Sunday 19 May 2024

Transatlantic communication, Adam Chiles' Bluff

Adam Chiles’ second full collection, Bluff (Measure Press, 2024), is one of the most thought-provoking books to emerge this year. Its interest is two-fold. On the one hand, there’s its intrinsic poetic quality. And on the other hand, there’s the unique implicit dialogue that it establishes between the U.K. and U.S. poetry scenes.

Let’s start with this latter issue. Chiles was originally from the U.K. and now lives in the U,S.. His first collection was published by Cinnamon Press in the U.K. back in 2008, but most of his recent magazine and journal credits seem to be Stateside, while this book has also been brought out under the auspices of an American publisher. However, the vast majority of his current subject matter revolves around his previous life in the U.K.. And then all the spelling is Americanised, though the turns of phrase are inherently and quintessentially British.

What’s more, Chiles might be publishing in the U.S., but his aesthetic refuses to plump for either side of the American binary polarity between formal and free verse. Instead, he adopts the more British approach of playing with both methods, often fusing them within a single poem. As such,
Bluff offers an excellent bridge across the Atlantic, a reminder that what unites us is far stronger than what separates us. It sets out to include both nationalities and achieves its aims, dodging false polemics, which brings us neatly on to the poems themselves.

There are direct allusions to both Edward Thomas and Philip Larkin in this book, and both are present in the background via Chiles’ portrayal of humans in the natural world, paired with his fierce clarity of language, as in the following extract from
Self-Portrait as a Lighthouse

…You inhabit the verges

of this song, neck-deep
amid the salt-scrim,

a pummeled scar,
storm-wrecked, sheer

above the Atlantic’s steel
horizon. Each night,

mind ablaze, you plow
the gale’s blind acre…

And then there are terrific, pared-back poems of grief for the poet’s father, which run throughout the collection, again interwoven with the nature The opening lines of
Reading Edward Thomas to My Father provide an excellent example of Chiles’ technique…

From the ninth-floor hospital window, acres broaden,
scroll out past slate and pylon, the black moor

unfastening, hour by hour, its thicket of wounds…

is a collection that repays repeated readings. Its ability to generate empathy in the reader, to find the universal in the specific, are eternal values that are often eschewed in contemporary poetry, but Adam Chiles is a master of them. It seems clear that he’s gaining a considerable readership in the U.S., and it’s time a U.K. audience discovered or rediscovered him too. His poems are a breath of fresh air.

Tuesday 14 May 2024

A video from the Rogue Strands reading in London

Thanks to Mat Riches' dexterity with his flash phone, here's a video of me reading a poem from Whatever You Do, Just Don't at the recent Rogue Strands event in London. My YouTube channel seems to be functioning very well as a way of reaching new readers, and I'd be grateful if you could subscribe...

Thursday 9 May 2024

On Establishments

As soon as an old establishment is shunted aside by a new one, the new establishment's days are numbered. Its aura immediately starts to lose its shine, and another establishment, as yet unidentified, begins an ascent to replace it in turn.

And so the process continues. Favours are always traded. Nests are forever feathered. The names and faces and labels might vary, but the dynamics of power remain the same...

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Two new poems in The Spectator

I've had two new poems in The Spectator over the last couple of weeks. It's always good to place poetry in an outlet that reaches so many general readers, but I'm especially happy on this occasion, given that these are my first publications since Whatever You Do, Just Don't came out.

Monday 6 May 2024

Nigel Kent's generosity

Thanks to Nigel Kent's generosity, there are two features about Whatever You Do, Just Don't up at his website. On the one hand, there's a "Drop-in", written by myself, in which I focus on one of the poems from the collection, which is also reproduced in the same article. And on the other hand, there's Nigel's exquisite review of my collection. Here's a quick quote, but you can read it in full via this link...

Stewart’s collection shows what can be achieved when a poet doesn’t ignore most people: when a poet engages with universal concerns in poems that are apparently artless yet finely crafted, in poems that are ambitious yet always accessible, relatable and meaningful. 

Tuesday 30 April 2024

Last week's readings

It was brilliant to read last week at both Rogue Strands in London and at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival (thanks to Anna Saunders for the invite to the latter), to see old and new faces, to read to over seventy people in all, and to shift 15 books. Poetry is alive and kicking out there in the wild...! 

Friday 19 April 2024

Forthcoming readings in London and Cheltenham...

I've got two readings in the coming days, and I'd be delighted if any readers of Rogue Strands could come along and say hello!

First off, I'll be reading at our Rogue Strands event in London on 23rd April (at The Devereux, which is an ace venue). It's free entry, kicking off at 7 p.m..
Poets from Carcanet, Red Squirrel, New Walk, Tall Lighthouse and HappenStance for your delectation. Rebecca Farmer, Paul Stephenson, Christopher Horton, Suzanna Fitzpatrick, Mat Riches and myself. All champing at the bit, all raring to read for you, all gagging to gallop to the bar (speaking for Mat and myself, at least)! And then on 25th April, I'll be reading at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival alongside Chris Hemingway, Ardith Brown and Taz Rahman. This event also starts at 7 p.m. and is ticketed (get hold of yours via this link). Having read there twice in the past, at Buzzwords and at Poetry Café Refreshed, I know full well that Cheltenham is a veritable poetry hotbed, so I'm delighted to be returning and hope to see a whole host of new and old faces...!