Unbooking poetry does not mean poetry is cancelled.
In my previous blog, Unboxing Poetry, I talked about poetry-objects, citing examples of work that foreground poiein, the basis of poetry in ‘making’. Since that blog was posted, a lot has changed in how we interact with poetry. Many readings and festivals have been cancelled, moved online or organised on Zoom sui generis as a result of lockdown. In the absence of in-person events, online poetic activities provide some of that special charge we poetry-lovers seek. Poetry has been unbooked in Covidtimes, but in many respects poetry has always existed beyond the book and beyond bookings for readings.
Many poets, including Poetry Centre member Simon Armitage, are reading their work and sharing DIY videos that bring poetry’s breath and voice to our ears. The Poetry Archive is gathering submissions from around the world. The European Poetry Festival has hosted video poems from poets who would have come together in London this spring to perform live. Previous University of Leeds Douglas Caster Fellow Vahni Capildeo, currently writer-in-residence at the University of York and based in Trinidad and Tobago during the lockdown, is creating online active silences. Poetry Centre member Caitlin Stobie’s poetic interactions with science appear on her site.
Thankfully, print publications are still appearing through my letterbox, including Poetry, Stand, and The London Magazine, which have featured work by Leeds Poetry Centre members past and present, including Hannah Copley, Helen Mort and Rachel Bower. I’ve also been pleased to receive many new print books and pamphlets from small presses, including Guillemot and Prototype.
In visual poetry circles, a number of online exhibitions are reaching wider audiences as a result of lockdown. Mellom Press is exhibiting ‘Translations’ and Poem Atlas’s second lockdown-related exhibition ‘Escapisms’ is up now, too. The long-running Poem Brut series online at 3:AM Magazine is sharing handmade (no computers allowed!) visual poetry from international poets, including my asemic family memoir poem ‘You are here’. Iris Colomb, a contributor to the Poetry Centre’s recent ‘Poetry by Design’ exhibition and symposium, is performing live on Facebook.
Other poets and institutions who have long shared excellent online poetry content feel more vital now. Canadian poet and academic Gregory Betts always posts a variety of visual poetry on his Twitter feed, and University College Dublin’s Irish Poetry Reading Archive showcases a wide range of video recordings of poetries from Ireland. Derek Beaulieu keeps us abreast of free innovative poetry downloads, most recently the collected work of Gertrude Stein.
I certainly miss giving live readings and attending live events, and I hope some of these suggestions will keep you busy until the Poetry Centre is able to invite you to our reading series once again on the beautiful University of Leeds campus.