Poets take up a new muse – modern technology

‘The poet’s muse is traditionally a goddess with long flowing hair, emblem in hand – but for a new generation of poets the muse is a digital native with WiFi access and an iPod. Tom Chivers is a 26-year-old poet living in East London who in recent years has found he wants to let technological advances in society influence his writing. His witty contributions to the poetic world are fresh, laugh-out-loud constructions about how technology affects our day-to-day lives.’

Article about poetry (mainly mine weirdly!) and digital technology by Hannah Waldram from The Telegraph. Check it out.

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The Terrors – OUT NOW

the-terrors-cover-in-colour-copyMy pamphlet The Terrors was launched last night at The Market Trader, Middlesex Street and is now available to purchase from my terrific publishers Nine Arches Press for £5. (Go, do it now!)

The Terrors is a sequence of imagined emails to inmates at Newgate Prison in the eighteenth century. It’s been described by Iain Sinclair as ‘Dark London history, dredged and interrogated’ and by Gists & Piths as ‘a truly remarkable sequence, alive to the possibilities of what language can do, totally confident in its creation of a hyperreality where past and present mingle and bleed into one another.’

ALSO I will be reading at East Words at Museum of Docklands on Thursday 2 April, from 6-9pm. Other readers include Tim Wells and Siddartha Bose. East Words is a great night run by Christopher Horton and Richard Tyrone Jones. And it’s free entry. Details here and on Facebook here.

Mandeville / Monochrome / Voodoo

Oi, oi – the Spring 2009 issue of Poetry London is out. Amongst other things, it contains my review of Mandeville by Matthew Francis, Bloodshot Monochrome by Patience Agbabi and Hoodoo Voodoo by D.S. Marriott. Here’s an excerpt:

The railway is figured as a brooding Hades, commuter trains hammering through ‘the seven circles’. Death is the chief concern of these poems, with ash its central image suggesting the fire of lynch mobs, burning crosses and West African mourning rituals: ‘the last tribal refuge’. The world of Marriott’s poetic imagination is charged by death, enchanted by ghosts. The accrual of images of death (blood, ash, bone) in Hoodoo Voodoo mirrors the way in which the largeness of history grinds the psyche into statis; how, as Huk puts it, ‘images of ourselves are merely afterimages of long-running processes of cultural repression, violence, disavowal and dreaming’. If poetry, the act of language, might provide redemption from this stasis, it is a botched job.

Cooking the books

I spent several hours this evening reorganising the books in my flat. There’s just too many of them and not enough space, but I’ve managed to segregate them into the following places:

Bookcase number one (Billy, Ikea)

  • Top shelf: London history, antiquarian, assorted philosophy
  • Fourth shelf up: reference books and fat hardbacks
  • Third shelf up: CD player, speakers, CDs and assorted bits and bobs
  • Second shelf up: living poets
  • First shelf up: dead poets and anthologies
  • Bottom shelf: travel, oversized books

Bookcase number two (back-street Whitechapel furniture shop)

  • Top of the bookcase: Shakespeare and Renaissance theatre
  • Top five shelves: fiction a-z
  • Second shelf up: some little poetry magazines
  • Bottom shelf: twentieth century plays and theatre criticism

Bookcase number three (Billy corner unit, Ikea)

  • Top shelf: DVDs, computer games and Xbox
  • Middle shelf: Medieval and Anglo-Saxon history and literature
  • Bottom shelf: OS maps and assorted crap

Books to read are piled next to the phone. There are currently twelve in this stack. I also have all my copies of Tears in the Fence lined up behind the door in the bedroom, and some old stuff shoved in a chest somewhere. Cookery books are in the kitchen, next to the spirits. Guess which gets the most action.

This exercise – really quite enjoyable – did make me realise how many books I’ve started and not finished this year, the likes of Martin Amis’s Other People, Douglas Coupland’s Generation X and Glen Neath’s The Outgoing Man. I have book guilt. That said, I’ve just rattled through Ballard’s Concrete Island, which I thoroughly recommend, especially to drivers.

