Lunar Poetry 8! No, really.

Alright folks, it’s taken a bloody long time, but we are, at last, back.

Here are Allan Baines‘s cover for LP8, and the contents page (please excuse the spellcheck squiggles) full of good things.

The magazine is available from March 1st, and we will be launching at The Peckham Pelican on Tuesday, 8th March, starting at 7.30pm. We will have a mixture of readers from the magazine and open mic poets, and it shall be good. Free entry; copies of the magazine will be available at the venue.

 

A final note: April’s Issue 9 is nearly assembled, too (anyone who has been told we’re publishing your poems, but whose name does not appear on the LP8 contents page above, this is why – your work will be in LP9), but, from March 1st we will be open for submissions to Issue 10 and beyond: keep an eye out.

[EDIT: For the time being, we are moving to a bi-monthly schedule. Issue 9 will appear in May, Issue 10 in July, and so on.]

Issue 8 is now sold out in print format.

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So here’s what’s happening…

Shop

We have had to find a new venue for the bookshop. The main reason we thought we could open the shop on a comparatively small budget was that the rent on the space we originally had in I’klectik Art-lab was very low. The rent on any new site will be far higher; this being the case, we’re going to have to do a lot of saving. We will be looking at the possibility of getting loans or grants towards these costs, but the chances are we will not be able to open a permanent shop this year.

What we will be doing, though, is setting up shop temporarily in various sites over the year; there will be more news on this as we agree details with hosts. Although this is disappointing, what it does mean is that when we do eventually get a permanent site, we will be able to do exactly what we like with it, and not have to worry about our events clashing with those held by other businesses located on the same site. The goal is to have a permanent, visible home for poetry in London, and this is not something we could have done at I’klectik.

To those of you who contributed to our Indiegogo campaign, thank you for your patience and support, and hang in there – this will happen, and it will be worth the wait.

Magazine

Lunar Poetry will return in March, and will once more run on a monthly schedule. Again, thanks for bearing with us.

Podcasts

Lunar Poetry Podcasts is a continuing series and past and new episodes can be found on LPP’s YouTube page.

Publications

We have plans for a number of other print and audio publications over the year. The first of these will be the short-run pamphlet, Thirteen Lunar Poems, which will be going out to Indiegogo contributors who signed up for the pamphlet perk. More details on this and further publications will appear throughout the year.

eBooks

As of March, all Lunar publications will be available in .ePub and .mobi formats to download to eReaders. We will also be offering an eBook conversion service to poetry publishers. More details will be up on the main site in due course.

Website

Speaking of which, we are in the process of fully revamping the main site; in the mean time information will be going up on this blog site, as well as Twitter and Facebook. This means that the usual email address is currently down: if you need to get in touch with me, you can at lunarpoetry1@gmail.com.

Other Stuff

There will be other stuff – we’ll let you know as and when.

Thanks for your continued support. If I’m honest, 2015 was a bit of a shitter for me; 2016 is looking like it might be pretty good.

Cheers,

Paul.

Bookshop update

Things always take longer than you think they will – I have found that is a pretty good rule for life, and it applies to the opening of bookshops as well. We initially intended to open on Sunday, 9th August. However, while it would be possible to do so, it would not be possible to do so with everything the way I want it. I think opening a dedicated poetry bookshop in London is an important thing to do, so I want to get it right. If I do not, it may be some time before anyone else decides to attempt something similar.

Once everything is ready, I will announce a new launch date in plenty of time for those who want to attend. In the meantime, the special edition pamphlets and postcards will be in the post later this month, along with the other perks promised to those who donated to the crowdfunding campaign.

Finally, since the launch is not going ahead this Sunday, the launch of Lunar Poetry 8/9 will also be postponed. As not many of this issue’s poets were available to read, this is not a big problem. Those who were planning to read can send me their address and I will post their copy to them. If you have made travel arrangements from outside of London, please write to me and I will reimburse your travel costs.

Guest Post – David Clarke – Blogging about Poetry

The first thing to say about blogging by contemporary writers, whether they are poets or not, is that there is now an implicit or explicit expectation among publishers that authors should have some sort of online presence to help build the audience and connect with readers. A friend of mine who got a contract for a novel with a major publisher a little while ago found that this was the first question her editor asked: Where’s your on-line presence? That presence had to include a website, a twitter feed and a professional (as opposed to personal) Facebook page.

