Alcohol and Poetry
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James Fenton has scored his first-ever Number One in the Poetry Review Chart despite strong challenges from Merseyside and, less predictably, from Michael Hofmann, the 26-year-old Anglo-German whose debut volume from Faber has surprised pundits by outselling stable-mate Paul Muldoon's Quoof. The Memory of War and Children in Exile combines the contents of Fenton's two handsome Salamander volumes, the latter of which is the best-selling poetry hardback.
Top Poetry Titles, November-December
1. James Fenton, The Memory of War and Children in Exile (Penguin)
2. James Fenton, Children in Exile (Salamander)
3. Michael Hofmann, Nights in the Iron Hotel (Faber)
4. Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten, New Volume (Penguin)
5. Paul Muldoon, Quoof (Faber)
6. Tom Paulin, The Liberty Tree (Faber)
7. Elizabeth Bishop, Collected Poems (Chatto & Windus)
8. Ted Hughes (with Peter Keen), River (Faber)
9. Geoffrey Hill, The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Peguy (Agenda Editions)
10. Henri, McGough, Patten, The Mersey Sound (Revised Edition) (Penguin)
Thanks to: Arts Council Bookshop, Blackwells (Oxford), Heffers (Cambridge), Poetry Society Bookshop.
Dylan the Secound
The unscrupulousness of a vanity publisher has persuaded a young Welshman to abandon his career in retail management with Sainsbury's to devote his time to writing hopeless verse.
Adrian Jenkins, 21, of Milford Haven, wrote to Poetry Review lately seeking publication. His letter shows how far he has been deluded:
I sometimes sit down and think how did Dylan Thomas start being reconized, some people already call me Dylan the secound, I beleive that my work will eventually become a success, but who is willing to share this.
Willing to share this, and also some of the 'benefites' that Adrian now has to claim, are the staff of Poets International. This magazine is only available to subscribers, which is to say it charges for publication. It readily tells lies about its contributors ('Mr. Jenkins goes from strength to strength and may eventually become one of the foremost Welsh poets of the age') in exchange for those cheques. Adrian expected to have to pay for an appearance in Poetry Review. Not so. To offset the rapacity of Poets International we publish some of Adrian Jenkins' poetry at our usual rates and with our best advice: go back to Sainsbury's.
Nothing here seems so impossible now,
even something as unusual as a flying cow.
all my dreams are now coining true,
even though there were only few.
Is it really as interesting now,
its so, so common the flyin cow.
Just look at the wonderful view on every side,
just being a part of this history, would fill me with pride.
That running noise of the river so very far down,
is compared by the strong winds up here drowned.
Undeterred by the theft of one of Fay Godwin's photos from their Earls Court premises, the poetry Society went ahead with an exhibition of portraits in November and December. Over eighty paintings of contemporary poets were to be seen rather than bought (with prices ranging up to £2,000). Faber and Faber and The Contemporary Portrait Society joined to donate prizes totalling £300 to Thomas Coates, for studies of John Fairfax and Ted Walker, to Emily Gwynne-Jones for her portrait of Peter Ellson, and to Helen Wilks for Christopher Reid (The Poet Painter). Other attractive exhibits were Peter Archer's Selina Hill, Leonard Rosoman's Alan Ross and his dog Boppa, startled and Judy Bermant's Chaim
It was disappointing that, to allay financial pressures, the Exhibition Room was hired out for long periods during the show, and was therefore closed to the public; but relief was expressed that none of the exhibits went missing.
Dylan the First
Peter Reading, first winner of the new Dylan Thomas award, receives a cheque for £1,000 from Senora Caitlin Thomas-Fazio, the poet's widow. Judges, D.J. Enright and Leslie Norris, awarded the prize to Peter Reading for his collection of poems, Diplopic, published by Secker and Warburg. The award was open to writers of poetry and short stories, and the judges made honourable mentions of William Boyd, Stewart Brown, James Fenton, John Fuller, Tom Gallagher, Jane Gardham, Robert Nisbet, Carol Rumens and Clive Sinclair.
