January 15th and I’m just getting round to my first post of the year, something that would have concerned me a bit in the past but for the new decade I’m surprisingly chilled. A new decade. Hmmm. Is it me, or has it passed rather under the radar this year? I think I remember the start of the 80s in terms of pop music if nothing else. “Pop go the seventies!” You have to put that into context: there were only 3 TV channels in those days, no web, no TV on demand, no mobile phones etc etc. So Who Was Number One in the Hit Parade was pretty key. BUT I have no time for all those click-bait/lazy media articles about how ‘boring’ the Olde Days were. I’m probably preaching to the converted, so moving on…
I have a lovely pile of books to read and so far I’ve absolutely loved Hubert Moore’s The Feeding Station (Shoestring Press) which I’ve reviewed for an upcoming issue of The Frogmore Papers. Moore is a good example of a poet who’s been writing for some time and isn’t part of the social media merry-go-round, nor the champing-at-the-bit-for-readings crowd. I’m sorry to say I’d not heard of him, because this collection is wonderful. I feel quite inspired, and certainly will be seeking out more by him.
Another poet I’ve finally got around to reading properly is David Borrott. David was one of the standout poets on a course I did at Ty Newydd back in 2013. His pamphlet Porthole was a Laureate’s Choice (Smith Doorstop) in 2015 and I can see why. The pamphlet is wide-ranging in subject matter and very accomplished. Nothing predictable about it, very enjoyable.
My subscription to Stand magazine is drawing to a close so I’ll be moving onto another publication shortly, in line with my ‘subscription rotation’ policy. I’ve really enjoyed my year with Stand, it’s quite different and I’ve discovered names I’ve not read before, for example in this issue (Volume 17/4) Natalie Linh Bolderston and Iain Twiddy.
I’m about halfway through Robert Hamberger’s Blue Wallpaper (Waterloo Press) and enjoying it immensely, which is probably why I’m taking my time over it. For me his work still feels vastly underrated. There is so much to love in his poetry. Robert is also quiet and modest, qualities that I can’t help but find endearing. All I can say is, seek him out. The works speaks for itself.
Back in the summer I decided to read Dante’s Divine Comedy, in a Penguin parallel edition with the original Italian and Robert Kirkpatrick’s translation. Many decades ago I was an eighteen-year-old ingenue in Rome, arriving by train and taking up an au pair job while speaking no Italian. My host family were kind enough to enrol me in the Dante Alighieri School to learn the language. This was my first encounter with Dante, and I’m ashamed to say it took me all this time to decide to actually read his most famous work. It would have happened sooner if I hadn’t changed course at University and ditched Italian literature. So – I galloped through Hell (Inferno), then spent around two months in Purgatory. There was so much to process. When I reached the end, I felt I needed to re-read the introduction. But now I’ve just started Paradiso – although I’m still only on the introduction, which is itself daunting. Interestingly, Nick is conducting a performance of ‘The Dream of Gerontius’ in Brighton in March, which is basically a story about a soul’s journey after death through Purgatory and beyond. So we’re been comparing notes over dinner: is there actually a Lake in Purgatory, or two rivers (as Dante describes)? Is it possible to be regaled by Demons trying to lure you to Hell once you’re in Purgatory (Gerontius) or are you impervious to that? (Dante) I have to remind myself now and then that this is all pretty much theoretical.
Currently writing, and a resolve for 2020
One reason I haven’t been blogging much lately as that I’ve been writing, which is of course an excellent thing. Several new poems in the pipeline plus I’ve been creating a skeleton for a collection, complete with ideas and poem titles on card which I move around and play games with. The new work is putting flesh on the skeleton.
This year I’ve decided not to enter any competitions, a decision that was reinforced when I received a recent email exhorting me to enter a particular competition which appears to have raised its entry fee considerably, while the prize money seems spectacularly unspectacular. Harrumph! My magazine subscriptons and submissions will carry on though.
My competition ban (in terms of pamphlet or book comps) may have to be relaxed if my collection plans progress well… but I’m trying not to succumb. Definitely no single poem comps though!