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Self, Place, World

Ahead of his monthly course in Birmingham, the city’s poet laureate Richard O’Brien writes about the concentric circles of ‘self’, ‘place’ and ‘world’. Poetry is always a kind of dialogue between the internal and the external. We write out of, if not necessarily ‘about’ in a confessional sense, our personal lived experience of reality —…

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Review: ‘The Built Moment’ by Lavinia Greenlaw

Lavinia Greenlaw’s The Built Moment (Faber) grapples with the slipperiness of time, memory, loss and the downwards slope of her father’s dementia. In two neat sequences, these poems gather together the loose, unruly strands of the aging self, along with the grieving observer, and spin them into something beautiful. The first sequence of poems, ‘The…

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Review: ‘The Gaelic Garden of the Dead’ by MacGillivray

Each new MacGillivray collection should be welcomed for its far-out linguistic verve, spiky music and intellectual dynamism. There are few poets writing today as utterly sui generis in their style – like poets of the British Poetry Revival (and I’m thinking particularly of Barry MacSweeney and his Book of Demons) all we can do as…

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Poetry for Change

It starts with words. The lies and the truths. Politicians know how to use them: to deceive, persuade, or both. With new platforms for the arts, poets have the chance to counter falsity, to spread their words more than ever. In designing this course, I looked for poems that called for change: their rich imagery,…

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Review – ‘The Quick’ by Jessica Traynor

At the heart of Jessica Traynor’s second collection, The Quick (Dedalus Press), is a nine-poem sequence commissioned, so the notes tell us, by the Salvage Press, for the 350th anniversary of Swift’s birth and ‘written in response to the provocation, “What might Swift write about now?”’ Traynor’s ‘A Modest Proposal’, like the Swiftian satire it is…

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Review: ‘Kingdomland’ by Rachael Allen

About two-thirds of the way through Kingdomland, Rachael Allen’s debut collection, the text neatly encapsulates some of its key motifs – oppressive heat, procreation, bodily angst – in a single stroke: The day is an oven. I float outwards in a concentric circle. I will know the pattern of your knee. I sit by the river…

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Radical Butchery Studio

“Futurists believed that the constraints of syntax were inappropriate to modern life and that it did not truly represent the mind of the poet…However, the Futurists were not truly abolishing syntax. White points out that since “The OED defines ‘syntax’ as ‘the arrangement of words in their proper forms) by which their connection and relation…

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We Cannot Stop the Rumbling Trains

I live in Nanjing, just down the road from the Chaotian palace and, in the other direction, the Hanzhongmen section of the city’s ancient wall. This section of the wall is mostly in bits now, but it’s a lovely spot, opening up into an area for gathering with friends. As the sun sets on the…

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The Convergence of Languages in Latinx Poetry

One of the elements that makes Latinx poetry so rich is the many cultures that come together in a single poem. The convergence of cultures can take on many forms, and for Latinx poets, who come from a wide range of backgrounds, the results are endlessly varied. In the forthcoming Poem(a)s Studio: Reading Contemporary Latinx…

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Review: ‘Milk Tooth’ by Martha Sprackland

The title of Martha Sprackland’s new pamphlet, Milk Tooth (Rough Trade), might denote a wish or an ache, something missing, a talisman wrought from the body, a souvenir of pain. A reminder that we are all animals of a sort, struggling for one or more kinds of survival. Milk Tooth opens with an epigraph from…

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Non-Executive Board Member Position Open!

Poetry School is a national arts organisation providing inspiring tuition and opportunities for poets and poetry audiences. We were founded in 1997 by poets Mimi Khalvati, Jane Duran and Pascale Petit. Since our earliest days, our courses and activities have encouraged poets and poetry to flourish. With established teaching centres throughout England as well as…

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Review: ‘Shadow Dogs’ by Natalie Whittaker

Natalie Whittaker’s Shadow Dogs (ignition press) introduces a powerful, controlled new voice. The twenty-one poems collected here are often short and restrained but, to steal from the pamphlet’s title, the elegant sentences and striking images cast enormous shadows, conjuring something much bigger than themselves. Because of the care with language and the sense of a lived…

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Review: ‘Spikenard’ by Yvonne Reddick

