Friday, 18 December 2015

A major update to the poetry blog list

Having recently posted a highly subjective summary of the best U.K. poetry blogs of 2015 (see here), Rogue Strands has now also got round to sprucing up its blog list (to the right of this text). The intention is to provide constantly updating links to the most recent posts from these excellent blogs, all to facilitate your poetry blog reading and enjoyment.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Naomi Jaffa on the end of an era at Aldeburgh

As the former long-time Director of the Poetry Trust, Naomi Jaffa is in a unique position to evaluate the situation at Aldeburgh, where it seems this year's festival might be the last of its kind. Her guest post on the subject over at Anthony Wilson's blog is consequently required reading. I very much recommend you read it in whole: her habitual generosity is on show once more, highlighting the work of poets rather than her own huge amount of graft. Perhaps the following quote from her article is key to how we might view recent events:

"...If it’s true what they say about all good things – and how can it not be, given our finite reserves of time and energy – then sometimes I can’t help wishing we’d strive to be less greedy (people always seem to want and feel the right to expect more) and more grateful. It’s been a marvellous thing, Aldeburgh, and no one can take away the preciousness of all those shared live readings and the evidence of the archive recordings. Enough should be enough..."

Let's celebrate what Aldeburgh has given us. Moreover, it's been a point of reference and departure for so many new festivals that have sprung up around the country over the past few years. Every time we attend such a festival in the future, we'll be accompanied by the legacy of Aldeburgh.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The teaching of metrics

Can an ear be taught…? Can a voice be taught…? Can creativity be taught…? These are all key questions that face any teacher or student of creative writing. They also provoke endless argument and debate.

Can metrics be taught? Of course they can. No argument, no debate. Whether we like them or loathe them, metrics are the nuts and bolts of poetry, the mechanics that lie behind all the verse we write, a set of rules can be broken to greater conscious effect once they are understood.

Just as most top abstract artists are also exceptional realist painters, so a fundamental knowledge of metrics lies behind the writing of the majority of high-quality free verse. I’m fully aware there are examples of intuitive creative exceptions, but that is exactly what they remain: exceptions.

In the light of the above, why do so many poetry writing courses (again, I know there are certain exceptions) either ignore metrics or devote a few paltry sessions to them? Instead, metrics should be a point of departure, stimulating creativity, not stunting it.

Another option is simply to teach yourself, in which case I strongly recommend a frail book: Rhyme’s Reason by John Hollander.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Best U.K. Poetry Blogs of 2015

As the year comes to a close, it's time for Rogue Strands to deliver a selection of The Best U.K. Poetry Blogs of 2015. Like always, this list is hugely subjective and partial, and also getting longer, which indicates the terrific state of health of the poetry blogging scene in the U.K.. Of course, a few blogs have faded away since last year, but many others have come roaring through:

- John Field’s Poor Rude Lines. Field is first up because he remains a benchmark for all other bloggers. His work is rigorous and entertaining, while also encouraging readers to broaden their tastes. Of course, his posts involve so much work that they can’t appear on a weekly basis. This doesn’t lessen their impact.

- Jo Bell’s The Bell Jar encapsulates her energy, enthusiasm and community spirit. She’s a driving force in U.K. poetry, a supporter to all around her.

- Dave Coates’ Dave Poems. Forthright and uncompromising, Dave Coates provides us with excellent reviews on his blog. He might not court controversy, but he doesn’t shirk it either.

- Anthony Wilson’s blog gently, implicitly educates us with every post. He is outstanding at exploring the intricacies of the relationship between poetry and life. Wilson doesn’t achieve this by lecturing. Instead, he works with illustrations from his own experiences.

- Fiona Moore’s Displacement displays the same lightness of touch as her poetry. Her reviews provide unexpected perspectives, her anecdotes make you imagine you’re at her side and her analysis of poetic trends is always intriguing.

- George Szirtes’ blog is irreverent and highly relevant. There are squibs, stories and snapshots of a poet’s life, all written in a delicious prose that carries the reader along.

- Tim Love’s litrefs provides us with three strands rolled into one: there’s the main blog and then litrefs reviews and litrefs articles alongside. He always makes me doubt my own views. That’s an exceptional quality.

- Martyn Crucefix’s blog is unblinking and packed with high quality material, especially his razor-sharp reviews and ruminations on the judging process. His unexpected perspectives on big names are well worth a read.

