Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Best U.K. Poetry Blogs of 2016

There's no point beating about the bush or glossing things over: 2016 hasn’t been a vintage year for U.K. poetry blogs. A number of significant bloggers have either given up completely or posted far less than in previous years. Moreover, several potentially interesting newcomers have petered out within a few months of having started.

Why is this the case? Well, it’s not down to the irrelevance of blogging. As mentioned previously on Rogue Strands, users of social media link to blogs on a regular basis and take them as a point of departure for discussion, while stats for this blog (and others) are growing.

I’d venture to suggest that the issue is bloggers themselves: rather than taking/wasting the extra time to draft and longer blog posts, they’re interacting directly and with more immediacy on social media. This might provide them with a quicker buzz and direct feedback, but so much interesting stuff is consequently lost. For instance, some of the most popular posts this month on Rogue Strands are pieces that I wrote back in 2009. If I’d only posted them on social media, no search engine could direct new readers to them now.

In other words, I’m a firm believer in the longevity and continued relevance of poetry blogs. Despite this year’s casualties, they still provide more stimulating material than my working week allows me to view! Here’s the rundown for this year, Rogue Strands’ subjective selection of The Best U.K. Poetry Blogs of 2016:

- Richie McCaffery’s The Cat Flap is an exciting newcomer. It combines honesty, insight, a hint of self-deprecation and scalpel-like prose.

- Helen Mort’s new blog, Freefall, oozes class. Her posts are surprising, thought-provoking, personal yet objective, and always delicious to read. It’s another of this year’s best newcomers.

- Tim Love’s litrefs continues to be just that: a point of reference for U.K. poetry blogging. There are three sections: the main blog, litrefs articles and litrefsreviews. Tim speaks his mind with clarity and without fear. I respect his views hugely.

- Martyn Crucefix’s blog goes from strength to strength. Just a couple of weeks ago, I featured his recent series of posts on metrics, while his annual take on the Forward shortlists is always required reading.

- Ben Wilkinson, whose long-awaited first full collection is to be published by Seren in 2018, is increasingly using his blog to repost articles and poems that were first published elsewhere, often in print journals. In other words, he provides his readers with a second (online) chance to read his terrific verse and scrupulous criticism. For example, his review of Sarah Howe’s collection, available on the blog, is a real triumph:  brave and balanced, he pulls off the best review around of the book in question.

- Kim Moore’s Sunday Poem feature is a bit like Marks and Spencer’s Dine in for Two deal: imitated by countless competitors but never matched. What’s more, its timing is perfect: a lovely read at the dog-end of the weekend.

- There might be numerous poetry-publisher blogs out there, but none can match Helena Nelson’s weekly effort for HappenStance Press. Every post is an enjoyable education. Of course, I’m not biased at all, am I?

- Again, no bias whatsoever when listing Todd Swift’s Eyewear blog! Todd’s project is pretty much unique in U.K. poetry, as his blog, which is packed with news, opinions and reviews, predated his publishing house of the same name.

- Whether discussing politics, publishing or verse itself, Charles Boyle is always enjoyable to read over at Sonofabook. Apart from possessing by far the best title in this list.

- Abegail Morley’s Poetry Shed might be a veteran of the poetry blogging scene, but she shows no signs of flagging. In fact, 2016 has been a top-notch vintage for her: poetry news, reviews, original work and interviews have all come together on an excellent site.

- Josephine Corcoran runs And Other Poems, which is one of the best e-zines on the U.K. poetry scene, but she’s also a prolific blogger, chronicling her personal journey through verse.

- John Foggin’s not only a rising star in U.K. poetry in his retirement from teaching, he’s also an excellent and regular blogger over at his cobweb. His enthusiasm is a mid-winter pick-me-up for any doubting poet.

- Talking of pick-me-ups for doubting poets, Robin Houghton’s blog is wonderful medicine. She’s not afraid to tell her story of poetry failures alongside her many successes (such as her forthcoming inclusion in Eyewear’s Best New Poets anthology), thus providing a healthy antidote to the relentless, terrifying positivity of a poet’s Facebook newsfeed.

