Friday, 31 March 2006

The Los Angeles Review

I have a poem in the 2005 issue of The Los Angeles Review, from Red Hen Press, a good-looking journal which is just out recently. The issue also features the work of poets like Charles Bernstein, David Lehman, Jeffrey McDaniel, Mary Jo Salter and James Ragan. The cover art is by James Doolin, a painting from 1999, "Underpass", pictured here.

Poem by Janice Fixter

I am glad to welcome Janice Fixter (pictured here) to these April-leaning pages this Friday. I have been very much enjoying the poems of hers I've seen lately, in my various roles as an editor, and mild-mannered poetry reader. The poem featured today is one of the ones that especially struck me and is taken from her latest pamphlet.

Fixter was born in Kent and has remained in the South East ever since. She writes non-fiction and poetry and her poems have appeared in many respected journals such as Agenda, Smiths Knoll, Tears in the Fence, Iota, Staple, The Times, Envoi, and Smoke. Her poems have also been broadcast on local radio, LBC and Radio 4. Her haiku have been anthologised both in the UK and in the USA.

Fixter has had two poetry collections published: Walking Away From the Shadows was published by Poets Anonymous in 1997 and Walking the Hawk (pamphlet) was published by Tall Lighthouse in 2005.

She has an MA in Creative Writing, the Arts and Education and a D.Phil. in Creative Writing. Her non-fiction is published by Hodder and Stoughton. She is a director of a parenting charity. She is currently working on a new collection to be published with Tall Lighthouse in 2007.

My Father and Joseph Brodsky

Each morning I wake
to a pile of books by my bed

and sunlight
turning a photo on a spine
into the face of my father.

Perhaps it’s the angle, the line of the mouth,
something in the eyes of Joseph Brodsky -

while he, who never wrote poetry,
spoke no Russian,
hangs on in a hospital,

balance and language gone.

Every day is measured out in watery breath,
teaspoons of it -
we feed him mashed-up strawberries.

It’s nearly dawn
after another night of shallow sleep

and I am walking round the room
in the almost light,
holding this volume of poetry.

I am trying to find a different place,
space on the shelf for it.

I am trying to find
a new way of waking in the morning.

poem by Janice Fixter

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Ian Hume Has Died

My grandfather Ian Hume has died at the age of 91. He is pictured above, leaping, Montreal's Olympic Village in the background.

He was one of my heroes, an extraordinary man. When I would say I was his grandson, people would nod, as if I had said Atticus Finch was. People who met him called him "Mr. Hume" - men in their 60s like schoolboys at his name - to meet him was to never forget him, for he was good, and he inspired you to be your best, in any walk of life.

In a poll for a news magazine, he was once voted one of the "100 best things about Canada" - up there near Niagara Falls.

Ian Hume was synonymous in Canada with excellence, on and off the track. He was the chief official for Track & Field at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. He was a key member of Olympic committees that wrote the rules for woman's pentathlon and other events. He was given the Order of Canada for his achievements, and has had a major track meet named after him.

More than that, he was Canada's most fit man, who competed internationally into his early 80s, and held global records in many events; his medal room was floor to ceiling brimming with thousands of golds, silvers and a few bronzes. He was a TV figure in Japan, where his monumental height (six-foot-eight) made him striking. He skied through his woods each day in winter, clearing away the dead branches; in spring he made maple syrup with a team of horses and buckets, the old way; in summer he worked his fields; in the autumn, harvested. This until a few years ago.

He had grown up in a small Quebec village in the predominantly English Eastern Townships, his father a run-away from a wealthy Anglo-Irish family; became teacher of the one-room schoolhouse he began a pupil in; walked miles each way in woods to school with his pet crow; became an athlete by jumping and leaping over bales of hay in fields; graduated young from Bishops University, with the medal for best French speaker in the province, and began teaching at high school, for many years in St-Lambert. Meanwhile, he joined the police of Montreal, and became their star competitor at the Police Games.

Over many years, Ian Hume became one of the best-loved, most-honoured track athletes, then track coaches, in Canadian history - as president of the Canadian Track and Field association. During this time he coached and mentored many thousands of men and women. He got many lost young people off the streets and in to sport. He never had a mean or dishonest thing to say about anyone, ever.

His honesty was as striking as his handsome, gaunt Beckett-features. He recalled everyone he ever met. And would ask after someone 40 years later. Austere, he only smiled to recollect a track record, an old friend, or at the sight of a bird or other animal in his woods. But he chuckled quietly, enjoying wordplay and a good Robert Frost poem.

