Monday 31 October 2022

Karlo Sevilla : part five

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry? 

The burden of finding the best word and syntax, along with the awareness that revision may be perpetual. 

Sunday 30 October 2022

Diana Rosen : coda

As a journalist and nonfiction book author, I’ve written primarily about tea for many years. As the Chinese saying goes, “One never lives long enough to learn everything there is to know about tea.” I feel the same way about poetry. Every poet I read, every class I take, every textbook I peruse tells me something to consider in the reading and the writing of poetry. While I feel most comfortable writing free verse, the discipline and challenge of switching it up by writing the occasional villanelle or a sonnet, the charm of learning alternative international forms like ghazels or haiku continuously excites me; it’s always a thrill to try something new to me. 

Saturday 29 October 2022

Frances Klein : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I use the strategy of micro-edits to revise poems--doing targeted revisions on just one aspect at a time (sound, line, word choice). After I’ve gone through my normal edits, I’ll let the poem sit for awhile to get some distance. After some time away, I can tell that the piece is either done, or that it needs to be totally reimagined.

Friday 28 October 2022

Matthew M. C. Smith : part five

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Where do I start? I have some cracking anthologies. I’ve been reading 100 Poems to Save the Earth by Seren Books. Some beautiful, heartbreaking work in there; also the inaugural issue of The Storms, which is full of excellent work – a glossy publication. Arachne Press have the A470 Road anthology, which is bilingual and is made up of poems on the theme of this Welsh road that crosses South to North.

I often read R.S. Thomas, the Welsh poet, and would recommend No Truce with the Furies, blistering poems at the end of this priest’s life. I’d recommend Rae Howells’ first collection with Parthian, The Language of Bees, and I’ll be reading Mari Ellis Dunning’s 2nd collection soon.

Thursday 27 October 2022

Jenna Jarvis : coda

I don’t know what I’m doing, but I do know that ‘coda’ is a musical term. I have questions of my own. What comes after graduation? If I missed half of the Y2K revival era’s Y2K bug–if I missed half of the COVID-19 pandemic because I was in Taiwan, where community transmission wasn’t a thing until the rest of the world’s fourth wave–have I missed my chance at relatability? Would people like to do poetry karaoke? Did poetry karaoke happen without me?

Wednesday 26 October 2022

Katerina Canyon : part nine

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I recently discovered a poet by the name of Matthew Johnson. His collection Shadow Folk and Soul Songs is spectacular. I highly recommend it. I'm also slowly reading Tracy K. Smith's book Such Color.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

john compton : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

when the poem tells me it no longer wants more length. when that last line bursts and to add anymore would be to ruin the whole poem. there is no definitive answer for me to this question. sometimes i am afraid if i move forward the poem will no longer be what it set out to intend. after i take a few breathes, i begin editing.

Monday 24 October 2022

Karlo Sevilla : part four

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Lately, the following quote from Jack Hirschman has convinced me more that one of poetry’s noble purposes is propaganda for progressive politics:

“I don’t have the negative association with the word, ‘propaganda.’ I believe all poetry is propaganda. For one or another reason, a love poem is a propaganda for love.” 


Marie Marchand : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I love this question! Music is one of the most important things in my life (even though I don’t play an instrument or sing, but not for lack of trying). I cannot imagine life without music! That may be why musicality is what draws me to a poem and why reading my work aloud during the composition and editing processes is such a valuable exercise to me.

Sunday 23 October 2022

Diana Rosen : part five

How does a poem begin?

Most of my poems begin either with an observation (people, places, things, incidents) during an ordinary day especially as someone who travels frequently by public transportation. Sources for narrative poetry like I enjoy writing are everywhere! The other way my poems begin is via prompts. One of the benefits of attending many freewrite workshops in person and online is that I no longer ponder when given a prompt, but immediately deep dive into subconscious/memory to bring up a topic whose time has arrived to be told.

