Thursday, 31 March 2016

A life lit up by birds

The Daily Telegraph has today published a lovely interview with Matt Merritt in anticipation of the publication of his new prose book, A Sky Full Of Birds. In the interview, Merritt explains the role of birdwatching after his sister's death. As a consequence, I've spent this afternoon with his first pamphlet, Making the most of the light, which is dedicated to Rebecca Merritt.

I've always been aware of the presence of birds in Merritt's poetry, but never before have I really managed to home in on how he interweaves them with human beings, how they illustrate our lives, how they light up his life.

Here are a few snippets:

"...the half-hidden wrecks, the drowned bells,
the constant sarcasm of the seagulls..."

"...late sun picks out
the blush on a wintering goosander's white breast,
where moments earlier there was only a man..."

"...two ravens tumbling
high above, then into the valley to lead us home..."

"...I can see your hall of mirrors smile,
and your eyebrows, an artic tern taking flight."

Birds are viewed from a human perspective, yet they also act as a refreshed and refreshing point of reference for human relations. They enrich Merritt's verse and add another integral layer of texture to one of the most interesting poets around.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Poet Tips

Just a bit of fun or a serious venture? A non-starter or an internet phenomenon? Time will tell, but Poet Tips, Robert Peake's new project, is an intriguing enterprise that I'll be following with interest over the coming weeks and months.

A demo version is now available to view here. I must admit I'll never be a fan of flow charts in any walk of life, but there's much to admire in the opening statement:

"If you are writing poetry, you need to be reading lots of poetry. But it can be hard to know where to begin. Why not start with who you know you like, and let our crowd-sourced recommendations lead you to your next favourite poet?"

Saturday, 19 March 2016

The launch of Eyewear's The Best New British and Irish Poets 2016 anthology

The launch of Eyewear Publishing's The Best New British and Irish Poets 2016 anthology is taking place tomorrow (Sunday 20th March), starting at 3 p.m.. The venue is The Camden Eye pub, 2 Kentish Town Road, London NW1 9NX.

There will be readings from numerous contributors to the anthology, and I'm very disappointed that family commitments mean I won't be able to make it along. At least I'll soon have a copy in my hands to see my poem in such excellent company! If you can't attend the launch either, you can get hold of a copy via Eyewear's online store here.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Paul Stephenson in The Compass

The new issue of The Compass is in the process of being posted (the editors put it up gradually over the course of a number of days), and my attention has been drawn, not for the first time, to Paul Stephenson's work.

In this case, the selection of Stephenson's verse is especially interesting because of its potent blending of personal experience and current affairs. He lives in Paris, and has written about the attacks in the city and their aftermath. Moreover, the first poem strikes a huge chord with me because I recall having seen his confirmation on Facebook that he was safe. The Paris attacks are a shared, vicarious experience. Stephenson's poems make them specific and individual.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

How (not) to Get Your Poetry Published by Helena Nelson

The best poetry editors do what their often unpaid job says on the tin: they get their hands dirty and edit, encouraging their poets, helping them and challenging them every now and then. I can tell you from personal, subjective experience that Helena Nelson at HappenStance Press is one such editor.

This is why Nelson's new book is so significant. Titled How (Not) to Get Your Poetry Published, it's a guide to finding an outlet for your verse. From magazines to pamphlets and collections, she goes into common pitfalls that tend to mean a poet's submission doesn't even make it over the first hurdle.

All of the above is combined with specific case studies and even twenty-one poetry prompts to stir the reader's creative juices. At this point, I do have to admit a vested interest: one of my poems, 01252 722698, is among those prompts.

If this morsel has managed to whet your appetite, the book itself will blow your taste buds away! You can grab a copy via this link to the HappenStance online shop.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Poetry Spotlight: poets and their poems

The emergence of Poetry Spotlight is one of the most interesting recent developments in U.K. poetry on the internet. The site itself explains one key reason why it's different:

What hopefully sets Poetry Spotlight apart a little from other poetry sites is that all poems featured are accompanied by a short interview with the author. A poem doesn’t appear out of thin air and it’s nice sometimes to learn a bit more about the person who penned it. Turns out they are often as interesting as the writing they produce.

However, there's also a second factor that makes Poetry Spotlight stand out: the quality of the questions. Each interview is underpinned by a knowledge of the featured poet, thus leading to fascinating replies from the interviewees. I especially recommend the piece on Richie McCaffery (see here). Terrific stuff!