20190819

POEM FOR SOMEONE I CARE ABOUT

Shazia Hafiz Ramji


“You just get in my head,” you said. The admission itself
the gesture I cannot bear: the one where your hand

will have been on my hair, while asleep
like my father’s hand when I was a kid. Or, like the phone

against my cheek, when you spoke of millipedes and spiders
and I was a child again, not listening to what you said

because the sound of your voice is the horizon that folds out
of itself, like clothes in the sun, turning in the wind

pulling bright tongues from the black air, clothes so close to my skin.
I will have lost my breath when you bring out the flask of whisky

at the airport. If you were anyone else, I would have the face to ask you in
once more with feeling, but this is you pretending to give me a guise

because you’re afraid I’ve not caught up to you, but I’ve been listening
to you and I’m still listening to you, and I want to ask you:

Is it too much to want to cry with you?
Because your hands make me miss your father for you.





Shazia Hafiz Ramji is the author of Port of Being, a finalist for the 2019 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. In 2019, the CBC named her as a "writer to watch." Her writing has recently appeared in Poetry Northwest, Music & Literature, and Canadian Literature. She is a columnist for Open Book and is currently at work on a novel.


20190815

An interview with Ariel Dawn

Ariel Dawn’s prose poetry recently appears or is forthcoming in Litro, Guest, Train, and talking about strawberries all of the time. She writes with Tarot cards and oracles and lives in Victoria, British Columbia. 

Photo credit: Sara Hembree

How did you begin writing, and what keeps you going?

I began writing to survive childhood, adolescence, and various mental disorders. Certain moments of dissociation in elementary school convinced me that life was just poetic material, and from this distance and mystery I could imagine living, in this half-light. Poetry is what keeps me going.

You’ve published in a number of journals. How do you decide which journals to send to?

I’m so grateful for the journals, the editors and other writers, and always delighted to publish poems in print and online. I submit to the ones I admire and where my work may fit. I’m attracted to name, manifesto, history, location. For the past seven years I’ve worked on a collection, a love story, with ghosts, and mostly sent these poems to areas our ancestors haunt. Submissions feel like notes in bottles, I’m grateful for any response.

Have you noticed any repeated themes or repeated subject matter in your work? What are you currently working towards?

I’ve noticed my obsessions: salvation through love and art, mental disorders, death, birth, liminality, the occult. My poems foretell and recall each other; some lines echo: I see the collection as a novella. I’m working towards the union of poetry with divination, to be a clearer channel, write closer with and about the invisible.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

Early influences were WB Yeats, James Joyce, Leonard Cohen, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Susan Musgrave, Robin Skelton: poems as spells, folklore, confessions, secrets, revolutions. In university the Beat Generation, reading them with PC Vandall, writing poems together in bars below old hotels. Later it was Elizabeth Smart, Marie-Claire Blais, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Lawrence Durrell, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Andre Breton, Rainer Maria Rilke, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Dylan Thomas: they write from the borderlands of prose and poetry, neurosis and psychosis, reality and dream, a crowded room and solitude.

How important has mentorship been to your work? Is there anyone who specifically assisted your development as a writer? 

From my mentors I learn the essential art of revision. In Vancouver Island University it was Keith Harrison and Ron Smith and close circles of writers critiquing each other’s work. Then the Victoria School of Writing, workshops with Brian Brett and MAC Farrant and classes and correspondence with Margaret Dyment. In the last few years I was blessed with poems critiqued by Arc’s Poet-in-Residence Robyn Sarah, Amanda Earl, and Ann Creer.

What are you currently working on?

I’m beginning a collection of prose poems with the Tarot. The Fool now, so inspired and curious about how it will be. I recently finished my first collection and still feel rather obsessed with that story, so may continue writing it through the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana. Learning to read the cards made me want to write them, to immerse myself in that deep old symbolic world.

Can you name a poet you think should be receiving more attention?

I couldn’t really, I don’t think that way (attention seems rather frightening). Poetry is just this life-sustaining conversation, visions, breathing, the rise and fall of voices, loud, quiet, known, unknown. I imagine all the poets, the dead and the living, in some bar or salon above or below an old hotel writing this one poem that carries and transforms us.

