Goin’ on a Holiday…

Well, by the time you read this I’ll be on my annual post-festival European Vacation. I’m heading to Berlin to visit the mysterious, musical mastermind, D-Rock and then will be heading east with the cartoonist Dan Meth. Here’s an example of what our conversations are likely to sound like:


Poetry is for Reading …

so I’m bringing along a couple of collections I’m anxious to read. I’ve got Sharon Old’s “One Secret Thing” already packed. I was very pleased to see Olds reading at the Edinburgh Book Festival and would recommend any of her books to anyone. These poems are honest, deceptively simple, and as visceral as a punch in the neck. I like her poems because they always have a little blood on them. And I mean that in the most beautiful, loving way.

Anya Yurchyshyn, at Esquire, said this: “Here’s one of my favourite poems from ‘One Secret Thing’, the second poem from Part Four: Cassiopeia. I’m not sure if I need to write anything ever again. She kinda covers it all.” Which echoes my sentiments exactly. This is the kind of poetry which, as a writer, simultaneously makes me want to write more, write everything, get it down, share it out and yet also makes me want to stop writing for fear that it has been done before, done better, deeper and with more resonance.

2. The Music

On the phone my mother says she has been sorting
Her late darling’s clothes—and it BREAKS
, and then there are soft sounds,
as if she’s ‘been lowered down, into
a river of music. I’m not unhappy,
she says, this is better for me than church
her voice through tears like the low singing
of a watered plant long not watered,
she lets me hear what she feels. I could be in a
cradle by the western shore of a sea, she could
be a young or an ancient mother.
Now I hear the melody
of the one bound to the mast. It had little
to do with me, her life, which lay
on my life, it was not really human life
but chemical, it was approximate landscape,
trenches and reaches, maybe it
was ordinary human life.
Now my mother sounds like me,

the way I sound to myself—one
who doesn’t know, who fails and hopes.
And I feel, now, that I had wanted never to stop blaming her,
like eating hard-shelled animals
at mid-molt. But not my mother
is like a tiny, shucked crier
in a tidepool beside my hand. I think
I had thought I would falter if I forgave my mother,
as if, then, I would lose her—and I do
feel lonely, now, to sense her beside me,
as if she is only a sister. And yet,
though I hear her sighs close by my ear,
my mother is in front of me somewhere, at a distance,
moving slowly toward the end of her life,
the shore of the eternal—she is solitary,
a woman alone, out ahead
of everyone I know, scout of the mortal, heart
breaking into solo.

Thanks to Esquire for posting this poem here.

Buy her new book here.

While searching for a good poem…

I found this lovely video of Olds reading Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California” which is an amazing poem.

Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?”

You can read the text along with the video at the Poetry Archive


I’m also bringing …

Sam Meekings’ “The Bestiary” which I started dipping into about a year ago. At the time, I found it shockingly gorgeous and was not surprised to find it calling out to me, begging to be brought abroad.

The book is broken up into two parts: Water and Air. What strikes me the most is that Meekings is able to do that brilliant thing where he can describe the natural world in a way that sits in your stomach. It’s not just a poem about A Frog or Oysters or Jellyfish – it is about death, love, age, childhood, memory, hope. Maybe this doesn’t sound so impressive but I often find myself reading poems about trees which are just, you know, about trees. (I’m not particularly interested in trees.)

Anyway, it is a highly enjoyable collection and hope others will get a chance to pick it up.

Here’s a good review from Horizon if you are interested.

I remember reading the “Air” section and finding it so gutting I thought my intestines were going to fall out. As a writer – I always in in awe of poets who can pull off lines like:

“all the things we never said came hissing out / and made me old in a second.”


“… the way to kill a thing is with words.”


“We lined up in silence, as if it were an altar / at which were given countless lives, // where the tresses and tears of our eyelids, fingers, lips / were all stitched to the hem of the sky.”

Me, I find I can’t pull off that kind line without sounding utterly disingenuous. The images are new and fresh and, yes, startling. His poem about hedgehogs almost made me cry.

Worth finding a copy. You can buy it here or can borrow it from the good ol’ SPL. Also, our multi-talented friend, Will Brady, did a great job on the cover design. Which is quite handsome.

Also in the bag…

  • Cold medicine. I always get ill when I’m trying to have a good time.

  • David Simon‘s book, Homicide. (Which Cannongate has just re-released here along with “The Corner”.) I read “The Corner” last year and was totally blown away by the epic quality of Simon’s reporting, his empathy is surpassed only by his attention to detail and intense research. Simon is the creator of The Wire (which, if you’ve not seen yet, I am deeply envious of you). I got to shake hands with him the other day at the Book Festival. Surprisingly, we had a really good little chat about the best place to get pizza in New Haven. I said Pepe’s. He said Sally’s. The eternal debate rages on. If this sounds strange – watch  :httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI8D5IRTLHU&feature=player_embedded

  • A rough draft of my new manuscript. I hope to beat those boys into shape.

  • A very small camera.