Thursday, November 08, 2012

Romney for Scotland

Fix News have sensationally named failed U.S. presidential candidate, Mitt Romney as hot favourite to take over as manager of Scotland’s international football team, following the departure of Craig Levein. Romney is said to be excited at the prospect of moving to Scotland. “Donald [Trump] says the golf is good there and the land is anyone’s for a price. Sounds like my kind of place.”

Romney confessed that Obama’s election was the best thing that could have happened. “Now I’m freed up for the Scotland job, and I have plans. First of all, I want to make sure the players wear sacred underwear so as to hide their nipples. I don’t want those huge crowds of scarf-wearing men to be tempted into becoming homosexuals due to nipples showing through shirts. Secondly, I’ve noticed that the team are good at kicking high into the crowd. That’s good, but they need to learn to pick the ball up and run with it more. I haven’t seen them touchdown yet.”

Concerns have been raised over Romney’s promise to scrap the women’s team (“these women, as a minority group, ought to practice minority pursuits more suitable for their status – like preparing modest refreshments and not giving opportunities for abortion”) and by his insistence on bringing Sarah Palin over as his “running mate” (“She gives good tea parties”).

The Scottish Football Association were unavailable for comment, but a spokesman for something or other said that Romney’s interest was welcome, although he would face stiff competition from Barbie, from ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and from pop star PSY, who promises a new brand of “gangnam style” tactics.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Best Living British Poets #95

#95 Malcolm McRammie

Malcolm McRammie is, in his own words, “a plook in the face of everyone everywhere”. Born in 1952, in a disused rabbit warren next to a rubbish dump where his family of twelve lived for years before emigrating to a cave, McRammie learned to read from a battered recipe book he found on the dump.

At the famous Edinburgh Poetry Convocation of 1973, he made his famous declaration that “Poems are spaghetti, prose is sauce,” to which the chairperson replied, “And yours are inedible.” A conviction and jail term for aggravated assault followed, but this only encouraged McRammie’s literary productivity. His Collected Poems vol.1 (1997) came to an astonishing 2,368 pages, and he has since written 3,457 pages of poems inspired by discarded ingredients found in Scotland’s wheelie-bins.

In 2010 he boasted proudly that, despite his status as Scotland’s best-selling author, he had failed even to be shortlisted for a poetry award, only to find himself in the running for all the major prizes that year. “They must think I’m about to die,” was his response. “This is the first year ever that I haven’t actually published a collection.” No one seemed bothered by this and McRammie won more or less everything. He ritually burned all the plaques and trophies at a hastily arranged news conference on the peak of Ben Lomond, but kept all the money.

[photo from sheeldz's photostream, used under a CReative Commons License]

Monday, November 05, 2012

New Reviews of 'Fleck and the Bank'

A few reviews have appeared on my pamphlet, Fleck and the Bank, to add to Harry Giles’s review at Ink, Sweat and Tears. Harry’s review was as close to a dream review as I’ve ever received, not just because it was mainly positive but because he seemed to 'get' more or less everything I was trying to do. For example:
‘The poems are a series of signs pointing not to Fleck but to other signs, because Fleck himself is not there, is someone of whom even an imagined newscaster’s imagined dress is “more solid than himself”.’
‘... the themes themselves are unusual, or at least have unusual clarity: to write more about a specific absence than any real moment or presence seems new to me, especially when achieved with such grace. And there will, as I’ve suggested, be many more ways to read this book than mine, it is far bigger than its size suggests... Fleck couldn’t hope for a better offering, wherever he is.’

Three new reviews
have gone up now at Sphinx and these reflect the huge variety of thought and opinion that constitutes Contemporary Poetry PLC these days. Jake Campbell doesn’t care much for the pamphlet, describing it as having ‘crystalline moments of greatness, but also elements of drudgery’. He goes on to say:
‘I want to be angered; I want to feel Fleck is angry, or at least alive. Instead, he feels like a wet lettuce.’ :-)
Rosie Miles, on the other hand, finds the poems and themes interesting. Rather self-effacingly, she says:
‘I am not this collection’s ideal reader. I don’t entirely “get” it. But I assent to the world it creates and Mackenzie’s use of language is inventive and full of a kind of demotic energy.’
Actually, her readings of the poems seem perfectly fair to me.

Matt Bryden finds it “satisfying” and “generously dense and experimental.” And he makes the interesting point that
‘While some of the fun in reading is to make out Fleck a little more clearly, in one sense he is the MacGuffin that keeps you reading to figure out his world.’
And, finally – on Andrew Shields’s blog – you'll find not a review as such, but more a reflection on how juxtaposition and disorientation are used in some of the poems to create new meanings.

Thanks to all the reviewers for taking the time to set down their thoughts, whether positive or negative. It’s all much appreciated and I certainly hope Salt and I sell a few pamphlets as a result...

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Best Living British Poets #96

#96 Smurf K.

Smurf K’s work has divided critics ever since his unforgettable debut, titled simply ‘Smurf’, which contained only the word ‘smurf’ employed in an almost infinite variety of forms, shapes, sizes and fonts over 117 pages. The collection was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the fury of the avant-garde was unleashed like never before, one prominent member from Cambridge calling it “typical mainstream nonsense: self-referential, unimaginative balderdash which might have appeal only for readers with the emotional structure and restricted vocabulary of a two-year-old kangaroo.” However, poet laureate at the time, Andrew Motion, wrote in The Times that it was “possibly the most intriguing debut this decade...”, although he did add, “...apart from [a 28-page list of other notable debut collections of the decade]”. A second collection, ‘One-Word Poems that Never Use the Word, Smurf’, was published the following year to similar consternation, but Smurf K argued strongly that the radical switch in direction was vital to his development and range.

He is currently running workshops in the Seychelles for dropout students from the Faber Academy and is working on a third collection, ‘I Am Not a Hobbit, but Would Like a Part in the Movie, Peter Jackson.’ Last year, he won the inaugural €250,000 'Award for the Deployment & Advancement of Poetic Theories in Small European Towns' for a sequence painted on paving stones, based entirely on words and lines used by celebrated twentieth-century European bureaucrats.

[photo from jonasholmstrom's photostream, used under a Creative Commons License]