Thursday, December 31, 2009

Asking a Shadow to Dance

I rather wish that I had had this sooner so I could recommend it as something to be added to a Christmas wish-list, but still - this DVD from Oxfam Marylebone is a real treasure trove.

What is it? A DVD featuring 35 (yes, that many!) young British poets: some filmed on the occasion of the The Manhattan Review launch (remember, I madly flew off to be at that?) back in March 5th; others were filmed in interesting locations such as the Poetry Library, Southbank and Norwich. The poets were selected by Todd Swift, he of Eyewear (and lately of Mainstream Love Hotel fame too!).

It's good value, it's a worthy cause and if you want to pop an oul thermometer under the tongue of British poetry and wallop its knees for a reflex check, this is where you should start. I don't profess to like everything on this - but nor should I. It is as diverse and wide-ranging as the sheer breadth of voices (and faces) that feature.

My own favourites? Emily Berry (yes, that rather brilliant corset poem), Ben Wilkinson, Joe Dunthorne, Colette Sensier, Agnes Lehoczky, Kavita Joshi... actually, on reflection I am wondering what's not to like...?

It's available online, for the meagre sum of £12.99, and could be looked at as a good glimpse of what's happened in British poetry since the millenium - go on, you know its worth it :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ooh - another nearly made it

I just found out today (thanks Michael Farry!) that I got shortlisted for the Basil Bunting Award, the new poetry competition that was launched this year.

I was delighted for a number of reasons: well, validation being one of them, but Achieving the Lotus Gait, is part of a longer sequence of poems I've been writing on and off during the year on the grisly subject of torture.

I think it may be some sort of sublimated desire to deal with yucky things from the past. Anyway, I'm delighted to see my name on that short list, along with names I recognise, like Dawn Wood from Scotland. I think I'm the only Irish name in there... that's twice that's happened now :))))

Congratulations to the worthy winners, of course. I think the judges' report shows just how tough their criteria were.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Meeting Roddy Doyle

It's always nice when you can get work and your own interests together in the same room, and it didn't come any better than this afternoon, when the long-awaited 'One Author, One Community' initiative finally came to fruition in Navan, and Roddy Doyle sailed into our midst for a totally spellbound two-hour visit.

We had chosen to read and work on one of his lesser known novels, 'Mad Weekend,' written in 2006, the year after Liverpool had won the European silverware (after a dramatic match: first half - no score, second half, score 3 - 0... remember...?). Anyhoo, the plot of this novella, saw three 20 something Dub male mates organise to go to a match in Liverpool on the night they are watching the European final. When they eventually get to Liverpool, they spend a great deal of time in The Beehive pub chatting up girls and losing one of their number - as well as seeing a Chelsea v Liverpool match... and the rest - well, you'd have to read it :)

Featuring Roddy's trademark snappy Dub (and Liverpudlian) dialogue, all the groups of learners involved really got into appreciating Roddy's work in the lead-up to today: some wrote him letters, some wrote him reviews, and some thought up some fiendishly difficult questions, which Roddy answered with generosity and aplomb - heck, even panache.

Well, he won a definite fan in me - not that that was ever in doubt. I still fondly remember going to see The Committments in Camden Town in London, back in 1991 with my mates and feeling very proud of being Irish afterwards, even we were all eejits. I was so proud today to see how well everyone acquitted themselves - and I think I won a few fans over to the cause of reading and writing - not bad for a few weeks work :)

Word up: Roddy's own favourite book is actually The Snapper; he told us a great story about how he was in the Rotunda, waiting for his own wife to give birth, and while there the camera crew turned up to film the pregnant girl arriving to the hospital - talk about life imitating art.

Excellent day - deadly buzz man!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

More Lovely Poetry Books...

... being launched in Dublin on Tuesday 8th December @ 6.30pm at the Unitarian Church, St. Stephens Green, by Director of Poetry Ireland, Joseph Woods. This is a lovely venue for a launch, as you get to read your work from a pulpit and the acoustics are very good in poetry terms. Plus, there are interesting stain-glass windows to gaze at as you hear the words.

The books in question? Well, Arlen Houseare are launching five books; Red Riding Hood's Dilemma, by Orfhlaith Foyle, Shedding Skin, by James Martyn, imram/odyssey by Celia De Freine, An Urgency of Stars, by Geraldine Mills and The Truth in Mustard, by Terry McDonagh.

All interesting titles, I think you'd agree. I can't go myself, because I must teach... but I shall be looking forward to ogling the books and getting inside the covers before too long :)

Good luck to them all on the night - maybe you might fit this line-up in :)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Michelle's Peony Favourite Poetry Books 2009

Michelle of Peony Moon has a great series running just now: writers with their favourite books of 2009.

Part 5 includes my choices, but not my whys... more on this rumination later. As you can guess, I was hard pushed to actually nail three, never mind six - there are so many great poetry books out there.

If you were stuck for a Christmas present for someone who likes poetry, and wanted to get them something out of the usual for Christmas, you could do a lot worse than browse these lists and google the results. It just shows you there's some mighty fine poetry out there...