Today, Hilary Clinton made headlines in Britain, by “expressing concern” about plans to cut spending here on military procurement. I mention this to underline how interconnected the US/UK relationship – “special” or not – still is, not just culturally, but military-industrially. Meanwhile, David Cameron and General Petraeus have been meeting over the botched rescue of a British citizen kidnapped by the Taliban, and maybe killed accidentally by an American rescuer, who may have thrown a hand grenade that killed her as she lay on the ground. Though there is a documented “Atlantic drift” in the poetry community, as much binds as releases the two former great powers, both watching the rise of China.
Poets in the 20th century in the Anglo-Saxon world tended to speak of a mid-Atlantic current, that saw the loan-lease of poetic talents, such as Auden and Eliot. Hugh Kenner, a Canadian, wrote about this, in A Sinking Island, and then there is Fishing By Obstinate Isles, let alone A Shrinking Island, Jed Edy’s title echoing Kenner’s.
I don’t think we can any longer speak of mid-Atlantic poets (Robert Lowell was one, at ease in London as Boston). I was tempted to call them Pan-Poets, or the New Jet Set (a little ungreen). I have therefore decided to call them Atlantic/Pacific poets – poets whose national identities are enwebbed in travel, education, and publication, in several nations at once, and therefore, in their cosmopolitan internationalism creatively scramble the tired old nationalist labels. In the process, they release the English-language poetic tradition since Modernism into its widest swing, the compass arm describing a very wide arc of styles and experiences, indeed. Other poets I have featured so far this week could have been included here, but this list includes a poet born in New Zealand, one born in Australia, one born in America who intelligently and creatively engage with the British and American poetic traditions, as well as ones closer (perhaps) to home – whatever that might mean.
Kathryn Maris, a New Yorker now based in London, was educated at Columbia University (BA) and Boston University (MA, Creative Writing). She is the author of The Book of Jobs (Four Way Books, 2006) and a second collection forthcoming with Seren in the United Kingdom. Her awards include a Pushcart Prize, an Academy of American Poets award, and fellowships from The Fine Arts Work Center and Yaddo. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry, Slate, The Harvard Review, and Poetry Review. She has written essays and book reviews for Time Out, American Poet, Poetry London and New Welsh Review. She teaches creative writing at Morley College and Kingston University. Her poems are anthologised in Oxford Poets 2010.
Call me Infidel, or just call me Tom.
Call me handsome, call me cold, call me bitter, call me cad
call me No-Better-Than-Judas-Iscariot
call me bachelor, call me saint, call me numb.
I was abused, I was married, I took pills, I was left,
I was in love, I was a liar, I was a drunk, I was in debt,
I wrote a book, I had some fame, then I was dead,
'til I was saved, I slept around, I was too young, I was bereft.
You are good, you are beautiful, you are kind, you forgive,
you are loving, you are smart, you're adored and you are brave.
There's no one else. It isn't you. I'm circumspect. I'm full of doubt.
It wouldn't work. We're not alike. I don't know what I want.
Call me weak, call me ingrate, call me 'once bitten, twice shy.'
Call me anything, but please don't say I make you want to die.
Emma Jones was born in Sydney to an Australian father and British mother. She studied literature at the University of Sydney, graduating in 2001, and holds a PhD in English Literature from Trinity College, Cambridge. Jones has held writing and travelling fellowships from St John’s College, Cambridge, and from the Australia Council for the Arts, and in 2009-10 was the poet-in-residence at The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, Cumbria. Her first book, The Striped World, was published by Faber and Faber in 2009, and won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Queensland Premier’s Award for Best Collection, and the Anne Elder Award, and was short-listed for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Jones has lived in Liverpool, Berlin, Italy and the US.
