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Into the serious reading, plus a podcast brewing

In the last few weeks I’ve been gearing up to the start of my course at York. The logistics are all up in the air, not surprisingly given the many variables and with you-know-what going on. Next week is Week 1, and yesterday I received a swathe of information about changed timetables, reading lists, induction activities etc.  I’m still holding back from booking train tickets and accommodation, as we’re told the timetable could still change again at any time. So that’s a bit nerve-wracking. The staff at York are doing a brilliant job pulling together all these courses, communicating with everyone and preparing for an influx of students. All the same, I was a bit dismayed to find all my core seminars have been moved from Wednesday to Monday morning, which means travelling on Sunday, a nightmare with all the engineering works, plus more expensive to stay over on Sunday. Ho hum. I’m still feeling very excited and grateful to be doing it at all.

Luckily I’d started on the reading list back in August, in an attempt to get on the front foot as I have a feeling it’s going to be a heavy intellectual load once weekly seminars begin. So among other things I’ve been reading Virgil’s Aeneid, various essays by Eliot, Walcott, Heaney et al, a wonderful ‘selected’ by Maureen McLane (a poet new to me) and large chunks of the Cambridge Companion to Virgil. Not to mention the real tome-extraordinaire, Don Paterson’s The Poem. Eeek. Stephen Yenser in The Yale Review described it as ‘sometimes baffling, sometimes maddening’, so at least I know its not just me. I have absolutely no idea what Don’s talking about a good deal of the time, but he’s very entertaining, and the sections I’m able to follow are invariably fascinating, so I’m still enjoying it.

I’ve also started reading Derek Walcott’s Omeros, to get into the Epic mood, also because I’ve never really read any Walcott, and it’s proving a good place to start. Here’s an extract on the Poetry Foundation website.

Meanwhile Peter Kenny and I have been beavering away on our forthcoming podcast. We decided to get enough material for several episodes before launching. This is a good thing in that we won’t be panicking a week after launch about having to work like crazy to get episode 2 ( and 3) up. But of course you do think ‘oh we could do such-and-such better’ after the first episode is done. Then again, everything I’ve read about podcasting says that you shouldn’t keep putting off launching, or editing ad infinitum because it’s not perfect. Luckily I have Peter to remind me that it won’t sound like BBC Radio 4 so stop worrying. A few rough edges is all part of the charm and quirkiness. I hope so! We’re interviewing some really interesting poets and editors and so we’re really pleased with the content. Even though we’re both sick to death of listening to our own voices when editing. We haven’t yet got a name for the podcast but as soon as we do, I’ll let you know 🙂

Published inBlogBooksCoursesPodcastYork MA


  1. So glad you’re reading Omeros, which I’m reading for the third time (!) and which I think is a seriously great work, even if a bit flawed. If I ever hear anyone suggesting that adjectives should be avoided, I am going to suggest they read it. It’s seriously multilayered and would merit a course all to itself!

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Ah! Funny you should say that, I have noticed the adjective count is high, but as you imply, it works. I’m not far enough into the book to have got to grips with all the characters, but I’m enjoying its unfolding rather like a film.

  2. M Muir M Muir

    that is such a brilliant reading list nudge – reminds me how inadequate my own reading is these days – resolve resolve…
    And I do feel for you about Mondays.
    Great plan and I send you very great good wishes.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thanks so much, Mary!

  3. Good luck next week, Robin. What a wonderful adventure. Plenty of time to read if the trains are held up. The reading list sounds inspirational. Cx

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Robin Houghton 2021