Transatlantic Poetry Mission Accomplished

Churchill giving the victory signI just finished part two of the Silk Road British Poetry readings. We featured eleven poets in total across the two live online readings. With this, I have accomplished what I set out to do.

Now that my personal mission has been fulfilled, it is time for Transatlantic Poetry on Air to enter a new phase, helping other poetry organisations to fulfill their own missions, playing Virgil to their adventures in this realm of new technology. All of this is to say that I am now both done and just getting started.
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Silk Road British Poetry Readings on Air

As I mentioned earlier, I have been organising poetry readings for the poets included in the British poetry special feature I edited for Silk Road Review 10. The twist is that both of these readings will be conducted virtually and available globally, using Google+ Hangouts on Air. The dusts has settled, the dates (and stars) have finally aligned, and I am happy to announce two excellent lineups for these events. Save the dates!

Sunday, October 13th at 8PM BST / 3PM EDT / noon PDT
Featuring Patience Agbabi, Katy Evans-Bush, Isabel Galleymore, Chris McCabe, Andrew Philip, Paul Stephenson, and Claire Trévien
Silk Road British Poetry Reading on Air, Part I

Saturday, October 19th at 8PM BST / 3PM EDT / noon PDT
Featuring Liz Berry, Fiona Benson, Markie Burnhope, Abi Curtis, Helen Ivory, Ira Lightman, Rob A. Mackenzie, and Esther Morgan
Silk Road British Poetry Reading on Air

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Transatlantic Poetry Readings On Air

Transatlantic Poetry CommunityIf, like me, you are thrilled by the idea of being invited into the homes of remarkable poets thousands of miles apart to hear them read their best work, then you, my friend, are living in the right era. That time is now.

Since the early days of the Internet, I have been fascinated by the possibilities for making and sharing art. When my alma mater began broadcasting their Lunch Poems series at the turn of the century, I was delighted. It meant that not only could residents of Berkeley come to campus to hear free, live readings by world-class poets on their lunch hour, but that anyone could tune in from anywhere in the world. Still, the poets had to come to campus to read their poems.

In 2009, I interviewed Scottish poet Andrew Philip over Skype from my home in California as part of a “virtual book tour” for the launch of his first collection. Using screen capture technology, I was able to record our conversation and upload it for others to see. It was thrilling to connect across such a distance. However, producing the video was cumbersome, and was only available after the fact, not as a live broadcast.

This is why I was so excited to be contacted by Google back in April to hear about their celebrations of US National Poetry Month through a series of readings using Google+ Hangouts On Air. I was sadly unable to participate due to work commitments, but recalled the conversation when the British Poetry Special Feature from Silk Road Review that I edited came out earlier this month.

I wanted to celebrate the issue and bring the British poets together for a reading. However, they come from all over the UK, and travel to London can be difficult and costly. Plus, so much of the intent of the publication was to share the work of these poets with readers in the US.

Then it occurred to me that the reading need not be physical. So, with the support of the poets, Google, and Pacific University (sponsors of Silk Road Review), we are in the final stages of selecting dates for a very special poetry reading to be broadcast worldwide using Google+ Hangouts On Air. Continue reading…


British Poetry Special, Silk Road Review

Silk Road Review 10Today I received copies of Silk Road Review Issue 10, containing a feature on British Poetry that I edited for the journal. It features a wide range (in terms of age, occupation, background, and geography) of poets whose work I have come to admire in the two years since I relocated to the UK.

From the introduction:

So what is “British” about these poems? First, there is a unique focus on language, its heft and chewiness. To some extent, all good poetry takes up this cause. But in Great Britain, one’s use of language is intimately tied to one’s place of origin. A phenomenal number of dialects, accents, and several distinct languages coexist in close geographic proximity. Place is therefore invoked the moment one opens one’s mouth. From Patience Agbabi’s cold fusion of hip-hop and Chaucer, to Liz Berry’s private defense of her father’s Black Country accent, to Andrew Philip’s Scots-language-infused quatrains — when it comes to place, language is as important as the soil (or concrete) under foot.

Furthermore, in a culture where two strangers can meet and converse for hours before finally (if ever) divulging their own names, deeply confessional poetry is eyed somewhat askance. Yet each poem can still be read as a precise autobiography of the poet’s innermost life. In lieu of the self, these poems are populated with eccentric characters, for the damp climate here seems as conducive to whimsy as it is to mushrooms. From shopkeepers to skeletons, “bear-solemn” organists to the figure of Pippi Longstocking cross-bred with Frankenstein’s monster, antic figures dramatise a panoply of selves.

You can order single copies or subscribe at the Silk Road website.


Silk Road British Poetry Feature

Silk Road ReviewI spent the past several months editing a special feature on British Poetry for the US literary journal Silk Road Review. The project came about as a natural extension of my private efforts to help expose more interested Americans to the remarkable scope and diversity of poetry I have encountered since relocating to London eighteen months ago. And what a scope it is!

I focused on poets writing in English on the isle of Great Britain. Silk Road celebrates literature of place, and in Great Britain, place is invoked the moment one opens one’s mouth — from Patience Agbabi’s cold fusion of hip-hop and Chaucer, to Liz Berry’s private defense of her father’s Black Country accent, to Andrew Philip’s Scots-language-infused quatrains.

The geographic range is wide in this collection — encompassing Scotland, Wales, and various distinct regions of northern and southern England — as the following map attests.

<a href="http://cdn.robertpeake.com/silkroad-map.html"><img src="/files/2012/11/silkroad-map.png" alt="Click here for map"></a>

These poets also vary considerably in age, occupation, and background. But above all it is the mix of poems I love — the heft and chewiness of language, the eccentric panoply of characters, the private moments keenly observed. The feature will appear in Silk Road 10, due out late spring/early summer next year. You can subscribe now to ensure that you don’t miss a word.


First Poetry Event in London

I recently attended my first poetry reading since moving to London, and wrote about the experience for the Silk Road Review Blog:

As I travelled by tube to the Southbank Centre to attend the first event of the London Literature Festival, and my first poetry reading since moving to London two months ago, I took with me my American expectations about poetry venues: coffee shops, small community centers, the occasional well-appointed-but-out-of-the way theater or library hall. Seated facing the podium on the sixth floor of this clean, bright temple to art, I kept examining the layers of the backdrop as if it were a painting. First, a Union Jack. Then the London Eye. And on the far side of the Thames, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. This was not a painting, however, but a window. The statement was clear: art, and for this evening, poetry, commands a central place in Britain. However, centrality means anything but homogeneity, as the four readers in this “Poetry of Place” event demonstrated.

Read the full article online at the Silk Road Review Blog.