Thursday 27 September 2018

Clare Best's The Missing List

Rogue Strands rarely ventures beyond poetry, but today’s an exception due to Clare Best’s prose memoir, The Missing List (Linen Press, 2018). This post isn’t a review as such, just a few reflections on her book.

Clare Best is perhaps best known for her fine poetry, so it’s worth making a general point that also applies to this text in particular: many reviewers lapse into erroneous critical shorthand when excellent poets lend their hand to prose, invoking terms such as “lyrical” or “poetic”. In fact, the signs of a successful shift of genre are far more subtle.

For example, an assured poet knows how to capture a scene via a layering effect, building up seemingly insignificant details until they explode into meaning. Clare Best manages just such an effect in many scenes throughout The Missing List. Moreover, a poet is also an expert in telling their narrative via a collage of perspectives and moments, having learnt how to place trust in their reader, allowing connections to be made organically. Clare Best shows her mastery of the technique in The Missing List.

The subject matter of this book is childhood sexual abuse, which again lends itself to more critical shorthand such as “harrowing” or “moving”. However, the author’s achievement lies in involving the reader in her story to such an extent that she lifts her memoir into the wider realm of implicit questioning of how societies operate and how humans relationships develop.

Clare Best will be reading from The Missing List at an event at the University of Sussex of 17th October, followed by a triple book launch with Jeremy Page and Kay Syrad in Lewes on 24th October. I only wish I could make it along!

Friday 21 September 2018

It's time for a "Big Announcement"

I'm delighted to announce the inaugural Rogue Strands Poetry Reading, co-organised by Mat Riches and myself, with a mouth-watering line-up...

Wednesday 19 September 2018

ISSNs for poetry magazines

The ISSN is an international code that's used to identify the title of serial publications (see here the British Library's explanation of the system). It's free to obtain and most poetry magazines have traditionally worn one.

An ISSN isn't related to legal deposit, but it does facilitate the presence of a magazine in libraries, which use it as a fundamental identifier. Moreover, an ISSN enables poets to register their publications in magazines with ALCS. This means that poets might well end up getting money indirectly for their poem even if the journal in question can't afford to pay its contributors directly.

All of the above brings me on to the crux of my post: several excellent new print-based poetry magazines have appeared in the past few years in the U.K. with a worrying trend of not displaying an ISSN. Is there some reason for this that goes over my head?

Friday 14 September 2018

Fizzing alchemy, Raine Geoghegan's Apple Water:Povel Panni

Raine Geoghegan’s first pamphlet, Apple Water:Povel Panni, also happens to be the first collection to be published by The Hedgehog Press, so it’s worth mentioning from the outset that there are some very good production values on show here from the quality of paper through to the cover design and typesetting. All in all, it’s an excellent point of departure for both poet and publisher.

Moving on to the poetry itself, Apple Water:Povel Panni is remarkable in both conception and execution. The poems explore Romani history, employing conventional and contemporary English alongside Romani words, stirring in snippets of prose anecdotes and period photographs.

They could so easily have fallen into the trap of simulating a pastiche of some dialect or patois that once supposedly existed, but their success hinges on the poet’s conscious decision to break with the conventions of so-called authenticity. By doing so, she actually manages to make her poems far more authentic.

In other words, Geoghegan encounters a fresh perspective on Romani culture by creating a daring blend of cadences, meanings and sounds that implicitly represents her search for an expression of her own mixed identity. One such example is the poem Hotchiwitchi/Hedgehog, which begins as follows:

“to bake an ‘otchiwitchi,
roll it in the clay,
drop it in the embers of yer yog.

go and sing a song,
chase a sushi down the dron,
do a little jig, jog, jog.

when you open up the clay,
the spines will come away…”

Raine Geoghegan is unashamedly modern in her portrayal of the past. The blend of Romani and English could have seemed an insurmountable problem. Instead, it lends her work a fizzing alchemy that lifts it out of the ordinary. I very much look forward to seeing where she takes her poetry next.

Thursday 6 September 2018

My reading at Poetry in Aldeburgh

Sixteen years after my first visit to the festival as a member of the audience, I can't quite believe that I'll be giving a reading myself at Poetry in Aldeburgh 2018.

I'll be appearing alongside Helena Nelson, Alison Brackenbury and Rosie Shepperd on Sunday 4th November at 1 p.m. in the Peter Pears Gallery in a slot titled "Poetry of Food and Cooking". Suffice to say, wine might also play a part at some point!

I'm very grateful to Paul Stephenson, The Poetry School and Poetry in Aldeburgh for this opportunity, and I'm also looking forward to attending lots of other top-notch readings during the festival. You can view the programme in full on the festival website here.

Monday 3 September 2018

British Life in Poetry

British Life in Poetry is an exciting new project run by Matt Barnard, aiming to promote poetry in Britain by posting a weekly poem by a contemporary author writing in English. I'm delighted to report that my poem Sooner or Later from The Knives of Villalejo is being featured there this week. Matt Barnard introduces it as follows:

"A poem with the concentrated precision of a haiku and one which reminds us of the shadow that hovers in the background even on the sunniest of days..."

You can read my poem at British Life in Poetry by following this link. Why not browse the archive, which is already excellent, while you're there?