Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Books I Like 2007

Poetry books I've really enjoyed this year include:

Eleanor Rees: Andraste's Hair
John Ash: The Parthian Stations
John Ashbery: A Worldly Country
Luke Kennard: The Harbour Beyond The Movie
Zoe Brigley: The Secret
Charles North: Cadenza
Tony Lopez: Covers
David Kennedy: The Devil's Bookshop
The Selected Poems of Alice Notley
Geraldine Monk: Racoon
Jane Holland: Boudicca & Co

There are others, but those are the ones I've remembered off the top of my head

I've also discovered the prose poetry of Annie Clarkson, and I'm looking forward to Sandra Tappenden's new book.

I've noticed that this year poetry by young women has become to seem more adventurous, and, dare I say it, more so than young men. But on the whole, younger poets seem less tied to particular ways of writing, mixing up genres often with an abandon I haven't seen for years. I once said that it was better for a young poet to read Ginsberg than Larkin; but maybe reading the two simultaneously (one in each hand?) is what people are doing right now. No bad thing.

Salt is my star publisher; not just because they published me (though that helps), but also because of the range of books they publish, from avant garde to mainstream. And they do look utterly gorgeous on a coffee-table. But Shearsman are also up there as among the best. Faber if anything look worse than ever.

Maybe I'm being over-optimistic in looking forward to next year's cropsof poetry and new poets. But I think we're in for some interesting new discoveries: the names I've never heard of on Dusie's British issue are quite amazing.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Salt Winter Poetry Party etc

I had a terrific time at the Salt winter Party at Foyles last Thursday. Firstly, it was great to meet poets who I've admired for ages like David Grubb and John Hartley Williams. Secondly, it was great to meet and have a drink with that fine poet and controversialist, Jane Holland. It was even more amazing to actually meet Chris, after talking to him on the phone & e-mail corresponding so much. I got to meet my publisher!

The venue was slightly awkward - long rows of seats - but there were 200 people there to hear me read (next to last - the curse of having a name that at the back of the alphabet!) and I read two sonnets from the collection. I think there were some terrific writers there - Peter Jaegar and Sandra Tappenden among the poets, for instance. Gavin Salerie - who I met once at Geraldine Monk's party - said he liked my poems, which was a boost. It means so much more to me than if Andrew Motion had said he liked my poems. Though really I'd like everyone to like my stuff. I'm that shallow.

But I had a good time in London - and found a nice cheap place to eat in Old Compton Street in Soho - the Stockpot. Reasonable to good food, not showy, very quick turnaround and pleasant atmosphere. I went to Tate Modern, and was pleasantly surprised that a room full of Surrealist art had pictures by Tristram Hillier, Eileen Agar, Roland Penrose and Ithell Colloqhun as well as the usual names. English surrealism was often thought of in the past as not as good as the greats of the continent but I think it stands up very well.

I spent some time in the Poetry Library on the South Bank, discovering a terrific Nicholas Moore poem called Meaningless Gesture, that I must type up here soon.

On the Sunday, after having stopped off Saturday at Whatton, I was back in Manchester, and went to another poetry event, at Fuel in Withington. Well, there was some good stuff: John G Hall and Micheal Wilson in particular seemed to have real energy and above, a real love of language and what it can do. But Change Kunde was dispensing Good Advice when she wasn't trying to be terribly rude (God, how I hate that British seaside postcard innuendo about sex!), Matt Panesh was all shouty and un-PC in a terribly tired way, and there was so much obvious rhyme I wanted to scream. Oh, and Gordon Zola, who would have been a scream in music-hall in 1907, but just seems so old hat now.

The Salt event was great, because even when you weren't terribly turned on by what you heard (as I wasn't by a couple) at least you were aware that the writers were crafting their work, and weren't just in love with the sound of their own voices (you couldn't always hear them, in fact: bad sound system.)