There is a real groundswell of good poetry out there in the world of poetry.
Richard Barrett is just one of these poets, and a very promising local poet (Pig Fervour, publ. the Arthur Shilling Press). Here is a poet who is constantly trying out ideas, experimental and open without being dauntingly obscure. In poems such as "the good fortune of being happy in yr work" he's working out what it is to live in the modern urban environment with its constantly shifting media saturation.
Sometimes, it's like listening in to several radio channels at once, with a blizzard of word coming at you to be sorted out later. I'm reminded of Tom Raworth and Sean Bonney, but this is very much his own world he's talking about. He walks by the canal to Salford Quays, then suddenly breaks off to wonder where he's going with this poem ("Don't use Facebook in The Station?Don't Use Facebook At Home).
This pamphlet feels like a poet slowly finding his way forward to his own - I would say voice, but that's not right, poets often have several voices - style? Method? His long shortlined poems that seem to spill down the page and go off in several different directions at once, are perhaps still a little too reminiscent of his influences, but there's a confidence here that will move him forward.
If Richard Barrett is one of the more promising new "post-avant" poets around, Bloodaxe's new anthology "Voice Recognition" is rather more mainstream in its focus. There are some dizzyingly young poets in this collection, however, so anything is possible. Anna Katchinska's is a bright, sassy voice, as capable of tenderness as it is of hutzpah. And she's only 19.
There are some poets here who feel rather too like the previous generation of mainstreamers - Adam O'Riordan seems rather too much "school of Micheal Donaghy" for my liking (I was never too convinced by him myself, though I understand he's influenced a lot of people.) Others, however, seem already to be branching out on their own, and the ones who I'll be looking out for include Sandeep Parmer, Ahren Warner, Siddhartha Bose, Jonathen Morley and Sophie Robinson. All of them seem to have learned from non-mainstream poetries without being tied down to reproducing them.
Along with Tom Chivers' City State, this has gone a long way to convincing me that poetry is at last begin to burgeon with new blood again. All these poets are under 35 and haven't had a full-length collection published - 21 poets for the 21st century (cheese promotional guff though that is). But they're not the only ones. There are probably another 21 poets waiting in the wings, and there are lots of poets, published by Shearsman or Barque or Happenstance or any one of the new presses out there, who deserve our support. Look out for books from local Manchester presses too: the Arthur Shilling Press, Knives Forks & Spoons Press, ifpthenq etc etc.
I could, of course, go off and be jealous of all this youthful talent. But what the heck - it's not often that we live in an age when so much good poetry is being produced and anyone as obsessed as I am with poetry, it's all good.