In case anyone was wondering, I had to abandon my series on experimental poets as the book was due back in the library. I felt I’d done enough anyway.
I’ve booked myself into a few events at the Edinburgh Book Festival. First, this Thursday, a workshop (20 people maximum) on translation with George Szirtes. I am in dire need of such a workshop! Then a Paul Muldoon reading on Saturday 26th, and Billy Collins (yes, really) on Monday 28th.
I surprised even myself when I realised I wanted the Collins ticket. I like some of his early stuff, which is often surprising, humorous, and intelligent, but he comes over to me now as a one-trick pony. The poems in Nine Horses, for instance, nearly all follow a similar trajectory – a simple everyday scenario for the first-person narrator, a slight lurch, and then the glorious, semi-surreal, shining moment – all told in a similar prosy tone.
However, I’ve heard he is a good performer, and it’s unlikely I’ll get many chances to hear him on this side of the pond, so I’m going. Maybe I’ll be convinced, maybe not.
C.E. Chaffin has written 500 words on Collins, an interesting point of view. I suspect that writing consistently like Billy Collins is far harder than it might look, but I tried it once and came up with a passable Collins imitation inside 30 minutes, so y’know…
The current Summer 2006 edition of Poetry Review is excellent – terrific poems by Don Paterson (translations from Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus), John Burnside, W.S. Merwin, C.K. Williams, Sarah Wardle, Matthew Sweeney, Todd Swift, George Szirtes, and four francophone Caribbean poets in translation – Max Rippon, Aimé Césaire, Sony Rupaire, and Monchoachi; and fine essays by Elaine Feinstein, Michael Schmidt, and Ruth Padel. You can read a few of these online.
Get a copy somehow! I’ve been really impressed by Poetry Review since Fiona Sampson became editor about 18 months ago.