Glyn Maxwell’s collections include Pluto (Picador), Hide Now (Picador), The Nerve (Picador), and The Breakage (Faber), all of which won or were shortlisted for major prizes. His epic poem Time’s Fool (Picador) is in development as a feature film with Fox Searchlight. On Poetry (Oberon), a guidebook for the general reader, was described as ‘the best book about poetry I’ve ever read’ in The Guardian. In 2016, he published its sequel, Drinks With Dead Poets. His plays and opera libretti have been performed in many countries. He has taught at Amherst, Princeton, Columbia, and NYU in the USA; Warwick, Essex, and Goldsmiths in the UK.
‘A great teacher, Derek Walcott, led me to the three most important voices in my development – Auden, Frost, and Edward Thomas. This may make me sound like a dyed-in-the-wool formalist – perhaps I was long ago, though I’ve never been conservative with any kind of c – but the love of these poets, and countless different others, led me to a much broader and wilder sense of what poetry can be. The subjects and styles of poetry are infinitely various, and the best thing a teacher can do is raise awareness of how form works.
I don’t do this in an academic way, as I didn’t learn it like that. There are two dangerous pathways facing a new poet. The first is to feel that poetry used to be great and is now a mess of fragments. The second is to feel that all beauty is nostalgia and only the contemporary matters. Both attitudes are dumb. Form in poetry is the sound of captured time, so to ignore it is to reduce poems to the constant reiteration of a personal passing moment. Which is literally unmemorable.
I illustrate uses of form both in the canonical works we look at, and the work-in-progress of the students. My only canon is what has survived, my only praxis figuring out the reasons why. I tend to avoid the contemporary. Partly because I feel students will be immersed in it anyway, but more so because the worst course for a new poet is to set off in search of “the sound that gets published”. I love all the forms of poetry that are not the isolated subjective statement: drama, libretto, translation, song, anything where the “I” is somehow all of us, and not one lone heart. I constantly invent games and exercises by way of illustration.’
Tamar Yoseloff’s sixth collection is The Black Place (Seren, 2019). She is also the author of Formerly (the inaugural chapbook from her publishing venture, Hercules Editions), incorporating photographs by Vici MacDonald and shortlisted for the 2012 Ted Hughes Award; two collaborative editions with the artist Linda Karshan, and Nowheres, a privately-produced book with the artist Charlotte Harker. Tamar is a freelance tutor in creative writing, and runs poetry courses for galleries including the Hayward, the RA and the National Gallery. She is a core tutor at the Poetry School and a lecturer on the Poetry School / Newcastle University MA in Writing Poetry.
‘My earliest influences were the American poets I studied at university – O’Hara, Lowell, Bishop, Plath, and Stevens. Although they had different styles and approaches, they gave me the ability to mesh narrative and experience with something less tangible. I liked the plain speaking of Bishop and the mystery of Stevens, and wondered if I could find a balance between them. I also discovered I could be both formal and free, and I’ve been interested ever since in how to drive a poem forward but retain an open form.
I have always been interested in visual art. I’ve written poems and sequences informed by the work of Jackson Pollock and Georgia O’Keeffe but have also collaborated with living artists to produce publications and exhibitions. I have worked with many galleries – including the Hayward, the National Gallery, the Barbican, the Royal Academy and Kettle’s Yard – to create courses informed around their exhibitions. Working from the visual is still very much a part of my creative practice – it’s often how a poem begins for me.
On the MA, I offer a module on ekphrastic practice (which may include a gallery visit or two) as well as one on visual poetic experiment, encompassing concrete poems and redactions and featuring artists on the boundary between art and poetry, such as Ian Hamilton Finlay. I also lead sessions on free verse lineation, metaphor, prose poetry, the contemporary sonnet, and ‘difficulty’ in poetry – subjects that excite me. I encourage close reading, including work from poets who are writing at the moment, such as Claudia Rankine and Anthony Anaxagorou, as well as poets from the previous generation, such as Sharon Olds and Jorie Graham. These sessions are an opportunity for discussion and debate – considering how we can expand our practice.’