Silk Over Steel: First Review of The Knowledge

Good things happen on Twitter.

I have Gail Borrow to thank for introducing me (and my work) to Rachel Stirling via this recent tweet exchange.

I scrambled an electronic review copy of my forthcoming book The Knowledge, and she read deeply into the poems.

The poet moves from couplet through the numbered stanzas to free verse, and back again, with confidence and grace. The pace is impressive, largely because the poems are a joy of enjambment. … The work is elegant and strong. If it is silk then it is silk over steel.

You can read Rachel’s full review, and many equally astute others, on stirlingwriter.com.

Also, if you write reviews in print or online and would like to peruse your own copy of The Knowledge, please do get in touch.


Namesake (Film-Poem)

<a href="https://vimeo.com/118540384"><img src="http://cdn5.peakepro.com/files/2015/02/namesake-1024x575.png" alt="Namesake (Film-Poem)" class="alignnone" style="width: 100%; max-width: 800px; min-width: 280px; border=0;"/><br/>Click to watch video</a>

About the Poem

I essentially wrote this poem for a dare. Click here to read the text of the poem, and more about how it came to be.

Process Notes

Having already enhanced this ekphrastic poem with imagery, I decided that a film-poem seemed like an obvious next step. Visually, the film follows the poem’s concerns about different kinds of reality — personal, virtual, and historical — by playing with dimensionality.

It gave me the opportunity to try out parallax 2.5d animation using all open-source tools (Gimp and Blender), which I found both painstaking and enjoyable. I also mocked up flat animations in HTML and Javascript — such as the opening search scene and ending Matrix-style text, using screen capture to convert it to video. Valerie Kampmeier wrote and performed the score, inspired by courtly dances and the D-minor feel of a dial-up modem sequence.


Interview with Paulo Brito Online

Photo by Paul BrittoI first met Portuguese artist and editor Paulo Brito online.

He kindly published an essay I wrote about magical realism in his journal The Ironic Fantastic, and then re-approached me recently for an interview on his website.

In it, I talk about my influences and mentors, current projects, and writing process. You can read all about it on his website, Porta VIII.

Many thanks to Paulo for this.


Innovation and Craft: A Trans-Atlantic Theory of Poetry

“Poetry must be as new as foam, and as old as the rock”

-Emerson

Dichotomies are often false but useful. Contemplating the similarities and differences between British and American poetry, having steeped myself in both for some time now, I have been slicing my experiences as a reader along two axes: innovation and craft.

Ancestors to the word “craft” come from Germanic languages and originally had to do with “strength, force, power, virtue”, making the transition to mean skill in art or occupation exclusively in English. To “innovate” comes from Latin and French and has always meant, as Ezra Pound would assert, “Make it new!”.

To better define the effects of innovation and craft on readers of poetry, here are some comparisons:

Craft Innovation
Reassures us with skill Disorients us with newness
Builds trust Generates excitement
Pleases the senses Delights the mind
Refers to convention Inaugurates new paradigms

Continue reading…


Four Poems in Fowl Feathered Review

Marilyn with Lobster, from Fowl Feathered ReviewIt somehow escaped my attention that four new poems appeared in Issue 9 of Fowl Feathered Review toward the end of last year.

I responded to a call from Virgil Kay, mastermind of this highly eclectic online journal, via Twitter. The wild assemblage of text in various languages and images from different eras reminded me of the collaged ‘zines of the ’90s brought into the digital age. I have never quite seen anything like it. So, I am delighted to have had four poems adopted here.

To date, this is also the only publication I can claim to have had beside a full-page picture of Marilyn Monroe with a lobster on her face.

Enjoy.


The Decline of Goodness in Poetry

“You do not have to be good.”

-Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”

What kind of poetry will people be reading 100 years from now? It is impossible to predict for sure. Yet certain quantifiable trends in the poems published over the past hundred years give a definite indication of where poetry has been, and may give us some clues as to where it is going.

Methodology

As I have said before, aesthetic matters must be confronted on aesthetic terms. In 1968 a team of researchers asked people to rate different words in the English language on various numerical scales, such as the age the person first learned the meaning of this word and whether the word denotes something masculine or feminine. In 2004, another team extended this research, giving us the Clark and Paivio (2004) Norms — a set of 32 different scores for 925 special words (hereafter “Clark-Paivio words”).

Poetry magazine may be considered a bellwether of taste in American poetry, and conveniently has made nearly 3,000 poems stretching from its inception in 1912 to the present day all available online.

I trained computer software to analyse each one of these poems, counting how often a Clark-Paivio word appeared, which happened nearly 23,000 times in the available online corpus of poems. Armed with this large collection data, I then used a strategy similar to that of Michael Coleman Dalvean, creator of Poetry Assessor. I took the averages of the Clark-Paivio word scores across all 32 variables, rolling these up into an overall score for each poem. For example, the Clark-Paivio word with the lowest age of acquisition is “toy” at 1.5, whereas “bivouac” gets a score of 6.7. If a poem used both words, the poem itself would then get a score of (1.5 + 6.7) / 2 = 4.1 for the “age” variable.
Continue reading…


London Poems in The Knowledge

I am currently on the other side of the world from London, flying from Sydney to Hong Kong.

Yet London has been my residence and preoccupation for the past several years, culminating in my forthcoming debut full-length collection of poetry, The Knowledge.

Many of the poems are set in a specific place in London. So, as supplement to a more traditional table of contents, what follows is an interactive Google map of poem titles, including links to online version of the poems where applicable.

<a href="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/viewer?mid=zFGf_lwPvijI.knpShiwKF_I8"><img src="http://cdn5.peakepro.com/files/2015/01/london-poems.png" alt="London Map" class="alignnone" style="width: 100%; max-width: 800px; min-width: 320px; border: 0;"/><br/>Click here to view the map</a>