The summer and autumn months are looking good for poetry.
I will be giving a variety of readings, in a variety of different formats, at various locations throughout the UK, between now and the end of October.
Hope to see you there!
Sponsored by the Poetry Society as part of National Poetry Day , Denise Riley, Steve Ely, Zaffar Kunial, and Warsan Shire premiere powerful poetic responses in this centennial commemoration of the First World War. Visuals by Robert Peake.
“A poem is a provisional darning across that [psychic] tear.”
Behind Jane Hirshfield, drizzle smeared the windows framing London’s icons to make an impressionist painting. She read generously from new work and old standards, and even revealed some personal detail when asked about the significance of a particular poem in the Q&A. Though myself a former Berkeleyite, I had never heard her read in person. How marvelous to encounter her six thousand miles away. Though confident and grounded, she seemed to be appreciating the poetry alongside us, rather than reinforcing the fourth wall.
In her writing process, Jane embraces negative capability, transience and paradox. For her poetry, like Zen, is about eschewing shorthand categories and embracing the moment with keen observation. Though encompassing, and often wildly associative, the work always seems sure-footed — braiding narrative and philosophy, imagery and music — and always lands in interesting territory, often far from the starting point. Increasingly political, her poems never forget to “tell it slant”, and that poetry always wins out over rhetoric for the purpose of expanding the mind.
What lovely wounds and beautiful scars; what wholeness she weaves from fleeting threads — a magnificent magpie poet, gentle spirit and kindhearted kin.
Visas can be tricky things. At the start of last night’s reading, it was announced that Nikola Madzirov might not be able to attend. There had been trouble getting the British Consulate to return his non-EU visa to him during his tour of South America, and his plane had only touched down minutes before the programme began. It all lay in the hands of immigration, customs and — worst of all — London traffic as to whether he would show up in time to read at all.
The programme was designed to intersperse British poets with continental European voices, in hopes of overcoming some of the “ossification” of British perceptions of European poetry. Indeed, it was the Europeans I found most vital and captivating, and upon them I will focus for now.
Swiss poet Daniele Pantano read from his “undergraduate” work in honour of his own undergraduate students making the trip out to see him. He spoke of his time in suburban America as an “exile”, which he defined as “a city reared by eternal artifice.” His most striking work revolved around his mother’s suicide and the haunt of Nazism in Europe. Continue reading…
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.