Noise, Sound, Silence

…being the title of the workshop I’ll be teaching on Saturday 23rd March for The Poetry School.  It feels like I wrote the course description a long time ago, but here’s what I said:

When does sound become noise? And what is silence? How can we write about aural phenomena and how do we write them into our poems? We’ll be exploring these questions through a mixture of listening and writing exercises, reading and discussion.

Expect to hear some silence, music and whatever’s in-between and to read poems that respond to sounds both beautiful and ugly. There’ll be a chance to think about the silences inside your own poems and how they relate to stanza and line break.

You should come away with several poems-in-the-making and a plethora of ideas for approaching the subject. Please bring a copy of one of your own poems.

I’m really looking forward to it, as this subject is very very close to my heart (not to mention my research interests).  Maybe you’ll join me?  You can book here.

And here endeth the cheeky plug.


Go, litel bok, go…*

litel myn tragedye,/Ther God thi makere yet, er that he dye, / So sende myght to make in som comedye! / But litel book, no makyng thow n’envie, / But subgit be to alle poesye; / And kis the steppes where as thow seest pace / Virgile, Ovide, Omer, Lucan, and Stace.

Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde c. 1380, lines 1786 – 1792.

But why am I thinking of Chaucer and his epic poem?  Because I have a little book out myself!  LOOK!

It really is a little book – a pamphlet, 24 poems, some of them over several pages – and I’m so pleased with the excellent job that Salt have done.  I’ve said this before, but I find the pamphlet format very satisfying; the size allows for a tightly-controlled sequencing, where you’re able to create a clear trajectory of thought, or narrative arc or just a very strongly pointed-up series of connections between poems.

Not that I’m against publishing in a longer format.  I’d love the chance to do that too.  But in these straitened times, with the poetry presses’ lists getting fuller and fuller, those opportunities are a bit more squeezed.  And while waiting for one of those opportunities, why not make use of the pamphlet?  Or maybe, the pamphlet is the way forward in poetry publishing, and longer, single author volumes will be no longer viable?  Scary but exciting thought…

Mine is perhaps a more conventional use of the format – genuinely, a little book – but artists and writers throughout history have made very creative and original uses of the pamphlet that challenge how we think about reading, books-as-objects…  One excellent starting point for investigating this would be UCL’s Little Magazines, Alternative Press & Poetry Store Collections .  Another would be the British Library – who host the Michael Marks Pamphlet Awards and have, as you’d expect, an extensive collection of independent and small press publications.

But I digress.  The Bridle will be out at the end of November.

* Something I’ve always wondered: In ‘Trompe le Monde’, Black Francis sings: “Go, little record go….”  Do you think he’s quoting Chaucer?  Another reason why they’re my favourite band.

Goodbye July

…which has proved to be an eventful month.  There’s the whole Poetry Society thing, for a start.  I’m sure you’ve read coverage ( a bit wonky) in some of the national newspapers.  You may even have read about it on such sites as Baroque in Hackney (concerned by the Board’s actions) or Eyewear (concerned by everyone’s actions) or maybe even the site set up originally to address the actions of the Board via an EGM.  I’m not going to add my tuppence-worth here.  Except to say that it is grimly comforting to know that communication and relationship difficulties occur in the world of poetry organisations as they do in every other field I’ve worked in.  We’re not exempt.

July also saw the Hairy Muse and I in Shetland.  We took a boat to the uninhabited island of Mousa, to see the broch.  Common seals and their pups reclined on the rocky shores on the other side.  We were bombed by great skuas and saw a tern harried by an arctic skua.  We squabbled over who would have custody of our pitifully small binoculars and back on the mainland, mooned around coastline, exclaiming at how beautiful it all was.  We went for walks around Lerwick, where we were staying, in order to see the grey seals that popped up out of the waters of Bressay Sound.  And of course, we visited a museum – and a lighthouse, where we saw puffins, shitloads of puffins, amongst other birds, and an improbably Heath-Robinson foghorn.  While there, I bought the Jen Hadfield  collection I don’t have  and spent the week  accompanied by  jolts of connection between her poems and my glimpses of the place I was in.  We ate scones and some of the best fish and chips I’ve ever had, and drank beer brewed on the islands.  We gawped at the enormous ocean liners that deposited their inmates at Lerwick for the afternoon, looking for all the world like space aliens in their designer sunglasses and raincapes and immaculate tennis shoes.  I narrowly avoided buying a CD of fiddle music.  The Hairy Muse took too many photos of shipwrecked navigational instruments.  We barely saw anything of Shetland, really – just enough to know that I want to visit again.

Haha, this last photo shows me high as a kite; such are the effects of heavy binocular-use.

Another event in July; the first reading I’ve given for quite a while took place at the Barbican Music Library.  So here I am at the launch of Issue 6 of the Long Poem Magazine.  Congratulations to the editors, and good luck to one of them, Anna Robinson, who is stepping down from her editorship in order to begin work on her PhD.  Doctor Robinson.  It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Photo by David Andrews

A Busy Week

I’m trying to remember my yoga teacher’s stuff about remembering to breathe.  The usual pace of my week is glacial, but these last weeks have been a bit too close to the pace I “enjoyed” as a secondary school teacher.  So much going on!

I am trying to secure somewhere to live; that in itself is making my hair fall out.  At least it’s in the lovely town – sorry, city – of Norwich, which is a pleasure to walk around.

And I’m trying to do all the stuff my fantastic publisher needs me to do, in preparation for the pamphlet (if confused, refer to last post!).

And on top of that, I have my first Morley class.  Yes, the wonderful Morley College have employed me.  I’m teaching a Poetry Summer School Course (places still available!) for 3 weeks, starting this Thursday (21st).  And then I’ll be teaching the Beginner Poetry Class from September, while their regular teacher goes on sabbatical.  I’ve covered for her once or twice already, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The atmosphere is very supportive, the students I met were very talented and lovely people.  If you fancy giving it a shot, do!  Or any of the other courses….I’m quite tempted by the London History ones, myself.

Anyway.  Another lovely thing, another busy thing.  I’m reading at the launch of Issue 6 of The Long Poem Magazine.  Here are the details:

Long Poem Magazine Launches Issue 6

Wednesday July 20th – 6.30 p.m.

Barbican Library

Barbican Centre, Silk Street,

for directions – follow the link below

Readings from Mimi Khalvati, Mike Bannister, Chris McCabe, Graham Mort, Derrick Porter, Meryl Pugh, Steve Sawyer

Maybe I’ll see you there? 

And I haven’t even mentioned the Poetry Society’s EGM on Friday.  Partly because I can’t attend – juggling this little lot means I have to be at my day job on Friday.  But never fear, I have appointed my proxy etc. etc.  I haven’t really discussed the goings-on before.  I’m not sure I have an opinion, to be honest.  I was concerned to read of so many resignations.  I wanted to know about the circumstances surrounding those resignations.  And I want to be informed about (and hope to be reassured and excited by) plans for the Poetry Society’s future direction – and, as a member, to be consulted about that direction if the plans involve significant change.  That’s all.   Here’s wishing all involved a productive meeting.