Frankly, that expectation was what first brought me to blogging about poetry, when my first pamphlet was accepted for publication. There was no direct requirement from my publisher, but I felt I owed it to them to be at least a little visible. What you are ultimately doing, I think, is creating supplementary (and free!) content for those who might be interested in your work.

Having said that, a gap soon opened up for me between the initial pragmatic motivation and the things I actually used the blog for. To begin with, I think I was creating content for the blog for anyone with a general interest in poetry, throwing in some details of my own readings and publications in the vain hope that this might broaden the audience, even if by only one or two people – that’s a lot to a poet.

As time went on, however, the blog became more about issues that matter to me, where these relate to poetry. There are quite a lot of other issues, especially political ones, that move me in my personal life and impact on my writing, but I have tried to be disciplined about not letting these encroach on what is, by definition, a poetry blog. Maybe I’ll start another blog to talk about other things in the future, when they finally get around to increasing the number of hours in the day.

So, over the last year or so, the posts have become sparser (partly due to work commitments) and I have focused on writing about debates within the poetry ‘world’ when I think I have something distinctive and productive to say. I often find online polemic, especially of the kind that dominates social media, alienating and aggressive, and have blogged about that too. Blogging is a slightly slower form, despite the apparent immediacy, so this gives me time to really think about what I want to say about an issue and add nuance to the argument in a way that is apparently not possible on a Facebook thread or Twitter feed. Now I try to blog when I really think I can contribute something to a discussion, not because I need to add a post for the sake of keeping the blog ticking over – although I do still slip in the odd bit of self-publicity.

There are other ways to do it, of course. Some very good bloggers use their sites as a kind of diary, interweaving details of their poetry lives and their personal lives. Although I like my life, I really cannot imagine that anyone would be interested in reading a blog post about it and, after three years, I feel as if I have arrived at an understanding of what the blog is for and what it is about. Ideally, I suppose, I should have started with that understanding, but getting there has been an interesting process.

You can read more of David’s thoughts at http://athingforpoetry.blogspot.co.uk/. You can also read a brand new poem by him on New Boots and Pantisocracies.

Crap Verse in Ads – We have seen the Queen of Cheese (and this is a poor imitation)

From trains to cars this week. This is not, in fact, a car advert, but one for cheerful mined-by the-slab cheddar. However, watch it with the sound off and the whole thing turns into a chilly Ballardian dystopia – a grey and cheerless Britain consisting of nothing but roads, scrubby football pitches, and grimly jovial dinnerladies.

It’s an odd confection, this one. There are four basic parts to it, and at most one and a half of them work. The advert is called ‘A Slice of Britain’ (made by a company called Grey London, appropriately enough) and the visuals are, if anything, too apt. It’s true, think of Britain and you might think of motorway services and overcast, but if you are writing something in which you are trying for some kind of celebratory tone, perhaps it would best not to emphasise these things. However, add Pete Postlethwaite reciting some chipper “we’re all in this together” sounding verse over a swelling soundtrack and you have a feelgood one-minute epic. Right?

Not really. Postlethwaite does his best, but the script is a shitter, entirely reliant for what effect it does have on his voice and the knocked-up-in-five-minutes score. This is why song lyrics are not the same thing as poetry – they can rely on music to provide the emotional resonance the words themselves lack – but even music can only do so much.

The whole point of this advert is largeness – the UK is a great big happy lactose-loving family: one nation under gouda. The soundtrack strives for this, and this also explains the use of poetry in the ad. For some reason poetry, especially rhyming poetry, is associated in the public consciousness with formality and circumstance – maybe due to its popularity at occasions of state, especially solemn ones like funerals and commemorations.

But if that was all that was going on here, the visuals wouldn’t be so quotidian – we’d have big expansive shots of the Yorkshire Dales, the White Cliffs of Dover, Eamonn Holmes’s ego, rather than T-junctions and suburban houses. The advert wants to have both grandeur and a sort of friendly mundanity, sword in one hand, pint in the other – the sort of thing I imagine Nigel Farage is going for in his speeches. This is why they have Postlethwaite narrating – he lends dignity to the verse, whilst not being offputtingly posh.

