Tag Archives: Tom Chivers

Some Favourite Poetry Collections of 2009: Part Two

 

 
  
Roddy Lumsden
 
Like This by Diana Pooley (Salt Modern Poets)
Through the Square Window by Sinead Morrissey (Carcanet Press)
Undraining Sea by Vahni Capildeo (Egg Box Publishing)
Chronic by D A Powell (Graywolf Press)
Fort Red Border by Kiki Petrosino (Sarabande Books)
Taste of Cherry by Kara Candito (University of Nebraska Press)
  
  
Jane Holland
 
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Suit of Lights by Damian Walford Davies (Seren Books)
A Century of Poetry Review, edited by Fiona Sampson
(Carcanet Press)
 
 
Anthony Joseph
 
Orphaned Latitudes by Gérard Rudolf (Red Squirrel Press)
How To Build a City by Tom Chivers (Salt Modern Poets)
Undraining Sea by Vahni Capildeo (Egg Box Publishing)
 
 
Katy Evans-Bush
 
Caligula on Ice and Other Poems by Tim Turnbull (Donut Press)
The Song of Lunch by Christopher Reid (CB Editions)
How To Build a City by Tom Chivers (Salt Modern Poets)
  
  
David Caddy
 
Music’s Duel: New and Selected Poems by Gavin Selerie
(Shearsman Books)
Conversation with Murasaki by Tom Lowenstein (Shearsman Books)
Practical Water by Brenda Hillman (Wesleyan Press)
 
 
Anne Berkeley
 
The Clockwork Gift by Claire Crowther (Shearsman Books)
The Ambulance Box by Andrew Philip (Salt Modern Poets)
A Scattering by Christopher Reid (Areté Books)
 
 
Simon Barraclough
 
instead of stars by Amy Key (tall-lighthouse)
The Borrowed Notebook by Chris McCabe (Landfill Press)
Frankie, Alfredo, by Liane Strauss (Donut Press)
  
  
Shaindel Beers
 
Cradle Song by Stacey Lynn Brown (C&R Press)
Packing Light: New & Selected Poems by Marilyn Kallet
(Black Widow Press)
War Dances by Sherman Alexie (Grove Press)
Petals of Zero Petals of One by Adam Zawacki (Talisman House)
   
   
Rob A. Mackenzie
 
Third Wish Wasted by Roddy Lumsden (Bloodaxe Books)
The Ambulance Box by Andrew Philip (Salt Modern Poets)
Rays by Richard Price (Carcanet Press)
 
 
Valeria Melchioretto
 
Bird Head Son by Anthony Joseph (Salt Modern Poets)
The Tethers by Carrie Etter (Seren Books)
Blood/Sugar by James Byrne (Arc Publications)
 
 
Gaia Holmes
 
The Hunt in the Forest by John Burnside (Jonathan Cape)
Fruitcake by Selima Hill (Bloodaxe Books)
Hammers and Hearts of the Gods by Fred Voss (Bloodaxe Books)

An interview with Tom Chivers

  
     
Tom Chivers was born in 1983. A writer, editor and promoter, he is Director of live literature organisation Penned in the Margins, Co-Director of London Word Festival and Associate Editor of international journal Tears in the Fence. In 2008 he was the first ever Poet in Residence at The Bishopsgate Institute, London. In September 2009 BBC Radio 4 broadcast his documentary about the poet Barry MacSweeney.
     
His first collection, How To Build A City, was published by Salt in 2009. A sequence of poems, The Terrors, has appeared as a limited edition chapbook from Nine Arches Press, described by Iain Sinclair as ‘dark London history, dredged and interrogated’.
     
Tom, what did you enjoy about studying Medieval English Literature at Oxford?
       
Grappling with medieval literature at university was an extraordinary privilege, but a slog too. I had to learn Old English (Anglo-Saxon) from scratch and even some of the Middle English dialects are pretty demanding. Beowulf, Pearl, Gawain and the Green Knight, Piers Plowman, most of Chaucer and countless other texts have really nourished my love of language, of eccentricity, humour and the exotic. My final year dissertation was entitled ‘Literary Practice in Late Medieval London’ and certainly extended the depth of my knowledge of and interest in London history. My thesis proposed that the socio-political conditions of the city at that time (1350-1500) created a peculiarly heightened sense of textual anxiety. I think we’re going through something similar now, with the internet, blogging, e-books and the rest.
      
Salt recently published your Crashaw Prize-winning collection, How To Build A City. How did you decide upon the title?
      
How To Build A City is the title of the longest piece in the book, a prose narrative I sometimes refer to as a kind of failed travelogue to the East End. Initially it appeared as an A3 poster pull-out in the underground literary magazine The Edgeless Shape – if I remember correctly, one of the editors, Caleb Klaces, came up with the title during a conversation at his kitchen table!
     
The volume is divided into two parts.  How did you order the poems?
     
With difficulty. I knew I wanted the title piece in the middle, the sequence of fragments ‘Thom, C & I’ at the end, and some short poems at the beginning. The rest just fell into place during the editing process. The first part of the book focuses on the city; the second part is more of a miscellany, with poems set in Israel, Nepal and the Peak District.
        
Tell me about your relationship with London and, in particular, the East End?
      
