Thursday, November 30, 2006

Birds of a feather

After battling my way through a classic German novel which shall remain nameless (hint: it's brilliant, but short on laughs), I wanted to read something fairly short and easy. I picked Günter Grass's The Meeting at Telgte, and enjoyed it immensely. Four observations:

The meeting is of German poets in 1647, towards the end of the Thirty Years War. Though the specific parallel is with the meeting of Gruppe 47 in 1947, I was struck by how accurately and entertainingly all meetings of poets were conjured. If you've ever been to a conference of poets, or even of academics, you'll chuckle your way through this book.

There's a large number of characters for such a short book, most of them sketched only in outline but with detailed characters implied. Grass's concision is extremely well-judged - he could have added fifty pages of back-story without any appreciable benefit. Most writers, I think, would have done so.

Given the recent revelations about Grass's (extremely marginal) complicity in Nazism, The Meeting at Telgte asks for a very clear reading - Gelnhausen (Grimmelshausen), Grass's counterpart in the book, is quite open about his moral compromise. I wonder how the book read before the revelations.

Lastly, I'm inspired to go and find work by the poets featured. The book's like a primer to seventeenth-century German poetry - like feeling you're on speaking terms with Marvell, Donne, Milton etc.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Poems in Avocado

I gave a paper on ghosts and the end of empire in Sean O'Brien's poetry at a conference on 'The Riddle of Devolutionary Identity' at Warwick University on Saturday. The conference was interesting and enjoyable, with some good connections being made between apparently disparate subjects. It was a strange and stimulating experience to feel slightly like a interloper - Englishness was rightly a marginal topic.

The reading was followed by a reading from Medbh McGuckian and David Morley, which I was unfortunately unable to stay for, to launch the new issue of Avocado magazine, which I'm delighted to have two poems published in. [The link shows issue 5 as the latest, but issue 6 was the one being launched.]

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Poems in Andwerve

I have three poems published in the November issue of Andwerve. I had workshopped one of them at PFFA, but despite receiving some useful and perspicacious criticisms, I wasn't able to make the poem work any better in the light of them, so submitted the poem as it stood. I hope none of the PFFAers who commented are too miffed - as I say, the comments were good, I just couldn't get a better draft out at the other end.

Anyway, it's good to get a new publication credit. I have a few more in the pipeline, but this is the first I've had for a while and it feels good.