Tuesday 31 March 2015

Claire Crowther's On Narrowness (Shearsman, 2015)

Some favourite passages:

Mosquitoes charged me with their sour sugar
outside the vinegar house. Six years, ten years,
sixty, it ferments from oak to juniper
to chestnut to cherry and back to oak wood barrels,
balsamic vinegar separating itself
from a hundred year old mother sediment.

opening stanza of "The Apology"

...till we both are
woken by pain with its orange beak.

end of "Separation"

I cling to you tighter 
than a striped shell
on a fennel stalk.

last stanza of "Snail"

A translator can add only humility
to the original.

from "TB Hospital, 1944"

         She watched a ship
slip into pearl while sunset

picked up importance.

from "Alcyone"

His rage fermented into speechlessness.

 from "The Night of Misrule"

What do you make of this dangerous space,
the gutter? Children commandeer it and conjure
what they can from such silken dust as is
human and poor.

opening stanza of "Graffitista"

...a goddess bereft of
her creation, summoning
my existence to her high sound.


...my whole 
halo of seeds.

from "A Dormative for Strings"

Not a wolf. Surely there is not
a wolf. Some other. I must be guarded.

end of "Opponent"

...if I get lost in End Erring,
find me. I'll be ankling over
stones. At least my backpack,
external organ full of function,
and my marks on snowy bark,
finally at ease with repetition, 
find them, find them.

end of "A Wanderer in End Erring Wood"

Our friends are scrambling towards the top stone stretched
like wall. I hope they sit on it and wave.
The wind has mounted those yew trees.
They're not upright nor our friends.

opening stanza of "Rockborne"

Monday 30 March 2015

The Weekly Poem

I've long received a poem weekly in my inbox from Oxford Brookes University's weekly poem initiative, but tonight it was the first poem from Imagined Sons. You can read it here.

Sunday 29 March 2015

Mimi Khalvati's The Weather Wheel (Carcanet, 2014)

Here are some favourite passages:

                             The moon has carried you
on his back but what do you know of love?

Its arrow, smear of silk.

from "Snail"

...no ampersand between presentiment and trace.

from "Sciurus Carolinensis"

But at cruising altitude, above streaks of indigo and purple clouds,

a blood continent broods on black estuaries, archipelagos, reefs,
for black is the simplifying force of memory. It is a form of elegy.

from "Marrakesh III"

This is the soul. In aqua and gold.

the opening line of "Le Cafe Marocain"

Aunt Moon, Old Glamour Moon in a haze of smoke
puffing behind your folding screen, Old Barren Moon

with your round pig belly, what lies, what lies!
I love you for the lies you've told!


                              No, the best lies are told with a bevy
of innocent stars in your eyes, not in a revolution's doorway.

the opening and closing lines of "Aunt Moon"

Cupboarded in shadow, one foot in twilight, we tilt.

Childhood snuffs its master light, light we need to love
and be loved by, to write, to read. Else all is dusk,

dusk in the heart, in all our finer feelings.

from "The Wardrobe"

...we labour of moles with paws like rakes--


World is headless and we, who have only touch and smell,
must touch and smell gas, smoke bombs, blood meal, bait.

from "Fog"

In itself is silent, but on contact, creaks. Acquires an air
of sanctity in repose but in action earns oaths and profanities.

from "Snow is"

                     And everything outdoors, buildings by the river,

boats, buses on the bridge, everything that runs in lines will run
into fountain, the beauty of the arc against the formality of line.

from "Model for a Timeless Garden"

...only a slight swell in the water to prove that we are not
in a painted vestibule, that this is not an annunciation.


                                                      Everything is always
like something else. Each makes love to the other.

You are like me, they say. Blue paint has spattered
the whitewash, speckled the flagstones--the eye jumps

from blue to blue, island to island, raisin to raisin in a cake.

from "Similes"

...and the more tears flowed,

the more I wanted them. World was foetal then.


I measured distances by her. My mother my compass,
my almanac and sundial, drawing me arcs in space.

from "Tears"

An orchard's soul should be ragged, ramshackle, dapple
throwing honeycombs of shade on soil, weather interstitial.

from "Granadilla de Abona I"

                           Lord of the green canopy,

he swings below the hammock ties, perches in a clef
to peer towards the sound of a generator whirring,

taps his left hand on the branch excitedly and twice
raises two white wings, once to declare himself an angel

and once for balance as he grows every more excited, 
hanging by his beak alone, doing chin-ups, sipping water,

shaking diamonds in a spray around him....

