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Showing posts from December, 2005

The Swift Report 2005

1. As I sit at my desk, and look out over the year that's been, I am seized by the poet's inevitable desire to boast, strut and advertise - or was it only poets in the 1940s who did this?

Not sure. I suspect the wish to tell others of what one has been up to is as old as Moses - and arguably the need has never been greater. When more than 23 million "blog" each day, it is hardly news for someone to send their signals in to the ether; more specifically, for poets, these are both rich and trying times: while there has never before been more media interest and money thrown at poetry, comparatively-speaking, the public is less concerned with the idea of poetic language than ever before, and even most literary critics and reviewers exhaust their time on prose. As an Internet and print editor of poetry I can attest to the thousands of decent, talented (but not very) people out there interested in wanting to write good poems - sometimes they succeed.

Speaking with Les Murray

In Brief: Three Good Books Of Poetry From 2005

I am one of those who believes that 2005 was a very good year for all sorts of poetry published in the UK and Ireland - just look at the T.S. Eliot Prize short-list - hardly a dud there, and arguably six books that could win without much fuss over any injustice or cronyism. I'd say which book I want to win, but a handful of the poets up for it are, admittedly, friends of mine - and, in fact, I am torn a little.

It does seem odd that Hill's Comus was not selected, along with a few other collections, that might easily have slipped in for notice, but, since this was a bumper year, did not.

Three collections of poetry which I very much enjoyed, and did not, perhaps, receive the accolades or gongs they deserved, include two from Bloodaxe, and one from the smaller Irish press Salmon.

Sally Read gave us her debut collection early in the year. The Point Of Splitting (Bloodaxe)from its edgy title to disturbing cover onwards, is a sexy, dark and actually at times twisted exploration of er…

Future Poetry

Just a little note to say, I was glad to see this week-end's The Guardian (in the shape of Robert Potts) mention some of the more witty and well-written avant-garde books from the UK in his all-too-brief recent round-up, as well as the latest book by G. Hill (Comus) which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Of course, one of the major books (republished with new poems) of this year, which gets a mention, is J.H. Prynne'sCollected Poems, from Bloodaxe, a key work for me over the last few years, since I discovered his work late in life.

Key in the sense it is a benchmark for how I like to imagine where poetry and language can extend beyond, a sort of horizon of possible speech and inquiry. I usually tarry well clear on this side of that linguistic border, but am keen to know it is there.

Due to David Wheatley, who kindly quoted a section of a post on this blog a few weeks back, sharing it with a few hundred poets on a well-known list-serve, and rather poor reading skills on the part of a few, wo…

Review: King Kong

Naomi Watts (to the right) endures another "Darrow escape" - or does she? - as the peril-prone Ann in Peter Jackson's three-hour epic, King Kong.

The T.S. Review is reluctant to offer this film - as a sort of jungle-drum sacrifice, bound and heaving - its highest review, Four Quartets (out of four) - but must do so, for reasons to be proffered below, in less robust circumstances, and with fewer blazing torches.

King Kong - the idea and the beast - like cinema itself (and this allegory is one that Jackson belabours like a man attempting to give birth to a Welles) - is a titanic and at times self-defeating thing - compromised by trying to be two things at once: massive (in appeal and profit) and tender. It is hard to hold nuances in an ape's gigantic fist, but a blonde girl's sweet face can sometimes be stroked profitably in such a grip.

All this to say, Jackson nods to the contradictions in his subtext (firstly, by referencing Conrad's Heart of Darkness, hardly a…

What To Do About Barker?

George Barker (pictured here) was one of the major British poets of the brief period sometimes described as "New Romanticism" - roughly late 30s to end of the 40s. I have recently been preparing a lecture on the poetry of this time, and reading work by the Apocalyptic Henry Treece, W.S. Graham, and of course, Dylan Thomas.

What struck me instantly was that, wherease Treece has gifted posterity with no memorable poem (and is thus almost fully neglected now by 21st century readers); and Graham moved on to create his best work in the 50s-70s; and Dylan Thomas wrote perhaps a dozen of the greatest modern lyrics - well, George Barker didn't quite do any of these things.

That is, his poems are not instantly unmemorable, nor did his best work flower in him later to allow us to ignore or forgive his youthful brilliance, nor did he - and this is the delicate part - ever seem to write a poem that quite works all the way through - that is, Barker seems to have written perhaps a dozen…

Did We Do Enough For Gunn?

Thom Gunn, one of the English world's major poets of the last fifty years, died summer of 2004.

Have I missed something?

There does not seem to have been the promised events celebrating and commemorating his work, here in Britain, which I would have expected - readings, special publications from Faber, talks on Radio 4... or perhaps I was asleep at the time.

If Gunn's passing was not properly marked, this is a pity. And it might not be too late to mark what would have been his 80th birthday, in 2009.

If anyone wants to ask me to help organize such a celebration of the great poet, on any terms, even fighting, please do let me know.