Saturday 22 October 2022

Frances Klein : part one

Frances Klein (she/her) is a poet and teacher writing at the intersection of disability and gender. She is the author of the chapbooks New and Permanent (Blanket Sea 2022) and The Best Secret (Bottlecap Press 2022). Klein currently serves as assistant editor of Southern Humanities Review. Readers can find more of her work at

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on putting together my first full-length collection, which is both intimidating and exciting. At the moment the process involves selecting previous works to include, as well as writing and revising new poems to fit with the themes and motifs I want the collection to center.

Friday 21 October 2022

Matthew M. C. Smith : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Creative tensions abound in writing poetry. When poets start out and are unpublished, there’s often more freedom and risk-taking. I think a lot of writers would agree that once they start to get their poetry published they become more aware of editors and readers and dissect their own work. This has pros and cons because it means the quality control antennae are out but this can also be inhibiting. I’m generalising here – everyone is different - but having spoken to a lot of writers and read accounts of the process, this seems pretty accurate to me. 

It's also easy to rehash and refashion earlier pieces of writing and regurgitate ideas and themes. You can see this as development and playing with ideas but there are times when I see repetition in my own work and have to take out the surgeon’s knife. This is about discipline and trying to be expansive. All too easy to be circular in subjects and themes and play it safe.

Finally, I’d say putting together a collection is difficult. You can be blinded by choice in terms of pieces of writing to choose for a book and also go down a certain route (thematic, non-thematic), then want to park this approach and start again. Taking time and getting second and third opinions helps with coming to a more concrete idea of what you want to create. There’s no such thing as perfect or right so it’s all about choice in the end. Changes can be made in a second edition so being calm about it is best!

Thursday 20 October 2022

Susie Meserve : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

I have an interesting reaction to this question, because in addition to being a poet I’m a musician and songwriter, and while for many folks those art forms are siblings—or maybe cousins—writing songs feels very different to me than writing poems. I’ve really struggled to write decent song lyrics! I want to approach a song like I approach a poem, but that doesn’t work so well. To me, it feels like a totally different muscle, and I’ve been humbled by the incredible songwriters in the world who manage to rhyme and give us an ear worm and yet also do something lyrically fresh.

But maybe that’s not what you meant. Musical language is incredibly important to me; I’m always reading my drafts aloud to listen for off-rhyme and syllabics and line length (and sometimes I purposefully mess with all of that, and create lines that aren’t so musical, to indicate distress or ugliness or the like). When I had a first draft of my current manuscript, “Refloating,” I tried to create a sense of music not just within each poem but between them throughout the manuscript. This meant being careful not to repeat adjectives, say, but to purposefully repeat certain nouns and verbs, to create echoes. I remember discovering after I’d sent it out that I’d used the verb “coax” in two poems that were too close together and kind of freaking out. Ha!

I love playing with stuff like that. It’s the joy of the work, to me.

Jenna Jarvis : part five

How important is music to your poetry?

Call me sophomoric, or call me Manahil Bandukwala’s evil twin. Pop music helps me figure out popular sensibility. Specifically, pop music lyrics attune me to that pop sensibility. What do people like? How do people read, listen, consume? Not to contradict Jarvis Cocker, whose lyric sheets ask audiences to compartmentalize reading and listening, but, when it comes to pop music and karaoke renditions, I and most people I know read the words and listen to the song simultaneously. When Manahil launched MONUMENT, I followed along with my copy. Reading her words and listening to her intonations and pauses stuck the poems in my mind. I dream of doing a karaoke-styled reading with poems scrolling through a display. 

(I really don’t mean anything by contradicting Jarvis Cocker. I have been a Pulp devotee ever since my elementary school teachers banned me from searching for my first name on Google because of Jenna Jameson and suggested that I Google my surname.)

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Katerina Canyon : part eight

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

Audre Lorde and her book Sister Outsider changed the way I saw myself and the way I saw poetry. I learned how poetry belonged to Black women because it was something that we could do anywhere. It is an art of economy. It is an art that gives us power. You can write poetry on a napkin and stick it in your pocket. It can carry the weight of the world, and it can fit on the tiniest slip of paper. How amazing is that?

