Tuesday, January 17, 2017

TS Eliot Prize Winner - Jacob Polley for Jackself

$20.75 Booktopia
$19.72 Bookworld 
Jacob Polley has taken out the 2016 TS Eliot Prize for his work Jackself.

Jackself is the fourth collection from one of Britain's finest poets, and sees Jacob Polley at the height of his powers. 
In one of the most original books of poetry to appear in the last decade, Jackself spins a kind of 'fictionalized autobiography' through nursery rhymes, riddles and cautionary tales, and through the many 'Jacks' of our folktale, legend, phrase and fable - everyman Jacks and no one Jacks, Jackdaw, Jack-O-Lantern, Jack Sprat, Cheapjack and Jack Frost.
 At once playful and terrifying, lyric and narratively compelling, Jackself is an unforgettable exploration of an innocence and childhood lost in the darker corners of Reiver country and of English folklore, and once more shows Polley as one of the most remarkable imaginations at work in poetry today

Not sure if its your thing?  Here's Jacob reading one of the poems from the collection on youtube.

If you want to check out a write up of the prize I suggest you checkout this article by Claire Armitsted at the Guardian.

Note:  Bookworld have free shipping till the 23rd of January, check out the post here for details.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Slow start to the year and Free Shipping at Bookworld

Astute readers may have noticed the general lack of posting- at least I hope you have.

The heat combined with house renovations and a general feeling of wanting to do absolutely nothing has combined to produce no poetry reading or writing whatsoever.

I am not particularly worried about this.  I think it is good to give yourself a creative break.

So until next week, imagine me working out how to mix traditional lime render.

Note also that Angus and Robertson Bookworld have got a free shipping deal.  Just use the coupon code Summer17.

I recommend that you check out the new Penguin Modern Poets which I bought myself for Christmas.

Bookworld Free Shipping T&C's

 Free shipping is available on all orders. Promotion is valid on Angus & Robertson Bookworld; offer valid until Midnight 23 Janury 2017

 To redeem offer, enter voucher code SUMMER17 at checkout and follow the prompts to complete your transaction. 

Voucher cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotions. Offer only valid at www.angusrobertson.com.au. Visit website for full terms and conditions. Angus & Robertson Bookworld reserves the right to cancel or alter the promotion should it be deemed necessary. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A poem for the new year - Some Call Me Raven

If you are subscribed to the blog via email you would have already received this poem as a Christmas present ( lucky you).

This poem was one of my experiments in having more fun in my poetry.  I have this tendency to think that Poetry is all very, very serious (a pattern of thinking I am endeavouring to change) so I tried to be a bit more theatrical ? in my approach this time.  You'll notice this particularly if you listen to the audio below.

I have made a tentative agreement with myself to publish more poems on the blog this year so...

Please enjoy.

Some call me Raven

others Crow.
A god before the slow decline
to memory and thought. I brought
good omens before bad.
Will I rise again? No.
All things must

You judge.
Unkind or murderous,
which is worse?  Forever cursed;
bearer of unwanted news
or to be thought unkind
for all I’ve done?

This unwanted guest
has cleaned the mess of a thousand
bloodied fields. Is that it?
The mud and gore sticks? Am I
the fetish for your hate
and foolishness?


the vulture does the same -
perhaps you pity his ugliness?

I don’t sing
sweetly.  I’m harsh. Frequently
I disappoint you but to say
I lash you with my screams? An obscene
reaction to my call.  Straight spoken truth
never suited you.

Call me cruel?
You pluck the eyes of lambs.

Hypocrite -
their ribs were mutton chops,
lips and arshole spam,
before I came along.

Those muddy squatters under your eaves,
those cooing vermin that breed
and shit everywhere. Nothing to say?
No one ever thought it romantic
to feed the crow.
I’ll build my nest in trees
as far from you
as I can go.

Is it the colour?
The villain always wears black.
If I had a golden bill, I’d be more
pleasing to the eyes? No?
As I recall they ended
up in pies.

I will never lead a nation.  March
golden at the head of men.  Grace
stately coats of arms again. The
harm’s done.

