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Poetry Worth Hearing: Episode 13

Welcome to Episode of Poetry Worth Hearing. In this episode, which focuses on form, you will hear an interview with Mimi Khalvati, an extended reading from Claire Cox as well as poems from Sharron Green, Bill Jenkinson, Rachael Clyne, Jane Thomas, Andrew Dixon, Carl Tomlinson, Michael Klimeš, Kate Oldfield and Trisha Broomfield. Each of the poets comments on the form they have chosen. In addition, there is a further extract from an interview with Stephen Paul Wren where he discusses the possibilities of using chemical structures as forms for poetry.


Form in poetry can sometimes seem a vexed question and is easily politicised, as Mimi Khalvati notes in her interview. At one extreme are those who believe that a poem is not a poem unless it is in a fixed form, preferably rhyming, and at the other, are those who push language to its furthest extremes, where form and meaning are almost indiscernible. For some poets, the use of traditional fixed forms, whether from European or other cultures, is a freeing and enabling experience, allowing them to take the poem in directions they had not thought of. For others, fixed forms can be restrictive, pushing them to repetitive sound patterns and rhymes they do not want. As a poet, I have never managed to write convincingly in fixed form, although I dearly love a sonnet; as an editor or reviewer, I am suspicious of poems which jump up to inform me that they are a sestina or a villanelle or pantoum or whatever, and I am distressed by poems where I have predicted the rhyme before I reach the end of the line. My rule of thumb is that a fixed form works when I do not recognise it until the second reading of the poem. This rule went by the board when reading Elizabeth Bishop’s truly brilliant ‘Sestina’. Free verse can mean so many different things that I hesitate to discuss it. According to Mimi Khalvati, it is non-metrical, but I’m not sure that this is a distinction which can always be clearcut, since even prose can often fall into metrical patterns. In my early years, I was heavily influenced by Charles Olson’s ‘Projective Verse’ and ideas about organic and open form. I hold to the notion, attributed to Robert Creeley, that form is an extension of content, which I think is echoed by many of the poets in this episode when they suggest that the poem demands its own form. I see my function in this episode as holding the ring and I hope that the different points of view and explorations of form included here will interest and challenge listeners. I should add that the medium of audio cannot do justice to the visual aspect of form and that the representation of these texts here is not always as accurate as the poets might wish.



 

Sharron Green


Where the Truth Lies


“Let yourself be, the you, you want to be.

The path to true peace is a stranger to lies.

If you follow me you too will be free -

floating on cotton clouds up in the skies.

Hurl away habits and nudge off all norms

- abstract is true art so fling off all forms!”

“You’ll be at sea if you cast away forms.

Bobbing about is just how you will be.

Lack of constriction is where chaos lies.

In verse, as in life nowt good can be free.

The song of a sonnet soars to the skies,

there can be no shame in following norms”


“No shame maybe, but my brain numbs with norms.

Frankly my dear there is no fun in forms.

Disastrous duty is all it can be.

Alliteration is littered with lies.

Refrains restrain – you will never be free.

Meter so measured just sullies the skies.”

“Sorry, I’m sick of this slush about skies.

Civilisation is centred on norms.

We’d all be mush if we didn’t have forms.

Poetry helps us define how to be,

yes, with some licence, we have scope for lies,

but structures, like ladders can set us free”.


“Chill out! Don’t freak out! My opinion’s free -

you cannot curtail my reach for the skies,

but if you insist on sticking to norms

you may spend your life completing those forms.

Pity personified is what you’ll be

the inverse of happy, drowning in lies”

“Let’s bury this tiff, this way no peace lies.

If we’ve time to rhyme we are truly free.

There’s room for all poets under the skies.

Deeply devoted to challenging norms

there’s truth in our words with or without forms.

Even though, we ‘know not what we may be’.


So let’s follow forms or else ignore norms.

Creativity lies in open skies.

Set yourself free, be what you want to be.




Sharron Green is a 'poet of a certain age' whose writing blends nostalgia, comments on modern life and odes to nature. She enjoys experimenting with rhymes and poetic forms.

Sharron has published Introducing Rhymes_n_Roses and Viral Odes and has contributed to over fifteen international anthologies. She has recently graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Surrey and is a Head Writer for this year's Surrey New Writers Festival.

