Author Archives: linda

Burying the Wren

After a wonderful reading on Tuesday night at Culture Lab with Julia Copus*, it will be a delight to revisit Deryn’s work in the Poetry Room. Her 2012 collection Burying the Wren (Seren) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. Her poems are both fierce and delicate, bold and precise, ranging in scale from the smallest things (a wren, a Chinese lacquer egg, a truffle) to the uncontainable wildness of intense grief, sustaining a remarkable sense of measure and power whatever their focus.

John Burnside wrote of the book: ‘A powerful, deeply moving collection whose searching, often elegiac, sometimes joyous poems remind us that grief is not an end, but another beginning, and that loss drives us, inexorably, to a new kind of finding.’

The poems we’ll be looking at will include those she read and a few others:

Burying the Wren (both versions)
A Chinese Lacquer Egg

So, we look forward to seeing you (whether you made it to the reading or not) at the next Poetry Room on Tuesday 4 June, 6pm-8pm, at Newcastle City Library.

* Julia’s book The World’s Two Smallest Humans (Faber 2012) is also a cracking collection, which is very much worth reading – we may well look at that in a future Poetry Room, if folk are interested.


Destination: Australia

Robert Adamson is an Australian poet, based around the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales. This landscape, its wildlife and human geography, is the source of much of his work. Greatly influenced by North American poets such as Robert Creeley and Louis Zukofsky, Adamson’s work has a refreshing vagrancy and imaginative freedom reflected in his deep love of birds. His latest collection, published in the UK, The Kingfisher’s Soul (Bloodaxe, 2009) is divided into three parts, all of which circle around land and air, birds and the words a poet needs to summon what he sees.
We’ll be looking at:
The Kingfisher’s Soul
Pied Butcher Bird Flute Solo
Summer at Carcoar
A Visitation
Death of a Cat
The Serpent
Eurydice and the Tawny Frogmouth
Thinking of Eurydice at Midnight
The Goldfinches of Baghdad
The Stone Curlew
The Southern Skua
The Cow Bird
The Ruff
Come along to Newcastle City Library on Tuesday 7 May (6pm-8pm) for a taste of the antipodes – a chance to explore poetry with a different pulse, different reference points, populated by very lovely birds!

Come Rain or Shine

Last night in the Poetry Room we made light of the rain and celebrated summer with a fine selection of poems – as varied, elegant and moving as ever.  Here’s what we chose for those who weren’t able to make it.  Many thanks to all who brought a poem and shared in the lively and illuminating discussion.  Looking forward to seeing you again in September – Tuesday 4th, 6pm-8pm in the City Library, as usual.  Meanwhile, have a wonderful August break, whatever the weather.

About the Olden Days – Gill Learner
Full Moon and Little Frieda – Ted Hughes
Boom! – Carolyn Jess-Cooke
Her News – Hugo Williams
Briggflatts – Basil Bunting
The Woman Has to Die – Benjamin Zephaniah
Sonnet 22 – William Shakespeare
Autumn Journal III – Louis MacNeice
Land – Carol Ann Duffy
Love After Love – Derek Walcott

Ten Years…

Next session (* please note: shifted to 12 June) we will be looking at Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward books of Poetry 2002-2011 (Forward, 2011).  Exactly what it says on the tin, it’s a selection of Forward Press founder William Sieghart’s favourite poems from the last ten years’ books, as well as those which have won one of the Forward prizes for best collection, best first collection or best single poem.

It seemed a good opportunity to read a range of poets and get a sense of the themes and fashions of the past decade.  I have particularly chosen poems by poets that we’ve not looked at in the Poetry Room before (or at least not for a few years or so) to widen our net – and maybe be prompted to explore some of these new names further in next season’s programme.

Eavan Boland – Inheritance
Helen Dunmore – To My Nine-Year-Old Self
Douglas Dunn – The Year’s Afternoon
Vicki Feaver – The Gun
Vona Groarke – Bodkin
Alan Jenkins – Effects
Gwyneth Lewis – Mother Tongue
Lorraine Mariner – Thursday
Jamie McKendrick – An Encroachment
Sinéad Morrissey – Genetics
Sheenagh Pugh – Night Nurses in the Morning
Myra Schneider – Goulash
George Szirtes – Song
Anna Wigley – Dürer’s Hare

It was hard to choose just a few from nearly a hundred poems – you will have your own favourites.  I also steered clear of the wonderful longer pieces to allow room to look at more poets.  Come along and discuss one selection of what contemporary poetry’s been up to over the past ten years.

