Sunday 26 June 2016

Four poems in The Next Review

I'm delighted to report that one of my favourite literary journals, The Next Review, have published four of my poems in their latest issue (Vol.3/No.5). You can get hold of a copy by following this link to their website.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

The stretching of wings, Suzanna Fitzpatrick's Fledglings

Suzanna Fitzpatrick's pamphlet collection, Fledglings (Red Squirrel Press, 2016) is first of all a gorgeous object, with limpid, expert typesetting from Gerry Cambridge and high production values that make it delicious to the touch.

What of the poetry itself? Well, Fitzpatrick mines a rich seam of pregnancy, motherhood and the raising of infants that has also provided an excellent source of material in recent times for the likes of Kate Clanchy and Kate Bingham. However, it would be unfair to pigeonhole her work, as its appeal reaches beyond the immediate subject matter.

It’s often said that elegies allow and even demand the poet to hunt for meaning and grope for words that might reflect an experience out of reach of language. Well, Suzanna Fitzpatrick shows that the process of birth, its build-up and aftermath, ranks alongside. Her images that make us look afresh at the universal events she portrays, as in “Quake”:

“…My pelvis groans

at the speed, an iceberg calving…”

And also in “Blazon”.

we are separate
I can touch you

the ballbearings
of your joints…”

This same knack for finding a resonant, satisfying yet somehow renewed image runs through the book, but nowhere more so than in its title poem, which begins as follows:

“I stroke the tiny kites
of your shoulder blades,
Imagine wings. Gingerly

I stretch my own.
It’s been so long
since I trusted them...”

This poem shows Fitzpatrick at her best, never seeming to strain or force her way towards something artificial. Instead, her verse is fresh but clear in its thrust, hinting at depths instead of shouting them from the rooftops. For example, the title poem might focus on her specific reaction to a shift in mother/child roles, but her expression of this experience invites her reader to a far wider reflection of the way dynamics change in families as years go by and generations are followed by generations.

Fledglings is a lovely introduction to a poet who’s already in control of her material and is capable of affecting her reader. Suzanna Fitzpatrick’s verse is deceptively broad in scope and I look forward to seeing her stretch her poetic wings in due course in the format of a full collection.

Monday 13 June 2016

My first full collection

How strange it seems to have written the title to this post. Since starting to place my poems in magazines almost twenty years ago, I've been working towards this moment. Here goes...

...I'm delighted beyond words to announce that Eyewear Publishing will be bringing out my first full collection in 2017.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

The story of a poem

Looking back through my files, I find the first typewritten draft torn from the secondhand dot matrix printer I bought not long after arriving in Almendralejo. A creature of habit, I've only ever dated poems once they move from notebook to screen, so here it is: January 1998. The title is different, of course, as is the layout of the stanzas, but the poem has been born.

I must have gone back to it in a couple of months later, as there are handwritten corrections all over the sheet and a note: "Rev' March '98". Of course, I'm sure to have thought it was finished at that point. How wrong I was.

A few weeks afterwards, I returned to the poem. There's another typewritten draft, which indicates more extensive revisions back in my notebook prior to a second visit to the dot matrix. However, frustration must have set in: "UNF" for unfinished is scrawled across the bottom.

Later on that month - April '98 - I had another go at polishing off this awkward, obstreperous bunch of lines. I must have been reasonably happy with the result, as I sent it, with a shiny new title, as part of a submission to Evangeline Paterson (a fabulous, understated poet and editor, much missed) at Other Poetry. She published it that autumn.

At this point there's a pause, although I recall having posted it that year to a dear friend who died in a mountaineering accident not long afterwards. It was hidden among many failures. She chose it as her favourite.

Come 2009, I was preparing my submission to HappenStance Press for what would become Inventing Truth, my first pamphlet. I picked this poem up again, reread it and realised I could improve it, change the flow of the stanzas, tweak the title. Helena Nelson, my editor, wasn't fully convinced. She sidelined it to a list of possibles in early 2010, so I went at it again. Still she put up cogent arguments against its inclusion. It correctly lost out a couple of months before publication.

I knew that poem was important, not just because of its journey, but because it highlighted a specific facet of my verse. Nevertheless, I also knew it wasn't quite over the line. Every few months, I continued to chip away at it: November 2013, August 2014, May 2015. My first full collection was the aim.

Until today. It's still in my manuscript, holding on for dear life. This time, in adulthood, over eighteen years after its birth, it's going to make the cut. When might the book appear? More news on that in due course...

Monday 6 June 2016

From Farnham to Villalejo on The Stare's Nest

My poem From Farnham to Villalejo is now up at The Stare's Nest as part of their Poems for Europe feature. You can read it here.

Thursday 2 June 2016

Richie McCaffery in The Poetry Shed

Abegail Morley is the curator of a veritable treasure trove of verse over at The Poetry Shed. Today she's featuring two excellent pieces by Richie McCaffery (see here). A warning: once read, they'll defy any attempt to banish them from your mind for a long time to come.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Poems for Europe on The Stare's Nest

In the run-up to the E.U. referendum, Judi Sutherland has launched a Poems for Europe feature on The Stare's Nest. From now till 15th June, a daily poem will be posted to celebrate all the good reasons for staying European. I'm pleased to report that my work is scheduled to appear next week (more news about that in due course) alongside excellent pieces such as today's poem from Martyn Crucefix.