Sharron hosts a monthly open mic in Guildford and regularly performs her work in person and online.

Instagram, Facebook & Twitter: @rhymes_n_roses Website: https://rhymesnroses.com


 

Mimi Khalvati was born in Tehran and has lived most of her life in London. She has published nine collections with Carcanet Press, including The Meanest Flower, shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize 2007, and Child: New and Selected Poems 1991-2011, a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. She was poet in residence at the Royal Mail and has held fellowships with the Royal Literary Fund at City University and at the International Writing Program in Iowa. Her awards include a Cholmondeley Award from the Society of Authors and a major Arts Council Writer’s Award. She is the founder of The Poetry School, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of The English Society. Her most recent collection, Afterwardness (Carcanet 2019), a series of Petrarchan sonnets, is a Poetry Book Society Winter Wild Card and a book of the year in The Sunday Times and The Guardian.

Writers mentioned by Mimi included:

Jorie Graham

Louise Glück, specifically The Wild Iris

Patricia Smith

Agha Shahid Ali - writer of ghazals

as well, of course, as Byron, Wordsworth and Hopkins.






 















Stephen Paul Wren figured largely in Episode 12. This brief conversation is taken from the same interview.Stephen studied at Cambridge (Corpus Christi College) and worked in industry for many years. He transitioned back into academia at Oxford (St Hilda’s College) before joining Kingston University in 2018 where he works as a Senior lecturer in pharmaceutical chemistry. Stephen's poetry can be read at www.stephenpaulwren.wixsite.com/luke12poetry and you can find him on Twitter @Stephen34343631. His book ‘Formulations’ (co-written with Dr Miranda Lynn Barnes) was published by Small Press in 2022. His book 'A Celestial Crown of Sonnets' (co-written with Dr Sam Illingworth) was published by Penteract Press in 2021. Also, Stephen's poetry has appeared in places such as 14 magazine, Marble Broadsheet, Consilience, Tears in the Fence, Green Ink Poetry, Fragmented Voices, and Dreich magazine. Stephen's Facebook group Molecules Unlimited is growing quickly and its third online poetry event is due to take place in April 2023.





 











Bill Jenkinson


figures



Kadmos sowed teacher and class

his victim’s teeth their feet

a crop sprang up repeating

to fight and kill the horizon

(children's eyes half-hidden)

dressed

against a wall

with stones

like teeth

his collar

tie and suit

a strange positioning

of arms and hands

as if to hold an absent register

eyes turned along the line

survivors settled the tallest child

made letters well below his shoulder

set the law

they know

the circle’s power


Figures and its Poetic Form


My ambition when preparing to write figures was to find a form to match the enigmatic, powerful nature of its subject: a school teacher and his class, photographed outside, standing on the grass in a line dressed against a stone wall. The children have no shoes.


This poem is part of an ongoing cycle, a dialogue with my grandfather, who took photographs, of which this is one, on a vist to the islands of Inishkea North and Inishglora in 1902.


To place the poem on paper, I decided to use the photograph-album format, dominated by its rectangular frame. This says: this image is cut off from me. I know nothing of its contents beyond what I can see. Each photograph is a world in itself, black and white, stark and uncompromising: bare hillsides without trees, the cabins on Inishkea North without roads or gardens, surrounded by the sea.


For me, this photograph detonates a multiple sense of loss – for my grandfather and for the islanders


they know

the circle’s power


in particular for the teacher and his class, who have vanished. I felt the need to hold these powerful emotions in a framework, so I set out the poem rigourously in two columns to give a strong structure of vertical and horizontal lines, like a map or a mathematical proof, suggested by the composition of the photograph. To match the exposed environment of the island, I opted for a short line buffeted by white space. The islanders were self-reliant and uncontainable, so the final decision was for an open form, which would instantiate their restless struggle for existence, as well as their gentleness and care for each other.


Bill Jenkinson

Bill Jenkinson is interested in the relationship between poetry and photographs, as well as in translating. He recently published Qatar of the Dead, translated from the French Qatar des Morts by Lauren Margantin. He has been involved with Oxford Stanza Two since 2011, during which time he helped set up the Oxford-Bonn link with the 'Dada ist alles gut' group of German poets. He is working on a collection of poems under the working title “The Islands”.

