Thursday, 2 May 2019

May 2019: Comings and Goings

I came and I went...
So I am about to be walloped with some heavy duty marking tomorrow. A perfect opportunity then to pretend it's not happening and write a blog post!

This post is mainly about April, but I think under the circumstances I've done pretty well by writing on May 2nd. And yes, where is the year going? But I have a habit of saying this and I suppose it's time to write about where April actually went.

....up a tall building...

At the beginning of April we went on a short break to New York, not directly poetry related but let's face it - it's a poetry city! I'd been swotting up on my New York poets beforehand, reading poems and such like and attending Martin Stannard's intriguing talk on the NY poets at the end of March in Nottingham. Frank O'Hara has long been a favourite. I like the quirky detail and the ability to weave through different registers in the same poem and the beautiful melancholy of some of the poetry. Maybe if you live in a city where everything happens, everything happens in your poetry. That, however, is not to discourage the poets of the East Midlands - everything happens here too.

...on a train...
I digress. Or not. Because arriving home jet lagged there was a highly appropriately timed copy of a new HappenStance anthology on the doormat, 'Comings and Goings: Poems for Journeys,' edited by Nell Nelson. This anthology features a poem by every single HappenStance poet, barring the odd exception, dealing in some way with the theme of travel. I have two poems in there. One involves a train journey and the other a horse - the horse is poetic licence of course. I certainly can't ride one, but I may have had a pony ride at some point. You know it really would make a lovely gift for a travelly, poety person. The book, NOT a pony. I know I'm expected to say that, but it's true. Nell's selections are very indicative of the enjoyable poems she publishes. All that, plus an 'orse.

I went to John Harvey's reading at Five Leaves last week. Again, not someone I'd read an awful lot by, but my word I was really taken with his poetry. He has a new book out with Shoestring, 'Aslant,' and his reading was quite something. There is also really impressive photography in the book by Molly E. Boiling, who I'm pretty sure in thinking is his daughter.

...through the water...
(photo by Molly E. Boiling)

'Comings and Goings' was my poetry book companion on the 10:19 to St. Pancras last Sunday. Obviously it's a train journey kind of book! The train was packed and it was early on a Sunday. I wasn't exactly thrilled, I wanted some space and a bit of peace in the morning. So to cheer up I made myself  'Poet in Residence' of Coach D and gave myself permission to write some poetry and well as read. Despite having the elbow space of a baby ant. I was funded with a bottle of Ribena and a chewy bar.  I was on my way to perform at the Afterbirth Poetry Festival, which was an afternoon of readings organised by Victoria Richards and held at the Wanstead Tap in London. This was a celebration of poems about parenting. From the good to the not so good experiences. So I made myself get on a train and get out of the East Mids and actually READ in public, after a reclusive break from readings - ok, apart from the odd single poem here and there. But still, you know what I mean.

The venue was a highly cool place under some railway arches often used for gigs. It had that perfect Eastenders rumble every time a train went past, as if a plot twist was just around the corner. It was just one of those events that was a pleasure from start to finish, and this was fab as I didn't know anyone at the start and by the end had met so many friendly people. Victoria was a brilliant warm and energetic host who made the afternoon come together perfectly. The other readers were: Leah Larwood,  Judi Walsh, Ingrid Jendrzejewski,  Mel Pryor, Ali Thurm, Jenny Pagdin, Steve Rogers, Sarah Westcott, Katy Wareham Morris and Victoria Richards herself. I think everyone had moments in those poems, to laugh or cry, but certainly to reflect on experiences of parenting.

Victoria's poetry is published as part of the Nine Arches Press 'Primers' series - this very day I think!

I am reading at the end of May, on the 30th to be exact, at Five Leaves Bookshop. This will be a reading with D.A. Prince and the focus will be on the pamphlet, as we've both had pamphlets by HappenStance. Now, if I'm switched on by the end of May, writing more generally about the great wonderment that is the poetry pamphlet would be a good topic for a blog post. Without a nine month gap. "Pray for me," says the long suffering blog.

P.S. today is UK local Government Elections day. Voted.


Tuesday, 16 April 2019

April 2019 - Saboteur Awards


I am very happy to share the news that I’ve been shortlisted for ‘Best Reviewer’ for the Saboteur Awards this year! Especially so when there are some very strong reviewers out there. It has also motivated me to sit down and write a post that I’ve been writing in my head for a long while now. So thanks to the Saboteur Awards I am now (finally) updating my blog!

The reason for writing this post is to explain the work I do as Reviews Editor for Under the Radar, alongside Jane Commane.  This is a role I took up 5 years ago. I’d been writing reviews for a few years by that point, and had pieces published for The Times Literary Supplement and various online poetry sites, such as Sphinx. The first TLS piece was back in May 2009, when the twins were only a year old and I doubted very much I was ‘clever’ enough to have anything accepted by them. I worked against that feeling and my first review on an academic book on slang was published.

Let’s get one thing straight. Reviews are hard work. I’ve worked many long hours making notes, reading, scribbling, typing and editing many different versions of the same piece. I’ve worked for money and I’ve worked for books as payment. My guiding principle was that if I wanted to improve as a poet, I’d better darn read some poetry books closely and have opinions on them.  I’m not someone who chooses to write ‘slasher’ reviews, because that isn’t my style. My role is to tune into a poet’s style and attempt to get under the skin of the poetry itself.

Under the Radar relies on a strong team of reviewers, and we have our regulars such as Pam Thompson, Jonathan Davidson, Deborah Tyler-Bennett, Alison Brackenbury and often me! From time to time we’ve had reviews from others such as Kim Moore, Peter Carpenter, Dzifa Benson, Kathleen Bell, David Clarke, Charles Whalley, D.A. Prince and John Foggin. For the next issue Josephine Corcoran is joining us too. I have a read of the reviews they’ve drafted and edit them, and Jane has a final read as General Editor. We stipulate that the reviews should contain plenty of quotations from their primary texts in order to give our readers a true flavour of the poetry.
Most issues generally feature female reviewers, and while that wasn’t the plan, it’s encouraging to support women reviewers. We know the background of the usual suspects in critical writing if we’re talking stereotypes. Regular readers of this blog (if they can remember who they are, it’s been a while!) will know about me and my background.

Ideally, I’d like to write more in the future on how I go about approaching a review and what makes a good one in my opinion. The next issue of Under the Radar will feature my review on Raymond Antrobus and Gaia Holmes, as well as a reissued complete works from Carcanet of the Greek Poet George Seferis.

Ok, so the Saboteur Awards is one you have to vote for. It seems a bit much saying ‘Vote for me!!!’ if you’ve not come across my writing before, so here are some links below.

My last review was on books by Peter Raynard, Amy Key and Tishani Doshi and you can read it here.

Jane also kindly shared an online version of another of my reviews on books by Luke Kennard, Melissa Lee Houghton and John McCullough, which is magically here.

And for good measure here are two published on The Compass and Everybody’s Reviewing, from a little while ago.

So if you read those and thought 'yep that'll do!' please vote for me here at the Saboteur Awards site.

There are lots of really great writers and performers on those shortlists.