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Showing posts from November, 2014

"Never have met me, know me well": Glyn Maxwell's Pluto - review

In his witty manifesto “This Is Water”, David Foster Wallace argues that in order to survive the trenches of everyday existence, we should recognise that we have a choice in how we construct meaning from experience. This freedom – to see from differing perspectives, opening the blinkers of self – involves, Foster Wallace suggests, “attention, awareness, discipline, and effort”; the zombifying alternative is “unconsciousness, the rat race – the constant, gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.” This rings painfully true, but in daily life, it also presents some obvious challenges. Glyn Maxwell’s ninth collection, Pluto, is the work of a writer who properly subscribes to this ethos, and who figures poetry as that fresh look and listen which might, as Kafka put it, smash the frozen sea within – or at least throw the self into serious doubt.
“June I would snog in a heartbeat, pausing only // to think about it”, yearns the title poem’s speaker, before an existential crisis…

For Real among the TLS's Best Poetry Pamphlets 2014

The entries for this year’s Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet Awards provide strong evidence that small presses are producing some of the most engaging, innovative and accomplished poetry being published today.
Good to spot a round-up review of the best pamphlets of the year in this week's Times Literary Supplement. Andrew McCulloch's wide-ranging piece takes in memorable slim volumes including Christopher Reid's Yesterday’s News, Blake Morrison's This Poem, Mimi Khalvati's Earthshine, Michael McKimm's Fossil Sunshine, Matthew Sweeney's The Gomera Notebook, Ian McMillan's Jazz Peas, and Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch's Lime and Winter
An honour to see my pamphlet For Real included in the mix:

“I can’t make you feel what I felt” (David Foster Wallace), one of the epigraphs to Ben Wilkinson’s For Real (Smith Doorstop), is a challenge to which Wilkinson rises with considerable success ...
You can read more in the print edition of the TLS, and copies of For Real

What Poetry Can Do

Ben Wilkinson's pamphlet For Real, winner of the Poetry Business competition, was a real advance on the anyway highly accomplished The Sparks, and his reading from it confirmed all those good first impressions. It's poetry that thinks very hard about what poetry can do, but it's never less than accessible and engaged with the real world.
Thoughtful write-up of the Shindig! gig at The Western, Leicester, by local poet Matt Merritt over at his site Polyolbion. Read more here.

You're Never Really Asleep /////////////////
///////////////// You're Never Really Awake

Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?



An inspiring new online course I'm running with The Poetry School this Spring 2015: Dream On - Waking Up Your Poems with the Phantasmagoric.

Booking is open NOW. Why not treat yourself, and bring the best out of your poems in the new year. Course starts Monday 26th January. Book your place on the link above.




Join me to uncover the power of dreams, nightmares, reveries and more besides...



"The waking dream-world through which we blunder":
Don Paterson's Selected Poems - review

The title poem of Don Paterson's first collection, Nil Nil (1993), tells the sped-up tale of a football team's inglorious decline. Yet its panoramic sweep takes in much more than sport. The comedy and search for ontological significance typify the mix of the quotidian, the surreal and the mystical which remain a hallmark of his writing. "From the top, then, the zenith, the silent footage" we witness a "fifty-year slide / into Sunday League", but the missing dash found in a football score also makes the title a strange double negative. "Nil Nil" is both nothing and everything, it seems to say. Both poem and collection introduced readers to a striking new voice.

Sean O'Brien has written that "few poets can have covered as much ground in 20 years as Don Paterson". Reading this remarkable Selected Poems, which ranges from the ludic depths of Nil Nil to the plainer cadences and frankness of 2009's Rain, one is inclined to agre…

"Assholes and good guys are one of a kind":
a poem after Paul Verlaine

Joie de Vivre

after Paul Verlaine


Now you suckers and saps might fall for nature
but that confidence trickster doesn’t fool me.
All those touched-up pastorals of half-arsed
emotion are the last thing I want to see.

Art’s a fucking joke, and we’re no better –
I laugh at verse, the churches’ fawning spires,
and worse, Canary Wharf’s effervescence,
that Midas touch turning the whole lot to shit.

Assholes and good guys are one of a kind.
I’ve left behind faith, daydreams, and as for
love – please. Let’s wave all that goodbye.

Like a useless toy boat that’s miles offshore –
too tired to go on, but who can’t pack it in –
I’ll wait on the shipwreck still gunning for me.




poem by Ben Wilkinson

first published in The Poetry Review, 102:03


This poem is part of an ongoing portraiture project, in which I have drawn, haphazardly, on the works of Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) to produce new poems of my own. It is also an attempt, in some small way, to honour and revivify interest in a great French poet …