When Ezra Pound claimed that ‘Poetry is news that stays news’ it is likely he was thinking of Katy Evans-Bush’s Baroque in Hackney, a blog which does estimable justice both to the pacy, immediate kind and the slower, cogitating kind to be found in poems. Her great gift is in the way she merges the two. Whether she is talking about events which occur every year (Christmas, Burns Night, Thanksgiving) or up to the minute reviews of books and poets (Hugo Williams, Bill Herbert) her writing is marked by urgency, wit and insight. Here is her piece on Sharon Olds’ winning of the 2012 T.S.Eliot Prize, blending reportage of the actual event with an exemplary close reading of Stag’s Leap into the bargain. Baroque in Hackney was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize in 2012. Like Orwell, she makes it look easy.
Seth Godin says the difference between run of the mill blogs and really good ones is their vulnerability. Robin Houghton’s blog is a good example of this. She reports with unflinching honesty on her writing, reading and workshopping processes. Take this, about a workshop which left her questioning her work. Or this, about a workshop with Katy Evans-Bush on the T.S. Eliot Prize shortlist, which is both newsy and a great insight into how we all read so differently. Robin’s blog is also a treasure trove of links to magazines, competitions and blogs. It is everything a blog should be: topical, personal and useful.
Very much the same can be said about Kim Moore’s blog. This is also true of her vulnerability (in the Seth Godin sense). Here is a piece that really goes under the fingernails: The day after the Michael Marks Award. It’s about not winning something. How often do we get this kind of honesty from poets? We need more of it. Here is another piece, on the recent ‘debate’ sparked by Hanif Kureishi on the legitimacy of creative writing courses: Ranting is never a good idea. It’s a wonderful insight into a poet’s processes, and more importantly their story. This is what I want from a blog: connection, ideas, passion. Kim’s blog also features her excellent Sunday poem feature, which does what is says on the label. Recent highlights to get you started: River Wolton, Ian Duhig, Alison Brackenbury, Carrie Etter.
I first came across Structure and Style via Twitter. The blog is curated by Rebecca Hazlewood and Savannah Sipple, who met as undergraduates. They say Structure and Style ‘was born out of a desire to not just post our favorite poems but to also be able to talk about poetry. To start a dialogue. Poetry isn’t dying, but it could always use a few more fans.’ The format is simple. They present a poem, then talk about it, clearly and unpretentiously, and always with honesty. I can still remember the moment I made the discovery, thanks to them, of Albert Goldbarth’s amazing ‘Cheese’. Then Dorianne Laux’s extraordinary ‘2 A.M.’. I was hooked. The blog contains useful links to other literary pages and blogs, as well as monthly Guest Posts. They have fabulous taste. If you don’t believe me, here is Philip Levine’s What Work Is to get you going.
Anyone with an interest in teaching poetry, writing or creative writing at any level should read the Teachers and Writers Collaborative blog. The archive of this blog, in terms of its resources, book recommendations and articles about the teaching of writing, is breathtaking. They have a sister page over at Tmblr, which is filled with snippets of news, examples of writing by students of all ages, and writing ideas for the classroom. What’s not to love? Here are two recent articles to whet your appetite (the links take you to pages where you can download free pdfs of each one): Michael Theune’s “Structure and Surprise: A New Paradigm for Teaching Poetry”; and Mark Statman’s “Spreading the Word: The Art of Writing About Teaching”.
Happy reading everyone.
[Coming soon: The blogs I read (3)]