Archive for October, 2015

Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes. I had a wonderful weekend in Paris, as a guest of the FIAC art fair and the artist, poet and force of nature Alex Cecchetti. I took part in two events – first, a discussion on the theme ‘The World is not the World’ with the Italian poet Jolanda Insana and the philosopher Markus Gabriel, who spoke brilliantly about why we should resist the narratives of mechanisation and neuro-science that claim we aren’t free subjects (if you want to see his lecture, which I’d recommend, it’s an hour into this recording of the evening)

The video doesn’t really capture the space – we were just round the corner from Serge Gainsbourg’s house, in a chapel at the school of Beaux-Arts full of imposing statues and casts, where a giant on horseback towered over me as I spoke.

And then then the next night there was a salon with no set running order, where the artists all sat on stage and responded to eachother’s poems or pieces. There was a dancer, an amped-up heartbeat, videos and choral music, and the poetic company I was in was fairly nerve-wracking: Brian Turner, Homero Aridjis, Dorothea Lasky and Ko Un for goodness sakes. They all gave such beautiful readings, and I was pleased to swap books with Dorothea afterwards (she is very cool, btw, and has great taste in jewellery), and open hers up to read:


Even the sound of French is open

And the children find me very interesting to look at

It is as if I am a TV show or supper


Otherwise I pottered around markets and visited the amazing Le Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (thanks to Peter Raynard and Pascale Petit for the facebook tip-off), which was exactly my kind of thing – unicorns, falcon hoods, stuffed leopards, fairytale wolves, and owl-feather ceilings. Also: I ate escargots and Orangina Haribo.

Whilst I’m on the subject of all things euro, the absolutely wonderful shortlist for the Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize, which I judged with Olivia McCannon, is now online. Take a poetic Grand Tour and read all of them.

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cakesThis month is always the busiest in the poetry calendar, starting with the Forwards. This year was a ludicrously strong one for debuts (in what other year would Jack Underwood, Rebecca Perry and Kim Moore’s beautiful books not make the cut?) and I enjoyed all the shortlist, but was very pleased that Mona Arshi won for Small Hands, as I have been following her poetic progress since she attended one of my beginner’s classes at the City Lit many years ago and I love the way her voice thrums between clarity and strangeness, delicacy and the dark – you can read ‘The Lion’ here (and then buy the book). Congratulations to her editor Deryn Rees-Jones at Pavillion Press too – a serious new poetry list with a female editor is exactly what we need right now.   And Claudia Rankine’s Citizen rightly won the best collection prize. It is so clearly the book for this political and cultural moment, it makes everything else look slightly irrelevant.

I only managed to follow the evening through twitter updates though, as I’ve been very busy since I last blogged – aside from going to two weddings and conkering with my son, I’ve been working away on Somali translations, the new MA and a flurry of school visits. The most recent, to Bootham School in York, has got me in Halloween mood already, as we discussed gothic literature, vampires and werefoxes and I was given a cupcake with bloody toothmarks in it…

The next two weeks are also a bit frenetic, and involve three Ovid events.

In case any of you are interested I’ll be at Cheltenham Literature Festival on Wednesday at 8.15pm as part of the ‘Ancient Poetry Unplugged’ event, along with Gideon Nisbet, who has translated Martial, and Natalie Haynes.

I’m also doing the Jaybird Ovid’s Heroines show at:

Durham, Sunday 11th October 5pm (pocket version)
Palace Green Library, Durham DH1 3RN
Tickets: £6/ £4 from Durham Book Festival

Windsor, Friday 16th October, evening 7.30pm (pocket version)
All Saints Church, Dedworth Road, Windsor SL4 4JW
Tickets: £5 at the door

While I’m typing I’ll also mention that – if you haven’t already seen it – my poem about the language around motherhood, Suffer, is now up at the Morning Star. It’s a central poem in my next book ‘Incarnation’ (which I’ve just sent to Bloodaxe), and lots of people have been asking me how to get hold of it after readings, so nice to have it online.

I will try and blog properly soon, but happy National Poetry Day anyway! I like the theme of light, especially at this time of year as we start thinking about pumpkins, sparklers and getting our chimneys cleared, and am sure the Jaybird/Poetry Society show ‘Beginning to see the Light’ at the Southbank is going to be fantastic.

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