Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Maria Taylor at Totally Wired

The second Totally Wired poetry night, at the Wired Cafe Bar, Nottingham, takes place next Wednesday, March 4th, from 6.30-8pm. The guest reader is Leicester (well, Loughborough) poet and Nine Arches stablemate Maria Taylor.

As last time, there'll be open mic slots available in the first half - just sign up on the night. Entry is free, and of course there's fine coffee and other refreshments available throughout. There's more information on the event, and the cafe, here.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

States of Independence 2015

The sixth States of Independence book fair takes place on Saturday, March 14th, in the Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Leicester. Dozens of publishers from the East Midlands and beyond will be displaying and selling their wares, from 10.30am-4.30pm.

As always, it's free, and there'll be readings, seminars, workshops, panels and book launches, as well as the announcement of the East Midlands Book Award shortlist.

Friday, 6 February 2015

New from Muldoon

I go through phases, where Paul Muldoon is concerned. When I'm enjoying his work, I really enjoy it. At other times, I get that feeling that you get whenever you've eaten or drunk too much of a good thing (and maybe that's all that's the problem - when he's good, you can't help reading another poem, and another, and another).

But anyway, he's got me hooked straight away this time, if this Guardian review is anything to go by. All those Anglo-Saxon references, you see. I'll add it to the list.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Fire and Dust meets Nine Arches open mic

Tomorrow night (Wednesday, February 4th), I'll be reading with Jayne Stanton at the Big Comfy Bookshop, Coventry CV1 5EA, as part of the Fire and Dust/Nine Arches open mic.

The open mic slots, which feature both poetry and flash fiction, start from 7.30pm, with the readings from around 9pm. Come along and sign up, and join in the fun.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Wanderer

A Kindle edition of Jane Holland's version of The Wanderer is out now, priced £1.99. I enjoyed it very much when it originally came out in print, being partial to all things Anglo-Saxon anyway, but the great thing about it is that it really requires no prior knowledge of Anglo-Saxon poetry at all - it's simply an atmospheric and moving re-imagining of a great poem.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Meanwhile, over at Out There With The Birds... latest post has appeared - I'm rambling about Starlings and House Sparrows, their worrying decline, and our attitude to them. While you're there, have a good look at the site. There's all sorts of good stuff to be found - I particularly enjoyed Bill Wilson's recent post.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

And more RF Langley

No sooner had I mentioned RF Langley, than I came across this article – Helen Macdonald makes a great case for his Journals, available from Shearsman. They, along with the forthcoming Collected Poems from Carcanet, look like essential buys.

Helen's superb H Is For Hawk won the Costa Book of the Year award the other night, and deservedly so, too. I've been re-reading it this week, and finding new things to enjoy.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

RF Langley

On Twitter yesterday, Jeremy Noel-Tod linked to his obituary, from The Times, for poet RF Langley, who died four years ago.

It's an excellent piece, and reminded me that Langley is a poet I need to read more of. What I have read I've liked a lot. Anyone else out there a fan?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

New at Litter

Over at Litter, there's a really good review by Andrew Duncan of Dorothy Lehane's Nine Arches collection Ephemeris - it's a terrific book. There are also two poems from the book, so you can get some sort of idea of what we're talking about.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Poetry at Wired Cafe Bar

This Thursday, January 15th, sees the first of a series of poetry readings/open mics at Wired Cafe Bar, 42 Pelham Street, Nottingham, NG1 2EG.

I'm delighted to be the featured reader for this first event, which runs from 6.30pm-8pm. Entry is free.

If you'd like to read at the open mic, sign-up is from 6pm-6.15pm.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Rogue Strands strikes a balance

Some good points, clearly and concisely made, over at Rogue Strands today. I enjoyed doing English Literature as far as A Level, but I've always been rather glad that I didn't go any further with it - I suspect it would have put me off a lot of the subsequent reading for enjoyment that I did/do.

On the other hand, as Matthew points out, developing some sort of a critical eye is vital for any writer, and there are few better ways to do that than writing reviews (even if they're not for publication).

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

After London

I've written some poems as an afterword to the wonderful Observatory Press's new edition of Richard Jefferies' After London, a sort of 19th century 'after the apocalypse' novel. Jefferies, of course, was best known for his writings on wildlife and the countryside, and a fair amount of that found its way into his fictional work, too.

I was interviewed for the Observatory Press website, and you can read the results here. I managed to get a mention of great Cthulhu in there, too.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A heart made of worms and mud

Mark Cocker's Country Diary pieces in The Guardian are always a pleasure, but this latest one is particularly good, including as it does woodcocks and wigeon, two of my favourite things about our winter avifauna.