The best I can hope
settled here on this branch
is to herald the oncoming
autumn and the darkness
of things.

All fall.

All fall -
more so those of us
with wings.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year of Poetry - The End (Part 2)

As noted in this post at mid year, I really did hit my goals by the six month stage.  

Just to jog your memory here's what I had set out for myself:

I want to exceed publication credits for this year (2015) so that's 4 + published poems.  I want to write at least 12 poems of publishable quality.  I want to increase my own poetic understanding through reading technical material and through reading of other's good poetry.
Publication Credits

I finished the year with 9 publications: 3 of which were paid, 3 of which I received a contributor copy for and 3 of which appeared on quality unpaid websites/journals.  I would have liked to have had more obviously but I did take up full time work in the second half of the year.

NB. It's occurred to me that three of the above were accepted for publication and intended to be published in 2015 (The Poetry and Place Anthology) but that didn't occur until April 2016.  So if I am being super strict I still managed to exceed last year's publications.

Publishable Quality

Or poems I judged deserved the name and thought worthy of an attempt to publish.  I wrote about 42 poems, some of which will never see the light of day.  I submitted 27 poems but that figure includes sending out a poem more than once.  A brief overview of what I have in my 2016 folder and I am comfortable claiming about 18 for the year.

Poetic Understanding

This is the surprise area for me.  You think there's only so much you can learn about the art to find it's an almost endless field of study.  I was worried that I might run out of technical information but I realised that aspect is only a number of many when it comes to Poetry.  The biggest area of learning was in the growth of appreciation for the art of the line.

Rejections versus Acceptances

Looking at the graph below and having read what others have done this year I am pretty happy with this effort.

Where to from here?

I really don't know. I have established a good practice and want to maintain it. This year sees me back on a part time contract so I will certainly have the time.

Some commenters have suggested I release more poetry on the blog and if  blog starts are right, my poetry, when released does tend to cause brief spikes in attention. I am reticent though -writing for paid publication figures somewhat in this but also my tendency to publish too early i.e. while still under the influence/glow of self perceived poetic genius.

One definite is the intention to increase reading time - switch places with study time in times of overall breakdown for the reasons I stated in the previous post.

I'd also like to work harder on monthly reflections, going back over what I have learned and really encoding that learning.  Less time during the last half of the year meant this part of the practise dropped off.

Other observations

A significant learning experience for me was coming to understand how I work creatively and how I think ( or how my thinking can get in the way).  Writing reflections daily and weekly really enabled me to see very clearly how my attitudes to the work ebbed and flowed and how this really wasn't connected to the quality of the work.

I now find myself further away from wanting to rush out and get a pamphlet or first collection together.  It just doesn't seem to matter that much anymore. The practice and the daily achievement of writing seems to be more important.

Feel free to comment and suggestions, even your own observations.

Happy New Year

Year of Poetry - The End (Part 1)


Here we are at the end of the Year of Poetry Project.  In this post I'll go through the week's achievements and the do another as a post mortem.

This week being that strange period between Christmas and New Year's where one loses track of days, I managed to avoid writing until Thursday.

To be fair though, one of those days was without power due to violent storms and with an inside temp of close to 30 degrees I spent it lying in the coolest spot I could find in the house.

I also got one more rejection this week leaving only one other poem out in the wild trying to find a home.

The Writing...

I won't lie.  With the end of the year and the end of the project approaching I was finding it hard settling down to start any writing.  This combined with late nights and even later mornings really curtailed the time I had for a solid mental workout.

But I returned to the teaching/learning obtained through this process (peaks and troughs) and forged on.  This combined with me taking up a short morning meditation practice seemed to improve things and today I finished on a high, shaping a poem to a nearly final state.

The Study...

I made a conscious decision to let the study taper off this week in favour of further close readings as I think I tend to get more out of seeing poetic techniques/decisions in action (though the study has been very useful). Thus my only study was more reading of William Stafford's You Must Revise Your Life.

Close Reading...