They try the same trick with the poetry, but this is where things go very wrong. The problem is they don’t commit – they want to give the viewer goosebumps while still being able to have a chuckle. It’s a weird exercise in self-deprecation: the tone, setting and form all point to the poetry being intended to be genuinely rousing, but the content of the poem constantly says “Oh well, it’s just a bit of fun really… I mean it is only an advert for cheese… I don’t go in much for poetry, myself, to be honest…”

In which case, why bother? Once they had decided that they were going to use poetry for their ad, they had three options: 1) write a genuinely serious poem (probably pretty difficult, since it is only for bloody cheese); 2) write a genuinely funny poem – not a “comic” poem, or a pastiche, but an actually funny poem with, you know, jokes in it and stuff; or 3) write a proper parody – something which goes all out in illustrating the absurdity of trying to sell cheese via poetry (maybe save on copy by quoting some James McIntyre instead). What we get is a half-arsed attempt at all three which lands nowhere near any: it has no jokes, but is instead jokey; it has no point, but sounds like it ought to have if you’re not really listening.

As such, the whole thing is a patronising mess – it fails because it underestimates the intelligence of its audience: it hints at substance on the one hand and humour on the other, without bothering to display either, as if the gesture should be enough. This seems to be quite a common outcome for adverts featuring poetry. Perhaps advertisers should think about why they want to use verse to sell stuff in the first place.

Click here an improved? version.

Five Things for Friday

  1. Stand Up and Spit is an ongoing project cataloguing Ranting poetry from the 1980s, and producing a series of gigs and events. There are still a couple of events left in their current schedule, and there may be more in the future – if you can get to them, they’re definitely worth getting to. If not, but you’re interested in the history of spoken word or political poetry you will get lost for hours on this site.
  2. Josephine Corcoran’s piece on finding poems written in adolescence (and sensibly not publishing them online). The reason we write bad poetry as teenagers is a combination of not having read enough, and not having lived enough. The latter will sort itself out; the former requires a bit more effort.
  3. Earlier in the week I confessed my ignorance about the post of US Poet Laureate. Here is an interview with the new USPoLo, Juan Felipe Herrera, on the Slate Culture Gabfest (starts about 31.30).
  4. Nine Arches are looking for submissions to an anthology of poetry by UK disabled poets. If you are worried about the potential for it to be awful, this quote should reassure you, and perhaps encourage you to submit: “We’re not looking for ‘inspiration porn’, work whose primary purpose is therapeutic, and definitely not work which perpetuates ableist tropes or rhetoric in any way.”
  5. I looked for a while for a good piece on the recent Craig Raine debacle – here are three of the better ones from Charles Whalley, Mathew Lyons, and David Clarke, who will be writing a guest blog here tomorrow – but this clip from a twenty year old comedy show seems the most appropriate illustration:

There’s been a mass debate about Raine’s poem, ‘Gatwick’, and the London Review of Books’s decision to publish it. Most people have downplayed a major point, though, which is that the poem isn’t really very good. I feel this is something of a boner. It may not seem like the most important issue in a discussion about the male gaze, freedom of expression, privilege and so on, but actually it illustrates it rather nicely. The fact that an elderly, white, male member of the literary establishment can toss off a not very good poem to one of the world’s leading literary periodicals in the knowledge it will almost certainly end up splashed across its sheets without question makes it difficult for any ensuing defence of the poem on the grounds of freedom of expression to be taken seriously, especially in a journal (and a sector) which is notoriously underrepresentative of female viewpoints.

The justification used by Raine’s supporters for the actual content of the poem is that these are real emotions that real people have. There are a few responses to that. One might be that yes, it is perhaps an accurate reflection of the thoughts of a certain subset of privileged middle-aged men, brought up in an era when the objectification of women was second nature – and good, isn’t it about time these people were represented?

Another might be that while one might have these thoughts, there is an argument for attempting to be better than ourselves, or at least acknowledging that we haven’t managed to be so. Many people are racist, xenophobic, homophobic, or have other thoughts which – as a society – we consider unacceptable. If the LRB published a poem in which one of these viewpoints was adopted by the author, with every appearance of being the author’s own, and with no sign of the author reflecting upon their views, we would not be having a debate, we’d be having a rally. And for anyone who might be thinking “Well, Raine’s poem was only a little bit sexist”, replace the word “sexist” in that statement with the word “racist” or “homophobic”, etc., and see how far you get.

