Saturday 30 December 2023

Nice poetry reviews

On her substack post Victoria Moul wrote "Most reviews don’t seem to be good at making me want to buy poetry books: ... perhaps ... because they all tend to be so positive. If everything is apparently wonderful, it’s hard to trust any particular recommendation"

I think reviews are more positive nowadays. In tone they're more like comments in a face-to-face workshop with something good always said, adverse comments being sandwiched in, muted. Maybe nowadays reviewers are much more likely to know the poets, or at least they've communicated online. Or maybe reviewers feel that poetry's in such a bad way that it needs all the help it can get. This positivity (or at least lack of negativity) is especially prevalent when dealing with bereavement poems. Can there be such a thing as a bad poem about Refaat Alareer? The Poetry is in the pity I suppose.

I try to self-moderate my write-ups. After all, half of the books I read are worse than the average book I read. That's the way I rate on goodreads. The reasoning can be extended - half of the poems in a book are worse than the average poem, and half of a poem's lines are worse than the average line. Atomising a poem in that way is tricky though - lines interact with each other (jewelstones need mountings), and a poem full of beautiful phrases may be a mere "anthology of lines". But many poetry books are made of poems that can be individually assessed. If reviewers believe in the concept of ranking poems enough to list (and quote from) a collection's best pieces, why not list and quote from the worst too? It gives readers a better feel for the reviewer's prejudices, and the poet's range.

Saturday 23 December 2023

Nine Arches Press's Poetry Book Club

Last year I got all of Nine Arches Press's poetry publications in their bulk Book Club deal. I'm renewing for 2024 - see their shop for details. I got about a dozen books, some of which I wouldn't have bought individually, but at least it keeps me in touch with a variety of current poetry.

My favourites were "A Whistling of Birds" by Isobel Dixon, "Tormentil" by Ian Humphreys, and "Frieze" by Olga Dermott-Bond.

Thursday 14 December 2023

A busy month

I've attended 3 Zoom poetry events, a live prose event, a book fair, and a writers' social event.

I've had 3 poems, 2 Flashes and a short story accepted in amongst the rejections.

I've sent more things out. I've 4 stories entered into competitions, 5 stories with magazines, 7 Flashes and 12 poems out.

I've read 2 poetry books (Claire Crowther, Kosta Tsolakis), a story collection (Yan Ge) and listened to 5 novels (2 of them literary). I'm currently, belatedly, listening to "H is for Hawk".

I've extended a few drafts by a few words. I may have finished a poem.

Sunday 10 December 2023

Pindrop Press book launches - Fiona Larkin and Jonathan Totman

Fiona Larkin and Jonathan Totman shared a Zoom book launch this evening. Poems were shown as well as read out. Both read well, not saying too much between poems.

Maybe "Borderland" was my favourite Fiona Larkin piece. Seeing the texts rather distracted me - some were short-lined, others weren't and I couldn't work out why - the reading gave no clue.

Jonathan Totman's "Sessions" had therapy as a theme (the book has 50 poems, sessions last 50 minutes). They were all described as sonnets, though I think this is needlessly provocative. I like the idea of the sonnets representing the room/time constraint, and I liked the poems. Going by this sample, there's much variety of approach to the topic (not least being on either side of the desk). Maybe "On a scale of 1 to 643" was my favourite.

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.