20190812

At The Palazzo


Daniel Bennett




We bought fresh orange juice on the street and moved away from the main square, deeper into the barrio. The building lay behind a high iron fence, the gate dismantled to leave the way clear. A hard sun. Ash-coloured walls sliced with red aerosol daubs, that hurried, runic script which is the same in any language. We sat at the edge of the audience, drinking the warm, pulpy orange juice, resting, waiting. Children ran in circuits around the building, the pale brick, the boarded up windows, a sign reading 'banos' pointing inside the decrepit hallway. A dance class was taking place on the ground in front of the entrance, a group of five or six couples learning the moves to strains of a tango record. A man cooked up links of sausage and cuts of meat on an oil drum grill. We hardly spoke as we moved around in the grounds. The sun blank on us, as we took in the damaged cars and splintered wooden outhouses with the diligence of gallery goers. Everyone greeted us, everyone wanted us to be involved. For some reason, I was reminded of old end of world fantasies from growing up under the bomb. Weird TV, apocalyptic films, zombie plagues, all those fears of democracy. Or a dream I once had, of a camp set up in an abandoned warehouse containing everyone I had ever met. Food cooked over an open fire blazing in a drum. Khaki sheets strung over bars, the only offer of privacy. The straggly reality of our utopias. Later, the streets leading to this building would become sealed in my imagination and memory, unwinding as though long-trodden paths whenever I closed my eyes. In the same way, while trying to sleep in an unfamiliar place, I often retrace routes through the town where I grew up, trying to find the church.




Daniel Bennett: I was born in Shropshire and live and work in London. My poems have been published in numerous places, including Black Box Manifold and Structo, and my first collection West South North, North South East is due out this summer. I'm also the author of the novel, All The Dogs. You can find more of my work online at: https://absenceclub.com.


20190808

An interview with David Alexander

David Alexander is the author of After the Hatching Oven from Nightwood Editions (2018). His poems have appeared in Prairie Fire, The Rusty Toque, The Humber Literary Review, the Literary Review of Canada, Big Smoke Poetry and other journals and magazines. David volunteers as a reader for The Puritan and works in Toronto’s nonprofit sector.

How did you begin writing, and what keeps you going?

In grade seven we all had to write poems for class. It was a good way to get laughs; I was a shy, insecure kid. My family moved a lot growing up and it wasn’t always easy to make friends. In high school, I started to write songs because being in a band seemed like the coolest thing in the world. To become famous was my nerd-revenge dream, but it was not to be. I was undone by my failure to progress beyond mediocre three-chord guitar talent or to take whatever step one ought to after declaring one’s intention to start an actual band. The only lasting result of the whole endeavour was a bunch of scribbled verse.

High school writer’s craft sparked a deeper interest in poetry. It was all very emo, but my teacher was encouraging. She taught the course in a way that positioned writing as something done by living people. Young people, even. The course also introduced opinion writing and I have at times confused the two forms. The poems in my book, for example, interrogate the politics of animal exploitation. With jokes sometimes. So I guess I write for laughs, fame, revenge, and radical political change. The normal stuff that keeps poets going.

Have you noticed a difference in how you approach writing poems now that you’ve published a full-length collection?

I can think of a few ways that writing After the Hatching Oven changed my approach. All the poems in the book are about chickens. The flexibility to write to a similar set of concerns over and over meant less pressure to perfectly say everything to be said about something in one poem, a trap I sometimes fall into. In writing the collection, I experimented with form and incorporated a range of chicken-related source material such as poems, lines from movies, technical guides, news articles, and encyclopedia entries. As ambiguity crept in, the polemics eased up and the poems got more interesting. I came out of writing the book with more ideas for how to start new work and a nice variety of poem end states. 

Putting the poems together at the end of this process shed some light on the recurring symbols, themes, and imagery of the collection. After this started to clarify, I was able to consciously work these elements in and arrange the sections of the book in a way that might highlight some of the links. So the result is that now I feel more ease writing long and linked poems and have a better handle on symbols, imagery, formal techniques, etc.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

Hard to fully understand one’s own influences. Specific poems seem to carry a lot of influence. I was recently reading Dennis Lee’s “400: Coming Home” for the first time in years and the diction felt very familiar to my work. Frank O’Hara’s “Why I Am Not a Painter” (which I riffed on in my book) is another one like that. I read Raymond Carver’s poems at an impressionable age. Sonnet L’Abbé had written a “How Poems Move” column on a Carver poem for the Globe & Mail, which led me to his collected. Who else? Karen Solie. Sarah Lindsay. Jeff Latosik. Stuart Ross. The Weakerthans.

