Friday, March 27, 2009

New Poem (a Sapphic) in the latest Poetry Review

The latest issue of the flagship magazine of the Poetry Society, Poetry Review, is just out this week, and I have a brand-new poem in it, entitled Sapphic: Jamesian, Aureate.

I also have a review of poetry books by Wendy Cope, Maureen Duffy and Patience Agbabi amongst its pages.

To buy or subscribe to Poetry Review, you can visit their website here. It's £30 for the magazine (4 issues a year) or £40 for the magazine PLUS membership of the Society, with all the usual perks.

There's some discussion of the latest issue recently on Poets on Fire, for those interested in forum life.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Amazon Reviews

My third poetry collection Camper Van Blues has been out a few months now, and still no reviews on Amazon. Which is rather sad. If anyone has read Camper Van Blues, and would like to leave a few comments on Amazon, I'd be ever so grateful. I'm sure it must help to boost sales if there's at least a few reviews. Assuming, that is, that most of them don't begin 'Don't waste your money on this steaming pile of utter ... etc.'

If you're willing, here's Camper Van Blues on


London poetry reading this weekend


Join me on Sunday 29th March from 7pm for drinking games, petty chit-chat and poetry readings by Tom Chivers, Tim Wells, Jane Holland, Jane Commane and James Wilkes , at The Market Trader, 50 Middlesex Street E1 7EX. Nearest Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East, Liverpool Street.

The Terrors launch on Facebook

Find the venue

THE TERRORS by Tom Chivers is the first in a series of special edition pamphlets from Nine Arches Press; darkly-humoured e-dispatches of crime and punishment from over the walls and across centuries. The Terrors is a sequence of imagined emails; poetic missives from the start of the 21st century to inmates at London's notorious Newgate Prison. The emails introduce a cast of 18th century villains and their gruesome crimes: 'Half-hanged Smith'; executioner-turned-murderer Jack Ketch; the notorious Waltham Blacks.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Some Questions about Major Poems

William Butler Yeats, originator of many 'major poems'

Not a military high-achiever, Major Poems, but a type of writing which seems to have eluded me to date. I have dreadful, unexplained upper back pain at the moment; having spent some hours today typing up recent poems from my notebook, it is now far worse. In this admittedly wretched mood, I find myself wondering - not for the first time, alas - why so many of my poems end up as minor notes instead of major chords.

I wonder whether a comparison of major poems of the twentieth-century might throw some light on this question. But whose poems would make the list? (One thinks instantly of Yeats and his numerous political masterpieces, of 'Easter, 1916', and that haunting opening line, 'I have met them at close of day'.) And what might these poems have in common to justify their greatness?

Among the various things to be considered, I list, somewhat arbitrarily:
time of writing
point of writing within a poet's career ...

For instance, is it only older poets, in general, rather than younger poets, who write major poems?

And does any particular style of writing preclude the writing of a major poem? One might say, for instance, comic. Yet we have comic masterpieces too. Stevie Smith's 'Not Waving but Drowning' is one example. But again, is that major or merely memorable?

If so, what are the criteria for a poem becoming major rather than 'merely memorable' or striking enough to have stood the test of time? Do we say 'This is a major poem' straightaway, or do we wait for anthologists and critics to tell us which poems are major?

Bloom would include 'influence' on my list, no doubt. The influence of a precursor. But influence means nothing without an accompanying act of rebellion to spark originality.

The only thing I return to here, again and again, is that a major poem must possess, or represent in itself, an important idea. Yet clearly it is not the idea which makes it important, or one could simply state an idea in prose and it would qualify as a major poem. So the important idea or ideas would be accompanied by ...

Or are such questions ultimately pointless?

I don't believe, like Keats, that poems should come naturally or not at all. Art is about making it look natural, hiding the brushstrokes. But they are always there, nonetheless.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Horizon Review, Mark II

'The Dark Pool', Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller (1995). Photo: Cardiff & Miller. See Kathryn Brown's review of this latest Modern Art Oxford exhibition at Horizon Review.

