It’s the 9th January already and here comes my first post of 2013. Slowly getting into the way of things again. I had a mild cold a week or so before Christmas, a cold which never really took off, but I blame its after-effect for leaving me knackered over the whole festive period, not just the late nights, food, drink and sole party. I found myself watching TV when I could have been reading, including programmes I’d never normally watch, and this began to depress me (and that feeling is energy-sapping in itself).
Anyway, I am feeling much more like myself now and have been juggling being a co-judge for the Magma short poems competition with other reading matter in book form: Denis Johnson’s Great American Novella Train Dreams, Eva Hoffman’s fascinating, scholarly and fluently written meditation on Time, Luke Kennard’s new poetry collection, A Lost Expression, and Don Paterson’s Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets.
I never used to read more than one book at a time, but these days I almost always have several on the go. I’d recommend all of these books. ‘Train Dreams’ (which I’ve finished) packs a lot into its 124 pages and is a gripping narrative, both highly imaginative and emotionally charged. ‘Time’ introduced facts I’d been unaware of, ideas I’d never really thought of before and some I’d thought of but had never quite found words for – it acts the way poetry sometimes does. Luke Kennard’s new collection is razor-sharp, possibly even better than The Harbour Beyond the Movie, which is a big favourite of mine. And Don Paterson’s thoughts on the sonnets are always interesting. I’d read some reviews that really slagged it off, but I’ve enjoyed it. I’m far from an expert on Shakespeare and his commentary has certainly given added pleasure to my experience of reading the poems, and surely that’s the point of a book like this.
On my mythical To Read table are two novels: Tim Parks’s The Server, and Keith Ridgway’s Hawthorn and Child. And three poetry books by American poets I have wanted to read for ages: Don Share’s Wishbone, Patricia Lockwood's amazingly titled Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and DA Powell’s Useless Landscape, or a Guide For Boys. Then, there are new collections out or imminent from Jon Stone, Kirsten Irving, Kaddy Benyon, James Brookes, Luke Heeley, Julia Bird, WN Herbert, George Szirtes, Kona Macphee, Hannah Lowe, John Ashbery, Richard Price, Frederick Seidel, Nick Laird, Fani Papageorgiou, and the CB Editions critical study of the work of Michael Hofmann. Add to that two theological books: David Fergusson’s Faith and its Critics and Peter Rollins’s The Idolatry of God. And some kind of Lenten reflection thing – I don’t know what’s going to be published yet but am on the look-out for good stuff.
Will I manage to read all of these? There is not even the slightest chance! I will somehow have to pick and choose. Especially as I am about to move house and start a new post in mid-February. Everything is going to be new, interesting and will inevitably mean less time for reading for a while. In addition, I’ll no doubt have proofs of my own second collection to keep me occupied, launches to arrange (April probably) and other readings (please, anyone, I am er... available for readings). And hot new collections from Salt are also due in the same quarter from Andrew Philip and Angela Cleland. It’s going to be a busy time...