In Praise of Randomness

Random LettersSometimes I need a little help turning over the creative engine when starting a new poem. I have developed a tool that helps me to do just that, and am sharing it with the community in case it helps other poets to ignite their muse as well.

Poetic constraints — such as patterns of alliteration, metre, and rhyme — originally served as mnemonic devices in pre-literate societies. Patterned speech is inherently easier to remember, which is why recalling a nursery rhyme is still easier than memorising prose. Stylised forms of language remained in favour long after writing developed, but in the twenty-first century, the only requirement of a contemporary poet is that they somehow end up writing a poem.
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Revolutionising Poetry with Technology (Survey Results)

p:\First and foremost, thanks to the more than 300 people who took a minute or two out of their busy lives to respond to my brief survey. Clearly people want to record their opinions, and hear what others think, about poetry and technology.

You can see the general report of survey results here. I have also charted and analysed this information below, with some interesting conclusions.

Intention and Methods

First, I should say that the intention of this survey was not to get a broad picture of general attitudes toward poetry, but to focus on specific aspects in a specific group. For a good general analysis, I recommend the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry in America study.

Now, a brief word about my methods. I posted the survey to my website and my social media networks, where it was generously shared by a wide range of established and up-and-coming poets. I also posted this survey to two prominent amateur writer websites, where the focus is on community critique.
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The Space it Might Take

The Space it Might Take (Highgate Poets, 2014)I am pleased to have four poems, including the eponymous poem from my forthcoming collection The Knowledge in The Space it Might Take, the 26th biennial anthology of the Highgate Poets.

It is a pleasure to see these poems beside some of the strongest work over the last two years from each member of this unique North London poetry collective. In fact, I think it may be their best volume yet.

Hats off to those involved in its painstaking production. You can get your copy at the Highgate Poets website.


Five Reviews in Poetry Salzburg Review 26

Poetry Salzburg Review, Autumn 2014My reviews of five poetry collections appear in the current issue of Poetry Salzburg Review. Each poet, and collection, could not be more different from the next.

American poet Maureen Alsop’s Mantic is a bewitching book of divinations; Irish poet Gene Barry’s Unfinished Business is a humanistic raconteur’s parade; Midlands English poet Helen Calcutt layers deep, meditative imagery in Sudden rainfall; Professor Heger’s Daughter by Southeastern English poet Chrissie Gittins offers a by turns incisive and funny collection of philosophical bon mots; Northern English poet Andrew McMillan’s protest of the physical is a Howl for the post-industrial North.

It was a pleasure to read and review them all.


Ten Favourite Animated Film-Poems

up-so-lateI have loved both poetry and animation for as long as I can remember. Lucky me to be born in the age of the animated film-poem.

I was therefore delighted to be asked to pick ten of my favourites (each for very different reasons) to submit as the first in a series of “top ten” lists for Moving Poems Magazine.

Some are based on poems by poets I know and respect, like Tim Nolan and Marvin Bell — others from poets new to me writing in a range of English accents as well as Galician, Russian, Hungarian, and Catalan.

You can watch all ten, with brief commentary from me about each one, online at movingpoems.com.


The Book of Love and Loss

“All the new thinking is about loss. / In this it resembles all the old thinking.”

-Robert Hass, “Meditation at Lagunitas
The Book of Love & LossLove and loss have been very present with me lately. Such thoughts were recently punctuated by the heavy thud of a parcel dropping through our mail slot — my contributor’s copy of The Book of Love and Loss.

The anthology weighs in at nearly 400 poems, and reads like the roll-call at a meeting of the Highgate Poets. It also features English laureates Andrew Motion and Carol Ann Duffy, Welsh laureate Gillian Clarke, children’s laureate Michael Rosen, and Frieda Hughes — daughter of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. I was also pleased to see Carrie Etter’s Birthmother Catechism series represented here as well, having recently heard her read these poems at the Swindon Festival of Poetry.

Following on from the dedication, the work seems to be its own labour of love, and tribute of sorts, to the recently-departed UA Fanthorpe. It also aims to give solace to any who grieve, and seek comfort in the music of language. For this reason, it is an honour to have my poem “The Silence Teacher” among its pages.

Belgrave Press, Bath (Hardbound, 384pp, £12.99)