Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Identity Parade: Pre-Review

I thought it would be interesting, before reading the book, to look at it as an object: as as thing to be handled. My friend John Calvert brought a copy round last night, though I don't personally have my own copy yet. So this is not a review of the content.

Firstly the cover. Like the recent anthology of young poets, Voice Recognition, but unlike the light blue livery of The New Poetry, this is a book clothed in black. This makes it look somewhat more serious, perhaps a little more Goth, and perhaps it reflects the more serious times. Voice Recognition has a picture of a lot of young people in a field, and Identity Parade has a rather strange picture of a piece of installation art or sculpture by Annette Messagger, with lots of eyes and faces in it. It's rather creepy, in fact: but it's striking, and on a shelf it would draw the eye toward it, if only to find out what it was.

It's a good cover, on the whole; and it speaks of the contents in two ways. Firstly, both covers emphasise the pluralism which the main theme of the anthology: neither anthology speaks of the single way forward for British poetry. But, whereas Voice Recognition emphasises youthfullness of its contents, Identity Parade emphasises its diversity. Both anthologies are serious (black livery) but Identity Parade is more so.

Both anthologies have interesting titles: one is taken from a piece of computer software; the other is a police line-up. They both suggest what might be one of the major themes of contemporary British poetry: namely, in this complex world of interlocking forces and competing markets, who am I, what am I responsible for? Am I just a blip on a cosmic computer screen?

And the book itself: a handy size, not too big, but big enough to look substantial. Looking inside (again, not really reading the content), the introduction doesn't overstay its welcome. Each poet is introduced seperately with a photo and some blurb, which actually seems useful because it gives an insight into each poet's method as well as their subjects. When Bloodaxe first did this I wasn't sure how helpful it was; but I have to put myself into the mind of someone who is only really discovering poetry through this anthology, and I think they would find it useful, though a definition of terms might have been useful: what exactly do terms such as traditional, mainstream and innovative mean?

So that's the book as a book: later, when I get my copy (anyone magazine like me to review it?) I can give my opinions on the actual poetry. But I think it's useful to ask questions about how it looks on the bookshelves at Waterstones, because that's where people will look at it, or not look at it. I think the rather creepy cover might put some off; but others (Gothy young people?) will find it intriguing enough to want to look in. I like it, personally.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Me? I'm just Jenny from the block...

Any body else experience this strange sensation whenever you find your name mentioned? I've just been linked for the first time to Ron Silliman's blog, and the Other Room blog seems to like my last post too. Great! I should feel glad. But I can't help that awful feeling of "why me?" Every time I see my name in print, I get this awful feeling that it's not me, it can't be me they're thinking of.

It's that Borgesian Other who goes about saying wise and significant things, or even writing half-way decent poems that get put into magazines and published online. It can't possibly be this bloke who comes from a deadend ex-industrial town in East Lancashire and has the gall to call himself a poet.

There must be several selves in there, swimming about. The religious self I hardly ever talk about. The poet self. The pacifist self. The grumpy old man who complains about the traffic down Oxford Road and the self who watches me getting all this attention and thinks, "who does he think he is, a blip on the cultural landscape? Ha!"

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Becoming Post Avant

1. Don't worry about the name. Today, Mathew I shall be Post-Avant. Tomorrow, Mathew, I shall be "Experimental". The day after tomorrow, I shall be Late/Post/Modernist/Innovative/Non-mainstream.

2. Nobody wakes up wanting to be different. Everybody wants to be different. But mostly in ways that are not different, so we can still have some friends.

3. If Faber came knocking, would I say no? Of course, I'd say yes, as long as they didn't want me to write nice anecdotal poems about my holiday in the South of France.

4. It was a pressure in my head that made me finally admit that I was whatever kind of poet it is I think I've become. I had a failing poem that annoyed me so much, as a last resort, I cut it up. Lo! A light came down from heaven illuminating the path I must follow... or something... Rather, I discovered that I didn't have to do the whole thing straight, that going the crooked route was just as interesting.

5. I want to be as clear as possible. But life isn't clear, it comes at you from all kinds of directions at all kinds of speed. And I have to confess that I like, and think that poetry should reflect my experience, rather than try to impose an artificial order on it.

6. How important is the reader? Important enough not to be mollycoddled.

Friday, March 12, 2010

William Blake and the Naked Teaparty
12/03/2010 at 6:56 am · Filed under Publications and tagged: , , , ,
The new issue of Ekleksographia online magazine ‘William Blake and the Naked Teaparty’ guest edited by Philip Davenport features textworks that emphasise the touch – handwrit and haptic – particularly pieces that consider emotional engagements, human space – that weird trace and corporate/military erasure of the handmade, the human touch, the not-digital. These qualities link into the alternative tradition of poetics – and to ‘outsider’ artists who are owed a debt by the experimenters (an IOU all the way back to Will Blake, he and the Mrs sitting on the lawn in London afternoons, naked, drinking tea).
Contributors: Alan Halsey, Anna MacGowan, The Atlas Group, Ben Gwilliam, Carol Watts, Carolyn Thompson, Darren Marsh, Dave Griffiths, David Tibet, Geof Huth, George Widener, Geraldine Monk, The Gingerbread Tree, Hainer Wormann, Harald Stoffers, Helmut Lemke, Holly Pester, James Davies, Jesse Glass, Jonathan Penton, Julia Grime, Kerry Morrison, Kirstie Gregory, Laurence Lane, Lee Patterson, Li E Chen, Liz Collini, Matt Dalby, Michael Wilson, Morry Carlin, Nick Blinko, Nico Vassilakis, Patricia Farrell, Rachael Elwell, Robert Grenier, Robert Sheppard, Sarah Sanders, Sean Bonney, Stephen Vincent, Steve Waling, Sue Arrowsmith, Todd Thorpe, Tony Lopez and Tony Trehy
The issue goes online 15th March 2010 and will be launched with a 24 hour ‘live’ online writing event by Sarah Sanders
Series Editor Jesse Glass; this issue designed by Jonathan Penton.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

What is Poetry

My favourite definition of poetry at present is by an American fifth-grader: Poetry is the memory of everything. It can be found in the comments stream at: