New Year, new poems – well, let’s hope so. I’m edging tentatively forward, sniffing the air, helped along by my Christmas present reading matter – the late lamented Tony Hoagland’s The Art of Voice. In short chapters it speaks lucidly of “that mysterious connective element that binds the speaker and reader together.” In the concluding chapter, Hoagland writes, “What can a poem do? Well, a skilled poetic voice can personalize and frame moments in such a way as to grant them human meaning. A good poem can shape experience into a kind of tango that makes facts dance and shape-shift until we find we must reconsider once again; we must concede one more time that we are vulnerable to wonder, grief, outrage and reflection… The freedom of the speaker is to dance with circumstances, trivial and profound. The liberal gift of the poem is to show the reader that such a dance is possible, that in fact we are attempting the dance every day.”
Another Christmas book was Nine Arches' The Craft, eminently dippable-into. The essay I'm most taken with at present is Joelle Taylor's very persuasive There is No Closing Time: On the Poetics of Performance. Her concluding sentence is, "To write a poem is an act of resistance, to perform it is a revolution".
Hoagland calls the poet 'the speaker' which gives me hope as my ageing brain finds memorising really difficult, so I will say I’ve got two readings lined up this spring – this month at the Magma event in London to promote their current competition and next month at the Verve Poetry Festival in Birmingham as part of The Emma Press showcase.
Here's to a peaceful, productive new year - it will be bracing.
Mimi Khalvati's Afterwardness (Carcanet); Pam Thompson's Strange Fashion (Pindrop); The Art of Voice, Tony Hoagland (Norton) and Tony Hoagland's Priest turned Therapist treats Fear of God (Greywolf)