Monday 27 February 2023

Delicious tensions, Clare Best's End of Season/Fine di stagione

Clare Best’s new project, End of Season/Fine di stagione (Frogmore Press, 2022), is a delicious portrayal of the tensions that run through life, yoking them to poetry so as to burrow down to the core of feelings.

To start with, as indicated by the title itself, there are linguistic tensions, each poem in English placed on the opposite page to its corresponding piece in Italian (written by Franca Mancinelli and John Taylor). Rather than translations, these feel like two independent texts that establish dialogues: views of Italy in English, then also in Italian but filtered through an English perspective. Languages, cultures and societies rub up against each other and generate further insight into how we view the world around us.

And then another inherent semantic tension exists in that title. The end of a season hints at the end of a cycle, wondering and worrying about what might lie beyond, the past providing a counterpoint to the present as in the following extract from

If I forget these short days
and cool nights, the lack
of screaming swifts,
I can pretend today is summer
and we are here together…

End of Season/Fine di stagione, Clare Best provides an acute reminder that the acts of writing and reading reconcile us with ourselves, Throughout these poems, she explores this process, leading up to On the Mulattiera, which delicately brings the past and the present back together…

…There was a time I couldn’t have left you.
I’m there, I’m here. The road’s collapsed.

Where have I been? My path – October
wood-smoke, pine cones fallen on rubble.

You let me go and then I let you go.
I never loved you well enough till now.

Fractured sky opens into rain.
What can it mean to be here, alone…?

And one final implicit tension in
End of Season/Fine di stagione is between the written page and song, as six of these poems have been set to music by Amy Crankshaw (you can watch the first performance for yourself on YouTube here). It’s well worth comparing the versions, as they cast a fresh perspective on each other.

End of Season/Fine di stagione
shows us (yet again!) Clare Best’s unquenchable thirst for collaborations with other genres, all tied to her drive to explore experience via hard-won artistic creativity, taking us along for the ride, allowing us to reflect too on the tensions within our own lives. This is the sort of writing that earns new readers for poetry, bringing it into settings and contexts where it is too often absent. Clare Best never lives in a bubble. She’s forever reaching out to people and that’s a terrific virtue.

Thursday 23 February 2023

Edmund Prestwich's poetry blog

Certain regular readers of Rogue Strands have complimented me on the number of poetry blogs I manage to follow (or insinuated that I've got far too much time on my hands!), but I continue to make new discoveries of excellent, long-running poetry blogs that have previously slipped under my radar.

This is at once annoying and terrific. Annoying because it makes me feel useless. Terrific because each discovery provides me with the chance to devour a whole back catalogue of interesting posts.

One such case is Edmund Prestwich's poetry blog (follow this link to read it), which is packed with in-depth reviews that get down to the nitty-gritty of books such as Hannah Lowe's The Kids, Maurice Riordan's Shoulder Tap and Gerard Woodward's The Vulture, alongside nuanced analysis of poetry from the past, especially from the 20th Century. All in all, it's a treasure trove of points of departure for poetic discussion and debate. Thoroughly recommended and it's going straight on my Poetry Blogs List. I can only apologise for not having found it earlier...!

Monday 13 February 2023

U.K. Poetry Podcasts - a list of resources

Back in December, I was delighted to be the guest poet on the Planet Poetry Podcast, hosted by Robin Houghton and Peter Kenny. Round about the same time, I began to notice more and more podcasts appearing in my newsfeed on social media, many of which had been running for some time but had slipped under my radar. And then there were comments from my mate Mat Riches about this and that interview or feature that he’d heard on this or that podcast.

And so I started to explore the scene, asking for recommendations on Twitter, realising that while I don’t have the joy of a commute, I do have hours batch-cooking in my kitchen without access to live radio in English – a perfect opportunity to work my way through a fair few poetry podcasts. I quickly found that not only is there a thriving scene, but it’s growing all the time.

As a consequence, I thought it might be a good idea to collate those podcasts in one blog post, just as I bring together U.K. Poetry Blogs annually in December, so here’s my first list of U.K. Poetry Podcasts, together with a link to each. Of course, most are available across multiple platforms. I've just selected one here for each podcast, but it should be pretty easy for you to locate them via a quick search on your brand/channel of choice…

Planet Poetry Podcast. As mentioned above, I’m hardly objective, but Robin Houghton and Peter Kenny run an excellent and invigorating ship.

The Seren Poetry Podcast. Lots to savour here from the Welsh Poetry Publisher par excellence, but I especially enjoyed the episode with Ben Wilkinson.

Versify is a terrific poetry podcast, accessible, educational, contemporary but also looking back at major figures of the 20th Century.

The Poetry Bath is presented by Sian Thomas and each episode of this radio programme-cum-podcast features an in-depth interview with a different poet.

A Mouthful of Air is run by Mark McGuinness.

The Poetry Society also have their own podcast.

Frank Skinner's poetry podcast. Nuff said.

The Poetry Exchange talks to people about a poem that has been a friend to them.
In exchange, this unique podcast creates a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation.

Poetry to your Ears has a focus on sharing the diversity of contemporary poets.

Poetry Pause is run by Philippa Davies.

The Poet Laurensen has gone to his Shed is a personal podcast that’s hosted by Neil Laurensen himself, and the name is a nod to...

The Poet Laureate has gone to his Shed, Simon Armitage for the BBC.

Words that Burn is run by Ben Collopy, and invites you along If you want to learn just a little bit more about poetry, in a gentle calm way that won't overanalyse.

The Penteract Podcast is hosted by Anthony Etherin.

Eat the Storms might be Irish in origin, but it features many U.K. poets.

Faber Poetry Podcast is, as the name itself indicates, run by F&F themselves.

The Ted Hughes Society Podcast pretty much does what it says on the tin!

Tiny in all that Air is the Philip Larkin Society podcast.

Arji's Poetry Pickle Jar

The Scottish Poetry Library's podcast

The Alternative Stories podcast

And just like in my annual Poetry Blog List, I’m aware this post is subjective and partial. In fact, I’d be delighted if you could make suggestions of more U.K. Poetry Podcasts that I could add to it. If you know of any, please do let me know!