Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Poetry as biography, biography as poetry

Ian Hamilton's biography In Search of J.D. Salinger is as much a reflection on the nature of the genre itself as a story of the the man's life. This might have initially been down to legal reasons (Hamilton's original effort had to be pulped), but the end result is excellent.

While reading it recently, I was again reminded of parallels between poetry and biography, above all in the treatment of subject matter. Even though they may often deny doing so (even to themselves), the practitioners of both genres take fact and transform it into fiction. They take fiction and transform it into fact. They play at blurring the two.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Small publishers and Amazon

Over at her Happenstance blog, Helena Nelson has published a post which highlights the pìtfalls of dealing with Amazon from the perspective of a small publisher. It's well worth the read (find it here), showing just how commercial giants in all realms of business squeeze their suppliers' margins.

Of course, I too buy poetry through Amazon, as their Marketplace enables me to access secondhand books that I'd struggle to find elsewhere. However, I do try to purchase new titles directly from poetry presses. Otherwise, Amazon's cut can easily turn a profit into a considerable loss.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Review: Gopagilla, by Roy Marshall

The last few years have seen the gradual emergence of a number of exciting poets in the U.K. who dare to embrace a tradition that runs through from Larkin to Farley, that of taking the everyday by the scruff of its neck and reinventing it. In his high-quality first pamphlet, titled Gopagilla (Crystal Clear Creators Publishing, 2012), Roy Marshall shows that he deserves to be added to that growing list.

What's more, his chapbook also heralds the arrival on the U.K. scene of a new pamphlet publisher, Crystal Clear Creators, who have taken the plunge with the simultaneous publication of six collections. They've certainly made an excellent start and I'll be keeping a close eye on how their project develops.

In technical terms, Marshall combines his powers of observation with a keen ear for the music that's formed from the playing-off of assonance, alliteration and stresses, all to the end of illuminating narratives and scenes, as in this example from Arrival:

"...The circuitry of crickets on the air,
his red wine and cigarette breath,
a sickle and scythe laid aside,
and rosemary scent, rising..."

As for thematic concerns, Marshall is especially strong when exploring the tricks of identity. In Rose, for instance, his son's "Latin genes" lead to unexpectedly "mousy hair on a milky brow". This subject is intertwined with the juxtaposed shifting perspectives of the past, present and future, which are implicitly compared and contrasted so as to cast fresh light on each other. In this respect, family is present, as in the first lines of Inheritance:

"I'll take it now, that look you gave me,
the one I saw yesterday..."

The effect of time on relationships, meanwhile, also appears,and is equally well handled in the final lines of Telepathy

"...One night, as we spoke on the corridor payphone
where even Queens had to queue, your voice let slip
that you had left me, but I already knew."

As these two poems show, Marshall is especially adept at beginnings and endings. Gopagilla is a satisfying and poetically coherent first pamphlet. It delivers a lot and promises even more. I very much look forward to reading more of Roy Marshall's poetry in the future.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

New Walk magazine reviews Inventing Truth

Issue 4 of New Walk magazine has just come out, packed with lots of excellent poetry by the likes of Ian Parks, Carol Rumens and Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch. Why not visit their website and get hold of a copy or take out a subscription to what's fast becoming one of the best and most thought-provoking print-based literary magazines in the U.K?

I was also delighted to find that the same issue features a terrific review of Inventing Truth by Simon Robinson. Here are a couple of extracts from his piece:

"This assured first pamphlet by Matthew Stewart explores poetry’s capacity to express and potentially resolve the conflicts engendered by experience. Its simplicity is its strength; as Stewart understands, if the goal is directness and honesty, why obfuscate those ends with artificiality and mannerism...?

"...Stewart writes beautifully on the level of the line and the stanza, but the greatest pleasure of this collection lies in its overall coherence..."

I'm very pleased to have struck such a chord with Robinson, especially as he has captured exactly what I attempt to achieve in my poetry. All this euphoria leads me on to a shameless plug for Inventing Truth....

...if you now feel drawn to buying my pamphlet and reading it for yourself, you can do so at the Happenstance website here.