He woke at dawn (up and at em!). He never smoked. He never drank - sipped wine at Christmas, a few times. He preferred water. He avoided churches, all false pieties. He had anger only for poor organizers and officials, time wasters, cheats and those that wish to harm or impede others, or themselves. He met nonsense with a stern come off the roof! or come on now!

He was neither a lender nor a borrower - whatever he bought his entire life was with hard-earned cash. His popularity and total integrity would have made him a great Canadian prime minister. He declined all political office, all offers of wealth or self-promotion, declaring all politicians equally dishonest.

Throughout his life of travels to Pan-Am, Commonwealth, Olympic and other games, his beautiful, wife Melita accompanied him. Now she is left to go on. They had four daughters and a son; one is my mother.

Everything I learned about how to compete, how to be honest, how to organize international events, how global co-operation is best, and how young people can be inspired by achieving excellence, I learned from this great, gentle, wise, and very modest man. I regret I have never learned his modesty.

Above all, my grampa loved nature - the woods and fields of Quebec. He will be buried among them this Friday.

I am told not to mourn, for he lived a good life, and had a long one. Yet I mourn for Canada, and for who we once were. One of Canada's greatest citizens is dead; some part of our greatness has died as well.

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

World Poetry Day

Happy World Poetry Day!

See the link below:

I edited a "world poetry" anthology in 2002 with Phil Norton, which was published in New York by Rattapallax. It is called Short Fuse, and is still a very good introduction to what I consider the three main poetries currently developing in the English-speaking world at the start of the 21st century: mainstream lyric, linguistically innovative, and performance/alternative - the second and third of these categories between them include additional experiments with multimedia, hypertext, cinema and other art practices; the Short Fuse collection chose to describe the meeting point of all three of these widely-differing writing practices and kinds of poetry as "fusion poetry" - a term which has not been adopted by most critics or academics - perhaps because the very idea of finding common ground between these radically diverse and at times disparate and conflicting practices suggests the utopian endpoint of a history of struggling discourse between them, which various poets find more fertile if left in play - that is, fusion seemed a history of consensus, instead of healthy friction and interplay.

It was meant, instead, to argue for just such a dialectical (historical) and practical working through, to a place where ideas about poetic artifice, and traditional form, and politically open speech, from the margins, could converge and diverge, in new, informative and constructive ways.

At any rate, the collection remains a place to find a very varied look at new poetries from America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and the UK, and includes Don Paterson, Simon Armitage, Charles Bernstein, Ron Silliman, Patricia Smith, Regie Cabico and 169 others.

It can be ordered below:

and again here:

Spring Quartet

Spring's sprung rhythm will hopefully gash gold soon. In the meantime, an (edited version of) a press release from one of Canada's most dynamic (and impressive) new small poetry presses:

Quartet 2006 / The Passionate Edge

Frontenac House is pleased to celebrate its sixth year of poetry publishing with another dazzling quartet of books and poets. Join us for one of the launches of Quartet 2006, an evening of richly spun poetry. It promises to be a great party, with readings, discussion, refreshments, and door prizes.

The Launches:

Thursday, April 20, 7:00 p.m. at Memorial Park Library, 1221-2nd Street, SW, Calgary,
with Pages Books on Kensington as our bookseller.

Monday, April 24, 7:00 p.m. at the Edward Day Gallery, 952 Queen St. W., Toronto,
with University of Toronto Bookstore as our bookseller

The Books

A Bad Year for Journalists by Lisa Pasold
In Pasold's poetry we hear the dissonant music of a broken and brutal world, its static and its ragged breathlessness. ~ Cecelia Woloch, author of Late, Tsigan and Sacrifice

Pearl by Nancy Jo Cullen
Cullen's poetry is a sassy, assertive attack, irreverent in the way that all who question tradition remind us what it is to be human and strike out at what holds us back. ~ The Jury, Alberta Books Awards

Tear Down by Ali Riley
Riley's formally wild poems work in waves, like musical movements building in intensity - a thrashing rock opera. ~ Sonnet L'Abbe, The Globe and Mail

The Lightness Which Is Our World, Seen from Afar by Ven Begamudre
Circling around the same but separate suns of East and West, Begamudre is a writer of extraordinarily eccentric talent. ~ Eve Drobot, The Globe and Mail

The Poets

All four poets of Quartet 2006 were nominated for literary honours for their previous work. Pasold, a Canadian journalist living in Paris, for Alberta Best Trade Book; Riley for the Gerald Lampert Award; and Cullen for the Gerald Lampert Award, Best Alberta Poetry book and Best Alberta Trade Book. Ven Begamudre, who was the Markin-Flanagan Writer in Residence at the University of Calgary in 1994, won the F.G. Bressani Literary Prize for Prose, and the City of Regina Writing Award. His book Laterna Magika was a finalist in the Commonwealth Writer's Prize.

