Tishani Doshi: Everything Begins Elsewhere
Tishani Doshi, an award-winning poet and dancer of Welsh-Gujarati descent, introduces and reads five poems from Everything Begins Elsewhere (2012), her second collection of poems. These poems are powerful meditations born on the joineries of life and death, union and separation, memory and dream, with the body as their central theme, but taking this beyond the corporeal to challenge the more metaphysical borders of space and time. As much about loss as they are about reclamation, Doshi’s poems guide us through an ‘underworld of longing and deliverance’, making the exhilarating claim that through the act of vanishing, we may be shaped into existence again. Neil Astley filmed her reading poems from the book after her reading at Ledbury Poetry Festival on 8 July 2012. Here she reads these poems: 'The Art of Losing', 'Walking Around' (after Neruda), 'The Memory of Wales' (a sestina), 'The Adulterous Citizen' and 'Homecoming'. Tishani Doshi's work is included by permission of her publishers. Everything Begins Elsewhere was published by Bloodaxe Books in the UK and by HarperCollins in India in 2012, and by Copper Canyon Press in the US in 2013. For more details see http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/titlepage.asp?isbn=1852249366
Benjamin Zephaniah: To Do Wid Me (trailer)
TO DO WID ME is a film portrait of Benjamin Zephaniah by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, drawing on both live performances and informal interviews. It shows him performing his poetry for different audiences and talking about his work, life, beliefs and much else. You see him live on stage at Ledbury Poetry Festival, Newcastle's Live Theatre, Hexham's Queen's Hall and Brunel University, and engaging with school children at Keats House in London, where he was writer-in-residence. As well as the main film, the DVD also has a bonus feature: music videos made by Zephaniah with the Beta Brothers. All the poems and songs from the film and videos are included in the accompanying book from Bloodaxe. For more details see http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/titlepage.asp?isbn=1852249439
Best-known for his performance poetry with a political edge for adults – and his poetry with attitude for children – Zephaniah has his own rap/reggae band and has made many recordings. He grew up in Handsworth, Birmingham, where he was sent to an approved school for being uncontrollable, rebellious and ‘a born failure’, ending up in jail for burglary and affray. After prison he turned from crime to music and poetry.
In 1989 he was nominated for Oxford Professor of Poetry, and has since received honorary doctorates from several English universities, but famously refused to accept a nomination for an OBE in 2003. He was voted Britain's third favourite poet of all time (after T.S. Eliot and John Donne) in a BBC poll in 2009. In 2011 he was poet-in-residence at Keats House in 2011, and then made a radical career change by taking up his first ever academic position as a chair in Creative Writing at Brunel University in West London.
He has appeared in a number of television programmes, including Eastenders, The Bill, Live and Kicking, Blue Peter and Wise Up, and played Gower in a BBC Radio 3 production of Shakespeare’s Pericles in 2005. He was the first person to record with the Wailers after the death of Bob Marley, in a musical tribute to Nelson Mandela, which Mandela heard while in prison on Robben Island. Their later meetings led to Zephaniah working with children in South African townships and hosting the President’s Two Nations Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1996.
His first book of poems, Pen Rhythm, was produced in 1980 by a small East London publishing cooperative, Page One Books. His second collection, The Dread Affair, was published by Hutchinson’s short-lived Arena imprint in 1985. He then published three collections with Bloodaxe, City Psalms (1992), Propa Propaganda (1996) and Too Black Too Strong (2001), the latter including poems written while working with Michael Mansfield QC and other Tooks barristers on the Stephen Lawrence case. His other titles include poetry books for children from Puffin/Penguin and novels for teenagers from Bloomsbury.
Pamela Robertson-Pearce is an artist and filmmaker. Her films include IMAGO: Meret Oppenheim (1996), on the artist who made the fur-lined teacup, and Gifted Beauty (2000), about Surrealist women artists including Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo. IMAGO: Meret Oppenheim won several awards, including the Swiss Film Board’s Prize for Outstanding Quality and the Gold Apple Award at the National Educational Film and Video Festival in America. She has shown her work in solo exhibitions in New York and Provincetown, and in various group shows in the US and Europe. Born in Stockholm, she grew up in Sweden, Spain and England, then lived mostly in America - also working in Switzerland, Norway and Albania - before moving to Northumberland.
