Readers will know I don’t generally consider myself a long poem poet. At the T.S. Eliot Shortlist Reading last weekend, Sean O’Brien remarked that one of the most dreaded phrases in a poetry reading is (said darkly), “and now for something longer.” Recalling this, I descended the stairs of the brutalist Barbican Theater into the music library, recalling the Vogon dungeon from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in which the protagonist is forced to listen to the “third worst poetry in the universe” as torture.
Fortunately, owing to great variety, imagination, and craft, the evening was anything but a Vogon experience. I was pleased to read my own poem, “In Pieces”, after The Lewis Chessmen, alongside nearly a dozen others. Paul Bentley read a poem about the river Don; Lucy Sixsmith recalled her gap-year missionary work in a rehab clinic in Russia; Alastair McGlashan gave us a prayer translated from the Tamil; Joe Dresner wrestled with philosophy and Ashbery; Janet Sutherland introduced the disturbing and enigmatic Bone Monkey; Robert Chandler translated a Russian folk tale via Pushkin; Abi Curtis revisited Mrs. Beeton in light of her historical anxieties; Jacqueline Smith produced a ballad in Scots about an unlikely witch-hunter; David Punter introduced us to various founding characters of the city of Bristol; Jemma Borg read an insightful and associative prose-poem-come-essay on sleep, and Robert Vas Dias touched on the delights of the quotidian through the Korean Sijo form.
Long Poem Magazine creates an important opportunity, in a time of increasingly compressed information, for that “something longer” to thrive. Issue 7 is now available to order online.
Note: “In Pieces”, along with several other poems, has been made into an eponymous e-book that is now available for instant download.