Thursday, February 1, 2018

Compulsive Reader Newsletter for Feb

The February Compulsive Reader newsletter has now gone out.  As always the newsletter has 10 fresh links to reviews and author interviews including an exclusive, in-depth chat with the amazing Kaz Cooke, reviews of the poetry books Glasshouses by Stuart Barnes and Appalachian Fall by Jennifer Maiden (which I’ll be launching in Newcastle on the 13th of Feb at Maclean’s Books - you’re invited to join us - it’s free and wine and cheese provided), great new fiction like Eye of the Moon by Ivan Obolensky, as well as a round-up of literary news around the globe, another great book giveaway, and more.  If you’re a subscriber, it should already be in your in-box (or check your spam folder and then white list me!).  Or you can grab a copy here: http://www.compulsivereader.com/sendpress/email/?sid=MA&eid=MTMyNjc

If you’re not a subscriber, sign up at http://www.compulsivereader.com

Monday, January 1, 2018

Compulsive Reader Newsletter for January

Hello readers and happy new year!  The January Compulsive Reader Newsletter has now been fully delivered and contains the usual 10 fresh pieces including an overview of the Wollongong Writers Festival, Earthly Remains by Donna Leon, These Wild Houses by Omar Sakr, A Jarful of Moonlight by Nazanin Mirsadeghi, and lots more, as well as a great new giveaway (we had a surprise extra give-away last month and that may happen again sometime...), and the round-up of literary news, prizes and events.
If you haven’t received your copy, you can check it out in the public archive here: Compulsive Reader Jan Newsletter

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

CR Newsletter for Dec is out

The Compulsive Reader Newsletter for December has now been fully distributed.  We’ve got 10 new reviews including Lynette Washington’s criticalAppalachian Fall by Jennifer Maidenly acclaimed Plane Tree Drive, 81 Migrations by W.K. Buckley, a piece on on Faber’s Sarah Menary, an interview with Lex Hirst, a great new giveaway for Appalachian Fall by Jennifer Maiden.
If for some reason you didn’t get one, just grab a copy here: http://www.compulsivereader.com/send/622615158db1e1d/

If you’d like to subscribe, visit: http://www.compulsivereader.com

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Frank O’Hara’s Personal Poem

Following is my third ModPo, essay, written on Frank O’Hara’s “Personal Poem” from his 1964 book Lunch Poems.  The full text of the poem, which is rather wonderful, can be found here: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/personal-poem

Frank O’Hara’s New York City is an absolute realm, an “urban world of fantasy” as Ashbery wrote in his introduction to O’Hara’s Collected Poems. Though “Personal Poem” seems spontaneous, the verisimilitude is constructed, pulling the reader into an imaginary present that feels real. There is serendipity here, as if the present tense could be continually refreshed through the artful innocence of the storyteller’s narrative. The poem’s title references O’Hara’s literary genre “Personism”, which imagines a conversation between two people, with an identifiable “I do this I do that” structure to mirror physical progression. The speaker invites the reader to walk with him during lunchtime in midtown Manhattan around 53rd Street, as referenced by The House of Seagrams. The “luminous humidity” evokes summer. Google Maps couldn’t give us a clearer sense of this world as we walk past buildings under construction and into Moriarty’s where the speaker is meeting LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka) for lunch. The city is vividly evoked through action rather than imagery: “I get to Moriarty's”, “I shake hands with LeRoi…and go back to work”.

Despite O’Hara’s claims that Personism doesn’t use literary techniques, many are at work here. The ‘names’ O’Hara drops through the poem are carefully chosen. The abstract expressionist painter Mike Kanemitsu’s coin becomes a charm for the poem, functioning as synecdoche for the abstract expressionist artworld that anchors the speaker “in New York against coercion” (coupled with a broken travel bag). The silver construction hats also function as synecdoche, representing a working life that the speaker is both part of and free from as a successful poet in New York: “we don’t want to be in the poets’ walk in/San Francisco even we just want to be rich/and walk on girders in our silver hats”.

The meeting with the poet LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka) is pivotal. Just stating the name LeRoi brings in an activist energy that speaks of Jazz and black rights, further enhanced by the reference to the clubbing of Miles Davis. Though the two meet in friendship and a literary congruence that feels luxurious, there is also a reminder here of O’Hara’s privilege and the sad political reality that separates the friends. O’Hara doesn’t have to fear clubbing by cops, while Baraka, like Davis, was beaten by cops a few years after this poem was published.

