Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rosemary Tonks

"My foremost preoccupation at the moment is the search for an idiom which is individual, contemporary and musical. And one that has sufficient authority to bear the full weight of whatever passion I would wish to lay upon it.

"Every poet who has been confined - at the mercy of form when he has come of age emotionally - and has found half the things he wants to say well out of his poem's range, knows the immensity of the task. And I am not speaking here of metrical skills, but of absolute freshness and authenticity in handling diction.

"What I write about must develop from my life and times. I am especially conscious of the great natural forces which bring modern life up to date. My concern here is with the exact emotional proportions - proportions as they are now current for me. Ideally, whatever is heightened should be justified both by art and by life; while the poet remains vulnerable to those moments when a poem suddenly makes its own terms - and with an overwhelming force that is self-justifying. For this reason certain poetic ideas have little validity when lifted out of context. I am consequently uneasy when discussing the logic of a poem with those whose intellectual equipment is purely mathematical. If you say that the English have a love of order which is puritanical, and the French a love of order which is imaginative, that does not make one more orderly than the other. The progress of feeling in a poem may be no less logical than the development of an argument.

"Telling the truth about feeling requires prodigious integrity. Most people can describe a chest of drawers, but a state of mind is more resistant. A hackneyed metaphor is the first sign of a compromise with intention; your reader damns you instantly, and though he may read on with his senses, you have lost his heart. Some poets do manage to converge on their inner life by generating emotion from an inspired visual imagery; in this instance the images exist in their own right, but may be thought to be in a weaker position as the raw material of the emotion, in preference to a larger existence as illustration of it."

Rosemary Tonks, writing in the PBS Bulletin in 1963,
in relation to her collection Notes on Cafés and Bedrooms

Faber New Poets

At the start of this year a new Arts Council-funded initiative was announced - the prestigious poetry press Faber were to release a series of pamphlets by young poets, influenced by the continuing success of tall-lighthouse's Pilot series, edited by Roddy Lumsden.

Like the Pilot series, each poet receives editorial input and a pamphlet of their poems is published, but the Faber scheme also offers some financial help for the poets.

Now, the first pamphlets in the series are scheduled to be published in early October of this year. And the selected poets - Fiona Benson (pamphlet cover pictured above), Heather Phillipson, Toby Martinez de las Rivas and Jack Underwood - seem to represent a fair cross-section of the type of poetry emerging from this new generation of poets; unusual, edgy, contemporary and occasionally free-wheeling... hard to say anything substantial here without going into great detail (and even that would only be based on the handful of poems I've seen by these poets in magazines). Needless to say, they promise to make for interesting reading alongside the Pilot series, and will be worth checking out.

2010 will see the next four poets in the Faber series also published - Joe Dunthorne, Annie Katchinska, Sam Riviere and Tom Warner. Of these, I'll be especially interested to see Sam Riviere's pamphlet, particularly if it includes poems as strong as his second place winner in the 2008 Poetry London competition.

Where the Pilot scheme is concerned, talented young poets Charlotte Runcie and Richard O'Brien (both editors of the fine Pomegranate magazine) are also due launch their pamphlets in October, following on from the March launch of Amy Key's instead of stars and Sarah Howe's a certain chinese encyclopaedia. In related news, I'll also be reading at a tall-lighthouse event, "tall reflections", in Cambridge on the 15th September, along with Alan Buckley and invited guest readers. Do come along if you're able.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Moon


A few weeks ago I went to see Moon, the excellent debut film from director Duncan Jones (once known as 'Zowie Bowie') - an impressively eerie, cerebral and often darkly funny piece of sci-fi cinema that details the life of a man alone on the lunar surface. I highly recommend it, and briefly entertained thoughts of writing a lengthier piece about it here, but then a friend of mine has recently set up a film review blog, and has done an excellent job of writing an intelligent and incisive piece on the film. So I needn't bother waffling on - instead, you can read the review here. What's more, it doesn't completely give the game away unlike many reviews I've read of Moon, which means if you do decide to go and see it, this review won't ruin your experience of it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Quality of Sprawl

I've come across poems by Australian poet Les Murray here and there - in anthologies, online, and in magazines like a recent issue of Poetry London (Autumn '08, above) - but haven't yet bought a collection of his work. I'm thinking of ordering his Selected from Carcanet soon though, as I was reminded of what I admire in his work reading 'The Quality of Sprawl' in Shapcott and Sweeney's excellent Faber anthology, Emergency Kit, last night: the verbal dexterity, originality and often dark humour, though the unswerving certitude of some of his poems can get a bit irritating. Still, 'The Quality of Sprawl' is a fine piece, and one which uses the conversational, narrative style to great effect, I think.

It's one of his more well-known poems, but for those unfamiliar, you can read it here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Rik Mayall's poetry reading



A lesson in how not to give a poetry reading, by comic genius Rik Mayall.