Seems to me that anyone who's afraid that poetry in Britain has lost its way hasn't been travelling in the circles I've been travelling recently. Though I have been known to complain about especially performance poetry, my second trip to Arran confirmed that even that is in a reasonably happy state, with a new collection from Gerry Potter about to hit the stands (in fact, his first as Gerry rather than Chloe.) Performance poetry is often about story telling, and his stories from life in Liverpool are often highly colourful and moving, though in a rather traditional mode.
I met the poets from Unsung magazine in Arran, who had camped under the stars in Lamlash and got eaten alive by the English-hating midges, who managed to set up a reading in the Lamlash Bay Hotel on the Wednesday evening. A very lively reading ensued, and some great writing from all concerned.
But it's the post-avant side of Manchester poetry that interests me most. I really must get hold of Richard Barrett's latest publication (review copy, anyone?) and James Davies and Tom Jencks are both doing things that both puzzle me and intrigue me. Matt Dalby's sound poetry performance at The Other Room was also wonderful, if at times rather hard on the ears.
In fact, throughout the country, there's a host of weird and wonderful experimental things going on. Tom Chiver's selection of London poets for penned in the margin, City State, has loads of new young poets, many of whom are playing with the edges of what poetry is, mixing up the mainstream with the nonmainstream, the performance with the post-avant, etc...
But all this goes on under any kind of radar. The BBC Poetry Season had Tom Chivers on Late Review, but that was it. If you read the Guardian Review, you'd think all poets were published by Faber and Bloodaxe and there weren't very many of them. In fact, there's loads, and a lot of it adventurous and exploratory in ways that I don't understand sometimes, but I'd rather poetry went to new places than stayed in the same places all the time. Long live British poetry!
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