Tuesday, June 30, 2009

You may have noticed that there hasn't been much activity on the Leafe Press publishing front lately; not that it's ever been a prolific press, but there's definitely been a lull, and there's a reason for that. John and I have been working on two books due to come out in September. They're full-sized books, and both involve collaborations with a number of people. So progress has been slow, and that's before the books have been printed and the marketing and distribution begin. But I don't want to sound at all disheartened. These are wonderful books, and I can't wait to unveil them. They are:

1,000 Views of Girl Singing - a collaborative project run from John's blog, and involving 47 contributors from around the world. A mix of visual art, music, translations and poetic transformations. And with a cover worked on by ten artists orchestrated by Rebekah May.

Fragments of a Forgotten Genesis, by Abdellatif Laâbi.A book-length poem by this major Moroccan poet. It will be the only version available in either French or English. Laâbi lives in Paris, the translators, Gordon and Nancy Hadfield, live in Denver, and Bob Rissman, who designed the cover, lives in California. So getting everyone's contribution coordinated takes time.

Publishing full-scale books is certainly a different proposition to pamphlets, and I do miss the immediacy and personal connection (as publisher) of the latter. So once these two big books are up and running, I intend to buy a new printer, a guillotine and a stapler, and start cranking out pamphlets again.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

best that any artist/poet learn and apprentice to a trade...learn a trade a useful trade! carpentry, plumbing, electrician, pottery, doctoring, ..

one builds a deck (to sit upon and read poetry) same way one builds a poem: one nail/one word at a time.

learn and practice the rules of your craft.... then break the rules.

Ed Baker

There is no excuse for literary criticism

Basil Bunting

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

John Bloomberg-Rissman recently pointed me to the newly-formed Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry, edited by Robert Sheppard and Scott Thurston. I took a look at its website, and, while it will certainly promote the type of poetry I approve of, I couldn't help feeling a little intimidated by, and cool towards it. This may be my prejudice, I accept. Due to a complicated set of circumstances, I arrived at adulthood without a single educational qualification worth mentioning, and remain in that state now. The editorial board of the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry contains 13 Professors and 7 Doctors in total. Does it represent the takeover by the academic world of innovative British poetry? Peter Philpott gives us a lucid discussion of the issue here:

POETIC SPECIATION AND DIVERSIFICATION; Or, Why I am Alarmed at the Role the Academic Environment is Playing in Contemporary British Innovative Poetry

"Poetry isn’t important because it is the subject of academic study. In no way does it depend on academic study. It is important because it is a fundamental human relationship with language (like music is with sound-production, art with mark making, dance with movement). Poetry as such is as unstoppable as sex. It will take place!"

Peter Philpott

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I remember Tilla Brading telling me what a good teacher Tony Lopez was, and reading his book of essays, 'Meaning Performance', I'm sure it's true. The first essay in the book, 'Limits of Reference and Abstraction in American Poetry', is an admirably clear, non-techical description of Language Poetry, its rationale, and what it's trying to achieve. I'm sure that if the average, reasonably intelligent person-in-the-street were to read this essay, they'd be able to read Charles Bernstein, Bob Perelman, Lyn Hejinian and all the rest, with no problem at all, and with a great deal of pleasure. It strikes me that an absence of such clear, non-academic explanations of so-called 'difficult' poetry may be what keeps such poetry on the margins.

Lopez identifies Gertrude Stein as a seminal figure, whose influence has increased over the years. In a later essay, he says of Stein's writing, "It is a kind of postmodernism that is not foreseen in the writings of Eliot, Pound or Williams." And on Stein's increasing influence, Lopez says:

"Stein's work has been appropriated by various interest groups because you can make it anything you like. It is abstract writing that resists meaning, so little bits of it can be made to seem full of intention that may be invention. Reading Stein's work as it is is a real and permanent challenge. She hugely expanded the possibilities for writing, and we are nowhere near using them up."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jess Mynes' broadsheet from Fewer and Further Press is a selection of work soon to appear in a new publication from Nottingham's Skysill Press. It's a series of meditations on the paintings of Mark Rothko in beautifully-crafted language:

