Friday, December 18, 2009

Blog mentions

Rob Mackenzie and Ben Wilkinson say nice things about my book...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ian Seed, Anonymous Intruder

Ian Seed. Anonymous Intruder. Shearsman, 2009.

The blurb says that these poems 'navigate the vulnerabilities revealed in relationships, only to abandon these in a wandering search for new encounters and new truths', and this makes clear the two salient characteristics of the book: relationships and wandering. The speaker is a kind of flaneur offering us snapshots of cities and of emotional states:

In the hotel room by the railway line
a breeze blew the curtains inward,
shifting fragments of sky.

You lay on your stomach, head pressed
into your pillow, your dress bunched
over your thighs.

The snapshots don't make a narrative, either of a city or of a relationship. Indeed the book's wandering seems a deliberate evasion of narrative in favour of the quiet, ephemeral moments of insight that happen along the way. Nothing unfamiliar in that approach; of course the moments do need to add up to something analogous to narrative, a shape. I liked best 'Check Out Girls', for the way the intermittently comic tone and focus on stuff provide that shape (it feels more relaxed than, for example, 'The Familiar Dead'); the fourth section, particularly, with its weetabix and the 'fragile son' with 'a song in his head thanks to the lodger/in the spare room', is brilliant. I also liked 'Modulated Subtones', which seems to be composed entirely of asides.

The book's second half consists of prose poems. Here we get snatches of narrative, and thematically, again, explorations of identity and relationships. The structural principle of fracture is also at work, and I think it works better, or more intelligibly, than in the verse pieces. Sentences are put together suggestively, and the reader accepts the resulting paragraph less suspiciously than a passage of verse. A paragraph is a more trustworthy shape than a stanza, and for that reason it's easier, and feels less unsettling, to be fooled by it. I'm no expert on the prose poem, but that's how it seemed to me:

The plot is afoot, though nothing obvious observed. It's not right, she said, tight-lipped, standing in the queue for tickets. Turn left at the end of the building. Dreams would arrive and not be dealt with on an immediate basis. Don't assume the trick is to wake in the middle of the night.

The feeling of being seduced into taking a series of atoms as a whole is strangely pleasurable. I'm reminded of Gunther Eich's 'moles', the short prose poems he wrote late in his career. They're like samosa, small, satisfying snacks you can polish off without cutlery. And similarly moreish.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sales talk

Delighted to report that The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street is number 7 in Salt's bestseller list (scroll down a bit and look on the left hand side). Hurray!

Less delighted to acknowledge how little I've posted here of late. Boo! I'm hoping that with the New Year I'll turn over a new blog leaf.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Maybe it's because I'm a midlander

Had a trip down south on Tuesday for the London launch of The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street. It was good to finally meet the Salt team, and there were some great performances by Matthew Sweeney, Eleanor Rees (launching her second collection, Eliza and the Bear, with extracts from the long title poem – I left with the striking image of a bear in the bath), and John Hartley Williams, reading poems and doing some really interesting poetry-and-jazz thangs with his jazz singer daughter Natalie Williams.

Didn't get much of a chance to chat after as I had to negotiate past a security guard to get to my bed for the night (if that sounds posh, let me tell you it was in Deptford). Walking the streets and trotting on to the tube I felt very much the bumpkin, though I deliberately wore my flat cap for the purpose.

Chris H-E at Salt tells me the book's just had a reprint, which is great news. People are buying it. If you haven't yet, have a look at it and read the PDF sample. I'm doing signed copies for a tenner including postage, and with Christmas round the corner, etc etc. Email me via tw[at] if you're interested. Ho ho ho!