Monday, December 28, 2009

2000-2009: The Decade in Poetry, Poetry Foundation Editors

The past ten years have changed poetry in ways that have shocked and delighted even the most forward-thinking readers and writers. Online communities have flourished, dominant paradigms have shifted, and readers have found new solace in traditional forms. Poetry—and poetry communities—will never be the same. We asked poets and critics whose work has had a wide influence over the art form to describe the poetry "event" that most shaped their view of the decade. They focused on events both private and public, and their responses reveal that poetry in the new decade will continue to be a living, breathing, and ever-changing thing.—The Editors

The Darkling Thrush, by Thomas Hardy

The Guardian's Poem of the week... don'cha just want to hug newspapers with an active poetry section? And dance with them, spinning them around the ballroom to prolonged applause?

Thomas Hardy's "The Darkling Thrush" was originally called "The Century's End, 1900" and was first printed in The Graphic on 29 December of that year. The hymn-like metre combines with the Romantic, Keatsian image of the thrush to produce one of Hardy's most lyrical poems

Let the poet-thrush's "happy good night air" sing us out of 2009, with all my thanks and good wishes to friends old and new, on (and behind the scenes of), Poem of the Week.

The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
    Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
    Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to be
    The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
    The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
    Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
    Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
    The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
    Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
    Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
    Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
    His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
    And I was unaware

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Poster poems: Christmas

The Guardian poetry blog calls upon its readers to submit Christmas poems and offers up suggestions to prime the pump. About Poetry will surely have a Christmas selection, and no doubt others as well. While waiting (not much wait left), let's follow the Guardian's example and come up with our own.

The festive season has produced a great deal of mushy doggerel, but plenty of beautiful poetry, too. Please write some more of the latter. Well, it's that time of year again. Last year I dodged the Christmas bullet somewhat by calling for your poems on the subject of food, but this time around I've decided to embrace the season wholeheartedly. Yes, I'm after your Yuletide verses.

There are, of course, lots of Christmas poems; having conducted a rigorous poll of one person, I've found that the most famous of them all is Twas the Night before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore. The little fat man with the white beard; the reindeer; the sleigh full of toys; the snow: this poem contains all the elements of what we have come to think of as the traditional Christmas scene, even though we actually know that this version of the festival is a Victorian invention.

However, the feast of Christmas is far older than Prince Albert, a fact that we are reminded of most forcibly by two rather wonderful 17th-century poems, Robert Herrick's Ceremonies for Christmas, with its images of food, drink and the Yule fire, and A Christmas Carol by George Wither, which adds the age-old tradition of bringing winter greenery indoors for the mid-winter festival. The vision of Christmas that is represented in these poems was remarkably resilient and enduring; there is a strong thread that links them to Wordsworth's Minstrels, a poem that dates from the very cusp of the Victorian era.... Read more

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday poem: Christmas by Leigh Hunt

full of words from English Christmases and more....

by Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)

What! do they suppose that every thing has been said
that can be said about any one Christmas thing?
About beef, for instance?
About plum-pudding?
About mince-pie?
About holly?
About ivy?
About rosemary?
About mistletoe?
About Christmas Eve?
About hunt-the-slipper?
About hot cockles?
About blind-man's-buff?
About shoeing-the-wild-mare?
About thread-the-needle?
About he-can-do-little-that-can't-do-this?
About puss-in-the-corner?
About snap-dragon?
About forfeits?
About Miss Smith?
About the bell-man?
About the waits?
About chilblains?
About carols?
About the fire?
About the block on it?
About school-boys?
About their mothers?
About Christmas-boxes?
About turkeys?
About Hogmany?
About goose-pie?
About mumming?
About saluting the apple-trees?
About brawn?
About plum-porridge?
About hobby-horse?
About hoppings?
About wakes?
About "feed-the-dove"?
About hackins?
About yule-doughs?
About going-a-gooding?
About loaf-stealing?
About Julklaps? (Who has exhausted that subject, we should like to know?)
About wad-shooting?
About elder-wine?
About pantomime?
About cards?
About New-Year's Day?
About gifts?
About wassail?
About Twelfth-cake?
About king and queen?
About characters?
About eating too much?
About aldermen?
About the doctor?
About all being in the wrong?
About charity?
About all being in the right?
About faith, hope, and endeavour?
About the greatest plum-pudding for the greatest number? © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dancers honor poet with a whirl

