Tuesday, 30 April 2019

A review of Heath by Penelope Shuttle and John Greening

Heath by Penelope Shuttle and John Greening (Nine Arches Press, 2016).

Poetry Centre Intern Joanne Balharrie reviews Penelope Shuttle and John Greening's 'wild chorus of poems written in call and response across Hounslow Heath'.

A collection of poetry about an airport and its surrounding area is perhaps not the most conventional reading material; Heath however provides plenty of food for thought, alongside clever imagery and poetic power.

Shuttle and Greening’s joint collection merges voices on the impact of Heathrow Airport on Hounslow Heath, and the things we’ve lost as a result of it. Heath delves into the mystical aspects of the Heath and explores the deep and rich history it has seen.

Reading through the collection as a whole, the distinctive voices of Shuttle and Greening merge together as they adopt aspects of each other’s writing and poeticism, forming a collection that flows together as though written by one person. The variety of forms used, from traditional to the more experimental, complement the themes of the old and the new. This is especially apparent in ‘XIX’, mimicking the rhythm of its ghostly and spiritual subject, ‘the ghost/ of Kneller Hall’.

Certain poems, such as ‘X’, really resonated with me through their focus on the change in the landscape. This poem in particular, with its layout in the form of its subject the scarecrows, is one of my favourites. Not only is it visually interesting and entertaining in its aesthetics, but the emotion is poignant also. The personification of the scarecrows is perhaps most crucial to this, creating a frame for the world as it changes.

I also enjoyed the manipulation of images, such as the ‘metal birds’ that can be found throughout the collection. The poetry is thought-provoking, and causes reflection on an aspect of life (flying) which is quite often taken for granted. Although there are often protests and articles in the news against proposed expansions of airports, we rarely consider what has already been lost through the creation of the current airports. The contrast between historical settings and modern life thereby encourages thought and consideration into the way we’re treating the world around us, and the further implications of our behaviours and decisions.

As ‘Thanks ever so much for your help. Have a nice Christmas’ says: ‘History repeats itself again and again/And no good ever comes from it. None.’ We need to consider the impact of proposed expansions and new developments on the environment, and the potential consequences that will follow. The environment is incredibly important, and this collection helps illustrate the aspects of the environment we may have taken for granted and stopped recognising.

However, the extent of the collection means the ideas and themes seem almost repetitive towards the end. A lot of different aspects of the history of Hounslow Heath feature in the collection, from witches to highwaymen, but the overarching idea of sadness for what we’ve lost in the development of Heathrow Airport becomes monotonous. Whilst for the most part each poem focuses on a different aspect of the Heath’s rich history, they all can be considered to link back to this mourning of what has been lost. It’s emotional, but in my opinion, it is not sustained across the collection. 

Read more about the book on the Nine Arches website.

Meet the Interns - Joanne

Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre is delighted to have a group of interns every year who assist with the Centre's events and projects and run projects of their own! Over the next few weeks we're introducing you to these invaluable members of our team, and this time it's the turn of Joanne Balharrie.

What are you studying at Oxford Brookes?

I’m a second-year Publishing Media with English Literature student.

Why did you want to become an intern? What do you enjoy about it?

I wanted to be an intern so I could gain some work experience in publishing whilst trying to figure out which specific area I would like to work in. I’ve enjoyed working with ignitionpress and the Poetry Centre because of the wide variety of activities they are involved in, and because of the wonderful poetry they have published.

I have attended an editorial meeting, and have helped with running different events with the centre, such as the launch of the Wretched Strangers anthology at Waterstones in Oxford. I’m currently planning an event with my fellow intern Zoe that will hopefully be interesting (once we work out a few more details…), so watch this space!

Tell us about one of your favourite poems or collections? Why do you like them?

I particularly enjoy the works of instapoets, such as Leena Norms and Rupi Kaur. Their poetry is accessible and aesthetically pleasing, and I enjoy how easy it is to dip in and out of it. 

