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This item is taken from PN Review 189, Volume 36 Number 1, September - October 2009.

News & Notes Compiled by Eleanor Crawforth

The winners of the inaugural Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets were announced at the British Library in June. ELIZABETH BURNS won the pamphlet award for The Shortest Days (Galdragon Press) and experimental Oystercatcher Press has won the award for an outstanding UK publisher of poetry in pamphlet form. Organised in partnership with the Poetry Book Society, supported by the Michael Marks Charitable Trust, the £5,000 awards highlight the importance of the pamphlet form and celebrate its continuing relevance in the internet age. Ian McMillan, Jackie Kay and Richard Price judged the shortlist, which also recognised the pamphlet publishers HappenStance Press, tall-lighthouse and Templar Poetry. The shortlisted pamphlets are available for sale at

EDGAR ALLAN POE celebrations are being held across the United States during 2009, his bicentennial year. Poe aficionados will mark the 140th anniversary of his death in Baltimore on 7 October with a candlelight vigil at the author’s grave, followed the next day by a re-enactment of his funeral, complete with a horse-drawn hearse carrying a replica of his body and eulogies delivered by actors. Visit for a daily fix of Poe trivia and news of other events. Two unusual Poe tributes are the Unhappy Hour at the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, inspired by Poe’s 1843 short story The Tell-Tale Heart; and San Francisco’s Litquake Goth Hop, featuring ‘goth tunes’ and an absinthe bar.

CAROL ANN DUFFY will use her laureateship stipend to fund a new poetry award, named in honour Ted Hughes. Administered by the Poetry Society, the £5,000 prize will be awarded annually throughout Duffy’s ten-year term as laureate for the ‘most exciting contribution’ to poetry across all forms (including, unusually, poetry for children and works in translation). The first winner will be announced in March 2010, with nominations to be made by the Poetry Society, and the winner will be decided by three judges appointed by Duffy. At her appointment as laureate in May she said she ‘didn’t want to take on what basically is an honour on behalf of other poets and complicate it with money. I thought it was better to give it back to poetry.’

Poet, editor and translator PATRICK MCGUINNESS has been named a Chevalier dans L’ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French government. One of France’s highest cultural accolades, the award recognises those who make a significant contribution to the expansion of French language and literature across the world. McGuinness is a fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford, where he is Professor of French. He has written extensively on French literature and in 2003 Carcanet published his translation of Mallarmé’s elegy on the death of his young son, For Anatole’s Tomb. McGuinness is the editor of the Collected Poems and the Diaries, Letters and Recollections of the Welsh modernist poet Lynette Roberts. His first book of poems, The Canals of Mars, was published by Carcanet in 2004; his second, Jilted City, will appear next spring.

Harry Potter star DANIEL RADCLIFFE recently revealed a passion for writing poetry. Four of his poems have been published in Rubbish magazine under the pen name of Jacob Gershon (a combination of Radcliffe’s middle name and the Jewish version of Gresham, his mother’s maiden name). According to Jenny Dyson, editor of Rubbish, his poems explore ‘the transitory years between childhood and adulthood’ and ‘demonstrate an exemplary grasp on metre and rhyme’. Radcliffe’s favourite poet is Simon Armitage. His poetic wizardry, however, does not extend to free verse, which he dismisses as ‘for people who can’t do structure… When I don’t write in form and metre, I become unbearably self-indulgent. It’s what Robert Frost said: free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.’ Curious muggles can order their copy of the magazine from

Iran will host an international poetry conference in October. Organised by the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, it will welcome thirty poets from thirty countries and will not be Iran-oriented. The week-long programme of readings, workshops and lectures, focusing on the theme of cultural diversity in literature, will begin in Tehran and continue in Isfahan, with the closing ceremony to be held in Shiraz, birthplace of the immortal Hafiz.

The Southbank Centre is launching the first ever online, interactive poetry map. The Global Poetry System emerged out of the idea - promulgated most eloquently by Les Murray - that poetry is present not just in books and performances but all around us: from graffiti to inscriptions on municipal statues; from football chants to remembered nursery rhymes. Poetry fans can upload words, photographs, videos and sound recordings which convey the poetry of a place, and tag them to a location on the online map. Visit to contribute.

AERONWY THOMAS, daughter of Dylan Thomas, has died from cancer at the age of 66. Also known as Aeronwy Ellis, she - along with her brothers Llewelyn and Colm - was a child of Thomas’s tempestuous marriage to Caitlin MacNamara. (Caitlin, who died in 1994, once described her relationship with Dylan Thomas as ‘raw, red bleeding meat’, adding in her 1982 memoir, ‘Ours was not a love story proper. It was more of a drink story.’) Aeronwy actively promoted her father’s work and collaborated with the Dylan Thomas Trust. Herself a poet, she ran poetry events at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea and lectured in America on her father’s poetry. In an interview with BBC Wales to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Dylan Thomas’s death in 1953, she said: ‘Some of my best memories are when we walked back silently without speaking to the Boathouse [at Laugharne] and I just felt so comfortable with him and he obviously felt comfortable with me…’

