Sunday 20 December 2009

Lists, lists and more lists

Over the past few days I've been tempted to post about several end-of-year lists that national papers have published, mainly rewritten versions of publicists' blurbs, but why rework an old gripe?

In fact, I think there's far more interest to be found in Michelle McGrane's intriguing idea over at the Peony Moon blog: she's managed to get a whole host of poets to offer up their lists of favourite collections for 2009. On looking through them, what most strikes me is that a number of lesser-known writers appear repeatedly. Are they "Poets' Poets" or discoveries waiting to be made by the wider world? What's more, is there such a thing as a "Poets' Poet"?

This second question leads us back towards the current and potential readership for poetry - is it confined to other poets or is it far broader? I believe in the latter idea.

Finally, I suppose I should finish off by mentioning my own view of the best of 2009. My favourite collection (read thus far) was undoubtedly Siân Hughes' "The Missing". It barely surfaced in Michelle's vast lists, garnering just two mentions, but I thought it was terrific.

Friday 11 December 2009


Most of the time I write in a vacuum. What do I mean by this? Well, there's always an idea of potential publication and a possible readership at the back of my mind, but both seem desperately distant when I sit at my desk in Almendralejo.

These last couple of weeks, however, I've found myself working with a focus that goes beyond previous experience, all due to the specifics of Happenstance's forthcoming publication of my pamphlet. This immediate goal has set my mind alight.

What's more, I'm keenly aware that what might be an excellent stand-alone poem may not fit into the collection. Or vice-versa. In other words, one or two of my least favoured pieces could earn their place because of the way they ricochet off other poems.

All in all, this is a very enjoyable and intense process!

Thursday 3 December 2009

Excellent news from Happenstance

A couple of days ago I received some excellent news from Happenstance Press - they've agreed to publish my pamphlet! Publication dates are still slightly sketchy, but it should see the light of day in 2010 or 2011.

I'm really looking forward to working with Helena Nelson, a poet and editor I've admired for many years, on honing the manuscript and getting it ready to come into the world. What's more, I feel privileged to be joining a stable with such an excellent pedigree: for example, terrific poets such as Matt Merritt, Rob Mackenzie and Andrew Philip all started out with Happenstance.

Heady days indeed!

Tuesday 1 December 2009


Today sees us back at The Guardian website once more, simply because there's a fascinating blog up by Jonathan Jones, titled "Why I never became a poet". His post explains how he was discouraged by a teenage encounter with a poetry editor, but the real interest is in the readers' comments. They cover a huge range and lead us towards questions...

...what makes some people persevere with writing poetry beyond an adolescent rush, while others give it up...?

...when offering our poetry for publication instead of keeping it private, are we being thick-skinned/narcissistic/generous/brave/artistic/arrogant (delete as appropriate)...?

Going back to the original post, I think the key point revolves around the idea of seeing onself as "A Poet". Fifteen years after I started writing verse with intent, I still feel intensely uncomfortable describing myself as such - it's a terrific conversation-stopper!