Poetry-related posts

Dreams and Rejection

So I’m dreaming and in the dream, I’m thinking, this dream wouldn’t make a good poem because it’s stuck.

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Three cheers for NOT embracing the internet!

There are still small magazines that don’t.

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Brigid
Thanks Helena - going to send my cheque off tomorrow. Too much choice - cheeses in the supermarket - it gets so you can't see any... Read More
Sunday, 08 May 2016 21:22
Guest — Marjorie Neilson
Hip, Hip, Hooray! A magazine that bucks the modern trend. No overblown whizzy websites that you spend ages trying to navigate, an... Read More
Monday, 09 May 2016 09:09
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Blog Jest

That’s what my mother used to say, especially on a Sunday: today we have jests for lunch.

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Guest — Elizabeth
Your prediction about haiku and conferences is already coming to pass, Nell :-) I have been asked to judge a haiku competition at ... Read More
Sunday, 01 May 2016 11:12
Guest — Nell Nelson
Good gracious, Elizabeth! This is quite remarkable. You must report back in September. :-)
Sunday, 01 May 2016 11:49
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Hearing Things Wrong: Ode Don't

It can make it very difficult to take poetry seriously.

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Guest — Elizabeth
Thank you :-) I do this constantly. Only this morning I heard 'heart' instead of 'hart' and went askew for several lines. But I l... Read More
Sunday, 24 April 2016 10:59
Guest — marion tracy
Yes this is one of the many drawbacks of teaching literature to teenagers. Once the first pun is seen masses more materialise wil... Read More
Sunday, 24 April 2016 11:15
Guest — Robin
Thank you, I'm constantly misreading my own drafts, a great source of unexpected image and metaphor!
Sunday, 24 April 2016 18:16
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TALKING TO POETS

Why would you want to talk to a poet? What are you supposed to SAY?


Plenty of people do it. There are interviews all over the place. But over the years the questions have changed. I remember when the regular openers were, ‘Where do you get your inspiration?’ and ‘What started you writing poetry?’

These days the questions are many and various, and the web is a great medium for an interview. I’m not thinking of YouTube or Vimeo, here, so much as text.

The Q & A format allows for short snaps (huge swathes of text are not so great on a screen), graphics (in some cases) and that marvellous business of live links that can swoop you right out of what you’re reading into something else

It also means, of course, that you sometimes forget where you started and find yourself in another meta-country completely. But there’s something lovely about that.

The interviews I like most are the ones that delve, the ones that show the interviewer knows the work and wants to ask some of the questions I would want to ask myself. So not the pattern of Six Poets, Six Questions at poetry.org, where the same standard set of questions is hurled at each poet as though they're a single breed. 

No, I like an individualised approach and an interviewer who prepares in advance (I'm old-fashioned that way). It doesn’t have to sound like a natural conversation (though some do). But it makes you think. Gives you a bit of context for the work, which you may or may not know already. Some of the ezines do this brilliantly – the Harlequin with Don Paterson, for example, or Cadaverine a good few years ago with Richie McCaffery.

And, of course, there's Sabotage, whose Will Barrett interview with SJ Fowler was a 2015 most popular read. And that Fowler piece demonstrates the lovely thing an interview can do – leap off the screen into immediacy: ‘My answers are approximations, and contain necessary generalisations, and they are opinions, not a call to arms. They are constantly open to revision, and are being revised. And if anyone disagrees, just come and speak to me face to face, much better.’ And a medium like Sabotage can then swing right into a big interview: something complex and searching. Major statements from the interviewee. Major intellectual challenge to the reader.

In Jacket, there’s even an interview with an interviewer of poets, Andy Fitch, who made a book of sixty such exchanges (Sixty Morning Talks) as an antidote to the literary density of doctoral study.

And blogs: some bloggers do great interviews. Isabel Rogers has one with both John Glenday and Don Paterson about the process of editing poems (Glenday's, in this case), a rare three-way exchange on such an interesting topic!

But who reads interviews with poets? My money’s on poets. Practising poets, wouldbe poets, mightbe poets, aspiring poets, expiring poets. Perhaps a sprinkling of general readers interested in writing? No, my money’s on poets reading about other poets.

What is this thing after all – this writing of poetry? Why are we investing so much time in it? What is it supposed to be, after all, this stuff that could look like a blob on a page or a 26 ottava rima stanzas and still be called ‘poem’. There are no authorised answers. Only comments on practice from specific people. You read them and you compare yourself with them, and either feel a degree of affinity or the opposite. Both are useful. We need allies. We need influences. We need challenges.

So the newest interview outlet (or inlet) I’m following is Poetry Spotlight. Its creator lives near me geographically, though we’ve never met in person. This shouldn’t necessarily make it more interesting but somehow, for me, it does. And Poetry Spotlight has a nice formula: just a few questions (five or six). Plenty of white space. The varied questions show the interviewer knows the work. The answers are peppered with live links, so you can follow up, get lost somewhere else, and come back. And there’s a poem at the end of each interview, chosen by the poet – with a few words about that poem. 

Several of the poets spotlit by Poetry Spotlight so far have been HappenStance pamphlet poets, the most recent being Jon Stone. But there's also Kirsten Irving, Niall Campbell, Peter Jarvis, Richie McCaffery (several years on from his Cadaverine interview) and, of course, Vishvãntarã­­.

Lots of other fascinating writers too, and the list is growing at an astonishing rate. Subcribe here: http://poetryspotlight.com/subscribe/

This is an old spam thriller cover, photoshopped into a book called When Poets Turn Bad, and done by poet Eddie Gibbons. There is a handsome man leaning out from the left with a revolver ready to fire. At his feet a young woman. Round the corner the villain is approaching, gun in hand. The villain is photoshopped James Fenton, on top of the title of his book (Out of Danger). There are speech balloons: the handsome man is saying 'His kind just can't take rejection!'. The girl on the floor is saying 'I shouldn't have trashed his Paris poem!'. There is a in italicised title in the middle of the page: Back into Danger. The words 'back into' are red. Danger is bigger and bright yellow.

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Eleanor Livingstone
Agreed, but sometimes if the question asked of several poets is thinking out of the box, it's fascinating to hear and compare thei... Read More
Sunday, 17 April 2016 14:37
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The Strangeness of the Present Tense

I pick up the book in my left hand. With my right I riffle through to page 31.

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Guest — Gill Learner
Good points! Whenever someone takes a poem in the past tense to a workshop there's always one, not always the same, who'll say 'Yo... Read More
Sunday, 20 March 2016 10:59
Guest — Claire Booker
Very well argued point. There are fads in poetry like any other artistic endeavour. Is it perhaps also that we seem to be increasi... Read More
Sunday, 20 March 2016 12:50
Guest — Helen Ashley
Talking of 'analysing', Claire, I find it very strange to listen to post-rugby-match analysis, with present-tense analysis such as... Read More
Sunday, 20 March 2016 14:21
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