Tuesday 18 October 2022

john compton : part one

john compton is a gay poet who lives in kentucky with his husband and dogs and cats. his 3d full length book is the castration of a minor god [ghost city press; dec 2022]

What are you working on?

i am currently working on my fourth full length collection "the calling hour & an exposition of the dead." it is a collection of poems about the dying, dead and death — in various forms and stages. it is finished as a collection, now i am in the editing process. 

i am also working on promoting my third full length book the castration of a minor god [ghost city press: dec 2022]. it is the first book that i will be able to hype up with poetry readings, send to reviews and awards and be that real type of poet!

Monday 17 October 2022

Karlo Sevilla : part three

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Numbers matter. The longer the poem, the more words, lines, and stanzas that have to be kept in check. Monostichs, couplets, tercets, and quatrains, I can consider being in their final and eternal form in less than an hour. Longer ones, let’s say any poem of at least 10 lines, may take me and our Rat’s Ass Review online poetry workshop a few days.

I’m sure that it’s normal for serious writers to give any work a second to nth look, and revise accordingly until they are satisfied. The various modern poetic forms and styles aside, I’m still particular with “traditional” grammar, spelling, and punctuation. If there appears to be any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation error in my poem, most likely I’m just plain wrong – and not because I’m experimenting or “practicing” literary license or whatever. And until I’ve edited out such errors, a poem remains unfinished.

And like any poet, I have my own subjective standards on what makes a fine poem. Achieving its finest form is like ironing clothes: once I‘ve removed all that I perceive as wrinkles, it’s final and good to wear outside. However, I’m always more confident with poems that are workshopped, that benefited from the inputs of my incisive peers. But sometimes, an awkward line goes unnoticed even in a most extensively workshopped poem. One poem that was workshopped for three days was eventually published with the following problematic line: “I am ‘not (nor) sweet like Mary.’" (I’ve rectified this line and the poem will be included in the website I mentioned in the first part of this interview.)

Marie Marchand : part four

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Having inspiration and discipline meet up at the same place and time. Because I work full-time, I write every day 5:45-7 a.m. with more time on the weekends to really develop any seeds of poems I collect during the week. I still have yet to discover the art of funneling inspiration into the routine that I have available to me. Most often, my morning pages aren’t poetry, but more journaling, processing, and even jotting to-do lists. If I’m lucky, I plant some seeds to return to when I have more free time.

Sunday 16 October 2022

Diana Rosen : part four

Why is poetry important?

The concision of most poems crystalizes moments of emotions/transitions/connections that humans need to help them through both the everyday and the extraordinary occasion. It’s been wonderful to learn that people who do not ordinarily read poetry turn to it when they need emotional relief during political upheavals or a crisis of illness. We are lucky to live in an area where access to the Internet and online resources in local libraries give people increased access to so many poets around the world. That is important, and possibly unifying, in helping us all move toward understanding that the appearance of differences in culture and creed is superficial; that underneath all of us are similar desires to ease loneliness, give us courage, find love, nourish ourselves with the written word. The poet, Ukrainian-born Ilya Kaminsky, wrote in the New York Times, “I ask how can I help…Finally, an older friend, a lifelong journalist, writes back: ‘Putins come and go. If you want to help, send us some poems and essays. We are putting together a literary magazine.’” Kaminsky adds, “In the middle of war, he is asking for poems.”

Saturday 15 October 2022

Caroline Gill : part five

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book that you return to? A particular author?

May I be greedy? The truth is that I return to several poems and poets when I feel in need of a lift. 

Perhaps I can begin with George Herbert, whose marriage of craft and content seems to me to be exemplary. I admire the concrete nature of ‘Easter Wings’. As a child I was fascinated by the final verse of ‘The Elixir’ (‘This is the famous stone ...’). As an adult, I find myself returning to the poem we know as ‘Love’ (‘Love bade me welcome ...’).

I have already mentioned ‘The Lady of Shalott’ in an earlier question, but I feel I must include Tennyson’s classic poem here. I can recite parts of it by heart and am often drawn back to this poem by the narrative, the fairytale element, the imagery of the mirror and the web, not forgetting the wonderful ‘soundscape’ evoked by the shivering aspen and the quiver of raindrops in the stream. 

