Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Sunday Sessions



As many Wasteland readers will no doubt be aware, 'lost' recordings of Philip Larkin reading his work were recently rediscovered (they'd been lying on a shelf in a garage, apparently), and the poet's publisher, Faber, are putting the twenty-six poems out as an audio CD this January, an excellent late xmas present for any fan of the poet, undeniably one of Britain's greatest postwar writers.

As the Faber website states:

The Sunday Sessions were recorded by Philip Larkin in Hull in February 1980 - reportedly, each on a Sunday, after lunch with John Weeks, a sound engineer and colleague of the poet. The tapes contain work from Larkin’s first major collection, The North Ship, as well as poems from his best-known collections, The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows.

For now, you can enjoy the recording above, which features Larkin reading one of his most famous poems, 'An Arundel Tomb', in full, from The Whitsun Weddings.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Out in the bush is silence now: Savannah seas have islands now"


Jane Holland has an interesting short post on rhyme on her blog at the moment, and it got me thinking about rhyme being this really transformative element in a poem, something, as she puts it, 'which launches the poem off into space', and, when used to its fullest potential, can make a poem truly moving, provocative and memorable. And it also made me think about Mick Imlah's work, something I'm writing a piece on currently, and how for all of the wit, ingenuity and syntactical invention in his narrative poems and dramatic monologues, for all of the impressive scope and surprising shifts in the ambitious pieces in his new collection, the poem of his that always astounds me is the first one in his first book: 'Tusking' from Birthmarks.

It's a really incredible poem (a meditation on colonialism via an imagined elephant hunt) with so many layers to it and a beautifully executed rhyme scheme, the sort that you feel really lives up to the whole 'best words in the best order' idea, without a single one wasted. And I'm clearly not alone in my thoughts of this poem being great, as I read something by Bernard O'Donoghue a while back describing the poem as one which should be in the running for the best poem of the past twenty five years. If you haven't read it, it's worth picking up a second-hand copy of Birthmarks for it alone. To give you a taste, here's a couple of stanzas:

'But if, one night
As you stroll the verandah
Observing with wonder
The place of the white
Stars in the universe,
Brilliant, and clear,
Sipping your whisky
And pissed with fear

You happen to hear
Over the tinkle of Schubert
A sawing - a drilling -
The bellow and trump
Of a vast pain -
Pity the hulks!
Play it again!'

Oh, and after two blog posts in a row on Imlah, I'll be sure to post about something different next time, promise...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Culture Show: Mick Imlah's The Lost Leader


Last night's Culture Show on BBC2 featured an interesting - and quite lengthy - discussion of Mick Imlah's excellent second collection, The Lost Leader, including commentaries on, and readings of, the poems by Andrew Motion, James Fenton, and Mark Ford. It's well worth checking out and features a reading of 'London Scottish', a brilliant poem about the rugby teams sent to fight in 1914.

The full programme itself is here, and the feature starts at around 17 and half mins in. There's also readings of two poems from the collection on the Culture Show blog.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Leontia Flynn & Zoë Skoulding

My critical perspectives of Leontia Flynn and Zoë Skoulding are now up on the British Council's Contemporary Writers website, and having recently completed reviews of Glyn Maxwell's Hide Now and Colette Bryce's new collection, Self-Portrait in the Dark, these will appear in Stand magazine soon - current issue features new poems by Katy Evans-Bush and Ian Duhig.

Poetry Magazine

A publication that I intend to start subscribing to in the new year is Poetry Magazine, arguably the poetry journal of the English-speaking world. Published out of Chicago's Poetry Foundation, it's a monthly magazine with a wide, international subscription, and features poetry from a similarly broad selection of poets from across the world. As I understand it, the magazine was founded by Harriet Munro in 1912, and has featured some of the century's greatest poems (I think the poet Conor O'Callaghan told me it was the first place to publish Eliot's Prufrock).

It mainly interests me as an useful introduction to the broad spectrum of contemporary American poetry for a complete novice like myself, but also given that its features always seem lively and interesting, its reviews are often long and rewarding (a year or so back, there was an excellent ten page review of Louis MacNeice's Collected Poems) and it has a yearly translation issue, which is an area I'm growing more interested in of late.

You can also get a feel for the publication before you decide to subscribe (which, at the current deal of buy one gift subscription, get one free is a steal) as a good deal of the stuff in each issue is also featured online. The very recently published December issue, for instance, features new poems by Fred D'Aguiar, an excellent American poet by the name of Todd Boss (among many others), and new work from Roddy Lumsden. There's also an interview with Seamus Heaney by Dennis O'Driscoll which looks interesting.