Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Four poems in The Next Review

I'm delighted to report that I've got four poems in the May/June 2015 (Vol 2, Nº5) issue of The Next Review. What's more, it seems I've even made the cover!

If you like the look of it, you can click here to get hold of a copy.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

How do we read a poetry collection?

This is a key question that I find myself pondering as I work on the order of poems in the mansucript for my first full collection. Do we read from cover to cover or do we dip in where the book just happens to open?

Well, my own feeling is that people read in both ways. As for myself, I tend to move through a collection from start to finish on a first reading. This is to try to get a grip on how it ebbs and flows. Afterwards, however, I'll return to the book at random, flicking back and forth, digging more deeply into individual pieces.

As a consequence, I'm breaking my poems down into pairs that engage in dialogues with each other, all within the framework of how I want the collection to read as a whole. Furthermore, I'm continually bearing in mind Matt Merritt's remarks to me in a conversation a few years ago: as a journalist in his day job, he felt we often read poetry books much as we read newspapers, in that the right-hand page attracts more of our attention.

After every revision I print up and provisionally bind the collection, ensuring that the left-hand, right-hand ordering is respected throughout. I then go back over it, viewing it as a whole, viewing it in pairs. All those revisions will click into place one day, just like when I chip away at an individual poem, and I'll suddenly know the manuscript is ready!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The launch of Crystal Voices

This coming Monday (18th May) will see the launch of Crystal Voices: Ten Years of Crystal Clear Creators at The Western, 70 Western Road, Leicester (free entry, 7.30 p.m. start). The event will be held as part of the regular Shindig! readings that Crystal Clear Creators run in conjunction with Nine Arches Press, and the launch will be combined with readings from Jo Bell and Jonathan Davidson.

I'm delighted to have a poem in an anthology of such high quality, but I just wish I could make it along on the night. This is especially the case because I read at a Shindig! at The Western myself a few years ago, so I know just how good the poetry, company, atmosphere and beer can be there...!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Alan Jenkins on Ian Hamilton

This morning I found myself reading Alan Jenkin's introduction to Ian Hamilton's Collected Poems for the umpteenth time. Like always, I was drawn to a quote of Hamilton's justification for his poetic method:

...In certain moods, I used to crave expansiveness and bulk, and early on I had several shots at getting "more of the world" into my verse: more narrative, more satire, more intelligence, and so on. Each time, however, I would end up knowing for certain that I could have tackled the material more cogently in prose. Why push and strain...

Of course, this very much reflects my own experience as a poet.

Today, however, I was also drawn to a part of Jenkin's conclusions that hadn't hit home as much on previous occasions. It concerns Hamilton's influence on other poets and reads as follows:

...Now several decades have passed, it would be hard to exaggerate the extent to which his influence has waned...not one of these poets...shows much trace of Hamilton's influence in his own work, and I can't think of a single poet who does...

Jenkins was writing in 2009. At that time, I would have agreed with him (which is probably why this passage somewhat passed me by on earlier readings). Six years later, the panorama is changing.

Hamilton was a very divisive figure during his lifetime, but his verse has become hugely relevant to many poets who have emerged in the past few years. They aren't worried about the so-called Poetry Wars, etc, as his poetry is their focus. If you're not familiar with Hamilton's work, why not get hold of his Collected Poems and see what I mean for yourself?

Monday, 4 May 2015

Martyn Crucefix and his blog

Martyn Crucefix is hardly a newcomer to the U.K. poetry scene. In fact, I've been a reader of his verse since the early 1990s. His blog, however, has been a more recent development and is one that I very much enjoy. 

Highlights include his posts on the experience of judging a poetry competition (see here) and on nostalgia (see here). The latter is of particular interest to me, as I feel nostalgia plays a key role in my own verse. Crucefix weaves general poetic points through specifics and through his own experience of his father's failing memory. The following quote is crucial to his argument, but I do recommend you have a read of the whole thing:

"Remembering our past serves to remind us of who we are, what we have been, what intimacy we have achieved, what we are capable of , then and now, in the future. It builds resilience because, although often concerned with trauma and sadness, it is posed in a redemptive sequence..."