Another might be, okay, so the narrator is a real person (even if we were to say he is a character created by the poet, he is being defended on the merits of the “realness” of his emotions. That said, it is interesting how all sides have worked on the basis that everything in the poem is based on a real event. On another occasion I’d make a point about the reader’s assumptions, but here Raine’s obvious solipsism makes the objection pointless.), but so are the women he is objectifying: what do you suppose their thoughts might be if they ever read this poem? And at least one of them, with an MA in Poetry, might very well do so. Normally I do not much care if the subject of a poem is real or imagined, but in this case it actually is a problem. Anyone who has spent much time going to open mic nights has probably witnessed a poet (not necessarily, but usually, male) “dedicating” an overtly sexual poem to some individual in the audience. Hopefully you have then witnessed someone else tell the poet that that is really not okay. Because it isn’t, and doing it through the pages of the LRB rather than in the back room of a pub in front of five other people doesn’t make it any better.

And again, even if these women aren’t “real” (although I suspect that Raine, at this point in his career, doesn’t possess the energy to create a fictional character), how is any other young woman (or indeed anyone brought up after women’s lib) likely to feel upon reading it?

This goes back to the question of not merely what is in the poem, but where the poem was printed. Say you don’t read much poetry but are interested in literature more broadly. You know the LRB is one of the most respected lit mags. It would not be unreasonable for you to assume that any poem published therein must be representative of the very best of current poetry in English (it would be incorrect, but not unreasonable). And it turns out that the best of British poetry is an old chap at half mast. It’s unlikely it would send you scrambling to take out a subscription to Areté. But in any case, if the “reality” of the poem is the main point in its favour, where are the women’s realities – even if they are fictions, they ought to have realities within the world of the poem? But they are cyphers – there is no acknowledgement that they may have thoughts, hopes, wants or needs, or exist in any other form than as a pair of tits or a potentially sagging arse.

Bookshop Update #3

A quick update on the bookshop.

The crowdfunding campaign is now over. Thank you very much to everyone who contributed and helped spread the word. We didn’t quite reach our £5,000 target, but we raised enough cash to get started. The shop will be opening at the start of August – more details nearer the time. Those of you who donated will be getting your perks sent out around the end of July/start of August (depending on how quickly we can get the pamphlets and postcards printed).

There will be regular updates here over the next few weeks. The shelves will be going up next week – hopefully we’ll have some photos to show you – and then it’s just a case of filling them.

We’ve had a few nice bits of press coverage lately – if you want to hear more about the project check out these pieces in Write Out Loud: this is a write up of Silence Found a Tongue, the monthly spoken word night held at I’klectik, where the shop will be; and here is an interview I did with Frances Spurrier about the shop. Most surreally, here are me and David Turner on the Robert Elms show on BBC London – our bit starts about 1 hour 37 minutes in, but he also talks to people from the Poetry Library and the Poetry Cafe (also, Tom Robinson! – though we didn’t get to meet him, sadly), so the whole thing is worth a listen.

Cheers, Paul.

The Number Nothing #1

So here it is, a couple of weeks late due to computer trouble: the inaugural Number Nothing.

If you would like one of your poems critiqued in the manner that follows, please do send it to editor@lunarpoetry.co.uk with “Number Nothing” in the subject line. But remember, the criticism will be in the same style as that below, so if you don’t fancy that, don’t send it. (Also remember, the poem below was written by me, and I like me; you, I’m probably indifferent to.)

Before we get to the poem, there was a good point made by David Turner in the comments about how I presented the poem. The fact that I told readers that it was written as a teenager was an act of intellectual cowardice. If this segment takes off, I promise I will leave a more recent hostage to fortune at some future point.

Now, to the poem itself:

A Rule: If
by Paul M.

Hung up on achieving. Hung
Up on succeeding. How young
Must you see import in They
And see heroics unsung
as so much as if to say
‘I had no hands and no tongue’
(Eyes? ears? – No matter). Obey
Instead: Failure? U r a

Life. A better maxim: less
Responsibility, guess-
work; that sense of guilt when you
Guess wrong. Hey – it’s not your mess
Why should you not get your due
Happiness in sloth? ‘Success’
is not worth that sense of rue
nagging – you are overdue

Always. There is not enough
Space nor time to put this strife
to words. The gods’ play is rough;
you’ve had enough of this tough
Prison-rules life – corrupt; rife
with nothing; meaning-shorn – wife,
husband, kids are nothings: stuffed
Zilch. Failure – U r a life.

