The great Animator

Proof

The proof copy of my second full poetry collection dropped through the letterbox earlier this week.

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I’m very pleased with the way it looks and feels. The cover image, which was made for me by art student Ayo Byron, is just what I wanted. I had sent Ayo a few ideas – images of trees and their roots- and asked him to produce something with movement to reflect the title. The title itself comes from a poem of that name, a poem ostensibly about the wind and the fact it knows no borders.
I’m also pleased to say I am happy with the poems and their order. This book is more varied in subject and style and feels more substantial than my last one and I am  delighted with the paper quality and overall look and feel of it. But then this high quality is to be expected from my publisher, Shoestring Press. The book will be available to buy in March, and I’ll be launching it and reading with other poets in London, Manchester and Leicester and posting details here nearer to publication.

Over on poet Clare Pollard’s blog this morning Clare has highlighted a number of sources for free poetry including the online magazines Prac Crit and Poetry and Poems in Which . These are great developments, making quality poetry and interviews and articles available to those without the means to obtain it otherwise.   I also received a copy of the hefty 188 page print magazine The North this week. I’m pleased to have three poems from my new book in this edition.  Now in its thirtieth year, The North continues to prove that high quality print magazines can co-exist and thrive alongside new online formats. Clare also mentions a project called ‘All That’s Ever Happened’  an e-book anthology of New North Poets she was involved in mentoring for the Poetry School.  One of the poets included in the anthology  is my friend James Giddings, who I met when I studied in Sheffield some years ago and whose poems have featured here before.

Clare writes
‘Free poetry! There’s almost too much of it these days. How am I going to convince people to pay £9.95 when my book comes out in two weeks..’

The cover price of my book is £10, so I too have been wondering about this.  But then I’ll certainly be buying Clare’s book. And I would even if it were available free online.
There are several reasons for this.  Firstly, while I’m grateful that online magazines and e-books enable me to read a wide variety of poetry for no expense, it is still from the pages of the book in my hand that I most enjoy absorbing poetry.

I appreciate the aesthetic qualities of a physical book, and through my own involvement I am aware of the many hours it takes to produce one. In the case of my own book, there was the time invested by my editor, John Lucas, who carefully read and made notes on the typescript. The typescript was then set by a skilful typesetter who, from the times on the e-mail correspondence I received, seems to be working very late at night and very early in the morning as he fits his company’s work in around other (I imagine more lucrative) employment. Many e-mails were exchanged before the final layout was achieved. Similarly, the young art student I asked to design the cover dedicated many hours to producing and honing the image I wanted. Then I had to write and re-write the poems, which took several years, although not without a break, you understand!

I love poetry books. Volumes are generally slim and unlike novels, several hundred can sit on the bookshelves of a small office. I can take a book down and weight my pocket with it when I go for a walk across the fields, a habit I developed many years ago. If I have an appointment that might involve a wait or train journey, I can slip a poetry collection or two into my bag and know I have this insurance against waiting-room or platform dullness. While on-line poems, magazines and books are a marvellous and convenient development, I still love turning pages, still love the feel of a physical book.   Like Brian Patten’s ‘stolen Orange’ , a poetry book, un-reliant on technology or anything other than my eyesight,  has always been for me ‘ a safeguard against imagining/ there was nothing bright or special in the world.’

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Three new anthologies

I am pleased to have recently received new poetry anthologies from three excellent independent presses.

First to arrive was Vanguard Editions #2 Poetry Anthology. It is an eclectic collection, beautifully made, full of surprises and great value at only £5. There is an impressive selection of work from the likes of Ian Duhig, Dan O’Brien, Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch and many other fine contemporary writers.   I’m grateful to the editor, poet, writer and director of the Faber academy, Richard Skinner, for asking me to contribute and pleased that my fairly newly minted poem, ‘The Glass Delusion’ was to hand when Richard contacted me. We agreed a couple of small changes to line breaks were needed and I’m very happy with the version that appears the anthology.

pantisocracies

Next came ‘New Boots and Pantisocracies’  from Smokestack Books. This project started as a blog set up in the aftermath 2015 UK general election by Professor Bill Herbert and Andy Jackson who initially decided to publish a poem a day for the first hundred days of the new government in order to record responses, in poetry,  to the prevailing political atmosphere. The project grew and remerged in order to take in responses to the outcome of the EU referendum. At 181 pages it is an impressive tome, and contains work from Daljit Nagra, Hannah Lowe, Suzannah Evans , Jon Stone and many others. I’m pleased my own poem, ‘Election Night’, which was specifically written in response to the result and casts an eye back to nineteen-seventy nine, is sandwiched between poems by Clare Pollard and Helen Mort as I have long been an admirer of their work.  You can read some reflections on the anthology from Sheenagh Pugh here.  

