Locus Scolus: The New York School of Poets is a thing of wonder and beauty. Named after a 1914 French novel by Raymond Roussel, it is curated by Andrew Epstein, who you can find on Twitter as @AndrewEpstein3. (Now I think of it, that was how I found it.) Locus Solus is dedicated to ‘ News, links, resources, and commentary on poets and artists of the New York School‘. This piece on turning poets’ names into verbs will give you a good idea of what he is up to. It is funny, light and very New York. It is informative too, telling you a good deal about the way art is made in a social milieu. The game was Invented by James Schuyler in a letter to Bill Berkson: we discover that ‘to Kenneth’ is to ’emit a loud red noise.’ It is not all Koch and Ashbery, however. Try this, on Joseph Ceravolo, or this, on the influence of Alice Notley.
John Field’s Poor Rude Lines is exemplary. Exemplary. I can’t praise it enough. He describes himself as ‘just another reader’, but just another reader does not come up with lines like this, about Tom Duddy’s The Years: ‘It’s easy to speak about the universal quality of the best literature but I use the word with care. Tom Duddy’s poems have the thrilling ability to engage directly with the lives of his readers and this adds up to an experience which is headily nostalgic, honest and utterly human. These are poems to share and savour and, if I read nothing else this year, they would be enough.’ Recent highlights have included pieces on prizewinners Helen Mort’s Division Street and Dan O’Brien’s War Reporter . Part of me thinks you don’t really need to read much other than pieces like this: you will find the whole world coming to you. If you are an educator of poetry of any kind you really do need to read The trouble with poetry -how we get teaching it wrong. Everything here is essential reading, not least this: ‘A poor experience with Steinbeck will be seen as the exception and not the rule. Poetry, on the other hand, lacks champions […] and, once the teacher kills it, there are no second chances.’
The Stone and the Star is curated by Clarissa Aykroyd. Her blog simply IS poetry. (You can also find them on Facebook). Her archive list is the proverbial Who’s Who. From Radnóti to Rilke and Rich via Ernest Shackleton, Carolyn Forché and, er, Led Zeppelin, she seems to have written about everyone. If you are a Celan, Eliot or MacNeice fan in particular, this is the blog for you. There are contemporaries, too. Here she is on David Morley’s The Gypsy and The Poet. Here is a review of Turner and the Sea exhibition (which also features a video of Derek Mahon reading my own favourite Lifesaving ‘Everything Is Going to be All Right’). And here is a lovely piece on Michael Symmons Roberts, which includes his stunning Antarctica, from Drysalter.
I (re) discovered Simon Parke when I started to use Twitter. A former priest in the Church of England, he has also written for Spitting Image and stacked shelves in a supermarket. He has ‘now been a writer, therapist and retreat giver for eight years.’ He seems to write a new book or blog post each day before breakfast. As Martin Wroe once joked about Rupert Loydell, in his spare time he is hyperactive. I do tend to adore him. I find that whatever kind day I have had or state of mind I am in that my breathing slows as soon as I begin reading his spare yet generous sentences. And his book Solitude (‘ has saved my life more times than I can remember. Here he is on great form talking about helping a taxi driver deal with the anger he feels when customers are rude to him. And here he is on the secret of Retreat: ‘allow what’s happening’. A list of his fascinating and growing oeuvre (including mystery novels) is here.
Jo Bell and Clare Pollard write two of my favourite blogs. They remind me of Auden’s rhyming of ‘little magazines’ with ‘intellectual marines’. If you want to know what is going on in poetry (and a good deal besides) you need to read them. They are feisty, tender, vulnerable, opinionated and passionate. Above all they celebrate. Jo Bell’s recent Always There Awards is a case in point. And here she is on the death of Seamus Heaney. I read a thousand posts like this last year, but this was the one that made me cry. I love its personal tone, news of International Literary Importance suddenly made local and timeless, to use one of Heaney’s own phrases. Clare Pollard also keeps me up to date with What Is Going On. Here she is on Salt’s decision to cease publishing single author volumes of poetry: The Health of Poetry. Her pieces (like poems!) are always about more than they are about. To borrow from Heaney again, she is not afraid of going under the fingernails, as these pieces on Poetry and Motherhood and childhood and gender testify. Both Jo and Clare are currently on amazing form. You can’t be without them.
Readers of this blog may know about my stationery obsession. I know I am not alone in this (writing is only an excuse to buy more notebooks and pens after all) as the thousands of blogs on the subject prove. I especially like Writers Bloc, Rhodia Drive and A Penchant for Paper. There’s nothing better after a bad day to see what someone has said about the Pentel EnerGel 0.7mm Black. You either get this or you don’t. My absolute favourite, though, is the Quo Vadis blog (they make the best diaries). I love their Friday Link Shares, like this one, which took me to Will Self talking about The Death of the Novel, or this one, about Thomas Merton, who said: “In this wilderness I have learned how to sleep again. I am not alien. The trees I know, the night I know, the rain I know. I close my eyes and instantly sink into the whole rainy world of which I am a part, and the world goes on with me in it, for I am not alien to it.” If this is not what the internet was invented for, I don’t know what is.