Whirling DervishesImage via Wikipedia

Google Reader via GlobalPost by Nichole Sobecki, 2/18/09

The Mevlevi religious order founded by the still-trendy poet Rumi celebrates his life 800 years on, with performances by Sufi whirling dervishes. read more

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Lunarosity: Dec issue, submission guidelines

Lunarosity Vol. 8. December 2009, on-line at, includes poetry by Kyle Hemmings, Christina Hoag, William Stoneberger, Blakeslee Stevens, Sam Silva, Jack Bowman, Charles Frederickson, Merimee Moffitt, Paul Fisher, Donald Levering, Alexander Pollak, Taylor Graham, Karen Douglass, Neal Whitman, Susan Beckett, Kenneth Gurney, Alan Gann, Donal Mahoney, Howie Good, Gabrielle Bryden, Paul Handley, Harry Calhoun, Sergio Ortiz, Duane Locke, C.J. Opperthauser ~ with more poetry to come.  Fiction this issue is by Bob Tomolillo, David Kyea, John Bruce, Janet Yung.

Lunarosity is currently seeking submissions for 2010. Current submission needs for next issue: Poetry, five poems maximum, 100 line limit, shorter preferred; Fiction, Flash Fiction only, 300 word limit; no longer accepting essays. New publishing and submission policies as of December 1, 2009:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Homemade Poetry Gift Ideas

A Do-It-Yourself Guide to the Holidays

There are many ways to give poetry for the holidays. Here are a selection of Do-It-Yourself gift ideas for kids, adults, the literary-minded and the economically-minded alike.

Holiday Poetry Activities for Kids

Seize the spirit in your home or in the classroom with these great D.I.Y. projects for kids. Print templates for poetry ornaments, make snow globes out of things you can find around the house, or start off your new year with personalized poetry calendars for your family and friends. On the web at:

Poetry Infusions

The holidays aren't the holidays without food, drink, and merriment. Try out one of these recipes for herb-infused vinegar and pair it with your favorite line from a selection of poems about rosemary, thyme, or sage by June Jordan, Walt Whitman, or Peter Gizzi. On the web at:

How to Make a Chapbook

For the more ambitious do-it-yourselfer, why not put together an anthology of cherished poetry to pass out this winter? The time-honored tradition of chapbook-making is a perfect way to express your affection on a budget. Select your favorite poems from our site, and follow these easy book-binding steps. On the web at:

Thanks for being a part of the community.

Academy of American Poets, 584 Broadway, Suite 604, New York, NY 10012, 212-274-0343,



Hola ABQ Poetry People!

THIS FRIDAY NIGHT is the December edition of FINAL FRIDAY -- and the annual HAIKU DETHMATCH Championship!

It's head-to-head poetry warfare, haiku style! Seventeen syllable battling with the top qualifiers from the ABQSlams' Fall Haiku qualifying season, culminating with a hear-to-head battle for the title, hosted by National Poetry Slam Haiku Champion and three-time Albuquerque Poetry Slam team member and captain Mathew John Conley (plus a feature by MJC himself!)

To warm up the show: a youth poetry slam exhibition featuring the Duke City Youth Poets versus Silver City's HARDCORPS youth slam team! Plus music by DJ Smartiepants. Final Friday is sponsored by ABQSlams, Essential Elements, Winning Coffee Co., Warehouse 508 and Bradley's Books! opens with a youth poetry slam exhibition, featuring the Duke City Youth Poets versus Silver City's HARDCORPS youth slam team!
This all happens Friday, Dec 18, 7 p.m. (sign-up at 6:30) @Winning Coffee Co., 111 Harvard SE (3 doors down from The Zone, across from UNM), also hosted by MATTHEW JOHN CONLEY. Music by DJ Smartiepants. Free ($3 donation requested). Sponsored by ABQSlams, Essential Elements, Winning Coffee Co., Warehouse 508 and Bradley's Books.

WRITING INTENSIVE with MATHEW JOHN CONLEY, Saturday, Dec. 19, 10 am, WAREHOUSE 508, 508 First St. NW. Free to the first 20 youth poets who RSVP at 505.379.2666 or at the door $10 for writers over 21 years of age.
For information on the slam or the writing intensive call/text 505.379.2666 or email info@abqslams. org.

FINAL FRIDAY future schedule:
·       Friday, JAN. 29 -- featuring Bonafide Rojas from New York City! ( plus a writing intensive with Bonafide on Sat. Jan. 30 at the NHCC)
·       Friday, FEB. 26 -- featuring ABQWOW Women's City champion Brooke von Blomberg!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ekleksographia: Volume Two: Anny Ballardini and Translations

Ekleksographia is an exercise in asymmetrical publishing, and is a shoe (or even two!) thrown at the spotlit shrug and yawn. This issue is dedicated to translation and edited by Anny Ballardini.

Anny Ballardini lives in Bolzano, Italy. She grew up in New York, lived in New Orleans, Buenos Aires, Florence. A poet, translator and simultaneous interpreter for English, French, Italian, she received her MFA in Creative Writing from UNO, University of New Orleans, Chair and Director Bill Lavender. She teaches high school; edits an online poetry site; and writes a blog: Narcissus Works. Besides various full length publications of translations, to be mentioned are her two collections of poems, Opening and Closing Numbers, Moria Editions, Editor Bill Allegrezza, 2005; and Ghost Dance in 33 Movements Otoliths Press, Editor Mark Young, 2009.

The Passionate Gardener

Ekleksographia: Volume Two: Anny Ballardini and Translations

The artwork above is by Berty Skuber, cover for Rudolf Borchardt's The Passionate Gardener in the English translation by Henry Martin (McPherson & Company, Kingston, New York, October 2006).
"Rudolf Borchardt's The Passionate Gardener is one of the most beautiful books ever written about gardening and the world of plants, about the poetry of observing and making sense of the world around us. It's a very difficult book, full of the language and the feelings of a former era, full of the hopes and aspirations of a former time. My own relationship to works in translation is highly poetic, since written language always turns itself for me into images. I constantly think and dream in various languages, and I think of translation as something magical. The images I see while reading a book like Anna Maria Ortese's L'Iguana in Italian and then while reading the same book in English are very different, even in passages where the meaning of the words is precisely the same."

American Life in Poetry: Column 247

Welcome to American Life in Poetry. For information or to download a PDF version of the column, visit


American Life in Poetry: Column 247


Family photographs, how much they do capture in all their elbow-to-elbow awkwardness. In this poem, Ben Vogt of Nebraska describes a color snapshot of a Christmas dinner, the family, impatient to tuck in, arrayed along the laden table. I especially like the description of the turkey.

Grandpa Vogt's—1959

The food is on the table. Turkey tanned
to a cowboy boot luster, potatoes mashed
and mounded in a bowl whose lip is lined
with blue flowers linked by grey vines faded
from washing. Everyone's heads have turned
to elongate the table's view—a last supper twisted
toward a horizon where the Christmas tree, crowned
by a window, sets into itself half inclined.
Each belly cries. Each pair of eyes admonished
by Aunt Photographer. Look up. You're wined
and dined for the older folks who've pined
to see your faces, your lives, lightly framed
in this moment's flash. Parents are moved,
press their children's heads up from the table,
hide their hunger by rubbing lightly wrinkled
hands atop their laps. They'll hold the image
as long as need be, seconds away from grace.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2008 by Benjamin Vogt, whose most recent book of poems is Indelible Marks, Pudding House Press, 2004. Reprinted by permission of Benjamin Vogt. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Solstice Candlelight Poetry Celebration


The annual Winter Solstice Candlelight Poetry Celebration is Monday December 21, 7pm, at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church in Placitas, NM.


The theme for the night is “Winter and the Mountain” with 12 poets reading their work by the light of one candle, symbolizing the transition of the season from darkening, shorter days to a gradual lengthening.