Red in tooth and claw though the setting for many of her poems are, Yvonne Reddick evades any easy categorisation in Spikenard (Smith | Doorstop). Just as she did in its two predecessors, Deerhart and Translating Mountains, Reddick writes a poetry that bucks, rears and darts, but is also defined by the steady and deep-sinking effect…

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Review: ‘Counter Reform’ by Charlotte Newman

Charlotte Newman’s Counter Reform is ostensibly a pamphlet about living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As Newman asserts: ‘It is not about liking things clean. It is about making a mess of human mechanisms, of trying to control metaphysics.’ For Newman, the pamphlet is a ‘not-book’. The pamphlet is split into three sections: ‘Obsession’, ‘Compulsion’, ‘Resistance’….

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‘Your sister is a thousand eyes’ by Billie Manning

Your sister is a thousand eyes and she has been looking for you. In the park by the rusting swings, in the burnt grass, she is looking. She sees a thousand things. Chernobyl. Teeth and hair. A dead father. Ugliness. You’ve seen them. The burning buildings, the falling bridges. Children crying in the back of…

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‘The Number You Have Dialled Does Not Exist’ by Fathima Zahra

(After Hyon Gyon’s ‘We Were Ugly’) Your granddaughter – Wild fields of skeletons your Gardening books didn’t teach you about. She writes letters to your dead husband, Loves a boy in secret, But you don’t know that. You know her from a time of closeted Tongues and unaware Grandmothers loved better. There’s only so much…

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Writers, Retreat

Fall back, poets! I’ve got the supplies in; you need only bring yourselves. I’ve designed Writers, Retreat as a wild tour of the remote huts, palaces and wind baffles used by poets and artists to keep their notebooks from the elements and their writing from interruption. We’ll pay Dylan Thomas a visit in his ‘house…

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In Praise of Complexity

I’ve recently been reading Peter Brook’s The Shifting Point. I often go back to this book, reading about the world of theatre as a way to think about poetry. In the chapter entitled ‘Shakespearean Realism’ Brook talks about how we intuitively accept from a young age that our mind is constantly moving from one place…

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Pub Chats: Bad Betty Press

Welcome to Pub Chats, our series of interviews about the nuts and bolts of publishing with some of the country’s most innovative indie presses. Joining us for a chat and a drink today is Amy Acre of Bad Betty Press. Hello there! What are you drinking?  I like a bit of everything, but it’s 4pm…

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Only Love

Other than being a poet, I’m also a high school and middle school English teacher. A student asked me the other day what my “writing truth” was and it stunned me. It’s a funny phrase, “writing truth”, and it was an odd question, but I knew my answer immediately: the heart. Everything I write is…

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Course Quick Guide — Summer 2019

This handy quick guide to our Summer 2019 courses includes a booking link and a short description of everything we’re offering coming term! Click on a course for more information.  Face-to-Face Courses London – One and Two-Day Workshops Mapping Our Lost Haunts with Jean Sprackland Rediscover the dens, playgrounds and treehouses of your childhood. Extrasensory Perceptions: Fortean Poetry with Caleb Parkin Channel poems from…

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Pub Chats: Platypus Press

Welcome to Pub Chats, our series of interviews about the nuts and bolts of publishing with some of the country’s most innovative indie presses. Joining us today in our mystery spit-and-sawdust somewhere in Canary Wharf is Michelle Tudor of Platypus Press, an indie publisher of poetry, fiction & non-fiction based in England. Hello there! What…

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On Finding Our Why

When the Poetry School asked if I’d like to run a course of my own choosing, I asked myself what I might have needed support with at some other time. As it turns out, commissions and residencies can be transformative ways of learning about your own practice. Having undertaken a number of these last year,…

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Tutor Academy – April 2019

Put a spring back in your poems’ step, and see new inspiration bloom at our brand new Tutor Academy! This spring we have collaborated with  Martha Sprackland, editor at Offord Road Books, to co-curate a week of exciting half-day workshops led by ten poets who are teaching for the Poetry School for the first time. We are…

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Review: ‘Us’ by Zaffar Kunial

The most impressive thing about Zaffar Kunial’s debut collection, Us, might be its willingness not to impress; to leave as slight an impression as possible. The book’s first epigraph (of two) comes from Khalil Gibran: ‘Half of what I say is meaningless; but I say it / so that the other half may reach you’…

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