Tuesday, 15 December 2009

You can't fax a handshake

I like this expression, which is taken from a New York Times piece about Obama's recent meeting with Wall Street bankers.
On the news this week is disruption in the postal service. On a Radio 5 phone-in, I heard the anchor referring frequently to 'posties' instead of 'postmen' or 'postwomen'. I find 'postie' - a term which appears to have taken root - strangely unpleasant. I also dislike the expression 'toastie', which is used (in Liverpool anyway) for a toasted sandwich.
I shall have to mull this over at the weekend, when I'm making the mostie of my Sunday roastie.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Poet's Perspective

I've got a poem in The Poet's Perspective, a new book compiled and edited by Gladys Mary Coles. The book matches paintings in Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery to poems by a range of invited poets. My own contribution responds to a portrait of Edward Lear by Holman Hunt. The Walker has a particularly large holding of work by the pre-Raphaelites and these are duly reflected in the anthology. It's out from Headland Press.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Manchester Review

I have four poems in the new online issue of the The Manchester Review. They are all centred on my 1990s sojourn in Oxford, especially my part-time job as a porter. There is even a reference to Eddie Jordan.

Monday, 21 September 2009

John Littlewood

The British chess world is in mourning for John Littlewood, who passed away at the age of 78. I first came across this fine gentleman in his declining years, when he was active in the Merseyside chess league. On the website of my local club, John Carleton, has written a moving tribute.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The default poem

I see that Rob Mackenzie, at Magma magazine, has picked up on my idea of the default poem. I think this idea came from being encouraged by a music review to listen for the notes which a particular musician did not play. Ever since, I've always thought it helpful to think about an art form from the point of view of what it is not doing - if nothing else it's a good way of avoiding default forms.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Tom Leonard

I'm here at the IASIL conference in Glasgow. A few days ago, I was looking forward to a lunchtime reading by Tom Leonard at The Loft restaurant. Unfortunately, the sound system tanked. So Tom Leonard never actually said a word, but was reduced to looking rather pained as the diners carried on around him. I hope that is not the last chance I get to see him read.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

New P. N. Review

I'm in the new P. N. Review(188) with a review of Vona Groarke's translation of Lament for Art O'Leary. The same issue also has a good interview with Steve Burt, plus a new poem by R. F. Langley (who is about as under-rated as any poet I have ever read.)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Irish Chess Championship

The Irish Chess Championship is currently underway in The Ballsbridge Inn, Dublin. After six rounds of the nine-round event I am in joint fifth place. There is some coverage of the tournament here including a video of part of my round 3 game against Seamus Duffy. Words like 'paint' and 'dry' do, however, spring to mind.

Friday, 19 June 2009

To read

I always liked Robert Harbison's line, somewhere in Eccentric Spaces, to the effect that, "catalogues give you the feeling that there are more things in the world than you had remembered." Conferences make me feel the same way. A few days in sunny Galway at The American Conference for Irish Studies certainly made me feel like this. Anyway, some poetry collections I'm now looking forward to reading (or to getting hold of) include Chris Agee's Next to Nothing, Ed Madden's Signals, and Nathalie Anderson's Crawlers. Jefferson Holdridge's critical book on Paul Muldoon is also one for the in-tray. Finally, I'm quite keen to see the special issue of An Sionnach devoted to Paula Meehan.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Galway poetry reading

Tomorrow, I'm taking part in a group poetry reading, in Sheridan's Wine Bar, Galway City. The reading part of a series called 'Over the Edge' and is taking place in collaboration with the American Conference for Irish Studies. It's a chance to catch with old friends, above anything else. It is also good that the conference are promoting a commemorative reading for James Liddy in Kenny's Bookshop (which used to be in the City Centre but is now on the Tuam Road) on Friday.

Monday, 25 May 2009

New York Times chess blog

Yes, there is one - and it goes by the name of 'Gambit'. A recent post, which brought the blog to my attention, has some interesting thoughts about the use of chess in film.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Wurm im Apfel

I hadn't read in Dublin for quite a long time, but finally got a chance to do so recently, at an event hosted by Wurm im Apfel. They have relatively regular readings in the Sycamore Club which is located in the Temple Bar area, above The Purty Kitchen. Apparently, they make a habit of recording their events, and so you can find my reading on their site.
Thanks to my hosts, Kit Fryatt and Dylan Harris.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Carsten Hansen

One of the better chess sites at the moment is Chesscafe.com A recent review of a couple of opening repertoire books by Carsten Hansen made me think about the way reviewing cultures vary. Hansen frankly slammed two books by Nikolai Kalinichenko. About the first book Hansen says:
"This book is incredibly bad. Too many lines are covered insufficiently and many important options are ignored outright. On top of this, we have an unacceptable amount of references to the other volume; either you cover all the relevant moves or you do not. It is ridiculous to constantly refer the reader elsewhere for information that should be included here. This is one of the worst opening books I have ever seen."
Although harsh, this kind of review is not unusual on chess sites. To review a poetry book in such terms is, of course, a different matter ...

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

James Liddy

I've just completed a piece about James Liddy for An Sionnach, an Irish literary magazine run out of Creighton University. Sadly, James died recently and, as his Irish Times obituary attests, he is much missed by his many friends on both sides of the Atlantic. He was very good to me when I was teaching at Macalester College.
The collections under review were Wexford and Arcady and Askeaton Sequence, both published by Arlen House. Despite being separate collections, the books contain exactly the same text on the back cover, including the following phrase, "With this collection it can be said the poet has become in charge of his literary undertaking: he has been able finally to write out his own language." Anyway, it is good to see these books, and we must hope, now, for a new Selected Poems.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009


I've just sent in my review of Lament for Art O'Leary to P. N. Review. I recommend Vona Groarke's new translation, which is more informal and contemporary than earlier versions. Groarke's introduction also sent me off to read Sean O'Tuama's Repossessions which deals with a variety of Irish-language classics. I like the way in which O'Tuama describes how the Lament uses "the earth and stones of ordinary conversation," a quality which he associates with Revivial artworks like Riders to the Sea.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Suit of Lights

I'm reading Suit of Lights by Damian Walford Davies in order to write about it in New Welsh Review. At first glance it looks pretty promising. Together with the recent appearance of Moonrise by Meirion Jordan, a book I liked a lot, perhaps this indicates that Welsh poetry, by younger authors, is in good health?