It seems a long time since I started blogging here a year ago. The site has had over twelve thousand hits since then. Some of these were logged by me (I use the list on the right to scroll down sites and catch up with goings on). Many are via my ‘Favourite Poem of the week page’ with people often typing ‘interpretation of underground poem by Seamus Heaney’ or some such search term. I hope they are not too disappointed when they find no interpretation, just the poem. And I hope the searcher might browse through other poems on the page, an eclectic mix including new or relatively ‘unknown’ writers who I’ve met and asked to contribute, as well as greats old and new, song lyrics and translations.
A few books I’ve loved in 2012
Now All Roads Lead to France– 2011, Michael Hollis. The poet Michael Hollis not only gives insight into the life and work of Edward Thomas and the part played by Robert Frost in his becoming a poet, but also evokes the poetry scene in London just prior to the First World War and includes illuminating portraits of W.B Yeats, Ezra Pound and others.
Hope and Glory– Stuart Maconie. 2011. Maconie is a brilliantly readable journalist and this enjoyable and enriching tour of events, people and places which shaped Modern Britain is an alternative history which includes chapters on the docking of the Empire Windrush and the General Strike.
If We Could Speak Like Wolves, Kim Moore’s 2012 Smiths/doorstop pamphlet.
Fluid, clever, moving, deft, funny, surprising, generally wonderful debut pamphlet from this new star of poetry.
Changeling, Clare Pollard, Bloodaxe 2011. I’ve bought everything by Clare since her first book. She’s great. Worth buying for opening ’Tam Lin’s Wife’ alone.
Melanchrini, Maria Taylor, Nine Arches Press. A rewarding first collection consistent in quality and theme. Full of gems.
The Dark Film Paul Farley, Picador. New levels of invention from this wonderfully accomplished poet .
Banjo-Samantha Wynne- Rhydderch, Picador. I had to buy this book after hearing a poem called ‘The Piano’ which describes how a piano was loaded onto a supply ship for Scott’s Discovery expedition. The arctic expedition section of the book has obviously been meticulously researched and Wynne-Rhydderch entirely inhabits her characters and their historical and physical environment. Brilliant.
On reviewing and being reviewed
I’ve written a few ‘proper’ book reviews this year and feel I’ve learnt quite a lot about the art. Two appeared for Sphinx online. One or two I published on this site, and two are yet to appear in Critical Survey. I was staggered by how much work I put into a ‘proper’ review, such as the one I’ve written on Anthony Rowland’s ‘I am A Magenta Stick’ (Salt 2012). I started off ‘not getting’ this book, but ended up finding much to like and admire in the work of a writer who I would not have read had I not been engaged in reviewing. I put a lot of effort into reading and writing thoughtfully and well and this probably explains why I get annoyed by lazy or poorly written reviews .
Very pleasingly my own pamphlet, which was published in March, has been reviewed quite widely and well by writers whose own work I have read and admire. As I’ve said previously here, it is not entirely about what is written by a reviewer, it is more about how well it is written.
People and Places
I’ve been privileged to hear such diverse poets as Seamus Heaney, Lemn Sissay, Allison McVety, Pete Sansom, Ian Duhig, Joan Hewitt, Daljit Nagra. Such diversity, such affirmation of the power of the spoken word.
One of the best things about this year has been meeting people who write, listening to their wonderful poems and enjoying conversation on poetry and publishing. Special mention must go to Kim Moore who gave me an entire chocolate brownie at the Ledbury Festival, to Deborah Tyler-Bennett for generously offering to read some of my work and offer advice, to Ian Parks for generally being a lovely bloke and to my wonderful publishers Jonathan and Maria Taylor for unstinting support and selfless hard work on behalf of Crystal Clear and Shindig! poetry nights in collaboration with Nine Arches Press. This year they have hosted performances from poets such as Jonathan Davidson, Jo Bell, David Cooke, Kim Moore, Matt Merit and Rory Waterman. Poetry has taken me to London (Magma magazine launch, Royal festival Hall reading by Seamus Heaney and others, Leonardo Da Vinci anatomy exhibition and poetry at the Queens gallery) to read in Birmingham, Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham, Wales, Southwell, Ledbury, Lichfield and to Warwick, Northampton, Leicester, Leeds and De Montfort Universitys.
Joining the long-established Ink Sweat and Tears have been several new online poetry sites, all really well thought out and presented and publishing interesting work. I love the immediacy of online publishing and the generally fast response from submission to publication. I’ve really enjoyed having work published by some of these sites, notably Antiphon, And Other Poems, Kumquat and London Grip.
Print magazines that have taken my work for the first time this year include Magma, The North and Cake. I’ve also been lucky enough to be in some of my other favourites including The Rialto, New Walk and, sadly, the last edition of Smiths Knoll. I’ll be working on putting a full collection of poems together this year for Shoestring Press, an exciting challenge.
Finally, thank you to everyone who has supported my work by reading, advising, recommending, commenting on this blog and in person, and by buying my pamphlet and/or the odd pint of beer, by listening, reading, clapping, publishing, chatting and smiling.
Happy Christmas !