Poetry News


Depp to Play Wilmot
Hollywood super star Johnny Depp will play John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester in the forthcoming film The Libertine. Wilmot, regarded as the bad boy of English poetry was famous for his womanising and drinking. He kidnapped his wife to be in a coach-and-six and boasted of being continuously drunk for five years. Lancashire comedian Johnny Vegas will play Wilmot's fellow roisterer Charles Sackville (Earl of Dorset).


Dylan Love Letter
A passionate love letter from Dylan Thomas to his fiancée Caitlin Macnamara has sold for £7200 at auction . The two-page handwritten note - signed with seven kisses and a postscript from the heavy drinker which reads "I have to be abstemious" - was the last written by Thomas to Caitlin before they wed in 1937.


Bodleian Bid for Larkin Letters. Dec 2004
The Bodleian library is trying to raise funds to purchase a collection of 2000 letters written by Larkin to Monica Jones – his life-long friend /lover/muse and final years carer and companion. The letters, which were written at the rate of 2-3 per week over many decades, give a fascinating insight into Larkin’s personality – showing him to be a more romantic and affectionate character than was previously thought. (Although Maeve Brennan’s book The Philip Larkin I Knew also showed this side of the poet.)

Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate and president of the Philip Larkin Society, is backing the appeal.

For all the latest Larkin news visit the Larkin Society.


Van Der Graaf Generator Reform!!!
(I know this isn't poetry news.... but what the hell.) Following the appearance of the full band at one of Hammill's solo gigs in 2003 (to play the classic Still Life) the boys are reforming and a gig is planned for May 6th 2005 at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The line up will be the original: Peter Hammill (voice-meister, vox, guitar, pianos), Hugh Banton (organs, bass pedals), Guy Evans (drums) and David Jackson (sax). Plans for the reformation were nearly scuppered earlier this year due to Hammill's heart attack (see below for more info). However, the great man is recovering quickly and things are now back on track, including a double CD of new material. Check out vandergraafgenerator.co.uk for more info.


Obituary - Michael Donaghy
Donaghy was brought up in the South Bronx, USA but moved permanently to the UK in 1985. He was a skilful poet whose influences included: Mac-Neice, Frost, Browning and Marvell. He was adept at using traditional metrical forms and also an accomplished performer of his own work. He was also a talented tin whistle and bodhran player and regularly performed with his traditional Irish group the Slip Gigolos. Donaghy died of a brain haemorrhage on September 17, 2004. He was only fifty years old.


National Poetry Day, October 7th 2004
This year National Poetry Day falls on Thursday October 7th and takes as its theme food. So why not 'seize the day' and write a sonnet about sausages or a haiku about haggis and post it on our forum. Events on the day include John Hegley on a farm, Gillian Clarke at the Helyar Arms in East Coker (see T.S. Eliot) and a Mad Hatter's Tea Party at Keat's house in London.


Thomas Hardy and the Cornish Floods - August 17th 2004
The village of Boscastle in Cornwall - devastated by yesterday's floods - was immortalised by Hardy under the thinly disguised name of Castle Boterel (read his famous love poem At Castle Boterel)

In 1870 Hardy came to St Juliot near Boscastle to restore the dilapidated village church. It was here that he met and fell in love with Emma Gifford (his future wife). Hardy and Emma frequently walked and picnicked along the banks of the River Valency. In fact,  his poem Under the Waterfall was inspired by Emma dropping a picnic tumbler into the river.


New Larkin Poem Discovered - August 2004
Canadian based historian Prof Trevor Tolley (as opposed to Jake Balokowsky) has unearthed a previously undiscovered Larkin poem in the vaults of Hull University (where Larkin was librarian). The poem entitled And Yet was written by Larkin in 1948 and therefore comes after his Yeats inspired The North Ship but precedes the poems that were eventually to make up The Less Deceived.

It was written during a short spell when he worked as a librarian at Leicester University and when he socialised (?) with Kingsley Amies and met Monica Jones - his lover and final years companion.

The poem which is not available yet will be published in a new compilation of Larkin's work - edited by Prof Tolley and published by F&F.


MacNeice.... The Master's Voice
Check out the new video clips on the BBC Northern Ireland Louis MacNeice page which contain some wonderful recordings of the great man reading his own poems. Fascinating to hear his mellifluous, upper-class voice on such classics as Snow or Sunlight on the Garden. Well worth a visit.

Saddam the Bard - July 2004
Apparently, while awaiting trial, Saddam Hussein has taken up writing poetry. Furthermore, it is reported that his favourite subject matter is President Bush. Maybe he's working on some devastating piece of political satire that will topple the western world? Then again, if we believe Auden: ' poetry makes nothing happen: it survives/ In the valley of its making where executives/ Would never want to tamper'.


Hammill's 49th - July 2004
Ex Van Der Graaf Generator front man Peter Hammill has released his 49th album Incoherence. Shortly after completing the recording, the 55 year old cult hero suffered a major heart attack but is fortunately now recovering. Hammill was recently quoted as saying: 'The music world has gone IKEA - one size. And I'm a bespoke furniture maker. Not selling many, and only to people who find me.'

Find out more about the man who John Lydon cited as the originator of punk rock at the Peter Hammill web site.


Honorary Degree for Uncle Bob - 23 June 2004
Legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, today received an honorary degree from the University of St Andrews. He has previously only accepted one other honorary degree and that was from Princeton University in 1970. Apparently, while waiting for the big moment,  the great man yawned and leafed his way through the programme.

(Will anyone ever write a better album than Blood on the Tracks ?)


