Poetry in Divisive Times

In the wake of rising authoritarianism in the US, and isolationism here in the UK, I have found it hard to sit down and write poetry. Clearly this seems to be a time for action more than words.

Revisiting an essay from 2007, written in the wake of US censorship of Iranian poetry, I began to re-formulate and re-work some thoughts from this piece into an argument with and for myself about why creative acts still matter.

You can read the results in a new short piece on The Huffington Post. I welcome your thoughts in the comments.


Five Expat Poets to Watch in 2016

To my knowledge, the T.S. Eliot prize shortlist has never included someone in Eliot’s own circumstances — that is, an American-born poet living in the UK. Yet there are many of us out here, and many worth knowing more about.

I have therefore complied a list of Five Expat Poets to Watch in 2016.

Seek them out, enjoy their work, and raise a cup of tea to the special (poetic) relationship.

View the complete list here.


The Zombie-Slayer School of Poetry

tor-johnson

The internet wants to turn us into zombies.

I behold the transformation, as one by one my fellow commuters whip out their smartphones — the eyes go dead, the jaw goes slack, drool glistening at the corners of the mouth. They are reading, yes, but what are they reading? A mish-mash of “messaging” designed to provoke consumer behaviour.

Like a zombie, the internet wants to consume your brain. It’s how zombies spread. But poetry wants the opposite — it wants to give, not take. It wants to give you back your brains.

In a new review for Huffington Post, I take a close look at two poets who are taking on the zombie-like drone of mass media with their own fresh language. Equally adroit in high and low registers — as comfortable undoing the undead with a high-powered rifle as with a cricket bat — these two associate as freely as search engine results, tackling big questions with humour, pathos, and self-conscious aplomb.

This poetry will give you back your brains — and perhaps even a bit of your heart.