Now that the GCSEs are over and the results are out, I can come clean – one of my poems was used in the English Exams this year. I’ve asked for a copy of the exam paper and the “model” answer out of curiosity. The poems they used was 3AM Feed from my collection “So” and I think it was printed alongside Eavan Boland’s Night Feed as a “compare and contrast” question.
It’s a funny experience. I’ve no idea how they came to ask me and I they won’t tell you which exam it’s going to be used in until after it’s been taken – for obvious reasons. They don’t pay either! Or rather they say they will consider payment but may change their mind if you ask. Oddest of all is simply the thought of those poor kids sweating away and scratching their heads over a poem you’ve written.
Some poems this month in issue 25 of Dreamcatcher magazine. Nice to have poems in such an impressive magazine and in the company of such great poets – Michael Swan, Christine McNeill and Roger Caldwell to name a few. Having edited a poetry magazine (PROP) many years ago, I know how hard it is to just keep a magazine going never mind produce one of quality. Even harder in these days of arts funding cuts.
Also good to see a poem by the late Matt Simpson in there. He was a real influence on me when I started out writing poetry – showing how poems can be about the ordinary and written in straight-talking language, and yet be just as moving and spectacular as anything written in a more ornate or intense style. When I first encountered Matt’s work I was immersed in the likes of Sylvia Plath and Peter Redgrove. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it was encountering the work of Matt Simpson among others that showed me who I really was as a writer.
Dreamcatcher 25 has plenty of fiction too. That’s a good thing as there seems so little outlet. Editor Paul Sutherland has done a great job in getting some excellent short fiction.
The death of Peter Reading back in November of last year has prompted me to revisit some of his work. My favourite stuff is his early work – collections such as For the Municipality’s Elderly, Nothing for Anyone and Fiction. He’s often criticised for being miserablist and cynical, though closer reading often reveals elements of humour and tenderness, plus in the early work a somewhat prophetic pre-occupation with environmental issues. And he has a real formal versitility and skill, something which is so often lacking in much poetry. He’s not an easy poet to read – sometime becuase of the subject matter, but often because of the referential complexities of the poems. Mind you, it’s worth the effort, I think. Interesting too that a poet of such considerable standing lived a pretty ordinary life, spending a lot of it working as a weighbridge operator. He claimed that this kind of life gave him room and time to think. It’s something I can certainly sympathise with – having spent some time doing lots of “creative writing” teaching and such like, it can leave you with little energy for your own writing if you aren’t careful.
I never met Peter Reading and always had the idea he was a rather fearsome character – partly due to the poems and partly due to his reputation for “enjoying a drink.” He once reviewed a book of mine in the TLS. When I heard about it, I was reluctant to read it, thinking he’d have no sympathy with my stuff. However, he was very kind and seemed to understand what I was trying to do.
Nice article from the TLS, Remembering Peter Reading
I’ve finally seen the light and decided to put all the info about my published poetry on the web. If you find this blog, hope you like the poetry. Watch this space for news of a new collection from Smokestack Press very soon. And a few new poems every now and then as well.