Be sure to visit our web site

Friday, 17 March 2006

Poem by Patrick McGuinness

I am very glad to feature the poet, scholar and editor Patrick McGuinness (pictured here) this Friday, St. Patrick's Day (a merely happy coincidence, I assure my readers).

McGuinness was born in 1968 in Tunisia. In 1998 he won an Eric Gregory Award for poetry from the Society of Authors and in 2001 he won the Levinson Prize from the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine.

His poems, translations, essays and reviews have appeared in the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, The Independent, PN Review, Poetry Wales, Leviathan, and New Writing 10.

His books include a collection of poetry, The Canals of Mars, from Carcanet, academic works such as Maurice Maeterlinck and the Making of Modern Theatre (Oxford University Press, 2000) and Symbolism, Decadence and the 'fin de siècle': French and European Perspectives (University of Exeter Press, 2000).

He has also given us editions and anthologies, such as Anthologie de la poésie symboliste et décadente (Paris: Les Belles lettres, 2001), T.E Hulme: Selected Writings (Carcanet, 1998; 2004; Routledge USA, 2004) and (a personal favourite of mine) J-K Huysmans, Against Nature (Penguin Classics, 2003).

Most recently, he edited the Collected Poems of Lynette Roberts for Carcanet (see a previous post).

He is a fellow of St Anne's College, University of Oxford, where he lectures in French. He lives in Cardiff.


The streets reappear in the water’s backwash
of disclosure; brick by widowed brick
houses from Atlantis gaze back: mirage
or mirror image? The real and the reflected

swap dimensions; the swan signs the surface
in his careful hand, neck and neck with his ghost.
Prosperous trees count their leaves;
the canal is calm as it multiplies the dawns.

poem by Patrick McGuinnes
from The Canals of Mars (Carcanet, 2004)

Tuesday, 14 March 2006


A new site for poetry in the UK, which is also a reading series and a magazine and a new poetic movement and.... Openned offers a lot of potential, and it also has a new poem of mine archived, see below:

Saturday, 11 March 2006

Lynette Roberts Redux

I recently acquired a copy of a book (Poems) by the nearly-forgotten, and great, modernist poet Lynette Roberts (pictured here).

Importantly, Carcanet has now republished her work, out of print for nearly 50 years, as the Collected Poems, edited by the poet Patrick McGuinness (

See the review in today's Guardian:,,1727423,00.html

It is extraordinary, especially in this climate of interest in the experimental aspects of language, that Roberts is not a name on the tip of everyone's tongue. At any rate, when modernist poetry is at its best, it clears the palate and raises the roof beams like no other sort of language can, and deserves not to be obscured but clarified, and welcomed. So it is I offer a quote from the Carcanet site, below:

Lynette Roberts was born in Buenos Aires of Welsh stock in 1909 and died in West Wales in 1995. She published two collections of poems in her lifetime, both from Faber and Faber: Poems (1944) and Gods with Stainless Ears (subtitled ‘A Heroic Poem’, 1951).

She married the Welsh writer and editor Keidrych Rhys, and came to know some of the prominent writers and artists her day. T.S. Eliot was her publisher and advocate. Roberts helped Robert Graves with his work on The White Goddess, and Dylan Thomas was best man at her wedding. She was a friend of Wyndham Lewis (who painted her), Edith Sitwell (to whom she dedicated Gods with Stainless Ears) and Alun Lewis (for whom she wrote ‘Poem from Llanybri’), and published in a variety of magazines in Britain and America.

The work of an original, haunting and experimental woman modernist poet is made available again, for the first in 50 years. Lynette Roberts is principally a war poet, in that her two published collections take as their subject a woman’s life in wartime. But she is also, or therefore, a love poet and a poet of the hearth. A late-modernist, she works on two scales at the same time: the mythic and the domestic. Those poets and readers who have valued Roberts’ work have been experimentalists. Even at this distance, she challenges and instructs, at the level of diction, syntax and achieved form.

