Monthly Archives: August 2013

Future Remnants: Frances Leviston’s “Reconstruction”

Radio 4 introduced me to Frances Leviston’s work in early 2008. Over the course of a week The Today Programme were broadcasting a poem per day from each of the TS Eliot prize shortlist. After three lines of Leviston’s “I Resolve to Live Chastely” I’d resolved to buy her book. It was an extraordinary poem, and Public Dream was one of the poetic highlights of 2007/8 – a debut that could more than hold its own against a strong TS Eliot shortlist including Sean O’Brien’s The Drowned Book and Fiona Sampson’s Common Prayer. Later that year I met my wife for the first time; we both owned a copy of Public Dream and spent one of our earliest dinners together enthusing about how good it is. Continue reading

Not Translated from the Chinese

Several years ago on a work trip I got into an intense discussion about Chinese poetry with my Senior Vice President in an Italian restaurant just outside Mannheim (which is as good a place as any for a Mandarin-speaking American and an Anglo-Welsh poet to trade theories of translation).  I know a grand total of five Chinese words (all of them related to spicy food) but by the end of the evening I was hooked – not just on classical Chinese poetry, but on a subversive view of translation that has implications for how we write original poetry in English. Continue reading

In Praise of Pamphlets

From one perspective, contemporary poetry in the UK revolves around a single dominant model: the 60-page slim volume. Poets spend their early careers building up to that “breakthrough” first collection, and the successful ones continue in 60-page increments for the rest of their careers (punctuated by the occasional Selected or Collected to roll-up previous books). In this model, the <30 page pamphlet is an interim step between placing single poems in magazines and achieving 60-page legitimacy. The good poems from a pamphlet will be republished in a poet’s first full collection; the bad will be quietly forgotten. Continue reading