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Showing posts from July, 2009

Review: The Border Kingdom by D Nurkse

In much the same way that D Nurkse’s seventh collection of poems, The Fall (2003), comprised of three sections of grouped poems, his ninth and latest book, The Border Kingdom, is divided into four sequences. The variety of the poems and the uneven length of the sequences, however, suggest that the book’s prevalent theme was not conceived from the outset. Poems, after all, have a useful tendency towards naturally grouping themselves together and forming a coherent whole; different poems extending into one another through recurrent images and themes, as a result of the poet’s preoccupations, interests and concerns. Where The Fall’s sections addressed childhood, married adulthood and illness in old age, then, charting the Blakean journey from innocence to experience and the consequent fraying of our thoughts, beliefs and singular identities, The Border Kingdom’s four groupings of poems approach states of limbo and ambiguity from an assortment of often unusual angles, spanning wars waged …

Live Poetry in Sheffield

With the shop’s back room packed and excellent readings from Helen Mort, Chris Jones and Frances Leviston, last week’s poetry event at the Oxfam bookshop on West Street, Sheffield was a modest success. It was a pleasant feeling to be promoting Sheffield poets while also making money for such a worthwhile cause – through a mixture of kind donations on the door and book sales, including Helen Mort’s new tall-lighthouse pamphlet, A Pint for the Ghost.

Her performance included a number of poems from this new collection - eerie and provocative pieces on the ghosts and pubs of Sheffield and Derbyshire, past and present - and a handful from her first, the shape of every box, including an atmospheric poem about Division Street, located only a stone’s throw from the venue. Unsurprisingly, copies of her new pamphlet were quickly snapped up after the reading.

Chris Jones also performed a wide selection of his published poetry to date, from affecting vignettes about his young son from his pamphlet …

Tonight: Oxfam Poetry - Four Sheffield Poets

Oxfam Poetry Night @ Oxfam Bookshop (West St / Glossop Rd)

featuring four Sheffield poets:
Frances Leviston, Chris Jones, Helen Mort, and Ben Wilkinson

Tonight (Wednesday 15th July), 6.30pm - 9pm

£2.50 donation on the door and free poetry CD

The Mole

Over at her blog, should you fancy a look, Carrie Etter has kindly featured a poem from The Sparks, as part of a (very) brief tour of blogs I thought I'd do to promote the pamphlet.

The poem is 'The Mole' (hence the photo above), and was first published in the Times Literary Supplement early last year.

Latitude 2009

Well, it's that time of year again... When those festival goers with exceptional taste head out to the Suffolk countryside to enjoy three days of great music, poetry, literature, cabaret, film and comedy at the wonderful, indefatigable Latitude festival.

Sadly though, I won't be attending this year, and am particularly gutted as the line-up for the Poetry Arena looks at least as strong - if not stronger - than when I was reviewing and blogging on the festival last year and the year before. Tim Turnbull, Tim Wells, Jackie Kay, Simon Armitage, Kathyrn Simmonds, Helen Mort, Caroline Bird, Emily Berry, Andrew Motion, Paul Farley - Latitude attracts some serious poetic talent, and unsurprisingly the tent's audience often spills into the sunshine outside: Armitage was particularly popular on both the Poetry and Literary stages last year, and Daljit Nagra drew a big, midday crowd.

This year, there's also music from the likes of The Pet Shop Boys, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Re…

Poetry London - Summer 2009

So I'm reliably informed that the latest issue of Poetry London has been launched, at the Ledbury festival no less, and though I haven't had chance to read a copy yet, it looks like an excellent issue.

New poems from Paul Farley, Heather Phillipson, Jacob Polley, Christopher Horton, Sam Riviere and many more besides. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing two poems in the issue by Mary Jo Bang, whose work I intend to read more of.

The issue also includes poetry reviews by Todd Swift, Helen Mort, Jack Underwood and Katy Evans-Bush, and a vignette of a poem, 'Camouflage', by yours truly. A sample of the poems and features in the issue can be read online.


For months it sits unplugged,
collecting spider webs spun and undone,
while dust complicates sunlight

through the shed’s single window
at the broken egg of dawn. Or
nursing the dregs of blackness

that settle in its gut as you haul it
out onto the lawn, plug it in
or fill it, yank at its ripcord –

the sudden hum of blades
and the patch of mown green,
now glowing. It churns

like a stomach hungry for anything:
leaves, daisies, insects, dogshit;
the sheer weight of things

bulked to a cube inside of it.
Afterwards, the lines of the garden
shimmer like wood grain,

pious tree rings unravelled and planed
down to chair legs. Or the glint
of varnish as you empty the basket

into the brown bin:
the painted toy man of a toy set
or model village, still smiling.

poem by Ben Wilkinson
first published in Brittle Star, issue 17, summer 2007

The Bloody Apprentice

A friend pointed me to this the other day, and quite funny it is too - footage of the BBC's popular reality show The Apprentice, painstakingly edited so as to make a monkey out of Sugar and its contestants (though they often do a fair job of that themselves). Contains some strong language though, so don't watch if you're easily offended.

And while we're on the subject of The Apprentice - does anyone actually know what job it is that the winner gets? Organising the stationery at Amstrad HQ? Or perhaps researching new areas for Sugar's businesses to expand into - as in Harry Hill's gag about 'Amsstairs' ("No, we don't sell 'amsters, we sell Amsstairs")? Any suggestions welcome.

Maurice Riordan

Just a quick heads up to those interested - I notice that Faber poet Maurice Riordan's entry on the PoetCasting audio site is now online, including readings of his poems 'Fish', 'Silenus' and the excellent 'Southpaw'. Well worth checking out.

The recording was made on the same afternoon as my own, and along with another Sheffield poet, Chris Jones, whose readings are also now on the site - of the four poems featured, I'd recommend 'Work' in particular. Jones will also be reading at the Oxfam Poetry Night taking place at the Oxfam Bookshop on West St, Sheffield, alongside myself, Helen Mort and Frances Leviston.