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Showing posts from July, 2005

Ten Hallam Poets

Ten Hallam Poets is an anthology whose no-nonsense title says it all. There are in fact ten poets here, and they are each, in their own way, products (that gross word) of the writing programmes (MA and PhD) at Sheffield Hallam University. The introduction is by Sean O'Brien, one of the best-known poet-critics currently writing in the UK.

As is usual with such anthologies (and I am no stranger here myself) a series of market-savvy blurbs adorns the back cover, culminating in the statement by Don Paterson (a major UK poet) that this collection "represents one of the most astonishing constellations of poetic talent to have emerged in the last ten years" - which begs the question, where are all the other "astonishing constellations" if this is only one of them?

Such praise does a disservice, perhaps, since the language with which we are able to recommend good poetry is becoming increasingly inflated to the point where soon a "new dazzling voice", "that…

Poem by David Hill

Dressed for success

No, no. Germanic pop, not Anglo rock.
Not Rolling Stones, not Velvet Underground,
But Amsterdam's and Stockholm's ample stock
Of Dancing Queens; the Berlin Wall of sound;

Camp groups like Ace of Base – remember them?
Army of Lovers – how could one forget?
Or Two Unlimited, or Boney M,
Or Falco, Modern Talking, or Roxette;

And, to pronounce those broken English names,
With turquoise eyes, a spangly lipsticked kiss:
Tall Eastern girls. Mad glamour. Freedom games.
Forget the greasy earnest rockers' claims:
It's this that killed off Communism. This.

by David Hill

Desire Doom & Vice

No, this is the title of a new anthology of Canadian prose and poetry, not the current state of life in London. The editor is that curious creature, the multi-talented peacock-provocateur, Nathaniel G. Moore, who has been a force in fusing poetry and performative entertainment for some time now, mainly in Ontario, in a manner altogether his own.

I am not sure I agree with all his methods or fin-de-siecle sequins, but his writing is sometimes quite good, and his energy to be admired, if not siphoned off.

Moore's new book, Desire Doom & Vice: A Canadian Collection, from Wingate Press, is that doomed hybrid (see my own In The Criminal's Cabinet), a book of both prose and poetry. I suspect the prose (although by many good contemporary practitioners, such as Catherine Kidd, Corey Frost and George Murray) is mainly there to underwrite the poetry, and help it sell. I am not sure this works. Usually, coupling prose and poetry is like re-enacting the final tussling gasps of the life …

Back From Japan

I am just back from Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and a small volcanic island in the south.

Gargoyle 50 Is Here

Richard Peabody is a phenomenon, as you know (or don't). Many don't, and the ones who do laugh at them, for he is one of the vital forces in contemporary indie American poetry and (small press) publishing. And a damn fine poet in his own right. Check out the link to his activities, where all good links appear here at the T. S. Review.

I am proud to be in the latest bumper-crop issue, the swaggering Gargoyle number 50. From the gorgeous cover (by Colin Winterbottom, pictured above) onwards, it spoils the reader with too much of a good if strange thing.

Gargoyle is the place in American writing where the marginal caresses the mainstream and vice versa, with the emphasis on vice. It is always beyond edgy, subversive, iconoclastic, weird, and every other one of those blurb words. It makes words like hip, cool, alternative seem redundant. Here are only some of the writers in 50:

A newly discovered unpublished Kathy Acker story, Magdalena Alagna, Buzz Alexander, Eric Anderson, Nin And…

Reading at Ledbury 2005

Dr. Charles Bennett is a poet as well as being the Festival Director for The Ledbury Festival. Hats off to him. I'd heard of Ledbury of course - all poetry lovers have - but never been. This weekend I read there. I confess to being very impressed. Other festivals might be bigger, but none, for poets, is better. The energy, enthusiasm, optimism and professionalism of the organizers and volunteers was exceptional; the venues first-rate; the sound equipment and technician world-class - and the village itself lovely.

Best of all, the quality of the poets they bring in; on the two days I was there, there was, among many others: John Burnside, Simon Armitage, Ruth Padel, Kate Clanchy, Colette Bryce, and so on. It also helped that the skies were very blue, and it was a Grecian 30 Celsius; fortunately, the village offers good ice cream and lemonade. It was good to sit near the church under a tree. It made the terror of the 7th seem, for a moment, far away; perhaps a lazy thing, but also a …

...And We Must Go On

Life continues, amidst the dread. I am still reading tomorrow (Saturday) at the major poetry festival - Ledbury. It is an honour to be there, and the poet I am reading with sounds remarkable. I include her biographical note below.

Born in Sri Lanka and educated at Oxford, Pireeni Sundaralingam currently lives in San Francisco. She is co-editor of Writing the Lines of Our Hands, the first anthology of South Asian American poetry (forthcoming 2005) and Poetry Editor of the political journal LIP. Her own work has been featured in anthologies including The Oxford and Cambridge Anthology of Poetry (1992), So Luminous the Wildflowers: the Tebot Bach Anthology of Californian Poets (2003) and Risen from the East: the Poetry of the Non-Western World (2005) and is featured in the documentary film Veil of Silence. A PEN USA Rosenthal fellow, Pireeni was named as "one of America's emerging writers" by the literary journal Ploughshares in 2004 and her poetry is due to be featured…

The Day After...

