Sunday, 29 April 2012

Shearsman 91 & 92

I'm pleased to say I have three poems in Shearsman 91 & 92: two from the Divining for Starters series and "Orphan/age," one of my first finished poems about my mother's unexpected death last summer. I look forward to reading the poems by Catherine Hales, Gary Hotham, Rob A. Mackenzie, Sam Sampson and Steven Waling, as well as many other poets both new and familiar to me, including translations of Baudelaire. 

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Pleasures of Difficult Poetry, Tonight on BBC Radio 3's The Verb

Tonight I talk with host Ian McMillan and fellow guests Inua Ellams and Ira Lightman about American poet Hart Crane and the pleasures of difficult poetry on The Verb at 10 p.m. on BBC Radio 3 (that's 4 p.m. Central Time, my American friends), which of course you can listen to online. If that time's not good for you, though, you'll be able to listen to the program on BBC iPlayer for the week following. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

NaPoWriMo blown (sort of)

A few days ago I no longer could manage a poem a day, as the sinus infection I thought I'd conquered at the start of the month had returned. However, the intense projects I've been working on--a montage of pieces on Peter Coker's painting, "Sunflowers," for Sylph Editions and a series of poems using Esther Summerson's narration from Bleak House--mean that I have 28 pieces on day 26. I think that means I'll make 30 poems in 30 days, if not a poem a day, and I'm thrilled with that. How are others getting on?

Monday, 23 April 2012

Saturday, 21 April 2012

"Wooding" by David Hale

David Hale was a student of mine for five years in a Poetry School seminar I held at my home in Bradford on Avon, and I'm pleased to say his pamphlet, The Last Walking Stick Factory, has been published by Happenstance. Here's one poem as a sample. 


A thumb split by a felling axe, gouged knuckles,
gashed palms, a shin unstitched by tangled fieldwire.

What is it about these past few days, after weeks
without one finger diced for the pot, the saw singing

sweetly through close-grained ash, this sudden surfeit
of blood, its palette rich on skin turned winter pale?

These things come in clusters, you say and shrug
clutching bloodied fingers. Our work calls for edges,

the sharper the better. Even though I can see
what you say is true, we’re running out of lint and pins

and words for pain, and surely this is beyond probability,
this tendency of restless steel drawn as if by moon

or some other magnetic force through skin and nail.
No mere carelessness could spill so much blood.

David Hale
The Last Walking Stick Factory (Happenstance, 2011)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

NaPoWriMo--the halfway point!

I've written poetry every day for fifteen days now, and I love the feelings it brings--giddiness, satisfaction, pleasure. How are others doing?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

My Adoption Birthday

This is a picture of me with my parents, Henry and Bernadine Etter, the day I was adopted, exactly two weeks after I was born. We always referred to today as my adoption birthday.

This adoption birthday is my first without them, without their unconditional, boundless love, and I miss them desperately.

Monday, 9 April 2012

NaPoWriMo, day 9

Nine days, nine poems or sections of a longer poem completed. Whew. When I began, I thought I'd be writing individual poems, but a few days in, I accepted a commission to write for a Sylph Editions' booklet on Peter Coker's painting "Sunflowers." It looks to be a series of poetic prose meditations, that will hopefully also operate as independent prose poems. As my deadline is the 17th, the timing of NaPoWriMo and Bath Spa's spring break really help.

My second project is one I've long thought of, using fragments from Esther Summerson's chapters in Bleak House to create individual poems. Some critics have found her voice cloying, but I, as a fellow illegitimate, have felt her behaviour and voice motivated by the senses of not belonging and abandonment. I have been able to draft and revise the sections, but so soon after completion, and with writing so much, I find it hard to judge their quality at the moment. As others have said, that can be done once the month's over, poetic material to rework over the summer.

How are we doing now? Who's still on course at day 9?

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Roy Fisher's Standard Midland (Bloodaxe, 2010)

The afterlife back then
was fairly long:
nothing demented like for ever,

nothing military.

from "The Afterlife"

Pass by the threat and it goes back nearer Nature: the three old horses that always amble in the boggy roadside fields have criss-crossed the bluff, growing bigger all the while. They've arranged themselves on the naked steps of the summit and stand there asleep as a single conjoined thing against the sky waiting for the enormous moon to land and take them up.


of shellfish and salmon rising from marble
counters in the pomp of the market
defer to the palms ranged above. Masque
in the Aquarium tank breasting the view
floor up to roof where the skirts
swish through the murk and sharks
ride up and pass

'Sunday 6.30 Rev. Handel Broadbent

Indeed. If so he be. The phut and fall
of a late firework.

from "On the Wellingtonias at Pilleth"

[Here you will have to long for the exquisite 6-line elegy, "On Hearing I'd Outlived My Son the Linguist," or buy the book.]

