Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tears in the Fence 50

One of the best UK magazines, Tears in the Fence, has reached issue 50, and is celebrating with a night of poetry on Saturday 5th September, at The Bell, 50 Middlesex St, E1 7EX, near Aldgate tube station. The said issue is packed with good stuff, including work by Iain Sinclair, Nathaniel Tarn, Martin Stannard, John James, John Welch and a collaboration between John Hall and Lee Harwood. The reviews and criticism section, is, as usual, excellent. This issue also contains three poems by the truly wonderful Vahni Capildeo, whose work I first came across in a pamphlet from Landfill Press called 'Person Animal Figure'; an engaging and powerful prose-poem sequence. Capildeo hails from Trinidad and is currently resident in Cambridge. She's reading in London on 15th September at The Lamb, 94 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1 - a reading I'd very much like to get to but probably won't.

To subscribe to Tears in the Fence, contact David Caddy at 38 Hod View, Stourpane, Blandford Forum, Dorset DT11 8TN, or email at david [at] davidcaddy . wanadoo .co .uk.
There's some excellent new poetry on Litter from John Phillips, Rufo Quintavalle and Janet Sutherland, and there'll shortly be some artwork by Peterjon Skelt to accompany the poems already published by Frances Presley.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Angel Exhaust 20

Angel Exhaust 20, edited by the inimitable Andrew Duncan and his co-editor Charles Bainbridge, comes highly recommended. In evidence of which, I need only list the contributors:

Kelvin Corcoran
Michael Haslam
David Chaloner
Charles Bainbridge
Colin Simms
John Goodby
D.S. Marriott
Jesse Glass
Carrie Etter
Jason Wilkinson
Out to Lunch
Rita Dahl
Jeff Hilson
Chris Brownsword
John Kinsella

The poets are given plenty of space, and the twenty-page sequence by David Chaloner is noteworthy. At the end, some entertaining responses to the question "what's wrong with us all?" including some nice invective from one Simon Gregory, such as:

"There is no primacy for the aural. Like, writing, heard of it? You don't think it's irretrievably altered our entire relationship with language? Call it [performance poetry] something to do with theatricals and bugger off.Likewise visual poetry, whether traditional, media or computerised. Totally trivial. Nothing to do with poetry. A minor decorative craft, like macramé."

And from AD himself:

"I have to say first of all that the worst thing on the scene is dumbing down. There are powerful institutional interests which want to eliminate every form of poetry except what is suitable for 15 year olds with learning difficulties."

There are also some thoughts on poetry readings by Alexander Hutchison, whose recent reading in Nottingham remains one of the most memorable I've heard.

I also have to mention the excellent cover, showing "the crows fighting the owls with the curling tongues of flame proper to the Altaic hillside" (Not the image at the top of this post, which is just what came up on Google Images for 'angel exhaust').

Contact details on Carrie Etter's blog.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

There can't be many first-rate songwriters and musicians who can boast a fully-fledged career as a poet and novelist before they took up songwriting, but Leonard Cohen can, of course. I stumbled across this gem recently: a documentary made in 1965 before he was known as a musician. It was made by the National Film Board of Canada, and as well a good documentary and an insight into Cohen himself, it's a glimpse into a lost literary culture.

To see it on the NFB website, click here

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Last week Amsterdam, this week North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland. Bunting country. Not to mention Caedmon, Bede, Swinburne and Joseph Skipsey country. Or Tom Pickard, Barry MacSweeney... etc., etc.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

We've just returned from a family holiday, five days in Amsterdam; my first visit there and I wasn't disapppointed. It's the quietest and most traffic-free capital city I've ever been to, though you do have to watch out for the cyclists, who don't stop for anyone. We walked for miles in the sunshine along the tree-lined canals. As reading, I took the poems of Wallace Stevens. I was intending to get stuck into Stevens' late, long poem-sequences, but ended up agreeing with Lee Harwood in his afterword to Wendy Mulford's 'Collected Poems', when he asks "Do we ever 'do justice' to others' poems? Ever pay enough attention?" With poetry like Stevens', you feel it could take a lifetime to 'do justice' to it. As it turned out I read and re-read "The Man with the Blue Guitar". In case you haven't read it recently, here's part of this rich poem:


It is the sea that whitens the roof.
The sea drifts through the winter air.

It is the sea that the north wind makes.
The sea is in the falling snow.

This gloom is the darkness of the sea.
Geographers and philosophers,

Regard. But for that salty cup,
But for the icicles on the eaves -

The sea is a form of ridicule.
The iceberg settings satirize

The demon that cannot be himself,
That tours to shift the shifting scene.


I am a native in this world
And think in it as a native thinks,

Gesu, not native of a mind
Thinking the thoughts I call my own,

Native, a native in the world
And like a native think in it.

It could not be a mind, the wave
In which the watery grasses flow

And yet are fixed as a photograph,
The wind in which the dead leaves blow.

Here I inhale profounder strength
And as I am, I speak and move

And things are as I think they are
And say they are on the blue guitar.