Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Robin Vaughan-Williams: The Manager


Managers, offices, the daily grind, rows of computer screens, crap coffee machines ... a fair number of contemporary poets have been swift to pen their thoughts on the typical working conditions of modern life, but a new pamphlet I recently received, The Manager, is, I think, a novel and original take on the 9-5 world that most of us inhabit. As its title suggests, it centres on the shifting persona of "the manager", in a sequence that moves from the serious to the irreverant and from the depressing to the uplifting with surprising ease. A few excerpts to pique your interest:

The manager has proverbs on the wall about being a good man
and he reads them at times of intense isolation

when his office has become a cell
and the laughter in the next room is a barrier

he has not the skill to clear.
(Manager #1: Mantra)

The manager burns, he burns
with the heat of an example
others will follow: a new kind of leader.
(Manager #5: Health & Safety Incident)

The manager's eyes are not his own.
He has seen more than one man can bear.
He has seen the high street of humanity,
the bargain hunters, shop lifters,
just looking, and disfigured returns -
receipt or no receipt, that's policy.
(Manager #8: The Manager's Eyes)

Doesn't he realise how vulnerable I am?
I'm a sensitive person.
'I'm a poet,' I say.
'You can't fire me,
I'll put you in a poem.'

'Not a very well known poet,' he says
and fires me anyway.
(Manager #10: Fired!)


Thought-provoking and entertaining, it's a pamphlet that's consistently effective and insightful but at the same time understated, and which doesn't take itself too seriously. Well worth getting a copy, available from HappenStance press at £4, which isn't much more than that extra pint down the pub on a Friday.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I Trust I Can Rely On Your Vote



Radiohead performing the brilliant "Electioneering", shortly after the release of their album, OK Computer.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Our Disappearing World


The latest issue of Poetry Review, Our Disappearing World (100:1, Spring 2010) has just been published, and features a broad array of interesting poems, features, and reviews: just received my copy the other day, so haven't had chance to enjoy it in full, but so far Alison Brackenbury's article on the work of John Clare, Jacqueline Gabbitas's round-up of recent pamphlets, and poems by Glyn Maxwell, John Stammers, James Midgley and Liz Berry have all caught and held my attention. In particular, Liz Berry's "In the Steam Room" is impressive: a minutely detailed, gorgeously sensual and descriptive poem that is also, in parts, that touch uncomfortable - great stuff. I'm particularly pleased, then, to see it included in a section of the magazine, "Now and Then", which takes its title from a poem of mine, also in issue, and also includes poems by Alex McRae, Tamar Yoseloff, Tom Gilliver, and Daniel Weissbort. The issue also features the winners of this year's National Poetry Competition: Helen Dunmore's "The Malarkey", Ian Pindar's "Mrs Beltinska In The Bath", and John Stammers's "Mr Punch in Soho".

I'll also add, before I embark on the immensely dull chore of general housework, that it was an unexpected pleasure, on the same day as receiving my copy of Poetry Review, to stumble across this very generous and attentive review of my pamphlet, The Sparks, at Tom Chivers's online literary review, Hand and Star. Always heartening and reassuring to know that someone has come away from reading your stuff with a real sense of what you - often dimly, in my case at least! - feel you're trying to achieve.