I was born and raised in South London but have lived in the East End for the past five years. I identify with the city very strongly. I suppose it’s a kind of pride, but not a static, smug sense of belonging but a flawed, fluid impulse to describe the urban environment. Or rather, to evoke and work-out my subjective relationship with that environment. I don’t believe in a poetry that speaks truths or captures a knowable ‘reality’. I am suspicious of those who do. I admire the Futurists, the way they engaged with the speed and ruthless modernity of urbanism. I don’t care much for their decline into low-level Fascism, however.
      
When I first moved to the East End I felt as if I had betrayed my roots south of the river. I know that sounds pompous, but hey … It’s a very strange area. It’s a terminus zone for journeys of exile: French Huguenots, Russian Jews, Bengalis, Somalis. I live on a historic street market, reputedly where cockney rhyming slang was invented. That might sound romantic and sometimes it is, but usually it’s just very loud. I don’t get much sleep.
     
Which local East End haunts would you recommend to a first-time visitor?
     
The whole area around Spitalfields is fascinating, although I would recommend avoiding the rather mawkish Jack the Ripper tours. The tiny alleys off Middlesex Street are worth hunting down, as well as the grand Georgian houses on Fournier, Princelet and Wilkes Streets. Further south, near the Tower of London, is one of the most beautiful and undiscovered buildings in the city: Wilton’s Music Hall. So much of the East End, particularly around the Docks, was destroyed during the Blitz, so it’s a blessing this crumbling gem is still here.
     
Can you briefly describe your chapbook, The Terrors?
      
The Terrors is a sequence of ‘imagined emails’ written to inmates at London’s notorious Newgate Prison between 1700 and 1740. Still with me? Good. The poems steal from various sources including The Newgate Calendar, a popular anthology of prison tales which combines celebrity, voyeurism and moral snobbery with shameless gore. I’ve incorporated some of the tone and language of the original, as well as oblique references to modern places of terror, such as Abu Ghraib and the Big Brother house.
      
As director of Penned in the Margins, you promote live literature in the city. Is the spoken word scene thriving in London?
     
Yes, thriving and surviving! The last five or six years has seen a genuine revival in interest in spoken word, and a lot of energy has been generated by independent promoters. The extent to which that revival will extend beyond transitory media attention and occasional culture industry buy-in is yet to be decided. But I am personally excited about what is being written, read and performed. I see my role as an instigator of activity and nurturer of talent. I’m in it for the long haul.
     
Penned in the Margins has also published anthologies, Generation Txt and City State: The New London Poetry, as well as full collections by David Caddy, Tamsin Kendrick, Ross Sutherland, Stephanie Leal and Sarah Hesketh.  Does conflict exist between your work as an editor and your own writing?  How compatible are the two?
     
That’s a probing question indeed. Speaking frankly, there are some ways in which my work as an editor/promoter has actually stymied my own creativity. But now I’ve had my first collection published, I feel more justified in carving out time to write. In general I’m concerned with drawing a distinct line between my professional work and my writing, but that line is often blurrier than I’d like. I’m lucky enough to work with writers who inspire and influence me – Iain Sinclair, Ross Sutherland, James Wilkes, et al. Being a poet also helps me edit other people’s work as I hope to bring sensitivity and attention to language to the process.
         
Would you name a few of your favourite poetry collections? Why are they important to you?
    
The Book of Demons by Barry MacSweeney for its passion, dark comedy and jagged edge. Seamus Heaney’s North for the visceral language and for risk. The wildly musical poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins have been an inspiration (as well as Alice Oswald, whose first two books channel that music brilliantly); I connect with the humour of Ashbery and the controlled energy of the New York poets, as well as the relentless innovation of Allen Fisher, Geraldine Monk, and others. Of more recent volumes, D.S. Marriott’s Hoodoo Voodoo takes some beating for its haunting evocation of the Afro-Diaspora experience. I think Chris McCabe is mining some important veins too.
    
Thank you for your time, Tom.
  
Read more about Tom and How To Build A City here.
    
Follow Tom’s blog, this is yogic.
 
Read more from Tom at the Londonist and Gists and Piths. Tomorrow, he’ll stop by Baroque in Hackney and on Friday he’ll visit Mercy Recommends.

Tom Chivers’ How to Build a City

Your Name Has Been Randomly Selected
Tom Chivers
 
Pennie Rakestraw emailed details of my order;
she claimed it helped performance in the bedroom.
 
Freuden Ginnery agreed and lodged himself between
the hard drive and the fan. He squeaks his sales pitch
 
on reboot. Morace Shakoor was kind enough to send me
excerpts from Victorian novels (he knows my taste),
 
cut up and reassembled as techno-futuristic porno;
all tongue and motor, bonnets upturned in the mud.
 
I let the Trojan in. I’m nice like that. Besides,
I got the note from Hartshorne Settlemire,
 
installed the relevant import hooks and re-subscribed;
ham, bacon and eggs (my account is blocked)
 
converted to plain text by Waynick Quibodeaux,
who knows a thing or two about naming.
   
  
 
From How to Build a City (Salt Publishing, 2009).
  
Read more about Tom and How to Build a City here.
  
Visit Tom’s blog.
  
 
Launch
 
How to Build a City (Tom Chivers), Unexpected Weather (Abi Curtis) and The Migraine Hotel (Luke Kennard) will be launched on Saturday, 13 June (8pm), at The Slaughtered Lamb, 34-35 Great Sutton Street, London, EC1V 0DX. Entrance is free. Ross Sutherland will be your compere for the evening. The reading will begin at 8.30pm.