All posts filed under: Books

Eyewear - Best New British and Irish Poets anthology

Eyewear Anthology launch & a scary flashback

This one is dedicated to my good friend Lucy, who often comes with me to London poetry readings. I’ve taken her to standing-room only upstairs rooms in Victorian pubs, damp basements that turn into saunas in the summer, corners of (yet more) pubs where poets compete with the steady traffic to/from the gents, drunk hilarity from the bar and piped music. She listens, she smiles, she pays her way, she never asks ‘is it nearly over yet?’ and she never complains. And whenever I invite her, she comes along, cheerful as ever! Thank you, Lucy! Yesterday she and I were at the launch event for Eyewear’s ‘Best New British and Irish Poets 2017’ anthology, at the Windmill in Brixton. I’m very grateful to have a poem in such an anthology, and in such good company. Luke Kennard, thank you for picking it up – I didn’t feel able to elbow my way in to your entourage yesterday to say so, so I’m saying it here. I also want to thank Charles Johnson who originally published the poem …

Quote by Charles-Bukowski-—-8

On staying motivated

It’s one of those tricky periods right now. The poetry honeymoon is well and truly over. I’m existing on a handful of acceptances (for which I am humbly grateful). I’m surrounded by talented, prolific poets who all seem to be successful and getting noticed while I seem to be not writing anything that people want to read. I need the Spring the get going, dammit – I know a bit of sunshine would help. I also know this feeling will pass. One saving grace right now is that I’m not a US citizen. Which must sound monumentally trite, so I must explain that in 1999 I was living in the US and was (I thought) not coming home, ever, to the UK. Just as my lawyers gave me the good news that my Green Card application had progressed to the next stage, and just as I was several thousand dollars the poorer, my job was reorganised. So I was back in the UK quicker than the time it took me to unlearn how to say ‘water’ …

TS Eliot prize readings programme

TS Eliot Prize – workshop & readings

Katy Evans-Bush‘s TS Eliot shortlist workshop is fast becoming an institution. Now in its sixth year, it’s a fine precursor to the Prize readings which take place the following day, and the prize giving itself the day after that. The format is straightforward – Katy reads the ten shortlisted books, chooses from them a number of poems to discuss, and invites poets along to the Poetry School in Lambeth for a day to mull them over. I’ve been to one of these workshops once before and had a wonderful time. This time I had to confess I hadn’t read any of the collections, but in a way that’s part of the excitement – to be introduced to them by someone like Katy. Not only does she offer her thoughts and insights into the works, and invite us all into the discussion, but she also brings to the table her formidable background as a writer, reader and and literary critic. Plus the odd bit of insider gossip, of course. The TS Eliot Prize is probably the highest profile UK poetry prize and that’s …

Home Front, Bloodaxe

Recent reading: ‘Home Front’, new poetry from Bloodaxe

An interesting book came my way from Bloodaxe recently – a book of books, you might call it, or perhaps an anthology of collections. Home Front features four collections (each by a different poet, three of whom were unfamiliar to me) on the theme of war, specifically the experience of wives, lovers and mothers when their loved ones in the military are sent away to war. Isabel Palmer‘s contribution is Atmospherics, which includes a number of the poems from her excellent Flarestack pamphlet Ground Signs which I read and enjoyed a while back. The poems here are grouped into three, the central section focusing on the period of time her son spent in Afghanistan, sandwiched between two ‘Home’ sections, before and after. As a result, Atmospherics expands on Ground Signs through the inclusion of not just more material but also more experimental forms, as in for example the lists and glossaries that make up the six-part ‘Symbols’ sequence at the start of the final section.  Isabel Palmer is from a military family, whereas Bryony Doran is not. When her son joined …

Noir by Charlotte Gann

Charlotte Gann book launch

It’s always a joy to hear poet friend Charlotte giving a reading. There’s a weight to her voice, a rootedness … it’s hard to explain what I mean. There’s no act, no funny stuff. She presents her poems simply, and they just seem to appear in the room – completely in the proper place – like great trees that have been growing for hundreds of years. Last night was the first launch of Noir, Charlotte’s first full-length collection, published by HappenStance, and it was in her home town of Lewes. It was my home too, for fourteen years (just passing through!), and it’s still slightly weird to go back to, especially on (almost) the eve of Bonfire, its biggest day of the year. I walked down the High Street and Sarah Barnsley and I almost didn’t recognise each other in the dark as we waited to cross the road. Spookily appropriate for the book’s title. But everything about the event was the opposite of noir – a wonderful gathering of friends, family and supporters, a happy audience. I loved …

