English and Drama blog

16 August 2016

Celebrating poetry pamphlets: new readings online

by Ian Cooke, Head of Contemporary British Published Collections

The call for entries to the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets 2016 is now live. Each year, the awards celebrate publishers, illustrators and authors of new poetry pamphlets. For the 2015 awards, we invited our shortlisted poets to record readings from their pamphlets at the British Library. These recordings are now available on Soundcloud. Here are more details on the poets and readings:

Gill McEvoy, our award winner for 2015, reads from her pamphlet ‘The First Telling’, published by HappenStance press. The poems relate an experience of rape, the ‘tellings’ being sessions with a counsellor. In this recording, Gill McEvoy reads, ‘The First Telling’, ‘There’s a grey parrot’, ‘I touch the cigarette’, ‘Magpie’, and ‘In the bathroom, scrub skin’. The judges for the 2015 award commented, ‘we admired the way this pamphlet deals not just with trauma and its aftermath, but with the difficulty of articulating what has happened, the challenge of finding the right words. Form and content mesh together perfectly in poems that use the power of silence as well as the power of language’.

Anja Konig, was shortlisted for her first poetry pamphlet collection, ‘Advice for an Only Child’, published by Flipped Eye press. Anja reads ‘Not the Last Chapter’, ‘Triple Negative’, ‘She’s Good with her Hands’, and ’We are the Bees of the Invisible’. In shortlisting this pamphlet, the judges commented, ‘Anja Konig’s debut pamphlet is witty and inventive. There’s a surprise on every page – her short poems look slantwise at relationships, the female body and what it means to write. We found these poems unsparing, yet lifted by a light touch’.

Peter Riley’s ‘The Ascent of Kinder Scout’ is a pamphlet-length poem that refers to the Kinder Trespass of 1932; a protest against the permanent enclosure of land for the purposes of grouse shooting. Published by Longbarrow Press, this is the eleventh section of a work provisionally entitled North. Describing this work, the 2015 judges said: ‘Evoking the Dark Peak in Derbyshire with startling clarity, we felt this pamphlet brilliantly captured what it’s like to look to landscapes for resolution, only to be humbled by the scale of them. Expansive but exact, it takes in the history of a trespass, the ghost of a lost friend and the future of a broken nation’.

Alan Jenkins reads two poems from ‘Clutag Five Poems Series No 2’, published by Clutag. The poems in this pamphlet are all linked by the Thames and places close to it in South West London, and the memories and personal associations that these places hold. In this recording, Jenkins reads ‘Beckett’s Wharf’, and ‘Upper Mall’. Our 2015 judges wrote, ‘Set against the backdrop of the Thames, these are haunting, understated elegies that often find the narrator challenging his own grief, trying to explain the source of it, trace it beyond the immediacy of loss. Assured and elegant, these poems moved us deeply’. In addition to these poets, the judges also shortlisted David Tait’s ‘Three Dragon Day’ for the 2015 award. David, who works as a teacher in China, was unable to attend the 2015 awards. The title of his collection refers to a Chinese phrase for describing heavy fog. The awards, supported by the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, celebrate the vitality, diversity and sheer talent of poets and poetry publishers in the UK. The shortlisted poets for 2015 demonstrated the range and power of contemporary poetry. As the entries start to come in for 2016, we are looking forward to an equally rich, exciting and moving collection of pamphlets.