Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year

If my blog could have new year's resolutions it would probably be to have a makeover - a new template is probably due, or even a move to Wordpress, we'll see if it finds the time. The post-Xmas period has seen me out late 4 nights in a row. Seeing the Runaways meets AC/DC of Crewe based the Tommys at Night and Day made me feel distinctly old. I'd say they're going to be massive, they're ridiculously good at their instruments, but the music's a bit on the heavy side for the charts. I bumped into my friend who runs the occasional arts and music night, Beat Your Art Out, their next one is in Hebden Bridge of all places. That night saw us come foul of the lack of 24 hour drinking in Manchester, Via Fossa closing at 1.00 and us having to gamely go to the place of no return (the New Union.) The village doesn't change, Italo-house classic "Keep Warm" by Armando was playing as we left Via Fossa. Tune! The following day saw us end up in Common in the Northern Quarter, where I can definitely say that "New Rave" is real and not just a media invention. Though nobody was dancing cos its a bar! Didn't stop them when they put Michael Jackson's "Beat it" on. A friend's birthday the day-before NYE, and then a pleasant meal for New Year itself where we got all competitive with the 1996 "Pub Quiz Book" and the game Taboo. (We were rubbish.) Somehow all these hangovers have helped a little with my creativity: namely I wrote a first draft of a new story that I'm wildly excited about. Before I return to work tomorrow I've been doing a bit of "housekeeping" finding old stories I wrote pre-computer days, which I really should type in one of these days. I even found my "author" photograph that I got done for City Life's Manchester Stories back in the day; good job really, since the publishers lost it as well. Realise I've been writing pretty seriously for about 20 years now - which seems a long, long time; but also, weirdly, could just seem like an apprenticeship. I've been looking through the ragged entrails of my past writings, finding connections, repeated motifs, failed and successful attempts at the same thing. Mostly, remarkably, there's some consistency. Unlike my record collection which flies all over the place. I picked up a rare Captain Beefheart yesterday, but the record player is attached to the computer as I dither about digitising stuff, so haven't listened to it yet. The Waterstones gift vouchers my sister gave me have already been spent: Jeffrey Wainwright's "Poetry: the basics" is something I've been meaning to get for ages, I've never had a poetry lesson/class in my life, and so when people talk about ceasuras and sestinas and the like, I go all schtum. Its a joy to read, and you'll come away from it knowing much more than you did before. Very catholic choice of poets he chooses from as well. That, and Tom McCarthy's heavily recommended "Remainder" should keep me going well into January. I was looking for a decent anthology of contemporary (even post-60s) American poetry and it doesn't seem that one exists. There's a few wide surveys of the more avant garde end of things, which stretch into the present day, but as far as I can see there's no decent "primer" for contemporary American poetry, made available for British readers. It makes you wonder what the Fabers, Carcanets etc. of the world are thinking of? And it may explain this essay in Poetry Review from John Burnside. In brief, Burnside finds himself in a conversation about the American poet Jorie Graham, and from this discovers that almost none of the UK poets at the event have read any contemporary American poetry, or like any of it. Even Ashbery was dismissed by this myopic crowd. I'm not a fan of Burnside's poetry, but this is a brave and important essay that should be a rallying cry. "You don't know what you're missing," he said to them, and he's right, but there's no easy way in to the contemporary American scene. I wish Burnside had named names, surely if that's their view they wouldn't be unhappy to make it publicly known? I think Fiona Sampson, the new editor of Poetry Review, should insist! Happy New Year.


Ms Baroque said...

Some other books you should really consider for your bookshelf are:
Metre, Rhythm and Verse Form, by Philip Hobsbaum (this is an essential text); The Making of a Poem, by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland; A Poet's Guide to Poetry, by Mary Kinzie; and James Fenton's excellent Introduction to English Poetry. If you can, get the first and the last in the list. You will never regret it (even though you just bought one. I think it is important to get information presented in different ways).

Adrian Slatcher said...

I've generally just read poetry and criticism, rather than "about" books (but then you'd expect that from a blog named after a Henry James essay.) Think I remember reading some of Fenton's when it was serialised in the Guardian. I'll add them to the list. Thanks.