My wonderful career …

Found this in the latest London Review of Books:

My wonderful career …

On Challenge


I’m sitting down to start this blog after the very first ‘Poetry Corner’ at Manchester Metropolitan, a Wednesday drop-in session open to anyone who wants to talk, read magazines or share poems. This week – perhaps inevitably – the first topic of discussion was Rebecca Watts’ article in PN Review lambasting the ‘cult of the noble amateur’, a piece which Hollie McNish responded to very eloquently and generously in her recent blog. Our creative writing students come from many different backgrounds and bring a range of experiences to their studies but they were uniformly outraged by what they saw as an attempt to question whether poetry is something that can be accessed in many ways by many people. One student, Heena, contrasted the apparent exclusivity this implies to Asian network radio stations she used to listen to with her gran in the car as a child where poetry…

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On Challenge

Social Study

I read this at school – it must have been around 1970 – and have never forgotten it. The poem – called Social Studies is by Michael Baldwin:

While my mother ate her heart out,
and my father chewed the chairs,
my sister worked in a factory,
calmly degutting pears.

The green ones like spinach,
The yellow ones like sick,
she gently disemboweled them
with a deft little flick.

She never seemed to worry,
about the family fears,
but thoughts, like bees, were buzzing
inside her golden ears.

She jilted the tin carpenter,
and then the labourer’s mate,
and finally she married,
the man who nails the crate.

She had two lovely children
called Dorothy, and Clem.
They’re hanging her tomorrow,
for calmly degutting them.

Social Study

Brian Eno & Kevin Ayers team-up for oddball progrock poetry album ‘Lady June’s Linguistic Le prosy’

Brian Eno & Kevin Ayers team-up for oddball progrock poetry album ‘Lady June’s Linguistic Leprosy’
// Dangerous Minds

I’ve been on a bit of a “70s Brian Eno kick” of late, scooping up all of the recent 2XLP 45rpm editions of Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, Here Come the Warm Jets,

Read in my feedly

Sent from my iPad

Sent from my iPad

Brian Eno & Kevin Ayers team-up for oddball progrock poetry album ‘Lady June’s Linguistic Le prosy’

Kiss me again

Extraordinary that the writer – Louise Labé – died in 1566 (From Modern Poetry in Translations Advent calendar ):

Kiss me again, kiss me, kiss me more:
Give me one of your most mouth-watering ones
Give me one of your most smouldering ones
I’ll repay it with four, hotter than any embers.

Weary, you say? Here, let me find a cure:
I’ll give you ten, all different, of rare softness.
Then as we mix up happiness and kisses
We two will please each other at our pleasure.
Now you and I will live our lives twice over
Once inside our self; once in our lover, and
Love, if I dare think this thought aloud,

Living in reserve makes me impatient:
How will I ever satisfy my ache,
Unless I rouse myself to seek, astride.

Who could resist the sonnets of Louise Labé? The tone of voice is immediately compelling, weighing face-to-face directness with fully rounded wit. These are poems which speak to everyone – candidly assertive, warmly human – as if five hundred years were nothing.

Louise Labé’s life – like the lives of so many women of talent – has frequently received more attention than her work. It has been shaped into a scandal (she was a courtesan), a legend (she rode to war), and most recently, a sham (she was a man). But perhaps she was just born in the right place at the right time: to an enlightened father who gave her access to the same education (fencing, riding, poetry, other languages) as her brothers; in Lyon, thriving cultural crossroads of the Renaissance.

The importance and pleasure of the work, notably the 24 Petrarchan sonnets she published alongside her Débat de folie et d ’amour, in 1555, seem indisputable, at least. Labé’s language is limpid, uncluttered; each line often a unit of sense, a clear foil for the aural underpinning of the logic, or argument, of its sonnet: rhyme, alliteration and assonance chime and fuse with unmistakable authority.

It seemed to me that I needed to hold onto, or recreate, that clarity, and cohesion, if I was to have any chance of capturing the bravado and enterprise of the sequence as a whole. These twenty four sonnets explore the way the imagination unlocks sensual pleasure; they enact, through form, an elusive reciprocity; they reclaim ringfenced areas of language and culture.

In short, Louise Labé rewrites the male Petrarchan tradition, giving it a blast of positive, debunking energy, a strong female voice and an intelligent physicality.

Kiss me again