Saturday, April 28, 2007

I've just started work on the next Leafe Press book: a single poem of 200-plus pages by American poet John Bloomberg-Rissman, called 'No Sounds of My Own Making'. As the title implies, it's contructed entirely of quotes from other writers. It's a quick-paced witty and engaging poem, that also manages to look squarely at the way human beings treat each other, mainly in relation to contemporary events. I hope to have it ready for publication by autumn this year at the latest.

I've made the first tentative enquiries about getting a grant of public money to buy some up-to-date DTP software. The Print-on-Demand process was more complicated than it should have been last time because I didn't have the right tools for the job, namely, Adobe Indesign, Acrobat Pro and Photoshop. That lot should set me back abut £1200. Let's hope the vast succubus of the 2012 Olympics hasn't absorbed all the available cash.

Thanks to extensive reports from the BBC, radio, television and the national press, it's clear to me that the most important question facing Britain today is: should Prince Hal enter the field of battle?

It's good that we discuss these things - befitting a country whose government is full of Lords, Knights and and Baronesses.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

There's a good article about Dylan Thomas at Peter Riley's site, April Eye.

There's an interview with C.J. Allen on-line at Arvon Friends.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The new Peter Gizzi book has arrived at last. It's called 'The Outernationale'. His last book 'Some Values of Landscape and Weather' was so good, I thought this one may disappoint, but it hasn't. It's got the same mastery of lyric form, in a tradition running from Wallace Stevens through John Ashbery, but made distinctly his own. It's very similar to his previous book, but not to his early work, which may mean that he's established his mature style. The same concerns are there - the nature of perception, how perception and language interact, visual art and social concerns (there's a lot more politics in this book than is first apparent). And there's at least one unabashed love poem. Like Rae Armantrout, who I'm also currently reading, Gizzi has the ability to pick images and phrases that suggest a lot with a few words. But Gizzi's poetry is more sensual and lyrical. Both poets are published in superb hardback editions by Welseyan.

Just had a weeks's family holiday in Andalucia. Not good for my 'carbon footprint', but we are holidaying in England in the summer. Weather poor. We visited the Alhambra palace in Granada on a day of heavy rain and cold wind. Last time I went there, in the mid-80s it was an idyllic experience. Since then the whole process of visiting has been industrialised, and the sheer number of visitors and guided parties (not helped by officious staff) is threatening to overwhelm a place whose attraction is its small-scale delicacy. I suppose its all down to people like me taking advantage of cheap air travel.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Went to see Chekhov's 'The Cherry Orchard' at Sheffield last night. Great performances, including Joanna Lumley, brilliantly cast as Madame Ranevsky. A nightmare journey in the Easter traffic (2 hours to do the 40 miles from Nottingham), but we got there in time.

I'm currently reading Rae Armantrout's new collection 'Next Life', having been introduced to this wonderful poet by a friend of mine. I'll enthuse more about this book in a later post. In the meantime, two short notices of books received, the first recently, the second some time ago.

'Green Darlings' by Mary Maher. pub. Overstep Books, Salcombe, Devon.

Top quality mainstream poetry by a writer who has been featured on Litter. Themes of motherhood, family, illness and absence expertly handled and with a strength that comes in part from mixing broader and more abstract writing with the personal and domestic. Recommended. Here's a sample:


when my head's no longer clever
it will be beautiful instead

a skull polished by earth's societies

a globe of bone inviting
a hand a new cradle

when I'm empty-headed
a maze of orifices will open up

my mind beyond belief

'My Life in Films' by Mary Michaels. pub. The Other Press, London.

A collection of prose pieces which, while looking at first like short stories, are best approached as prose-poems. They're disjunctive and fragmentary, and, as you'd expect from the title, use cinematic effects, switching between the movies themselves and the making of them (there's a long list of movie directors at the end whose work is referenced in the book). Some of these 'fictions' were more vivid and engaging than others (as you'd expect I suppose), but it's an interesting change of direction from a writer whose poetry is fairly conventional.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Germaine Greer thinks that Stratford-upon-Avon is "the worst kind of tourist trap". It certainly must be a disappointment to foreign visitors, and considering its world-wide importance it is indeed a bit of a dump. After spending an afternoon there, it's hard not to agree with Greer that visitors are left "...with nothing better to spend their money on than McDonald's, KFC or overpriced, mass-produced sandwiches and vile coffee". At least they're seeing the contemporary Britain that the rest of us have to put up with, and not some illusory costume-drama mock-up. But all the same...

But hey, it was a beautiful sunny day, and we had a top-notch performance to look forward to, which didn't let us down. The birthplace museum is good, mainly because the house has miraculously survived more or less intact, and walking on the same flagstones that the man himself must have walked on is quite something. Ian Mckellen's Lear was superb.