Rachael Clyne


La Cuisine de L’Amour i.m. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

Alice wore her blue gown and slight moustache. Wherever Gertrude went, Alice was sure to go. Their love was a chalice, their home a palace, or at least their petit château. Alice prepared:


plat de cabanon royal à la portmanteau

~§~

pintade à la crème de truffes

~§~

chemise en cocotte



Whatever Alice made, Gertrude ate her little pussy-wujum-pujum’s offerings and fed bread and fish to Basket, despite the rule. Basket was a poodle, a noodle-doodle, Aunty was an ambulance that Gertrude drove, delivering medical supplies, fetching wounded from the front at Ypres.

She said: There is love between someone who is someone and another someone who is everything.


Always le déjeuner sublime,

rich enough for a genius, a them and us,

endless soirées with all the best artistes:


PicassoCézanneMatisseDaliBraqueApollinaire

~§~

et l’oncle Tomme de Cobblie et tous.


Alice was

~§~

her key holder,

her crème de vache,

her dance card,

her deal-breaker,

her typist très rapide,

son éditeur-en-chef,

son coup de poitrine,

son fait accompli.



Rachael Clyne from Glastonbury, is widely published in journals, most recently Atrium, Spelt & Ink Sweat and Tears. Her prizewinning collection, Singing at the Bone Tree (Indigo Dreams), concerns our broken connection with nature. Her pamphlet, Girl Golem (4word.org) explores her Jewish migrant heritage. Her new collection, You’ll Never Be Anyone Else, explores aspects of identity and a sense of 'otherness' and will be published by Seren, this coming April.

Jane Thomas


Your Permutation Poem

(after Auguste Deter)


I have lost myself

have I lost myself

I lost have myself

lost I have myself


have lost I myself

lost have I myself

I have myself lost

have I myself lost


I myself have lost

myself I have lost

have myself I lost

myself have I lost


I lost myself have

lost I myself have

I myself lost have

myself I lost have


lost myself I have

myself lost I have

have lost myself I

lost have myself I


Note. Dr Alzheimer’s original patient Auguste Deter would often be unable to answer his questions and would repeat Ich habe mich verloren – I have lost myself.

Jane Thomas has recently been highly commended in The Rialto Pamphlet, Poetry Wales Pamphlet and Live Canon Collection. Single poems have been highly commended in the Bridport, Fish, and Hippocrates prizes and published in: Stand, The Rialto, Envoi, Mslexia and The ORB. Her work has been included in anthologies including NAHR, Ver Poets, Hippocrates and Glean & Graft.

She is an active member of Oxford Stanza II and Ver Poets and occasional reviewer for Sphinx.


https://www.janethomas.org/


Carl Tomlinson

Lady Beatrice Henriques speaks to her butler, one morning in late July 1915


Ashmolean Museum WA1957.51.5


“Would you take a shilling McDonald for

the telegram girl at the servants’ door

then fold this table and take it away.

I shan’t play cards with my ladies today.”




Carl Tomlinson lives on a smallholding in the North Oxfordshire countryside. His poems have been published in South, Orbis, and in competition anthologies. Known to many for his hosting of reading in the Abingdon Arms and Live in the Time of Coronavirus. He has just published his first book, Changing Places, with Fair Acre Press. He is currently working on poems about industrial painting and also on Oxford.


Michael Klimeš


Learning the Argentinian Tango

The teachers instruct us to watch

as they precisely place hand in hand

and analyse how to properly stand

before they launch;

follow the theory:

try to calculate where to land

as the mind struggles -

how not to lose balance?

But you can only find melody in a score

and begin to move forward

by pushing against each other more,

feeling is what opens the door

to spin from axis to axis

as logic cannot tango on the floor.



Michael Klimes is a financial journalist. He has attended several online poetry classes over the last year at City Lit taught by John Stammers, Billie Manning and Ella Frears. He has been published in City Lit’s 2020 anthology Between the Lines and One Hand Clapping magazine, as well as previously in Poetry Worth Hearing.