She relentlessly opens out the language of poetry, she is free with extremes of subject, scale and conception, and her work has flourished in its very marginality. Now, with republication, she is restored as an extraordinary poet in the development of twentieth century British poetry. As a Welsh writer, her best work stands alongside that of her near-contemporaries, David Jones, R.S. Thomas and Dylan Thomas. As a woman poet, her work bears comparison with that of both Mina Loy and Djuna Barnes.

Madrid, March 11

Today is the second anniversary of the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings, in which 191 people were killed.

In solidarity with the citizens of Spain, please find below the link to the original Nthposition e-book, "Poems for Madrid" which I edited two years ago.

Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Crash Coarse

Notwithstanding the fact it was voted for by a majority of its peers, Crash was the least deserving winner of the annual industrial distraction known as the Academy Awards.

The further fact that it was the love-child of a Canadian made good in Los Angeles is beside the point. The film, in effect a series of intense, contrived actorial moments designed for maximum drama-school tension and release, was shallow and had a made-for-TV feel. The set up and pay off involving the dummy bullets and the child was particularly lame, a sort of Mad Magazine send-up avant la lettre. It did have moving elements, admittedly but...

Racial tension in Los Angeles is an important navel-gazing issue, and might be one sort of America's fault-line. Brokeback Mountain, Good Night, And Good Luck and Munich were far more profound, and controversial. My own preference was for the deeply-flawed but ultimately daring (in its context) Munich.

Saturday, 4 March 2006

Talk And Reading At Dulwich College

The man to your right is Raymond Chandler, creator of Marlowe, the greatest noir detective in the English crime canon. Chandler has always been one of my true loves, as a stylist, and I rank him with Fitzgerald and Nabokov in that department.

Chandler attended, as a boy, Dulwich College, the famous public school in England, which was founded by a close friend of Marlowe's (the dramatist, not the gumshoe). So it was a delight for me to be invited to attend Dulwich on Friday, by the Literary Society, to give a talk on poetry in the 21st century, and then, later in the day, read my poems for half an hour in the Old Library, as the dark came in through the (yes) high windows (a Chandler image before it was borrowed by Larkin).

I was the guest of the fine English poet Jonathan Ward, who teaches there. We both agreed that some of the chestnut trees on the grounds require poems, especially at twilight.

Friday, 3 March 2006

Poem by Glen Sorestad

I am very glad to welcome the well-seasoned traveller, Glen Sorestad (pictured here) to these pages this Friday.

Sorestad is a veteran poet from the Canadian prairies who lives in Saskatoon on the South Saskatchewan River.

His poetry has appeared in nearly 50 anthologies, textbooks and other volumes, has been published in literary magazines in many countries, and has been translated into French, Spanish, Norwegian, Finnish and Slovene.

He is a Life Member of the League of Canadian Poets, a recipient of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal, and he has read his works at over 400 public readings in Canada, the U.S., France, Norway, Finland and Slovenia.

His latest books of poetry are Grasses & Gravestones (2003) and Blood & Bone, Ice & Stone(2005).

The poem below is from Blood & Bone, Ice & Stone.

Somewhere Near Endeavor circa 1953

What you remember now
with fearsome clarity: the lighted
windows of the Flin Flon Flyer
flashing past in the darkness,
the car careening to a stop
a few feet from the crossing.

What you’ve forgotten: the road,
the make and year of the car,
who was driving, where you sat,
how many were in the car,
how close you’d come.

But you knew then. And just before
the car shuddered to a stop
in a billowing of gravel dust,
you took a huge gulp of air,
threw your hands up as if
your arms could protect you
from the rushing train. And now
after all these years, the miles,
the cars, all that’s left is the image –
the lighted windows streaming
past like all those lives we live.

poem by Glen Sorestad

Thursday, 2 March 2006

Weaver Was The Watchman

No image is easily found of Dennis Weaver's finest cameo, that of the addled Night Watchman in one of the great films, Touch of Evil. But it remains a superb performance.

Instead, here's a collector's card from another of his iconic roles.

Weaver was one of TV's most-loved actors, and a significant green activist, and his recent death leaves the gun smokeless.

The New Hampshire Review 2 Is Here

Seemingly in time for Brokeback Mountain's ride to the Oscar heights, comes this lovely cover image from the second issue of The New Hampshire Review, which is promising to become one of the most impressive new online poetry journals in America.

I confess to having two poems (and some dodgy audio hiss with my voice attached - ah trans-atlantica!) in it:

Wednesday, 1 March 2006


Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

(From "Ash-Wednesday" by T.S. Eliot)


A WORK IN PROGRESS... I am writing this first part on the eve of New Year's Eve day - and as new remembrances come to me, I may well...