What are titles for? Many magazines insist on poems having titles, I suspect more for administrative than aesthetic reasons, but poems having titles as a rule is a pretty recent convention. If a title doesn’t add something to the reader’s understanding of the poem, there is very little reason for it to exist. However, if you must have a title, but can’t think of anything which adds to the rest of the poem, a neutral title is better than one that actively detracts from the poem. A bad title can scupper a poem before it’s even started – a title like ‘A Rule: If’.

What does it mean? Does it mean anything? “A Rule” wouldn’t be so bad – bland, but not actively inimical – the poem is laying out a rule, of sorts. But “If”? Is this supposed to be a response to Kipling’s famous rule-poem? Well, how? There are no “ifs” in this poem – there is no succession of subclauses leading up to the rule – the rule is disclosed pretty early on.

That “rule”, though, is less a rhetorical clincher than a callow pun – an anagram of the word “failure”. The title is another anagram of “failure”. Clever, huh? No. Because it doesn’t mean anything, and so distracts from the poem itself. Sometimes titles don’t really work until you read the poem and come back to them. That’s alright – poems are meant to be reread, and sometimes it can be satisfying to read a poem in some perplexity, and then look back to the top of the page and think “Ah!” But this title starts you off in “What?” territory and falls messily into “No really, what?” once you have read the rest of the poem.

So, what sort of poem lives under that vexing title? I have already alluded to a couple of the broader problems with it above: 1) anagrams are not clever (and neither is replacing words with homophonic letters) – if you think they are, perhaps crosswords might be more your thing. And this is a problem because 2) the main point of the poem is this anagramattical aphorism – “Failure: u r a life” – which, if it packed as much rhetorical punch as you clearly think it does, ought not to come a third of the way into the poem; especially as the rest of the poem mainly consists of packing peanuts for this precious bon mot. In fact, I suspect that the only reason the poem doesn’t end after the first stanza is simply because you couldn’t work out how to do so and make it rhyme.

Speaking of rhyme – yeah, it’s a rhyming poem; rhyming poems rhyme – that’s not a problem. The problem is – as David pointed out – that many of the rhymes land with the subtlety of a lead elephant. Why they do so is interesting: you have obviously attempted to avoid this by enjambing (enjambmentalising? enjambening?) nearly every line. As such, the rhymes shouldn’t feel like end-rhymes, but often they do. Why?

Because your lines don’t scan. What metre are you using here? There is no uniformity to the number of feet in a line or the dominant foot of each line. The first line seems to be trochaic tetrameter with the last weak syllable lopped off (common with trochaic metre, although absolutely unsuited to a poem in which the majority of lines are supposed to run on): “Hung up on achieving. Hung”. But the second line makes no sense, metrically, seeming to be iambic trimeter with an extra unstressed syllable stuck on the end: “Up on succeeding. How young”. You cannot rhyme a stressed with an unstressed syllable – it sounds incredibly awkward and trips the reader up: the reader wants to stress that final syllable “young” rather than having it trail off, but this leads to the unnatural sounding “How young”. This is why the rhymes fall so gracelessly – the same thing happens with “unsung”, “no tongue” and “r a” (yuck) in the first stanza alone.

So what’s going on here? The problem is a basic failure to understand how metrical poetry in English works: you are counting the syllables, rather than the feet. Each line in this poem has seven syllables. Syllabic poetry very rarely works in English, as English is a stressed language – the important thing in English poetry is the number of stresses and where they fall. In normal life “hung” and “young” rhyme, but in this poem they don’t feel like they do, because one is stressed and the other isn’t – it sounds like a teenager is repeating every line in a sarcastic mumble.

