Archive for February, 2018

Two Books, Twenty Years

Apologies for being so silent this year – I’ve been busy putting my first issue of Modern Poetry in Translation together – more to follow very soon. But I did just want to note that 2018 is the 20th anniversary of my debut The Heavy-Petting Zoo! (Twenty years as a poet, wow, that’s almost like a career or something.) I wrote the book in sixth form; it came out at the start of my second year at university.

I read it again recently, and it has a few awkward poetic fumblings. The cover is also perhaps a bit on the nose – a, erm, literally heavy pet. (But this was before the internet, and the only relevant image I could find on the shelves of Bolton Library in half an hour whilst my mum did a supermarket shop).

Still, I think it stands up as testimony to teenage yearning and I’m generally pretty proud of my young self (I still find myself reciting snatches of ‘Breakfast Poem’ when I have a hangover. ‘I’m strawberry-jam sickly; I’m bacon dead. / It’s always morning when the ghosts appear -‘)

The University of Bolton is currently putting together a literary map of the town and I’ve been asked to read at the launch on April the 19th (details to follow), so that sounds like a fitting occasion on which to celebrate HPZ‘s birthday – Boltonians do put the date in your diaries and we’ll get nostalgic over drinking Diamond White and jumping around to Supergrass in Hawthorns….

By coincidence, 20 years ago I also met Hannah Sullivan, who interviewed me about The Heavy-Petting Zoo for Varsity at university. We enjoyed our conversation so much we carried it on a few weeks later over absinthe at her college, and it has never really ended. So I should also say that one of the absolute highlights of my year so far has been attending the launch party of her debut, Three Poems (Faber).

For the twenty years I’ve known her, Hannah has been working towards and living with these sequences which tell the story of her (our) adulthood. They’re really like nothing else out there. If you’ve not yet listened to this recording of her reading ‘You, Very Young in New York’, do – it’s crazily good. But it also feels radical for such keen intelligence to be applied to motherhood in the brilliantly titled ‘The Sandpit after Rain’: ‘This is the world and the entropy of things, / The plugged dyke and the sea coming in, / The emendation and the unforced error, / The floor before a toddler’s pasta dinner’…




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