Saturday 2 December 2023

Norwich - City of Stories

I had a wander around Norwich, going to a zone I didn't remember. Apparently the area’s been called “Over the Water” since the 13th century.

Norwich’s nickname on publicity leaflets is the “City of Stories”. It has a puppet theatre, the Norwich University of Arts, and UEA (where Ishiguro and Ian McEwan went). And of course, there was Julian of Norwich who wrote the earliest surviving English language works known to be written by a woman (near where Dragon Hall now is).

The National Centre for Writing isn't in the creative quarter. It's in Dragon Hall, which dates from the 15th century. It’s not normally open to the public though there are many courses, some run in association with UEA. It’s the first time I’ve been inside the building. I didn’t realise how big the extension was.

I went to the Publishing Fair - local self-publishers. Some were novelists, though there were several factual books too. Later I trawled the city's bookshops. There are at least 2 charity bookshops.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Red Door Poets at Milton Keynes Lit Fest (Zoom)

Last night, online, I saw Mary Mulholland, Paul Stephenson, Lesley Sharpe, Fiona Larkin, Chris Hardy and Helen Ivory.

I may have got the titles mixed up, but I think the pieces I liked best were Mary Mulholland’s "pig town, o the shame of you", Paul Stephenson's "Button" and Fiona Larkin's "Beach". I've not seen Helen Ivory read before though I've read 2 of her books. I liked much of what she read without any particular poem standing out.

For slow listeners like me it was useful to have the text shown during the readings - about half the poets provided this facility.

I'm still thinking about the use of the chat facility. At this event the remarks were not followed up by the emcee or other attendees. Sometimes they mentioned particular poems. More often (understandably) they were lists of adjectives.

Sunday 26 November 2023

Zoom poetry readings - Acumen and break-out rooms

Acumen had an issue launch on 24th Nov. Over 30 attended. People who arrived early could chat, then there were 3 break-out rooms that people were randomly assigned to, giving us a chance to get to know some people. After a few readings (during which people were encouraged to type in the chat section) we went back to the break-out rooms with the suggestion that we could talk about the poems or about "what is poetry?" Muting and splitting was ably managed by Danielle Hope (who popped into the break-out rooms and alerted people to comments in the chat) with help from Kim Moore. The room I was in had Kim Moore and Rory Waterman, a treat in itself.

At live events during intervals, people break into clusters - some people catching up with friends, some people listening, looking around for familiar/famous faces. Break-out rooms are a simulation of this I suppose. I think the format worked well.

Saturday 25 November 2023

Some books

Rather than await an "eagerly anticipated" book, why not rummage on secondhand shelves?

Many of the books I buy are years old, found by chance in charity shops. Charity bookshops nowadays even have sections for "Short stories", which is more than some high street bookshops can manage. The books below aren't really neglected masterpieces, but they've stuck in my memory longer than the more recently published books I've read. Many of them are the author's first books, which may explain why I was impressed by them - they lack padding, and even the pieces that don't work for me have interesting parts.

Now I'm in recommendation mode, I'll mention a short story that impressed me - "Rinks without ice" by Jae Vail (The interpreter's house)

Tuesday 14 November 2023

350 today

Today I got my 350th acceptance - a triumph of longevity rather than quality, but I'll celebrate all the same. 221 poems and 129 pieces of prose. Poetry is tailing off, Flash is increasing.

Monday 6 November 2023

CB1, November

The CB1 poetry evenings go from strength to strength. Yesterday about 40 people attended, despite competition from fireworks events. No headline poets - it's all open-mic, and I think at least 25 read. The majority read from phones. There was rap, a sestina, a villanelle, poems just finished, old poems read from books. There were regulars and newcomers young and old. Few of the poems were "performance" or comic pieces.

Saturday 28 October 2023

The Dark Horse, issue 47

In this issue there's quite a lot about about how clubiness and other social pressures affect poetry writing and reviews. In his editorial, Gerry Cambridge writes

  • "poetry is most valued as the vessel for issues"
  • "The community is inclusive provided one shows that one is right thinking and holds the same values as the group. If one doesn't, unconditionally ... one ... will be covertly or openly excluded"

Edna Longley's essay wonders how The Waste Land (which she thinks good in parts) has come to take such an prominent (almost defining) position in Modernism - because Eliot was a critic? "because the academy may need The Waste Land as all things to all theories ... Latterly, the poem has even been called an ecocritique ... Ricks ingeniously or desperately proposes that Eliot's ugly images are cast back upon the reader to test our own prejudices"

NB's contrarian exploits in TLS are explored.

Kathryn Gray writes -

  • "Many poets - too many poets - spend the remainder of their careers attempting to rewrite their most successful book"
  • "In an age heavily policed by social media avatars, we are supposed to be good. Increasingly, and quite illogically, I think, we also desire our writers to be good"
  • "I wish more poets wrote in as badly behaved a fashion as they sometimes lived. ... And perhaps a readership for poetry would widen and deepen and we would see far less of the 'school project' syndrome that haunts many a collection"

Gerry Cambridge writes

  • "Criticism and reviewing are regarded as the antipathy to 'creative' work ... Nothing is gained [] by calling indifferent work good. All it does is baffle the potential audience outside the subculture and buttress the idea of poetry as a recondite arcana, over the heads of the uninvolved intelligent"