The rumours are true. The poems are all in. The short stories artfully arranged. The reviews straightened. The interviews gasped over. Now the covers have been dragged off. The windows thrown open. The mangy old slippers replaced by spanking red stilettos. HR II is both done and beautifully dusted. Still a little tweaking required, but all very minor and after-the-event. Some apparent vague incompatability with the Vista IE7 browser, which happily I do not use.

But otherwise wickedly delightful, skipping for joy, and live online right now at

Horizon Review

it's the long-awaited ... [extravagant drum-roll] ... ISSUE TWO!!

Go read and enjoy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ride the Word VII: March 25th 2009

I will be reading in London from my latest poetry collection Camper Van Blues later this month, when I drop in on the Resurrecting Knives tour special, an event which includes
Vincent De Souza reading from his eponymous April 2009 Salt poetry collection.

Here are the details of time, venue, date and the names of the other Salt Publishing writers reading alongside me that evening at Borders, Oxford Street.

Wednesday 25th March 2009
Borders Oxford St, 203-207 Oxford St, London W1D 2LE
7.00 - 9.15 pm FREE

Jay Merill
David Gaffney
Jane Holland
Mark Norfolk
Vincent De Souza
Scott Thurston

Plus special guests Brand magazine - Editor Nina Rapi

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Rik Roots


As the hovercraft puffed its skirts
against the concrete apron, so I flew -
Dover harbour a spray of images
behind my brother as he swung me
over the salt-crust lawns, the edge
of the unguarded cliff, a handgrasp away
from learning the dangers of trust.

Now the last hovercraft has been scrapped
for spares, I can discover new seductions:
the dangers of windy walks through stiff grasses
to watch the sea bolster Dover below; the feel
of rain spattering my neck, my back
as I dance with you, tonight's friend,
on the edge of the cliff - eyes forward
not down - each step an experiment
in my trust of flinty contact.

This poem is from the e-chapbook 'Poems to Quote to your Lover' by Rik Roots, which you can find - amongst other publications and poems by Rik - on the RikVerse website.

"Rik was born in the small village of Dymchurch on the Romney Marshes in Kent, England. Dymchurch has three Martello Towers and a station on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway. This was Rik's world for the first 24 years of his life, except for those six terms away at college - the North East Surrey College of Technology, that is: Rik somehow managed to fail his final school exams and thus never made it to university.

Poetically, Rik has been writing since he was 14 or 15. He happily acknowledges that no work from that early period survives, thanks to a fortuitous kitchen fire which may or may not have been started deliberately. The kitchen was relatively unharmed, in case you were worrying.

Rik's major claim to 'proper' poetic fame is being part of the group that established Magma Magazine - he even edited Magma 6, for his sins. The magazine's subsequent success has nothing to do with Rik; he left the Management Board a few weeks before Magma 7 was published. Rik's main publishing credentials are, strangely enough, in Magma Magazine. Nowadays he rarely submits poems to journals and has no plans to seek 'proper' venues for his chapbooks and manuscripts - Rik has a website, after all, which makes him very happy!

On a broader note, Rik is currently studying for that elusive degree with the Open University, and writing science fiction novels. Rik used to work for Her Majesty's Civil Service which is, he says, a perfect training ground for people wanting to write novels based on alternate realities and fantasy.

Rik currently lives in London with his partner, Nigel, and some cats. His other hobbies include causing trouble in various online venues and inventing languages. He also codes up websites."


And this concludes my Short Season of Other Poets. Many thanks to all those who kindly agreed to let me host their poems on my blog, and good luck with the publications I've mentioned here over the past few weeks.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Siriol Troup


There were things no one told us –
how dusk trickled slowly through the cracks
like something you could touch with your trunk,

a soft mist scented with myrtle and laurel,
voluptuous, weighed down by the rills
of brown birds tearing their throats, and pain

below the range of human hearing: the grief
of solitary, creamy moths, the terrified
crumbling of cement. Or how, beyond

watering distance, eyes would kipper in their sockets
and to weep would be like the first gasp
of a fresh wound, cruel and beautiful. How day

would no longer be that sweet climb
into brilliance – the sun oiling the warm
bark of the baobab tree, the horizon glittering

like a needle. How our ears would soon forget
the shape and weave of a continent,
which no amount of trumpeting could bring back

because we were stretched to the very limits
of illumination, our only constant,
fear – not fear of death or darkness or hunger

but the fear that we might go on hoping
for something better than this: a small
adjustment, or a giving in.