My favourite type of poetry at the moment, though, is Dave Gorman’s ‘Found Poetry’. I recently found my collection of it the other day, and forgot how funny it was! Gorman’s work is made up of comments from news websites on different events, compiled to make a surprisingly coherent narrative on a topic. He’s performed these poems in his TV show, Modern Life is Goodish, but they’re also available as a nice little pamphlet that rivals the design of Faber. If you fancy giving his poetry a try, I recommend this one – it’s a response to the announcement that Big Ben would stop chiming for four years for maintenance (the actual poem starts at 1:22). I’ll admit it, Gorman is no Keats or Burns, but he’ll make you giggle at the very least.

You can read Joanne's review of Heath by Penelope Shuttle and John Greening here.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Meet the Interns - Ruby

Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre is delighted to have a group of interns every year who assist with the Centre's events and projects and run projects of their own! Over the next few weeks we'll be introducing you to these invaluable members of our team, starting with Ruby Daley.

What are you studying at Oxford Brookes?

English Literature and Publishing Media, 2017-2020.

Why did you want to become an intern? What do you enjoy about it?

I applied to the internship programme because I’ve been inspired by the transformation the poetry world has been through recently, with its metamorphosing into a more performance-based art with slam poetry, spoken word and poetry-music culture. I really wanted to get involved with the event organising at the Poetry Centre; to curate my own events from concept to delivery.

I’m extremely excited about the event that I’ve been working on for the past few months, ‘Beatin’ the Blues’, a fusion performance of jazz and poetry. The concept aims to give aspiring poets, particularly students, the platform to share their work and collaborate with other artists from different mediums. We are hosting electronic/jazz band Wandering Wires who will be playing alongside 6 winners of a previously run competition that asked them to respond to one Wandering Wires’ songs. It should be an exciting, vibrant evening and I’m really looking forward to it!

Tell us about one of your favourite poems or collections? Why do you like them?

A collection of poetry that I have felt inspired by recently has been the collection River by Ted Hughes, which is a text I am studying for my English Literature module 'Human-Animal'. I’m very drawn to mystical poetry, particularly work that includes strong symbols or trope and which is often inspired by religious or spiritual material; this collection was the embodiment of this. The imagery is so poignant in that it so subtly blurs the distinction between the human subject and its natural surroundings. The reader is drawn into a kind of spirituality, through the description of the natural sublime, without completely realising it. My favourites from the collection are ‘Creation of Fishes’, ‘After Moonless Midnight’, ‘Salmon Eggs’, and of course ‘The River'.

Beatin’ the Blues is at 8pm on Sunday 28th April in Cafe Tarifa.
You can buy your ticket here.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

PoetryFilm Competition

Make a short film about a poem published by ignitionpress and win recognition and prizes!

The films should last 2-5 mins & be about one of the five following poems 
(apart from that you have complete creative freedom):

‘//’ by Mary Jean Chan (available here)
‘reasons for leaving home’ by Belinda Zhawi (available here)
‘Moss’ by Natalie Whittaker (available here)
‘Half Measures’ by Patrick James Errington (available here)
‘We are to blame for the decline of giraffes and only we can save them’ by Lily Blacksell (available here)

You can find the individual poems at the links above and all five here.

What is a poetryfilm? Alastair Cook, Filmmaker and Director of Film-poem Festival, says: ‘A poetry film is a single entwined entity, a melting, a cleaving together of words, sound and vision. It is an attempt to take a poem and present it through a medium that will create a new artwork, separate from the original poem.’

Inspiration & examples of other filmpoems can be found here.

Prizes: £50, £30, £20 Amazon vouchers

Major exposure: the winners’ films will be shared on our website, social media and could be shown at events organised by, or involving, ignitionpress.

Deadline: Friday 7th June, 5pm. To enter, please submit your poetryfilm to Niall Munro at p0076993@brookes.ac.uk If the file is too large to e-mail, share it via Google Drive or another file sharing service.

Winners announced: Friday 14th June.

Judges: Niall Munro, Director of ignitionpress, and interns.

ignitionpress is a pamphlet press based at Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre. Find out more about the pamphlets and the poets here. All poems are copyright, but the poets have granted permission for filmmakers to use their work.

Questions? Please contact Theodora Vida (15094967@brookes.ac.uk) or Niall Munro (p0076993@brookes.ac.uk).