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
I’ve had a persistent Yeats obsession since I was about sixteen. Over the past two decades I’ve come back to his poems again and again, been involved in three (varyingly successful) productions of his plays, and amassed enough books by or about him to cause a fair amount of the shelf-space problem in our flat. But in that same two decades I hadn’t visited Sligo – or even Ireland – until last week, when my wife’s extended family converged on Rosses Point for a 90-strong reunion. Continue reading
My wife and I have just returned from two days at the Ledbury Poetry Festival. We impulse-attended an enjoyable workshop by Jane Routh and Mike Barlow on short poems, ate delicious local beef and went ambling in the Malvern Hills in unsuitable footwear. But all of this was incidental to our reason for going: the opportunity to hear Owen Sheers and Deryn Rees-Jones read aloud. Continue reading
We’re entering the period when Sunday supplements tell us what assorted famous people will be reading / pretending to read on their holidays, or what the paper’s fiction editor recommends for the beach. You’ll occasionally spot a poetry book among the Booker-shortlisted doorstops and impressive historical biographies, but not often. The Guardian’s opening salvo for 2013 divides the world of books into “Fiction”, “Crime” and “Non-Fiction” – and the Guardian is at the more poetry-friendly end of the broadsheet spectrum.
This is unfortunate, because poetry makes ideal holiday reading. Continue reading