What Have I Been Reading: December 2014 – March 2015

Up-dated March 2015

Too little poetry-reading time recently has meant I’ve been thinking a lot about two texts we are using for A level coursework at the moment:

Tennessee Williams’ first great success, the autobiographical The Glass Menagerie, seems to strike chords in most modern teenagers and contains one of my favourite quotes: “I know I seem dreamy”, Tom says to Jim the Gentleman Caller, “but inside – well, I’m boiling!”

images

This is being read alongside Sylvia Plath’s only completed novel, The Bell Jar. Plath divides students every time – poetry or prose – my one observation is that with repeated teaching the book thins rather than deepens.

images

I’ve eventually got to read Colette Bryce’s recent new book, many of the poems about her childhood in Derry: short, focused, honest and managing memorable things within a very narrow linguistic palette.

imgres

Anna Robinson’s new collection also works within a narrowed range of language choices. She produces strange folk-tale-like poems, which keep rubbing their eyes, not sure whether what they are seeing is contemporary London or some mythic rural past. Mysterious poetry.

imgres

I’ve been dipping again into The Book of Love and Loss, eds., Rosie Bailey and June Hall (Belgrave Press, Bath, 2014), in part because I am reading from it at the end of next month at Heffers Bookshop, Cambridge.

imgres

Blake Morrsion’s Shingle Street is his first full collection since 1987 and while there are flashes of the poet I once admired (I thought Dark Glasseswas very good) the book is full of rather dull thoughts – nature, ageing – and language that fails to lift off the page.

imgres

Up-dated February 2015

Jonathan Edwards’ Costa Poetry prize-winning first collection from Seren is as accessible and diverting as the front cover would suggest and any poet inspired to write by the Simpsons is OK with me. Whether the jokes, caricaturing, a rather sit-comy stories survive repeated reading is something I’m still debating.

imgres

Rose Auslander’s minimalist gems are hewn out of the silences associated with her suffering in the ghetto in Czernowitz (and influenced by her friendship with Paul Celan). I am pleased to be reviewing this refreshed collection from Arc for a future Poetry London alongside Volker Braun’sRubble Flora – see below .

imgres

Peter Robinson’s most recent Shearsman collection continues his lyric exploration of the profundities to be found just beneath the surface of the everyday.

imgres

Mario Petrucci’s Crib from Enitharmon extends his experiments under the influence of Black Mountain. Poems sometimes stunning and economical, at others too self-consciously aware of language as an object (blocking the reader’s view). There’s certainly not much else like this around British poetry at the moment.

imgres

Emily Berry’s poems don’t attend much to Glyn Maxwell’s concerns with the tension between black ink and white space (see:https://martyncrucefix.com/2014/08/13/the-art-of-the-line-break/). The poetry is in the connections or lack of them and therefore leans to the surreal, with some palpable hits and other dead passages.

imgres

Up-dated January 2015

Patricia McCarthy’s chunky Agenda issue on The Great War is full of fascinating original poetry, translations and essays on French, German and Italian war poetry and reconsiderations of Edward Thomas, David Jones and Ivor Gurney among others.

agenda_-_requiem_the_great_war

Josh Ekroy has been appearing on prize lists all over the place recently and his debut collection from Nine Arches Press is full of engaged, disturbing poems, capable of dealing with militarism and warfare:

imgres

I’ve been reading George Oppen’s work via Louise Gluck’s admiration for him; I’m still working on it . . . .

41vxLKUGC3L._UY250_

Debra Albery, an American friend who works at Warren Wilson, recommended this book of new poems by Ellen Bryant Voigt, full of the natural scenery of Vermont and fascinatingly eschewing all punctuation (like WS Merwin) to track the little manoeuvring negotiations of mind with world:

51z+jK085gL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Wislawa Szymborska’s chatty, deceptively easy-listening poems in this 2010 translation make poetry writing look easy and able to encompass almost any topic:

71ceuvjjSJL

Up-dated December 2014

Nathan Hamilton’s big baggy collection of new poetry from Bloodaxe:672e5f96e2707467131a6f685241870c

Christine Keneally’s comprehensive review of contemporary ideas on the evolution of language:m000463281_sc7

Martha Kapos’ powerful new collection from Enitharmon:Kapos_Likeness_cover_final.indd