Goon in Birthday Line-Up
1984 marks the '75th anniversary of the Poetry Society, which will celebrate the occasion with a series of mini-festivals in London. Among the events planned: an Irish Week; a Betjeman Week; a newly commissioned play based on J.E. Flecker's Hassan; an African and Caribbean festival; European nights; an American poetry event; and a Youth Week with dubs, punks and street shows. The Society will also host a reading by Spike Milligan.
New to the ranks of small magazines is Poetry Matters, which introduced itself in the Autumn as the house journal of Harry Chambers' Peterloo Press. It advertises recent and forthcoming volumes by Peterloo poets, as well as offering them a dependable outlet for other mss.
The magazine is impressively produced, and the high standard of its contents reflects the quality of Harry Chambers' editorship. Perhaps the outstanding poet from the stable is U.A. Fanthorpe, who is represented here by a startling poem which describes meeting John Heath-Stubbs and David Wright at a party:
... the tall, strong, white-haired
Mutilated men, the bruised eyes,
Broken drums of see-no-evil,
They stand together
In this vault in the concave junction
Where no-one stays.
I am drawn towards them,
Poetry Matters No 1 is available from Peterloo Poets
Poet to Poet
Radio 4's spring schedule includes a series called Poet to Poet, in which leading writers discuss another's work. Seamus Heaney on Patrick Kavanagh, P.J. Kavanagh (no relation) on Henry Vaughan, Charles Causley on Edward Lear, Patricia Beer on Thomas Hardy, and Craig Raine on John Donne are the featured pairings. The first programme will be broadcast at 5.00 p.m. on Saturday, 24 March.
Even those unable to write can now benefit from the round of poetry competitions. A 'Speak-a-Poem ' competition is to be held as part of the 1984 City of London Festival, distinguished from what we did at school by a £1,000 first prize. A weighty panel has been assembled to implement the 'Aims of the Competition' as they are romantically described in the publicity handout:
'Our voices are one of the extraordinary endowments most of us are born with. Used to its capacity as an instrument for language, the voice can add greatly to the wealth of enjoyment for speaker and listener, and open new territories in the mind.'
Presiding over the mind-opening is Betty Mulcahy, who won the last competition of this kind in 1959. At a Fleet Street Press Reception, both she and Gavin Ewart read Blake's 'A Poison Tree', which is the set poem for the first stage of the competition. John Heath-Stubbs surprised them by finding their readings inadequate, and saying so. Those wishing to take part should write for an application form to Speak-a-Poem, Bishopsgate Hall, and are asked to send no money—yet. The closing date for applications is 31 March. There is no age-limit.
The National Poetry Society Competition has again (see last year) failed to unearth convincing winners from a total of 12,000 submissions. The first prize of £2,000 was awarded by Gillian Clarke, Vernon Scannell and Kevin Crossley-Holland to 'Whoever She Was' by Carol Ann Duffy. This is quite an effective evocation of some eerie moments in the relation between motherhood and childhood, but much of the detail is predictable, and the language is not very interesting, so that the poem does not improve with repeated readings. It is notable for having more full stops than lines:
Mummy, say the little voices of the ghosts
of children on the telephone. Mummy.
... when they
think of me, I'm bending over them at night
to kiss. Perfume. Rustle of silk. Sleep tight.
Sharing second place (£750 each) are Fergus Chadwick and Stephen Watts. Mr. Chadwick, an advisor with the Poetry Society's Critical Service, has turned his experience to good account in 'Birds' Eggs' — which does well, for a sestina, to vary its sense a lot and contort it only a little ('No blotches/encode their song, their legato signal'). Plenty of ear-catching verbs here, though (shriek, bleat, scree!), good colour-sense, and sufficient ingenuity; a poem which links birdsong to the markings on eggs. Watts' Poem, beginning 'Lord in dream I was lifted out of London' is a surprising but likeable prize-winner, a striking sequence of satellite visions, strange with adjectives: 'and saw gross/continents off to my sides fissuring the/placid frightened sea.' There is bold use of the word 'gyre'; and although it lacks some of the qualities of a finished poem, this is likely to prove a popular selection. Congratulations to all the winners — and to everyone who supported the competition.