How important has mentorship been to your work? Is there anyone who specifically assisted your development as a writer?

After graduating, I took a continuing education course at taught by Sonnet L’Abbé and a couple by Ken Babstock. Both were energizing teachers who provided useful feedback. And of course both write compelling poetry so I was in good hands. A few years later, I worked with Stuart Ross as part of his coaching program and attended some of his workshops. At one session, he introduced a bunch of poetic translation techniques—things like n+7, centos, erasures, etc. There are many ways to write a book of connected poems, but I seized on some of these strange translation methods and invented some of my own. Perhaps because I was writing for creatures we share no language with. The poems quickly moved from earnest and straight-laced toward absurdism, remix, and other experiments. Not all of the poems followed the translation path, but I eventually developed a standard structure for the collection—four or five three line stanzas the a couplet—and had a set of common thematic elements and imagery to riff on.

I had a lot of help from my friend Annick MacAskill. We formed a writing group together and eventually proceeded through a lot of first book stuff at the same time. Annick was first reader for a lot of my poems and her feedback on my manuscript was incredibly sharp and insightful. I’ve also learned a lot from the editors I’ve worked with, Blair Trewartha, who edited my Anstruther chapbook (Modern Warfare) and Carlton Wilson, who edited my full-length. Both were great, especially in terms of helping me understand how to deploy things like line breaks and punctuation to vary the flow within each poem and within a collection.

You are currently a reader for The Puritan. Why do you feel this work is important, and what have you learned through the process?

At university I organized readings and edited an annual poetry journal. But then for several years after graduating, I didn’t have much interaction with other writers. Eventually I started meeting people through readings and courses. And then I started to get published. Anything that brings writing out of your journal and into the world is a blessing. When the opportunity arose to play a small part in this process for other writers, I was very interested. I like the idea of literary tithing, of devoting creative energy to other writers, and reading is a nice way to do that because your role in the process is pretty simple. 

The Puritan publishes a nice mix of emerging and established writers and I usually find a diverse, surprising set of submissions waiting to be considered for each issue. It’s definitely reinforced the value of spending time with poetry, rereading, and having patience to let a poem move you. It can take a few readings for a poem to do its work, and reading work by unfamiliar writers is a nice reminder of poetry’s possibilities.

What are you currently working on?

Trying to have a writing life in the moments between full-time work at The Word On The Street and a busy family life with two young kids. I’m not particularly prolific, but earlier this winter I wrote seven sonnets on fascism that I’ve been meaning to spend some editing time with. A lot of my poems seem to start as moody dramatic monologues or as frantic pinball games, but I’m trying to break those habits and write more sparsely. I was reading Stevie Howell’s I Left Nothing Inside on Purpose recently and I really admire how carved down the poems feel and how as a reader you’re invited to move through the lines.

Can you name a poet you think should be receiving more attention?

All poets should receive more attention. One book that stands out from last year is We Like Feelings. We Are Serious. by Julie McIsaac.


20190805

Three poems from Resurfaced

Eric Schmaltz






Eric Schmaltz is the writer of Surfaces (Invisible, 2018). His work has appeared in publications online and in print, including Jacket2, Avant-Canada: Poets, Prophets, Revolutionaries, The Capilano Review, Arc Poetry, and The Berkeley Poetry Review and featured in galleries in Canada and the United States. He lives in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter: @eschmaltzzz or on his website (www.ericschmaltz.com). 

These pieces have been animated by Toronto-based video editor Graeme Ring. Graeme Ring was born in St. Catharines. He now lives and edits videos for motion picture and commercials in Toronto. http://www.graemering.com/

20190802

Four poems for Stuart Ross’ sixtieth birthday


rob mclennan


1.

Each of your birthdays, in turn, highlight

such universal constants: poodles, pigeons, 
sparrows,

haircuts. Writer going to hell! The name
telegraphs, withers. This amplitude of highways

that bear significant weight across lakeshore,

and the inability
of metaphor. I open

my mouth.


2.

For such an occasion, one centres the mind.
We reconfirm altitude,

amplitude, position: Amherst

and Hardscrabble; the Upper Canada
Academy. These strongholds

of Family Compact, and a garage
packed with chapbooks. One late, late night

in 1979: you began to formulate an outline,
calculating digits

in your father’s office. The light
of his photocopier.