"Granadilla de Abona V"

                                   We are yesterday's people,

provisional, adaptable, borrowing and assimilating.

from "Granadilla de Abona VI"

                                    I loved forever being a child

at my mother's side, the captain of my ship whose railings
I peered over. All her absences are final now.

from "The Wheelhouse"

                Marina turns the music on and the room fills
 with candlelight and yearning.

from "Finca El Tejado"

Thursday 26 March 2015

Publishing Linda Lamus's first collection with Mulfran Press (yay!)

Some of you will have known the late poet Linda Lamus, who died in December 2008 and whom I was delighted to consider my friend. The last time I saw Linda in the hospital, she spoke movingly, urgently of her desire to publish her first book of poetry. Some months after her death, her widower John Lamus asked me if I'd see this wish through, and I agreed. My parents' deaths in 2009 and 2011, on top of my heavy workload at Bath Spa University, delayed the work considerably, but last year I finally found a publisher for the manuscript with Mulfran Press. When editor Leona Medlin told me she would publish it with Mulfran, I nearly cried in both pleasure and relief. 

The book will be titled after one of its poems, A Crater the Size of Calcutta, and published this October, with readings planned for Bristol and Cardiff and more to follow. I'll also be reading a couple poems from it at all the readings I myself do in the year following, to try to spread awareness of Linda's poetry.


Tuesday 24 March 2015

Judging the Forward Prize

The word's been out a week now, I think, that I will be one of the five judges for this year's Forward prizes in poetry. My fellow judges are A.L. Kennedy (chair), Colette Bryce, Emma Harding and Warsan Shire. I've just finished reading my first box of books, and the second came today, with more sure to follow. I'm enjoying becoming acquainted with poets and presses I hadn't known before and keeping a list of a wonderful array of potential poems for the anthology. What will happen to my own writing during such intense reading? I'll let you know!

Wednesday 18 March 2015

"An important and beautiful collection": A new review of Imagined Sons

A new review of Imagined Sons appears in Dura, the Dundee University Review of the Arts, written by Beth McDonough, and it's delightfully positive. I may be especially delighted because the nod to Dickinson, one of the poets most important to me, was noted, as well as the absence of full stops on the catechism answers....

Monday 16 March 2015

The Mid-Somerset Festival's Creative Writing Day, 14 March 2015

This year I judged each of the 17 classes for the Mid-Somerset Festival's creative writing day. It was a pleasure to work with its co-directors, Jane Riekemann and Hilary Bufton. While I enjoyed the whole of the day Saturday, giving prizes and commenting on the winning entries, the best part was seeing young people taking pride in their writing and reading their work, often for the first time, to a public audience.

I asked Rebecca Sneyd, age 11, if I could publish her winning poem on my blog, and her father sent along this photo as well. She won both first prize in her age group as well as winner of the highest overall score for an under-18 entrant in creative writing.


Touch the wooden gate warped with age as it swings open.
Walk up to the door under the arch of red roses, not picking them.
Do not touch anything that does not belong to you as you pass through the house.
In the wild woods, take care to lay a path of pearl-like stones, leading you home.
Beside the river, take the boat but do not look back.
Inside the castle, take care not to climb up the tower on a thick golden rope.
Remember not to trust the man with many names.
Do not eat the apples ripened rosy red.
Trust the princess of Crete, your dreams and your beliefs.
Ride the majestic winged horse, you will not fall.
Follow the yellow brick road back home and rest.
Rebecca Sneyd
You can learn more about the festival--eager for more creative writing entries next year--here: http://www.midsomersetfestival.org.uk/ 

Saturday 14 March 2015

Erika Meitner's Copia (BOA Editions, 2014)

Some favourite passages:

Objects around us depend on fracture and fragment,
                              are picked clean, derelict--
                                      like hostages without blindfolds
                            or tout survivability
            by trilling in the wet grass.


Objects around us are not strangers.
                                                  They are the ruins
                                                  in which we drown.

from "Litany of Our Radical Engagement
with the Material World"

...flustered, I studied the white floor tiles, the blue plastic
shopping cart handle, while he told me something that turned

to white noise and I tried not to look at his beautiful terrible chest,
the V-shaped wings of his chiseled hipbones.

from "Big Box Encounter"

Because though this world is changing,
we will remain the same: abundant and
impossible to fill.

the end of "Retail Space Available"

The wind does not howl.