Figuring I should finish off the year with an Australian Poet, I flipped  through this year's Best Australian Poems  and settled on the last, an Australian/American poet called Billy Marshall Stoneking.  

I thought One Last Poem, a fitting title on which to end the project and through one of those weird quirks of life discovered that he lived in Central Australia at the time I was growing up and sadly like a number of artists this year, left us in July.

You can read the poem here.

For the Statbadgers:

Total time: 10:08 (457:08) hrs

poem writing =6:50 (214:48) hrs

close reading =1:10(87:15) hrs

technique/theory= 0:38 (105:13) hrs

reflection = 1:30(40:04) hrs

Poetry written:

1(42) poems completed

2(21)poems in draft

Poems Submitted:

0(27 in total) poems

Poems Published:

0(9) poems

Live Performances:



1(16) poems

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Year of Poetry Update - Week 51

So only one week to go... Where did that time go? 


At the start of the year it really did look like quite a hill to climb.  Now, a week before I conduct the big review of the project it seems to have gone by in an instant.

This week was not quite the return to 14 hours writing that I wanted, but coming in at just over 8 hours I will not beat myself up - or rather, I will, but will endeavour to let it go.

I received a number of early Christmas presents to myself this week -  Stephen Mathews (Ginninderra Press) must have been camped next to the Australia Post distribution centre because I received the poetry pamphlets I ordered last Friday, midweek.

If you don't think that's unusual, remember I live in the midst of wheat fields where taking the bin out requires a 24 km round trip.

The pamphlet collections included  Immediate Reflections from Martin Christmas that I mentioned in last week's post and Jude Aquilina's Ship Tree and Other Poems.

And yesterday I received William Stafford's You Must Revise Your Life - the first chapter of which contained some timely wisdom for the writing life.  It also encouraged me to track down the Poets on Poetry series (there goes next year's poetry budget).

I received two rejections this week as well but this didn't seem to annoy me as much as the difficulty with writing.

The Writing...

felt much harder than it usually does.  This was probably because I am coming off the end of year party circuit and managed to get into some bad sleeping patterns. There was also a sense of dissatisfaction-leaning-towards-frustration, that the extra hours writing didn't lead to the "best poem ever written".  

I really hadn't felt that sort of trough in the process for some time.  I suspect that is because I haven't really had the time and space to get down on my process of writing with the move to full time teaching in the second half of this year.

But the very next day I found my way around those demons, proving once again that my process works. I suspect this pattern will continue/does continue throughout all writers lives - peaks and troughs linked more to the writers emotional state than to what is actually written on the page.

I had chosen to rewrite an earlier variation on a Petrarchan Sonnet, so the sort of workout being restricted by rhyme schemes gives me, probably played into that sense of frustration. 

The Study...

I continued reading Frances Mayes'  The Discovery of Poetry - A field Guide to Reading and Writing Poem and the section on sonnets inspired me to tackle a rewrite of the poem mentioned above.

I also read the first chapter of You Must Revise Your Life . What was interesting to read, was that Stafford, who won a number of awards and had a distinguished teaching an publishing career estimated that 80% of the work he submitted was rejected.

Close Reading...

Read Kim Moore's, Picnic on Stickle Pike from the Art of Falling, an interesting poem set in the Lake District that plays around with what is considered beautiful and natural in the landscape.

Merry Xmas

If you subscribe to this post by email you will be receiving a Christmas email from me in addition to the weekly digest containing a new poem that I was playing around with.

For the Statbadgers:

Total time: 8:03 (447:00) hrs

poem writing =4:03 (207:58) hrs

close reading =1:25(86:05) hrs

technique/theory= 1:43 (104:35) hrs

reflection = 0:52(38:34) hrs

Poetry written:

0(41) poems completed

2(21)poems in draft

Poems Submitted:

0(27 in total) poems

Poems Published:

0(9) poems

Live Performances:




2(15) poems

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Andrew McMillan on the Scottish Poetry Library Podcast

Another podcast just in time for Christmas.  This one features Yorkshire born poet Andrew McMillan. It covers McMillan's teaching and poet Thom Gunn.

Download mp3 here.
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