Parts I to III of my long poem sequence “Nomansland Common” appear in the summer issue of Under the Radar magazine.
It is in good company alongside two pungent and haunting poems by Paul Stephenson, a trans-Atlantic observational poem by Jill Abram, several poems about identity by Josephine Corocan, and many other delights, including insightful reviews and prose.
You can order a copy of Issue 16, or even subscribe for the year, at the Nine Arches Press website.
Valerie and I also made part IV of “Nomansland Common” into a film-poem, which you can read and watch online here.
Black hair. Red claws. That’s all
you need to know. She left
the cubs a long time ago,
and now all she wants is a man
to drink gin and play snooker.
She keeps a gun in her purse
and two ex lovers in jail,
signs her letters with a kiss
and a dab of cheap perfume.
She knows how to use a letter opener,
walk upright like a lady,
forage berries in the forest,
bandage a gunshot wound,
claw her way out of the trunk
of a speeding car, and roll away.
She’s on the hunt when hunted,
growls obscenities when hit
by a tranquillizer dart.
In this city full of garbage,
she knows you by your smell.
Behind the Poem
Paul Stephenson and I have been sending each other postcards with the implicit dare to try to write a poem about whatever is depicted — the stranger, the better. When I received this postcard advertising some kind of noir West End stage production called “The Bear”, it set my head spinning.
I wrote a very different kind of poem about a bear several years ago, a lament that became part of my first short collection Human Shade. But the more I stared at this “dame” with a pistol in her hands, the more she and the bloody-clawed bear behind her seemed to fuse in my mind.
Valerie and I found some old excess footage, now in the public domain, from a Los Angeles film studio in the 1950s, and we put this together with road, wind, and bear noises as accompaniment. So this new film-poem was born.
As the year comes to a close, I find myself in a reflective mood. Having compiled a list of the more than 350 poets I have mentioned on my website since I began writing about poetry in 2003, I was curious to discover which poets I have mentioned most often in the last ten years.
What follows is that list of poets — most alive, some dead; most writing in English, some not; many I have met, some I won’t and never will. Click on the name or image for a brief summary of who each one is and and what they mean to me, and to read what I have written about them over the years.
“…fresh sweat and sweet / Mortality, he found them on the North”
-Thom Gunn, “At the Back of the North Wind”
Paul Stephenson reviewed The Silence Teacher, along with three other pamphlets from Poetry Salzburg, in the current issue of The North. He begins, “If all poetry is essentially about love and loss then there is little need to read beyond Robert Peake’s beautiful and heart-breaking pamphlet, The Silence Teacher”.
He quotes from the book in summary of its themes, and picks up on the “interplay between love and hate” sometimes manifesting in “quiet violence” at various points in the collection. Indeed, sometimes sadness and anger, love and hate, have much in common. He concludes, “These highly-crafted, long-considered poems have so much emotional resonance, from a father who will not teach his son hello, whose son ‘came in waving goodbye'”.
Paul also gives a friendly mention to the Transatlantic Poetry on Air project, and treats the other pamphlets in this series with equally brisk and enticing insights. I look forward to reading the rest of The North, and reading and re-reading my fellow Salzburgian pamphleteers.
Single issues and subscriptions to The North are available from The Poetry Business.
As I mentioned earlier, I have been organising poetry readings for the poets included in the British poetry special feature I edited for Silk Road Review 10. The twist is that both of these readings will be conducted virtually and available globally, using Google+ Hangouts on Air. The dusts has settled, the dates (and stars) have finally aligned, and I am happy to announce two excellent lineups for these events. Save the dates!
Sunday, October 13th at 8PM BST / 3PM EDT / noon PDT
Featuring Patience Agbabi, Katy Evans-Bush, Isabel Galleymore, Chris McCabe, Andrew Philip, Paul Stephenson, and Claire Trévien
Saturday, October 19th at 8PM BST / 3PM EDT / noon PDT
Featuring Liz Berry, Fiona Benson, Mark Burnhope, Abi Curtis, Helen Ivory, Ira Lightman, Rob A. Mackenzie, and Esther Morgan
Click here for the latest news and updates from the Transatlantic Poetry community
Today I received copies of Silk Road Review Issue 10, containing a feature on British Poetry that I edited for the journal. It features a wide range (in terms of age, occupation, background, and geography) of poets whose work I have come to admire in the two years since I relocated to the UK.
From the introduction:
So what is “British” about these poems? First, there is a unique focus on language, its heft and chewiness. To some extent, all good poetry takes up this cause. But in Great Britain, one’s use of language is intimately tied to one’s place of origin. A phenomenal number of dialects, accents, and several distinct languages coexist in close geographic proximity. Place is therefore invoked the moment one opens one’s mouth. From Patience Agbabi’s cold fusion of hip-hop and Chaucer, to Liz Berry’s private defense of her father’s Black Country accent, to Andrew Philip’s Scots-language-infused quatrains — when it comes to place, language is as important as the soil (or concrete) under foot.
Furthermore, in a culture where two strangers can meet and converse for hours before finally (if ever) divulging their own names, deeply confessional poetry is eyed somewhat askance. Yet each poem can still be read as a precise autobiography of the poet’s innermost life. In lieu of the self, these poems are populated with eccentric characters, for the damp climate here seems as conducive to whimsy as it is to mushrooms. From shopkeepers to skeletons, “bear-solemn” organists to the figure of Pippi Longstocking cross-bred with Frankenstein’s monster, antic figures dramatise a panoply of selves.
You can order single copies or subscribe at the Silk Road website.