21st March World Poetry Day

A decision to proclaim 21 March as World Poetry Day was adopted during UNESCO’s 30th session held in Paris in 1999.  One of the main objectives of the Day is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression.

Never sure if this is a relevant excuse for a blog as it might be seen as reinforcing a manufactured event…….  Okay, the UN is a world-wide organisation and looking at the names like UNESCO and WHO, there are huge aims and progress is being made despite the political side-stepping on what should be a ‘family’ progressing the ideals of humanity.

Days can be plucked out of the air, whether they be anniversary of some event, grave or spectacular, commemorating people of national or international importance either to ‘the populace’ or the Arts or Industry or Science.  Somewhere there is probably a national Rain Day, maybe national Sun Day, or some such.

I am not against remembering events and anniversaries whether for nations or cliques but I do find it disappointing that World poetry has to have one day a year to be exalted.  Perhaps I should use the term ‘celebrated’ instead.   That would then give a distinction  over what should be listed as celebration or remembrance.  I have just had another failure in the language of international communication, it seems..

So here I am, back at first base, or is it square one?

21st March is World Poetry Day.

Do I offer English poets’ poems to overseas visitors or pluck some poets from other nations I have found for UK readers?   Choice has to start and finish somewhere so it might as well be this:

I have written  previously on Mike Doyle:  a poet born in England of Irish parents. He served in the navy and settled in New Zealand.  After a few years he moved to  a university in Canada and as was still in Canada a year ago, retired, no doubt..

I had pleasure in writing about Lorna Goodison, poet and artist from Jamaica; currently its Poet Laureate. She works in a Canadian (again) University and commutes between the two (sort of) as well as ‘touring’ her Poetry.

Another poet I have written about is the late Guy Butler, born to a family of early English settlers in South Africa.  He fought in WW2, definitely in Italy and took a degree in England afterwards. He returned to, and stayed in his country of South Africa, (at a university) writing poetry and collecting oral tradition stories from his area of Karoo.

I have read and written on Australian poets, a young men from Uganda and Zimbabwe,, others with roots in the various Caribbean or Africa countries.   Numerous American poets, a sliver of Russian.  My problem is I have no foreign language so have dipped into only a very few  of the translated poets….but I have read ‘translations’ from the Early English of Beowulf and  of Homer et al.; even Villon and some more recent French poet’s translations, so all is not heglected   I intend to find more translations but the range is so vast I just do it in a random fashion for fear of searching alphabetically.

But then I find Welsh poets, Scots, regional ( Notts, Devon etc), all have similar strong veins running through their work.   There is also a poet or two literally down the road who could have a special day, deserve a special day, for some of their work.

Click the tags on the right if you fancy dipping into a variety of poets and poems I have written about.

So, back to the beginning:   21st March is World Poetry Day

And maybe one of the points for this day is to recognize that whatever nation or tribe we may profess to be, we are all human and have marvellously similar thoughts, emotions and ideals of life and who we might be.  Poetry is the art of an oral tradition akin to music  (& song) using language, emotion and imagination to tell a ‘story’.  Film may well have taken the forefront in this tradition but without this language art form, the need for ever-changing poetry, we would not move forward.  Poetry of the inner city, the youth of any country, any place; they are always developing their language.   Oral tradition of everyday living is where it is most alive and to be embraced.

Poetry always has its day, everyday.  We just don’t always hear it.

So, hurrah, it’s World Poetry Day, again!







Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2014: Shortlist

Press Release:
Dated   Tuesday 03 Mar 2015

The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2014 shortlist is announced:

Patience Agbabi,

Imtiaz Dharker,

Carrie Etter,

Andrew Motion,

Alice Oswald

are announced as the shortlisted poets.
The Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry seeks to recognise excellence in new poetry.  The Award acknowledges poetry that goes beyond just the page, highlighting exciting and outstanding contributions made by poets to our cultural life in 2014.  This year the cultural and the everyday converge to create a thrilling shortlist.
Selected from a wide range of work across all media, this richly diverse shortlist looks at the effects of the mundane and the momentous, retelling myths and reimagining tales to make them relevant again.  From examining conflict to confronting the effect of putting a child up for adoption, this year’s shortlisted poets have poured something personal into each of the works and the result is a series of voices that speak to, and for, all of us.
Julia Copus said of the judging process:
“This year’s energetic and varied consignment of entries for the Ted Hughes Award was, as ever, delivered into our hands by members of the Poetry Society and the Poetry Book Society; it is, in that sense, a peculiarly democratic prize.  A great deal of lively debate ensued as we discussed the merits of the work – performances, books, radio pieces, and all manner of collaborations.  We were looking, above all, for work that surprised and moved us; work that was innovative, but not for innovation’s sake; work that was vital and relevant enough to connect with a wide readership and that took account of the world around it.  In some cases, the crucial element of surprise arose from the spark that flies when two or more artists work together; in others, from the poet’s own imaginative resources.  Our shortlist of five reflects that divergence of approach.”

