Friday 28 September 2007

Current and Forthcoming Issues

For all the difficulties of this year, it's been productive in terms of my writing and publishing. With Tim Liardet's help in the spring, I remade my first ms, since The Tethers, and I spent a good portion of the summer working on Divining for Starters--it's hardly recognisable from the last complete draft to the current one.

My poems appear in current issues of The Reader, Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics (the prose poetry journal in the States, highly recommended), and The Times Literary Supplement (assuming I can count the 14 September issue as current!). In October, poems will also appear in The Liberal, Poetry Review, and Shearsman, and beyond that, in The New Republic, Stand, and The Warwick Review.

Thursday 27 September 2007

Claire Crowther's Stretch of Closures Shortlisted for Aldeburgh Prize!

Hurrah, hurrah! Claire's first book, Stretch of Closures (Shearsman, 2007), is shortlisted for the Jerwood Aldeburgh Prize for a best first collection of poetry.

Previous blog entries offer selections from the book:

"Cheval de Frise"
"Lost Child"

Good luck, Claire!

Tuesday 25 September 2007

Henry Ross Etter turns 67

Tomorrow is my father's birthday, and luckily today he was moved from the hospital (where he was treated for an infection) back to the rehab centre, which is some improvement. I think the poem below is the best one I've written for him, so I'll include it here in honour of his birthday.

His Pantoum

This is the West Country: if it rains, it rains all day,
winds as fierce as anywhere
sweeping hair into my eyes at every crossing.
When did my father get old?

The prairie winds were as fierce as anywhere
when he cycled thirty miles a day.
When did he get old?
This is his twelfth day in intensive care.

When he cycled thirty miles a day,
I went on with my life, unfearing.
This is his twelfth day in intensive care,
my sixth year abroad,

going on with my life, unfearing.
Sweeping hair into my eyes at every crossing
in my sixth year abroad,
the West Country, where it rains and it rains and it rains.

(published in TLS, June 2007)

Sunday 23 September 2007

Missing Bill Hicks

I was watching clips of Bill Hicks on YouTube as I wanted to find a couple to send to a friend I've recommended Hicks to, and it was refreshing to hear good comedy on political issues. I've been a bit out of the comedy loop since I came to England in 2001, as I couldn't as easily keep up with US comedians and found many UK comedians' accents kept me from following their fast-paced routines very well. Who are the talented political comedians out there now?

Sunday 16 September 2007

Uncollected Poems: 1991


I keep leaving this place,
all the intersections perfectly perpendicular,
insidiously so.
It is more than the Thanksgiving suicides,
the skinny high school girls with shaved hair
chain smoking on the campus quad.
Everywhere people are saying something like my name;
I pivot a vestige of the sound in an ordinary conversation.
In the night, the far recesses of prairie become sky,
blue-black and an astounded silence.
I do not exist for the high school boys at the gas station
wearing caps bearing corn seed logos,
for the checkers at Pharmor,
middle-aged women with names with Sara and Lynette.
The university library, the coffeehouse,
a used bookstore, thrift shops:
I must thrive on French roast and Rilke.
The rain is thunder, the snows are blizzards,
the wind snaps like a horsewhip.
The ennui is proud of itself.
At midnight, forsaken roads and the anxiety of stars.
I keep leaving a place
I cannot leave.

written 27 November 1991
published in The Devil's Millhopper, 1992-93

Thursday 13 September 2007

"A Birthmother's Catechism (September 11, 1986)"

appears in tomorrow's issue of TLS (at newsstands today, which is how I found out!). For those who know the "Imagined Sons" series from PN Review, in the book manuscript, "birthmother's catechisms" appear at intervals amid the "sons."

Saturday 8 September 2007

Uncollected Poems: 1990

I have been writing and publishing for what feels like a long, long time without bringing out a book. The consequence of this is that poems that I once liked, that years ago I may have thought book-worthy, will never be included in a manuscript. Some of them I still like, even as I see their weaknesses or wince at an earlier aesthetic, so as long as I have the nerve, I'm going to publish some of them here in an occasional series. As the first computer file I have of my poems is from 1990, I'll start there. (If I get really brave, at some point I may dig out my volumes of pre-1990 poems, but I'm not there yet.)