I have known and loved Cornwall all my life, and would like to mention two poems here that I read over and over again. There are, in fact, many poems about the county that I could mention, written by a variety of authors ranging from Betjeman to Ursula K. Le Guin, and Hardy to W.S. Graham; but for the purpose of this interview, I will restrict myself to ‘Cadgwith’ by Lionel Johnson and ‘Zennor’ by Anne Ridler. Cornwall was home to my elderly relations when I was a young child. It was the setting for family visits, and later for holidays on the Lizard. I chose a verse from the Johnson poem as my epigraph at the front of Driftwood by Starlight, my first full poetry collection, and I nominated ‘Zennor’ as a favourite poem for the BBC’s Poetry Please programme some years ago. ‘Cadgwith’, it seems to me, evokes in a few short lines something of the sense of wonder that I have experienced on the occasions when I have stood under the stars, listening to the waves breaking on the shore of a Cornish cove. ‘Zennor’ fascinates me with its ever-shifting coastal perspectives. The mention of the rocky, sloping hamlet of ‘Amalveor’ in the final stanza seems for a moment to ground the poem, before the sea forces its way back in again in the final line. I find the very name, ‘Amalveor’, evokes the rugged landscape of Penwith, a place that means so much to me.   

Friday 14 October 2022

Matthew M. C. Smith : part three

Has your consideration of poetry changed since you began?

Yes, since taking poetry seriously in 2018 I realise more and more how many talented writers are out there and how few ever make it – by this, I mean win awards, get a collection published by a press, get circulated, read and reviewed, earn any kind of royalties from their work, etc. 

Some of the most compelling, inventive, fresh writing I have encountered has been by completely unheralded writers who will probably stay that way because they’re not fashionable or good at promotion. The resources are pretty low in poetry – a tiny amount of poets get any sort of meaningful support that gets them any sort of following and readership and it’s a shame about the talent-drain – you can see on social media that a lot of writers get disheartened and turn away. But you have to be tenacious and work hard, then have that bit of luck that people will recognise your talent and push you up above the parapet. The rewards in poetry are pretty vague but, as I say, one of them is to get some appreciative readers, shift some books and get asked to be involved in different projects.

I assumed that the most talented were the ones with the highest accolades but this is exceptionally naïve. Like any industry it relies on talent and persistence but also what you know, who you know and whether your work is a viable product.

Andrea McKenzie Raine : part five

How does a poem begin?

A poem can begin with a memory, desire, observation – a message the poet want to convey. Often, I would write a preamble to ‘set up’ the poem. I had a wonderful mentor who would read my preamble, and promptly strike it out, saying “your poem beings here.” The first 2/3 of the poem may have been taken out. The beginning of the poem should be the crux of the poem; the core experience of the poem where the moment is occurring, even if the moment shifts from that point.

Thursday 13 October 2022

Susie Meserve : part four

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

Recent collections that have made a deep impression on me include The Tradition by Jericho Brown, Instant Winner and The Life by Carrie Fountain, The Carrying by Ada Limón, Citizen by Claudia Rankine, Space, in Chains by Laura Kasischke, Hundred Year Wave by Rachel Richardson, In the Time of PrEP by Jacques Rancourt, and some essential ecopoetry anthologies, like Black Nature (edited by Camille Dungy) and The Ecopoetry Anthology (edited by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street).

Jenna Jarvis : part four

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t. I outsource that decision-making to friends (er, ‘peers’). When they run out of feedback to offer, I’m done. When my attention runs out, I’m done. I write in an abbreviated medium and call the habit pithy instead of inattentive, but I don’t hold editing for conciseness to be the only kind of editing. I don’t think that ‘additive’ is a dirty word.

Wednesday 12 October 2022

Katerina Canyon : part seven

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry? 

Writing good poetry requires a tremendous amount of vulnerability. Opening yourself up like that is very difficult. It is the hardest part of the job.