Jane Commane & Abegail Morley launch The Skin Diary

Launch of ‘The Skin Diary’ by Abegail Morley

What a privilege it is to be asked to read at a friend’s book launch. Abegail Morley has been something of a mentor to me, always generous in her support. She is a genuinely unselfish in her helping of other poets, and always interested in collaborations or new ideas. She’s also a prolific writer – in the time I’ve known her (only about three years I think) she’s had two collections and a pamphlet published, all with different presses. It makes me seriously question my work ethic and output. But in a positive way! In Tunbridge Wells on Wednesday evening a packed audience turned out in the pouring rain for the launch of The Skin Diary, Abegail’s new collection with Nine Arches Press, and her fourth overall. I’ve barely had a chance to start reading it but I’ve a strong suspicion it’s going to be powerful stuff, not just because that’s the kind of poetry she writes, but also evidenced by her reading. (I’d also had a sneak preview already at our Telltale Press & Friends readings in April.) My fellow readers …

The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion

What I’ve been reading… Kei Miller’s ‘Cartographer’

At the library I recently picked up Kei Miller’s The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (Carcanet 2014), and it proved to be one of those books you start reading and can’t put down till you get to the end. I’ve folded back so many corners of pages, to mark the poems I loved. At the heart of the book is a dialogue between a foreign cartographer intent on making a precise map of Jamaica (‘what I do is science’), and a ‘rastaman’ who explains the impossibility of it and distrusts the reasons for it – the mapmaker’s work is to make visible all them things that shoulda never exist in the first place like the conquests of pirates, like borders, like the viral spread of governments (‘ii. in which the rastaman disagrees’) The voices of the protagonists reveal the clash not just of cultures but of ways of seeing and thinking about our existence. Interwoven throughout are the stories behind place-names, the characters and history that has shaped the island, answers to the map-maker’s questions. A …

Chronicles of Eve & Bare Fiction magazine

Bare Fiction, Marion Tracy’s new book & other news

It’s gone a bit quiet here as I’ve been preoccupied with all sorts of things – our new flat is taking shape, so I’ve been spending time choosing paint colours, painting, filling, putting putty into windows and all kinds of decorating jobs. There are tons of boxes all over the place, and the thing you want is always in the bottom of the bottom box. I’ve finally moved my desk, filing cabinet and everything out of the office space I’ve rented the last three years, and into a corner of the bedroom. It probably doesn’t sound ideal but the room is big, I get a lovely quiet workspace and a view out the window and it’s a joy to have everything in one place. On the poetry front I was very pleased to receive my contributor copies of The Chronicles of Eve, an anthology from Paper Swans Press, and Bare Fiction Issue 7. The Chronicles of Eve is a kind of testament to womanhood, its joys and (mostly) tribulations. Eighty or so poems from a wide …

Physical by Andrew McMillan

Andrew McMillan’s ‘Physical’

Even though we have NO bookshelves at the moment and about 40 boxes of books we can’t unpack, I had a bit of a poetry book-buying splurge lately (this – AND even though I’ve just taken out two poetry books from the library, having discovered the poetry section at Eastbourne Library isn’t too shabby). And EVEN though I’ve two other collections on the ‘have read’ list, waiting to be written up, I’m letting this one jump the queue as it’s fresh on my mind. Physical, Andrew McMillan (Cape, 2015) This collection has of course won much acclaim– including the Guardian First Book Award, (the only poetry book to do so)–and there are plenty of great reviews to be read. But I can’t help wanting to put down my own thoughts on it. A layman’s review, if you like, along the lines of the ‘Reading List’ project I ran last year. Straight into the guts of the collection, the first poem ‘Jacob with the Angel’ is a retelling of the Biblical encounter in which an exhausted Jacob is wrestled …

Lynne Hjelmgaard book launch

[…] Outside each propelling constellation but inside that feeling of boat. It demands and bruises, cuts pride, hardens stomachs. […] (‘That Feeling of Boat’) It was such a pleasure to be at the launch of Lynne Hjelmgaard’s new collection A Boat Called Annalise last night. Hosted by publisher Seren Books, it was a warm occasion, well attended and with an open bar (slightly dangerous when there are poets around, but Lynne assured me there was a cap!) The upstairs room at the Yorkshire Grey in Camberwell was a good venue – there seem to be a number of pubs in that area where poetry events happen, usually while a completely different set of patrons drink downstairs, unaware of the poetry doo-dads happening above. I’ve known Lynne for a few years now, and apart from being a truly generous and gentle soul, she has a rare and quiet wisdom from which I’ve drawn great support.  I admire her work, her attitude and her honesty and I’m fortunate to count her as a friend. Clearly many people feel the same way …