There was a point at which the analog world was overtaken by the digital, and I was right there, stumbling through puberty from childhood to adolescence.
I can’t resist ekphrasis. So when Gill Stoker of the Mary Evans Picture Gallery sent me a few pictures from the collection and request to (poetically) respond, I gravitated toward a stock image that summed up this formative time.
You can read the poem “1990” on the Gallery’s “Poems and Pictures” blog.
I received my contributor’s copy of what I suspect will be a very important book — for me, surely — and perhaps for others. How to be a Poet strikes me as not only “a twenty-first century guide to writing well”, but also a guide to living well as a writer.
I also quite like the alternative title proposed in the introduction: “A Poem-Writer’s Guide to the Galaxy.” After all, we contain multitudes.
It features the wisdom of two of my favourite poetry people: Jo Bell and Jane Commane, interspersed with excellent guest contributions by Mona Arshi, Jonathan Davidson, Clive Birnie, and many other well-known names in UK poetry. I thought I’d spend a moment or two thumbing through it on the couch when it arrived. I couldn’t put it down.
My own essay represents a manifesto of sorts — again, not about how to write, but how to be as a writer in this mad, mad world. It is called “Making Peace with Poetry”.
If you’re writing poems, or have secretly wanted to, know someone who writes, or are just curious to lift the curtain on the writing life — I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
The book is available from Nine Arches Press, with options for international shipping.
I have had the pleasure of giving two readings at the Dugdale Centre in Enfield: a straight reading last year for the Enfield Poets, and a poetry-and-jazz collaboration evening in 2015. It is a wonderful venue, and I was delighted to contribute my new poem “Ancestral Memory” as part of their poem-of-the-month programme.
If you find yourself near Enfield in North London, do have a look in the window for the poster-sized print. Otherwise, you can read the poem from this photograph (with thanks to Anthony Fisher for taking it).
Two very different poems have appeared in the same week on opposite sides of my native continent.
PoetryBay has been publishing poetry from their Long Island base for many years; The Westerner, focused on themes of the American (and sometimes Wild) West, recently asked for a poem as well.
You can read “Tingle” in the free downloadable Christmas issue of The Westerner (the poem is on page ten), and subscribe to the magazine on their website.
The poem “Reading Dostoevsky in the John Lewis Café” is available at PoetryBay, along with many other excellent poems.
Wishing you all a lovely Christmas, whatever continent you’re on.
Yesterday you were still here.
Today snow has laid itself down
in the lanes, thick as fur.
The flap in the door is locked,
as it would be. You hated snow.
I expect you in my office chair
quick as a ghost, a look to say,
“I’ve been here all along.”
In your final days, my job
was to make sure you kept warm,
stoking the coal fire, tucking
your favourite blanket under
for the payment of a blink.
Once I thought I saw you smile.
Then that last fatherly duty
reassuring you, “I am here”.
My body looks for you at night,
a space at the foot of the bed,
and opening the front door slowly
I still look down before up.
No thud as you jump from the sofa.
No late-night wailing for food.
The house-sounds are empty sounds,
the space filled up with snow.
I received my contributor’s copy of The Interpreter’s House 66 just now.
I am looking forward to digging into it as part of my rest and recovery from a nasty autumn cold. There are many names I recognise here, and a few whose work I’d like to get to know better.
There are a lot of inventions nowadays — tangible, digital, informational. My poem touches on that topic. You can see a quick snap of it here.
To order Issue 66 or subscribe, check out The Interpreter’s House website.