Oddly, this problem is less prevalent as the poem goes on, but by stanza 3 we run into the opposite problem: the internal rhymes in the middle of the stanza, apart from congealing like slithery mushrooms on top of a cliché mixed grill, absolutely batter the rhymingness of the poem into the reader’s head to the point where there is room for nothing else. Rhyme can be a good tool to build momentum in a poem – especially towards the end, but here it has the opposite effect: it feels like the bit in a Western where the stagecoach runs out of control and one of the wheels is broken, the whole thing hirpling crazily along. Also, in this stanza the rhyme scheme changes for no obvious reason. Well, there is one obvious reason: you couldn’t work out how to keep to the scheme you used in the first two. If you are going to write formal poetry, it has to be formal. If you are going to mess around with the form you have to have a good reason – the change has to reflect a change in the content of the poem. Form is part of the poem and must serve the poem and so it is perfectly acceptable to modify your form during the course of the poem, if that reflects some development in the content of the poem.

But there is no development in this poem – it takes 24 lines to say what you have already basically said in the first few, to lead up to a (weak) punchline that you’ve already blown a third of the way in. Really, you could replace the whole poem with a “Keep On Truckin’” sticker and little would be lost. Writing a poem with a specific point in mind is okay – although if all you want to do is convey some very straightforward piece of wisdom in a straightforward way, why put it in a poem? Prose is much more effective for that sort of thing (and for this particular message, a tobacco tin with a picture of a hash leaf on the lid might be more effective still). But there has to be more – there has to be ambiguity or something else to reward rereading, something to think about or at the least an intellectual journey on which the reader can be taken – you have to start at A and get to Z: you start at Y, reach Z almost immediately, and spend the rest of the “journey” doing donuts in the car park.

I’m afraid this one can’t be saved, and there is little worth salvaging for use in other projects. Even the better sounding phrases are fairly light on actual meaning. (“Stuffed zilch”? But if it’s stuffed, it isn’t nothing.) In the mean time, keep at it; read as much as you can; and if you want to continue with metrical poetry, spend some time reading up on how it works.

Poetry in the Papers 8/6/15-14/6/15

First up this week, a really weird piece about Claudia Rankine’s Citizen being shortlisted for the Forward Prize: “Running to 160 pages, Citizen, subtitled An American Lyric, eschews the likes of iambic pentameter and rhyme” – those are things they have in poetry, right? The sloppy reporting is bad enough, but the quote from Forward is almost as bad: it’s “a bold challenge to historic definitions of poetic form”. Well, it depends just how “historic” you want to get – prose poetry in English has been around since the seventeenth century, at least.

But reading this quote:

Forward prize judge Carrie Etter said: “People who insist that poetry is only poetry if it’s in lines are missing out. As Citizen is in prose, I anticipate some readers’ definition of poetry will exclude it, and so some may object to its inclusion on the list. So be it.”

one might be forgiven for thinking it’s just a half-arsed attempt to stir up some of that good Paxo-scented controversy from last year. Oh – is it poetry? Is it not? Do you think we can get a few Comment is Free pieces from people who haven’t read a poem since A-level out of this? Because who’s actually going to be asking this question? The only people who care about the Forward are people who already read poetry, and who are well aware that not all poetry comes in heroic couplets. This is especially annoying as this was a great opportunity to discuss a really interesting book on an important subject which is, yes, stylistically interesting, but hardly the avant-garde mindfuck this piece presents it as.

No such questions in the discussion of a new John Ashbery poem in the same paper:  “There may be more wisdom in not researching Ashbery’s meanings. Why not be Taoist about it and go with the flow, enjoying the surreality as the words decide for themselves how to join hands and ride the narrative breeze?” I’m not saying there is a double standard here – the two articles have very different purposes – but it may be worth asking if a collection by a middle-aged, middle class, white man – no matter how “experimental” – would be discussed in the same way as Claudia Rankine’s. Would the “Is it poetry?” question be raised, even as a kind of dog whistle, as it is being used here? Would the legitimacy of the piece be questioned?

In more news from America, Juan Felipe Herrero has been appointed US poet laureate: the story is in The Guardian and The National with little detail. Thanks to the Mail’s policy of just reprinting stuff verbatim from the newswires, the Herrero story turns up there in triplicate, as told by Reuters, AP and AFP). But, as with AP’s “story” on Richard Blanco’s Bridges to/from Cuba project, context and analysis is lacking.