3.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the largest centre
in Ontario. The city of Cobourg,

and the stretch of two centuries to finally evolve
from quiet lakeside

to quiet lakeside. What the poodles in the state of Oregon
and Wisconsin combined

had dreamt into being. The conspiracy

that followed. What it had most likely been
all along.


4.

Happy sixtieth birthday: neither words
nor mere numbers

but outlaws

and vaudeville stars, performing
on an endless, perfect stage. The concession stand

is raining. The books have gained sentience,
and can’t sell themselves fast enough.

Poodle.





Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012 and 2017. In March, 2016, he was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour. His most recent poetry titles include A halt, which is empty (Mansfield Press, 2019) and Life sentence, (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (ottawater.com/seventeenseconds), Touch the Donkey (touchthedonkey.blogspot.com) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (ottawater.com). He is “Interviews Editor” at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, editor of my (small press) writing day, and an editor/managing editor of many gendered mothers. He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at robmclennan.blogspot.com

 

20190729

Violet Road

Tom Snarsky



What’s it like to poison yourself
as the light dies in the trees,
little glimmers of ocean
meringuing in the wind? A smooth

silver canister releases its green
gas slowly into the week. I wish
I could help all the disgusting ways
I feel about other people, but

they’re the same disgusting ways
I feel about myself, and there’s
only so much room at the dog park
for new ideas. When you breed

me in the comforting glow of this
erotic fiction I never sent anyone,
that’s how I know what we have
is specialer than endless pancakes.




Tom Snarsky is a special education mathematics teacher at Malden High School in Malden, Massachusetts, USA. He is the author of Threshold, a chapbook of poems available now from Another New Calligraphy. He lives in Chelsea, MA with his fiancée Kristi and their two cats, Niles and Daphne.


20190725

An interview with Orchid Tierney

Orchid Tierney is from Aotearoa-New Zealand, currently residing in Philadelphia. Her chapbooks include Brachiation (Dunedin: GumTree Press, 2012), The World in Small Parts (Chicago: Dancing Girl Press, 2012), Gallipoli Diaries (GaussPDF, 2017), blue doors (Belladonna* Press, 2018), and ocean plastic (BlazeVOX, 2019). She is the author of a full-length sound translation of the Book of Margery Kempe, Earsay (TrollThread, 2016). Her collection a year of misreading the wildcats is forthcoming from The Operating System in 2019. She will be joining the faculty of Kenyon College as an assistant professor of English in the fall.

How did you begin writing, and what keeps you going?

I’m not sure when I began to write poetry, but I recall reading a lot when I was younger. I assume that I simply fell into the practice as an extension of my reading behaviours. What keeps me going is also unclear. For me, poetry is simply a form of critical thinking: it’s a mode of scholarship. So I’m predominately motivated by the way that poetry can build communities and exchange knowledge (through group readings, anthologies, engaged-learning practices, and so forth) outside of the immediate environment of the poem.

Have you noticed a difference in how you approach poems between publishing chapbooks to full-length collections?

Not really. My practice is archival-based, and the difference between chapbooks and full-length collections is primarily a question of scale. I recently interviewed Michael Martin Shea on his translation of Liliana Ponce’s Diary, and he proposed that Ponce approaches the chapbook form as a compact meditative practice. In other words, chapbooks are small spaces for dense thinking. I’d certainly like to incorporate that approach in the future as chapbooks offer constraints to poetry that full-length collections don’t necessarily allow. 

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

I’m very influenced by Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s and Jennifer Scappettone’s collages for reasons that I will explain in the next question.

You work with both text and image. How do the two genres interact, if at all?

We’re not really talking about genres here but different modes of thinking with materials. That said, text is visual, and I’m conscious in my assemblages how text and image ought to interact, look, and communicate with each other on the page. 

I’m in the process of wrapping up my doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania, and both Jennifer Scappettone and Rachel Blau DuPlessis have significantly informed my approaches to thinking about collage as a mode of waste management. In particular, I would argue that Scappettone applies collage as a critical lens with which to engage environmental calamity. Collage enables readers to analyze landfill leakages more effectively since it is already a porous form. When source texts, which comprise a work, are decontextualized and undifferentiated, they allow for potent connections between different textual geographies. And when you think about it, the collage poem is a useful form for examining the human impacts on the natural world since collage, too, is a built environment. Both the landfill and collage are constructed from materials that have migrated from different spaces, different households, different timescales. To this end, I like to think of collage as a textual landfill, one that compacts the discarded materials of our commodity cultures.