Monday 10 October 2022

Karlo Sevilla : part two

How did you first engage with poetry?

I started writing poetry with confidence around 1988, when my sophomore high school English teacher Ms. Ilonah de Jesus complimented me after a haiku writing exercise. I’ll never forget that moment because at that time I still lacked confidence in my writing skills. So it was a sweet surprise when she declared, “So, we have a poet in our class: Karlo Sevilla.” 

Marie Marchand : part three

Why is poetry important?

Poetry is a doorway to sacred expression. The Chinese character for poetry (shih) combines “word” and “temple.” The sacredness comes from honesty about deep things (thoughts, fears, traumas, even hopes) that might normally stay hidden by the human psyche. Through the brave act of revealing, we connect with others. This is the where the redemptive value of poetry resides—as a reminder that we all belong.

Sunday 9 October 2022

Diana Rosen : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I always have a pile, and dipping in is my reading style, but several books lately have mesmerized me: Kim Dower’s I Wore This Dress Today for You, Mom which showcases her delightful wit and sense of irony and a good dash of pathos. She is a master of the twist ending. An older work is Picnic on the Moon from Charles Coe who is both a poet and a singer and his musicality rocks these poems like “Get on Up!” about taking his mom to a James Brown concert. It cheers me no end to re-read it on dark days. I love reading memoir and bios and a version of that in poetry and prose is Marcela Sulak’s Mouth Full of Seeds which I still have not completed. It is so intense a view of sorrow and joy, a meditation on life, especially that of a woman with many roles thrust upon her. Each summer, for my birthday, I buy a coveted book, and this year’s is The Heart of American Poetry edited by Edward Hirsch whose interview on a Library of America zoom-cast delighted and intrigued because he has chosen such a lovely and atypical variety of poets to embrace.

Saturday 8 October 2022

Caroline Gill : part four

What are you working on?

I am in the final stages of preparing my crown of sonnets for publication in 2023. It is entitled Polar Corona and was awarded First Prize in a Hedgehog Poetry Press Competition earlier in the year. The interlinked sonnets that comprise the crown concern Antarctic exploration and penguins. Driftwood by Starlight (The Seventh Quarry Press, 2021), my first full poetry collection, included poems that touched on conservation issues and the climate crisis. These are themes that will surface once again in Polar Corona. 

Homer continues to be a source of inspiration, and I have a file in which I place my Odyssey- and Iliad-inspired poems as they appear. Perhaps one day they will be published in a pamphlet. And meanwhile, I have enrolled on a Poetry School course on Robert Frost, so I look forward to studying his work and responding with poems of my own in the coming weeks. 

Friday 7 October 2022

Matthew M. C. Smith : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I don’t think poems are ever finished, even if they have a finished, complete feel to them. If you give your poem to different editors, most of them will easily be able to identify things they’d modify and often they have a point! The idea of completing a poem is probably an illusion but a satisfying one in terms of a sense of achievement. For me, it’s important to identify in the first place that genius words don’t just pour forth from an inspired poet but that it takes concentration, focus, a degree of control and patient drafting before a poem has that hard-to-define special, finished quality. Then there’s gauging responses from an audience and getting feedback – if that matters to you as a writer. I find that running poems by honest poetry friends is really useful in tightening up your work and clearing up any confusing, sloppy and non-sensical parts. It’s key to find the right poetry friends who are fantastic writers and constructive readers. It takes this growth mindset and looking at your work over time that ensures progress in poetic development.

Andrea McKenzie Raine : part four

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms can’t?

Poetry evokes emotion, and a way to access complex emotions, by using rhythm, cadence and emphasis on language and sound. As well, through the use of metaphor, a poet can liken their experience, concrete and abstract, to tangible objects or concepts that are relatable for the reader.

Thursday 6 October 2022

Susie Meserve : part three

What poets changed the way you thought about writing?

