Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Loose Muse

Just briefly, I'll be performing alongside Aoife Mannix at Loose Muse on April 7th 2010, which is a Wednesday.

Loose Muse hosts readings only for women, though men are allowed to attend (but not perform), monthly at the Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London.

It usually kicks off around 8pm, I believe. I'll be reading a selection of old and new poems, and should have a few books on hand to sell.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't like the book you're reviewing? Too bad, you'd better praise it anyway.

I join the growing number of people who are quite rightly disgusted and appalled by recent online attacks on Todd Swift, whose review of the new Bloodaxe anthology Identity Parade - which was not a negative review, but did ask important questions about the selection process - has attracted some astonishingly hostile and aggressive reactions.

See the comment threads at Eyewear for examples. There are plenty in the post I link to and in other posts on the same blog, and on Facebook, Twitter etc.

The fact that most of these people know each other in person, and are almost all key players in the book under review makes the whole thing even more disturbing. Would you see such a public and widespread attack being allowed to happen in the film industry, in theatre, even in book reviewing?

What does all this mean for the future of poetry criticism? As Graham Hardie points out on Eyewear: 'it begs the question are we not allowed as editors to express our thoughts and opinions in our publications without fear of reprisals/witch hunts/obnoxious e-mails etc?'

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Horizon Review 4

Marvellous to have finished all the work on Horizon Review 4. The new issue should appear online sometime in the next week or so; the timing is up to Chris at Salt Publishing, and I know he's always very busy.

But the magazine's all done from my side. Some exciting stuff in there, too!

If you've never visited Horizon, there are three issues already online here.

Now, I can finally start work on the rewrites to my new historical novel. It's been frustrating, having that work in the back of my head while having to ignore it, push it away, and crack on with my job as editor. But tomorrow is a new day, and I'm extremely excited to be writing prose again.

Don't get me wrong. I love poetry, but she's not an easy mistress. Novelists, quite wisely, tend to stay home and ignore their peers whenever possible; not so poets. Yet writers are often the hardest people to get along with. So it's with a sigh of happy relief that I can finally retreat to my metaphorical ivory tower and bury myself in a book.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Identity Parade

Found this excellent and thoughtful review of the new Bloodaxe anthology, edited by Roddy Lumsden, Identity Parade at David Green's blog, dated March 13th 2010:

 '... moving from poem to poem one is perhaps overawed by the sheer weight of work on offer and the wide selection of poets with only a few poems each might begin to look like an unwillingness to select more rigorously. Eventually, many of the poems could in fact have been written by roughly the same poet or at least by poets who all studied for the same creative writing MA. One becomes accustomed to the choice adjective, the erudite lexis (intaglio, ingleberried, periphrasis) and the well-read references worn like a casual off-the-shoulder number. Some of these writers are trying a bit too hard. '

There was a more recent glance in its direction at the Times Online site, but since it failed to engage with the actual poetry, it was next to worthless as a review.

Todd Swift was more positive at Eyewear than David Green, but also spotted an absence of obvious frontrunners in this motley pack:

'Also missing are the show-stoppers - the lightning-strike poems - that mark a poet or generation as great. While there are hundreds of good, solid, well-written and often genuinely dazzling or inventive poems included, it is hard to actually recollect a dozen or more whose lines are so memorable as to represent a genuine threat to Ted Hughes, Larkin, or Mahon. As such, it may still be very much a provisional period, not yet fully formed - and the leaders of the pack have yet to fully dominate the minor figures.'

Disgusted of Berkshire

Seen the news story yesterday about the gay middle-aged couple, turned away from a Berkshire B&B because it went against the proprietor's beliefs to allow two men to share a bed under her roof?

Absolutely disgraceful.

Wouldn't it be a shame if hundreds of gay couples now descended upon her without warning, demanding a room for the night?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

13 Teeth: Peacock and Pig

From Jane Smiley's '13 Ways of Looking at the Novel' to Mark Gwynne Jones' '13 Teeth: Peacock and Pig'.

The brand-new issue of Horizon Review will be up on the Salt website in a few weeks. Can't really guarantee when, as my role ends when I transfer the files over to Salt.

However, before issue 3 is superceded by all that lovely new material in issue 4, I want to draw people's attention back to one of my favourite items in the last issue, a short film of the extremely talented and mesmerising Mark Gwynne Jones and the Psychicbread, performing

13 Teeth: Peacock and Pig

It's nothing short of miraculous. It's also a tiny bit slow to warm up, so give it a good minute or two if you're not used to live poetry performances. And if you ever get a chance to see this band live - or Mark Gwynne Jones performing solo - do please take the opportunity. Excellent, mythic stuff!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Writing a novel is easy

Looking at revisions to my historical, I dug out 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel (What to Read and How to Write) by Jane Smiley this week.

