Last Thursday in Oxford I went to the launch of Nathan Hamilton’s new Bloodaxe anthology Dear World & Everyone In It. There weren’t very many people there — I think it was competing with something else that evening — which is a shame. I think readers outnumbered the audience, which is probably representative of UK poetry in general.
Nathan Hamilton described his introductory essay ‘Fossils on Mars’ as “playful” before reading from it, but this understates its combativeness in places. As well as discussing some of the ideas behind “The Anthology”, and about anthologising at all, Hamilton covers much of the concerns of the poetics of the ‘younger poets in the UK’ which the anthology (loosely) represents. It’s also quite funny. The anthology is worth getting hold of just for the essay. This said, he mostly read the lighter sections in Blackwells, before reading some poems of Marianne Morris. Then there were readings from Tamarin Norwood, Sarah Howe and Katharine Kilalea.
Tamarin Norwood read all four poems of hers in the anthology, from a strange system of “rotary stapling”, as well as long prose piece that I think was called “Oh”. I forget. It is strange how Norwood’s poems seemed less strange when read.
Sarah Howe read her poem ‘The present classification’ from the anthology, plus a few others that aren’t included in Dear World…. (I remember one about Pythagoras talking from behind a curtain.)
Katharine Kilalea explained her ideas behind a forthcoming pamphlet (with Hamilton’s Eggbox?) ‘House for the Study of Water’, which I almost enjoyed more than the poems. I think this is just because I like to hear poets talk about their ideas and their practice. She read with a sort of nervy casualness after putting her glasses down onto a chair. ‘Hennecker’s Ditch’ is in the anthology, which is great because it’s my favourite poem from the last couple of years. (It was a shame she didn’t read it.)
I wonder, with a lot of the poems in the anthology, if the prevailing trend of ‘young’ contemporary poetry has overtaken criticism, in that the frameworks commonly used to respond to poetry are completely redundant. This is mostly because many of these poems incorporate their own criticism; they anticipate and out maneuvre the reader’s responses. Probably the avant garde of any artform at any given time is always ahead of criticism. I wonder, first of all, how many of the poets in the anthology write about poetry too. I need to think about this some more.