- Ben Wilkinson’s Deconstructive Wasteland. Poetic vigour hums through this blog. There are numerous reviews by Wilkinson that were first published in major journals, top-notch original verse by the man himself and a decent dose of well-argued opinion.

- Roy Marshall’s blog is generous in so many ways. It gives us moral support and a point of comparison with our own poetic experiences, all doused in humility and talent.

- Katy Evans-Bush’s Baroque in Hackney lives up to its name. Accessible erudition runs though every post, as does her scrupulous prose style. Wide-ranging and forever inquisitive, it’s a treasure trove.

- Kim Moore’s blog posts flow and surge like her poems. They lift you up in their story and carry you off. What’s more, her Sunday poem feature introduces countless new poets to her readers. She’s rightly a popular figure, and her blog always gives us a glorious read.

- Clarissa Aykroyd's The Stone and The Star constantly surprises with new discoveries and reminders of old favourites. The analysis of Keith Douglas' work is particularly perceptive.

- Robin Houghton’s blog. Frank and sincere, Robin Houghton is one of very few poets who are brave enough to chart rejections and failure in gory detail along acceptances and success. When reading her blog, we can’t fail to be encouraged and reminded that achievement-packed Facebook feeds are not always a true reflection of the state of play.

- Emma Lee’s blog will take you some time. This is simply because it’s so loaded down with excellent resources: there are reviews and debates galore, while her how-to features are especially good.

- Clare Best’s Self-Portrait Without Breasts is the chronicle of one of the most interesting personal journeys in U.K. poetry. It offers us the chance to chart the evolution of her non-stop creativity.

- Gareth Prior’s blog has changed slightly in focus over the past year, shifting to more intermittent posts that explore their subject – individual poems, collections or critical issues – in great depth, enabling us to get to grips with issues rather than encountering a superficial sweep.

- Matt Merritt’s Polyolbion might be a veteran of the U.K. poetry blogging scene, but that doesn’t mean its merits are solely in its archive. This year has seen Merritt offer piercing perspectives on poetic issues of the day, alongside numerous introductions to excellent articles elsewhere.

- Sheenagh Pugh’s blog combines opinion, interviews and reviews. It’s also an extremely dangerous place to browse. She’s excellent at capturing the essence of a book and encouraging you to make a purchase.

- John Foggin’s cobweb seethes with passion and enthusiasm for poetry. His blog is a wonderful pick-me-up whenever you doubt the positive effect that the poetry world can have on those who populate it. Moreover, John Foggin writes beautifully about his own fusion of personal experience and verse.

- Maria Taylor’s Commonplace might be a lovely poetic journal, but it’s also far more. There’s a sense of her forming part of a wider poetry community that then transmits through to her writing.

- Jayne Stanton’s blog is especially interesting for the way it charts her development over the past few years from early magazine appearances to her first pamphlet. It provides real encouragement for others who are starting out on a similar journey.

- David Clarke’s A Thing for Poetry provides links to his perceptive reviews elsewhere, all along with his own news and thought-provoking views on wider poetic issues.

- Abegail Morley’s Poetry Shed has long provided a space for poets to showcase their work, but it also includes calls for submissions, info on prizes and themed projects. It remains a key point of reference in the U.K. poetry blogging scene.

- Josephine Corcoran runs two significant poetry blogs. On the one hand, there’s her personal journal. On the other, there’s And Other Poems, which is perhaps turning into a webzine more than just a blog as such. In any case, it’s home to a huge number of carefully selected, fabulous poems.

- Todd Swift’s Eyewear blog is connected to the publishing house of the same name and throws in reviews, news and a few controversial opinions.

- Helena Nelson’s Happenstance blog also unsurprisingly forms part of HappenStance Press. It remains a unique insight into an editor’s job and is required reading for any poet who might be thinking about submitting a manuscript to anyone, anywhere.

- Charles Boyle’s Sonofabook not only possesses a terrific title, but that same wit and intelligence is evident in every post. It draws on Boyle’s vast experience n the U.K. poetry scene, while also reflecting his current project at CB Editions.

- Jane Commane at Nine Arches Press maintains a blog that showcases new collections on a regular basis. They give an excellent flavour of the book to come, and they’ve drawn me in on many occasions.

Deep breath...exhale…that’s all for this year! Apologies for anyone I’ve missed out: I know only too well that horrible feeling of reading through a list,  reaching the end and realising you’re not there. My blog reading is incomplete and anarchic, so any undeserved absence is 100% my fault.

Oh, and thank you for reading through one of the longest posts ever published on Rogue Strands!!