Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Keeping Up

Does anybody else feel like they're not reading the "right"poets? I sometimes get the feeling that because I don't go out and get the latest Faber or Picador poet, that I must be out of the loop. I know it's impossible to keep up; but then there's still the pressure to read "what everybody else is reading."

And then there's all the young poets. I should be keeping up with them, surely... Not really. Some.

And I'm probably missing some good poetry. I know that the few poems by Nick Laird that I've read in magazines have been enjoyable; but I wonder if I could read a whole book of them. Instead, I get hold of a review copy of Robert Shepherd's Complete Twentieth Century Blues because that's the one I want to read. It's like I'm deliberately being awkward. If Sean O'Brien or Don Paterson are bringing out a new collection, I may get around to it one day; but I'm too busy ordering the latest by Geraldine Monk.

I might even enjoy their books. But not as much as the new Geraldine Monk; or the little pamphlet of Rupert Loydell poems he's just sent me. There's a massive amount of poetry out there, and the majority of it doesn't float my boat particularly. But I don't feel like dissing it either; most of it will appeal to someone, and most poets have their coterie of readers who can't wait for their next publication.

Nevertheless, there is still the vague feeling of not reading enough, especially when I read that Roddy Lumsden reads 100 books-plus a year and I look at the long list of Books Recieved on Ron Silliman's blog. Some of them even look really interesting. And that's not to mention all the poets from earlier ages I've not read yet. People have been recommending Wyatt; and if I can find an edition that's not too expensive, I might well have a go...

But, first, I'm not made of money. Second, I have other jobs to do. Third, there has to be time to relax, take in the world outside of poetry, sleep, eat, listen to music, stare at the ceiling/stars and even, dare I say it, write. So I don't feel that bad.


The Editors said...

I used to worry that there was something wrong with me, as the Faber, Picador and Cape poets who were readily available in bookstores, or who made up the bulk of the school- and university-approved anthologies I studied just didn't do it for me. But I kept stumbling across stuff that didn't seem to get a mention anywhere: Barry McSweeney, Andrew Crozier, Lee Harwood, and various others, all of which blew my mind in one way or another. I don't worry too much about trying to keep up with the big boys, and it doesn't seem to have done me any harm. My record collection's just as cussed and obscurantist as my poetry shelves, though, so it could just be a character flaw after all.

Simon Turner, Gists and Piths

Anonymous said...

Hello Steven - I have to admit that, yes, I have read over 100 collections or so annually, in the past few years!

A few points though -

These are not all new books;

I don't read every word of every poem. I (quite wrongly) consider I've 'read' a book if I've spent some time with it, read most of the poems and some of the poems more than once. Of course, many of the books I read, I read more thoroughly, especially if I am using them for teaching purposes or am reviewing them.

The rise in the number of poetry books I read has been facilitated by:

- the fact that I can get any Scottish related book in review copy as I write for Books from Scotland;

- the fact that nice editors like Neil and Chris sometimes send me books they think I'll like and might spread the word about to my students etc;

- my increased interest in US poetry - I buy a large amount on my visits there, but via Amazon Marketplace (especially the Book Depository and the excellent Aphrohead Books), I can afford books - new US poetry books for about £6 including p&p;

- because one of the things that my students value is the fact I 'keep up' with contemporary poetry and pass on, not just general recommendations, but specific ones (like me tipping you off on the Linda Black which I hope you like);

And because of course, I'm a sad poetry geek who still loves he stuff.


Adrian said...

All good points - and I feel a little the same way. I subscribed to Poetry last year, simply as one way of getting at least a toe in the American waters, though knowing it is only one side of things. The fact is, of course, that we can probably read poetry as others read the newspapers, to get a sense of the tide of the times, but how difficult it is to negotiate the recent past never mind the present. A few more good focused anthologies would help, methinks.