Writing

for SECH   Clare would have called these five red kites circling above dead or stag’s-headed oaks like iambs broken from a line of English pastoral by a name that signifies a deed without a name by a call that only says and you too soon as they spin and entertain us, then our chances   John Greening received a Cholmondeley award in 2008. His latest collections are Heath (Nine Arches, with Penelope Shuttle), To the War Poets (Carcanet), Knot (Worple) and Poetry Masterclass (Greenwich Exchange). His edition of Edmund Blunden appeared from OUP in Spring 2015 along with the classical music anthology Accompanied Voices.

I had watched countless videos on YouTube, attended other poetry slams and kept abreast of the ‘scene’ on social media, but nothing quite prepared me for the electricity in the air when I arrived at the Royal Festival Hall for the hotly-anticipated National Finals of Hammer and Tongue’s annual spoken word circuit. The tension, after all, had built over several months as teams selected in the gruelling regional stages made their way to the national qualifiers, and nothing – neither the drizzly January afternoon, nor an imminent city-wide Tube strike – would dampen anyone’s spirits. Some poets spoke to the...

‘Shoeshine, sir?’ asked the young lad with a shoeshine box in his hand, as I peered into the window of a shop in New Delhi’s fashionable Connaught Circus. ‘No thanks’, I responded. ‘I’m in a hurry. I have to go somewhere.’ ‘Will be quick, and make like new’, he said reassuringly. ‘No’, I said again. ‘I do not want to shine my shoes.’ I tried fobbing him off, but it was difficult. He then followed me and tried to engage me in conversation. ‘From where, sir?’ he asked. ‘I am Indian’, I replied, somewhat mildly irritated. ‘Don’t lie’, he snapped accusingly. ‘That is not Indian flag.’...

Hannah Lowe’s latest collection of poetry Chan (Bloodaxe, 2016) revisits the characters and stories from her first collection, Chick (Bloodaxe, 2013), which won the Michaels Murphy memorial Award for Best First Collection, and was short-listed for the Forward, Aldeburgh and Seamus Heaney Best First Collection Prizes. Named one of the 20 Next Generation poets, the bar variably has been set for her second collection. With remarkable ease Chan surpasses all expectations. Dealing directly with the issues of poverty, (im)migration and marginalisation, Lowe braids the experiences of famous jazz musicians, her own family and newly arrived British immigrants of the...

In the sixth edition of their most recent collaboration with Barikee, Gabriel Fine Arts showcased an expansive array of work, from the interpretive calligraphy of Bin Qulander to the poetic photographs of Adriaan van Heerden. The mere diversity in artistic origin, from Pakistan to South Africa and New Zealand to Germany, serves homage to the title and ethos of the exhibition, ‘Unity in Variety’. “W. Somerset Maugham wrote that, ‘The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety’. This is a beautiful, expansive thought: what it means to me is that we are more beautiful as a whole if we...

To sing the evening home, the lover prepares a pot of lentil stew – her phone lighting up to the news of love’s imminent arrival, imagining her lover’s footsteps across the swollen field, damp with longing, her lover’s steady hand gripping her smartphone to navigate towards some notion of home, their flat an unfamiliar place of worship, their bodies growing close and moving apart with the regularity of heart- beat, blood-breath. There the lover is, running to catch a bus she knows will take her somewhere so she can feel once again the sensation of lack – wondering at her lover’s motions throughout the flat, how her feet must press insistently on the floor with each step, how the...

“It’s not about how great the collection is. It’s about the photographers who took the photographs…how they changed the art form forever.” While he still manages to rock over 100 gigs per year, the Rocket Man is also revered in most cultural circles as a tastemaker par excellence. He has always been an early champion of emerging talent, from Eminem in the 80s to Ed Sheeran in the 90s, and last April, he collaborated with Lady Gaga to launch a clothing line. Now, a major exhibition of international modernist photography at the Tate Modern proves that his private art collecting is as...

Just south of the village, Nabi Saleh, there is a spring. It is called Ein al Qoos or the Bow Spring. Palestinian farmers have used it for their crops for as long as anyone can remember. However, in 2008, Nabi Saleh’s access to the spring was cut off. Israeli settlers dug a pool that collected water from it; they populated the pool with fish and built a swing, a bench, and a shade. They gave the spring a Hebrew name –Ma’ayan Meier, or the Meier Spring – and occupied it. Since, the residents of Nabi Saleh have protested weekly....

The exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery differs from William Rubin’s one on Picasso’s portraits twenty years ago at MOMA by defining Picasso’s portraits more tightly.  Picasso’s incorporation of his circumstances and surroundings in his art led Rubin to include art in which the present show’s curator, Elizabeth Cowling, feels he was addressing other themes than that of pure portraiture - the theme of artist and his model, for example, addressed in the Vollard Suite.  While both artist and model are often identifiable, Cowling argues, these works are not portraits per se.  However, she adds an element that Rubin...

Puccini’s La Boheme has long elicited a powerful emotional response from its audiences, but rarely have the cast been close enough to see its effects on the faces of those watching them. OperaUpClose deliver exactly what their name suggests: beloved classics in an intimate setting. La Boheme, winner of the Olivier Award for Best Opera in 2011, is part immersive, part promenade, and all the more atmospheric for its one-off staging beneath the hull of the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. Opera venue or not, the Cutty Sark is always an impressive sight. The performance took place on Saturday November 12th, and...

Poetry was necessary on this year’s election night.  As we sat in a beautiful, packed room in Bloomsbury House, Faber’s headquarters, surrounded by first editions and fairy lights, it was easy to forget the news.  We were gathered for an event organised by the Poetry Society, bringing together three of the most innovative young poets - Eric Berlin, Emily Berry and Jack Underwood, to read poems from their collections. Jack Underwood delivered the most reassuring poem of the evening, Instead of Bad News about a Person I Love, which probes the psychological tendency to chronically imagine the worst possible scenario...

  He was patient as a dead bird. He perched on the ledge of bottom and rocked.  He was the missed flight. He was silence calmed down. He loved most to watch the moon climb the ladder of the sky.  Many muttered: imbecile.  Yet—whenever he passed by, the trees donned tuxedos and stood up straight. Robert Nazarene founded the critically acclaimed MARGIE Review and IntuiT House Poetry Series which published the winning volume for the National Book Critics Circle award in poetry for 2006. He is the author of two full-length collections of poems: CHURCH (2006) and Empire de la Mort. His poetry has appeared in AGNI, Ploughshares, The Journal...

Avant-garde in its truest sense is an appellation that can be justifiably given to the artist, illustrator, film-maker, publisher, theatre and book designer, Franciszka Themerson, who is being celebrated with a solo exhibition of her paintings, drawings and calligrammes at l’étrangère gallery in London. Throughout her life, both in her own practice and in collaboration with her husband, writer, poet, film-maker, publisher, Stefan Themerson, she experimented with different art forms and approaches, often inventing new methods and forms along the way and continually sought to reflect and analyse the world around her. Her intent focus on always being forward-looking,...

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”: you could say that this Yeatsian adage is the bedrock on which J. M. Coetzee elaborates the architecture of his sequel to The Childhood of Jesus. In his latest instalment to this story of a boy and his foster parents, we see the young David assert his sway over his slightly bemused parents as they attempt to cope with the difficulty of raising a strange unacademic yet over-gifted child. At the opening of the novel, the family has fled Novilla, the somewhat austere utopian city they...

In poetic terms silence can refer to a static and invisible light behind the words of the poetic text. This is  also a key a feature of postmodernism, which considers silence significant as it embodies contemporary human isolation and frustration. When silence plays an active role in enriching the poetic text the poet adopts silence as a form of metaphor, the poet often lives in this world alone in spite of his surroundings. Silence is a form of self-discourse, it is his mother tongue, for the history of silence is deeper, richer and more extensive than the history of...

Some suggest that science fiction is a woman’s genre. In its purest form, sci-fi reimagines the structures of society and, in the process, creates a topsy-turvy fairground mirror with devastating implications for the real world it reflects. From Suzanne Collins to Margaret Atwood, and right back to Mary Shelley, women writers have always questioned the prevailing ideas of their day by considering the near future. It is hardly surprising, then, that Naomi Alderman’s latest novel is part of this grand tradition, not least because Atwood happens to be her mentor. The Power reminds us that questions about our own society...