“Winter settles on the Sandia and the cold moves downwards. The north facing slopes hold the snow now. The Elders huddle at the crest and pull their green and white blankets snug. The longest night is coming. Solstice.

Celebrate this passage and welcome back the slowly stretching days at the Winter Solstice Candlelight Poetry Reading —a tradition now for twelve years. Twelve poets from the Southwest and beyond each read a poem to the light of a single burning candle. Between readings, a short interlude of silence provides a moment of contemplation at the close of another year. Afterwards meet and chat with this year’s readers over refreshments in the church’s fellowship hall.”


Jim Fish, Tani Arness, Dale Harris, Ben Brishcar, Renny Golden, Jim Burbank, Larry Goodell, Elizabeth Galligan, Kat Heatherington, Gary Brower, Kimberly Summers and Norman Schaefer are the poets who will be reading. The event is organized by John Orne Green and sponsored by the Earth Care Fellowship at LPPC and The Partnership for Earth, as part of the Earth Vespers series.


A poetry chapbook and recordings will be available.



Saturday, December 12, 2009

From the Fishouse

From the Fishouse is an IRS-registered non-profit that promotes the oral tradition of poetry. The free online audio archive showcases emerging poets (defined for this purpose as poets with fewer than two published books of poetry at the time of submission) reading their own poems, as well as answering questions about poetry and the writing process.

The Fishouse's mission is to use online technology and other media to provide the public with greater access to the voices of emerging poets, and to provide an educational resource to students and teachers of contemporary poetry.

Follow Fishouse on Twitter and join on Facebook for updates as additional live readings are edited and posted. Videos of Fishouse readings are continually added to our YouTube channel.

From the Fishouse takes its name, and the spelling of "Fishouse," from the writing cabin of the late Lawrence Sargent Hall. Hall renovated the former codfish-drying shack and wrote in the space for 50 years.

From the Fishouse

Ed note: maybe an idea for the Poets & Writers Picnic ~ archive sound and video records of picnic performances. A Picnic Facebook presence is underway but not yet published

Friday, December 11, 2009

Poet on the Moon: One Small Step

11 Dec 2009
Savage Chickens - One Small Step

The latest Sphinx includes this and more poetry-related cartoons. More Savage Chickens poetry cartoons on sticky notes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sat Dec 12,: 516 WORDS Poetry & Music

Demetria Martinez, Amalio Madueño, Margaret Randall 
music with Frank McCulloch y sus Amigos

516 WORDS Poetry and Music, Sat Dec 13


516 ARTS presents Albuquerque poets Demetria Martinez and Margaret Randall and Taos poet Amalio Madueño (all of whom are featured in Mezcla, a poetry anthology recently published by the Tumblewords Project of El Paso) along with traditional Mexican and New Mexican music with Frank McCulloch y sus Amigos.  

Organized by poet Richard Vargas, this event explores the borderlands' aesthetic and is presented in conjunction with the visual work addressing the U.S./Mexico border by David Taylor and Michael P. Berman currently on view at 516 ARTS. 

This event marks the close of Grasslands / Separating Species, the culminating exhibition at 516 ARTS for LAND/ART. For more information on the featured poets, click here.

This event is made possible in part by Arturo Sandoval in honor of Anna Kavanaugh Sandoval. 
516 Central Avenue SW

Albuquerque, NM 87102

t. 505-242-1445

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sun Dec 13: "Watch Your (Mestizo) Mouth"

As part of Albuquerque Now: Fall, the Albuquerque Museum (2000 Mountain NW, see links below) hosts Mestizo Mouth on Sunday at 2 p.m., showcasing the best slam poets and spoken word artists this side of the Rio Grande. Actually, make that both sides.

Lobo SlamIf you show up to the museum between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., admission is free. After that, the cost is $4 adults, $3 New Mexico residents.

Mestizo Mouth is a mutli-voice collaboration of Albuquerque-based performance poets – Hakim Bellamy, Carlos Contreras, Cuffee, Damien Flores, Lee Francis IV, Jessica Lopez and Kenn Rodriguez.

Mestizo Mouth is an outgrowth of these seven poets’ work as part of both the championship Albuquerque Poetry Slam team and the University of New Mexico’s LoboSlam Collegiate poetry slam teams.