Matthew Sweeney: Horse Music
Matthew Sweeney introduces and reads from his tenth collection of poems, Horse Music (2013). The new book is as sinister as its dark forebears, but the notes he hits in Horse Music are lyrical and touching as well as disturbing and disquieting. Confronting him in these imaginative riffs are not just the perplexing animals and folklorish crows familiar from his earlier books, but also magical horses, ghosts, dwarfs and gnomes. Central to the book are a group of Berlin poems – introducing us to, among things, the birds of Chamissoplatz who warn of coming ecological disaster, or the horses who swim across the Wannsee to pay homage to Heinrich von Kleist in his grave (in 'Fans', which he reads here). Many poems in the book range freely across the borders of realism into an alternative realism, while others stay within what Elizabeth Bishop called ‘the surrealism of everyday life’ – such as a tale about Romanian gypsies removing bit by bit an abandoned car ('The Slow Story of No'). Neil Astley filmed Matthew Sweeney reading a selection of poems from the book at his home in Cork in February 2012. Here he reads six poems: 'Horse Music', 'Fans', 'The Tunnel', 'Sunday Morning', 'The Slow Story of No' and 'Booty'. Matthew Sweeney’s work is used in this film with the permission of his publishers, Bloodaxe Books. For more details see http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/titlepage.asp?isbn=1852249676
Arundhathi Subramaniam’s poems explore various ambivalences – around human intimacy with its bottlenecks and surprises, life in a Third World megalopolis, myth, the politics of culture and gender, and the persistent trope of the existential journey. Neil Astley filmed her reading a selection of her work in Bombay in November 2011. Here she reads eight poems: 'Winter, Delhi, 1997', 'To the Welsh Critic Who Doesn't Find Me Identifiably Indian', 'Prayer', 'Home', 'Madras', 'I Live on a Road', 'Recycled' and 'Confession', all from WHERE I LIVE: NEW & SELECTED POEMS (2009). Arundhathi Subramaniam’s work is used in this film with the permission of her publishers, Bloodaxe Books.
Esther Morgan's third collection GRACE is shortlisted for the 2011 T.S. Eliot Prize. The main themes of her poetry are loss, loneliness and what remains unspoken. She describes her subject-matter as being 'family and ancestry, the domestic space, the secrets of hidden lives'. Reviewing her work in the Times Literary Supplement, Stephen Knight writes of how 'erasure, absence and isolation are explored in a voice so ingenuous, its language and syntax so plain, that it takes a while to notice quite how disturbing the poetry is.' Neil Astley filmed Esther Morgan reading a selection of her poems at her home in Suffolk in November 2009. In this extract from his film, she reads one poem, 'The Reason', from her first collection BEYOND CALLING DISTANCE (2001); then two poems, 'Bone China' and 'At the parrot sanctuary', from THE SILENCE LIVING IN HOUSES (2005); and six poems from the Eliot-shortlisted GRACE (2011): 'Grace', 'Among Women', 'I want to go back to The Angel', 'What Happens While We Are Sleeping', 'After Life' and 'Risen'. Esther Morgan's work is used in this film with the permission of her publishers, Bloodaxe Books.
The Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2011. His books sell thousands of copies in Sweden, and his poetry has been translated into 60 languages. Born in 1931, grew up in Stockholm, but spent many long summers on the island of Runmarö in the nearby archipelago. Swedish nature and landscape have inspired much of his poetry, especially Runmarö, the Baltic coast and the country's lakes and forests. But Tomas Tranströmer is as much a poet of humanity as he is of nature. He worked as a psychologist for most of his life. He has been married for over fifty years to Monica Tranströmer, who became his voice to the world after he suffered a stroke in 1990. Since then he has only published two poetry collections and a short memoir. The stroke deprived him of most of his speech and left him unable to use his right arm. But Tomas Tranströmer is also an accomplished classical pianist. Unable to speak more than a few words, he can still express himself through music, despite only being able to play left-hand piano pieces. Swedish composers have written several left-hand piano pieces especially for him to play. This film by Pamela Robertson-Pearce and Neil Astley combines contemporary footage of Tranströmer, including his piano playing, with archive film and recordings of his readings. In the archive recordings, he reads the poems in Swedish, and the English translations are by Robin Fulton, from the UK edition NEW COLLECTED POEMS (Bloodaxe Books, 1997, 2011), and the US edition THE GREAT ENIGMA: NEW COLLECTED POEMS (New Directions, 2006); these two books have the same content but have been published for separate readerships. The two left-hand piano pieces Tranströmer plays in the film are by Fibich and Mompou. Swedish poems © Tomas Tranströmer from Dikter och Prosa 1954-2004 (Albert Bonniers Förlag, 2011).
