Between dog and wolf

For a few months now I’ve been under the spell of the 16th century French poet Louise Labé — or, rather, of Olivia McCannon’s versions of Labé in Modern Poetry in Translation 2016/1. A Renaissance woman in both senses of the term and a feminist centuries before the word was coined, Labé also wrote poetry that, in the words of McCannon’s MPT introduction, “rewrites the male Petrarchan tradition, giving it a blast of positive, debunking energy, a strong female voice and an intelligent physicality.” Continue reading

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Remaking Myths

I spent Thursday at the excellent Remaking ancient Greek and Roman myths in the twenty-first century colloquium, which Dr Emma Bridges and colleagues had organised at the Open University in London. Coupled with a train journey there and back re-reading Sandeep Parmar’s Eidolon (of which more below), this made for a wonderfully myth-haunted day. Continue reading

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Last Thursday’s book-launch

Last Thursday’s Oxford launch for Peter Hughes and Vahni Capildeo was by some margin the most fun I’ve had on licensed premises with a portable PA system. Both poets read brilliantly; the audience was engaged and responsive and laughed at all the right moments; the Oxford Wine Café’s friendly staff and delicious wines kept everyone suitably lubricated; and if the number of books bought and signed is any indication, the poems genuinely resonated with people. Continue reading

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Oxford Launch: Vahni Capildeo & Peter Hughes, Thursday 7th April

I’m delighted to announce the Oxford launch of Vahni Capildeo’s Measures of Expatriation (a Poetry Book Society choice) and Peter Hughes’s Cavalcanty on Thursday 7th April 2016 at 6pm, The Oxford Wine Café on the corner of Little Clarendon Street and Walton Street, Oxford.

These are two of the most exciting books to have been published in the UK in recent months and I’ll have more to say in a future post about why I rate them so highly. But for now the essential details are:

– Doors open 6pm, readings at 6.30.
– Free admission and free wine while stocks last, but please let me know if you’re coming so we can cater accordingly (you can use the contact form here).
– The Oxford Wine Café, Little Clarendon Street, Jericho, Oxford, OX1 2HU

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The Better Maker: Kat Peddie

Kat Peddie’s Spaces for Sappho, hot off the press from Oystercatcher, is impossible to categorise (and only an idiot would want to). The pamphlet’s 21 pages contain a mercurial mix of translation, versions, original poems and responses to other translations, all converging on the mysterious absent centre of the historical, textual Sappho. The effect is unsettling, vibrant and seriously moreish.

Peddie Sappho

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Out of Everywhere 2

Twenty years ago, Reality Street published one of the most influential poetry anthologies of our time. Out of Everywhere showcased linguistically innovative poetry by women in the UK and North America, definitively blowing apart the myth that experimental poetry is the preserve of shouty men in pubs. The range and quality of poetry in the book was extraordinary, and it’s as fresh today as it was in 1996 (to-date my copy has been to six countries across three continents, read on land, sea and air, and still retains the ability to surprise and startle). It has also influenced a generation of poets to push the boundaries of form and to believe in an audience for daring work. In short, it’s a hard act to follow. Continue reading

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The world and the child: Peter Philpott

Peter Philpott’s Ianthe Poems is dedicated to the poet’s granddaughter, and many of the poems play with personae that might credibly be identified with the poet or the young Ianthe. There have been many poems — and indeed whole collections — about parenthood over recent decades, but notably fewer structured around grandparenthood. Continue reading

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Two poems by Emily Critchley

Emily Critchley has written some of the most exciting and dynamic poetry to come out of the UK in recent years, as well as editing Reality Street’s keenly-anticipated Out of Everywhere 2. Here’s a closer look at two poems, both reproduced by kind permission of the author. Continue reading

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Opera & Drama

Last week was bookended by opera. On Monday I sent composer Philip Sunderland the second full draft of the libretto for our March 2016 collaboration The Glass Knight, and on Friday I experienced the closest thing to secular transfiguration at the opening night of Longborough Festival Opera‘s magnificent Tristan und Isolde. Continue reading

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Welsh Modernism

For some people modernism ends with The Waste Land and a handful of extracts from the Cantos, after which poetry returns to its proper course via the Movement, Hughes, Heaney, the New Generation and onwards to today’s dominant voices.

The counter-position is that modernism never went away, and that (often at a distance from literary London) it produced some of the most powerful work of the past century: MacDiarmid in Scotland, Bunting in Northumbria, Hill & Prynne in their different orbits around Cambridge. Continue reading

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