The First Birmingham Festival of Readers and Writers, held at the Midlands Arts Centre in November, had a successful first year. Acts included the Liverpool Poets, Benjamin Zephaniah, Gavin Ewart, the Barrow Poets, Edward Lowbury, the Circus Poets, and John Cooper Clarke; most of them drew capacity audiences.
One of the least rewarding events of the Festival was 'A Policy of Words', a reading of their favourite poets given by Minister for the Arts, Lord Cowrie, and Marghanita Laski, Chairman of the Arts Council Literature Panel and patron of the Birmingham Festival. Lord Gowrie read poems by W.H. Auden and himself, and Marghanita Laski from the likes of Dowson, Newbolt and Watson.
While Ms. Laski's main interest appeared to be onomatopaeia, Lord Gowrie's selection of Auden was offered as a key to his political thought. He revealed that Edward Bond ('a Communist'), and Pablo Neruda ('a Marxist') were two of his favourites (he didn't read them), and that he himself had been 'a late 50's social¬ist.' Auden's 'Vespers', he explained (not a notably subtle political poem), had helped him to modify his views.
The organisers plan another Festival for next November.
Flying to Barbados
John Fuller's first ninety pages of adult fiction, Flying to Nowhere, was scarcely bulky enough to figure in the real reckoning for the Booker Prize, but there was no stopping this beautifully-written fable from lifting the £1,000 Whitbread Prize for a first novel.
Competition 1: Results
(Set by Wendy Cope)
Up to 16 lines of a well-known poem rewritten in words of one syllable.
Report By Frederick Street:
A number of entrants showed considerable ingenuity in producing one-syllable versions that rhymed and scanned. Fewer seemed to realise that the point of this sort of competition is to come up with something amusing.
Of course, you have to obey the rules as well. The winners managed to stay pretty close to the literal meaning of their chosen originals and at the same time to make me smile or even laugh.
We've upped the prize money to £20 and split it four ways. Since it was impossible to choose between R.A. Maitre's and Sylvia Kantaris's versions of the opening lines of 'Burnt Norton' (heavy bits of T.S. Eliot lend themselves particularly well to this sort of treatment, I feel), they win £5 each and partial publication. £5 also to Ewart for his Spender and to Peter Norman. Highly commended: J.M.C. Hepple ('Oh, to be in that part of the world east of Wales') and Jermyn Thynne (Louis MacNeice's 'The light of the sun, which falls on the lawn and rose beds').
Time now and time then
Are both, it could be, now in time to come,
And time to come now in time then.
If all time is for all time now
All time can't be got back.
What might have been is not real
But is for all time on the cards
But not in the real world.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end which is now all the time.
Feet fall and fall through old times in the head
Down the aisle which we did not go down
On the way to the door we kept closed all the time
Which brings us to the rose patch....
The True Cool Ones
I think more or less all the time of those who were great, man, great!
Who, from the womb, went in for soul talk
Through lanes of light where the hours are suns,
No end, man, they sang! Man, what they dug was
That their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Force, clothed from head to foot in song.
And who ripped off from the Spring some bits of trees
Like sex that fell on their bums like pot plants.
What is most cool, is no way to not dig
The big deal of the blood drawn from springs that
Spring for all time through rocks in world when our world was not.
No way to kick its joy in the first light of the day
Nor its grave late night call for love ...
Gray's Thoughts on Dead Folk, Penned in the
Yard of a Church Right Out in the Sticks
The late night call tells all that day is done;
A herd of cows goes home upon the lea;
The farm hand plods to bed; down goes the sun,
And leaves the world to thick, black night and me.
Now fades the scene, the sight goes bit by bit,
And not a breeze there is to stir the air
Save where the bug is wont to wheel and flit,
And soft bells lull the sheep to sleep down there.
Ah yes, and then there is, from yon old shed
The owl, who to the bright moon moans and mopes
When beast or man, yet up and out of bed,
Round her dark realm, all lost in deep thought, gropes.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The