Mestizo Mouth is dedicated to creating spoken word and performance poetry that expands the boundaries of both while working from a platform where poets expand the idea of what performance poetry looks and sounds like. 

Their current untitled show “ABQ Now” is their first collaboration as a large group

For more Mestizo Mouth, Albuquerque Now or Featured Events, call 243-7255 or go to (Erin Adair-Hodges) Albuquerque Museum of Art and History · 2 p.m. Upcoming Events at the Museum ~ Featured Events

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Please Vote for (the other) Poets & Writers

header 1

Chase is enlisting Facebook users to choose which nonprofit organizations they want to receive millions of dollars in donations via Chase Community Giving: You Decide What Matters. Each person is allowed to vote for up to twenty different charities in the first round, so please include a vote for Poets & Writers. You must log in to Facebook to vote.

READING BOOKS IN BLACK AND WHITE: Author Carleen Brice recommends titles in honor of National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give It to Somebody Not Black Month, the book-buying campaign she launched last year to heighten awareness of black authors who aren't as famous as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Colson Whitehead.
Read the Article

T.C. Boyle discusses the music and writing that have inspired his short stories in the latest installment of Writers Recommend. Visit Writers Recommend

from bad to verse

From the Poetry Foundation, an article on our ongoing fascination with terrible poetry.

The Good, the Bad, and the Good Bad by Abigail Deutsch

Bad Poetry. Original Illustrations by Paul Killebrew.

“Yet just as cheese sometimes gets too moldy—to plunge forward with my metaphor in the blithe manner of James McIntyre—so can bad poetry rot beyond possible appreciation. Charles Lee and D.B. Wyndham Lewis discussed this problem in their famed anthology The Stuffed Owl (1930), a collection of bad poetry that has served as a model for many such volumes to follow. They outlined distinctions between ‘good Bad Verse,’ which they sought for their book, and “bad Bad Verse,” which they avoided.”—Abigail Deutsch examines the good, the bad, and the good bad.

Read the entire article.


Int'l Poetry Web Poem of the week ~ ARK


One stormy night I will open by myself
The lonely locked room beside me

I may find a candle-stub, a box of matches
A bolt of spiritual lightning to set me shivering

A stone sinks in the ocean five hundred metres off shore
The soul of a bird nesting in the cliffs is fervent and imperilled

Yes, the ocean is nearby, one stormy night
I will listen to the pounding of the waves and light the candle

Write life’s sun on the land
And the death-date of all things

But I am a young man walking towards the sea
After experiencing hardships I will be fully fledged

Three knocks on the door reverberate in my heart
The tide leaps onto the sandy shore like a great host of turtles

This night’s dagger, this flotsam from a seaborne ship
I pat the ancient ark, the bright moon hangs high

One stormy night I will open by myself
The lonely locked room beside me

©  Xi Chuan   © Translation: 2006, Tao Naikan and Tony Prince

Poem of the week  ~  Xi Chuan page

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Poet Speaks

A treat from the New Yorker's Book Bench: the poetry of Rumi in a multimedia installation

A Poet Speaks from The Book Bench by Shahnaz Habib via Google Alerts

poetrywall.jpg Whether you are a "wanderer, worshipper, or lover of leaving," there might be something for you at Zahra Partovi's multimedia Rumi installation, "A Poet Speaks," on display at the Center for Book Arts until the end of this week. For me, it was the nonchalant coexistence of art and office life: Partovi's "temple" is located on the way to the bathroom, right next to the microwave and coffeemaker. Walls of Rumi poetry (created by threading poem print-outs through sheets of mull cloth) are scattered throughout the Center's printing studio. When a phone rang at the reception, one side of a conversation about directions to the Center blended with the sound of recorded voices reading from the Diwan-e-Shams and Masnavi. And the to and fro of staff members on the way to the copier or back from the bathroom mirrored video footage of feet, shot from ground level. "I don't really understand the feet video," I confessed to James Copeland, who works at the Center. "I think of the syllables of poetry, feet on the move," he said dreamily. Of course. Here gallery and workplace blur into one. After all,

Within the Kaaba there are no rules
About facing Mecca.
Jalaluddin Rumi

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Poetry Super Highway

Poetry Super Highway
  • PSH Live Open Reading Tomorrow!
    Tune in, call in, read in...(okay that may have been one too many "ins" but the point is that the next PSH Live open reading is tomorrow, Sunday, December 6 at 2:00 pm (pacific). You're invited to tune in to hear the reading as well as call in and read your poetry during the live show. Click on PSH LIVE from the main PSH Menu for the details.

