Sunday 20 December 2020

An exceptional object poem by Christopher James

I have to admit I’m a fan of object poems, especially those that take a seemingly insignificant item and invest it with personal meaning. This process often involves a so-called “poetic leap” from the object to the experience.

In this respect, Christopher James’ recent object poem on And Other Poems (see here) is exceptional for several reasons. First of all, it doesn’t make one but several leaps, all of which are successful. And then the object in question convincingly comes to life. And then it gradually gives up further mysteries and details as the poem progresses.

Such a layering of elements is extremely difficult to achieve in an object poem, but the result is terrific depth and a delicious degree of nuance. Recommended reading that will lift you out of this grim, grim set of current circumstances...!

Thursday 17 December 2020

My poetry books of the year

My poetry books of the year will lodge in my head. Every now and then, I’ll experience something that reminds me of one of their lines or poems, and I’ll reach for them, and then I’ll linger, and the book in question will lead a second life beyond the shelves in my study, being tasted every few days for a couple of months before returning to those shelves. And then the cycle will begin again.

What’s more, I won’t yet have read several of my poetry books of the year, as they’ll be slow-burners that a trusted friend will recommend or I’ll encounter on the shelves of a second hand bookshop, flick through a few pages and reach for my wallet.

And then there are my other poetry books of the year, the ones I thought weren’t much cop when I read them in 2020, but which will reach out and hit me/hug me/renew me if I’m lucky enough to be around in 2030.

These are my poetry books of the year. Sorry if yours isn't on the list.

Sunday 13 December 2020

A lost year...?

Is 2020 a lost year? I’ve seen this mournful term on several occasions recently in the media and even being invoked by poets. However, I’m convinced it’s a misnomer and can only lead us down a dead end.

Of course, my above comment isn’t intended to trivialise the fact that countless people have lost everything in 2020, while it’s also clear we’ve all missed out on experiences this year. Nevertheless, one of the things that poetry teaches us is that time is never lost or wasted. 

Fallow periods in our poetry lives are necessary. Through our writing, we soon learn that the genre doesn’t require or even benefit from our spending eight hours a day sitting at a desk. In fact, it encourages us to live and let ideas percolate through our subconscious in the meantime.

Beyond our writing, it’s worth adopting a similar approach to our days, using the patience that poetry given us. As a consequence of having pressed the pause button these past few months, certain projects will have lost significance. Others, on the other hand, will have unexpectedly become crucial. Our priorities will have shifted and we’ll be in a better position to face the rest of our lives. In other words, however we view it, 2020 is in no shape or form a lost year.

Monday 7 December 2020


I loathe the act of translating from one language to another. Where many find creativity, I only encounter the frustration of insurmountable challenges, especially when a word possesses two connotations in the original text and one or three (or two different ones) in the new one. What’s more, I know I’m not alone in this respect. One of the most popular posts on this blog, for instance, from 2009, is titled Traduttore, Tradittore or Translator, Traitor.

However, today’s thoughts aren’t concentrated on translation per se. Instead, the afore-mentioned problem is a point of departure for a questioning of our use of the word submission in poetry. If we look up any major dictionary, this term has two main meanings in English, as in the following example:


the action of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.


the action of presenting a proposal, application, or other document for consideration or judgement.

As a consequence, in English at least, I’m unable to imagine the second definition without a small part of my mind recalling the first one. The two are inextricably linked and cannot be separated because they co-exist.

Going back to my initial explanation of the nightmare of translation: this word cannot be considered if we don’t accept the sociolinguistic ramifications of both its potential meanings. These, by coincidence, don’t exist in Spanish in the same way (in which language there are actually other, subtly different connotations), so a translator either way could never transmit the full load of the word in question.

But let's cut to the chase: I’m always uncomfortable with the mention of a submission when referring to poetry journals and publishers. I’m personally incapable of shaking off the implication of being subjugated, of submitting myself to judgement, of yielding to a superior force or will, especially if it’s being invoked in the context of artistic creation.