Untitled, 1953

past midday in a
crush crayon green

cracked to virtue

think Spring
inking creeks

I'm only as good
mouthing back
Aaron Tieger: 'Secret Donut', pub. Pressed Wafer I've had lots of nice things in the post recently (after complaining of not getting many). As well as the Kelvin Corcoran pamphlets and Hassle Press broadsheets, I've just received Aaron Tieger's excellent new book 'Secret Donut', and a single folded sheet of card containing poems by Jess Mynes. Tieger, an American poet based in Boston, has been mentioned on this blog before. Both of these poets, and othes, like Christopher Rizzo, are associated with Carve Press and Editions. It's interesting that British influence appears to be important to them, and heartening, to see that Richard Cadell is regarded as a seminal figure. The poetry of both Tieger and Mynes show the influence of Bunting (Cadell's mentor). Aaron Tieger's book is focussed on everyday experience mediated through diction that asks to be spoken aloud. I'd highly recommend it, and point you to his work on Litter.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Of course it was the morning
up early for apprenticeship
where the radio played the harp
before the train to Glasgow.

My good mistake at first light
to sing the song I didn't know,
the boy dreamt the night before
the poem unwritten in the shipyard.

These lines are from Kelvin Corcoran's poem "Learning to Play the Harp", written about W.S.Graham and dedicated to Andrew Duncan. To "sing the song I didn't know" seems like a good way to compose poetry, to let the lyric impetus take over; not to write what the poet, and reader, already know, but to expose something new each time, which is what good poems do. Kelvin sent me "Learning to Play the Harp" printed as a single sheet of Conqueror laid paper; it's from Longbarrow Press of Swindon. In the same package was Kelvin's poem "Madeleine's Letter to Bunting" - dedicated to "my daughter and all the unabashed". It's a poem about ageing, and about the parent-child relationship:

This tree has such a colour,
is it blond cinnamon, and the etymology?
- she might sweep me up if I fall.

At your age I thought I had plan,
I did not, or it was the wrong plan;
it was not to be fifty and exhausted up a tree

Speaking the only three words I have
to the local children bemused,
and numb - Eucalyptus, if I fall, save me.

"Madeleine's Letter to Bunting" is a moving poem (if we're still allowed to say that about poetry), combining, as Corcoran's poems often do, language as lyric construction with an examination of the personal and domestic. It's printed on the same laid paper, folded and inserted into an envelope; an excellent artefact, which I'm pleased to have.

I've just found out that Longbarrow Press was founded by Andrew Hirst and Brian Lewis "with the aim of developing new writing in close collaboration with its authors. It is committed to a mode of production that places equal emphasis on the printed word and the materiality of the object; to achieve this end, each of its titles has been designed, printed and assembled by hand". For more information, contact Brian Lewis, Longbarrow Press, 6 Tenby Close, Lawn, Swindon, SN3 1LN.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I know I shouldn't waste time on these things, but... the BBC's poll for "The Nation's Favourite Poet" presents us with a shortlist "compiled in consultation with The Poetry Society and The Arts Council". I suspect this is a list of poets they think the public might have heard of. Still, it has some amazing ommissions - Chaucer, Shakespeare, Pope and Dryden for example. The living poets are Simon Armitage, Wendy Cope, Roger McGough, Carole-Ann Duffy, Seamus Heaney and Benjamin Zephaniah. That's it. And we're not allowed to have foreigners as favourite poets, unless they're Irish (though there is one American on the list - guess who?). But although the list is bizarre and insular, I'd guess that similar lists made 100, 200 and 300 years ago by the cultural arbiters of the day would also have come up with currently fashionable forebears combined with a bunch of soon-to-be-forgotten contemporaries.

One interesting thing: we're allowed to vote for Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Blake, but... not Shelley. In a way, it's heartening to think that, even now, Shelley's radicalism is too much for the bureaucrats of the poetry establishment.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Martin Stannard, who lives in China, was unable to access this blog yesterday. Or any other blog. How strange. Must have been a technical fault...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

On this day, twenty years ago

The Tiananmen Square massacre, June 4th 1989.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

There's new work by Martin Stannard on Litter, plus a review of his latest collection,"Faith" from Shadowtrain Books. Martin is an under-appreciated poet, possibly because he doesn't fit with any particular school or into the mainstream vs innovative paradigm. I hope this latest collecton gets to as many people as possible.