Driving to work with Brendan Kennelly
In "Driving to work with Brendan Kennelly", the poet's editor Neil Astley takes you on his daily commute through the Tarset Valley of Northumberland to the Bloodaxe office behind Highgreen Manor - in the company of Brendan Kennelly, reading and talking about five of his poems: "The Visitor", "Poem from a Three Year Old", "I see You Dancing, Father", "My Dark Fathers" and "Begin". The readings are from the CD which comes with "The Essential Brendan Kennelly", the 75th birthday selection edited by Terence Brown and Michael Longley, published in 2011 by Bloodaxe Books in Britain and Ireland, and by Wake Forest University Press in the USA. The additional footage of Brendan reading is by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, from the DVD-anthology "In Person: 30 Poets" (Bloodaxe Books, 2008), edited by Neil Astley, which has six hours of readings filmed by Pamela of 30 poets from around the world on two DVDs which come with the anthology (which includes the texts of all the poems read on the films). Pamela's film of Brendan was made in Boston, Massachusetts, in September 2007, when he had a fellowship at Boston College. Neil's Tarset road movie was filmed in September 2011. The audio recordings were all made at Trinity College Dublin, the first four in 1999 and the last one in 2002. Bloodaxe has published all of Brendan Kennelly's poetry for the past 25 years.
John Agard: Listen Mr Oxford don
John Agard reads his poem 'Listen Mr Oxford don' from Pamela Robertson-Pearce's film JOHN AGARD LIVE! which comes on a free DVD with his book ALTERNATIVE ANTHEM: SELECTED POEMS (Bloodaxe Books, 2009) featuring films made at two different readings by John Agard, including this one made at Havant Arts Centre on 22 October 2008. There are two other excerpts from the film on Vimeo, one with John Agard reading the title-poem 'Alternative Anthem' (Vimeo page 10558023) and the other with Agard and fellow Guyanan Keith Waithe performing 'Flute Boy' followed by Agard's reading of 'Half-caste' (Vimeo page 1055802).
Luljeta Lleshanaku belongs to the first “post-totalitarian” generation of Albanian poets. Born in 1968, she grew up under house arrest because of her family's opposition to Enver Hoxha’s Stalinist dictatorship, and was not permitted to attend college or to publish her poetry until the weakening and eventual collapse of the regime in the early 1990s. She won the prestigious International Kristal Vilenica Prize in 2009; in his judge's citation for that prize, Forrest Gander wrote: 'Luljeta Lleshanaku's poems take place in a melancholy landscape of mountain villages, chestnut trees, and collapsing futures where "spring kills solitude with its solitude" and the only emotional expression not considered a sign of weakness is impatience.' In her book HAYWIRE she turns to the fallout of her country’s past and its relation to herself and her family. Through intense, powerful lyrics, she explores how these histories intertwine and influence her childhood memories and the retelling of her family’s stories. Sorrow, death, imprisonment, and desire are some of the themes that echo deeply in her hauntingly beautiful poems. When Luljeta Lleshanaku visited Ireland to read at DLR Poetry Now in Dún Laoghaire in March 2010, Neil Astley filmed her reading a set of poems at Tibradden, Rathfarnham, south of Dublin (with thanks to Selina Guinness for hosting this). In this extract from that filming session, she reads four poems: 'Marked' (in both English and Albanian), 'The Mystery of Prayers', 'Monday in Seven Days' (parts 5 and 9) and 'Memory', all from HAYWIRE: NEW & SELECTED POEMS (2011). The translations of these poems are by Henry Israeli, Shpresa Qatipi and Albana Lleshanaku. Luljeta Lleshanaku's work is used in this film with the permission of her publishers, Bloodaxe Books, with thanks to New Directions, who publish two selections of her work in the US which the British edition draws upon. Neil Astley has been assisting Pamela Robertson-Pearce in filming poets reading their work for Bloodaxe's archive, website and DVD-books. Her first DVD-book, IN PERSON (edited by Neil Astley), was published by Bloodaxe in 2008, including films of 30 poets with an anthology containing all the poems read on the films.
