Thursday, 31 March 2011


Just taken receipt of The Wolf 24 with both a poem and a Geoffrey Hill review of mine inside. I'm delighted to find myself included amid a uniformly strong edition and in the context of poets of the calibre of Charles Simic, John Kinsella and Philip Gross.
   To me The Wolf remains the one contemporary poetry magazine (to paraphrase Pound) genuinely in key with its time, in terms of its inquisitive internationalism, its shrewd political awareness/wariness and its non-partisan acuity towards quality poetry.
     In a week where we've seen how Coalition cuts will mean whole poetry bodies (such as the PBS and Arc Publishing) are set to lose their funding, its emboldening to see how The Wolf has not allowed the loss of its Arts Council funding last year to effect its integrity or standards.
   To get hold of The Wolf 24 check out the website:

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The 'Intimidating Legacy of the Past': Hill and Enright

  One of the most interesting items in the latest PN Review (198, March-April) is an overview by Jeffrey Wainwright of 'Geoffrey Hill's First Lecture as Oxford Professor of Poetry'. Even in his concise synopsis, Wainwright gives a vivid sense of the profundity and complexity of Hill's discussion (clearly cognate with the themes of his work in verse) of poetry as perjury, his insistence on the need for an 'ontological' reading of poems which 'adds to the stock of available reality' and his wondering if there are poets today 'working at a pitch equal to the demands set by the history of poetry'.
    A field of influence restricted to other contemporary poets and a scope of reading not much broader than the latest magazines and e-zines seems a besetting flaw of much current poetry, particularly by younger writers - along with this comes a sort of passive acceptance about the nature and status of received poetics, and a wholesale avoidance of the intellectual engagement with poetry and language as contested historical phenomena which Hill urges as central to the poet's endeavour.
   By chance I found similar notions promulgated by DJ Enright (not actually - lest I start sounding too old-bufferish - a poet I've ever warmed to) in his Intro to the Oxford Book Contemporary Verse 1945-80 from as far back as 1979:

'Here are writers who have spared themselves the discomforts attendant on what W. Jackson Bate has termed 'the remorseless deepening of self-consciousness before the rich and intimidating legacy of the past' through the simple expedient of ignoring the past...chiefly for the young and for busy people who look for quick returns: the type of writing which, abandoning the ancient poetic habit of making connections between one thing and another as either vulgar or  old hat or 'academic', gives itself up to unconnected whimsies, velleities or spasms.'

    Just seen that Carrie Etter has a podcast of the Hill lecture on her blog:


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Spring Blackbox

The new number of the excellent Blackbox Manifold is now 'live' @:


Any publication that juxtaposes Ron Silliman and Matthew Sweeney should be applauded for its critical inclusivity.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

lotus flower

I realise I'm, like, so February in this but I've only just got round to listening to Radiohead's King of Limbs which strikes me as remarkable primarily in that it's not a genre-bursting leap forward as all the previous albums have been (with the possible exception of the one after Kid A whose name I forget) but nevertheless a strong, diverse, inventive,alluring work in itself. Only after the magnificence of In Rainbows could this be deemed (as some reviewers have suggested) 'disappointing'.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Sinclair as Poet

  Although Iain Sinclair is now known primarily for his prose, his poetry is equally worthy of attention. I first came across him in the seminal anthology A Various Art (1987, ed. Crozier/Longville), ostensibly a showcase for the 'Cambridge School' of JH Prynne and Veronica Forrest-Thomson but really quite a diverse grouping of non-mainstream poets including Roy Fisher, Douglas Oliver and Peter Riley. The poems by Sinclair stand out even among such distinguished company for their slanted takes on urban locales, the language denser and more given to surreal, grotesque or mythic tangents than in the prose-books.
   What strikes me, re-reading the brilliant shorter pieces, is in fact how contemporary these 30 year-old poems feel; their influence seems to be apparent in a number of younger London poets writing now. A piece by Tom Chivers called 'Civic Block Print', for example, that appeared recently on his blog This is Yogic (link on blogroll) seems to me pure early Sinclair:

The building is a fang
this building is a pyramid

spine of unreal glass
split across the tracks