My mood,
my garden: outline and ooze.

from "Shocking Pink"

Quite possibly I love the old cat
more than I love my thoughts. A private matter.

from "Of the Qualities"

It's plain. The rule
and the example.
In from the world and all its directions
the rule must fall and there lie
shining alone.


But there's a force that starts to curve as it gathers and says
War and energy. Peace with revolutions
under the floorboards. Go looking.

from "Hole, Horse and Hellbox:
the Tabernacle Poems"

[More whole short poems would go here if I was going to fly in the face of copyright: "Plot," "A Damp Night," "The Skyline in the Wall Mirror"....]

It's as if some sunny splendour has not long since passed through this room and the passage beyond with the power to life the air and move, while the cartons and packing cases maintain an oppressive inertia bordering on menace.

from "Stops and Stations"

Peeling the present off the past
the better to show the wiring


rattling a cart of knocked-up planks

its bottom littered with research papers
on land use in the Fertile Crescent,

pamphlets, a Herodotus:
news of the stolen world.

from "Rattle a Cart"

Standard Midland is, as of this posting, available from Foyle's Books for 30% off.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Mary Leader's Beyond the Fire (Shearsman, 2011), second selection

I've finally finished reading Mary Leader's Beyond the Fire and can't recommend it enough--it's excellent, and its array of forms, mostly invented, is magisterial. Note that in the selections below, the spacing on the page is generally not the spacing in the original--I've had so much trouble trying to figure out how to do intricate spacing in Blogger.

I would have been your most
Precise friend, if not your enchantment, the winding of
Your air.

from "Ending with a Spell Incised on a Rib of Scrimshaw"

But certainly angels
feel solitude through and through
As perfectionism heading directly for rage.


In times of
human war,
You'll hear angels railing at statues of saints, screaming, "Do something!
Do something!"


Later, soon, once Hunger and
the other
Angels in attendance this summer, along with all their swan cousins,

lie down to sleep, distributed there
On the water's bank, then Tearbringer, and all the other resident saints, come

and steal in among them,
To lie down too, interspersing, so that through
the night, their somber
robes and the glossy white wings
Make a chessboard, of gray and gray, camouflage,
to tax the eye, to baffle
the hand, of God

from "On Boston Common"

That is how ignorant I am, thinking those folk are somehow avatars of pertinence, whereas she knows, it is not from the hall that the fetch will come but from that corner


And of self-forgiveness, that part of the Janus figure stays inchoate

from "Folio"

Board slippage left of f, or keyboard slippage
Right--wind, or wing--"father" coming out "gather")

from "Patronymic"

Not one of us had but heard
the wind at night,
The perception for I am alive inside
the countable lives.


We'd heard the wounded birds
coming down from the sun;
We'd heard the psalms
centrifuging into eternity;


The most outspoken among us
now says only
that the most outspoken
among us then
was heard to say:
"It is begun."

from "Pentecost"

You can learn more about the book and find links for purchasing here on Shearsman's website.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Some NaPoWriMo prompts

My friend Kristina Close is struggling to stay with NaPoWriMo, so I've recommended one site of prompts to her and thought I'd offer some myself.

1. Write a poem about something you collect or used to collect. Focus on the rich details that distinguish the items in the collection from one another.

2. Write a 16-20-line pantoum whose opening line (and hence ending line) contains a concrete image.

3. Write a poem that begins with seeing a person who resembles someone who's dead.

4. Write a poem composed of fragments, with the odd lines focusing on a concrete scene and the even lines focusing on a metaphysical issue. (Such a poem might work best double-spaced.)

5. Write a prose poem that begins and ends with the same image.

6. Write an angry, bitter poem to someone who has wronged you, but instead of relating the events or the wrong autobiographically, think of what could metaphorically represent that same event and write about that instead. For example, if someone stole your boyfriend, perhaps she moved into your castle.

7. Write a poem using five of the following six words: errand; body; world; dusk; snow; light.

That's good for now. I'd be glad to know people's experiences of these prompts if they try them.

NapoWriMo, day 4

I've written three poems in three days, and any other month, I'd be delighted, but it's April, and this has become usual. I'm trying not to evaluate whether the three very different poems--one a nature poem in fragments, one more linear, one a prose poem--have any value, so as to stay focused on the momentum. I'd be glad to hear others' experiences....

