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Pound uses other people

People are much more familiar with the idea of found poetry now than in any of the centuries before Pound. The idea, though, that poetry is not made up of one’s own expression but of incorporating the writings of others is an old one. In previous centuries, it was common for published writers to expect…

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Serif-ically Visual

To follow on from my last post and anticipate my next, I’m going to say more about how visually Pound writes/types for the page, and do so using the first example so far in my discussions of Pound using found text (more of which soon). But I’m also not going to move too far away…

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Re: Drafts – ‘Lessons from Press Gang and other submissions’

Rishi Dastidar and I are working closely with The Rialto editor Michael Mackmin on a programme designed to teach us about the process and philosophy of poetry editing. Following the publication of The Rialto’s 81st issue, I met up online with Rishi to discuss how receiving poetry submissions has changed our perspective on the best…

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Notes on Modernists II

It’s obvious that analysis of other artists walks hand in hand with being an artist oneself. When you have a go at a form, then it becomes much easier to read a master’s work in that form. In an analogous way, the therapist Carl Rogers said that whenever he had an epiphany (of compassion) for…

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21st Century Canto: Pound, Resounding

So, we have looked at the timbre of words. Sometimes one also explores a different metre (one based on length of syllable rather than stress, for example) in order to get at a good line in a good timbre. This is what we tend to do when we remember poets’ work: we remember a line….

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Notes on Modernists

My initial pitch for this residency, and one that I’ve fancied for a while, is to set a number of exercises based on Modernist poets. These are some suggestions in brief.   BASIL BUNTING Avoid synonyms. Try to use the plain word. If the same object appears several times in your poem, call it the…

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21st Century Canto: Sounding Out Pound

I began my first week by discussing Ezra Pound and translation. I very much hope that this will lead some new readers to have a go at translating, to get past worrying whether or not they can hold a long conversation in another language before at least trying to get something from a poem in…

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21st Century Canto: Infestation-Translation

What Pound did for me is infest my poetry world. All across it, in small pockets. One reason that Pound is hard to emulate is that he has re-thought a lot of different things, and he brings all these to bear simultaneously: like all Shaun the Sheep’s friends piling into one human overcoat and walking…

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21st Century Canto: Translation, Pound-style

A very good place to start with Ezra Pound is the Selected Poems and Translations edited by Richard Sieburth, originally published by New Directions, the New York publishing house founded by James Laughlin when Ezra told him “You’re never going to be any good as a poet. Why don’t you take up something useful?”. The volume is…

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The blossom front: celebrating Hanami with Fawzia Kane and Louisa Hooper

On Saturday 18 April, Fawzia Kane and Louisa Hooper will be celebrating the Japanese tradition of Hanami, or ‘flower viewing’, with a blossom-fueled poetry workshop at the Brogdale Collections… Louisa: It hardly seems it, but it’s more than a quarter of a century since I sat beneath the avenue of flowering cherries by the great…

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On teaching, writing and saying goodbye

Several of my posts for this residency have mentioned my former teachers. Now a teacher myself, I sometimes repeat or repackage their advice. If you have been in any of my classes, my teachers have effectively been your teachers too. A teacher who was particularly special to me was Roger Erickson. A celebrated English teacher,…

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Thank You, Internet

Thank you so much, everyone out there on the CAMPUS! I’ve really enjoyed being the other half of your poet-in-residence. I was thrilled to be partnered with Kathryn, and I’ve heard rumors that you may hear a bit more from us in the new year, but this post officially marks my farewell. It seems a…

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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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