This is appallingly late notice, for which I apologise, but I’m being interviewed on The Ian Henery Show on Hope Radio, a local community station for south Birmingham, 87.9FM, from 7pm tonight. Ian is a very amiable presenter, and the format is rather brilliant: I get to choose the songs as well as read poems!
I’m enjoying this book in slow sips. It has a short poem for every day of the year, so I read one or two of the poems in it every few days, usually looking up what poem corresponds to the current day.
I was rather delighted to discover that the material/object assigned to my birthday (last week) is limestone, the mineral to which Derbyshire’s White Peak owes its name, since that’s where my roots lie. My grandparents’ house, a place filled with so many personal memories, is made from it.
On Tuesday December 1st I’ll be facilitating a workshop for the Poetry Translation Centre where, with the help of translator Assiya Issemberdiyeva, we will be collaboratively creating a new translation of a poem by Kazakh poet Olzhas Suleimenov – a poet who rose to fame during the time of the space race, later becoming an anti-nuclear activist. This is a great opportunity to get a glimpse into Kazakh literary culture and become actively involved in the fascinating process of translating a linguistically rich poetic work.
No, the ink isn’t wet; I’d just spent the afternoon picking berries when I took this photo.
The online launch for the latest issue of Poetry Wales is today from 7pm, and you can register for it here. I will be reading one of two poems of mine that are published in the issue: ‘The Mess We’ve Gotten Ourselves Into, Represented as Items on a Ledger’. It’s a list poem and I imagine reading it will be a little like reading a charge sheet.
I have a new poem published in issue 3 of Stonecrop Review, a journal of urban nature writing and visual art which is free to download in pdf form. The journal is very beautifully laid out, not only with art from contributors but rich-texture illustrations accompanying the poems by Holly McKelvey. Some of my favourite elements of the issue: photographs by Uraguayan photographer Felix Mataitis; an account of Nashville bats by naturalist Joanna Brichetto; pigeons in watercolour and pencil by German illustrator Rana Voss.
I have two poems in the new issue of Poetry Birmingham. One is from a sequence of remixes of Invisible Cities, blended with notes from my explorations of virtual worlds – in this case the City of Tears in Hollow Knight.
Another poem from this issue which I liked (I haven’t finished reading the whole thing) is ‘Intermission’ by Graham Clifford:
Where you are has not been captured in an 18th Century grisaille, and your illness is not distinct enough from what we’ve all got – it has no attributable mandala composed by scientists when scientists could see.
‘Grisaille’ is a new word on me, and I’m not sure yet whether the choice is arbitrary – that is, what it has specifically to do with the surrounding conceit. This stanza gestures quite accurately, to my mind, at the modern anxiety of clawing around for a condition which is your own, as a kind of map. The poem starts with the lines “We need to talk about how there is no manual / or film to watch of someone like you”, ie. narrative and instruction so dominate culture that we think of our self as a machine that needs operating or a character arc that needs completing.
Naush Sabah’s editorial, ‘Dis/rupt/ed Schemas’ is a ranging meditation on race, power and change, and this sentence particularly stood out to me:
I am looking at the ‘diversity’ of poetry publishing and seeing melanated variations of the same strata of society from different points of origin around the world.
This reminds me of Kenan Malik’s articles on identity politics, which have greatly informed my views on the subject. I could crudely summarise his position as: getting a representative number of women onto the boards of directors of elite companies does absolutely nothing to help the majority of women. Racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice are embedded in social structures, in the mechanisms of power, and gestures of atonement do not challenge or reform these mechanisms.
I would go further and say that we have a responsibility to resist deference to power in all forms. That means attending to the neglected and tuning out the demands of the already very well-established (the essence of conservatism is the opposite – to preserve the well-established).
The world of intellectual culture, despite its supposed enthusiasm for progressive politics, seems to have a hard time with with this. I think there is a lot tied up in the reverence of artistic and intellectual power, and in the tendency to instruct each other to react with awe. I think, at the heart of this culture, there is a serious problem with casting the artist or the intellectual as an authority, that it has a corrupting effect on people’s aspirations, and has played a significant role in locking people out.
I have an academic paper in vol. 2 of Replaying Japan journal, published by the Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies, Kyoto. The title of the paper is ‘Frog Leaps In: Haiku and the Struggle For and Against the Natural World in Japanese RPGs’, and it compares the introduction of the character of Frog in the 1995 role-playing game Chrono Trigger to the structure of Matsuo Bashō’s famous ‘old pond’ haiku. The purpose of this comparison is to demonstrate that poetic concepts feature in (and can enhance our readings of) games as texts, and also to advance the suggestion that ‘characters’ or kyara (proto-characters, symbols) are a point of overlap between games and poems that can be used as the basis for intertextual play.
In other words, why shouldn’t we think of Bashō’s frog and Chrono Trigger‘s Frog as connected, as variations on the same intellectual plaything that can then be used again by other artists, a character who crosses space, time and genre?
The journal is not currently available to buy online, but will presumably become available through university libraries.
The editors of I’ll Show You Mine, a sex writing journal, have made the PDF of the journal free to download for the foreseeable future. One of my poems, ‘Neighbours’ is included, as well as a formally diverse array of new writing: short fiction, nonfiction, erasure and footnote poems alongside lyrics that approach the subject tentatively or greedily, with curiosity or assurance, coolly or not so coolly.
A small number of physical copies are also still available for £6.
I’m reading with five other poets on March 1st, at the Boulevard Soho in London, for a one-hour special from 4.30pm. This is a kind of comeback gig after a year off, so I’ll be testing some new material, including ‘Russian doll’ poems, where one poem fits inside another, and a ‘variable’ poem with lines chosen by the audience.