John Lucas of Shoestring Press remembers
MATT SIMPSON: The poet Matt Simpson has died from complications following heart surgery. Born in Bootle in 1936, Simpson lived in Liverpool all his life except for the years he spent at Cambridge in the 1950s, first as an undergraduate and then teaching at a language school. His first full collection, Making Arrangements, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 1982, and warmly commended by W.S. Graham, who called Simpson ‘a special, individual voice’. The same publisher brought out An Elegy for the Galosherman: New & Selected Poems (1990) and Catching Up With History (1995), collections which were praised by, among others, Anne Stevenson and George Szirtes. A writer’s fellowship with Arts Tasmania led to Cutting the Clouds Towards (Liverpool University Press, 1998), a sequence of poems in which Simpson entered into dialogue with Louisa Meredith, a nineteenth-century migrant to Tasmania, whose journal he had come across. Simpson’s last collection, In Deep, was published by Shoestring Press in 2006. He was a skilled, much-anthologised children’s poet, whose most recent collection, What the Wind Said was published by Greenwich Exchange in 2008. Having retired from teaching at Liverpool Hope Institute of Higher Education a decade earlier, Simpson found a new lease of life in contributing to the Exchange’s Student Guides, for which he produced accounts of several of Shakespeare’s plays, including The Tempest, the play that meant more to him than any of the others. A book of his critical essays, Hugging the Shore, was published by Shoestring Press in 2003.

The poet BRIAN JONES died in June. An obituary will appear in the next issue of PNR.

Harry Chambers, Publisher of Peterloo Poets, on U.A. FANTHORPE, who died on 28 April 2009: I was moved by the final paragraph of Carol Ann Duffy’s first statement to the press (Guardian, 2 May 2009) after being appointed poet laureate in succession to Andrew Motion: ‘As this goes to press, along with all the writers and readers who adored her, I am grief-stricken to hear of the death of the poet U.A. Fanthorpe, an unofficial, deeply-loved laureate for so many people for so many years.’

In 1999 U.A., as she liked to be called, was the first woman to contest the Oxford professorship of poetry when James Fenton was elected, and she was narrowly beaten for second place by Les Murray. She was championed by the Guardian for the laureateship that went to Andrew Motion in 1999 and in 2003 was only the fifth woman in seventy years to be awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

As the publisher of U.A.’s eight individual volumes of poetry, from Side Effects (1978) to Queuing for the Sun (2003), and of her Selected Poems (1986) and Collected Poems 1978-2003 (2005), as well as copublisher with Enitharmon of Christmas Poems (2002), I feel privileged that she chose to stay with Peterloo over the years, despite approaches from larger publishers based in London.

Despite being loaded with Establishment honours, she never assumed an Establishment voice. In an interview with Eddie Wainwright conducted by correspondence in September 1993, she wrote: ‘What’s important to me is people… I am particularly involved with people who have no voice: the dead, the dispossessed, or the inarticulate in various ways… this is the theme I recognise as having a call on me: people at the edges of things.’ U.A. is an ‘Awkward Subject’ - the title of the Peterloo cassette of her reading her own work with Rosie Bailey - whose poetry is subversive. She always prefers the un-authorised version of events and has no reverence for the party line of any orthodoxy. Appropriate, then, that Elizabeth Sandie’s study of U.A.’s poetry, which the poet herself read with approval a few weeks before her death, should be titled Acts of Resistance (Peterloo, 2009).

John Lucas typifies U.A. Fanthorpe’s poetry as ‘formally adroit, capable of moving between opposite poles of the sombre and comic without loss of poise, addressing concerns that are knowable and therefore shareable but without simplification (or condescension), using the resources of metaphor and, more daringly, of commonplace language in such a way as to prise open their deeper implications’ (from Harry Chambers & Peterloo Poets: 37 Years of Poetry Publishing, Peterloo, 2009).

U.A.’s poems accommodate much more in terms of technique and subject matter than simple lyricism. In ‘Titania to Bottom’, a Titania who is truly in love with Bottom exclaims:

But holding you I held the whole
Perishable world, rainfall and nightjar,
Tides, excrement, dandelions, the first foot,

The last pint, high blood pressure,
accident, prose.

The fact that U.A.’s poems are ‘accessible’ does not mean that she was ever ‘cosy’. Some of her poems deal movingly, sometimes obliquely, with the Wars of the Roses, the slave trade, the Holocaust, the Blitz. Like Larkin’s, her poems often nudge the reader from comfort.

[Peterloo Poets ceased trading at the end of May 2009. Acts of Resistance: The Poetry of U.A. Fanthorpe by Elizabeth Sandie can be obtained from Elizabeth Sandie, 27 North Parade, Bootham, York YO30 7AB for £10.90 with free UK p&p (cheques payable to Elizabeth Sandie). Harry Chambers & Peterloo Poets by John Lucas can be obtained from Harry Chambers, 4 Trent House, Margaret Street, York YO10 4TH for £7.95 with free UK p&p (cheques payable to Harry Chambers).]

This item is taken from PN Review 189, Volume 36 Number 1, September - October 2009.

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