Over 49 reported fatalities. 700 injured. Tony Blair a sideshow.

Friday in London.

Eerily quiet, with curious mixed messages from the authorities: business as usual, stiff-upper-lip, but also, don't come to Central London unless you have to. This tug of will involves each of us deciding how far to walk, and when to return to using the Underground, and the busses. Many are walking in to work.

News of some hotels profiteering last night by tripling prices for rooms is one side of the human story, and the Hobbesian interpretation of things.

On the other side of the ledger, an extraordinary image of guardian angels in human form: the double-decker bus which exploded did so exactly outside the HQ of the British Medical Association. Within half a minute, many doctors had rushed out to the blast victims in the red wreckage. Each victim had at leat two doctors with them, working to keep them alive until the severely tested ambulance service could arrive. I find this very moving, and perhaps e…

London Bombs: 7/7

The thing we feared most has happened: Madrid-style, multiple terrorist attacks on the London Underground and bus routes in the heart of London, timed with surgical cruelty after London's Olympic win and the start of the G8 summit. It is an unsettling time, and there have been many casualties. So far, over 33 fatalities have been reported.

It is - weatherwise and ironically (as in New York in 2001) - a warm, sunny day now, with lovely blue skies. Tens of thousands of would-be commuters are slowly walking home early. With no underground system, some mainline services closed, and few buses in Zone 1, some will be walking for hours. The streets are eerily calm, punctuated by sirens.

The people of London, accustomed to such things, are brave and will endure, but this is a sad day for all who love London and live here.

London Olympics 2012

London, my adopted home-city, has won the right to hold the Olympic Games in 2012, which is good news.

I am rather sorry for Paris - my previous home. The French deserve something for opposing the Iraq war so vociferously. Then again, the French also voted down the EU constitution. I am from just outside Montreal, and so recall, as a kid, the 1976 Games we had. It was a great moment, but very expensive.

I suspect London's Games will be great. Hope Paris gets the chance in 2020 - 2016 will have to go to a continent other than Europe.

My guess is South Africa will get the games then. It'll be Africa's turn. In 2020, the candidates are likely to be Moscow, New York, Paris, Tokyo and perhaps a South American city. New York will likely win this one.

In The Criminal's Cabinet

I often wonder what's going on with the wide world of poetry - and how despite the best efforts of many hard-working poetry activists, editors and so on there is the same sort of apathy we associate with high school election speeches.

Basically: is there really a global poetry community that is aware of its constitutent members, and works hard to locate, cultivate, and support them and their works? Maybe not.

Take, for example - or Exhibit A, if you will - a recent (late 2004) global English-language Internet-driven anthology of mostly avant-garde or at least indie poetry and prose edited by myself and Val Stevenson (see Nthposition link to order): In The Criminal's Cabinet.

So, very few mainstream reviews, and not that many sales so far. But consider some of the poets included - and the fact that it represents very new poetry, all written between 2002-2004:

Robert Allen, Tammy Armstrong, Louise Bak, Charles Bernstein, bill bissett, Stephanie Bolster, Jason Camlot, Maxine Chernoff…

Ledbury Poetry Festival 1-10 July 2005

I am honoured to have been asked to read at the Ledbury Festival this year.

It really is one of the best (some would say) the best festivals of its kind, and the roster of poets who appear is impressive. This year the line-up features Alan Brownjohn (recently at our Oxfam event), Galway Kinnel, Penelope Shuttle, Tamar Yoseloff (to read for Oxfam in August) and Simon Armitage, among many others.

I'll be reading on Saturday, July 9, at Burgage Hall, from 10:15 am-11:30 am (tickets £6.50) with the Sri Lankan poet Pireeni Sundaralingam.

Hope to see you there.

Live 8, Poetry and Enthusiasm

The Live 8 concert in Hyde Park was audible from my flat, but I watched it on TV. I'm not a big concert goer (though a music fan) and so was surprised by how inspiring it was. Many informed critics of the event (such as George Monbiot) had suggested it was frivolous, futile or worse, but it seemed an impressive consciousness-raising effort with very few harmful side-effects.

There's a natural mistrust of millionaire rock star celebrities in the media and in the outlying plains where the rest of us feed, but one thing was striking - as band after band, singer after after act, got up, did their one or two or three songs, and got off (like WWI fighters going over the top) - these people earn their keep. The professionalism of the entertainers was marvelous to behold.

There's a reason why U2, (Sir) Paul McCartney, Madonna, Sting, Robbie Williams and co. are loved by hundreds of millions: they make us feel good, if only briefly, with not much else than the sound of their voices, …