I was asked the other day which poetry blogs I read. Over the next few posts I will be sharing a few of them. In no particular order, you need to read the following:
Poetry would not survive without people like Nell Nelson. Actually it would, just without the fun. I do feel the world actually owes her a living. She is a one-woman industry and force for good: poet, publisher and blogger of the essential Unsuitable blog at Happenstance. If you want to know the joys (and travails) of running a small press, including the advice she freely gives on prizes, editing and publishing, you cannot ignore it.
Back when I began to type the word poetry into my search engine Bill Herbert seemed to be the only poet who took the internet seriously. I think at one point he appeared to have eight websites. (He still might have). These days I restrict myself to reading him at gairnet provides: press of blll (‘distorted mouthings, as if through thick perspex scored over and over with fine lines, perhaps from the diamond-tipped hairs of space centipedes’). As that subtitle suggests, his seriousness is of the most fun kind. Recent highlights have included his powerful ‘A eulogy for my father’ and stunning introduction to Pedro Serrano’s Peatlands.
On of my favourite discoveries last year was poet and photographer Shawna Lemay’s Calm Things blog. She lives in the middle of nowhere in Canada. For a good part of each year this means she spends the days indoors. Everything she photographs -rugs, bowls of tea, snow, her dog- looks beautiful. Often beginning with a quote from a favourite poet or philosopher, and proceeding to meditate on their effect in her life and work, her posts have the effect of slowing me down and helping me reconnect with my own breath. Calm things indeed.
You need to read Jospehine Corcoran’s blogs. She has a ‘quiet, uncluttered place to read poems by different writers’ at And Other Poems (named after Ali Smith’s short story collection). Some recent faves to give you a flavour: Alison McVety,Dan O’Brien, John Greening, Carrie Etter, Judi Sutherland. Josephine also has her own personal page. She blogs about family, work, life, reading and writing, and the intersection of each of them with poetry. Recent highlights have been her powerful piece ‘In memory of my mother’ and a wonderful argument in favour of reading workshops.
Poet Fiona Moore is the force behind Displacement , one of my favourite blogs. I admire her honesty. She takes on the The Big Issues of poetry-politics: what she calls the ‘elephant on the stage’ of prizes, gender audits of ‘the big five’ poetry publishers, and how to sell a pamphlet. She blogs about what it is like to write, publish and edit poetry, as well as more local pursuits (walking and swimming). She does humour, too. I seem to remember a fantastic post about bumping into the actor who played Kurt Wallander sneaking out for a fag at the British Library. It turns out he was about to go on stage to take part in a Swedish Embassy-sponsored reading to celebrate Tomas Tranströmer.
I have been admiring the How a Poem Happens blog, curated by Brian Brodeur, for a while now. The format is simple. Each post focuses on only one poet. After a bit of blurb on the poet, he presents one of their poems. This is followed by an interview about how they wrote the poem in question. I found him by accident, noodling around one day looking for something on Tony Hoagland. Being an American blog, I have not heard of most of the poets. But that doesn’t matter! Reading it freshens my world and my expectations of what poetry can do. Here, for example, is what Dora Malech has to say about inspiration:
‘I do believe in inspiration, but not in the sense of the poem as a “gift” from elsewhere (though I won’t rule anything out; I just don’t want to flatter myself that whatever or whoever’s “elsewhere” would give me the time of day). I suppose I think of inspiration as an incredibly active kind of attention, a radical receptivity.’
First published 29 April, 2014