Brilliant selected poems from German poet Volker Braun, translated by Karen Leeder and David Constantine (Seagull Books):Layout 1

Pascale Petit’s powerful and strangely lit memorial to her father (Seren):

A bundle of 50 sticks to start a fire

I have used this form – derived from Lee Harwood – for a blog-poem before. I rather like its loose encompassment and also as a welcome change to the often ‘lit crit’ nature of my usual blogs. Just roll with it . . . it’s what I say to myself. This one is dedicated to Stephen Stuart-Smith and all at Enitharmon Press.

images

 
 
A bundle of 50 sticks to start a fire

(for Stephen)

I did not break my fast Thursday last

Rose and showered at 7am before realizing and getting back under the covers for another 20 minutes

The street strangely lit there seemed to be so much more sky

The council have cut down flowering cherries claiming they are diseased but the word is it is to prevent – in both senses – claims against them for subsidence

At the surgery I was sixth in line

reading Blake Morrison on Ted Hughes published 5 September 1993 on yellowing newspaper pages that had tumbled out of a book I was re-shelving

As for his marriage to Plath, one day he may choose to speak about it, but for now –

I glimpse an old neighbor now divorced his wife and children have moved out we nod but very remotely

never watch when the blood is taken

images

Starbucks trade in the medical centre I watched being built years ago when I’d swim more often even then imagining myself at one of the windows waiting for news of some test or other

T. has woken by the time I return to eat but it’s me who puts away the groceries that have been delivered

handed me the bottle of wine laughing you don’t want to lose that he said my hesitation as I re-envisaged him as a romantic gift-bringer left an awkward pause I couldn’t cover

How does I have plenty of time transform itself swiftly into running late

hardly anywhere to park

Queens Wood stretches up behind these houses then bridges a road then sinks following its contours to the pond then rises again climbing to Muswell Hill and this is to be boxed into the word ‘topography’

A half empty carriage

‘Ultragreen’ in which what is out there seems to come inside in a process Kate cleverly likens to photosynthesis and cleverly this gets away from me

imgres

The Whitehill Food Market I have passed that place

Walking up from the Emirates when I can’t get my mind off the strange limps and weaves of the way other people walk they are not hell but merely unfamiliar ways of moving

the fountains flow in the centre of the square

A dog wets its feet and drops a red ball into the pool and I guess its owner will be irritated by that

Brecht refused to award the prize to any of the five hundred entries. In none, he said, was there any successful attempt to communicate anything of any value

‘Nothing makes me feel more like a poet than being unable to talk’

Pub date Isobel calls it pub date

The absence of punctuation is in the spirit of the Daodejing it is the water course way one drop of water in the ocean no trace of it but don’t tell me it’s not there

A house in Selbourne

An image of a child with arms outstretched fingers widespread so much he might be a tree

Ripples of damp sand are the footprints of the shaggy oceanic beast

‘To embrace’

y30

A plain cheese and tomato brown bread roll and I am back madeleine-like to dinner-time sandwiches at Junior School during which we’d meet Mum from work and sit in Trowbridge Park why did we do that

It must have saved money

A timetable is the opposite of the way water flows and this grid dominates my life

Poems not even by rote but by the hour of the day

‘Pike’ so we watched YouTube clips of fish ducklings kittens being devoured it gets them started

Town kids city dwellers

as out of place as John Wyndham’s alien creatures like little pink M&Ms on four legs two of which are really arms they carry fire sticks

‘A sort of genocide’

The original Homer Simpson whose hands are uncontrollable

‘his thumb received a nasty cut. Although the wound must have hurt, the calm, slightly querulous expression he usually wore did not change’

images

Explore how far West’s presentation of Homer suggests he is a trapped man

The spider plant on the windowsill looks anaemic in its white pot against white painted window frames against thunderheads miles off

I am free at 17.10

I don’t need most of this

Occasionally there are evenings I can’t remember where I parked the car once I thought I’d left it on the garage forecourt after filling it up and I went in and got them to review the CCTV footage which told me that I had driven it away earlier that day and like some log-jam shifting slightly I had a vision of parking it on First Avenue and there it was all along

I need a framework perhaps

‘Echo Beach far away in time Echo Beach far away in time’

I like to change my clothes after a day’s work

So I asked them to bring in pictures of pike and this one brought in a picture of a cod

A Delia recipe

The evening is filled with cakes of varying heights

42