the matter solved. 

That evening Claire and I attended the launch of C.K. Stead's Collected Poems (Carcanet) at New Zealand House. There I met the man himself (who knew my poems from TLS!), Eric Ormsby, Anthony Thwaite, and Siobhan Campbell, and saw some familiar faces, in particular Jane Yeh and Todd Swift. In other words, great conversation bubbled on and on. 

Afterward, Jane, Siobhan, Claire and I decided to go to dinner nearby, and Jane took us to a wonderful Korean restaurant (I'll ask her the name and revise this with it when I have it). We tried a number of unexpected, delicious, and interesting dishes and talked the night away (the launch had begun at 6, so it was only eight or so when we went to dinner). Indeed, when we left and went to catch the tube, Claire and I saw it was eleven-thirty (!) and we'd have to catch a night bus back to Claire's. We didn't stop talking the entire trip; we were both buzzing over the ideal night.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Poetry Days in London: Tuesday, 12 May

On day 2 I visited The Poetry Library, in part to look into some magazines I enjoy but don't subscribe to (as I can only afford so many!) as well as to research magazines that seem open to beginning poets, for the sake of my three Publishing Your Poetry seminars next year for The Poetry School. I discovered a relatively new magazine from Clutag Press, Archipelago. Issue 3 was the latest, dated Spring 2009; I particularly enjoyed the poems by Michael Longley and Peter McDonald. Often I choose magazines to submit to based on how much I enjoy an issue; that is, commonly I'll enjoy reading a magazine and want to join the company, so to speak. On looking at Archipelago's website, though, I was disappointed to find out the magazine doesn't consider unsolicited submissions, something I haven't encountered in a long while. Oh well.

Next I saw the Annette Messager exhibition at The Hayward. It was so various and particular I don't want to try to describe it here; it really must be experienced. The words that occur to me are intriguing and disturbing. She's very idea- and symbol-driven, which I think describe my work, too.

I spent the early part of the evening in the atmospheric Vaults in the RSA, for the Bath Spa University MA writing programmes' anthologies launch. To read some good work from the programmes, follow these links for the MA in Creative Writing anthology, Mosaic, the MA in Writing for Young People anthology, Pick and Mix, and the MA in Scriptwriting anthology, The First Ten Pages. If I had the money, I'd launch my book in the RSA vaults, too! I very much like the mood the space encourages. 

The latter part of the evening was spent on the town with some of the MA scriptwriters, but details of that I'll leave to rumour....

Poetry Days in London: Monday, 11 May

Monday afternoon through Thursday morning I was in London to take in poetry, and I had the best of times. Monday night Claire Crowther and Siriol Troup launched their second books to an audience of approximately eighty at Swedenborg Hall. I encountered many poets I hadn't seen in some time--Joyce Goldstein, Mo Gallacio, Nancy Mattson, Sue Rose, and Tammy Yoseloff, as well as those I tend to see at Shearsman readings fairly regularly, such as Rachel Lehrman, Robert Vas Dias, Frances Presley, and Gavin Selerie. I also finally met George Ttoouli, co-author of the Gists & Piths blog and new reviews editor for Horizon. Claire and Siriol read very well, and afterward nearly 20 of us converged on Tas Restaurant next to the British Museum for a lovely dinner. There I sat across from/met Rachel McCarthy, whose energy awed me (Met officer by day, avid poet by night...). 

So that's just the first night! More anon!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

April '09 Illinois Visit

prairie sunset viewed from the coach home

my nephew Andrew and his father Bryan

my niece Lindsey (aka Brain Box)


my niece Kaylee, Mom, my nephew Austin, and my godmother Sue

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Sophie Mayer's Her Various Scalpels

I've been enjoying reading Sophie Mayer's first collection, Her Various Scalpels, just released from Shearsman, and want to share with you "Sleepside," in this PDF on Brand where it was originally published. I'd reprint it here, but as you'll see, its spacing is intricate and I don't know how to replicate that here. The book is available from Shearsman's online store or

Sunday, 3 May 2009

A weakness of contemporary poetry criticism, and one poet-critic's suggested remedy

In the new online journal, Mayday, American poet-critic Kent Johnson considers why so little poetry criticism is critical in sense of finding fault. He comes to the conclusion that this is because so many poets are themselves reviewers and, especially when they are younger, they want to ingratiate themselves with others for the sake of their careers. There's no doubt the same thing happens in the UK. When last year I told another poet that I was going to be on a reading with a poet I'd criticized in a review, the response was essentially, "That's what you get for writing critical reviews." I couldn't respond at first; I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I was supposed to write wholly positive reviews, even if that wasn't how I felt? Nonsense. I realize I take a risk that the reviewed poet will in turn write a disparaging review of my forthcoming book or deny me an opportunity, but that kind of tit-for-tat would weaken said review's weight. 

Johnson goes on to offer the following remedy: that journals reserve a portion of review space for anonymous reviews. Editors would need to discern whether it were simply a negative review, revenge, an ad hominem attack, etc., but I think the idea generally practicable. Mayday went on to obtain responses to Johnson's essay from a range of poet-critics, and Stephen Burt makes a point I've made before: If a review is going to be wholly negative, why give it the journal space? Why not use it for a book that deserves recognition?

Friday, 1 May 2009

National Poetry Month--how'd it go?

I'd be glad to hear reports of how it went for others trying for a poem a day. Something unusual happened with my work: I began writing in spurts, that is, roughly three poems in a go. That partly results from my work on After Sex; those tend to come out several at a time. But I've also written elegies for my father, a few Divining for Starters, etc. While I can't say I wrote 30 poems in 30 days, I'm pleased with the amount of quality work I've done in the month--it's been a while since I had a month so creatively productive, and it's given me some pleasure amid my grieving for my father, for the life I'd imagined for myself and lost with his death. 

Kudos to my MA students Alia Brinkman and Jenny Martin for writing a poem a day all month long! I'm impressed.

Carol Ann Duffy named UK Poet Laureate

See the BBC article for details. What do you think?