- Clarissa Aykroyd’s The Stone and the Star is fast becoming a stalwart of the U.K. poetry blogging scene. She blends a personal poetic journal with reflections on the current scene and features on out-of-copyright poems. This enables her to post the pieces in question alongside her views.

- While “wearing one’s erudition lightly” might be a cliché, it’s fundamentally true of Fiona Moore’s blog, Displacement. Her accessible posts regularly challenge her readers’ preconceptions.

- On the other head, Dave Coates at Dave Poems has erudition running through his writing in the explicit and implicit invocation of current critical theory as applied to contemporary verse. Academic articles in a blog format, all with their pulse on the latest developments.

- Moving on to Katy Evans Bush with Baroque in Hackney, I’ve mentioned her down-to-earth erudition in the past, and it continues to be extremely relevant. Her views on the ever-evolving U.K. poetry scene are a key barometer and I’m always on the look-out for them.

- Anthony Wilson continues to educate and entertain over at his blog. My favourite posts are perhaps his staged dialogues between the poem and the poet. They delight and reflect my own experiences at many turns.

- Roy Marshall’s blog, meanwhile, continues its journey and broadens its horizons, year on year. It started out as something of a personal journal, but he’s now packing it with interviews, features and how-to articles.

- And talking of how-to articles, perhaps the specialist is Emma Lee over at her long-running blog. There are also regular reviews, often of lesser-known poets. It’s well worth a visit.

- Sheenagh Pugh’s blogging is disciplined, regular and always stimulating. There are reviews, interviews and views, all stamped with her keen intelligence.

- Projects, trips, stories, all intertwined with verse. That’s George Szirtes’ blog, the unique product of a unique mind in U.K. poetry.

- Clare Best’s Self-Portrait Without Breasts is the ongoing story of a fierce, relentless creativity that the reader can only admire. Thoroughly recommended.

- David Clarke’s A Thing for Poetry has evolved still further this year. It’s gradually moving beyond the role of a personal journal and his posts are acquiring an ever-growing relevance for the wider poetry scene, all backed by sharp insight.

- Peter Raynard’s Proletarian Poetry has a clear political and social standpoint that resonates throughout the site. This blog offers poetry and criticism with oompf.

- Matt Merritt’s Polyolbion is another veteran of the scene. He confessed his doubts over its continuity a couple of months ago, but he’s carried on. U.K. poetry is a better place for the likes of Matt Merritt and his blog is an integral part of his presence.

- As for personal journeys, Caroline Gill’s blog is an excellent read. She has the ability to make her readers identify with her experience of poetry itself and all it accoutrements.

- In this respect, Jayne Stanton’s blog is also more than worth a read. Moreover, it charts her poetic development as she moves ever forward, enabling her readers to share in her success: this year, Eyewear’s Best New Poets anthology beckons for her too!

- Oh John, how we miss you. John who? John Field, of course, over at his Poor Rude Lines blog. It’s been dormant for a fair few months now, and I long to savour a new post…

- And ditto for Gareth Prior, an excellent blogger, whose site has a terrific archive. What’s to come…?

- And then there’s Maria Taylor over at Commonplace. Her posts are great reading. Fingers crossed they don’t peter out…

- And finally, a mention for a couple of bloggers who started off so brightly not so long ago. ChrissyWilliams and David Foster-Morgan, your posts were terrific. Any chance of a comeback…?!

And that’s all for another year, folks! Apologies to anyone I’ve missed out. Like always, a reminder that I do know that horrible feeling of reading through a list, reaching the end and finding you’re not there.

Here’s hoping 2017 brings fresh vigour to poetry blogging and the chance for me to champion new bloggers who complement social media, lending depth to the U.K. poetry scene and a point of reference for debate. And thank you, once more, for reading Rogue Strands!

16 comments:

  1. Thanks. Your article deserves a wide readership. Thinking about it, maybe 2016 has been a quiet year for poetry blogs. Some points -

    * Fashions come and go. At my Univ we try to communicate with students in the ways they understand (on our main page we currently offer Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, iTunes U) but we're always out of date. They use WhatsApp, Slack etc.

    * Very roughly, people use these facilities to Announce, Discuss, and Publish. As you say, people seem to be gravitating towards Announcing. Blogger/Wordpress can perform all 3 functions. I use blogger to Publish on my litrefarticles site, and to Announce on my litrefs site (though I use Facebook and Twitter for announcements too).

