featured Articles

‘Eye’

Always a girl’s name – you knew when she was near from the sweltering clamp of your dress on the skin between your shoulder blades and the thunder ants that flew in from the thick night to thud into the standard lamp’s hot silk shade and fall, milling in its circle of light, depositing their…

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Open Workshop with Richard Osmond: ‘Written in Juice of Lemon’

Content and form should always be in dialogue. In this new Open Workshop with up-and-coming poet, Richard Osmond, you’ll make this dialogue more explicit, and take it to strange new places. In this workshop you’ll be looking at poems which are designed to be published, broadcast or inscribed in unconventional ways, on unconventional surfaces or…

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Exclusive preview: Butcher’s Dog #4

In advance of our launch this weekend at the Durham Book Festival, we present some quick cuts and choice rashers from the upcoming issue of Butcher’s Dog magazine, co-edited by  Sophie F Baker (from the naughty) and The Poetry School (from the sour). It was a Herculean labour cutting almost 750 poems or so down to 20 odd, but…

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Ain’t got no style / I’m strictly roots

Recently, I was getting acquainted with May Swenson. I saw her photo and couldn’t resist: Today, she would have a septum piercing and an undercut. A few days before I was reading Women Wearing Clothes – and the question came up: why do some girls have style and others not? On the train, I picked…

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‘Hiccups’

and fall up – Toast crumbs dance on the plate hiccups – surprising as they rise askew through bright morning light to the ceiling, spring clouds of bread midges. Beautiful. Wrong. On the table, spoons, knives jolt and jounce;           pounce upright; fire high, stab plaster. Anchored in my chair, I’m braced,…

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The Profit and the Loss

This is an interesting moment to be thinking about this topic. Exhibit B, at the Barbican has just been shut down. When I was seven or eight, there was a giant house somewhere in London, where my grandmother used to organise events around black history. One night, there was a display of all the implements…

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The Poem Noir

Watched any of these TV shows lately – The Killing, The Bridge, Luther, or Breaking Bad? Or any of the following films – The Dark Knight, Black Swan, or Drive? If you have, then chances are you’ve already come across a version of film noir. Films noir, at their most cliché, are films about ordinary…

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Performance Skills for Poets

How do you stop your knees knocking and your paper wobbling when you perform your poetry? How can you make sure they can hear you in the cheap seats? We’ve got a workshop coming up at the Poetry School with poet and performer Nick Field that will help you settle those questions. Nick writes: ‘I’m really…

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‘Free Verse Cento’

There’s a lot at stake on a first line. For novels, the work’s mood is irrevocably set – you know when you read “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new” in Beckett’s Murphy what kind of book you’ve bought. Poetry collections are slightly different. There are multiple points of entry – I…

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1ne / 2wo / 3hree / 4our

I recently set the assignment for my Open Workshop on CAMPUS – which you should read if you have the time or an inclination towards paradoxes – and I thought it would be good to show my own workings, and how thinking about puzzles led to the skeleton of the poem I am about to…

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Samuel Beckett & Poetry

It was not enough to drag her into the world, now she must play the piano. —from ‘Embers’ I remember the first times I encountered Beowulf, Auden, Hughes, Plath, and many others, but I can’t remember the first time I came across Beckett’s work. Was it on the page, in the theatre, on the radio,…

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The One and the Many: interview with Dai George

An Interview with Dai George

Hi Dai. You’re teaching a course for us this Autumn – ‘The One and the Many’. Tell us more about it. Dai: I cooked up the course as a response to some aspects of poetry that have been intriguing me for a while, to do with how we address ourselves and/or other people in any…

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‘The Secret Languages of Ireland’

Breaking camp, they left at dawn without waking a soul their wagons consigned to flames. Anna na mBreag Veronica swirled poitín against the light; cautioned me not to smash my teeth with the bottle as we swigged. As I felt her Irish tongue in my mouth, I pondered the significance of words. So the back…

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Verse Stories: interview with Catherine Smith

An Interview with Catherine Smith

Hi Catherine. You’re teaching a course this Autumn 2014 called ‘Verse Stories’. Tell us more about it. Catherine: I’ve always been drawn to narrative in my own poems – I wrote short fiction first, poetry afterwards, so it seemed a natural progression – and  whilst I enjoy and admire all sorts of poetry, I feel most…

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Open Workshop: ‘It is true that this poem is false.’