 

millstone

Finally, there is ‘Millstone Grit’, an anthology of work by poets associated  with Sheffield Hallam university. I attended Hallam a couple of years ago to study a postgraduate course, and was pleased to be asked to contribute by editors Noel Williams and Rosemary Badcoe. The book represents a new venture into publishing for the editors of Antiphon magazine, and contains poems by T.S Eliot Prize shortlisted poets Katherine Towers and Ruby Robinson, as well as wonderful poets like Julie Mellor, Beverley Nadin, James Giddings (who has a new book out with Templar Press) and Suzannah Evans. There are also two poems from me. You can see a list of contributors and order a copy here for the very reasonable price of £6.50 (UK) including post and packing.

All three anthologies give an idea of the wide range of work being produced and published by poets in the UK, both in terms of stylistic approach and subject matter. The ‘New Boots’ book might be of particular interest to those who feel poetry is divorced from contemporary events and are looking for responses to current affairs. Both the other books contain varied reflections of contemporary life by some of the best poets currently producing work in the English language.

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A few thoughts on a Thursday evening

I’ve just dispatched some poems for consideration by the editors of a poetry magazine. After six years of doing this, I still find the process of submitting poems exciting.  I’m not a gambling man, but I think the buzz of putting one’s poems ‘out there’ might be similar to the experience of laying down a bet. Unlike gambling, there is really nothing to lose. Indeed, I’m sometimes quite glad when poems are returned- I get another go!

A friend of mine has just had some work accepted by a really good poetry magazine. After an initial (and ridiculous) pang of envy I was able to be genuinely pleased for him. This is because a) he is a lovely bloke and b) because his work is startlingly individualistic and as fresh as wet paint. James Giddings work was featured on this blog a while ago, and I’m pleased that he is sending work out and that editors are beginning to notice his obvious talent.

I’m also delighted to announce a new series of interviews that will be posted on here soon. The last batch was a year or so ago, and included Ian Parks, Matt Merritt,  Jodie Hollander, Maria Taylor and Kim Moore. The new series will begin with Martin Malone, editor of The Interpreter’s House. Martin’s second collection will soon be published by the excellent Shoestring Press.

You may have noticed that Leicester is in the news. Robin Houghton recently featured the city in the first of a series of articles about regional poetry scenes, continuing with Cumbria. Robin’s articles are well researched and definitely worth a look.

Finally, one of my own poems was recently published by The Morning Star. If you go to their webpage you can also read work by Leicester poet and reviewer, Emma Lee.         

Featured poet, Uncategorized

Featured Poet. James Giddings

I’ve recently had the pleasure of hearing and reading poems by James Giddings and I asked him to contribute some poems to showcase here. I don’t want to label James’ work as it is varied and obviously evolving, but many of his poems contain dry self-effacing humour and gentle melancholy. This element of wistful tragi-comedy is combined with high narrative energy and neatness and economy of style. I hope James won’t mind me saying that these two aspects make his work sometimes seem like a cross between Simon Armitage and John Hegley, although his own voice is very distinctive.

James is twenty three years old and is currently studying for his MA at Sheffield Hallam University, funded by the Arts Humanities and Research Council. His poems have appeared in magazines including Black & Blue, Antiphon and The Cadaverine. He once won a silver medal for swimming at Cubs.

Mean Time

‘But we will be dead, as we know
beyond all light.’ Carol Ann Duffy.

Like new, or so they said.
But there’s lines of lead, graphite
graining the pages, some darkened
grey-black, so sure of themselves,
and the asterisk inked in blue,
rushed, not quite a star,
marking the sentences –
Yes, like an angel then,
to be truthful now.’
There’s more on twenty-nine
scribed beneath the title,
struck with potluck candidness;
mad’ they said, scoring
a tally through the thigh
of the letter H, capitalized
to hold its weight.
I rub away at the grey shadings,
thoughts they left
like litter down a side street;
the words ‘I’m falling asleep’
ghosted now, only half there
when held in the light.
And in the contents
there are marks, little hearts
next to the lovey ones
and with them the initial R
which I can’t bring myself
to remove; to do that
would kill love, leave love
in the dark. In my hands
they have a second chance
to stay alive in the light.


Outlet

I couldn’t hate you more than I hate myself
at 3.00am watching cat videos, with this dusting
of orange moustache from all the Cheesey Balls.

Yes, I thought about killing myself, but then
I watched a five-minute clip of a pug barking
at its own reflection, found the bottom of rock

bottom. The car is running in the garage, and I left
the hamster by the bins. I’ve packed five years
into a rucksack. In the bottom drawer are the bills.


Richard

I’d see him every shift; he’d come in,
order a bottle of the house
Shiraz, sit in his booth with the paper,
doodle the quiz, fill in the Sudoku.

I often imagined how he lived
at home, if he had wine there,
a lady-friend who he could argue
over the answers of the crossword with,

or if that was it for him, our forced
friendship: me providing napkins, calling
out to him as he enters, the usual is it?
Him leaving an inheritance through tips.


Aboard

After Miriam Van hee

standing on the embankment you watched
the coast drift through the evening
and thought of your Father and Mother
about the distance keeping everyone apart, but
paths are everywhere, even on the water

you look for signs forming in the foam