Wednesday 28 July 2010

The warp of memory

Looking over old notebooks last week (and cannibalising lots of stuff!), I was struck by how often I fail as a poet when events or places are too recent. I'm more and more convinced that the warp of memory plays a key role in creating poetry, in turning anecdotes and feelings into verse.

In fact, the creative process is unconsciously ongoing in my mind. I know that most of my best latest work has come about by returning months or years later to a failed poem. When rereading it, I suddenly glimpse the right route and wonder how I missed something so obvious when struggling with the same material in the past. That moment of realisation isn't "inspiration" as much as the point at which the unconscious becomes conscious and crystalises in poetry.

Sunday 18 July 2010

Solar farms

I might love complaining about the heat in Extremadura, but I have to admit there are certain major plus points. As this article from the Guardian indicates, we're now home to the world's largest solar power station. In fact, numerous solar farms form an integral part of our regional landscape along with vines and olives groves.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

The Rialto

This morning's post brought the news that The Rialto have accepted one of my poems, Formica, for publication in Issue 70. I'm delighted to be appearing in Michael Mackmin's excellent magazine for the second time!

Saturday 10 July 2010

Review: Waiting for the Sky to Fall, by Dan Wyke

You might recall my review last year of Dan Wyke’s excellent pamphlet, Scattering Ashes (2004). Well, Wyke finally has a full collection out from Waterloo Press, titled Waiting for the Sky to Fall, and it doesn’t disappoint.

All of his assets from the chapbook remain, while many of the most outstanding poems (see that afore-mentioned pamphlet review) are also carried over. However, these qualities are now even further concentrated, distilled and expanded.

Wyke has fully harnessed his gorgeous lyrical gifts - there are no fireworks for their own sake in Waiting for the Sky to Fall – as the poet approaches life so as to understand it rather than filtering it through some esoteric code. Whether dealing with Gazza, a dirty weekend or potatoes, accessibility is married to an ambitiously humanistic vision.

What’s more, Wyke’s risk-taking individuality enables him to stand out in the present-day morass of Creative Writing courses and renowned mentors. One key example of this is his treatment of abstract nouns. While most of his contemporaries run scared of their ramifications, Wyke grabs them, relishes their latent potential and wreaks according havoc with our expectations, as in this example from the collection’s title poem:

When the phone rings with the news, it is raining
or not; the heart stops,

the heart goes on; the same language
is no longer enough, though words come,

performing acrobatics on the tongue…

“Heart” is a pivotal word here, its repetition highlighting an inherent duality of meaning: physical and abstract. Interplay and tension are thus developed between the two, enabling us to reassess our own interpretations.

Furthermore, the above point is reinforced by the remark on the nature of language that follows. Rooted in the specifics of this situation, Wyke’s statement that “the same language/is no longer enough” broadens his perspective while also implicitly homing back in on that word again, “heart”.

In fact, I’d actually go as far as to highlight this extract as something approaching a statement of poetic progression. Specific experiences have led to Wyke’s recognition that he has to reach beyond lyricism. Those “acrobatics” are no longer enough: events have their consequences in verse, where they also earn transforming qualities.

There’s an enormous variety of tone, subject matter and versification in this book, yet it’s held together by a glue that many first collections lack - no matter which poem we choose to read, it could only have been written by Dan Wyke. In the current context of U.K. poetry, that’s a huge achievement.

In a just world, Waiting for the Sky to Fall would make all this year’s shortlists and carry off a gong or two from under major publishers’ noses. For the moment, I hope my review contributes in some small way to its finding the wide readership it deserves. This is the rare class of collection that can create an addiction to contemporary verse.

Sunday 4 July 2010

Acetre, music from Extremadura

Forget about 40ºC, that's for lightweights - I've just measured 43ºC on my balcony!

At these temperatures my brain turns to mush and begs for trashy novels, dodgy computer games and viciously chilled lager, none of which come high up on my list of priorities in normal circumstances!

An Extremaduran summer offers few highlights, but open-air concerts in cool night air do prove an exception. Here's a clip from just such an evening. The band is called Acetre, one of the best groups in this region: