Saturday, 29 October 2016

Twitter and Facebook for poetry blogs

Now that Rogue Strands has reached the figure of 2,000 followers on Twitter (click here to join the happy throng!), it's a good time to reflect on how Twitter and Facebook interact with poetry blogs in general and specifically with this one.

First things first: I don't see social media in isolation. Instead, I make use of them as a means by which my posts on Rogue Strands might reach the greatest number of potential interested parties and readers. In other words, Twitter and Facebook help to spread the word.

Of course, transience is inevitable these days. Twitter is certainly faster-moving than Facebook, which lends it extra dynamism but also means that more stuff slips under the radar and disappears into the flow of information. Facebook, meanwhile, seems to have greater scope for discussion. On the other hand, one growing problem is that any debate of a blog post now often takes place via a comments thread on Facebook. The afore-mentioned thread then rapidly loses any connection with the post in question if and when readers go back to it a few months later.

Nevertheless, Rogue Strands' constant growth is in no doubt partly down to interaction with social media, viewing them as a beneficial tool rather than a threat or even an alternative. A quick glance at my blog stats shows that clicks through from Twitter and Facebook have trebled over the past couple of years. The latter is inevitably more slow-burning after a post is published, while the former is more immediate. All this is proof that poetry blogs are far from obsolete. They simply need to adapt to the ever-shifting virtual world around them.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

I'm in the Poetry Spotlight!

I'm delighted to report that Poetry Spotlight is featuring an interview with me today, along with one of the poems from my forthcoming full collection. You can read it by following this link.

While you're there, why not trawl the treasure trove that's gradually accumulating on the site? Paul Clyne is curating excellent pieces on a wide range of poets such as Fiona Sampson, Alison Brackenbury, Richie McCaffery, Fiona Moore and Sheenagh Pugh, to name but a few.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Electric coherence, Katrina Naomi's The Way the Crocodile Taught Me

Katrina Naomi’s second full collection, The Way the Crocodile Taught Me (Seren, 2016), uses scrupulously portrayed character studies as a fulcrum for a compelling narrative drive.

This is especially true of the book’s first section, which revolves around two men and two women; a father and a stepfather, a mother and a grandmother. The two men are implicitly contrasted in separate poems, the initial focus moving from the father’s absence to the stepfather’s arrival, while comparisons between the women often take place within a single poem. In the latter case, “Gin and Ice Cream”, from the sequence “Poems after my Nan”, portrays one of the hardest human experiences: that of an older generation witnessing the demise of their offspring:

“Even after all the gins, all morning,
you still can’t say the c-word.

Over a weekend, I try to discuss your daughter/
my mum, but your soft blue eyes fill…”

The pivotal slash/line break here is, of course, where “your daughter” leads on to “my mum”.

The invocation of multiple roles in family relationships is pivotal to this book’s story and can also be applied to male characters, as in the following extract from “Letter to my Mother”:

“You lie beneath him,
a measure of mud between you.

This was our final argument – his and mine –
your husband/my step-father…”

A key tension clearly lies in the juxtaposition of your husband/my step-father. A statement of fact is charged with tremendous feeling.

The second part of the collection, while packed with well executed set pieces, inevitably cannot match the electric coherence and cohesion of the first part, although it is complemented by an excellent final long poem, titled “Mantra”, that takes reader and poet back to the first part of the book, literary, temporal and geographical journey meshed together, doubt and belief intertwined. The final lines linger long after their reading:

“…Mum stayed,
repeating her mantra to the mountains, for six months, maybe a year,
before the cord unravelled, and then she’d be free.”

Katrina Naomi’s The Way the Crocodile Taught Me shows that she is a compelling poetic storyteller, capable of creating intimacy via distance, layering characters, bringing them alive and generating emotional resonance.