I've struggled to find woodcocks myself this winter - I'd hope that it's due to fewer having arrived from Scandinavia and further east, because of the mild weather, rather than an alarming decline. Wigeon, though, are plentiful locally.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Blackbox Manifold 13

The new issue of Blackbox Manifold has gone live, featuring work from Claire Crowther, Allen Fisher and Hannah Silva, among others. Enjoy, then have a look back through the previous issues for a fine selection of poetry.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The most scathing reviews ever

The Guardian had this piece the other day about particularly vicious book reviews. They're good, but I think my favourite is the one mentioned in the comments, When Saturday Comes' review of Tim Lovejoy's book.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Not The TS Eliots

Jo Bell flagged this up on Facebook - an interesting and varied list that makes me want to get hold of at least a few of the books featured. I must confess, though, to being initially rather disappointed that the Burning Eye-published Boldface isn't in fact by the former captain of England's cricket team - as I may have mentioned before, I have a high regard for the brittle-fingered batsman, and I was briefly delighted to think he'd turned his talents to poetry. Still, it looks like a book worth reading either way.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Norfolk Festival of Nature

This looks very interesting - excellent line-up so far, including Mark Cocker, and all at a location that, for any British birdwatcher, is close to heaven. If you need an excuse to be in North Norfolk in February (and you really shouldn't), here it is.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Great Revolt

I'm a sucker for historical 'what ifs', and this excellent article examines what might have been one of the great turning points in British history. Certainly, as Paul Kingsnorth says, it seems every bit as pivotal as the dates mentioned at the end of the piece.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The best poetry of 2014

Let's assume that, some time between Christmas Day and New Year's Day, I find myself in a bookshop with a few pounds to spare in my pocket. Let's further assume that it's a bookshop with a well-stocked and varied poetry section (if you're thinking this sounds suspiciously like Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham, you'd be right). Let's say I've got enough for one new collection, and one Selected or Collected. What should I buy?

I've bought and read mainly 'back catalogue' stuff this year, so pretty much anything you suggest is likely to be new.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Folk names of British birds

Think you know the names by which different species of birds were known around Britain in the past? Test your knowledge here, with Dr Fulminare's splendid quiz. I'm afraid I only got 8 out of 12.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


This arrived today from the wonderful Sidekick Books - seven poems on skir-devils, jackie squealers, whips and longwings from Anne Stevenson, Edward Thomas, Alistair Noon, Jon Stone, Ann Drysdale, Lynne Wycherly and myself. It's part of their new Bird Superminis range - each volume contains a handful of poems about a particular bird species. They are, dare I say it, perfect Christmas presents for the birdwatcher and/or poetry-lover in your life.

Five Leaves Bookshop reading, 7.12.14

It's all been a bit frantic at work this last week, so I've not had much chance to reflect upon Sunday's Nine Arches Press reading at the Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham.

It was the first time I'd heard Bobby Parker and Dorothy Lehane read, and both confirmed all the good impressions made by their debut collections from Nine Arches. Dorothy's poems are dense, swirling, exuberant galaxies of words, and all the better for being heard out loud, while Bobby manages to create a crackling tension by virtue of an unshowy, matter-of-fact delivery of startlingly honest material. Tony Williams was, as always, a pleasure to hear - his collection The Midlands would be one of my poetry books of the year.

It was good, too, to catch up with some familiar faces such as Alan Baker, Wayne Burrows, Richard Skinner and Kerry Featherstone (hope the Jason and the Scorchers album is up to expectations), and great to have a chance to browse the bookshop itself. I bought John Harvey's Out Of Silence: New and Selected Poems. He's a hugely overlooked poet (maybe because of his fame as a crime writer), and it's good to see the best of his work in one place.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Five Leaves Bookshop reading

This Sunday, December 7th, I'll be reading with fellow Nine Arches poets Bobby Parker, Dorothy Lehane and Tony Williams at the Five Leaves Bookshop, Long Row, Nottingham, NG1 2DH (it's only a minute's walk from the Market Square).

It starts at the very civilised time of 4.30pm, entry is £3, and refreshments will be available, and you can read much more about it here.

It's also worth pointing out that you'd be well advised to arrive earlier, to give you a chance to browse this superb independent bookshop.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Top 10 books of rural Wales

The Guardian had this interesting list yesterday. It includes three personal favourites - The Owl Service, Bruce Chatwin's On The Black Hill (and the writer here neatly encapsulates what makes it such a fine book), and of course RS Thomas's Collected Poems.

As with any list, though, there are bound to be controversial omissions and inclusions. Nothing by Raymond Williams, for example. Anyone got any other suggestions for what might have been included?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Catching up

Last Thursday's Vanguard Readings event, at The Bear, Camberwell, was a lot of fun. Six readers, of which I was one, a lively and very responsive audience, and a great venue.

It was great to hear Josephine Corcoran read. She's been such a tireless promoter of other's work that her own poetry has sometimes been overshadowed, and very unfairly so. I enjoyed her honeymoon poem in particular, but her whole set promised good things from her forthcoming Tall Lighthouse pamphlet.

I'd never heard Josephine Dickinson before, but I have read plenty of her very fine work, and it was given a whole new dimension by her reading here. She's one of those poets who manages to create an enviable stillness and silence around her words - there's a tension there that always feels as though it's on the point of breaking.

Michael Symmons Roberts read beautifully, mainly from his most recent collection, Drysalter, and it's hard to add anything useful to the praise that it, and he, have already received. His poems are always spiritually charged, yet intimate and approachable too.

Cristina Newton read just two long poems, and held everybody spellbound with the sustained music of her work - I look forward to reading and hearing more from her.

Finally, Richard Skinner, whose hard work makes Vanguard happen in the first place, read the work of three absent poets who appear in the Vanguard anthology - it's not on general sale but you will be able to buy it at future readings, and I recommend it very highly.

My own reading went well, and it was good to read a couple of poems, including Butterflies from the afore-mentioned anthology, that haven't had an airing for a while.