Established in 2009 by Poet Laureate and Vice President of the Poetry Society, Carol Ann Duffy, the £5,000 prize is funded with the annual honorarium the Poet Laureate traditionally receives from HM The Queen.  The award is one of the only prizes to acknowledge the wide range of work being produced by poets – not just in books, but beyond.  Previous winners of the £5,000 prize include Maggie Sawkins in 2013 for Zones of Avoidance and Kate Tempest in 2012 for Brand New Ancients.
The final winner will be revealed at an awards ceremony at the Savile Club, Mayfair, London on Thursday 2nd April 2015.  The winners of The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition will also be announced at the ceremony.

Andrew Motion: A Graph Review

Andrew Motion:

Natural Causes (Chatto Poetry 1987)
Love in a Life     (faber & faber 1991)

A Graph Review: 50 with high points 70

Two books, several years apart.  The first published some 25 years ago and the other four years later.  Written by a poet immediately recognised for his skill and quality and now stands with the best of English Poets.  I am more than happy to read these, his style is of narrative, rhythm and variation, with images that both show and threaten to break away from the theme of the poem, the collection.
The two books are written by the same hand but the later,  Love in a Life shows a growth in strength of handling verse, dexterity in imagery and story-telling that stands alone.  Confidence in his own voice fills every poem of this second collection.

Natural Causes            9780701132712.    Paperback

AM natural causes coverBoth books contain many stark images.  Elements of death feature throughout.  Yes, you might say, but such good death!  He is by no means alone in having death trailing around his poetry, it is a theme well taken by many, past current and no doubt future.  It is a common theme for poets of any age and Andrew Motion links in with a full range of ability.
Love in a Life        9780571161393.     Hardback.             0571161014. Paperback

AM love in a life coverAll I can do, apart from be jealous, is let you know that here are two books worth reading, in order, together, however you fancy!   There are 19 poems in the second and 9 in the first.  A pleasing variety in length, some poems much longer than many in newer books I have read/reviewed.

UK Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2009, the first poet to accept the laureateship on condition he carried it for ten years rather than for life.  Seems a sensible arrangement as the award, though an honour is no doubt something of a burden with the expectations of ‘writing to order’ for National Events.  Mind you, either it happens or it doesn’t, is good or is not. Would it be a snap of the day that survives, good or bad in the public arena?  Any art is of the day and sits somewhere in the eye of the beholder.  If it survives on a scrap of clay or an apple tablet for a thousand years, when it is discovered, art/a poem may be still be judged as either good or bad.  Labelled art or artefact.

Natural Causes, won the Dylan Thomas Prize, 1987.

The skill in producing these two volumes shines through.  The use of language and rhythm, line lengths that vary and break like a conversation, sometimes with rhymes and par-rhymes tucked in.  His poetry contains the smooth and staccato of speech and mood. Language is part of the schematic, with dramatic changes of word-tone having the effect of an unexpected prod in the ribs.  Shifting images that break away from the scene but add balance to the subject work like cinematic shots that flick from subject to subject or current time to memory.  Much is in free verse but some cling to a little more formality.
Labels like narrative and imagist can sit easily but like all labels I prefer to use them in broadest sense and often just tuck them out of sight.  There is a quote likening him to Edward Thomas (about whom A.M. has written) which is okay by me but you can add other links like Dunn, Hughes and Larkin, (who appears in one poem and is nodded to in another).  I have also read that he liked Ivor Gurney for his spontaneity, something which A.M. also appears to have.
His tone is more strident than Ed. Thomas, tender meets anger meets confidence and he certainly does not tie himself down to rhyme that Gurney did.

I usually select a few favourites, with a total number of 28 over two books I just picked four.   I am fond of:

‘This is your subject speaking’. In memory of Philip Larkin  (Natural Causes)

Partly because I visited Hull University a few times when Larkin was still Librarian, never met him but the red brick building is impressive and sticks in the memory just because I knew he was there(!).  As with Larkin, Andrew Motion’s poetry sticks in the mind.

And also:   A Blow to the Head;    Toot Baldon;      Tamworth; ( all from Love in a Life)

Andrew Motion, poet, read him.

Andrew Motion’s 10 tips for being a successful poet

So,  here’s an offering I could not resist linking to:

Andrew Motion ( Poet Laureate, retired)with good advice to all on a BBC arts & entertainment page, item written by Alison Feeney-Hart.  It all seems very sound to me, not that I  do much more than read and write poetry for  my own benefit, though I have to admit that I now like to pass on the enjoyment and frustration of poetry in all its forms.

Link to Andrew Motion’s ten tips:      how to write good poetry

Ten points:   No, I will not labour them here but check them out and see if you agree, and  personal additions should be tacked on for later review, and comfort.   Think about where you need to improve but be sure it is to your creative benefit.  Prefer not to play to the crowd and stick to your own direction.  Having said that in writing and reading, try variety, different, hard and push your boundaries.  You and your poetry will grow.

Which reminds me, I must re-read his: Natural Causes ((Chatto Poetry) and Love in a Life (Faber & Faber)

And if you want to dip into reading and interpreting poetry you will find it surprisingly helpful and informative  for your own work.  Try;  Terry Eagleton: How to Read a Poem (Blackwell Publishing) for a pretty clear and sensible view of the subject, a surprisingly easy (and humourous) read.