Looking forward to seeing as many of you who can make it for our penultimate session of the summer season – on Tuesday 12 June from 6pm till 8pm in City Library, Newcastle.

A New Star

In 2011, Rachael Boast’s Sidereal won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and, surprisingly for a book of poetry, was long-listed for The Guardian First Book Award. Its title is a Latinate word, meaning ‘of…’ or ‘like stars’ and these poems are full of allusions to the sky at night, lending them a striking luminosity: impossible not to feel wonder when witnessing a meteor shower or contemplating the vastness of space but a harder thing altogether to communicate it convincingly. Boast’s poems are highly reflective, nuanced meditations on relationship, the ‘space’ between things, the constellation of a life. There is much movement, an almost reluctant restlessness, charting the attentive navigation necessary for intimacy within a landscape, feet on the ground, as well as in the territory of the heart. Earth and spirit vie for an authentic balance in intelligent, playful poems that range round the co-ordinates of what can be sustained, where it is possible to place one’s faith, in the face of suffering and impermanence.

Divided into two mirror-like sections, the poems in this collection we’ll be considering include:

Human Telescope
The Hum
A View of Canaletto’s Venice
Cycle Path
View of the Gorge

Rainbow Weather
The Long View
Void of Course

Follow the stars to the City Library on Tuesday 6 March, 6pm-8pm to find out more about this impressive and enjoyable new voice in the contemporary poetry firmament.

Black Cat Bone

Happy New Year to you all!  We have a particularly fine selection of poetry books to read this year in the Poetry Room and we’ll be starting with John Burnside’s 12th collection, Black Cat Bone, winner of the 2011 Forward Prize.  A book fascinated with winter, it ranges across inner and outer landscapes, considering the unsettling tension between hope and disappointment.  His references are wide and scholarly (The Bible, Kafka, Melville, Breughel et al) but he’s also not above Lucille Ball and the voodoo bone of the title, ‘conferring success, invisibility and sexual power on its owner’.  Burnside’s poems are haunting and persuasive, sinuous in their syntax, crystalline in their imagery ‘more sleight-of-hand/ than sorrow’.  Amongst others we’ll be looking at:

The Fair Chase
Loved and Lost
Notes Towards an Ending
Hurts Me Too
Oh No, Not My Baby
Down By the River
Bird Nest Bound
Pieter Breughel: Winter Landscape…
Late Show
From the Chinese

Looking forward to seeing you at Newcastle City Library to blow the Christmas cobwebs away on Tuesday 10th January, 6pm-8pm.

101 Sonnets

A reminder that we’re meeting on the second Tuesday of the month in November (to fit in a trip to Northern Stage to see What are They Whispering?, a show about poetry, with readings by Imitiaz Dharker, Joe Dunthorne and John Stammers).

So, on 8 November, 6pm-8pm at City Library, we’ll be looking at Don Paterson’s 101 Sonnets: from Shakespeare to Heaney. Don is also appearing at Durham Book Festival where he is this year’s Festival Laureate, and one of the events he’ll be appearing at is dedicated to his interpretation of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

This anthology is both a survey and a celebration of the much-loved 14-line form. Do read the excellent introduction – all you wanted to know about sonnets but were afraid to ask… We won’t have time to look at all 101 but those we’ll be considering will include:

Robert Frost The Silken Tent
Jo Shapcott Muse
Wallace Stevens The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain
Robert Crawford Opera
Michael Donaghy The Brother
RS Thomas The Bright Field
DG Rossetti A Sonnet
Patrick Kavanagh Inniskeen Road
Michael Drayton Since There’s No Help…?
Ciaran Carson Finding the Ox
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin Swineherd?
John Keats When I Have Fears…?
WH Auden Who’s Who
William Shakespeare That Time of Year…
George Herbert Prayer
Seamus Heaney The Skylight

Around the World in Seven Poems

We had a wonderful readaround at last night’s Poetry Room. The selection of current favourites that people brought were fascinating and very varied but we were able to trace connections between them all. Form was a particular concern, as was place. Three American poets, two Indian, one from Scotland and another from the north of England – a great way to sign off before our summer break. Looking forward to seeing you all again in September.

