Last week an editor I like and respect asked for edits to two of my poems to correct for a couple of minor blemishes. In both cases the eventual changes were small, but for one of them it transformed the poem. A few comfortable words got excised and I found some less comfortable ones to replace them. In the process, the tone of the whole thing shifted (for the better). Objectively this is unsurprising, but I still found it odd how a small tweak at the end projected back into the rest of the poem and altered the extant rest-of-it.
By chance I then stumbled across a more profound example of the same thing in Geoffrey Hill’s early poem “In Memory of Jane Fraser”. Continue reading
The Albion Beatnik bookshop on Walton Street has become one of the most prolific live poetry venues in Oxford, with owner Dennis Harrison serving up so many high-quality poetry evenings that it’s getting easier to count the good poets who haven’t yet read there. Without exception I’ve enjoyed every Albion Beatnik event I’ve been to and am looking forward to a lot more in the future.
On Friday a group of us went to hear Andrew McNeillie and Peter McDonald in a well-matched double-act. Continue reading
Having ineptly triple-booked myself I was only able to make the first 90 mins of yesterday’s Saboteur awards. This meant I missed a great line-up of printed poets that I really wanted to hear (not to mention the evening awards ceremony), but did at least catch the afternoon Spoken Word session. Continue reading
I’ve neglected this blog for the past month while I’ve been pleasantly overwhelmed with other poetry stuff: some great poems have started to come in for Rewiring History (and there’s still time to submit yours up until the 30th June); work on November’s poem/painting collaboration with artist Nick Maitland is progressing apace; and I’ve been busy revising the libretto for a children’s opera with composer Philip Sunderland (who has also just won an Olivier award for conducting ETO’s Paul Bunyan – congratulations, Philip).
The flip side of all this activity is that I’ve built up a backlog of books to review, and Lavinia Greenlaw’s A Double Sorrow is the one that’s been tugging at me most insistently. Continue reading
For me, poetry is made from sound and only truly exists when it is performed (even if the performance comes from the silent voice in our own heads). This isn’t to downplay the importance of syntactic meaning, visual form or any number of other elements; but at its heart poetry is a form of spoken music (something I’ve argued before and will no doubt do so again).
I came across an interesting variation on this after meeting up with my former headmaster a few weeks ago. David Raeburn knows more about Greek tragedy as living, performed drama than anyone else I know. Continue reading
I enjoyed Jenny Lewis’s Fathom very much. When I organized a multi-poet reading in Jericho last year I was delighted that Lewis agreed to take part, and her performance of Gilgamesh’s lament will stay with me for a long time. In person I found her charming, humble, smart and funny, so I have to admit to being predisposed to like her latest collection, Taking Mesopotamia, before I’d opened it.
In the event, “like” doesn’t begin to do these poems justice. Continue reading