Poetry News

Jacket2's New English Poetry Portfolio

By Harriet Staff

Jacket2 posted a great portfolio of new poetry by English poets yesterday, with a focus on the influence North American writing has had on their work. Included in the portfolio is work by Tim Atkins, Amy De'Ath, Jeff Hilson, Richard Parker, Holly Pester, Sophie Robinson, and Carol Watts. The editors, Sarah Dowling and Amy De'Ath, introduce the work with these words:

Perhaps more than at any other time in recent decades, the influence of North American poetry and poetics on English poetry is surfacing in a number of different ways. Sharing a language but positioned at a distance from the personalities and occasional conflicts between schools and coteries, contemporary English poets combine their North American influences differently, perhaps more flexibly, than North American poets do. As the works collected here demonstrate, the results of these combinations are surprising and exciting, distant and familiar; this poetry is engaging even and especially when considered apart from its influences and precedents from across the pond.

In addition to publishing poems, each poet writes a brief introduction that contextualizes the poems they've selected. Here's a taste from Carol Watts:

It was reading Lorine Niedecker that got me back to writing. There had been a fifteen-year gap or refusal, and then in 2004 the poetry started pouring out in sequences, like writing a back catalogue. I’d always picked up on American cadences alongside English traditions, the directness of sound and speech. Growing up in Britain in the sixties, a kind of American timbre came through in music, film, and especially on TV. There was a lag, we often got it late. It’s no surprise it was formative somehow, mixing with everything else that comes through the ear. There are frequencies I look for. I’ve found that traveling in the US has allowed me to hear them, the everyday differences and attachments. That as much as reading. So there’s a journey across North Dakota between the minimal lines of When Blue Light Falls. Wrack begins by taking on the punned complicity of a verb as much as wrecked booty — ‘I wrack’ — that came from George Bush’s verbalizing of ‘I-raq’ on the news. I wrote on Dogtown after going into the swamps there in search of eighteenth-century cellar holes before I realized — duh! — that Charles Olson owned it. Parts of my new collection, Occasionals, while rooted in London and John Clare’s wanderings, were also written in Bolinas and carry freight from Massachusetts, spliced at the level of the line in what I see as irrational cuts. There’s a cartoon coyote that turns up at one moment — it’s for me as much registering the distracted wolf in Beuys’s “I Like America and America Likes Me” as the wily one.

And a few sage words from Amy De'Ath:

The poetry I love most — that I most want to write — is that which erupts from lived experience and is capable of spontaneity, ‘un-knowledge’ in freefall, happy accidents which show me ‘I’ am not who I thought ‘I’ was — and so allow me to step outside of myself. Alice Notley’s sonnets, H.D.’s Sea Garden, or Joseph Ceravolo’s Spring in this Worldof Poor Mutts offer a kind of expansion, play, pleasure in language that give way to a messiness and ecstasy sometimes lost in other modes of (dialectical, linear, or perhaps deliberately programmatic) thought.

Partly because feminism has been a prevalent discourse among North American (especially Canadian) poetry conversations, I’ve found the writing happening on the other side of the Atlantic to be a lifeline and springboard for my own work. To borrow a phrase from Rachel Blau DuPlessis, I don’t feel the need to ‘invent a new and total culture’ that a previous generation felt: in poetry that’s been done for me, by Lyn Hejinian, Joan Retallack, Susan Howe, and others. Perhaps the space those poets have cleared means there is no need to fall abjectly into the category of the ‘feminine other’ anymore (though I do think women poets in the UK continue to suffer from a lack of serious critical attention paid to their work relative to their male counterparts).

Make the jump and read it all!