Sunday, 11 December 2011

Because this (mostly) sums up my feelings

So, Alice Oswald and John Kinsella have withdrawn from the T.S. Eliot prize. Oswald's statement the other day expressed her unease over the prize's new, financial sponsor: '[...] I think that poetry should be questioning not endorsing such institutions [...]' Like her or love her, at least she's chosen a position and stuck to it. I don't really want to go into the politics of the Eliot prize, though. I've been thinking about Oswald's statement, and I think it deserves further deliberation.

In his blog, the writer Ian Marchant talks about the end of economic growth and what it means for his mid-Waleian town, Presteigne. Marchant, whose book The Longest Crawl is one I bang on about to just about everyone (seriously, it's fantastic), is certainly not an economist, and neither am I, but what he says about moving towards a society in which we don't put financial gain as the ultimate virtue in life seems to me to be on the button, making him, in a way, a co-conspirator of Oswald. Marchant's summary, which can be found linked above, is probably the best I've read of how we ought to progress from 2012, but my fear is that most people will write him off as being a luddite.

Thinking about Marchant's views in conjunction with Oswald's withdrawl, I begin to think how I feel. Lately, I've been trying to write some political poetry, after being encouraged by Clare Pollard to write about a political issue; to act on Shelley's maxim and become 'an unaknowledged legislator of the world.' That 'unaknowledged' does sit uncomfortably for me, but the rest of the sentiment is perfect. How, then, do we legislate the world when the world seems to want different things to ourselves?

I'm certainly not a Tory, but it winds me up no end hearing endless, futile rants between and by Cameron and Milliband and their supporters. All the bullshit that festers in the news about getting the economy kickstarted and saving the Euro and all the rest of it - that means fuck all if the sole aim is to get back to 1999, to the same situation which started all this mess.

Personally, I'm with Shelley, Oswald and Marchant: I want my poetry to legislate the world and in doing so challenge the status quo, but I don't want to ram those thoughts into its face. I'd prefer for you to breathe them in; sweat them out; feel the residue of their salts on your glistening skin.

Monday, 5 December 2011

On being involved in a vibrant poetry community.

Some brief updates for anyone who’s interested (the egotistical part of me hopes that despite having no followers, I’m not the only one who will read this). For a start, Trashed Organ last Thursday was excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the other performers and discovered the beautiful tuneage of Matt Stalker and Fables. The crowd, too, was exceptionally good given the Metro strikes. All round, a fantastic night and one in which I largely stuck to my ambition to read mostly new material.

Some of that new material came in the form of sections of the sequence of poems I’m writing for the Seachange initiative in South Shields. This project’s first phase began in the summer and will culminate in spring and early summer next year with a rolling series of interdisciplinary billboards containing some of my poetry at the seafront in Shields. Unfortunately, I can’t reveal much more at this stage, but suffice to say I am excited.

Other exciting projects are shaping up, too: tonight I’m going to Newcastle City Library to record for BBC Radio 4’s Poetry Workshop programme. The show won’t go out until January, so watch this space, but it should be a totally enriching (and somewhat terrifying) experience to critique poems for a radio broadcast. The group who I’m doing that with are also the same group taking part in New Writing North’s new poets’ development programme – a series of weekend workshops led by Clare Pollard. We had the third session on Saturday and despite feeling fairly under the weather, I still managed to thoroughly enjoy it. Not only is Clare a brilliant workshop leader and editor, the group itself is warm, intimate and supportive, without being too cosy, so the sessions sit well between friendly banter and useful critiques. It’s great being back in such an environment, talking about writing and generating loads of new ideas. For my part, I hope that we can continue working together; continue building on this 'scene' and continue to make Newcastle and the North East a place in which to write, read and share brilliant literature.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Alliterati Publication

Just a quick one: my poem, 'Erase' features hot-off-the(virtual)-press in the stunning new issue of Alliterati, the creative writing and arts magazine published by students at Newcastle University. The direct link to issue 5 online is here. Congratulations and thanks to the A-team; the magazine is superbly produced and a great read!