I don’t really know what being US Poet Laureate means – perhaps American readers can enlighten me. Does the US poet laureate have the same profile as the UK one? Or is it a largely meaningless bauble? Speaking of which…

I have never been entirely certain what exactly the Oxford Professor of Poetry actually does. I presumed it had little to do with the usual duties of an academic (preparing funding applications, admin, research, and teaching, in that order), but what it did include was a mystery. Now I know: “The duties – one lecture a term for five years – are almost as paltry as the annual salary of £12,000.” I’ve got to be honest – twelve grand for a few hours’ work doesn’t seem too shabby to me, especially as my own experience of teaching in a UK university (actual teaching – not making set-piece speeches) was paid at a rather less handsome rate (an awful lot of day to day teaching in British unis is done by postgraduate students in return for small – but often very necessary – wages, and the promise of CV-fattening “experience”).

Anyway, having been enlightened by the Guardian‘s article (as well as being given a brief history of the various controversies surrounding the role), I can now confidently declare that I could not give a flying Bragg about the outcome. The election happens later this week, and as soon as it does, we can all return to living in complete ignorance of the fact that the OxPoProf exists.

Elsewhere, some unpublished Katharine Mansfield poems have turned up. Normally I’d be annoyed at the article concentrating more on the biographical angle than the poems themselves, but Mansfield’s talent as a poet was minimal compared to her ability in fiction, so these are likely only to be of interest to those studying her life. Gerri Kimber, the academic who found them, is quoted as saying, “As well as Mansfield being one of the most famous modernist short-story writers, I believe there is a case to be made for reassessing her as a poet.” Nope.

What else? A quiz about WB Yeats: whatever the emoji for shrugging in a bemused fashion is.

The Sunday Times has what appears to be a more substantive article on Yeats, which appears to ask whether his poetry is being swamped by his persona as defined by the heritage industry. Of course, I’m only going by the first paragraph and a half (paywall), so whether there’s any more to it than that, I don’t know.

The Guardian has a review of Hans Magnus Enzensburger‘s new selected poems in English:  Probably about the only living non-English language poet any non-trivial number of readers can name, but still. Reviewing over fifty years’ worth of poetry is difficult in such a short space, but Sean O’Brien could have tried. The review boils down to: “lots of acerbic political stuff here; sometimes succumbs to a tendency towards preachiness in later years”. Fine, as far as it goes – but if I can boil your review down to the length of a tweet and lose nothing of substance, that is a problem.

Owen Sheers is “contemporary literature’s renaissance man” because he’s a poet who writes in other forms too. Also, The Telegraph has a bit of Simon Armitage’s (non-poetry) book. Is he a renaissance man, too? Is every poet who does other stuff (which in practice means every poet anyone has ever heard of: they get heard of because of their radio plays, novels, BBC4 documentaries, etc. – not their poetry)?

A rather more interesting discussion of poetry’s engagement with other media (in this case, mostly music) in this write up of one of the Stand Up and Spit events in The Morning Star. I was at the talk, and this is a pretty good write up, considering the limited space. See more hereStand Up and Spit are currently on a run of John Cooper Clarke related articles. And look here! A live poetry review in The Daily Record of JCC in Aberdeen!

In other Scottish poetry news, the aptly named McCash prize for poetry in Scots has just upped its prize money to £3,500. Perhaps a special award for criticism could go to Record reviewer Graeme Lynch for his write-up of Clarke: “Mention must be made of his first ever haiku (a strict format of Japanese poetry) – “To con-vey one’s mood. In seven-teen syll-ables is ve-ry dif-fic.” In case you don’t get that – the sudden ending, mid word, is the punchline.” Cheers Graeme.

 

Bookshop Update #2

I’ve been having a bit of computer trouble this week, so The Number Nothing #1 will go up next Tuesday, and I may not be able to get this week’s other features up either – it’s a race against time before my back-up computer dies; in the meantime, please do leave a comment telling me why my poem is crap.

So, only a day and a half to go until the end of our Indiegogo campaign. Thank you so much to those of you who have already donated and spread the word. We are quite close to our target of £5,000. Whether we reach the target or not we will now be able to start the bookshop, however if we reach the target we pay a much smaller fee to Indiegogo out of the funds raised, which obviously means we have more to spend on making the shop as good as we can, so, please, if you know anyone with an interest in poetry, or just with the arts engaging with the public, do let them know about our project.

Thanks,

Paul.