A Commentary on ‘Hennecker’s Ditch’


In 2013 I went to Oxford to see Kate Kilalea read at the launch of Bloodaxe’s anthology Dear World and Everyone In It. She wore round glasses that made a heavy noise when she put them on a chair. Of the few people on many empty seats, there seemed more poets waiting nervously to read than people there just to listen, which I took as indicative of poetry generally, although I’m not sure this is the problem it’s made out to be. I felt conspicuous, as if my part as audience carried unspoken responsibilities, more weighty considering we were few. I gripped my notebook, as if writing things down would help, as if it would account for me and turn the moment to some purpose, as if it would placate that hot, pricking question which rises again audible from the background at such moments: what am I doing here?

Continue reading

Review of SJ Fowler’s ‘{Enthusiasm}’

My review of SJ Fowler’s collection {Enthusiasm} is published on Sabotage. This has taken me months to finish, so I’m grateful (as ever) to the patience of my editors. It’s an interesting book coming in what seems to be an exciting time for Test Centre, who are publishing consistently good stuff. I’m glad it exists.

In the review, as well as discussing the ‘mainstream’ as a necessary fiction, I describe what I think a real contemporary successor to the historical avant-garde would be: weird and uncool; written by/representing the marginalised; probably unconcerned with the rarefied theorising that weirdos like myself enjoy; and, most importantly, coming from within a broader context of political activism within the literary community in a way that addresses poetry’s position in society. I also look at the troubles with contemporary poetry that positions itself as ‘avant-garde’, and how that positioning, almost in itself, demonstrates the problem of its institutionalisation. In short, I argue that a contemporary avant-garde (or, rather, poetry furthering the avant-garde’s historical aims) might be possible, but that {Enthusiasm} isn’t it.

It’s perhaps a little unfair of me to use a review as a starting point for a discussion that ultimately condemns the book in question, when, for the review itself, the book deserves to be praised. However, Fowler’s book, and his positioning of his work, are a provocation towards some useful thinking. Hopefully it’s not just me who’s interested.

‘Happiness’ by Jack Underwood

By order of appearance:

onion (halved); nut-like; melon; apple; nuts; apple; coconut halves; gumball; cauliflower; seeds; eggs; plum; egg; tomato; seeds; egg-knife; yolk; egg; slices of lime; seed; onion; lemony; seeds; the rind of something citrus; yolk; grapes; hollowed pumpkin; chestnut; beet; garlic; eggs.

(Also: asparagus; gherkins; crab; cake; fish; banana; banana; banana; banana; steak; fudge; chip; biscuit; leg of lamb; frozen lamb.)

Review of Rachael Allen’s ‘Faber New Poets 9’

I’ve a review of Rachael Allen’s debut pamphlet, the 9th in the Faber New Poets series, at Sabotage. It’s a terrific set of poems.

The not-for-profit scheme, funded by ACE at £155k so far or ~£12k per New Poet, is a nice one for Faber, refreshing the stable of “the pre-eminent publishers of poetry in the UK” whilst presumably allowing them to ‘forget the profit and loss’, helping them quietly benefit from association with these young poets just as the poets’ profiles are undoubtedly raised by the publication. It also allows them to dictate what’s ‘new’ (in a prescriptive rather than descriptive sense) on terms that are favourable to Faber.