Basil Bunting reads from Briggflatts
This video features four short extracts of Basil Bunting reading from his long poem BRIGGFLATTS, from Peter Bell's film portrait, 'Basil Bunting: An introduction to the work of a poet', made by Northeast Films and first shown on Channel Four in 1982. The first two extracts here follow the sequence used in the film, not that of the poem itself; the second extract is the opening of the poem ('Brag, sweet tenor bull...'). Most of the ﬁlm was shot around Brigﬂatts meeting house near Sedbergh, Cumbria, and at Greystead Cottage in Northumberland’s Tarset valley, where Bunting lived from 1981 to 1984. The film is from the Arts Council England film collection, and is copyright Arts Council of Great Britain 1982. The whole film from which these extracts are taken is included with the Arts Council's permission on a DVD issued with the 2009 new Bloodaxe edition of BRIGGFLATTS (which also has a CD of an audio recording Bunting made of the whole of BRIGGFLATTS in 1967).
Basil Bunting (1900-85) is one of the most important British poets of the 20th century. Acknowledged since the 1930s as a major figure in Modernist poetry, first by Pound and Zukofsky and later by younger writers, the Northumbrian master poet had to wait over 30 years before his genius was finally recognised in Britain – in 1966, with the publication of BRIGGFLATTS. Bunting wrote that ‘Poetry, like music, is to be heard.’ His own readings of his own work are essential listening for a full appreciation of his highly musical poetry. As well as his own notes to the poem (and a posthumously published additional Note), the new edition includes his seminal essay on sound and meaning in poetry, ‘The Poet’s Point of View’ (1966), and other background material.
Clare Pollard reads from Changeling
Clare Pollard reads four poems from her latest collection CHANGELING (2011) and talks about the book's themes. Steeped in folktale and ballads, CHANGELING takes on our myths and monsters, from the Pendle witch-trials in 17th-century Lancashire to modern-day London and Iraq. The poems are 'Tam Lin's Wife', 'Pendle', 'The Two Ravens' and 'The Caravan'. Neil Astley filmed Clare Pollard at her home in London in June 2011. Clare Pollard's work is used in this film with the permission of her publishers, Bloodaxe Books. Neil Astley has been assisting Pamela Robertson-Pearce in filming poets reading their work for Bloodaxe's archive, website and DVD-books. Her first DVD-book, IN PERSON (edited by Neil Astley), was published by Bloodaxe in 2008, including films of 30 poets with an anthology containing all the poems read on the films. More footage from the film of Clare Pollard will be made available at a later date.
Brian Turner reads his poems from the Iraq War
Brian Turner served for seven years in the US Army. He was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq from 2003. Turner's is a powerful poetry of witness, exceptional for its beauty, honesty and skill, offering unflinching accurate description but no moral judgement, leaving the reader to draw any conclusions. Here he reads six poems from his two collections, HERE, BULLET and PHANTOM NOISE, giving a harrowing, first-hand account of the Iraq War. The poems are: 'Here, Bullet', 'Hwy 1', 'Eulogy', '16 Iraqi Policemen', 'The Inventory from a Year Sleeping with Bullets' and 'At Lowe's Home Improvement Center'. HERE, BULLET was published in the US by Alice James Books in 2005 and in the UK by Bloodaxe Books in 2007. Published by both publishers in the US and UK in 2010, PHANTOM NOISE includes poems dealing with the traumatic aftermath of war: flashbacks explode the daily hell of Baghdad into the streets and malls of peaceful California, sending Turner's imagination reeling back to Iraq, as in the last poem he reads in this video. This video is an excerpt from a film made at Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2011 by Neil Astley, who has been assisting Pamela Robertson-Pearce in filming poets reading their work for Bloodaxe's archive, website and DVD-books. Her first DVD-book, IN PERSON (edited by Neil Astley), was published by Bloodaxe in 2008, including films of 30 poets with an anthology containing all the poems read on the films. More footage from the film of Brian Turner will be made available at a later date.
