Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Blind tasting and blind reading

As a wine professional, I have to admit to a degree of ambivalence when it comes to blind tasting, the supposed art of spotting a wine (region, grape, maybe even producer and vintage) purely on the back of sniffing and slurping the contents of a glass. It too often feels like a contest for bragging rights. However, it does have certain benefits, especially when a blind comparison of a little-known wine and a famous product results in a challenge to expectations via surprising conclusions. Moreover, it often underlines my view that while there might be a lot of very well made wines out there, very few of them are different enough. In other words, I can't spot most wines blind, only the ones I love or hate!

Much the same is true of poetry: amid the huge homogeneous mass of well-produced verse out there, it's incredibly difficult to guess the identity behind a new poem in a blind reading unless there's a real idiosyncrasy at work. Nevertheless, a PPCE is sometimes a useful tool so long as it's undertaken with a huge pinch of salt.. That's not an Oxford degree, just a Poetry Palate Calibration Exercise. And then I go around claiming I loathe acronyms...

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Five poems in The Poetry Shed

I'm very grateful to Abegail Morley for featuring five of my poems in The Poetry Shed today (see here). All of them are from The Knives of Villalejo, my forthcoming first full collection. My pieces at And Other Poems last week revolved around the theme of home, while these five in The Poetry Shed focus on loss.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Vividly textured, Giles Turnbull's Dressing Up

Giles Turnbull’s pamphlet, Dressing Up (Cinnamon Press, 2017), is set apart by the vivid texturing and layering of its imagery and narrative drive.

Early on in the poems, colour and tone often play a prominent role, as in the following examples:

“Light seeps in…”

“…icy white…”

“…the colour of sunburn…”

“…spinning in dark and light…”

“…effervescent green…”

“…the colour of traffic lights…”

Combined with this light visual touch, apparently simple, clear-cut narratives acquire multiple potential meanings and ramifications in Turnbull’s poetry. Ambivalent and ambiguous counterpoints provide the key to depth. Here are a couple of terrific endings to illustrate this point:

“…the future
beginning with the windings of yesterday’s clocks.”

“…so much coming from apparent failure.”

And now on to a pivotal point when reading this pamphlet, one that takes me back to an old chestnut: the intrinsic or extrinsic approach to a text. I’ve always viewed such a separation as a waste of time, as an academic exercise, and this case is no exception.

What do I mean by the above? Well, this incredibly visual verse was written by a person who has gone blind. Can we enjoy and value it without knowing that fact? Of course. Is our appreciation enriching by the knowledge? Of course. Is it warped? Of course not, so long as we ensure any absurd preconceptions are banished.

While I really enjoyed Giles Turnbull’s pamphlet, I also like reading his blog and his interviews (such as this one with Sabotage) almost as much. In Dressing Up, many of his experiences as a poet who has lost his sight remain implicit and in the background, while they come to the fore in those afore-mentioned prose features.

Perhaps Turnbull’s next challenge is to turn his terrific anecdotes into poetry. I’d love to read a poem about his magic glasses…!

Friday, 31 March 2017

Three poems at And Other Poems

I'm delighted to report that Josephine Corcoran is today featuring my work over at her excellent And Other Poems. She's posted three pieces from my forthcoming first full collection, The Knives of Villalejo, and you can read them by following this link. While there, why not explore the rest of And Other Poems, one of the most scrupulously curated selections of contemporary poetry on the web?

Saturday, 25 March 2017

What about that title?

The title of my first full collection, due out on 21st June with Eyewear Publishing, is The Knives of Villalejo. A launch and several readings are already scheduled. More details in due course...

Friday, 17 March 2017

A glossary of wine terms

Wine and poetry have much in common. For instance, the difficulty of promotional language is a shared thorn. Back covers and back labels both display a dodgy code that the potential purchaser has to decipher.

As a consequence and as a nod towards the Prowein fair in Düsseldorf, where I'll be exhibiting this weekend for the seventeenth year in succession, here's my incomplete and tongue-in-cheek glossary of wine terms on the back of having written dozens of back labels, tasting notes and brochures in my day job. I do hope it helps next time you're browsing the shelves at your local merchant!

Chewy........Rough

Intense........Overwhelming

Fun.............Rubbish

Thin............Mean

Ripe............Jammy

Tasty...........Tannic

Broad..........Flabby

Sappy..........Green

Vibrant............Too alcoholic

Warming.........Far too alcoholic

Smooth...........Good dollop of residual sugar

Soft.................Even better dollop of residual sugar

Citrus..............Barely any fruit

Fresh..............Verging on acidic

Moreish..........Acidic

Brisk...............More acidic

Tangy..............Even more acidic

Lip-smacking...Far too acidic

Juicy................Fruit bomb with no acidity

Easy-drinking...Lightweight and dull

Ethereal...........Terrific after four glasses

Powerful..........One-dimensional

Rich.................Gloopy and soupy

Lingering..........For far too long

Sunday, 12 March 2017

A glossary of poetry terms

What do blurbs and reviews really mean when they invoke certain terms? What critical shorthand are they using? Do these terms needs translating to enable readers to reach their "true" meaning?

There is clearly a need a guide to be produced as a public service for readers of contemporary verse, so Rogue Strands hereby presents its glossary of poetry terms, all carried out with my tongue firmly wedged in my cheek. Before anyone takes umbrage at the mention of a word that was used on their back cover or in one of their critical pieces, please note that several of these jewels have been attached to my poetry in the past, while others have cropped up in my reviews on this blog.

Feel free to add your own to the comments section at the end of this post...!

Unsettling...........Unsettled

Accessible..........Facile

Challenging.........Gobbledygook

Wide-ranging......No clear voice

Risk-taking..........Uneven

Elegant................Sniffy

Evocative............Over-the-top images

Surreal.................Incoherent

Disturbing............Creepy

Spare...................Loads of white space for your money

Powerful..............Desperate to move you

Long-awaited.......Forgotten in the midst of countless Facebook feeds

Fraught................Confessional

Fierce..................Scary

Compassionate....Tear-jerking

Sensuous.............Overload on soft consonants

Bold....................Candidate for therapy

Brave..................Substitute for therapy

Restrained...........Repressed

Triumphant..........Cocky

Redemptive.........Yet another True Life Story

Melancholy.........Miserable

Skilled................Workmanlike

Glittering.............Flashy

Breathtaking........Dead flashy

Thrilling...............Even flashier

Understated........Dull

Haunting.............Nightmarish

Adept.................Forced

Ambitious...........Failed

Strange...............Bonkers

Dangerous..........Dead bonkers

Dizzying..............Even more bonkers

Acclaimed..........Marketed

Accomplished.....Neat and tidy

Vital...................Narcissistic

Inspired..............Exaggerated

Necessary..........Confessional

Vivid..................Overloaded

Assured..............Arrogant

Virtuoso..............Dead arrogant

Compelling..........Car crash

Witty...................Desperate to raise a smile

Distinct................Desperate to be different

Fresh...................Desperate to be new and innovative

Memorable..........Unforgettably dire

Lyrical..................Sing-song

Musical.................Dead sing-song

Wry......................Resigned

Tender..................Mawkish

Affecting................Dead mawkish

Moving..................Even more mawkish

Immediate..............Unedited

Acute....................Obsessed

Developed.............Verging on repetitive

Mature...................Repetitive

Authentic................Diary extracts

Everyday................Mundane

Serendipitous..........Contrived

Expressionistic.........Packed with clichés

Limpid.....................Prosaic