I wrote the following poem on Valentine's Day, 1990. I was twenty years old.

Belligerence or Fear

His hand moves across my face
with the snap of a bird's neck breaking.
Across the room, my sister shifts
in a creaking chair, a subtle distraction.
Outside, November shakes the sycamore,
all its limbs flailing.
There is where I am,
barren boughs rattling against the windowpane,
the granite-gray skies.
As he begins to turn away, I smile too loud.

Published in Indefinite Space in 1994

(and by the way, the narrative is entirely made up)

Friday 7 September 2007

Autumn poetry events here and afar

On Wednesday, 19 September, as part of the Bradford on Avon Arts Festival, I will emcee an open poetry and music night at The George on Woolley Street in Bradford on Avon. It all begins at 7:30.

From 21-30 September, the first Bath Festival of Children's Literature will be held in Bath; it includes children's poetry events.

October 4 is National Poetry Day; this year's theme is "dreams." (I know of no events in or around Bath; I'll be running workshops in Shropshire schools for the Ludlow Poetry Festival.)

On October 10, the first meeting of my course, The Opportunities of Form, will run at The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute from 7-9 p.m. The class has five biweekly meetings a term and meets for three terms. This year we'll study the dramatic monologue, the prose poem, and the use of the line in free verse. If you'd like more information, please email me; if you'd like to enroll, you can do so here.

On October 11, this year's Stand Up Poetry: The Bath Spa University Reading Series will begin with a reading by Les Murray, location TBA.

On October 17, Tim Liardet's course, The Poetry Surgery (an open poetry workshop), will begin at BRLSI (enrollment as per my course mentioned above).

Also on October 17, in London, I'll be reading as part of the launch of the new issue of Shearsman and of Erin Moure's translation of Chus Pato's Charendon. All Shearsman readings are held at Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House, 20/21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH.

On November 5, I will read in Prague on the Alchemy reading series.

On November 15, I will emcee and read on the third annual Irish Poetry Night at The George in Bradford on Avon. A band playing Irish traditional music will perform at intervals throughout the evening. Other readers include Donald Gibson, Karen Hoy, Julie-Ann Rowell, and Bronagh Slevin, with others to be announced, and we'll be reading from such poets as Eavan Boland (Rowell), Louis MacNiece (Hoy), and Peter Sirr (me); Northern Irish poets Gibson and Slevin will also read from their own work.

Wednesday 5 September 2007

2007, the worst year of our lives

I speak for my family, mind you, not the world at large.

I'll spill briefly here, for those I know who've been following my father's progress, and try to post something else tomorrow so as not to give my private pain too much public indulgence.

Last night my father was taken from rehab centre back to hospital, with a high fever indicating an infection. My sister Sandra, dear, dear girl, diagnosed with MS last year, is going blind, only about six weeks after giving birth to her third child. My brother-in-law, Scott, salt of the earth, good, good man, has been ill for over three weeks with an undiagnosed illness--he's very fatigued, fevered, and dizzy, etc.; today is the last day of his sick leave pay, and if I had more in my US account than what'll cover the next two student loan payments....

The more pain one is given to bear, the more one is expected to bear it.

Sunday 2 September 2007

A final selection from Claire Crowther's Stretch of Closures

Lost Child

Scrape the ditch that fits Hob's Moat
to Hatchford Brook. Look through oak roots,

the horse field, uphill to Elmdon.
Is she hiding behind that sky-blue Lexus?

Shout toward the airport. Planes rise
and fall as if ground were a shaking blanket.

Up there, the air hostesses smile.
Inflate your own life-jacket first.

The small original airport building stands
apart, a mother at a school gate.

Pearl was playing quietly alone.
My ear is like a shell the wind swept.

Claire Crowther
Stretch of Closures
(Shearsman, 2007)

Congratulations to Claire on the strongly positive reviews in Poetry Review, Magma, and The North. You can buy Stretch of Closures at or