Without even the pressure to dress up, you can listen with the leaders in UK poetry to the annual prestigious award ceremony for the T S Eliot prize – audio recordings now available here.
Michael Symmons Roberts
Thanks to the time machinery of your internet device, you are present to hear a master class in reading and presenting your own poetry. Each poet has 8 minutes to read their work. This is poets under pressure, reading to a roomful of experts in writing and performing poetry – with a leading prize of £25,000 at stake.
Ian MacMillan introduces the shortlisted readings. (2 minutes 29 secs)
(Second track, although this clearly happened before Ian spoke) Bill Herbert, Chair of this year’s judges, reads one of T S Eliot’s own poems – this year a particularly political one “The Difficulties of a Statesman” (5.16)
Leontia Flynn (originally from Northern Ireland)
James Sheard (good at explaining the personal starting point for the poems and engaging with the audience)
Tara Bergin (originally from Ireland) reads from her collection based on the death of Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl Marx, who committed suicide after her lover married someone else
Robert Minhinnick (Wales) reads from “Diary of the Last Man”. He edits “Poetry Wales” and writes with passion about the environment
Roddy Lumsden reads from “So glad to be me”
Jacqueline Saphra “All my mad mothers” – reads short poems with humour and insight about family and art and motherhood (her grownup kids in the audience)
Ocean Vuong (Vietnam/America) reads with intenseness and drama of the fall of Saigon (his mother is Vietnamese/American) and a poem speaking to himself
Douglas Dunn (Scotland) reads from his collection “The sound of a fly”
Caroline Bird reads from her collection “In these days of Prohibition” – which Ian MacMillan describes as being about the surreallness of real life. 7 minutes into the reading, she reads a fantastic poem – which I’ve heard her perform, live – and it’s so vivid and funny, it’s like you join her in the scene
Michael Symmons Roberts reads from his collection “Mancunia” – things to do with Manchester (an English city) are described as “Mancunian”
All in one place, we hear ten poets, current, contemporary, performing – selected by the poetry community as important at this moment in time. We hear different accents and varieties of ages and styles of poetry. It will forever be on these poets’ c.v.s that they were shortlisted for the T S Eliot prize. One will win. (The result is out now, but I’ll let you find it out for yourself. Can you guess who it is?)
The Poets talk about their work
If some of these readings made you interested to hear more of these poets and how they work at poetry, the T S Eliot Society has made brief video interviews with them on that theme. (Thank you, T S Eliot Society!)
Reader, if you are a wouldbe poetry writer, then get your hands on this book “Writing Poetry” by W N Herbert. It’s like having a writing tutor patiently helping you – because that’s exactly what is happening – its writer is Bill Herbert, Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University.
Please do take that book token Christmas present, or lean over your local library counter and demand that they order it, or borrow the spondulicks from a pal, to buy this instantly useful and enjoyable book.
Whether you are a beginner, near beginner or have written a couple of hundred poems but still feel like you’re at the start of a writing apprenticeship – this book takes you through the process of developing the skills/craft and – more difficult to explain – the feel for, writing poetry.
If you’re feeling cold, watch this and feel, comparatively, warmer.
Jot Reyes, film-maker, has set a poem by R A Villaneuva into an astonishing monochrome animation work. The original poem is titled “In the Dead of Winter We” from Villaneuva’s book “Reliquaria” which won the 2013 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry.
This animation was nominated for the 2015 Webby Awards Best Online Video: Animation.
Just came across an interesting interview on the blog “Little Word Studio” – where Melissa Kandel interviewed a writer based in Hollywood (self-styled as sob), who writes post-it poems and places them around his favourite walking route. Here’s my quick highlights of what was said – see the full-length interview here.
Why write poetry on Post-its?
I went to grad school for directing but fell into writing out of compulsion. I was an English major in undergrad so I have those roots and it takes a ton of money and time to make a movie, where all it takes is a pen and paper to write. I’m currently trying to sell some scripts and get attachments for a movie I’m directing while working on the second draft of the aforementioned novel while also doing a ton of freelance film-related work. Basically, the old Hollywood Hustle.
What is the writing process?
Everything is an inspiration. I get hit constantly with little thoughts that I jot down into Notes on my phone, then I’ll try to sit down for a few hours once or twice a week to write them all into a longer word document and re-shape them. In addition, I’ll force myself to write a dozen or so new ones while I’m there and have the time.
Writers you admire?
As far as the authors, my lifelong obsessions are James Joyce and Shakespeare. But beyond that we have the other modernists, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, W.B. Yeats, etc. I love the Romantics: Blake, Shelley, Wordsworth, etc. Let’s see off the top of my head without cheating and looking at the bookshelves 12 inches from me—Carroll. Pynchon. Mark Z. Danielewski!, Fitzgerald, Austen, Auden, Donna Tartt, (OK, cheating now) … Eh— you get the idea. Everyone. I wish I read more philosophy.
This week’s challenge: follow sob’s writing process, making short notes of words/phrases during the week, then sit down for an hour or two and stick with it until you get about 20 phrases. Then write them on post-its and/or instagram.
Or if you like the physical texture of paper and pen – write them on postcards and post to friends.