So many. The first poem I ever adored, in part because it was familiar and yet also mysterious to me, was Muriel Rukeyser’s “Effort at Speech Between Two People.” Then I got into e.e. cummings. This was in high school, when I first started writing terrible abstract poetry (at least I was writing). Contemporary and Modern poetry blew my mind when I discovered it in college. Some of the poets who opened that world for me include Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, and of course William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens. Later, I began to love Robert Hass, Mark Halliday, Charles Wright, Anne Carson, Li Young Lee…I could go on forever. I have shelves upon shelves of poetry books. Looking back, it’s notable how few poets of color I read in the beginning. Luckily, that’s changed. 

Jenna Jarvis : part three

What are you working on?

Singles. Individual poems, although I’m following a life line: academia, expattery, (un[der])employment… at this stage, I should develop a manuscript. Should develop my internet presence on LinkedIn and Twitter (that is, LinkedIn for writers).

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Katerina Canyon : part six

What do you feel poetry can accomplish that other forms can’t? 

Poetry works very hard to earn our trust, and once the trust is earned, it strikes the heart. It is hard to get that trust in other forms because the audience is often waiting or looking for the hook. Poetry does not have a hook. It is pure.

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Jared Povanda : coda

I’m still so new to poetry, and I still have a lot to learn, but one thing I do know is that poetry is a beautiful art form that challenges and inspires and gets to the heart of humanity in such strange and true ways. I hope I can keep writing poems that resonate with readers, and I hope that poetry will always allow me to keep learning about the world.

Monday 3 October 2022

Karlo Sevilla : part one

Karlo Sevilla of Quezon City, Philippines is the author of the full-length poetry book Metro Manila Mammal (Soma Publishing, 2018) and the smaller collections You (Origami Poems Project, 2017) and Outsourced! . . . (Revolt Magazine, 2021). In 2018, his work was recognized among that year's Best of Kitaab, won runner-up in the Submittable-Centric Poetry Contest, and placed third in Tanggol Wika's DALITEXT poetry contest. In 2021, his poem made it to the shortlist of the annual Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition. His poems appear in Philippines Graphic, Philippines Free Press, DIAGRAM, Protean, Better Than Starbucks, and elsewhere. He is currently a student in the Associate in Arts program of the University of the Philippines Open University.

What are you working on?

I have just submitted almost 70 of my previously published poems (in several literary magazines and other platforms) for a website that will be put up exclusively for them. The website is a side project of a group of undergraduate university students who major in Multimedia Arts. It will serve as accompaniment to their final thesis: a short animated film inspired by my other poems. In short, both their final thesis and its side project are all about my poetry. These students are risking their college graduation by choosing my poetry as main source material for their thesis, haha! Seriously, I’m grateful to these young people for reaching out to me from out of the blue with their emailed proposal, and now they’re halfway done with their short film.

At first, I was ambivalent because I have long considered gathering my poems in a manuscript again for consideration for print publication as my second full-length poetry collection.  But I ultimately favored this student project and have a third of my previously published poems freely accessible in one website. I opted for the latter because I feel the urgency to make available online more texts that heighten awareness of human rights violations and social injustices in the Philippines that remain unresolved from the infamous Marcos dictatorship to the likewise murderous Duterte administration. Under our current president who happens to be the son and namesake of the late dictator, the administration has been lying and denying that such atrocities happened during his father’s reign. Worse, the son claims that the years under his father’s iron rule that was also marked by economic crisis was the Golden Age of our country. 

The poems I selected are invariably political propaganda pieces – on “different levels.” Collectively, they are a small voice/counter-propaganda, among others that give the lie to the government’s false narratives. (I’m also glad for this project because it gives me the chance to share my poems again, with needed revisions in some of them.)

Marie Marchand : part two

How do you know when a poem is finished?

I suspect a poem is nearing completion when I start writing less and reading aloud more; it’s a sign that the poem is coalescing and coming into its own. When it’s finished, there’s a whole-body experience of satisfaction—a celebration and, oftentimes, a desire to share the poem. So, I’ll give it to someone as a gift, publish it online, or submit it to a journal. Also, there’s a strong sense—a deep knowing—that the poem now exists as its own entity, almost like a child with its own identity, and it has an opportunity to go out into the world and have an impact outside of me. 

