Jellied Eels (Film-Poem)

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I had a great time reading poems at the Poetry Cafe in Soho tonight as part of the Southbank Poetry Competition awards. Valerie and I also collaborated to turn my third-prize-winning poem, “Jellied Eels”, into the following film-poem.

<a href=""><img src="" alt="jellied-eels" class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-6013" /><br />Click here to play the video</a>

Jellied Eels

Read the text of the poem at the South Bank Poetry Magazine website.

Process Notes

I recorded the poem through a pair of walkie-talkies to achieve the desired vocal effect. When then paired Valerie’s piano composition with morse code sounds. With so much going on auditorily, and because the poem itself is quite visual, we opted for a simple pan-out on time-lapse footage of light on water, which ends with a serpentine blur-cut that seemed to converge upon and reinforce the ending image of the poem quite well.

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Troubadour Poetry Prize Reading

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OwlI made my way to Earls Court on Monday night, to participate in a very special installation of Coffee-House Poetry wherein I was awarded one of twenty commendations in the 2013 Troubadour International Poetry Prize. These were selected, along with first, second, and third prize, by George Szirtes and Deryn Rees-Jones from more than 3,300 entries this year.

Particularly special for me that evening was being asked to also read the third-place poem by Tim Nolan of Minnesota. I found his poem, “Red Wing Correctional Facility”, about teaching poetry to young men in prison, very moving, and was honoured to be able to lend it my voice that night on my countryman’s behalf.

In second place, Mona Arshi’s “Bad Day at the Office” was a funny and affecting surrealist romp through the domestic details of a very bad day indeed. To accept her first-place award, Hideko Sueoka joined us from Tokyo. Even as her poem, “Owl”, deconstructed the sounds of English, gradually reassembling them into the language of owls, so too did Hideko herself seem to transfigure before us.

It was a great pleasure to hear Deryn Rees-Jones and George Szirtes read their own work in the second half. As George was reading, I was reflecting on our Transatlantic Poetry broadcast in August, and thinking how nice it was to be able to hear him read without having to worry myself with any of the technical details. At that moment, one of the stage lights blew. In any case, it was a pleasure to shake his hand — something not possible over the Internet.

Congratulations to everyone involved, and to Anne-Marie Fyfe for seven years running of this notable international poetry competition and the delicious evening that goes with it.

Read all of the prize-winning poems at Coffee-House Poetry.

<a href="" target="_blank">Click to hear an audio recording of the commended poem "Still Life with Bougainvillea"</a>

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Why Sharon Olds?

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Sharon Olds

“You must revise your life.”

-Wiliam Stafford


The audience at the T.S. Eliot Shortlist Reading were the real winners. They were treated to Gillian Clarke’s quiet tenderness, like a swan navigating a near-frozen lake. They relished the sweet sibilance of beekeeper Sean Borodale. Julia Copus gave visions of ova during IVF as ghost-like “luminous pearls.” Michael Schmidt wove Jorie Graham’s linguistic basketwork into their ears. Simon Armitage read out passages of “the British Illiad”. Kathleen Jamie let us witness how she, like her “Roses”, “haggle for my little portion of happiness.” They gasped overhearing Jacob Polley’s conversation between a mum and her stoic stabbed son. They were dogged by Deryn Rees-Jones into regarding “man’s best friend” a little differently. And wisecracking Paul Farley made them all laugh out loud.

Then a girlish woman with long grey hair, pinned back by three small sparkling barrettes, took to the stage. She seemed to read for the shortest span of time — just two poems. Yet what was remarkable is that just as these poems, in their simple, plain-spoken way, were getting good enough for most poets to consider them complete, hers go further. An impressive meditation on breasts transcends the obvious observations, as the poet tells us that, just as this one part of them was once adored by boys when they were teenagers, what all women really want is to be as adored in their entirety this much.

This is the mature Sharon Olds. This is the winner of the 2012 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry. She joins Mark Doty, another poet of intense observation, as one of just two Americans to take home this prize.

Yet this American poet, who pushed the envelope of confessional poetry and inspired a generation toward the genre in its heyday seems at first a somewhat unlikely choice for a British award. Continue reading…

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Long-Listed, National Poetry Competition

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I came home from a long weekend in rural West Sussex to a letter from The Poetry Society informing me that one of my poems had been long-listed for the National Poetry Competition. This means it was selected as one of 130 long-listed poems out of over 11,000 entries to one of the UK’s top prizes.

Unfortunately, it also means that it did not progress further to a commendation or award. Still, it is nice to know the poem made it this far along. And I suppose if we are still living in the UK around this time next year, I will have a chance to enter again. Looking forward to the announcement of winners next month.

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Pushcart Prize Nomination II

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On my way out the door this morning, I nearly stomped on a thin letter posted through the mail slot bearing the logo of Pushcart Press and notifying me that I have been nominated by one or more members of the Board of Contributing Editors for the 2011 Prize. I recognise a number of the names on the Board, and am deeply honored to be considered again this year. Last year one of my poems was nominated by Paul Fericano of The Broadsider. This year, I will once again be watching out for the announcement list, but this time from across the Atlantic. Between this good news, and layers of snow dusting London tonight, it has been quite a special day.

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Pushcart Prize Nomination

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I just received the news that my poem, “Recipe for the Broken,” first published in The Long-Islander and subsequently re-published as a limited edition broadside in The Broadsider Vol. 2, Series 12, has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses XXXVI. I am proud to have this poem put forward in such good company, alongside poets Suzanne Frost, Diane di Prima, William Taylor Jr., Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, and Peg Quinn. Hats off to one and all — and here’s hoping the Pushcart editor likes these poems as well!

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