It surgically disassembles 
each set of metal chimes
we hang from the porch eaves.
It nods the tall grass

then tramples it like a pack
of roving dogs.

from "Maple Ridge"

Please excuse me from the meeting.
I'm feeling small and non-combative.


To Whom It May Concern: I've moved

to the most difficult place on earth.
It's impossibly blue and blazing.

the beginning and end of 
"To Whom It May Concern"

We leave our attachments in a landscape (deeply felt, uneventful).

from "One Version of December"


bulldozer, dear grandmother, we are placeless. We are placeful
but unrooted.

from "The Architecture of Memory"

Inside me is a playground, is a factory.
Inside me is a cipher of decay.
I am sometimes a vehicle for absorbing wealth.
Inside me is inbred chaos. 
Inside me is America's greatest manufacturing experience.

the opening lines of "Borderama"

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Alice Oswald's The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile (Faber, 1996)

Some favourite passages:

All life's ribbon frozen mid-fling.

Oh I am
stone thumbs,
feet of glass.

Work knocks in me the winter's nail.

I can imagine
Pain, turned heron,
could fly off slowly in a creak of wings.

from "Pruning in Frost"

And evening is come with a late sun unloading a silence,
tiny begin-agains dancing on the night's edge.

from "A Greyhound in the Evening, 
After a Long Day of Rain"

The glass house is a hole in the rain,
the sun's chapel,
a bell for the wind.

opening stanza of "The Glass House"

                                ...I don't want to know 
whether I've lost my heart to my resilience;

from "Sonnet"

I am bound to a star,
my own feet shoving me swiftly.


and my two eyes are floating in the fields,
my mouth is on a branch, my hair
is miles behind me making tributaries
and I have had my heart distracted out of me

from "Bike Ride on a Roman Road" 

                                ...people, latticed

by words but through the lattice loving.

from "Ballad of a Shadow"

I never absolutely told
the curl-horned cows to line up their gaze.
But it happened, so I let it be.

from "The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile"

...and you can feel by instinct in the distance
the bigger mountains hidden by the mountains
like intentions among suggestions. 

end of "Mountains"

The remaining passages all come from the long poem, "The Three Wise Men of Gotham Who Set Out to Catch the Moon in a Net":

A man came down, whose purpose was to catch
the watermoon--whatever flower or fish
the light took shape as, shifting and dividing. 
He was a butcher. He came shouting by
as if the art of thinking were a pommel
to pound the world into conformity;


                                                  ...the wind
had found a cave of whispers in his coat....


Now he has hitched his heartbeat to the oars.
He rows by breathing....


...like haiku trees, staggering to keep up
the impetus of an extended instant....


Three times the moon was shattered like a bowl
and slowly mended by the moon.

Monday 9 March 2015

A new badge of honor: scorn from The Daily Mail

A fellow poet brought to my attention the fact that my poem, "Imagined Sons: Greek Salad," received a negative remark in a Daily Mail review of the anthology, The Forward Book of Poetry 2015. The reviewer Bel Mooney comments, "Once or twice, I felt that the poets were having what’s popularly known as a laugh — with ridiculous poems about a rug design and a Greek salad, not to mention an ugly effort in text speak. Why?" 

Ah, to answer that question is so tempting--and yet, I expect, so futile, too....

Saturday 7 March 2015

Imagined Sons and the Ted Hughes Award on BBC Radio 3's The Verb

I was enjoying a quiet evening in last night when poet Laura McKee, via Facebook, brought my attention to the programme on BBC Radio 3's The Verb. Among Ian McMillan's guests was Grayson Perry, talking about his role as a judge of the Ted Hughes Award and about the role of emotion in the shortlisted works. I tuned in just before the conversation shifted in that direction, and to my amazement, Ian McMillan read the first poem from Imagined Sons, "Imagined Sons: Fairy Tale," as an example of a poem whose restraint conveys the emotion that much the more powerfully. 

What a week it's been! 

Friday 6 March 2015

Imagined Sons shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry

 Three days after the announcement, it may seem old news now, but I'm still giddy that Imagined Sons has been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, sponsored by The Poetry Society. The honor is magnified by the presence of the other poets on the shortlist: Patience Agbabi, Imtiaz Dharker, Andrew Motion and Alice Oswald. Indeed, appearing on such a list makes me feel I've already won.

The awards ceremony will be on 2 April at the Savile Club in London.