Simon Collings

Tag: contemporary poetry

Interview with Allen Fisher

The latest issue of the Journal of Poetics Research includes an interview I conducted with the British poet Allen Fisher. The interview focuses on Fisher’s magnum opus, Gravity as a consequence of shape, which he composed between 1982 and 2007. It was finally published as a single volume  at the end of 2016 by Reality Street. Fisher is to me one of the most interesting poets at work in Britain today. The breadth of his reading is prodigious and an interview can only give some pointers as to how a reader might engage with this text. But if a few more people are prompted to explore Fisher’s work, I will have achieved something useful.

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Belated birthday tribute

The online magazine Stride has just published a poem of mine – 13 Haiku for John Ashbery – written as a celebration of the American poet who turned 90 just over a week ago. I wrote the piece  a couple of years back after reading ‘37 Haiku‘ published in Ashbery’s collection The Wave (1984). I enjoyed the way Ashbery sends up contemporary hiaku writing in English in this work. My own poem is a conscious imitation of Ashbery’s  challenge to conventional haiku, and is intended as a tribute. For anyone wanting to know more, there’s an interesting essay by Dean Brink on Ashbery’s haiku here.

Stride has also published reviews I’ve written recently on Susan Howe’s latest book Debths, and Eileen R. Tabios’ The Opposite of Claustrophobia.

Reading at The Windwill, Brixton

Here’s me reading at the launch of Best New British and Irish Poets 2017 from Eyewear Publishing, in Brixton on 2 April. It was a a hugely enjoyable event and a pleasure to hear the work of other contributors who were there. Todd Swift, founder of Eyewear, did a brilliant job as master of ceremonies.

And here is poet Luke Kennard, who chose the poems for the anthology – a big thank you to Luke.

Roy Fisher and Language poetry

In 1999 the influential US critic Marjorie Perloff published an essay on Fisher’s long poem ‘The Cut Pages’, praising it and describing is as ‘unwittingly’ anticipating aspects of ‘Language poetry’. Fisher wrote the poem in 1970, at the end of four years of writer’s block.  Last year I was able to ask Roy Fisher some questions about the poem, and discovered a number of facts which Perloff would have been unaware of at the time she wrote her essay, and which led her to misread the poem in important ways. I believe she also underplayed the extent to which Fisher was consciously engaged, not just in ‘The Cut Pages’ but in other poems too,  in a writing practice which did indeed foreshadow Language poetry. The latest issue of the Journal of Poetics Research (issue 6), includes an article by me which both challenges and builds on Perloff’s discussion of Fisher’s work.

Roy Fisher: a late harvest

The title of Roy Fisher’s latest volume of poetry, Slakki, is an Old Norse word meaning ‘a shallow valley’. Through this choice of title he is conditioning the reader to expect something modest and unassuming, and indeed these are relatively minor poems, though a rewarding read nonetheless.  Anyone who loves Fisher’s work, as I do, will find plenty to admire and enjoy. The collection includes 17 new poems, written since 2010, plus poems from the 1950s and 1960s previously omitted by Fisher from other collections. A fuller review of the book is available on Stride.

Best New British and Irish Poetry 2017

The 50 poets chosen for inclusion in  Eyewear Publishing’s forthcoming Best New British and Irish Poetry 2017 was announced today, and I’m pleased to say I have a poem in the final selection. The book will be published next March.

Rosmarie Waldrop’s selected poems

Rosmarie Waldrop’s Gap Gardening: Selected Poems was issued a few months back by New Directions in the US.  A short review I wrote of the book, has just been published by Stride. Waldrop is a wonderfully intelligent, thoughtful and engaged poet. Take a look at Lawn of Excluded Middle which you can download free here.

A post-modern ‘Biographia Literaria’

Allen Fisher’s magnum opus, Gravity as a consequence of shape, is not the kind of poetry book you read once from cover to cover and discard. Thirty years in the making, and nearly 600 pages long, the work spans a wide range of subject matter and styles. A ‘long-scattered score of broken processes’ is how Fisher describes it in the poem ‘Woodpecker’. It’s a work which demands significant levels of engagement from the reader, but with much there to reward those who take the time to penetrate its complexities.  Fisher is one of a small group of poets in Britain creating serious work, and doing so outside of what Charles Bernstein calls ‘official verse culture’. A few brief comments on the book which I wrote for Stride Magazine can be found here. I can also recommend the excellent volume of interviews with Fisher, edited by Andrew Duncan, Marvels of Lambeth.

Lyn Hejinian: The Unfollowing

For over forty years Lyn Hejinian’s work has been asking big questions about who we are and how we live, redefining what we think of as ‘poetry’ in the process.  The seventy-seven fourteen-line poems in her latest book, The Unfollowing, are far from a conventional sonnet sequence. Nothing follows, nothing is resolved. The poems are witty, inventive, sardonic, insightful – it’s brilliant stuff. I have just reviewed it for Stride magazine.

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Roy Fisher at 85: a celebrataion

Roy Fisher is a major figure in British poetry. At 85 he’s still writing, and a new volume of his poetry, entitled Slakki, will be published by Bloodaxe this autumn. Roy is hard to categorise. Suspicious of groups and ‘isms’, he’s always done his own thing. He was influenced by modernist writers from the USA and Europe but made of this something unmistakeably English, rooted in the experience of growing up in Birmingham. He took the nondescript as his subject and set about describing it. I love the individuality, quirkiness and playfulness in his writing.

Earlier this year I decided I wanted to celebrate Roy’s work while he is still alive, and asked poets Tom Pickard and Peter Robinson to join me in Oxford. Roy himself is now too frail to manage a journey from his home in Derbyshire. Both Tom and Peter have known Roy for many years and I was delighted when they agreed to take part in the event. Peter has edited several volumes of Roy’s poetry and prose, including working with him on Slakki. Tom first met Roy in the 1960s, and in 1991 made a documentary about Roy with funding from the Arts Council.

We opened the event with a screening of this film, Birmingham It’s What I Think With, Tom providing some background to how the documentary came about. Peter and Tom then read some of Roy’s work alongside poems of their own, work influenced by Roy or dealing with similar themes. Peter finished with a poem Roy wrote earlier this year – his most recent. I’m indebted to both of them for the generous amount of time they gave to this. I’m also grateful to all those who attended and for the interesting comments and questions during the discussion. Thank you too to Oriel College for the use of the Harris lecture theatre.

Roy Fisher’s collected poems The Long and the Short of It is published in the UK by Bloodaxe, and there’s a very nicely produced Selected Poems edited by August Kleinzahler published by Flood Editions in the USA. Tom’s collected poems Hoyoot is published by Carcanet and he has a new collection coming this summer. Tom also writes a blog. Peter’s Selected Poems was published by Carcanet in 2003. His most recent collection is Buried Music published by Shearsman in 2015.

Preparation

Last minute planning before the event.

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Peter Robinson reading from Buried Music

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Tom Pickard reading from Hoyoot