About Siriol Troup:

Siriol comes from a Welsh family but was born in Hong Kong and spent most of her childhood and teenage years abroad, in Africa, Germany, Holland and Iran. She now lives in Twickenham with her husband and four children.

She read Modern Languages (French and German) at St Hugh's College, Oxford and later returned there to teach 19th and 20th century French Literature.

Her poems have previously appeared in The TLS, Poetry Review, PN Review, Poetry London, Poetry Wales, Modern Poetry in Translation, and other journals. Her pamphlet, Moss, won the Poetry Monthly Open Booklet competition in 2002 and her first full-length collection, Drowning up the Blue End, was published by Bluechrome in 2004.

She has won many prizes for her poems, including 2nd prize in the Arvon International Poetry Competition 2006. She teaches and lectures on poetry and is currently poet in residence for the Twickenham River Centre Project. Beneath the Rime is her second collection, published by Shearsman.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Barbara Smith

Barbara Smith writes:
‘On Not Seeing,’ came from two separate but linked events. In February 2008, I had a rare weekend away with my partner in Rome. We arrived too late on Saturday to visit the Sistine Chapel, but made do with all the other beauties that Rome offers. Four months later, on a June day out with the family at the beach, I was lazily cloud-gazing, lying on my back, when I had a ‘ping’ moment. This was first published in qarrtsiluni, July 2008.

On Not Seeing Inside the Sistine Chapel

You were a sky-gazer, a cloud-watcher,
seeing within those steamed puff-pillows
the forms of fabulous beings.

Just now I saw a fisherman, his white head
turned away, his finger flung
behind him pointing at infinity.

His rag-rolled head streamed to the west,
clothes rippling in the high sky-wind.
And when my lazy eye looked again

he morphed into a huge ornamental E,
whose top lintel was a crocodile’s mouth,
snapping at the blue. This too bleeds,

feeds into a sterling pound sign. You
must have spent afternoons on your back
gazing at patterns forming and merging,

dissipating where the mind dragged it.
You took your pigments and pulled them,
your art fixing a borderless sky inside

a broad high vault, peopling the heavens.
Ah, Michelangelo, I know why the sky
became your backdrop, why you loved shades

from azurite to smalt to cobalt blue.

Barbara Smith lives on the east coast of Ireland, dividing her time between raising six children, writing and teaching Creative Writing. In 2007, her debut poetry collection Kairos was published by Doghouse Books, Ireland. She was awarded an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast in 2008. Barbara is the 2008/09 recipient of the Annie Deeny Memorial Prize, granted by the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annamakerrig, Newbliss, Ireland to emerging poets. She blogs at Barbara’s Bleeuugh.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Tony Williams

The Civil War

A church clock static on the midday chime:
the valley breathless like a desert bowl:
a boy shy in the lane in a too-big suit.
My brain no longer resists this stratagem,

but lolls instead in the meadow of its crime.
Off-shore the mackerel, blank in a huge shoal,
are the reasons my mind’s land is destitute.
Under the harbour’s calm I cannot see them.

Vertically the cloud builds over a parkland lime
which hides the idea of Charles I in its giant bole.
The cloud is the vision of republicans. Absolute
blue surrounds that shifting diadem.

'The Civil War' was first published in the now-defunct Avocado [small lit. magazine associated with Coventry-based Heaventree Press; not necessarily defunct, but certainly 'resting' at the moment. Jane.].

Tony Williams's first full collection The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street will be published by Salt Publishing in the summer. He lives in Sheffield, and works as a graphic designer and as a lecturer for the Open University and Salford University. His blog is