The blogs I read (3)


Here are some more of my favourite blogs to read. I have put these together (I love them all) because I wish each of them would publish more. In their different ways they are teaching me what it is like to be alive, expanding my sense of the world and the place of poetry in it.

I first came across George Messo via Andy Brown, the year after my treatment for cancer had finished. I was not in a good way at the time, and certainly not in a frame of mind to take on much reading of poetry. But Andy gave me George Messo’s splendid Entrances, telling me he was certain I would love it. (You will too. You know what to do). I opened it at ‘The Beautiful Apartments’ and have not looked back. (Regular readers will know I am a huge fan of Ilhan Berk’s The Book of Things, which Messo translated).

I found George Messo’s blog not long after I decided to start one of my own. I love it because (like The Book of Things) it takes me into a whole new poetic universe, with different rules, tastes and textures. Here is a translation of Edip Cansever’s wonderful poem ‘Table’ (a version of which you can also find in Neil Astley’s Being Human). And here is the sad story of why the same poem has been censored by authorities in Turkey.

Nevertheless, I am excited, because a new Messo translation of Ilhan Berk’s poetry, Letters and Sounds, is due out this summer. To get you started here are three translations of Berk’s poems: ‘Slug‘, ‘Threewells Street’ and ‘Night Looks to the East’. George Messo is also the translator of Birhan Keskin’s & Silk & Love & Flame which is so amazing it is going to get a review post all of its own.

Rebecca Goss will be well-known to readers for her collection Her Birth, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Prize for Best Collection. By her own admission, Rebecca is not a frequent blogger -about once every eight months. When she does though, wow. Rebecca takes on the big themes: love, death, grief, home and loss. Which makes her sound gloomy, which she is not. Far from it. There are pieces here on writing with young people, influences and the writing process which everyone should read.

Good news is afoot: the gaps between Rebecca’s posts are about to get shorter. Starting next week (12-18 May) her blog is to become an online anthology of ‘Heart Poems’ in an effort to raise awareness of the Children’s Heart Federation and congenital heart disease. If you are on Twitter you can find her: @gosspoems and by following the hashtags #HeartPoems and #ChildrensHeartWeek.

the scallop-shell is a beautiful poetry blog curated by poet Richard O’Brien. It takes its name from The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker. O’Brien’s aim is to ‘hold the poems I enjoy – both classic and contemporary – up to the light, turn them around a bit, and see what seems to be going on inside. I want to engage with the poem on its own terms, and see what follows.’ 

When I found this blog I instantly fell in love. I wanted to take it home and give it a hot chocolate. Or a sweater. It’s one of the best things out there. Here is his first post, on Michael Donaghy’s ‘Machines’ (one of my own Lifesaving Poems). And here he is on Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Medusa’: ‘ The ending’s fluidity belies its authority: what seems like a morose reflection on a tragic fall reveals itself to be a gesture of defiant self-assertion. Turn our heads towards this suffering, the voice commands us, and we will be changed.’ Isn’t that great?

Here are three more posts to get you going, on poets Rachel Piercey, Penny Boxall, and (his last post, from September 2013) Amy Key.

I think Tamar Yoseloff’s Invective Against Swans might be the first blog by a poet that I saw.  It is essential reading. She blogs about the intersection of poetry with art, travel, architecture, language, history and myth. There is nothing she writes that is not scrupulously researched, crafted and felt. A recent post included the paintings of David Harker, writing process, the Pyrenees -and Roy Fisher, all at once. Here she is on the latter: ‘What I admire about Fisher is how much he is able to say with very little, as if somehow the places he writes about, restrictive as they are, have only permitted him a reduced vocabulary to describe them.’

And here is this, from her most recent post, on Helen Frankenthaler, T.S. Eliot, Frank O’Hara and Jackson Pollock: ‘A film of her working shows her kneeling over a huge canvas placed on the floor – the technique of Pollock’s which freed her. But unlike Pollock, all bravado and splash, her gestures are slow, deliberate.’ I come away from Tamar’s posts knowing more about the world than I did when I started. Until I read this, Frankenthaler’s name was new to me.  Whether she is writing about Martin Creed or W.G. Sebald or Anthony Caro, everything here is vital, immediate and fresh. I cannot ask for more.


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