The revival of Kenneth MacMillan's compelling and experimental ballet Anastasia is currently being performed by the Royal Ballet for the first time since 2004. The ballet circles around a real life mystery and is rooted in one of the greatest upheavals of the twentieth century. In 1966, while artistic director of the Deutsche Oper Ballet in West Berlin, MacMillan based his ballet on the story of Anna Anderson, a Polish woman who proclaimed herself the Romanov princess Anastasia and sole survivor of the Bolshevik’s assassination of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. MacMillan re-staged Anastasia for the Royal Ballet a few years later, extending...

In 2015, Deborah Smith – translator of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian – set up Tilted Axis Press, a publishing house dedicated to translated fiction. Tilted Axis is unique; unlike most other publishing houses, it gives and encourages equal recognition to and of its authors and translators. Yewon Jung is translator of their second release, One Hundred Shadows by South Korean author, Jungeun Hwang. This is a strange and quiet novel. Straddling the border between fantasy and realism, it details a phenomenon in a slum in central Seoul – people’s shadows ‘rise’ (literally peeling off the ground) and coax the...

As its title suggests, Rebecca Watts’s new collection seeks to reinvent nature poetry for the 21st Century: a tradition most closely associated with figures like Wordsworth (who re-appears within these pages) as well as an earlier era, and a vastly different ecosystem, of English poetry. While the landscape certainly figures prominently in this volume both as muse and method – even the shortest poems, like ‘Aldeburgh Beach’, are structured in shape and sound to approximate waves on the coast – there is far more here that warrants our recognition as one of the significant debuts of the year. It’s rare...

In a recent interview with The Times, acclaimed theatre director Robin Icke said that he walks out of shows at the interval ‘all the time.’ For the audience viewing his startling new play The Red Barn, he makes this choice rather more difficult, if not impossible - the two-hour long production, currently being staged in the National Theatre, has no interval and a no re-admission policy. An appropriate choice seeing as freedom, or the lack of it, is subtly and ambivalently explored in this unsettling psychological thriller. This delicate retelling by David Hare of Belgian thriller writer Georges Simenon’s La...

There’s something about the unpredictability of a storm that arouses excitement and chaos in a reader, writer, or just your average passerby on an open road. We can look towards none other than Shakespeare for attributing such emphasis on the storm as a device crucial to narrative and character development in both theatre and literature. Globe Education has recently announced Gwilym Jones as the winner of the 2016 Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award for Shakespeare’s Storms. Jones accepted the honour after giving a talk at The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on Thursday. 6th October Shakespeare’s Storms is the first study of the use of...

Douglas Cowie’s most recent book, Noon in Paris, Eight in Chicago, is a fictionalised account of the near-two-decades-long relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Algren. As Cowie has pointed out, while many would automatically call what existed between Beauvoir and Algren an affair, that word’s suggestion of something secret, untoward, perhaps a little seedy makes it a poor fit to the writers’ pained but loving connection: eighteen years, the author has noted, is surely too long a commitment, and suggests too strong a bond, to be labelled, dismissively, an affair. On a cold Chicago evening – February 1947 – Nelson Algren receives a phone call...

‘… no need of a story, a story is not compulsory, just a life, that’s the mistake I made, one of the mistakes, to have wanted a story for myself, whereas life alone is enough.’―Samuel Beckett, Stories and Texts for Nothing 'Dare, always dare.' This was the favourite anthem of Lilian Bayliss, theatrical producer and former manager of The Old Vic from 1898 to 1937. Now these words are being used to inspire once again - emblazoned in red lights, they crown the entrance to The Old Vic's lower stalls. Bayliss left a legacy of transformation – under her management...

An evening at the Southbank Centre is always going to be enlightening and entertaining - this is never more true than during the London Literature Festival, which runs 5 - 16 October. This year, it featured events with Margaret Atwood, Louis Theroux, Richard Dawkins, Iraqi science fiction and a reading of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine with Christopher Eccleston, all focusing on the theme of 'Living In Future Times'. H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine reading with Christopher Eccleston, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Emma Hamilton, 5 October To mark the opening of The London Literature Festival there was a reading of H. G....