Tuesday 31 January 2006

Poetry in Bath and environs

What does it take to make a poetry community? I feel as though one is emerging here in the Bath area, but perhaps I feel that way because I am directly involved in a number of community poetry activities--the new Bath Spa reading series at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution on the second Thursday of each month (through June, and resuming again in the autumn), The Poetry School's first proper course offerings in Bath next academic year, my own seminar group at my home in Bradford on Avon, and the new Aloud series run by David Berridge here in BoA (in which I am "involved" as a regular attender--there have been two so far!--and reader). Then we have a Poetry Society Stanza group developing under Nikki Bennett-Willetts' direction, possibly meeting at the University of Bath in the near future.

What I miss about London poetry is the conversations I'd have with others involved in poetry in different ways, especially with my Poetry School students at the Poetry Cafe before our class on Friday nights last spring and when I'd run into other poets at readings and we'd go for a drink afterward. We would talk about new books, magazines, reading series, other poets, etc., and I loved it. I miss it.

Sunday 8 January 2006

The Drunkenness of Things Being Various

While in my hometown over Christmas, I made my usual visits to Milner Library, one of my favourite places, and felt liberated by the variety of excellent poetry I found in such magazines as Denver Quarterly, American Poetry Review, etc. I remembered what I've often realised on previous trips home: when I focus my reading on British mainstream poetry, I tend to suffocate on account of the lack of air, the narrowness of scope. This manifests in a tendency to write and read less poetry in general, but I never seem to recognise the cause until I also see the solution.

How does this happen? Why don't I always "mix it up"? As I've only become properly acquainted with British contemporary poetry since moving to the country in 2001, and since I was working on my thesis on Victorian fiction and early British criminology until autumn 2003 (not to go into my health problems, jobs, divorce, etc.), I've had a lot of catching up to do. Meanwhile, publishing continues and I see new titles that interest me; it doesn't help that Shearsman's received an Arts Council grant to increase their publishing from 2005-7. As the people around me are generally talking about (mainstream) British poetry, referring to poems I haven't read or poets I barely know, I tend to sink into long periods of reading only British poetry of the last ten to twenty years.

One of my goals for 2006 is to keep my reading wildly various. My friend Lytton Smith was kind enough to bring me copies of Lit and American Letters & Commentary this past summer, and in Chicago I picked up Fence and Poetry. The presence and improving quality of online journals will also help.

I also hope to broaden the conversation with fellow poets and my students by sharing copies of American magazines and adding links to noteworthy American and online journals to this blogsite. In each category, there's a range of styles, from rather mainstream through experimental, in the hope of appealing to a range of tastes while broadening them.

Here's hoping--