  • Online Conversation with Rick Lupert on Wednesday
    I'll be the featured guest on the Moe Green Poetry Discussion this Wednesday, December 9 at 3:00 pm (pacific) on the World Wide Word radio network. Tune in during the live show (or listen to the archived edition after it broadcasts) HERE. Let's find out together if I have anything interesting or relevant to say.

Issue # 635 - ISSN: 1523-6587

December 7 - 13, 2009

this week:
  • This week featuring poets from Brooklyn, NY and Wheaton, IL

  • 2 new poetry and writing links added this week.

  • Best New Poets 2009: 50 Poems from Emerging Writers edited by Kim Addonizio and Jeb Livingstone featured this week in the PSH Bookstore.

  • PSH LIVE Schedule: Next Reading Dec 6, 2pm (pacific) - Tomorrow!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Poems to Stop Bulldozers

News from

ARTICLES: December 4, 2009

Vermin: A Notebook

Vermin: A Notebook

Poems can stop bulldozers.

Washington, DC, Poetry Tour

Washington, DC, Poetry Tour

Our nation’s capital through the eyes of its great poets.


Absolute Necessities

Absolute Necessities

The recession confession of a poetry shopaholic.
Anne Bradstreet: “To My Dear and Loving Husband”

Anne Bradstreet: “To My Dear and Loving Husband”

Anne Bradstreet became a cultural icon for speaking out. Anne Hutchinson was banished.
Mina Loy: “Lunar Baedeker”

Mina Loy: “Lunar Baedeker”

The poet navigates the unknown world.
What is poetry?

What is poetry?

A video series that asks the tough questions.


Contemporary Best Sellers for the week of November 22, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Journal : Call for Submissions

Ryga: A Journal of Provocations, a quarterly dedicated to honouring the legacy of one of Canada's greatest playwrights, is seeking prose, poetry, plays and artwork for upcoming issues. Details may be found at eMail questions to 
Ryga: A Journal of Provocations

Sean Johnston, Editor, 


Dept. of English, Okanagan College
7000 College Way, Vernon, BC V1B 2N5
Tel: 250-762-5445 (ext. 4672)
Toll Free: 1-877-755-2266 (ext. 4672)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why I never became a poet | Jonathan Jones

By the way, I'm Welsh too.

As a Welshman, poetry was in my soul - until the editor of a poetry magazine poured cold water on my efforts

So, the Turner prize award is coming up, and it will be presented by the poet laureate. Which reminds me of my adolescent desire to be a poet. Perhaps most teenagers want to be poets, or at least songwriters, but if you're Welsh it's different. Wales is a bardic culture. Its cultural tradition is profoundly invested in the lineage of bards - oral poets - going back through the early middle ages and the Mabinogion into the mists of time. Writing poetry, in other words, seemed a very natural thing to do in north Wales and even, in some sense, a career aspiration or vocation – although I always wanted to write in English.

So ... I sang in my chains like the sea (complete Dylan Thoomas poem at end), until I actually got to go on a poetry course in a Nissen hut on a Snowdonian mountain, taught by the then-editor of the magazine Poetry Wales. A small group of would-be bards from schools in our area spent a couple of intense days trying to prove we were actual poets. I remember trying to impress people by quoting Paul Morley in NME saying that Joy Division were an "angst band". I was rightly mocked for this pretension.

When it came to the private tutorials, the man from Poetry Wales was nothing like as impressed with my verses as I hoped he'd be. Worse still, he really liked the work of a rival. He spoke with authority. I never aspired to be a poet after that moment of disillusion in the mountains.

This may seem a ramble, but actually it is pertinent to the use and abuse of criticism.
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