I’m delighted to be reading in Birmingham this Thursday evening at the launch of the last edition of The Poetry Review, where I’m honoured to be sharing the stage with Gregory Leadbetter, Helen Mort and Julian Standard. It’s happening in Birmingham City University’s Institute of Creative & Critical Writing. I’ve had many great poetry-related experiences in the British West Midlands over the years so I’m looking forward to this one!
I’m delighted that my poem The Top 10 Luminous Mushrooms of Cerdanya Forest features in the current issue of The Poetry Review. The edition, as usual, is packed with good things: poems from Michael Longley, Harry Clifton and Tom Liadert, reviews by Conor O’Callaghan, Carol Rumens and Patrick Cotty, an essay by Sophie Collins and much more.
I’m delighted to be reading at this year’s Lingo Festival with poet All-Ireland slam winning poet Stephen Murphy and musician and singer-songwriter Pearse McLoughlin. This promises to be an exciting, eclectic gathering and it’ll happen in the Smock Alley Theatre at 5pm next Saturday. The Lingo Festival as a whole is going from strength to strength and this year’s line-up is superb. Definitely not to be missed if you’re in or near the Dublin area next weekend!
The Dromineer Literary Festival deserves serious attention. There are few events in Ireland that marry such a spectacular location, a warmly familial atmosphere and programming excellence. My thanks to Eleanor, Bernie Geraldine and all involved. It was a privilege to read with Geroge Szirtes and Pascale Petit. Below are the reflections of Thomas MCCarthy, who so ably chaired the event.
The master-poet, George Szirtes, flanked by two very able poets, Pascale Petit and Billy Ramsell.
Last evening a wonderful evening reading at Dromineer Literary Festival. Szirtes collection BAD MACHINE, from Bloodaxe, is a masterpiece. Pascale Petit is equally extraordinary. Her FAUVERIE from Seren Books is magical in more ways than one, black jaguars and electric eels, bullet ants and blue-and-gold macaw feathers; all metaphors one way or another of an absent father. Billy Ramsell’s COMPLICATED PLEASURES and THE ARCHITECT’s DREAM OF WINTER are among the very best collections by a poet of the new generation. I had lots of questions for these poets before they read, about poetry in general, about inspiration, about competition among poets, but I had these poet-specific questions as well – I wish you’d been at the Dromineer Festival to hear their answers.
GEORGE SZIRTES: (1) In a sense you have been twice exiled from European life. There was the Holocaust that left so many of your family murdered and then there was the Hungarian Uprising and the Russian Invasion in 1956 that drove you out of your country when you were a boy; How conscious are you of using poetry to cope with the burden of the past?
(2) Has England been a good place from which to make sense of what happens in Europe?
(3) Did you find poetry when you found the English language? I mean, was it poetry that inserted itself into your exiled life?
PASCALE PETTIT: (1) Your work from THE ZOO FATHER to FAUVERIE to the forthcoming MAMA AMAZONICA has been a controlled reclamation of a lost father. Is that how you see it? ( ‘He seems to have sucked/the whole Amazon/into his being..’Black Jaguar at Twilight.’)
(2) Your early training, like George Szirtes, was in visual art. How has this art informed your technique as a poet? Is it that art teaches us to see clearly?
(3) What is it in your life that you’ve seen clearly? Is it the past, or is it a clear path ahead, a way that you might go onward?
BILLY RAMSELL: (1) Billy, a fellow poet said to me in Cork the other day, a little too gleefully I thought : ‘Isn’t it amazing that Billy Ramsell was born in the year you won the Patrick Kavanagh Award? How conscious are you of being the voice of a new generation in the South?
(2) In ‘Skiing with Zuzanna’ you wrote ‘I have a box full of poems about whiteness/ but only one that tells a story of happiness.’ Do you think happiness is an impossible material ?
It’s an honour to be reading with the fine poets George Szirtes and Pascale Petit tomorrow night at the Nenagh Arts Centre as part of the Dromineer Literary Festival. The event kicks off at 8pm and will be ably compered by the great Thomas McCarthy. It’s a privilege to feature among such names. And I’m looking forward to the festival as a whole, which promises to be a fantastic weekend of books, ideas and conversation.