Sunday, 17 October 2021

Poetry Scotland

Back in the 1990s, one of my first published poems appeared in Poetry Scotland. It was chosen by Sally Evans, a co-founder and editor of the magazine, who's still a stalwart of the poetry scene in Scotland. In fact, I was delighted to meet her finally in person at StAnza 2019 and thank her for her encouragement all those years ago.

Since 2020, Poetry Scotland has been edited by Andy Jackson and Judy Taylor. They've kept its unusual format - an A4 broadsheet - while its aesthetic has also been maintained and tweaked to bring it bang up to date (see their website here). As a consequence, I'm delighted to have a new poem in their latest issue, nº102, which is out now. High-quality printed journals still have an important role to play in contemporary poetry, and I hope Poetry Scotland will be around for many years to come...!

Monday, 4 October 2021

Three poems from Starting Eleven on Wild Court

Poetry needs readers from beyond its bubble. It's got to engage with stuff that might not seem "poetic", reaching out to people who think poems are irrelevant to their lives. That was my aim when writing my sequence Starting Eleven - Aldershot F.C. Footballers of the 1980s, which is featured today on Wild Court (see here).

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

A poem in Acumen

Absolutely delighted to have a poem in the new issue of Acumen, the first to be edited by Danielle Hope...

Monday, 13 September 2021

A close reading of M.R. Peacocke's The Path through the Wood

Within the constraints of the format of a blog, it’s difficult to do justice to the complex simplicity of M.R. Peacocke’s poetry. As a consequence, rather than offering up a condensed review of her excellent new collection, The Long Habit of Living (HappenStance Press, 2021), today’s post attempts an in-depth analysis of an individual poem from the book in question. Peacocke’s work very much lends itself to such close attention, rewarding the peeling-off of her delicately applied layers of potential sense.

The poem in question, titled ‘The Path through the Wood’, feels especially significant because it comes to represent something of an Ars Poetica and, by extension, a vision of life itself. The opening lines of ‘The Path through the Wood’ immediately set out the co-existence of opposites. This is achieved via their juxtaposition:

Through the little gate. A breath in, a breath out
measured the interim between is and is not…

‘In’ and ‘out’, ‘is’ and ‘is not’: both these opposites are interconnected by inhabiting the ends of consecutive lines. And then there’s the use of the word interim instead of interval, which might at first glance seem more natural. Peacocke’s choice underlines the provisional rather than the inevitable, the relative rather than the absolute.

As the narrator of the poem progresses through the wood, so conventional vision has to be put to one side:

…One sense became another: sigh of an odour,
taste of the darkness, fragrance of touch. My eyes found rest…

In other words, the absence of sight means that other senses have to work overtime. The consequence is transcendence via unexpected perspectives and sensations. Is the poet referring to a fresh understanding of the world around us or to a creative process whereby experience and anecdote are turned into poetry? Or to both?

The poem’s last stanza, meanwhile, not only draws these strands together but also opens out beyond the poem itself:

…The self that walked through the wood knew more than I,
till all that had led me, left me as I stepped out —
part with relief, part with regret — into fields of stars.

The first line invokes the sense of transcendence that ran through the previous stanza, but Peacocke eschews any Wordsworthian exaltation of the natural world. Instead, she uses the poem’s closing lines to relativise the narrator’s experience: led becomes left, while relief blends with regret.

And then, of course, she plants a deliciously ambiguous final image in our heads. Romantic? Stark? Or both once again? That interpretation can only depend on the beholder and the reader. Clarity riven through with nuance: M.R. Peacocke’s Ars Poetica and outlook on life.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

A poem and a review

This is just a quick post to point you in the direction of a couple of pieces I've had published over the past few days. On the one hand, the Poem of the Week at the Mary Evans Picture Library is Home Comforts from The Knives of Villalejo, my first full collection. You can read it here. On the other hand, meanwhile, my OPOI review of Liz Lefroy's new pamphlet, Great Master/small boy (Fair Acre Press, 2021) is up at Sphinx (see here)...

Monday, 23 August 2021

A poem on Ben Banyard's blog...

I'm delighted to report that my poem Scroll Down is up at Ben Banyard's blog as part of his "Finest" series. This poem was first published in Strix, but is now making its online debut.

You can read it via this link. Moreover, while you're there, you can explore an extensive, top-notch back catalogue of his choices...

Friday, 20 August 2021

Water, water everywhere...!

If I were asked to name one signature theme or image for U.K. poetry over the past twenty years, it would be water. British English has so many words for different types of rain and for the movement of liquid, and numerous poets seem to reflect those riches in their work.

Am I right...? If so, why? Is such close attention to water a consequence of the U.K.'s climate? And does climate have a deeper connection not just to our everyday experiences but to our poetic lives...?