'Oh this and that. But for various reasons' -
(the season, and the change in season, the season of grief
and retrospection, the rooftop pulled from the childhood
house, and the internal doll in its stuck seat,
that is, the fictive soul in its brute cathedral, and because of memory,
maybe, and organs in niches, and the beat to things,
and the knowledge that the body is the soul and vice versa,
but that false distinctions are sometimes meaningful,
and that difference, all difference, is just distance, not a state,
not a nation, and because nothing matters, not really,
or everything does, I don't mind being an animal, at all,
because a sentient thing is nothing else, and because toward matter
I feel neither love nor hate but the kind of shuttered
swiss neutrality a watch might feel for time
if it had an animal's sentiments, knowing itself a symbol
and function, knowing itself a tool, and because I feel
the dull culmination of various phenomena informing me
and am that culmination, I feel ill in some small way,
though not ill really, just idle, and I prefer, you see,
to keep an impassive inviolable pact with things that tick,
with solitary, shifted things, and because my life's approximate act
is the sister to some other life, with different tints, I carry
and nurse, my diffident twin, I'm often morose, and think
of those statues that lean above themselves in water,
those fountains, stone, with commemorative light,
with disfiguring winds, and because reflection is an end in itself
and because there's an end even to reflection, and an end to the eye,
that heated room, I prefer to keep my artifice and my arsenal
suspended, close; like an angled man; like the stationed sun;
and because matter ends, or I should say, matter turns to matter,
and my small inalienable witness to this is real, I can't pretend
to wish to be a rooted thing, full-grown, concerned
with practical matters, in a rooted world, and careful of borders,
when an ineradicable small portion glints, my mind, that alma mater,
and says, make your work your vicarage) - 'I put off going back'.
Anna Smaill was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1979. She briefly studied performance music at Canterbury University in New Zealand before focusing on writing. She holds an MA in English Literature (her research looked at the novelist Janet Frame) and one in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington. Between 2004 and 2005 she lived and worked in Tokyo, and in 2006 moved to London to complete a PhD in American poetry at UCL. Her first collection, The Violinist in Spring, was published in 2005 by Victoria University Press. Her poems have been collected in the anthology Best New Zealand Poems. She currently teaches Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire and is working on a second collection of poetry as well as an academic monograph on the poets Frank Bidart, Jorie Graham, Louise Glück and James Tate. She is married to the novelist Carl Shuker.
Walking Back to Whakataki
I feel some kind of accident
of sound channelled down my arms.
Here it is: chiming, romantic
wistful and obtuse.
It pretends a way of seeing:
look at things as if they're speaking,
as if you'll hear them
in a known language,
with inflections: slumped and darkened.
A texture: bristling, corrugated, firred.
And the colour like the used
and muddy cream of the high-up sheep
or the green of the hills
that is uniform and particular. Hidden
and nettled, what these say. Eloquent,
but only ever to themselves, like us two
walking down the metal road,
intractable shoulders fronted, hard hearts
straining perilously after happiness.
Sandeep Parmar was born in England in 1979 and raised in Southern California. She received her PhD in English Literature from University College London in 2008. The subject of her research was the unpublished autobiographies of the modernist poet Mina Loy. Parmar received an MA in Creative Writing (poetry) from the University of East Anglia in 2003 and studied for her BA at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the Reviews Editor for The Wolf magazine and researched and taught at Newnham College, Cambridge from 2008-2009, where she was editing the writings of the modernist poet Hope Mirrlees. Mirrlees' selected poetry and prose will be published by Fyfield Books (Carcanet Press) in September 2011. She has published articles on Loy's archived prose: one in Jacket magazine and a chapter in the forthcoming Salt Companion to Mina Loy. Her monograph on Mina Loy's autobiographies, Myth of the Modern Woman, is forthcoming from Rodopi Press. A selection of her poetry appears in the anthology of emerging British poets, Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century (edited by James Byrne and Clare Pollard). Her work is forthcoming in the HarperCollins Book of Modern English Poetry by Indians, World Literature Today, and the Yellow Nib. Currently, she is a Visiting Scholar at NYU's Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, and is also writing a biography of Hope Mirrlees. She is working on her first collection of poems, The Marble Orchard. She lives in London and New York.
Prayer for Calypso
You, whose name means Marigold, at the spindle cut thrice,
a triptych of immutable colour.
Curl your dishonoured robes. Leave off and do not weave your shadows of laughter,
Nor trace its naked light.
Even if your orange hair plaits itself in his dreams,
My hand bore the wave that knelt along the seafloor and drove his keel homewards.
Swallow your consonants; they are thin as perfume. As lipstick. As praise.
Be left to reflect, as vanity, your ambivalence. Its own cruel country.