Why can’t we just use contribution?

Wednesday 2 December 2020

The Best U.K. Poetry Blogs of 2020

Poetry blogs have taken on special significance in 2020. As mentioned in my previous post on Rogue Strands, time might well have speeded up this year in many respects, but many people have also had that very same time weighing on their hands as a consequence of isolation, both in mental and physical terms.

In other words, poetry blogs have provided their readers with longer reads than social media posts, all alongside more substantial content. They offer us the chance to remember we’re not alone in the midst of this pandemic, together with the reassurance that there are other people whose experiences mirror ours.

This year’s list of The Best U.K. Poetry Blogs 2020 comes, as usual, with the caveat of being incomplete and subjective, but it also includes several newcomers, some of whom have been blogging for years but have only appeared on my limited radar this time around. Let’s start with them…

- Julie Mellor’s blog, chatty, intimate, yet wide-reaching and with an excellent eye for poetry.

- Ama Bolton’s barleybooks, creativity personified.

- Hilary Menos’ blog, intermittent posts but with thought-provoking content.

- Charlotte Gann's blog, a chronicle of her personal journey that implicitly reaches out to all of us.

- Elizabeth Rimmer’s Burned Thumb blog, packed with generosity, news, poems and a personal touch.

And now for the old-timers (sic)….

- Mat Riches’ Wear The Fox Hat, an idiosyncratic, insightful poetry blog...

- Matthew Paul’s blog, packed with wise and wry observations on poetry.

- Richie McCaffery’s The Lyrical Aye, a personal, sometimes ironic, sometimes acerbic view of the poetry world.

- Chris Edgoose’ Wood Bee Poet, in-depth poetry criticism.

- Sue Ibrahim’s My Natural World, what it says on the tin: a personal view of nature and life.

- Liz Lefroy’s I buy a new washer, so good it’s been turned into a book!

- Tim Love’s litrefs, a scientific yet hugely human view of poetry.

- Martyn Crucefix’s blog, critical rigour and thought-provoking views of contemporary poetry.

- Charles Boyle’s Sonofabook, still different, still dedicated to the genre.

- Abegail Morley’s Poetry Shed, original work from guest poets, plus reviews and news.

- Josephine Corcoran’s blog, a personal poetry journal that reaches out and touches on opportunities, events and news in the poetry world.

- John Foggin’s cobweb, honesty, human warmth and a love of poetry.

- Robin Houghton’s blog, generous, personal and warm. Just the ticket for a tough year like this.

- Clarissa Aykroyd’sThe Stone and the Star, different, curious, always exploring poetry, just like the person who writes it.

- Anthony Wilson’s blog, understandably riven with personal grief this year, but also heaving with life.  

- Emma Lee’s blog, a tireless promotor of poetry whose blog shines a light of countless aspects of the genre that deserve more attention.

- Sheenagh Pugh’s Good God! There’s writing on both sides of that paper! Reviews and views with an excellent critical eye.

- Matt Merritt’s Polyolbion, wise words on the poetry world and beyond.

- Caroline Gill’s blog, a personal poetry diary.

- Helena Nelson’s HappenStance Press blog, nuff said.

- Angela Topping’s blog, excellent written poetry blog, all in the context of the world around us.

- Roy Marshall’s blog, news and original poetry.

And that’s the end of the 2020 list, with a quick mention that I’d love to welcome the return next year of the likes of excellent bloggers such as Clare Best, Giles Turnbull, Katy Evans-Bush, John Field, Paul Stephenson and Maria Taylor.

Oh, and one annual reminder; as mentioned in previous years, I do know that grim feeling of reading through a list, coming to the end and realising you’re not there, so I can only apologise if I’ve missed you out. As one individual reader, I can’t keep up with everyone, and I’d be very grateful for any additional blogs that readers might like to add in the comments that follow this post…