“New Year Resolution No. 1: Read more, buy fewer books”

Litro Online

I’ve revamped Litro’s website. Check it out at www.litro.co.uk

This is a big move for Litro as all the short fiction and poetry from our print issues will now be accessible online. We are also creating a range of online-only content, including special features and a blog which myself and Julie Palmer-Hoffman will regularly update. Do let me know if you spot bugs, or if you have any general comments.

Just catching up…

Infinite Lives – Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
through the entirety of which the Working Men and, especially, their wives talked loudly.

But nevertheless was an excellent event from the Homework boys. Passionate and witty sermons in poetry and prose by Joe, Tim, Ross and Chris, exploring the netherworld of computer gaming; the virtual worlds of pixellated hedgehogs and supercharged ninjas. Ross in particular made a strong case for gaming as a new and important metaphorical landscape, a way to reconfigure and imagine our own, real worlds. His Streetfighter sonnets a case in point. Well done, chaps. It has reminded me to write that sequence based on the Matrix Trilogy.

Poetry and Place – The Battle of Ideas

On Sunday I took part in a panel debate on Poetry and Place with Shirley Dent, Glyn Maxwell and Dave Bowden. There were also readings by a number of poets, including Sid Bose, Inua Ellams, Jay Bernard, Leela Gandhi (yes) and myself. Glyn read an excellent piece at the end: a Medieval Mystery Cycle set in his hometown, Welwyn Garden City. I’ve published an excerpt of his play Liberty in the new Litro. It was a pretty fierce debate. As expected, I clashed with Shirley on a number of points to do with the nature of poetry, language and the role of the writer. I think I put my points across, which is all one can hope for.

Reading – Comma Club, Oxford

Went down to Oxford on Tuesday with Sarah. It’s been a few years, and always a fairly surreal process as I spent three years there at university. In chronological order… hung out in Blackwells’ Urban Theory section with some Spanish academics; bought Will Self’s Liver; had a huge lunch of Steak & Ale Pie at The Turf washed down with a pint of something local (Sarah had the Fish & Chips); met up with my old friend and fellow Medievalist Alex at Rose’s on the High Street; perambulated the parks (joggers, why oh why?); nipped in to St Anne’s for no particular reason; spent two hours drinking and reading in the Royal Oak, one of our favourite haunts.

Then it was off to meet Jamie and head up to Keble College for our reading at a new student-led society called the Comma Club. The organiser, Jack, was very nice and efficient and we were ushered into a large vaulted room with paintings of former principals (or rectors, or whatever they call them) on the walls. The audience was 100% student and (I think) mainly non-poetry fans. Though Jay was there, and also Charlotte Geater who’s a former Foyle winner. I read ‘this is yogic’, ‘Iconic’, ‘How To Build A City’ (short version), some of ‘The Terrors’ and ‘The Voyages of Ottar and Wulfstan’. Jamie read postcard poems, review poems, his brilliant fashion poem and a couple from Ex Chaos. He got me up to help with his eggbox poems, the medical questionnaire and (with Sarah) ‘Score for a Nocturne’. Very attentive audience and some nice comments afterwards, especially from a bubbly girl from Essex who used to sleep in some kind of stone hideout near Liverpool Street. I think the Comma Club’s a grand idea, and wish it well. Sold some books. Had some wine. Then stumbled towards the train station via Bangkok Palace where Jamie, Sarah, Jay and I had a quick meal. Caught the penultimate and practically empty train back to Paddington, where we discovered the tubes had stopped earlier than expected. Night bus home. Obama elected.

NB: Whilst in the Gents at Keble, I stumbled into a rather amusing if predictably mysogynist conversation between 2nd or 3rd year male students about the practice of ‘sharking’ fresher girls. Like old times, it was.