What are you currently working on?

The Operating System will release my first full-length collection of Polaroids, poetry, and prose, a year of misreading the wildcats, in October 2019. This collection engages with petroleum cultures, climate change, and the precarity of the island. I have plans to continue writing on the impacts of climate change on island ecologies, but for now I am currently working on my next manuscript, entitled blue doors: a failed novel. This work-in-progress builds on my interest in environmental violence to examine the relationships between vegan food cultures, whiteness, and the meatpacking industry. I guess it is a hybrid long poem/novel of sorts. At any rate, blue doors attends to the persistence of the sentimental genre in the contemporary animal rights movement, which often co-opts anti-racist language (as PETA notoriously does). I’m hoping that my research into the historical meatpacking industry and its contemporary manifestations works in tandem with the ideology of the sentimental genre and the use of prosopopoeia to speak for animal life.

Can you name a poet you think should be receiving more attention?

I don’t think I can gesture to one poet when the Pacific region is so lively with poetry. And poets of the Pacific Islands are undertaking an astonishing range of formal and linguistic innovations in ways that, I believe, are quite unlike anything else. Of these poets, Lehua M. Taitano, Robert Sullivan, Roma Potiki, Craig Santos Perez, Kiri Piahana-Wong, Vaughan Rapatahana, and Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner are exemplary.

I also don’t think we can really discuss the Poet without acknowledging the communities that enable poetry to find an audience, to flourish, and to migrate across networks. And for this reason, I’d like to acknowledge the labor of indigenous poets, scholars, and editors, who are at the forefront of bringing contemporary Pasifika poetry into greater visibility. In 2014, Robert Sullivan and Reina Whaitiri edited the anthology Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English, for example. More recently, Vaughan Rapatahana produced a small anthology of Māori poets, which is currently online at Jacket2 (available here and here). And I would be negligent not to mention the new Effigies III (Earthworks) anthology, edited by Allison Adelle Hedge CokeBrandy Nālani McDougall and Craig Santos Perez.

 

20190722

The Country and City



Katy Lederer


And the city had come by itself and had drawn itself up
And I sat relaxed on the porch disapproving of
Betrothal and manners—
The uncouth
Your servant
Was washing her face
So that all I could see was the sparkling ring
Of her sadness—
Her lips were forthright
Her mind, it was
Dreamy—the messengers to them had fled to the mountains
Where country and city
Had then taken charge
The advance by itself
Was an entrance
And me, just
your servant and
Her
Being me was too difficult—
This was a good thing according to Alex
As he said to me then
Therefore, this Friday
I could not call you



Katy Lederer: poems have recently appeared in The Kenyon Review, The American Poetry Review, The Recluse, and The Boston Review. I had a book out in 2017 with Atelos Press with another on the way this year on Solid Objects. I often write about climate change for print and online magazines.

 

20190715

DESIGN AND LAYOUT #7

Martin Stannard



If you are daft you will probably say the wrong thing more often than
not. Some words are difficult to pronounce unless you know how and include
reveille, segue and pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.
To be romantic is to be doomed. Things happen then they stop happening.
The limits to the aphrodisiacal qualities of the imagination may vary. Being
unable to name anyone that is actually present does not mean love is beyond
your reach. Keep a diary of the neighbours making curious noises.

There is nothing to see but an accumulation of events. Everything can be
explained away as something else. The Wise Man has emerged from out of
the primeval slime and will probably return to it when he’s had his say.
Do not keep what you know inside your chest. Refusing to speak to anyone
about anything worth speaking about is one way of not doing it. The girls
wandering past your window every afternoon do not exist. Even if the days
are growing longer it is still approaching the autumn and winter of your life.

If you resemble a coal miner with light radiating from his brow perhaps there is
hope yet. Don’t worry if there’s less than one person in the world to whom you can
open your heart. Other people are not everything. A stretch of the imagination
is worth more than two of anything else. Next time you are in the greengrocer’s
check to see if the conference pears are talking to one another. If there is anything
more boring than mowing the lawn it hasn’t been discovered yet. It is never too
late to be a clown. Make it known you are available for children’s parties.