    * Like you, I'd like to think that some of my stuff is News that stays News, and will be useful to people later, so I tend towards Publishing. At work we use WordPress to create "permanent", structured sites (Emma Lee's excellent site uses it too), but Blogger's good enough for me.

    * None of the above apps provide an especially good discussion environment. At work this year, we ditched compulsory sessions on one course and used an online Forum instead, offering 50 quid prizes to students who made the best use of the Forum. It didn't prove popular, though the Forum software was better than what (say) Facebook provides.

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    1. HI Tim,

      Thanks for commenting once more.

      It might be a generational thing (i.e. we're falling behind!), but I still think Blogger provides an excellent format for content-driven regular posts with no fancy template, just a focus on the words themselves.

      I find your blog so easy to navigate and I use it regularly as a point of departure for my browsing...

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    1. Hi Billy,

      Thanks for commenting and indirectly alerting me your your excellent-looking blog. I'll read it properly over the next few days...

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    2. Hi Matthew
      Thanks, Some of the blogs on your list I know well, but you've pointed me towards more I need to get to know!

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  3. Hello, I have just discovered your blog via Robin Houghton, a fellow member of our local Stanza group. I too write a blog, but not a poetry blog - I started it as a writing exercise, but after nearly five years it has a life of its own. I do so agree with you about the value of blogging - the sound-bite world of social media is seductive, but can't compare with the wide platform of blogging. I learn much from doing research and background reading, and reading old posts is like reading old diaries. Of course, I do have readers too - I can't deny it's nice to be stopped in the street 'Are you the Hastings Battleaxe?

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    1. Hi Stephanie,

      Thanks for commenting! Blogging is addictive but also needs a lot of dscipline, doesn't it? I also feel my prose has tightened up due to the requirements of regular posts!

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  4. Sorry, me again. Forgot to say that I really enjoyed your post and have added you to my favourite blog list - partly so I can read all the poetry blogs you mention.

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  5. What a surprise to find a mention! Thank you, Matthew, for the kind inclusion, particularly since 2016 has brought its fair share of life's ups and downs in my neck of the woods. Some writers seem able to keep everything going at once, which is a great skill. Others of us post as and when, and I know some feel a sense of 'guilt' when they cannot post as frequently as they feel they 'should'. I sometimes fall into this category, and it is for this reason that I have posted the discreet BWO badge on my blog - 'Blogging without obligation'. There are phases in (my) life when choices have to be made, and poetry-writing time needs to take priority. Having said that, I have been blogging for years (with short breaks now and then), and have benefited enormously from reading the posts of other poetry people. Thank you again, so much, for this overview, giving me some new blogs to explore.

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    1. Hi Caroline,

      Thanks for commenting once more!

      I do think your type of blog- something of a personal poetic journal - doesn't suffer from certain delays between posts. However, Rogue Strands, for example, demands regular attention!

      I do hope 2017 brings better times for you and yours.

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  6. Dear Matthew

    I'd be very surprised if you have left anyone out! I hope that Rogue Strands continues its excellent work for many years to come. When I'm bored I type 'Contemporary poetry is rubbish' into Google which instantly provides millions of pages of innocent amusement.

    Best wishes from Simon R Gladdish

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  7. While I don't write poetry, I write weekly poetry posts on the blog "Behind Their Lines," sharing lost poems and poets of the First World War. Feel a bit queasy self-promoting, but here's the link of any who might be interested: http://behindtheirlines.blogspot.com (With a big thank you to Anthony Wilson -- his blog inspired my efforts; any shortcomings in my posts are all mine.)

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    1. Hi Connie,

      Thanks for commenting and mentioning your blog. I look forward to having a proper browse in the next few days. Poetry needs more people involved apart from the poets themselves, so I'm delighted to read about your project...

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    2. Thanks, Matthew. That's very generous of you - and very much appreciated...

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  8. Good list and nice to find some blogs I'm not yet aware of. I haven't been out there looking for new poetry blogs recently so I'll follow up your links.

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    1. Thank you for commenting. And for indirectly pointing me towards your blog too. I look forward to exploring it....

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