Yesterday and today the world experienced the Chilean miracle at Camp Hope, where thirty-three miners were rescued after months of doubt and darkness - a time they survived with optimism, creativity, and inspiring communitarian spirit. The event, to my mind equivalent to the moon landings in terms of human and technical drama (not a unique thought, I am sure), is particularly resonant of the literary style of "magic realism" which came from Chile's part of the world, a style that saw the miraculous in the everyday. It therefore seems apt to celebrate, today, poets whose work touches upon, in a variety of ways, fable, dreams, enchantment, faith, and the extraordinary - poets I will label (if just for this post), "The Fabulists".
When discussing this with one of the poets included below, Matthew Gregory, he had this to say: "it seems to me a kind of new Romanticism of some sort, allowing for the frivolous and the camp, something like the Victorian horror crazes, but, when it works, with something of a truthful enquiry, is like the best of magic realism. It seems to be happening generally, doesn't it? In the mid 1990s, I'm quite sure there wasn't as much vampire love on television as there is now. And in poetry, on the whole. Underwood, Kennard and sometimes Emily Berry write with many voices, untrustworthy narrators, ghosts and anthropomorphic subjects. I think reading Charles Simic, James Tate, the Eastern Europeans/Polish (Holub, Szymborska) and some Ashbery is where we'll find the nerve of this particular ache."
Now, a few grumpy critics in Britain have complained that these labels I am applying may be constraints for these poets as they develop - which seems to miss the point of these posts entirely - as with all literary labels, these are provisional, arbitrary, and, indeed, like literary criticism itself, equivocal, in a creative sense. I offer these as ways to read and appreciate these poets, but not as "Swiftian" "puffery". There is nothing satirical about it, and very little puff. Though I do like Puff the Magic Dragon.
Kathryn Simmonds was born in Hertfordshire in 1972 and worked in children's publishing and the charity sector before pursing writing seriously, although she has written poetry since childhood. She won an Eric Gregory Award in 2002 and her pamphlet Snug was published by Smith/Doorstop in 2004 as a result of their annual competition. Her first full collection Sunday at the Skin Launderette won the Forward Prize for best first collection in 2008 and was short listed for the Costa Poetry Award. She is also interested in prose and dramatic writing - her short stories have appeared in The Barcelona Review, The Liberal Magazine and a number of anthologies, and she has written a play for Radio 4. Now living in north London, she works as a writing tutor for the City Lit, Morley College and The Poetry School. Simmonds is one of the only poets in Britain who, though subtly and never condescendingly, replies to a British secularism that disenchants the world, with her own quietly held sense of Catholic faith; as such, her poems form part of the great debate between science and religion occuring now - though they are, of course, also about much else besides.
Midnight for the squirrels and the drunks,
midnight for you dear and your chest hair too,
put your pen down pet and rest here.
Midnight swallowing the mirror whole, swallowing
my mother in her pale blue slippers,
and my brother, my big brother in his too small bed.
Bed, the longed for stopped short sound delivering
us at last from sense-making. The trains
are empty, the magnolia trees are still, the tower block
has lost another dozen yellow squares but
they'll fill up and we'll fill too, and in tomorrow's
morning we'll awake, washed up again among
the bills. Meanwhile, the stars are queuing up
to get behind your lids. Love, give me your hand.