Archive for the ‘New poetry’ Category

A brooding genius and Lord Byron - Tim Cockburn

I’m delighted to be able to offer up some new poetry from one of my new favourite voices in UK poetry. I first read Tim’s work in the excellent anthology series Stop Sharpening Your Knives where he has featured in every issue. In the 4th, the most recent, his poetry is masterful – witty, emotionally concise and with a very dry irony running throughout it.

He’s one of the many excellent poets coming out of the University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing masters which, incidentally, one of my other favourite young poets (Sophie Collins) has just started. And, recently, Tim has recently been given the green light on a Salt Modern Poets pamphlet (the cover of which is below). Hopefully this will be the start of a much wider recognition for a young poet that already has such a distinct voice. Below are two new poems, both of which feature in his pamphlet.



Useful links for Tim Cockburn

Eyewear – There are a few of Tim’s poems online on Todd Swift’s blog. These poems are among those of Tim’s that feature in SSYK 4
George Szirtes’ blog – One of my favourites of Tim’s is up on George Szirtes blog, and it is absolutely wonderful
Zebra Blogs – this is the blog that Tim writes for.

Appearances in the Bentinck Hotel - Tim Cockburn's forthcoming pamphlet from Salt

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After a short summer hiatus, Selected Poems at the V&A Reading Rooms was back on an unseasonal balmy night in September.

We were celebrating the launch of Days of Roses’ first poetry anthology, with readers from the book and, as a headliner, the wonderful Christopher Reid, author of the Costa Book Prize winner A Scattering.

Declan Ryan

Declan Ryan, one of the editors of Days of Roses anthology, started the night off with a few of his pieces. What I love about Declan’s work, beyond his thematics and his effective, subtle forms, is his way that he writes for people. It gives the work such a personal resonance, reminiscent of the New York school. But what the work may lack in a conversational tone, it prospers in emotional dexterity, witty observations and admiration.

Lydia Macpherson and Christopher Reid

The next poet to read was Lydia Macpherson. Lydia, although admitting that she doesn’t read that often, absolutely killed it. Her work in the anthology is amongst the best in the book. Her work is incredibly luxurious – green curtains, milk drinks in the afternoon – it’s indulgent (not in the bad way).

Lydia's captive audience

What she read on the night was short and incredibly captivating. This is the first time I had heard Lydia read and I am thoroughly hoping that her reading on the night breaks the cycle of her not reading.

Malene Engelund

Starting the second half was Malene Engelund, the other editor of the Days of Roses anthology. Her work is intense, understated and concise – it reminds me of Ian Hamilton.

It’s a poetry about intimacy of love and friendship, from electric can openers to wings folding in and out of each other. She gave an excellent reading, which began an excellent second part.

Liz Berry

The penultimate reader, Liz Berry, gave one of the best readings of Selected Poems at the V&A Reading Rooms series (a bold statement, I know). Being a primary school teacher, she can deliver a story with excellent cadence and emphasis, so much so that it immediately engages the audience.

She read mainly new poems on the night – dialectic poems based based in Liz’s native Black Country, poems on a fish wife’s marriage and much more. I don’t think there was a person in the room who wasn’t totally enraptured by her reading.

Christopher Reid

We were very lucky to have as a headline reader the wonderful Christopher Reid – a poetic stalwart who’s reading consisted of one part of a long poem about a professor attending a series of lectures at a seaside town. The piece followed the professor around the lecture hall and the beaches, as he ponders on his lost love and the memories they shared with each other.

Needless to say he gave an excellent reading, and was a wonderful way to end the evening. Several delicious Australian beers later, the poets dispersed…to the four corners of London, and the pub.

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I am delighted to be able to feature some of the newest work by one of my favourite up and coming UK poets – Rachael Allen.

Rachael Allen reading at the Betsy Trotwood, London

Rachael is one of the founding members of Clinic, which has become a by-word in South London for innovative and engaging new art and poetry. As well as curating art shows and gigs, they have also put out two very well-received poetry anthologies, featuring a menagerie of new and talented poetic talents.

But it’s Rachael’s poetic talents that we’re celebrating here. The new pieces below, which have been kindly donated by Rachael, are influenced by the meme-generating website 4chan. Each of the poems in this series takes its title, and some of the material, from the forum headings on the site.

These 4Chan poems provide an echo chamber between the internet and a writer. As much as the headings collate the website’s posts from forum members, they also provide a scaffolding for the poet’s own experience. These poems are deeply personal and at the same time address images we all know in one way or another from the internet.





Useful links for Rachael Allen

Days of Roses – The wonderful Days of Roses blog has some new poems by Rachael on this.
Granta submissions – two of Rachael’s articles about poetry on Granta’s website
Clinic – the website of the art collective of which Rachael Allen is one of the founding members.

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Now we’re in to the swing of the Selected Poet series, I’m glad to present the third poet in the series – Martin Jackson. He has kindly sent over four new poems for us at Selected Poems are delighted to publish.

Below the poems are a few interesting links to follow if you are interested in finding out more about Martin’s work.

Martin Jackson

The first I heard of Martin was at the Eric Gregory Awards 2011 ceremony. He was one of the winners of the awards, alongside Kim Moore, Tom Chivers and Niall Campbell. He has told me that he hasn’t had many chances to read his work to an audience, an aspect of his writing career that is sure to change pretty quickly, as soon as people start reading more of his work.

Having worked for several large advertising agencies, you could argue that this has had an effect on Martin’s work – making his poetry concise, punchy and memorable. What’s more striking in his work is his preoccupation with the elsewhere – whether it is his love of maps (which comes across strongly in the first poem here) or the stripping back of a work of poetry (or fiction, he’s writing a novel at the moment, too) to allow it to actually convey the image of another place.