I Wish I'd Looked After My Teeth - June 2004
MBE for Pam Ayres! Surely some mistake? ?


The Next Generation of Poets - June 2004
A panel of  six judges ( including Andrew Motion the Poet Laureate) have selected 20 poets who they consider to be the most exciting writing in Britain today. The poets, ranging in age from 29 to 50, were selected from a field of 156 applicants. All entrants had to submit one collection of poetry and not to have been published prior to 1994. The 20 'Next Generation' poets are: Patience Agbabi, Alice Oswald, Amanda Dalton, Pascale Petit, Nick Drake, Jacob Polley, Jane Draycott, Deryn Rees-Jones, Paul Farley, Maurice Riordan, Leontia Flynn, Robin Robertson, Matthew Francis, Owen Sheers, Sophie Hannah, Henry Shukman, Tobias Hill, Catherine Smith, Gwyneth Lewis and Jean Sprackland.

The competition, run by the Arts Council and the Poetry Book Society, was an attempt to get the public to read living poets. Apparently, 9 out of 10 of all poetry collections sold in the  UK are by dead poets. (Perhaps this says something about the state of contemporary British poetry?)

If you have a view on this or would like to comment on any of the 'Next Generation' poets then why not visit our new forum Poets' Corner and have your say?


200th Anniversary of Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris - May 2004
This month sees the anniversary of the founding of the famous Père-Lachaise Cemetery in east  Paris. It was originally created to provide Parisians with an alternative to a Roman Catholic burial. Its famous dead include:  novelists Balzac and Proust and poets Paul Eluard and Oscar Wilde. Wilde's tomb has become a Mecca for gay tourists who come to show their respect by kissing his name with lipstick. Jim Morrison (of The Doors) is also buried here. His tomb receives so many visitors that the authorities have taken the unprecedented step of erecting a metal barrier around it.


New Oxford Poetry Professor - May 2004
Christopher Ricks has been appointed as the new Professor of Poetry at Oxford University - succeeding the Irish poet and academic Paul Muldoon. Ricks, who is Professor of Humanities at Boston University, has produced critical works on many English poets including Tennyson, Milton and A. E. Housman. He has also produced a study of the lyrics of Bob Dylan entitled: 'Dylan's Visions of Sin'. Ricks will give his first lecture in the Michaelmas Term 2004.


Spike Milligan has the last laugh (or does he?) May 30th 2004
Two years after his death, an agreement has finally been reached over the wording on Spike Milligan's headstone. Milligan, the great zany comedian and poet,  requested that the words: "I told you I was ill" appear on his stone. However, the Chichester diocese and members of Milligan's  family were unhappy with this epitaph. An agreement has now been reached for it to be included, but written in Gaelic!! The inscription  reads: "Duirt me leat go raibh me breoite"  (Loses something in translation, methinks. )

See also nonsense verse.


Spike's grave

Sponsor an Albatross! May 2004  
This is a project endorsed by David Bellamy to help highlight the plight of Albatrosses  which are dying as a result of long line fishing. One of the birds in the race is called The Ancient Mariner after  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by S.T. Coleridge. In Coleridge's poem, the ancient mariner shoots an albatross and thereby brings down a curse on his ship. Subsequently the dead bird is hung round his neck until the curse is lifted.


Celebrate Shakespeare's Birthday (23rd April) - Read a Sonnet!
Shakespeare was born on 23rd April 1564 - 440 years ago. He also died on 23rd April in 1616. To celebrate the great man of English literature why not dip into his  sonnets - reproduced here in full. For those unfamiliar with the sonnets, numbers 18, 29, 30, 31, 55, 60, 64, 65, 73, 87, 97, 98 and 116 are particularly recommended.


Poets on TV
The University of California Television is celebrating 'National Poetry Month' in April, with an outstanding line-up of poetry related programming not found anywhere else on television. The event will feature readings and interviews with leading poets from around the world - including Billy Collins (the current U.S. Poet Laureate and Caribbean poet Kamau Brathwaite.


200th Anniversary of 'Daffodils'
This year is the 200th anniversary of Daffodils by William Wordsworth.  It was written in 1804 and published a few years later. It was re-written in 1815 when a new stanza was added and the words "golden daffodils" replaced "dancing daffodils."


A Tale of Two Suffolks - 16th March 2004
George Wallace has just been appointed as Poet laureate of Suffolk County, New York, USA. By strange coincidence, Mr Wallace previously lived in Suffolk England when he worked as a hospital administrator on the Lakenheath air base. It was while living in England that Mr Wallace first developed a serious interest in writing poetry. He now hopes to foster relations between the two Suffolks with a scheme where library borrowers on either side of the Atlantic can assess books by poets from the respective counties. Suffolk, England, boasts George Crabbe and Edward Fitzgerald while Suffolk, USA, was the birth place of Walt Whitman.


New Poet Laureate for Scotland - 16th Feb 2004
Professor Edwin Morgan has been named as "The Scots Maker" by first minister Jack McConnell. This post is the equivalent of the Scottish poet laureate.

Morgan, previously a lecturer at Glasgow University, was offered the unpaid position for three years to represent and promote poetry in Scotland.

Morgan is regarded by many as Scotland's finest contemporary poet. He has been writing for 60 years and his collections include The Second Life and From Glasgow to Saturn. Many of poems evoke the Scottish urban landscape.

Eighty-three year old Morgan, who is currently suffering from cancer, has promised to speak his mind.

See other Scottish poets: Robert Burns and Hugh MacDiarmid.






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