Show 004: December 2007

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A new collection of contemporary poetry Branch-Lines, beautifully produced from Enitharmon Press, plopped through my door a week or so ago, and I was particularly interested to see which poets were in it.  I have two poems in the anthology, but there were many poets I’d not come across before, including one I was particularly impressed by, Helen Farish.  This collection is dedicated Edward Thomas, who died in the First World War, but who has had an enormous influence on poetry writing now.  I first came across him at school, and recognize his influence on my writing, as do many modern and contemporary poets. 

I have selected some books from my reading this year to recommend to you.  They were not all published in 2007, but were all a great pleasure to read. 

Staring off with a couple of crime novels. The first by Robert B. Parker is called Spare Change.  Parker has written fifty or so novels all written in a hip, and witty way. This features one of his latest detectives Sunny Randall.  The second is by Steve Mosby, a young writer, based in Leeds whose novel The 50/50 Killer curdled my blood in a most satisfying way. 

I mentioned Helen Farish. On the strength of her two poems in Branch-Lines, I bought Intimates, her first collection of poetry.  This is a brave book, exploring  some tough issues.  A powerful and fabulous read. 

Wild Mary is the biography of Mary Wesley, known to us from her books of twenty years ago like The Camomile Lawn.  By Patrick Marnham, her life reads like the plots from one of her novels. 

For those of you that like short stories  Canadian writer Alice Munro is a real find.  Recognisable experiences confronted in small rural communities in the Canadian mid-west.  Runaway is the collection I so enjoyed this year. 

Fay Weldon, known for her many books including The Lives and Loves of a She Devil, was a highlight at the Ilkley Literature Festival this year.  Her latest book The Spa Decameron is a funny and entertaining read, casting a wise eye on modern life. 

Last but not least,  A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens and full of memorable quotes, is often thought of as a children’s book but is full of depth and understanding.  When you read Dickens you are in the hands of a master. 

Book Review

Hurting Distance by Sophie Hannah

Hurting Distance
Many of you will know Sophie Hannah from her poetry with a new collection, Pessimism for Beginners, out now, and a recent Selected Poems from Penguin.  Her first crime novel Little Face, came out in the last year or so to great critical acclaim. 

With Hurting Distance she continues to explore the territory of secrets and lies, with the story of Naomi, a sun-dial maker, having an affair with a married man and how she deals with the disappearance of her lover.  A riveting read full of secrets within secrets, and many surprises.  Sophie Hannah will be interviewed by me for January’s podcast. 


Ian Duhig

Ian Duhig
This is an edited extract from an interview with poet Ian Duhig, whose recent poetry collections The Lammas Hireling and The Speed of Dark have received great critical acclaim. I interviewed Ian at his house in Chapel  Allerton, Leeds.

My family came from Ireland, and poetry is very important in the culture.  My mother would recite poetry sometimes in English and sometimes in Irish.  It was around a lot.  My head is full of poetry and songs. 

It is much easier and more convenient to write poems more than almost any other art-from.  I could always do it when I felt like it.  You can just get on with poetry.   

I have a strong connectedness to Leeds and Irish culture.  My father was in the Irish Army. One of the things I like about Leeds is that is a place of many communities.  I can also look at other immigrant cultures.  I think my poetry is political;  you can’t be a poet in Leeds without thinking about Tony Harrison who wrote wonderful political things. 

I worked for a long time with homeless people.  In the late eighties I won the National Poetry competition, and that made a book possible. If you write poetry you are drawing out the implications of things more than in prose; in prose you have a little bit of elbow room to develop your ideas. 

When I first came to Leeds I was introduced by Wayne Brown to the poetry of Derek Walcott, who had a massive impact on me.  Heaney, Muldoon and Longley were the Irish writers who influenced me.  I also liked Robert Lowell who had a vast impact on me, particularly his early stuff.  I’ve just been looking at Derek Walcott’s latest book The Prodigal. 

In my latest collection I found many connections between the medieval Le Roman de Fauvel and contemporary issues and this was the basis for The Speed of Dark. 

I make time for writing, and make time regularly, and encourage myself to write as much as I can.  I write things at a certain level, and leave them not completely finished. My head is full of half-finished work.   Things which I know will make some kind of poem, but which just at the moment are not quite complete.

Poem of the Month

This month's poem is Aubade, one of the two poems I have in the recent anthology Branch-Lines .