Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What Anna Crowe says

Here is Anna Crowe's review of Tonguefire in issue 2 of Sphinx (the "Common Reader" comment is a feature of the magazine):

What strikes the reader at once, reading Andrew Philip’s collection Tonguefire (with stylishly emblematic cover), is the sheer energy and power of these poems. The writing is muscular, urgent and assured, offering a wide range of forms, from the sonnet and rhyming, metrical stanzas to unrhymed free forms; and in moods ranging from everyday epiphanies to the mythic and visionary. Here are the opening lines of the first poem in the book, ‘A Rough Guide to Monday Morning’, with their crisp imperatives:

Chain your sleep to the foot of the bed,
open the morning like your birthday post…

His language is sinewy and arresting, never more so than in ‘Wandelvakanties Dicht Bij Huis’ (‘walking holidays close to home’), and uncomfortably close to home are these flashbacks of war that hit us in beautifully spare and flowing language. Here is the first walk, ‘in sight’:

We stopped in our tracks—
someone flicked on the poppies,
squinted at us down
the length of the dyke we trod, down
the long-barreled afternoon.

Philip can carry off a dramatic monologue while simultaneously bringing a painting to life, as when he lets us eavesdrop on the troubled thoughts of Mary and Joseph in ‘Diptych’, as they escape from Herod’s death squads, after Rembrandt’s The Flight into Egypt. Mary’s feelings of guilt and anguish are totally convincing and offer a fresh take on a familiar scene.

Sometimes an image falls flat, as in Joseph’s steadying the child’s head “like it’s the last nail for my coffin” (something about the scale, perhaps); or when Mary Magdalen asks in ‘Rabboni’ whether it is now “the sole imperative// to tell out at last/how much the full jar aches”—the image is truthful, the tone portentous—but these are small flaws in what is a finely-tuned collection of wide-ranging, fiercely tender, humane poems.
Anna Crowe

Common Reader says of Tonguefire: ‘A Rough Guide To Monday Morning’ was my favourite poem in this collection. The line which encourages the reader to “open the morning like your birthday post” is a very cheerful thing to do on any morning but especially a Monday

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Debut Authors Festival

Just received an e-mail with the programme for this year's Debut Authors Festival at the Traverse Theatre, 2nd to 4th June. Last year, there was a single event dedicated to poetry, with Matthew Hollis, Jacob Polley and Choman Hardi, chaired by Don Paterson; this year, the sole poet on the bill is Helen Farish, appearing with two novelists in an event about landscape and home.

From where I sit, it has a look of tokenism towards poetry about it, which I find thoroughly annoying. Nonetheless, the festival is a good idea and the events look interesting, useful and stimulating. I'll definitely get along to some of it.

(Note: the 2006 programme isn't on the Debut Authors Festival website at time of posting, but I expect it'll be uploaded soon.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Ceilidh Culture Clubbing: the gig report

When I walked through the door at the Lot at about 11:30pm on Saturday, the stage was thrang with singers including The Linties and members of The Bothy Tams. Their set was drawing to a close when I arrived, but I was in time to hear the strong sound of The Linties close it beautifully.

Looking round, it struck me that, despite the cafe-type set-up, the audience was listening attentively, not chattering. I reckoned at least two people would be up for listening to my set, as I know Tracy from The Linties (we share a day job) and had spotted Gerry Cambridge shouldering the bar.

Gerry was there to play his harmonica along with Neil Thomson, who was on bouzouki and vocals. They turned in a fine set of traditional tunes, blues and original stuff, with some lovely playing, just ahead of me in the programme.

It was a tricky gig being the sole poet in the midst of a rich spread of music. The audience in general obviously wasn't used to poetry readings but was with me and seemed to enjoy it. Partly because they clapped after each poem, I found it harder to judge just how much they were into the work, but the set went well over all. I felt I was winging it a bit, not having known what kind of audience to expect and not being able to read them as well as usual. Nonetheless, several enthusiastic compliments followed, with comments on how much individual poems had been appreciated. Always gratifying.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ceilidh Culture Clubbing: more detail

There's a bit more detail coming through about the Shore Poets at the Ceilidh Culture Festival Club. Looks like I'll be doing a set around midnight this Saturday (15th April).

New Link: Diary of an Arts Pastor

I've just added a link to the blog Diary of an Arts Pastor, to which a friend pointed me. Interesting and encouraging stuff for those who're interested in the intersection of (Christian) faith and the arts.

Monday, April 10, 2006

What other people say

There are a couple of reviews of Tonguefire (the pamphlet, that is, not the blog) online.
Colin Will's concise review is on the review pages of the Poetry Scotland website. You have to scroll down quite a way or do a search for the title. He says mine is "a refreshing and distinctive new voice", which is good to hear.
An even more concise review can be found on Tim Love's literary references. Mr Love says the pamphlet

"Reminds me of a more sinewy, less liminal version of John Burnside."

I'll take the comparison as a compliment, but I can't help asking: does it make me a subliminal writer?
There have also been a couple of print reviews of the pamphlet. Anna Crowe gave it a very favourable review indeed in the second issue of Sphinx, the HappenStance chapbook review, but the review isn't online, unfortunately.
Also in print only is Jim Burns's review in Ambit 182. He mentions my "careful way of writing"; a pity similar care was not taken over the spelling of my surname, which is rendered "Phillip" three times out of the four it's mentioned. However, I certainly can't grumble about the review. Far from it: Mr Burns divulges that he has lines from "To Bake the Bread" pinned up above his desk and ends by saying:
"This is a slim volume ..., but it leaves an impression that is much more memorable than many bigger books. Andrew Philip [Yes! Only one l!] is a poet worth watching."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wee Picts and Mars Hill

Mars Hill, the blog of fellow Subway member Paul Burgin has a link to and post about Tonguefire. The main focus of Paul's blog is political, so I've linked to it under "less literary blogs".

Under "Theoblogical/Emergent", I've also added a link to Paul Thomson's wee beautiful pict blog. Paul's theological/ecclesiological musings are consistently stimulating, inspiring and challenging. And he knows heaps of interesting folk.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"With or without wings he is coming ..."

Michael Symmons Roberts now has a website, which I've added to the links. The site looks very nice indeed. It even has the potential for an online parlour game for those familiar with Michael's writing: the background for his name on the banner consists of a mesh of phrases from his work. So far, I've identified snippets of "Ascension Day", "The Lungwash" and "Angel of the Perfumes" and the litany of genetic code from "To John Donne". Anyone make out anything else?

As to content, one could wish for a bit more actual writing--a few essays or articles, for example--but there's a poem from each of his collections plus another on the front page, an extract from his first novel and good biographical and other information. The representative poem from his first collection, Soft Keys, is particularly well chosen:

"With or without wings he is coming ..."

You don't get many better opening lines than that.

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