The rhythm creates a circular narrative designed to feel colloquial, with a carefully constructed rolling pace through the inclusion of only two pauses – one stanza break (a red light crossing pause?), and a single comma in the second stanza.There is no other punctuation. The poem starts with “Now” and ends with “so”, a circular progression that loops back to the start, the action ending abruptly but not conclusively.The minimal punctuation combines with enjambment (“never brought me/much luck”) to create a breathless sense of fast walking, with lots of conjunctions (and, but, and so) to keep the poem in motion as it swirls past a constructed city, the politics of race and class, while touching on the nature of fame, death and immortality, working naturally from the personal to the universal in a way that feels like a recount but also reminds the reader, metapoetically, that they are the one person in eight million thinking of O'Hara.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

CR News is out for November

Hello readers, I’m pleased to report that all issues of Compulsive Reader newsletter have been marked as “delivered”.  You should have your copy now.  If for some reason it got trapped in spamville, you can grab a copy in the archive here: Compulsive Reader News

This month we’ve got 10 great new books featured including Shriek by Davide A. Cotton, Broken Branches by M Jonathan Lee, The Last Days of Jeanne D’Arc by Ali Alizadeh, Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend (and check out my interview with Jessica at Compulsive Reader Talks), interviews with Jane Owen, Monica Jephcott Thomas, Daniel Findlay, Pip Harry, and lots more, plus a roundup of the literary news, another great giveaway and plenty more. If you aren’t a subscriber, go now to http://www.compulsivereader.com and sign up for free (upper right hand corner).

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The single space of the present moment (Nantucket is for lovers)

Here’s another essay from ModPo, this time on William Carlos Williams’ “Nantucket” - because I don’t post poetry essays here nearly enough.

The poem can be read in its entirety here: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/nantucket/

The most striking aspect of William Carlos Williams’ poem “Nantucket” is the lack of a poetic speaker. The poem is written entirely in present tense and moves like a camera across a fixed, silent tableau. We have a lyrical description of a room: flowers against the curtains, with sun shining in. There is no sign of human habitation but we know, by the readiness, the pitcher and tumbler, and the tidy presentation, that the room has been set up. We know it is late afternoon, and that the room is unoccupied (“immaculate”), private (the phallic, prone “key”) and that occupation is imminent. The images are crisp, richly coloured, concrete and very visual, with a strong sensuality conveyed by scent (“Smell of cleanliness”), sight (lavender, yellow, white), and feel (sunshine). This is a poem that presents a classic example of Imagism. There is no sentiment expressed. Williams’ language is economic and clear, focusing only on this single space of the present moment: a self-contained room. Most of the scene is set using nouns: flowers, curtains, sunshine, a glass of water, a key, a bed.
In spite of the pristine nature of the poem’s imagery and the lack of a narrative, there is a dynamic quality to the work. A judicious use of transitive verbs: “changed”, “turned down”, “lying”, charge the nouns with a strong sensual quality, as if these items were readying themselves for something to follow, and contained by the clear space of the room with its obvious borders. There is a strong sense of distinction between the self-contained world inside the room (white on white), and outside of the room (colour on colour). Additional motion is conveyed by the use prepositional phrases like “through the”, “changed by”, “on the”, “by which” and “is lying” which give the nouns a sense of agency and connection, so that each one’s placement is part of the meaning of the other and exists only in conjunction with its precedent.
The poem has a very consistent structure and rhythm, which also provides a motion that contrasts strongly with the static nature of the imagery. The five two line stanzas don’t rhyme but have a very regular syllabic pattern of 6/6, 6/5, 7/4, 7/4, 7/6, heighted by the way the syllables are accented, swapping between iambic and trochaic rhythm which also creates a kind of motion - like a dance between alternating stresses. You don’t need to read these stresses with overt iambic and trochaic patters, but the ghost of that rhythm keeps the work light and bouncy. Enjambment, particularly in the second half of the poem, and dashes are both used to introduce a sense of emotive progression as the reader’s eye moves down the page from the window to the bed, preceded by the dash and capitalised preposition “And the”, as if the bed were our destination, and the slow progression from window to bed was one of desire and consummation.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Compulsive Reader Newsletter out for Oct

Hello readers.  Our October newsletter has now gone out with the usual bevy of brand new reviews and interviews, a fantastic new giveaway, the full round-up of literary news, and lots more delivered free to your in-box.  If you haven’t received it yet, you can grab a copy here:
Compulsive Reader Archive
If you haven’t subscribed, just toddle over to http://www.compulsivereader.com and sign up.

photo credit: marksmorton Biblio via photopin (license)