First up, a couple of interesting stories from the wires in the Mail. One on Raymond Antrobus’s Spoken Word Education Programme in Hackney. The story follows the usual template for these kinds of article (‘Art saves teens from life of crime’ sort of thing), but does highlight a useful project. See http://spokenwordeducators.org/ for more details. [Edit – also see Antrobus’s own take on the language used in the article here.]
The other is on Walter Skold, of the Dead Poets Society of America (really), currently on a tour of poets’ graves – looking to draw attention to African-American poets, especially. A bit of an odd project, but if it succeeds in its aim, fair enough.
Poetry is in better health than we might think, according to the Mirror. An article listing e-petitions which only managed to get one signature includes a petition headed “Stop poetry being taught in schools”. Heartening, I suppose.
Finally, in this list of stories about poetry that are not really stories about poetry, the Oxford Professor of Poetry election trail meanders on. Wole Soyinka is not too old or too far away to do the job, according to the Times and the Guardian. Meanwhile Simon Armitage is everywhere: the subject of a long interview in the Guardian, the main conclusion of which appears to be that he is quite good at not giving anything of himself away; having his new travelogue reviewed in the Sunday Times; being recommended for the OPoP post by Melvyn Bragg in a letter to the Guardian; contributing to the same paper’s series of anti-climate change poems; and finally being exhorted by Sophie Heawood to beware the pitfalls of the literary high life (advice I imagine he probably doesn’t need) if he should get the post. The column (again in the Graun) isn’t really about anything, but does contain this description of some unnamed poets:
I wouldn’t have minded so much if any of these men had written poetry to match their levels of dastardliness; but one night they’d tell you their marriage was a sham for complicated reasons to do with the electoral register, and the next morning they’d be back in their marital homes, ready to pen another ode to the murmurations of starlings in Suffolk. Or 20 verses on their earth-shattering memories of the boarding school dormitory, and the epic tug-of-love between Matron and Teddy.
But at last we come to – a review! And, what’s more, a review of a book by a non-big 5 publisher! Roger Cox’s review in the Scotland on Sunday of Ryan van Winkle’s The Good Dark, printed by Penned in the Margins, is pretty short and insight-light, but it’s something. Of course, an Edinburgh-based paper reviewing an Edinburgh-based poet who is very active in the Edinburgh literary scene maybe isn’t quite as surprising as all that.
But here’s another one; and again of a small press-printed collection (although of a very well-established poet). And this one is even relatively detailed, albeit Aingeal Clare’s review of The Boys of Bluehill by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin in the Guardian is a very good example of a classic critic’s trick. The reviewer first raises a possible criticism of the work, before saying “Ah, but actually this criticism isn’t applicable after all!” If that’s the case, why mention it? The answer is that it is a valid criticism, but either the reviewer nonetheless likes the collection and wants to indulge in a bit of special pleading, or the reviewer has a phobia of saying anything too openly negative, and so merely hints at the problem with the work, while not wanting to fully identify themselves with anything so vulgar as actual criticism.
Still, it’s the nearest thing to a proper poetry review in last week’s papers. Maybe this week’s press can do better.