I am sure you will start to see Martin read his work more commonly, and I am delighted to have new works on the blog.

Geographers’ A-Z Map Co., LTD

Reading away one hundred words

The Survey of Robinson’s books begins

In solitaria, robinsonner

Useful links for Martin Jackson:

Days of Roses – Three new poems of his are published on the excellent Days of Roses blog
Ministry of Stories: Minister of the Month
– more details about Martin’s literary career over at the Ministry of Stories website
Eric Gregory – find out more about the Eric Gregory poetry award

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Following on from the first Selected Poet, Jen Calleja, I am very excited to bring you the second writer in our Selected Poet series. Toby Martinez de las Rivas, who read at the Clinic Selected Poems event, has kindly sent over three very new poems, which can be found below.

There are some useful link to more of Toby’s work underneath the new poems.

Toby Martinez de las Rivas (photo taken from New Writing North Flickr site - http://www.flickr.com/photos/newwritingnorth/)

I first came across Toby when I was watching the Faber New Poets video diary on the Faber blog The Thought Fox. I had been a fan of Jack Underwood’s work and decided to buy the other 3 Faber New Poets pamphlets. Toby’s pamphlet is a collection that I keep going back to, and it was great to hear him read some pieces from it at Selected Poems.

What I like about Toby’s work is the duality of it – how it exists on the page and on the ear. On the page it can appear complex and very intriguing, but on the ear it is incredibly lyrical and often humorous.

The pieces below were part of a longer set he performed in June. I won’t go too much in to them, because I don’t think I could do them justice. But I will say  Toby is a really exciting poet and a huge inspiration to a lot of burgeoning talent and it is a pleasure to host his new work on the blog. If you have trouble reading the pieces, you can enlarge them by clicking on them.




Useful links for Toby Martinez de las Rivas

Faber New Poets video diary – The first episode of the Faber New Poets tour around the country a few years ago. An interesting and often hilarious insight in to the lives of a touring young poet.
Eyewear blog about Toby – another piece of new work by Toby, this time on Todd Swift’s blog Eyewear
Toby’s pamphlet on the Faber websiteyou can find out more about Toby’s Faber pamphlet here.

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Allen Ginsberg - drawing by William Duignan

The lovely Claire Askew from OneNightStanzas has made a chapbook celebrating, what would be, Allen Ginsberg’s 85th birthday. The chapbook, called Starry Rhymes, features work inspired by Ginsberg poems from top notch poets from all around the country including, surprisingly, me.

The poem I received to draw inspiration from was ‘A Strange Cottage in Berkley’ – which is one of my favourites of Ginsberg’s oeuvre. I felt that the piece was about finding yourself at a home away from home. So the piece I wrote, which is below, is about me finding a home in Brockley, Lewisham, where I currently reside.

You can find out more info about Starry Rhymes by clicking here. When the chapbook is available to buy I will put up a link. For the meantime, here is my piece:

A strange green house in Brockley – Alex MacDonald

For Malpas

All afternoon clipping back belongings, boxed in Perspex the packets
of letters with the scrawling handwriting of young women.
I found nothing, their promises bore no flowering fruit, miscellaneous in
amongst postcards and paperbacks.
But the bust of Blake with boiled egg eyes rested swell on the mantelpiece,
Under the glare of roebuck taxidermy, his ears cocked for change.
We swept the bay leaves shaken by the winds, bound the branches and
offered them to the neighbourhood, seasoning the stew
Of families in a three mile radius. The cats rifled through receipts,
Like bank clerks, complete with black suits,
And the Turkish leaf molokhia hung strawberry-shaped in the pillowcases of
elderly women.
I had found home in green pebbledash and sighed presently: my reward
When I rested my head, my thoughts ran like idiots out of my mouth, making
a sandwich out of my tongue and notebook.

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Anyone who vaguely reads this blog knows my affection and admiration for the paintings of Francis Bacon. There is something in them that I find hugely inspirational and intriguing about them. Partly because of the style he developed through his career and, perhaps most intriguing, the absence of apparent meaning.

Francis Bacon in his studio

Bacon insisted that he was just painting ‘what he saw’ and that he had no interest in ‘fantasy’, which stretched to meaning ‘no interest in narrative’ – he merely wanted to paint ‘reality’. But its easy to see in his work the influence the literature, the artists and the photographers that he admired had on him and shaped his ‘reality’.

Because of this, his paintings are rich in symbolism and mystery whilst occupied with the portraits of his friends and lovers – both reality and and his own personal mythology.

As a writing exercise, I have been using his work as a stimulus, to flex my poetic muscles, weedy though they are. I have decided to post some of these exercises on the blog, as I realise I haven’t posted any new work in some months.

Study of Francis Bacon’s Triptych, 1987 – Alex MacDonald


There’s something about to happen here,
Like a word being wrought, tongued
In locked teeth, or a man taking a step
Off an alabaster pavement on to
A vacant road. His face sits behind glasses
While his thoughts fan like orange segments.


A man has walked into his own pendulum
Splitting across his mind, dividing desires.
He is a hyphen man – squatting in cricket whites,
His pronounced nudity in places, he is no longer
The keeper of his handsome future, as his dreams
Free themselves of their glacier rooms.


The scene is irreversible – the desk lamp
Shines a truth over it, the electric cord
Snaking through the pile of furniture, chair legs,
Papers and ornate antique wheels.
The blood is a birthmark, confirming history
And the unfortunate identity of someone gone.

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