Archive for October, 2010

Procrastination Station #80

Friday, October 15th, 2010

You know the drill: some stuff I have found on the internet, and thought you might like.

Rob Mackenzie asks which poets you’d have on your poetry reading dream team, over at Magma

Great stuff from the Guardian this week: the book is dead, long live the book // What’s the point of literary prizes? // A poem from Famous Seamus // & rockstars pick their favourite poets

Also guys, if you’re London-based, please please please go to this!

Kona Macphee on guerilla poetry (like this? Check out my poetry ninja post of a few months back)

“I occasionally refer to The Birthday Letters as You Guys, What About MY Feelings: The Point-Missing Chronicles“: Tiger Beatdown on Ted Hughes

Has ‘the humanities crisis’ now arrived?

Poetry on TV (thanks to Leandro for the tip-off on this one)

Can I have a cover like this for my book, please?

ONS fans and friends — what they’re up to this week: Gareth Trew is at a handful of stones // Regina Green at Come Out, Kicked Out! // Ms Hannah Radenkova turns her hand beautifully to book covers // Brilliant poems by Suzannah Evans at PoetCasting // What Russell Jones did on National Poetry Day // William Soule is fscking brilliant

Yes please.

Saw this and thought of Peg.

“Don’t consult Dr Google. Dr Google got his qualification on the internet.” Wise words from Natalie Perkins.

Neon poems?! AWESOME.

Why do I never come across marginalia like this?

I’m kind of over bitter break up poems at the moment, but I did like this one.

One of my all-time favourite songs by one of my all-time favourite songwriters.

Can’t believe I’ve never posted this before. ♥ these boys.

Have a great weekend… I’m off to FREAKIN’ PARIS with a gorgeous man in tow! Recommend me some good bookstores/literary delights!

(Photo by Cosi!)

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Things I’m Reading Thursday #22

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

What I’m reading this week…

Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
Confession (why does TiRT so often begin with me confessing to something shameful?): until last week, I’d never read any Don DeLillo. I know — it’s like Elliott Smith all over again. People have been saying to me for years “check this guy out, you’ll like him, promise”, and I’ve been nodding and then ignoring them, and as it turns out, that was a very silly mistake.
What I needed of course was for a gorgeous man upon whom I had a massive crush to casually suggest in passing that I should maybe read some DeLillo, by the way. Obviously that’s the only catalyst guaranteed to get me running for the nearest bookstore (I know, I have no shame). As it happened, the nearest bookstore was the utterly fabulous Word Power, and Cosmopolis was the only DeLillo novel they had in stock. So I bought it.

That was at about 1pm-ish. The rest of that day was spent inside the novel. The last book I read in one sitting was probably Russell Hoban’s Kleinzeit (recommended if you like DeLillo, by the way), which was a good few years ago now — I’d forgotten quite what a weird feeling it is to look up from finishing a novel and find you’ve lost an entire day of your life.

But weird in a good way — I absolutely loved Cosmopolis. In short, it follows one very eventful 24-hour period in the life (mostly in the limo) of billionnaire asset manager Eric Packer. You follow his every move — you eat breakfast with him, you watch him interact with his entourage of larger-than-life staff — you even get a rather squeamish ringside seat for his daily medical checkup. Stupidly melodramatic and unrealistic things happen one after the other after the other… and yet at the same time, absolutely nothing happens for pages and pages and pages.

I was quite surprised to find that the general feeling among reviewers was (as Wikipedia diplomatically puts it) “mixed to negative”, though on reflection, and having now read some of these reviews, I can take their point. A lot of people have drawn comparisons between Eric Packer and Patrick Bateman, generally coming to the conclusion that Easton Ellis does rich young psychopaths a lot better. Personally, I think it’s an unfair comparison — and one that’s far too obvious. Unlike Bateman (who, like Nabakov’s Humbert Humbert, you find yourself wanting to like in spite of your own better judgement), Packer is almost entirely without personality — you can’t warm to him, you can’t really warm to the people around him either, you’re never invested in the action because you can’t care what happens to Packer. And neither can he — but that’s what kept me gripped. What the hell happened to this person?, I wanted to know. Does money do this to a human being, or is there something deeper? Surely there’s something at the end of this rainbow of overwhelming apathy? I wanted a reason to like or dislike Packer, a reason to root for him, or to wish him dead. DeLillo kept me scrabbling around for that through the entirety of the novel, and the entirety of my afternoon. And of course, I never got it. So hey, I can see why people hated this book — but I always kind of like it when a writer gets one over on me. I thought it was damn brilliant, and can’t wait to read more. Recommendations, anyone? Which DeLillo should I read next?

What are you reading this week?

(Photo by TakenPictures)

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Poetry & “cronyism”

Monday, October 11th, 2010

The other day, I went for a cup of coffee with a friend who edits a reasonably well-known literary journal. I was asking about his plans for the latest issue, who he was hoping to receive submissions from, and generally how it was all going. He listed the names of a few poets whose work he was hoping to publish — all in all, it sounded like a fantastic mix. “But of course, I can’t have all of them,” he said. “It’d look like cronyism if I did.”