The poems we looked at were:

The Present – Michael Donaghy
The Peace of Wild Things – Wendell Berry
Glose – Marilyn Hacker
Ghazal – Darshan Singh
The Worker – Rabindrath Tagore
Late Night Walk Down Terry Street – Douglas Dunn
Grace Darling Learns to Count – Christy Ducker

Faking It Up With the Truth

Readers and critics are deeply divided about the poetry of Anne Sexton. Although she won many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1967, some regard her work as too confessional and lacking in artistic control. We’ll have a chance to add our own voices to the debate at the next Poetry Room session on Tuesday 3 May, 6pm-8pm, in Newcastle City Library.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1928, Sexton began writing at the age of 28, encouraged by her psychotherapist, and within four years she’d had her first collection, To Bedlam and Part Way Back, published to great acclaim by Houghton Mifflin. She went on to write eight more collections, win many more prizes and honours as well as tour with her band, ‘Her Kind’, giving immensely popular readings of her work, and become sought after as a teacher of creative writing, despite ongoing struggles with serious mental health problems.

At a time of profound questioning with regard to state, world, race and gender politics, Sexton broke taboos, daring to raise issues of identity, mental illness, abuse, adultery, the minutiae of a woman’s physical experience previously hidden from view. Influenced by WD Snodgrass, Robert Lowell, James Wright and Maxine Kumin, her work, clustering around the themes of family, love, the unravelling psyche, death and religion, is forthright, playful, rich in metaphor and allusion, immediate and compelling. Anne Sexton committed suicide in October 1974.

Erica Jong has said of her: “She is an important poet not only because of her courage in dealing with previously forbidden subjects, but because she can make the language sing. Of what does [her] artistry consist? Not just of her skill in writing traditional poems… But by artistry, I mean something more subtle than the ability to write formal poems. I mean the artist’s sense of where her inspiration lies… There are many poets of great talent who never take that talent anywhere… They write poems which any number of people might have written. When Anne Sexton is at the top of her form, she writes a poem which no one else could have written.”

The poems we will be reading together will include:

Her Kind
In the Deep Museum
I Remember
The Truth the Dead Know
The Double Image
Consorting with Angels
Wanting to Die
Little Girl, My Stringbean, My Lovely Woman
For My Lover, Returning to His Wife
Just Once
Briar Rose
Jesus Suckles

Let Anne Sexton blow your Bank Holiday cobwebs away! Look forward to seeing you on 3 May in our new home at City Library.

All at Sea

On Tuesday 1 March we will be looking at Robin Robertson’s latest collection, The Wrecking Light (Picador 2010). Shortlisted for the Costa Prize, and with one of its poems winner of the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2009, this book is remarkable for its dark and brooding concerns, its powerful and precise language, and its honouring of poetry’s oral tradition. Throughout the three sections – Silvered Water, Broken Water, Unspoken Water – there is a balance and blend of narrative and lyric, folklore and translation, testing the limits of what can be said. These are restless questioning poems, roaming from the far reaches of Scotland to Sweden to Italy to Hammersmith via India, Istanbul and Berlin.

One reviewer had this to say: ‘Uncompromising concentration distinguishes all the poems in this fourth collection. Do not look to them for comfort, but for an austere, vigorous beauty; the language is both lyrical and taut as a bow string.’

This was one of my favourite collections from last year and I look forward to reading some of the poems from it with you all. Take a look at these before the session:

By Clachan Bridge
About Time
Fall from Grace
A Gift
Law of the Island
At Roane Head
Hammersmith Winter

Remember Blackwell’s have copies of the book in stock, available at a discount. We will also have library copies to distribute. See you in Central Library, 6pm-8pm.

N.B. We may have a new, more peaceful space for this meeting, so if you can’t find us, do ask library staff.