Not much

 A woman gazes out to see at the tiop of a windy headland, a small black dog sniffing the ground at her feet

What’s been happening? Well, not much. Which is another, deflecting, way of saying quite a lot, actually. So much that I haven’t had time to process it all. Term started, as it does, with a bump. My place of work has had a rebrand, cue increase in email traffic that has nothing to do with me. On the plus side, I have had a few days off, by the sea; and my students are lovely, really lovely. A superb bunch to work with. And my colleagues: simply the best. I am grateful.

Not so grateful for the laughing stock our politics has become, and which, like a car accident on the opposite side of the motorway, it is impossible not to gawp at in horror. A few podcasts have been my lifeline in this regard: the by-now world famous The Rest is Politics, The New Statesman podcast and Steve Richards’ Rock & Roll Politics. I love the latter in particular. For about a year now my new hobby has been emailing in my questions to ask what on earth is going on. He’s even read some of them out!

All this excitement is great. But I have also started to recognise the signs of overkill. It happened last week, again with a sudden bump, when I mistyped the name of the poet I was blogging about and did not notice until it was pointed out to me. (Helena, I am sorry.) For the million-and-third time I realised with great force that scrolling the Guardian Live politics feed when I was trying to concentrate on something else (and I don’t mean ‘productive’ work here, I mean activity that feeds me: reading, writing, daydreaming, listening to Max Richter, checking out what Shawna Lemay has been up to, etc) was probably not going to make an improvement on my long-term happiness and mental health, not to mention the aformentioned productivity.

So I decided to stop. I’m going to do my best to access the world of news and commentary via the medium of paper, rather than the beautiful but disembodied screen version I have become addicted to scrolling. Or at the very least restrict it. To replace its sugar hit, I’m also busily rediscovering the places that feed me, like the aforementioned Shawna Lemay (more in a moment). Like the amazing My Small Press Writing Day that Rupert Loydell told me about a few years ago and which I had forgotten I had bookmarked. (It was set up as a corrective to the kind of thing you used to find in weekend supplements, which, you know, kind of assumed most writers live like, say, Martin Amis.) Like rereading some favourite posts from How a Poem Happens (ditto forgetfulness). And, last but not least, signing up to supporting Shawna’s new adventure on Patreon, Beauty School.

Some edited highlights from the last few days of turning towards the light. Here’s this, by Paul Hlava Ceballos, on My Small Press Writing Day:

I pour three shots of espresso from the stovetop’s cafetera. I read from one of the three books that I am partway through, placed on different tables in the apartment. I know I must return to work tomorrow but I also know that creativity requires wasted time, by which I mean time that does not produce money. My best moments of writing are long, silent walks through my neighborhood during which I might crouch low and try to distinguish different mosses and lichens growing through cracks in the stone path while I listen to wind rushing in trees, crow calls and passing cars so that I can locate myself within this environment. Once I have located myself, I spend a certain time in stillness until I can begin to formulate words into a pattern, which may sometimes be in the form of a subject and predicate or sometimes a feeling lacking syntax.

Isn’t that great? The ending of his piece absolutely blew me away.

Here is an interview with Ellen Bass on How a Poem Happens, talking about how she wrote When the Young Geneticist was Asked, “Aren’t you Worried About the Implications of Your Work?” With a Toss of her Sun-Streaked Hair, She Declared, “No, Not at All. I Can’t Wait to Fuck a Clone.”

And here is the rationale behind Shawna’s new venture on Patreon: ‘Why should you subscribe? Maybe you would like to realign and reset your soul toward beauty and would like some prompts and food for thought to help you in that endeavour. The world is a difficult place right now and beauty can be hard to find, and tricky to make space for.’ I think she had me at realigning and resetting my soul toward beauty. A cup of coffee a month is the entry level amount you need to pay. Even in these hard times, I think we can do this. You know you want to.

Other things? Rediscovering the late Sarah Maguire’s anthology of poetry in translation My Voice, especially the work of Coral Bracho. Rereading Colm Toibin on Adam Zagajewski in the Guardian, again, another thing I had completely forgotten I had bookmarked in the era before all this craziness took over our lives. Speaking of whom, I have finally finished Mysticism for Beginners, a book I have had by the bed and have been deliberately reading slowly this year. If you don’t know it, it really is stunningly beautiful (I know I use that word a lot). Here is the title poem, which will give you a good flavour of what to expect.

Happy reading, everyone, and hope to see you soon.


  1. Dear Anthony

    What riches you have offered us here – thank you so much! I must sift through them slowly and carefully. I really appreciate what you’ve sent.

    And as well as saying thank you, I just wanted to let you know, in case you hadn’t heard, that David Scott died a week or so back.

    I have come to him very late, but he was priest at the tiny church spaces of St Lawrence and St Swithun upon Kingsgate here in Winchester. I should have known about him years ago!

    I have often gone to sit quietly in St Swithun’s – it has an extraordinary stillness about it – and it’s only fairly recently that I put two and two together and realised that this was where David spent so much of his time.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know, as I found out from a friend of his this week that he’d died. Seems he was most truly a treasure.

    Sending love and appreciation for all you do and all you are, Anthony.

    brian 07736 104780



    1. Hi Brian
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I appreciate them enormously. I did not know David had died. What sad news.
      Neil Astley has written a great tribute to him on the Bloodaxe site, see below.
      Wishing you all the best as ever


  2. Magnificent newsletter; thanks. The scary thing is that even as I glance at, then bookmark your various recommendations, I know they will fall between the cracks of the bullshit that consumes my life.

    Liked by 1 person

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