Martin Stannard lives in Nottingham, England, and has been publishing poetry and criticism for some 40 years. He was founding editor and publisher of joe soap’s canoe (1978-93) and poetry editor of Decals of Desire (www.decalsofdesire.blogspot.com) (2016-17). His poetry and reviews have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Stride, International Times, Tears in the Fence, The North and Poetry Salzburg Review. His most recent full-length collection is Poems for the Young at Heart (Leafe Press, 2016) http://www.leafepress.com/catalog/stannard/stannard.html), and a chapbook, Items, was published by Red Ceilings ( http://www.theredceilingspress.co.uk/) in August 2018. After more than a decade teaching Literature and Culture at a university in China, he returned to the UK in early 2018. His versions of classic Chinese Tang dynasty poems have appeared in Meniscus, Litter, and Tears in the Fence, and a collection of them will be published in the UK by Shoestring in late 2019. Website: http://www.martinstannard.com/


20190711

An interview with Ian Seed

Ian Seed’s latest collections are New York Hotel (Shearsman, 2018), which was selected by Mark Ford as a TLS Book of the Year, and Distances (Red Ceilings, 2018).

How did you begin writing, and what keeps you going?

I enjoyed writing as a child. In my teens, reading made me want to write. It was also a way of defining myself as an adolescent. I kept writing, mainly poetry (most of it not very good), and even began publishing poems in magazines of the day until I was in my mid-twenties. But then I stopped writing for a couple of decades, only coming back to it in my mid‑forties. The sense of life being finite, and the pleasure I derive from writing, both for myself and for others, is what keeps me going. I feel now that I am part of a writing community. It would be difficult for me to stop writing now.

How has the process of putting together a manuscript evolved? How do you decide on the shape and size of a manuscript?

I’m afraid that I tend to make it up as I go along. Nevertheless, certain themes, or recurring images, or poetic forms start to emerge, and then to coalesce together almost of their own accord until I realise that possibly I have a book, or more than one, in the making.

What poets have influenced the ways in which you write?

A difficult one to answer. Influences are not something that I choose, and they can change depending on what I am working on. For my first book, Anonymous Intruder (Shearsman, 2009), I could feel the influences of Pierre Reverdy and Kenneth Patchen. For my books Shifting Registers (Shearsman, 2011) and Sleeping with the Ice Cream Vendor (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press 2012), Mark Ford, Rosmarie Waldrop, Jeremy Over, and early John Ashbery were important. For my trilogy of prose poems, Makers of Empty Dreams (2014), Identity Papers (2016), and New York Hotel (2018), all from Shearsman, the work of Lucy Hamilton, Max Jacob, and the unknown Cory Harding (a poet publishing in the late 1970s and early 80s) was significant. Behind all of my writing I can feel the presence of Kafka.

How important has mentorship been to your work? Is there anyone who specifically assisted your development as a writer?

As a teenager, I owe a lot to my mother, who encouraged me to write. I was also extraordinarily fortunate to have an English teacher, David Herbert, himself a published poet, who urged me to send my poems to magazines, and gave me lots of instructions on how to do so.

When I came back to writing in my forties, I did not really have a particular mentor. However, various editors have been hugely supportive when I was feeling quite unsure about my work, for example, Tony Frazer of Shearsman (who has made all the difference), Marc Lowenthal of Wakefield, David Caddy of Tears in the Fence, and Rupert M Loydell of Stride. Poets I have great admiration for have also helped immensely through their encouragement, for example Jeremy Over, John Ashbery, Mark Ford, George Szirtes, and Ian McMillan. The organisation Lancaster litfest has promoted my work locally for more than a decade. My former tutors at Lancaster University, for example George Green, have helped a lot through their kind interest in my various writing, translating and editing projects.

You spent a decade editing the online poetry journal Shadowtrain (2006-2015). Why do you feel this work is important, and what did you learn through the process?

There is a quite a sizable archive of poetry from Shadowtrain stored by the British Library here:


The quality of the poetry in the archive speaks for itself in terms of importance.

I am not sure what I ‘learnt’. I do know that I had huge fun editing Shadowtrain and promoting the work of poets whose work I enjoyed. It also brought me into touch with a great number of poets from across the world I would never have had the opportunity to get to know otherwise.

What are you currently working on?

A further collection of interconnected prose poems; a collection of lineated collage-based poems; some longer prose; and translations of prose poems by Max Jacob. The latter follows on from The Thief of Talant (Wakefield Press, 2016), my translation into English of Pierre Reverdy’s Le Voleur de Talan.

Can you name a poet you think should be receiving more attention?

I can think of many. To give just one example, it really is about time that the work of Kenneth Patchen was included in major anthologies of poetry.