After a summer hiatus, our Open Workshops series is back with an original workshop from our new Digital Poet in Residence, Jay Bernard. The thing about life is that it’s a series of mysteries, puzzles, contradictions and paradoxes – our histories, our imaginations, our relationships and our desires. In this workshop, Jay invites you to…

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‘The Day She Dropped’

the trifle, it exploded on the blue floor pain -ting cryptic signs churned in chaos. Raspberries, cream, vanilla custard, glacé cherries, perfect sponge, (home-made of course) secrets hinted by hundreds and thousands no-one would ever understand. The cold glister of broken crystal, the old bowl her ex brought back from Paris at his own risk. She…

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A Name To Conjure With: Reading ‘Mercian Hymns’

When I first started reading poetry as a teenager, poets seemed to come in three flavours. There were urbane cynics living in the fast lane or sulking in the suburbs. There were the everyday poets who were fond of anecdotes and who wandered into kitchens, started listing things and then tried to force an epiphany…

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The Fabric of Cringe … and how to avoid it.

We’re a big fan of Judy Brown’s poetry – here she is reading from her Forward shortlisted Seren collection Loudness – so we are very pleased we’ve been able to tempt her to teach for us this Autumn. Jusy is interested in getting to the nub of how to successfully incorporate details of our modern lives –…

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From ‘As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh’, by Susan Sontag –

This book was recommended to me and yielded good results: Artifice + Reality is an interesting description of death, as well as the cemetery. Cemetery as ideal city is fascinating – curated; everybody obedient. Time effacement — as in, making time inconspicuous? Making the memory ever present / timeless? Last words – almost always trite,…

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Meet the Digital Poet in Residence: interview with Jay Bernard

An Interview with Jay Bernard

Hi Jay. Your residency is centred around an interactive poem – ‘An Untitled Text Adventure’ – that you’re going to build and document over a period of 5 weeks. Tell us more about the project. Jay: I had this idea last year and wanted to make something really ambitious in time for the WWI centenary….

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‘Brother tongue’

This song is for my brother across the water, whose raised eyebrow by email is a flicker in which I do believe. I sing the praises of his silences which sweep up the dead leaves of sound I praise his photos of girlfriends leaning on pillars in temples the light hitting them sideways. For he…

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Animal Magick

It is perhaps not surprising that The Faber Book of Beasts, edited by Paul Muldoon, has been consistently in the top 50 of Amazon UK’s best-selling poetry titles since its publication in 1998. The earliest cave drawings depict humans alongside animals. Creatures have provided the imagination with the essential content for mythologies and allegories; they…

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Transreading Central Europe

When I mention I translate contemporary Polish poetry, I’m often asked: ‘Do you translate Szymborska?’ ‘I might, but I don’t,’ I explain, ‘there’re so many other poets who deserve equal attention.’ By now Szymborska, Różewicz, Herbert, Miłosz and Zagajewski have become household names also in English; they’re fortunate to have some poems in more than…

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‘The Manacles, at Porthoustock’

This is what you gave me, Salvaged from a memory: Watching from the headland. Pointing from the outside in. You named the rocks, Sung them in a circle, Gave them their voice as they stirred in slack water. Penwin; Morah; Maen Voes. And those that came rising from the sea, The finger bones of witches,…

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The Poetry of Parenthood

The images coming from Gaza at the moment show mutilated and dying children.  It would be tempting to say that as a parent you feel the horror more, but this is smug nonsense: people without children are just as capable of compassion.  What a parent feels is, instead, perhaps more complicated – my compassion is…

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