As the weight of 2013 finally see-sawed to a staying position where the New Year could creep towards an unlocked door then it was time for the wave of reviews, top tens and ponderings to crash against the Windows. At what seemed an unstoppable pace, my hotmail doormat became loaded with lists of the best music, books, films and gadgets and gradually I began to lose the will so, with the type of wild abandonment that only a forty three year old knows, I did the one and only decent thing – turned the computer off.
You might have guessed – I was in a mood. I know that some people shudder at the annual round-ups but for me it’s great fun. Somehow time has an ability to trick you into a false sense of security until you suddenly find yourself sat in the same chair, at the same table, on the same day with the only difference being is that a year has passed between you and your memories.
This was my first full year as a poet (I’m using the term loosely as someone who has had some poems published) and a blogger (very loose term as someone who tries to write a bit and share the odd poem and some good music) and one in which I tried and tested a few ideas, allowing the blog to grow into the armchair of organic ramblings where it now sits. It’s just about there but with each new week comes a new idea so watch this space, as the marketers say.
Amongst the poetry round-ups where Greg Freeman’s excellent review of the year for Write Out Loud, Josephine Corcoran skipped to all the good bits bringing back some great memories of the Derwent Poetry Festival whilst Robin Houghton’s Poetgal blog is quickly becoming a favourite with a chatty style and great insights into the world of poetry publishing. Both Josephine and Robin also celebrated the blog of fellow poet, Anthony Wilson, who’s series, Lifesaving Poems has been a personal favourite throughout the twelve months.
I first came across Anthony’s story at the beginning of 2013 and was immediately struck by the honesty and integrity of his writing. Perhaps it was the fact that at forty two I was the same age as Anthony had been when he was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; perhaps it was the family, the children, the home, the job, the friends and everything else in his life that mirrored my own which the disease tried to break. I immediately ordered the book Love for Now and read it in a couple of sittings. My wife thought I was being a little morbid after discovering what the book was about and that I wasn’t secretly indulging in romantic fiction. The book is described as a hymn to everyday living and in a year in which cancer has broken the lives of both close family and friends it’s sometimes worth being reminded to stop and count your blessings.
Anthony recently published the most read Lifesaving Poems of 2013 and I was sorry to see that my favourite from the year wasn’t on the list. Swineherd by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin is a poem that seems to resonate the more it is read. It is shrouded in its own mystery and all the more better for it. In response to Anthony’s post I commented that Swineherd was in my new top ten. The sentiment was right but the world is too big to have top tens. Perhaps I should have said it’s a poem I’m jealous of, one I wish I had written.
The reader and keeper shelves are sagging under the weight of new purchases this year and of particular note in the anthology section are Sculpted – Poetry of the North West edited by Lindsey Holland and Angela Topping and 1914 Poetry Remembers edited by Carol Ann Duffy.
Sculpted was launched at one of the monthly poetry nights organised by Sarah Corbett at The Bookcase in Hebden Bridge. I’m keeping quiet about these wonderful evenings as it’s already hard to get a seat but for November we listened to Peter Riley telling stories of his trip to Andorra which inspired the book The Glacial Stairway published by Carcanet. Another favourite, also published by Carcanet is Parallax by Sinéad Morrissey. Finally the long awaited debut collection from Helen Mort landed on the doormat proudly wearing all its South Yorkshire colours. At first glance everything about Division Street seems perfect and the recent release of government documents from 1984 will only serve to enhance the power of poems such as Scab. This is a book I need to savour.
In the world of prose, in 2013 I discovered two masterpieces. The Music Room by William Fiennes and To A Mountain In Tibet by Colin Thubron are both exquisitely written and deserve to be read by everyone. The shelves are already being filled with more Thurbron and the anticipation is wonderful.
Musically, 2013 was a mixed bag and we should have known something was afoot when David Bowie made a surprise release in March with The Next Day – possibly the best album cover ever? Go on – I dare any other artist to simply stick a white square over one of their previous best album covers when they’re two years a pensioner. Musically it’s as sharp as anything he’s done in the last twenty years and in parts his voice sounds alive with the excess of the nineteen seventies.
The album of the year – and yes, in a musically indifferent year there is just one – comes from an artist who, admittingly, I’ve struggled with over the years. I nearly got Murder Ballads, I very nearly got Dig Lazarus Dig but finally I’ve really got Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It is absolutely startling and deserves to win every award going. Here’s to the next year with more poetic ramblings, a dose of good music and a few surprises along the way.
All the best,
Higgs Boson Blues by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds