Claire Trévien

100 poems in one day & other oddities

Tag: Hannah Lowe

2014 in Poetry (and other things)

Ah yes, the inevitable end of year list. Like last year I thought I’d do a month by month list of books I’ve enjoyed, and personal things achieved, but it turns out of course to be even trickier to track the former, as I’ve been increasingly buying directly from publishers and authors, so I’m afraid I’ll have to rely mostly on my memory.

I’ve been saying a fair amount that I can’t wait to get rid of 2014 and move on to 2015, but looking through my timeline and order histories, I realize that’s rather harsh. In many ways, 2014 has been very good to me, allowing me to cross off numerous things off the bucket list, including:

and one or two things I can’t yet share but am very excited about. So yes, 2014, you may have been very difficult to deal with at times, but you’ve definitely had your ups too!

It’s also been a great year for reading with numerous works of high quality getting published. Not everything that I read this year was published this year though, I belatedly discovered and loved works like Mani Rao’s Echolocation, Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, Mia Mckenzie’s The Summer We Got Free, Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s Nettles, Jemma L. King’s The Shape of the Forest, Susanne Ehrhardt’s Rumpelstiltskin’s Price, Marie Ndiaye’s Hilda, Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga, Anne Charnok’s A Calculated Life, Richard Fortey’s Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of Animals and Plants that Time has Left Behind. I make no apology for mixing together all sorts of genres in that list, from poetry collections, to plays, to fantasy to pop science.

Here is a more orderly list of some other highlights from this year (published this year), to which I’ll add the recommendation to susbscribe to the never disappointing Modern Poetry in Translation.

10 Poetry Highlights

Aimee Herman’s meant to wake up feeling (Great Weather For Media, 2014). I discovered Aimee’s work at a poetry reading in Brooklyn this November. What I love is that she is not only a great performer of her work, but that the poems are formally exciting on the page too.  It’s a really fascinating exploration of gender, of the body, of identity, that I found very inspiring.

Ten: The New Wave, ed. by Karen McCarthy Woolf (Bloodaxe, 2014). Now here is one exciting anthology in a year of exciting anthologies. It features some of my favourite poets and the framing of each poet with a fist-bump from their mentor is pretty charming too. Standouts for me were Warsan Shire and Rishi Dastidar, for completely different reasons, but really, there’s hardly a dud note in the entire anthology. I look forward to seeing where these ten poets go next.

Kei Miller, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (Carcanet, 2014) and Liz Berry’s Black Country (Chatto and Windus, 2014). It feels a bit boring to champion two lauded collections, but frankly they deserve the attention and kudos. I’ve been waiting for Liz Berry’s first collection for an age, after gushing some praise on her pamphlet back in 2012.

John Clegg’s The True Account of Captain Love and the Five Joaquins (The Emma Press, 2014). Loved this pamphlet so much that I used it in a poetry school workshop, leading to a six-handed Tripadvisor-style review!

Tom Chivers’ Flood Drain (Annexe, 2014). I suppose it doesn’t get much more biased than that: written by my publisher/director/producer and published by a long-time collaborator of mine, but hearing Tom read this dream-sequence poem at the Museum of Water with a perfectly timed projector behind him, was one of my favourite performances. Yes, it’s technically fascinating, creating at times some gorgeous soundscapes, but it’s also very funny, ‘can you give a horse an ASBO?’ will never not make me laugh.

David Attwooll and Andrew Walton’s Ground Work is a gorgeously produced collaboration between a poet and a painter based around Port Meadow in Oxford. What I love about it is how Attwooll debunks nature poetry while at the same time creating some of the most exquisite nature poetry I’ve ever come across.

Hannah Lowe’s Ormonde (Hercules Editions, 2014). Hercules Editions is fast becoming one of my favourite micropresses with their gorgeously crafted pamphlets, each one really is a work of art. This is no different. Based on the first post-WW2 ship to carry a significant number of Jamaican immigrants to the UK (including Hannah Lowe’s father), this pamphlet is part historical document part poetry pamphlet, and the combination creates a very special object indeed.

W.N. Herbert’s Murder Bear (Donut, Dec. 2013). I was really chuffed when Murder Bear won the Saboteur Awards for best pamphlet as it is a complete delight to read if you’re into grim humour. Another gorgeously produced chapbook from the sadly now closed Donut Press, though it looks as if it can still be bought here.