Ruth Bidgood at Ledbury Poetry Festival
Ruth Bidgood gave a rare reading at Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2010. This year – at the age of 88 – she won the Roland Mathias Prize for her most recent collection "Time Being". Ruth Bidgood's ostensible subjects are the storied landscape and history of her region of mid-Wales, the hills and valleys of Powys and Breconshire, but her themes frequently have a wider reach, a spiritual depth that is often darkly suggestive and mysterious. She avoids sentimentality, but - unfashionably - not sentiment; an observation can engender joy or sorrow or fear uncluttered by irony. Her descriptions are sharp and memorable, tending to a cool accuracy. Born in 1922 at Seven Sisters, near Neath, and educated at Port Talbot and Oxford University, Ruth Bidgood worked as a coder in the Egyptian desert in World War II. After living in London for some years, she returned to Wales in the 1960s, making her home near Llanwrtyd Wells. As well as a poet, she is also a noted local historian. In this extract from her Ledbury reading, she reads and talks about four poems: 'Witness', 'Rooms', 'Pause' and 'Edward Bache Advises His Sister' (introducing the latter with pertinent comments on the nature of "found poems"). These poems are from "New & Selected Poems" (2004) and "Time Being" (2009), published by Seren Books. Her reading was filmed by Bloodaxe editor Neil Astley, publisher-in-residence at Ledbury Poetry Festival in 2010.
Susan Wicks's poetry transforms the apparently ordinary into something precise, surprising and revelatory. Kathleen Jamie described her as 'a poet of deceptive power, who can transmute everyday objects and events into poems with an understated numinous edge'. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed her reading a set of poems during a break from teaching an Arvon Foundation course at Totleigh Barton in Devon in November 2009. In this extract from that filming session, Susan Wicks reads eight poems: 'Ha Ha Bonk', 'Buying Fish', 'The Clever Daughter', 'Persephone', 'My Father's Handkerchiefs' and 'Night Toad' from NIGHT TOAD: NEW & SELECTED POEMS (2003), followed by two poems from her latest collection, HOUSE OF TONGUES (2011), 'Pistachios' and 'Cycling to See the Fish-ladder'. Susan Wicks's work is used in this film with the permission of her publishers, Bloodaxe Books. Pamela Robertson-Pearce has been filming poets reading their work for Bloodaxe's archive, website and DVD-books. Her first DVD-book, IN PERSON (edited by Neil Astley), was published by Bloodaxe in 2008, including films of 30 poets with an anthology containing all the poems read on the films. Pamela Robertson-Pearce's poetry videos are produced by Neil Astley.
Carole Satyamurti's poetry explores love, attachment and the fragility of personal survival, charting the tension between connected and separate lives. With an unflinching eye, she takes on complex and often painful subject-matter – cancer for instance, or raising a disabled child. Neil Astley filmed her reading her poems at her home in London in March 2010. In this extract from his film, Carole Satyamurti reads six poems from her sequence about breast cancer, 'Changing the Subject', together another poem, 'Sathyaji', all these from STITCHING THE DARK: NEW & SELECTED POEMS (2005), followed by two poems from her latest collection COUNTDOWN (2011), 'Life on Mir' and 'Countdown'. Carole Satyamurti's work is used in this film with the permission of her publishers, Bloodaxe Books. Neil Astley has been assisting Pamela Robertson-Pearce in filming poets reading their work for Bloodaxe's archive, website and DVD-books. Her first DVD-book, IN PERSON (edited by Neil Astley), was published by Bloodaxe in 2008, including films of 30 poets with an anthology containing all the poems read on the films. More footage from the film of Carole Satyamurti will be made available at a later date.
Jean 'Binta' Breeze live at the Y
Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze is a popular Jamaican Dub poet and storyteller whose performances are so powerful she has been called a ‘one-woman festival’. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed two performances by her at the Y Theatre, Leicester, in March and October 2010 which are included on THIRD WORLD GIRL: SELECTED POEMS, a book with DVD published by Bloodaxe Books in June 2011 (together with an interview by Jane Dowson). In this extract from the March reading, Jean reads three poems: 'simple things', 'ordinary mawning' and 'Aid Travels with a Bomb'. With thanks to Bloodaxe Books for permission to include Jean's poems in this video, and to Lydia Towsey of the Lyric Lounge for organising the readings at the Y.