The issue of cronyism and nepotism in the poetry world is one which has long fascinated me. I watched with interest, for example, as the vs Jorie Graham incident unfolded, and more recently became more than a little embroiled in a, er, lively comment thread on “chum marketing”, here at the Magma Poetry blog. In the early days of Read This Magazine I was always very worried about being accused on cronyism, as I sometimes published the work of people I knew in person, and when I judged the Sentinel Literary Quarterly poetry contest earlier this year I was not without trepidation as I waited to find out who the winners might be. Accusations of cronyism are bandied about freely wherever there are editors, contest judges and rejected writers — the Guardian even goes as far as this:

That’s how “schools” of poetry get started - cronyism. The poetry contestants want a level playing field? Try football.

So cronyism exists. It’s all over the poetry world like a rash, in fact. I’ll still rage away happily about editors who only publish or review work by their own current/former creative writing students, for example; I’m still suspicious of literary journals who invite the same poets back for publication time after time after time. I stand by my previous rants about poets swinging contests and other opportunities in their favour by engaging in large-scale covert Facebook PR campaigns and such. But after meeting my fellow editor friend I got to really wondering about the issue. Here is an editor who just wants to put together the best publication he can, but who feels restricted by how it might come across. I started to wonder if maybe I’d been too ready to jump to conclusions about journal acceptances, anthology selections and contest winners in the past. I’m now thinking that there might well be a lot of totally innocent stuff going on in the poetry world — totally innocent and worthwhile stuff — that suffers from being undeservingly tarred by the cronyism brush.

After speaking to my friend, I started thinking about the speculative list he’d put together for the new issue of his magazine. He’s relatively new to the publication and still getting to know how things work, so he doesn’t want to take too many risks with the stuff he puts out there for now — therefore, a lot of the poets he wanted to approach for submissions are guaranteed, tried-and-tested kind of people. And yes, many of them he knows personally — but if you’re looking for a guarantee that their stuff is going to be good, and for some degree of control or opportunity for discussion, that’s not altogether unreasonable, is it? He was also worried that too many of the poets he had his eye on were from the same part of the world as him, and/or writing in a similar style to his own work. On the surface, this could definitely be seen as favouritism or even self promotion, but it does make some sense. As an editor, you’re always swayed to an extent by personal taste — particularly when you’re soliciting submissions from individual poets rather than receiving work by open submission. And it makes perfect sense if you’re drawn to work by other poets like yourself — chances are you were heavily influenced by other poets from your area (although, perhaps not?), and you’re obviously bound to be attracted to other work like your own. Chances are, if we all went away and drew up the contents page for the dream first issue of our own fantasy literary journal, we’d probably find a lot of friends, close influences and fellow countrymen included.

Finally, I began to wonder — what is so wrong with promoting the work of your friends and colleagues, if it’s deserving of merit? I constantly sing the praises of brilliant upcoming young American poet Heather Bell, for example. Not because she is a personal friend or because she and I have been sharing and critiquing each other’s writing for years, but because she is absolutely bloody brilliant, and her work deserves to be widely recognised. I’m passionate about raising the profile of Scotland’s apparently invisible younger generation of poets, so I’ll regularly drop names like Chris Lindores, Jenny Lindsay, Charlotte Runcie or Bram Gieben into conversations, blogposts and the like. Yes, these people are friends and acquaintances of mine, too — but we’re all writing from the same city, all roughly the same age and all at similar stages in our writing careers, so surely that’s just to be expected? Does any praise of a poet mean nothing if it comes from someone who knows them well? If so, we’re in trouble, because (particularly here in the UK) the poetry world is a bit like St Mary Mead — everyone knows everyone.

Thoughts? Get thee to the comments box!

(Photo by m.jesenska)

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Procrastination Station #79

Friday, October 1st, 2010
Stuff I like from the web this week, to totally mess up your Friday plans. I’m so kind.

I love White Hot Truth and if that makes me a bit new age-y and daft, so be it. Check out your permission slip from the Universe, Got boundaries? Got class?, and the initiated woman.

Yet more Ginsberg/Howl/James Franco fangirling: Franco selects his favourite poems (thanks, Peg!)

And from one Ginsberg to another… Scott Ginsberg also rocks my socks off.

Don’t be afraid of poetry!

Editors do not hate you, but they have every reason to.

I really enjoyed this poem, posted by Swiss.

You are what you read.

I loved this interview with Billy Collins.

Poetry competition: “improving the human”, open til 7th October.

Four walls: a psychiatrist’s view of poetry and poets

ONS readers’, fans’ and friends’ whereabouts this week: Jim Murdoch at Salamander Cove // The Forest are calling for submissions! // did you guys know my sister has a blog? // a cool senryu from William Soule // Gemma White now has an Etsy! And you can buy Velveteen Zine there!

I was really sad to hear that the great Tony Curtis has died.

Thanks to Caitlin for sending this my way, it made me smile!


And speaking of geektastic… I’m sorry, is that A DALEK DRESS?!

I heart Shakesville.


Loved this film of the Rolling Stones, listening to a cut of Wild Horses for the first time…

I know I’m late to this (brilliant) party, but I just discovered Meursault.


Have a great weekend, all!

(Photo by Ben Bennitt)

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