Sunday 2 October 2022

Diana Rosen : part two

What do you find most difficult about writing poetry?

Line breaks! So many factors go into the decision making, from the visual appearance on the page to the rhythm of them when reading the poem aloud, to choices of stanza styles. I’m sure that’s why a prose format with poetic turns is so appealing, especially when the basis of the poem is narrative rather than lyric.

Saturday 1 October 2022

Caroline Gill : part three

What other poetry books have you been reading lately?

I had the chance to explore John Clare’s cottage and garden in Helpston, UK, a few years ago and was enchanted with the setting. The visit made me keen to engage with Clare in a new way, so when I heard about The Gypsy and the Poet (Carcanet, 2013) by David Morley, I was delighted to be able to do just that. I have read Professor Morley’s collection several times and have discovered something fresh on each occasion, often in terms of the characterisation and dialogue between John Clare and Wisdom Smith. How wonderful it would be to sit outside in the firelight, joining in the colourful conversations between the protagonists.   

When I saw an advertisement for The Craft of Poetry: A Primer in Verse (Yale University Press, 2021) by Lucy Newlyn, I knew at once that the book would appeal to me. Newlyn, a poet and Emeritus Fellow in English at St Edmund’s Hall, Oxford, set herself the fascinating and ambitious task of ‘building a bridge between academic and practical methods of instruction’ in poetic techniques by writing new poems to illustrate the points she hoped to make. Curiously (in the light of my previous paragraph), the resulting volume is hailed as ‘a masterpiece about poetic process’ by David Morley. Poems, notably ‘The Thought Fox’ by Ted Hughes, about the writing of a poem, are not hard to source; but who would have thought of writing a Villanelle to describe, and indeed to show, the actual process of writing a poem in this form? Newlyn employs the same ‘verse-form specific’ approach when she tackles other forms, such as the Terza Rima, the Found Poem and the Sestina, in a seamless ream of words.  

At this point I would like to mention poetry collections by two poets who live in South Wales. What the Turtle Taught Me (Cinnamon Press, 2018) by Susan Richardson was Shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award and was written during the poet’s residency with the Marine Conservation Society. Each of the thirty poems concerns a threatened marine species. These poems are often witty and wistful at the same time. They are accompanied by an excellent essay entitled ‘Thirty Ways of Looking at the Sea’ in which the reader encounters not only the poet’s wonderful dexterity with words, but also her wildlife activist’s heart. 

The other collection with strong South Wales associations is Garden of Clouds, New and Selected Poems (Cross-Cultural Communications, New York, 2020) by Peter Thabit Jones. The poems range from lines that invite us into the poet’s childhood home, where he lived with his grandparents on the edge of Kilvey Hill in Swansea, to verses that whisk us across the Atlantic to California. Peter has enjoyed many two-month residencies in the famous Cabin at Big Sur above the Pacific Ocean. In ‘Edward Thomas in Swansea’, one of the poems in this collection, Peter (or the voice of the poet) explores the sense of dissatisfaction experienced by Thomas prior to the unleashing of his poems. 

The Leaping Hare and the Moon Daisy (Matador, 2021) by Jill Stanton-Huxton is a delightful book, and one that has left its mark on me. It was composed, at least in part, as a personal response to The Lost Words (2017), which was written by Robert Macfarlane and illustrated by Jackie Morris. Like me, Jill was saddened to learn that the editors of the Oxford Junior Dictionary had removed a significant number of ‘nature’ words to make room for ones that were felt more suitable for a technological and digital age. Jill’s enchanting poems were inspired by a chance meeting with a hare. They will appeal to adults and children alike. 

I have also been enjoying a couple of mini-anthologies in pamphlets produced by Candlestick Press. These exquisite pamphlets come with an envelope and a bookmark and are intended to be sent ‘instead of a card’. My choices, Ten Poems about Wildlife (2022), selected and introduced by Pascale Petit, and Ten Poems from the Coast (2022), selected and introduced by Miriam Darlington, come highly recommended, with their characteristic blend of the best of the old and the best of the new.