Andrew Dixon


Climbing the Anthologies

(a response to Elegy for Minor Poets by Louis MacNeice)

You go ahead, the high ground is not for me

I’ll watch from here as you climb out of sight

to reappear on some distinctive peak

a high point of superiority

gained by ambition and ability.


You go ahead, the high ground is not for me

I’m for the foothills and the coastal plain

the river widening towards the estuary

the seasons, sunsets, tides, the wind-curled

waves - that incorrigibly plural world.


You go ahead, the high ground is not for me.

Some say it’s the chance of lightning draws you on,

but there is lightning sometimes lower down.

I’ve had my moments too, (rare admittedly)

a tingling spine, the charge of electricity.


You go ahead, the high ground is not for me.

You climb above the snow line, that is for sure,

but we can see the snow from where we are

and if your mountain fox is an enigma

our foxes are approachable, familiar.


You go ahead, the high ground is not for me.

It’s better that I watch from here, look up to you

and you look back, but never, please, look down,

and never, never doubt our seriousness.

We too are poets in our ways. All of us.




Andrew Dixon's professional life was as a scientist, a career which he found very rewarding. If asked, he now describes himself as a 'developing' writer. In the spirit of this edition of PWH he has put this in writing...


Andrew Dixon...


Lived his life in science,

in Optical Microscopy,

but always he would travel

with a book of poetry.


Now, he is retired and

leads life differently.

In the sense and sounds of language

he explores new ways to see.





Trisha Broomfield


Dunking Digestives - a Pantoum


We dunked Digestives in our tea,

allowed sunlight to soften smiles

to happiness this was the key.

We sat upon the sun soaked tiles


allowed sunlight to soften smiles.

This simple act connects us still.

We sat upon the sun soaked tiles

the scent of rosemary, and dill.


This simple act connects us still,

the memory of carefree days,

the scent of rosemary, and dill.

It matters to preserve these ways,


the memory of carefree days.

Sometimes silent, at times we’d chat.

It matters to preserve these ways.

You wore your yellow ribboned hat;


sometimes silent, at times we’d chat,

to happiness this was the key.

You wore your yellow ribboned hat.

We dunked Digestives in our tea.



Trisha Broomfield has three poetry pamphlets published by Dempsey and Windle and featured in many anthologies. Recently she has joined two other poets to form The Booming Lovelies, who performed their poems for the first time at the launch of Poems for Ukraine, an Anthology by Poetry Performance in Kingston, which also included their work. Her poems are featured monthly in a local magazine and she also appears regularly at a local poetry venue. She and the other ‘Lovelies’ will be teaching monthly poetry workshops on poetry forms from January. Her poems can be found on Facebook, Trisha Broomfield Poetry, Instagram magentapink22 and have been featured in the online magazine Spilling Cocoa over Martin Amis.



Kate Oldfield


Liwuli: on going to a wedding alone and not getting drunk

Alternate. Be wary of a negative outcome

if too twinkly with the barman when alone.

Surf sobriety, slightly.

Dancing will highlight

the singular hours

and the couples.

Just one question then:

vodka or champagne?



Kate Oldfield is a writing mentor and hosts writing and creativity workshops. She lives in central Oxford wrangling teenagers and words by day but at night dreams of the hills of North Yorkshire where she was bought up.


 


Claire Cox

Born in Hong Kong, Claire now lives and works in Oxfordshire. She is co-founder and Associate Editor at ignitionpress, winner of the 2021 Michael Marks Publishers’ Award. Claire recently completed a part-time practice-based PhD with Royal Holloway, University of London, studying poetry and disaster. Her poems have been published in magazines and online, including Ink, Sweat & Tears, Magma, Spelt, Envoi, Butcher’s Dog, Anthropocene, Lighthouse and Poetry Salzburg Review. She was one of three winning poets included in Primers: Volume Five (Nine Arches Press, 2020), and the winner of the 2020 Wigtown Alastair Reid Pamphlet Prize.



 

That's all for this episode. For the next episode, I would be particularly interested in poems about work - the day job - whether you love it or hate it. However, good poems on any theme are always welcome. Please send contributions as a recording of 4 minutes of unpublished poems together with the texts and a short up-to-date bio to poetryworthhearing@gmail.com.

Suggestions and comments should be sent to the same address.






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