Friday, July 27, 2012

Review of Constellations

"What’s particularly important about Constellations is the way Pindar has forged a style based on Modernist and non-British role-models that sets it bravely apart from the run-of-the-mill complacencies of so many volumes published today. In so doing, it reminds us both of the restrictive set of tacit conventions many poets are writing by, and of the vastly wider possibilities embodied in looking beyond these same conventions and towards areas of poetry far more ambitious, complex and powerful than anything written in the UK in the last 10 years (the usual source of influence for new poets.)"
Oliver Dixon/Ictus

Forgive me. I just had to quote that. More here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Stop the Clock 2.0

My wife's debut novel Stop the Clock has a new front cover. Pre-order it now, should the mood take you, and check out her blog and tweets and whatnot.

In other news: The Forward people pass me over again. Silly Forward people. Geoffrey Hill should win, but so should Jorie Graham.

One day they'll get what I'm up to. I may be dead by then, though. 

Inspiring words for all fellow poets ignored by the Forward people:

Do your stuff, listen hard and make discoveries. If we’re right, we’ll turn out to be termites in their wooden legs. If we’re wrong, the birds will eat us.

William Carlos Williams, Selected Letters (to James Laughlin, 26 April 1939)

Williams's letters are recommended reading for any poet feeling a little neglected by the tastemakers of the day. Here's another:

Floss [his wife] just showed me the review of my poems in the N.Y. Times which came out today! I'm just short of being one of the best, it seems. That's too bad.

(to Horace Gregory, 22 July 1939)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Where I’m Calling From: Six of the Best

I feel so totally out of step with mainstream British poetry at the moment that I thought it might be pertinent to list the modern poets I rate most highly. (Warning: They are all men* and only one of them is not American.) These are the poets I reach for at night before bed. And it fills me with pride and joy to know that I share a publisher with four of them.

1. Paul Celan

2. Charles Olson

3. George Oppen

4. Ezra Pound

5. Wallace Stevens

6. William Carlos Williams

* In my defence, a longer list would include Elizabeth Bishop, the magnificent Susan Howe, Sylvia Plath, Marianne Moore, and others.

Reading suggestions:

1. Paul Celan

Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan, trans. John Felstiner (better than the Penguin Hamburger translation, and best read alongside Felstiner’s Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew)

2. Charles Olson

Carcanet publish A Charles Olson Reader (including his hugely important essay “Projective Verse”), plus get the Selected Poems edited by Robert Creeley. Two volumes of Collected Poems await the true convert.

3. George Oppen

Carcanet publish the New Collected Poems and seek out any recordings you can find -- if you haven’t heard Oppen read you won’t understand how his poems are phrased; but once that voice is in your head, you will never escape it.

4. Ezra Pound

The New Selected Poems and Translations for starters, then The Cantos. Also any recordings you can find. Pound is another poet whose voice is unmistakable and unforgettable.

5. Wallace Stevens

The Palm at the End of the Mind is a lovely selection of his poems, then on to the Collected Poems and Opus Posthumous and The Necessary Angel (prose). I actually prefer late Stevens (from, say, Transport to Summer onwards) to Harmonium.

6. William Carlos Williams

Carcanet publish a very fine two-volume Collected Poems. His essays are important too.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Restored Finnegans Wake

I’ve been meaning to say something about The Restored Finnegans Wake for ages. Instead, here’s a nice piece in the Times Literary Supplement by Gordon Bowker (though I suspect the Beckett anecdote he mentions (“Come in”) is apocryphal). Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon have done an excellent job, and all praise to Penguin for supporting their work. It’s expensive to reset a text (and a text like Finnegans Wake – well, that’s a unique undertaking) and it is wonderful to see the book in a new incarnation.

The revised text makes Joyce’s intentions much clearer – in particular how he plays with different text formats – although my first impression was one of dismay when I saw The Mookse and the Gripes section (one of my favourites) is now set in reduced type (new p.121, old p.152). Still, it would seem that this is what Joyce intended, so I will just have to get used to it.

Of course, resetting the book means the pagination is different too, so all future scholarly works on the Wake will now have to make mention of yet another set of page references! Argh!

Also, as Bowker makes clear, there is another difficulty: an uncertainty as to how this text stands in relation to the standard text; it seems to exist parallel to it, rather than becoming the definitive text in its own right.

Still, to those familiar with Joyce’s masterwork who want to see it with new eyes, I’d highly recommend getting hold of this revised Penguin edition.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I want to be Azealia Banks

So, I didn’t win the Seamus Heaney Prize (I’m not sure the winner has been announced yet).

I was going to wallow in self-pity and post Jeff Buckley’s cover of “I Know It’s Over”, which I think gives Morrissey a run for his money.

Then I thought, No. Bring it on world. And I decided the video below better represented my current mood.

An odd thing happened when I watched this video for the first time. I sat transfixed throughout the whole thing, and afterwards I realised I didn’t want to “be with” (ahem) Azealia Banks, I wanted to BE Azealia Banks.

So there we are, the truth is out. I want to be Azealia Banks. (This is either incipient middle age or insanity. I welcome them both.)

Well, I never said I was normal. As Foucault once observed, we must all affirm our legitimate strangeness.

That, for me, is what poetry is all about.

*******POTTY MOUTH ALERT! *******

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Stop the Clock

It’s all happening in the life of my wife.

Her enormously entertaining debut novel Stop the Clock is out in August.

So buy it! Buy it now! Or by thunder I’ll . . .

She has just started blogging, too, and even tweeting.

So wish her luck as she begins what promises to be a long & rewarding career.

Go girl!