Some real gems here, but this in particular, since I'm dealing with the necessary awkwardness and imperfection of openings and beginnings, caught my eye:

No novel can be written perfectly because perfect spatial balance cannot be achieved word by word. At the same time, though, writing a novel is easy because there is nothing simpler than adding word to word, sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, and then going back and reading and writing it over again. To do it, the author simply has to remember that it can't be done, that the ideal edifice that exists in his mind may not be, and cannot be, and will never be communicated, but something will. That something is the novel you don't know you can write until you get it written.

Available from Amazon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dove Release: New Flights and Voices

I'll be reading this Thursday night at the launch of the poetry anthology “Dove Release: New Flights and Voices”, edited by David Morley and published by Worple Press, which contains work by poets connected to Warwick University.

The Poets: Toby Aisbitt, Katie Allen, Vicki Benson, Peter Blegvad, Zoë Brigley, James Brookes, Phil Brown, Claire Bunyan, Peter Carpenter, Nick Chen, Swithun Cooper, Nicola Davidson, David Devanny, Rebecca Fearnley, Chloe Todd Fordham, James Harringman, Emily Hasler, Luke Heeley, Jane Holland, Gavin Hudson, Thom Hutchinson, Poppy James, Sholeh Johnston, Charlotte Jones, Luke Kennard, Gwenfron Kent, Will Kerr, Sam Kinchin-Smith, Anna Lea, Emma Lowe, Ailie MacDonald, Liz Manuel, Jack McGowan, Michael McKimm, Jennifer McLean, Glyn Maxwell, Peter Maxwell, Jennifer Mellor, David Morley, Jon Morley, John Murray, Ruth Padel, Kathryn Parratt, Siavash Pournouri, Sarah Rabone, Rowan Rutter, Fiona Sampson, Nima David Seifi, Sam Sedgeman, Nicola Seth-Smith, Bethany Startin, George Szirtes, Cari Thomas, Claire Trévien, George Ttoouli, Simon Turner, Jonathan Ware, Hilary Watson and Andrew Webb.

The launch takes place on Thursday 18th March starting 8.00 p.m. in The Capital Centre, University of Warwick. Star poets at this event include David Morley, Glyn Maxwell, Luke Kennard, Jane Holland and Peter Blegvad. Peter will also be MC’ing the launch with readings from students. Drinks in the foyer from 7.15pm.

Free but a ticketed event.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Literary agents, celebrity spotting, and surprisingly small toilets

I went into London today. To the infamous Ivy Club in the West End, which is for members only - no, I'm not a member, but the literary agent I was meeting does enjoy that distinction, which is apparently by 'invitation only' - and having dismissed tales I'd heard of dot-to-dot celebrities hanging out there, was actually rather astonished to find that it was no exaggeration.

I had a lovely conversation in the ladies toilet there - just the one rather small toilet, albeit with beautiful decor, as they obviously expect even celebrities to queue - with someone whose face I recognised instantly. But the name, of course ... well, it will come to me, but she's a well-known actress ... or maybe presenter ... or ...

I obviously need to start reading Hello magazine or something. I'm useless at celebrity-spotting. Should get my head out of a book and watch more telly.

Anyway, following my hour-long conversation with this chap, which was tremendously jolly and involved words like 'exciting' and 'excellent' being applied to my latest writing project, I can now announce that I have a literary agent again.

Some revisions to do, then I may have further good news. For now, it's enough to note that I am a very happy bunny.

By the way, I read somewhere that entering the Ivy Club is like stepping inside a giant iPod. It is. Though an iPod with a very hushed and elegant atmosphere. If it's possible to imagine that.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Dark Horse: a new website

Wow, a whole month between posts. Inconthievable!

And here's a totally impersonable return to Raw Light, taken from an email I just received from fellow editor Gerry Cambridge at The Dark Horse, a Scottish magazine launched in 1995, the same year as my own modest Isle of Man-based poetry rag Blade, but which has successfully stood the test of time and is now boasting a brand-new website!

The new Dark Horse website has just gone 'live' and is viewable here:


Please update your bookmarks. The old site, which was hosted for us by Edinburgh University, will still be online for ten days or so but will then be taken down. The new site is designed to be quickly updated and contains new material as well as a blog and an online subscription facility. So if you're one of those who hasn't subscribed or renewed your subscription because of the hassle of writing a cheque, now's your chance. Subscriptions are the Horse's life blood -- subscribe or renew and help us keep The Dark Horse the singular forum for poetry we believe it to be. Join the conversation!

Issue 24 of the magazine has just appeared and can be viewed here:


Two fine pieces, David Mason's consideration of Michael Donaghy and Julie Kane's review of the recent British Women's Work anthology, are available to read from the issue in their entirety, as well as poems by Amit Majmudar and Elizabeth Burns.