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Saturday seminars and workshops in Swindon

At the encouragement and under the organization of the wonderfully industrious Hilda Sheehan, I'll be doing monthly Saturdays in Swindon from May to July, then September to November, at the Richard Jefferies House and Museum. In the morning (10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., with a short break midway), I'll run a seminar with a changing, practical topic: 26 May, A Short Introduction to Prose Poetry; 23 June, Titling Your Poems; 21 July, Ending Your Poems. These will involve guided discussion and a writing exercise. In the afternoon (1:30-4 p.m., again with a break midway), I'll be running an advanced poetry workshop (members must be pre-approved). As we need to keep the numbers low to have a chance to talk about everyone's poems, I'm afraid the workshop is already full for May through July, but Hilda's maintaining a wait list. Further details are on the website, along with pricing.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Saddle Tor, Dartmoor, 15 March 2012

It was a bleak day when we headed up to Saddle Tor.

Perfectly balanced:

A sense of the scale....

Sunday, 1 April 2012

National Poetry Month begins!

Here's the list of those joining me in trying to write a poem a day for the month of April:

1. Joanne Limburg, Cambridge, UK
3. Aisling Tempany, Cardiff
4. Daniel Luff, Bath
5. Claire Lerpinière, near Bath
6. Natalia Spencer, Bristol
7. Jennifer K. Dick, Mulhouse, France
8. Reiss McGuinness, Bath and Sheffield
9. Kit Fryatt, Dublin
10. Cat Conway, London
11. Barbara Marsh, Hackney
12. Marthe Reed, Lafayette, Louisiana
13. James "J.P." Pavett, Bath, Somerset and Ferndown, Dorset
14. Katy Wilson, Bath
15. Alex Clere, Bath and Tamworth
16. Isobel Armstrong, Southampton
17. Jenny Martin, Great Bookham, Surrey
18. Kathryn Simmonds, London
19. John Wheway, Bath
20. Kristina Close, Cleeve Hill, Cheltenham
21. Tom Weir, Leeds
22. Kenny Campbell, St Andrews
23. Samantha Boarer, Bath and Newton Abbot
24. Matt Haw, Bath
25. Abigail Maskill, Halifax and Bath
26. Laura Hill, Borehamwood and Bath
27. Katherine Frost, Folkestone and Bath
28. Connie Voisine, Belfast, Ireland
29. Frank Dullaghan, Dubai, UAE
30. Dikra Ridha, Bath
31. Libby Walkup, Chicago
32. Jack Tinmouth, Whitchurch, Bristol
33. Simon McCormack, Bournemouth
34. Ginny Wiehardt, Brooklyn, NY
35. Éireann Lorsung, Nottinghamshire
36. Charlotte Owen, Bath
37. Emily Maycock, Newton St Loe
38. Laura Burns, Bristol
39. Mark Olival-Bartley, Munich, Germany
40. Simon Williams, South Devon, UK
41. Peter Daniels, London
42. Sarah Rudston, Bath
43. Zoe Howarth-Lowe, Bath
44. Rob A. Mackenzie, Edinburgh
45. Violet Echo Dahl, Bath and Oxford
47. Graham Burchell, Dawlish
48. Sharon Larkin, Cheltenham
49. Bob Walton, Bristol
50. Diana Gittins, Exeter
51. Lucy Sixsmith, Bath
52. Lily Kerfoot, Dartmoor and Bath
53. Sarah Lariviere, Paris
54. Nathan Say, Las Vegas
55. Jason Mark Curley, London
56. Hazel Hammond, Bristol
57. Valeria Melchioretto, London
58. Susan Taylor, Dartmoor, Devon
59. Sarah Law, London
60. Melissa Studdard, Houston, Texas
61. Eileen Moeller, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
62. Kit Kennedy, San Francisco, California
63. Joan Mazza, Mineral, Virginia
64. Marie Dullaghan, Dubai, UAE and Essex, UK
65. Charlotte Owen, Bath and Bradford, Yorkshire
66. Michelle Boisseau, Virginia, Ohio, and Kansas City, Missouri
67. Ben Hall, Bath
68. Scott Lutz, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
69. Louise Stephens Alexander, Edinburgh
70. Kimberly Campanello, Dublin
71. Siobhán Campbell, Washington, D.C.
72. Linda Black, London

I'll post a message asking 4-5 days asking how people are progressing, how the process is affecting the creative process, etc., and I'd be grateful for your responses.