On Friday my wife and I took advantage of the Ashmolean’s late-night opening for the final week of the Francis Bacon / Henry Moore exhibition. The evening slot allowed us to miss the daytime crowds and enjoy dinner in the restaurant afterwards (giving some much-needed time to digest what we’d just seen). The exhibition itself was excellent. Continue reading
Twelve years ago, the enviably-talented Nick Maitland suggested collaborating on a project: a sequence of poems (mine) and paintings (Nick’s) would co-evolve over a number of months, with drafts and sketches bouncing off one another. Half the fun would be plunging in without a clear plan and seeing where the thing took us. But we struggled to find the right starting point and nothing came of it. Continue reading
I’ve resisted buying Geoffrey Hill’s Broken Hierarchies, having been tipped off that Hill’s near-lookalike Santa Claus might be bringing me a copy in a couple of weeks’ time. Meanwhile the 1985 Collected Poems has again taken up residence on my bedside table (not the treasured, battered copy I carried around like a prayerbook in the mid-late ’90s, but a replacement battered copy bought second hand a couple of years ago). And so I happened to be immersed in Geoffrey Hill when I read Claire Trévien’s excellent Poetry School blog post on poetic tourism. Continue reading
Now that this week’s Jericho Tavern extravaganza is over and I have a lull before next week’s Derwent Poetry Festival, I wanted to take the opportunity to catch up on a couple of belated posts.
On Tuesday 22nd October a fantastic line-up of poets will be reading at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford. The evening has been designed to appeal not only to poetry regulars but also to people who’ve never been to a poetry reading before – so if you’re even half-tempted by the opportunity to hear some of the best contemporary poets (while enjoying a drink or two), please come along. Continue reading
This weekend it’s been hard to avoid comparisons between Seamus Heaney (who sadly died on Friday) and WB Yeats. Both were Irish poets who won the Nobel Prize for Literature; both were well-known beyond the autolytic world of contemporary poetry; and both cast a long shadow over the writers who came after them. Continue reading
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
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