Wendy Pratt, Museum Pieces (Prole Books, 2014). I ended up reviewing this collection almost accidentally, and I am so glad I did. As I said, ‘You would think we’re about to reach peak-museum, yet Pratt’s gorgeous control over form, and unexpected images manage to make the genre, like the best kind of exhibition, still feel alive and relevant.’

Pascale Petit’s Fauverie (Seren, 2014). My inclusion of Petit on this list will surprise exactly no one. I have a review of it coming out in the next Poetry London, but suffice to say I found it ‘taut and dangerous’ and ‘the whole painted as recklessly as any fauvist painting’.


5 non-poetry books from this year that I recommend:

No Christmas by Evangeline Jennings (Pankhearst, 2014), a novella on teen pregnancy set in the near, bleak future. It will anger you in all the right ways hopefully.

In the Catacombs by Chris McCabe (Penned in the Margins, 2014), I’m cheating a bit as this could count as poetry too. I can’t remember the last time I read a book so fast. A fascinating exploration of West Norwood cemetery in search of a lost great poet.

Girly and Things to Make and Break by May-Lan Tan (Future Tense, CB Editions, 2014). Two perfectly formed books by the super talented May-Lan Tan. The first is a chapbook, the second a short story collection shortlisted in the Saboteur Awards. I’m so glad I nominated Things to Make and Break for a Guardian First Book Award as it led to her being shortlisted for the prize (as well as the Bad Sex Awards!) and brought wider attention to a highly talented writer.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I’m a latecomer to Mitchell’s work and furiously catching up now. I absolutely loved his playfulness with genres here, each one given such detailed attention, and the whole binding together beautifully. Master storyteller.

The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman. If you like stories about women boxing in the eighteenth century then this is perfect for you. I missed my bus stop because I was so engrossed in the story, and desperately rooting for characters with plenty of odds stacked up against them.



2013 in poetry

It’s not my habit to use this blog for anything other than briefly-lived projects that go into hiding, but I’ve been increasingly yearning for a place to put longer pieces (my blog over at is extremely unwieldy for that sort of thing as it refuses any kind of formatting beyond bullet points, no doubt something I should fix this year), so here goes.

I’ve been reading all sorts of end-of-year blogs over the last few days and admire them both for their memory (January 2013 feels like another land to me) and ability to succinctly summarize an unwieldy amount of information. I recommend among many others Tim Cresswell’s, Jayne Stanton’s, Rob Mackenzie‘s, the Poetry School’s, Jenna Clake’s,  … They make me wish I’d kept track as the year progresses.

Obviously, the problem with these kind of summaries is that they make everything feel instagrammed and glorious, while on a personal-level, I’ve had some pretty awful lows and was probably ill more often than in previous years. This is probably due to holding down at first a full-time day job, and then two day jobs (totalling 4 days), while juggling the extra-curricular projects. I’m aiming for a better balance next year. Poetry-wise, I do have to be grateful, I have had a wonderful year, which I’ll try to summarize in a format inspired by Kim Moore, with the addition of favourite things read (hard to remember by month, so there may be errors):

January-February: Penning Perfumes did its first tour to Manchester, Oxford, Bristol and Birmingham, involving both new poets living locally and poets from the original project. I also had some of my poems translated into French and made them into a limited edition pamphlet thanks to Lucie Forejtová at Immaginacija. Submissions for the first issue of Verse Kraken opened.

Favourite Things Read: Poetry London, Bernardine Evaristo’s issue of Poetry Review, and all the poems Christian Ward plagiarised.

March: The Verse Kraken submissions closed, nominations for the Saboteur Awards opened leading me to become far too intimately acquainted with Excel spreadsheets, and The Shipwrecked House was published and launched in London and Paris.

Favourite Things Read: Poems in Which, Superbard’s The Flood

April: Published a free e-book edition of Penning Perfumes vol.2, launched The Shipwrecked House in Oxford and Beaconsfield, voting opened and closed for the second round of Saboteur Awards voting (less work-intensive thanks to Survey Monkey), and I was ‘exhibited’ for the first time thanks to Crystal Bennes, at the Hanmi Gallery in London as part of a collaboration between poets and photographers. After 7 months of persuasion, my workplace agreed to create a blog. Read at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival which was great fun (with thanks to Dan Holloway who has been super supportive the whole year to me and so many other writers and deserves some kind of rat-shaped medal).

Favourite Things Read: Sculpted: Poetry of the North WestLullabies to make your children cry by Lucy Ayrton.

May: The Saboteur Awards took place  to a sold-out audience and I was thus able to regain some control over my life. I did one of my favourite readings at Outspoken, featuring Anna Hobson, Ceri Lloyd, Amy McCauley and Katherine Stansfield: the audience was really warm and responsive and the mirror format really made me appreciate each poet’s reading fully.

Favourite Things Read: Lune by Sarah Hymas, this awesome poem by Emily Hasler.

June: Tori Truslow and I launched Verse Kraken after staying up all-night making the hard-copy editions and we also led our first writing retreat with the wonderful Lucy Ayrton. An interesting challenge for me was being part of a panel at the Southbank on the digital alternative thanks to Chrissy Williams at the Poetry Library with Helen Ivory and Caleb Klaces.

Favourite Things Read: Hannah Lowe’s Chick, Luke Kennard’s Holophin.

July: Well, the big news for me was finding out that a) I had a highly commended poem in the Forward Prizes and that b) I was longlisted in the Guardian First Book Awards.

Favourite Thing Read: Luke Wright’s Mondeo Man.

August:  I was ill for the entire month but did manage to organize an Oxford reading with James Brookes, Amy Key, Charlotte Newman, Tori Truslow and James Webster which was a lot of fun.

Favourite Things Read: Melissa Lee-Houghton’s long-awaited second collection Beautiful Girls, Clare Pollard’s Ovid’s Heroines.

September: Loved helping Kiran Millwood Hargrave launch her latest collection Splitfish in Oxford, and a podcast on my poem ‘Whales’ came out. Otherwise I mostly tried to concentrate on moving flats, getting a year older, and starting a second job.

Favourite Things Read: Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s Splitfish, Helen Mort’s Division Street.

October: This was a busy month for readings, starting with the finale of the Swindon Festival of Poetry with the lovely Kim Moore, and meeting Sam Loveless, Michael Scott and Hilda Sheehan. Then I got to be on a panel on the future of poetry publishing at the swanky Club at the Ivy with Helen Ivory again and chaired by Sir Andrew Motion. Next, Gareth Prior kindly included me in one of the best organized readings I’ve ever attended at the Jericho Tavern, where I was especially glad to hear Patrick McGuinness, Jenny Lewis and Ben Parker read. Last but not least, I read at a Nine Arches Press event in Leicester alongside Mario Petrucci, Matt Merritt and Alistair Noon – very grateful to Jane Commane, who is another relentless and passionate champion of poetry.  I was also glad to make it to the launch of the Interpreter’s House where I finally put a face to names such as Josephine Corcoran and Paul Hawkins. Finally, Sabotage Reviews had a long-overdue make over…. Thankfully, I started working 4 days a week rather than 5 which should have made things more manageable were it not for the mountain of marking….

Favourite Things Read: Matt Merritt’s The Elephant TestsTim Cresswell’s Soil, Kim Moore’s If We Could Speak like Wolves.

November: was a busy month on all fronts with one week in particular which often involved catching a train/bus in the morning from one place, changing into increasingly ridiculous outfits before catching another train/bus, doing an event and then running for the last train home. And repeat. Highlights included: writing 100 poems in a day, reading at the Magma launch, going to the Writer’s Return event in York and catching up with JT Welsch and Inua Ellams there, performing at Wordsmiths&co at the Warwick Arts Centre, reading at the Interrobang Festival, going to the Guardian First Book Awards at the Tate Modern and leading a second Verse Kraken retreat with Tori Truslow. Being the Poetry School’s first digital-poet-in-residence was also a stand-out moment for me and reminded me that I love blogging.

Favourite Things ReadInterpreter’s House #54, Tim Wells’ Rising #60, Amy Key’s Luxe.

December: This was a month which I hoped would be a little quieter after the intense last two, but it began with the Penning Perfumes Christmas Special for which Lucie Forejtová and I handmade forty-odd cards – great to hear John Clegg, Kayo Chingonyi, Amy Key, and Charlotte Newman read again and in such a unique setting. The Betsey Trotwood Christmas All-Dayer was also excellent fun, Renée O’Drobinak, Chrissy Williams, John Canfield, Alice Walker and John McCullough stole the show, and our table won cheese in the quiz. Submissions for issue 2 of Verse Kraken closed. And just to round things off nicely, Robert Peake included me in his 5 British Poets to Watch in 2014 list over on the Huffington Post blog.

Favourite Thing Read: Michael Symmons Roberts’ Drysalter, Emily Berry’s Dear Boy, Rachel Piercey’s The Flower and the Plough.

My new year’s resolutions in light of this are to read and write more and organize less, but we’ll see how that goes…

What are yours?