Blog

Re: Drafts – ‘The Fall of the Wall of Hill’

The assistant editorship of The Rialto is helping me let poems take over my flat. I recently finished teaching a reading group for The Poetry School so my Wall Of Hill (entirety of Mercian Hymns photocopied and arranged on my bedroom wall so I could scribble notes) has come down. Things might have felt a…

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Where The Heart Is: Notes From A Residency with Age Concern

Being a poet in residence is normally a really fun gig. Be it a virtual or physical residency, you usually find yourself in an interesting and unfamiliar environment. You’re given protected time to write; you get to meet new people; you might get to see inside an institution or organisation that is normally closed to…

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Queer Poetics for Non-Queers (or On Exclusivity in Identity Politics)

Queer Poetics II In my last post about queer poetics, I said, “In celebrating queer poets, I don’t think that straight poets should feel that I’m not talking to them”—but I’m not sure that I did a sufficient job of explaining what the value of “minority” poetics might be. Indeed, a wise reader called me…

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Poetry & Multimedia I

A recent trend in UK poetry is what I might call ‘multimedia projects’ or ‘live literature,’ a development that interests me for several reasons. Like many poets, I have a love-hate relationship with poetry readings. As an audience member, I find that some readings can feel electric or even transcendent. But others can be dull,…

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Queer Poetics I

Poetry has always been the province of the consummate insider and the total outsider—a dichotomous split between the institutionalized John Clare types and the silver spoon James Merrill’s. The origin myth of poetry in English is of a literal outsider. Poor Caedmon is so embarrassed to have no songs to sing that he goes out…

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Poetic Attention II: In Praise of Snapshots

When I was in Best American Poetry 2005, there were a number of complaints in the blogosphere about how very New York-centric the issue was. The concern—probably a justified concern—was that the New York poetry scene is too insular and self-congratulatory. Interestingly, the guest editor was Paul Muldoon. An Irishman who teaches at Princeton (New…

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Poetic Attention I

In Tom Stoppard’s play Indian Ink, the heroine Flora Crewe arrives in the Indian city of Jummapur in the 1930s to give a lecture on literary life in London. Flora Crewe is a poet, and when she arrives at the British club, one of the older members extols the virtues of Kipling, and quotes a…

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Bob

In defence of the sestina: part 4 Here is an incorrect story I tell. My story is that Jonah Winter’s ‘Sestina: Bob’ appeared alongside my poem ‘Ophthalmology at Dawn’ in an issue of Ploughshares. ‘Sestina: Bob’ was literally across the page from my poem, I tell people. It was literally sneering at my poem, exposing…

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Unreal Ghazals in English

When Agha Shahid Ali subtitled his anthology of formal ghazals, “Real Ghazals in English” he was trying to point out that the constraints of rhyme and refrain were what made a ghazal real. But what of unreal ghazals? Even Shahid admitted, “I do like many aspects of the so-called ghazals” that his American comrades were…

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I know what I know, says the almanac

In defence of the sestina: part 3 ‘Sestina’, a widely anthologised poem, is one of two sestinas Elizabeth Bishop published. (The other is ‘A Miracle for Breakfast’.)  I first came across ‘Sestina’ in the third edition of The Norton Anthology of Poetry, the doorstopper required for a creative writing class with WN Herbert in 1987….

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Just Add Ghazal

Introducing the ghazal, part 2 Because the ghazal is modular, it can be especially fun to write and revise. In most poetic forms, revision can feel incredibly frustrating—you change one line, and suddenly, everything else is off balance. I once had a student send me a poem, and I told him that I loved the…

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Hockey, hockey

In defence of the sestina, part 2 Once in a while, for no reason at all, these lines go through my head: Call me Zamboni. Nights my job is hockey. I make the ice and watch the kids take slapshots At each other. They act like Esposito. They are the first three lines of a…

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What’s a Ghazal?

Introducing the ghazal, part 1 The ghazal is the oldest poetic form still in use. The word ‘ghazal’ is pronounced “guzzle” in some languages and “gu-ZAHL” in others, though in both with a guttural “g” almost like the “ch” in “Bach.” Supposedly, the name comes from the sound a wounded gazelle makes as it dies….

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Everyone Hates a Sestina

In defence of the sestina, part 1 Almost every poet has heard someone dismiss sestinas. Perhaps you, yourself, have dismissed sestinas. Sam Riviere, in his review of Christopher Reid’s Six Bad Poets in The Poetry Review, wrote: ‘I dread a sestina as much as the next person,’ taking for granted the inevitability of that viewpoint….

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Re: Drafts – ‘Hey, have you had your hair cut?’

It’s early days for the Poetry School’s latest collaboration with The Rialto poetry magazine. Poets Rishi Dastidar and Holly Hopkins are working closely with Rialto editor Michael Mackmin on a programme designed to teach them about the process and philosophy of poetry editing. Each month, on a new series we’re calling Re: Drafts, they’ll share…

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How I Did It: ‘The Shipwrecked House II’

I wrote ‘The Shipwrecked House II’ at my grandmother’s funeral. I know this because this image is my contribution to her funeral book. A few weeks later I met Tom Chivers for the first time to discuss my yet untitled collection. I wanted to go with ‘Hook’ in memory of my grandmother (her maiden name)…

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