Welcome and contact details

Welcome.

This site doubles as a commonplace book and a home for updates on my poetry. (A full list of my published poetry is here.)

I’m on twitter as @harpertext, or I can be contacted at alexharperwriting [at] outlook [.] com

Thanks for stopping by.

Posted in Welcome

Oliver Sacks on writing the present

The most we can do is to write – intelligently, creatively, critically, evocatively – about what it is like living in the world at this time.

— Oliver Sacks, quoted in Bill Hayes, My Life with Oliver Sacks, The Observer, 26 March 2017

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‘The Well’ in Liminality

The eleventh issue of Liminality has gone live today.

I’m very pleased that my poem ‘The Well‘ is included, my fourth appearance in the journal.

Thanks to Shira Lipkin and Mattie Joiner!

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James Wright on the Olympian syndicate

In 1958, in July, [Wright] wrote me a letter (I’m sure similar letters went to others) in which he announced that he was through writing poems. […] The first issue of Robert Bly’s magazine, The Fifties, which he read at this crucial point, arrived like a reproach. (He did not yet know Bly.) He told me: “So I quit. I have been betraying whatever was true and courageous […] in myself and in everyone else for so long, that I am still fairly convinced that I have killed it. So I quit.” In the letter he called himself “a literary operator (and one of the slickest, cleverest, most ‘charming’ concoctors of the do-it-yourself New Yorker verse among all current failures) […]”

A day later he wrote again, admitting that “I can’t quit and go straight. I’m too deep in debt to the Olympian syndicate. They’d rub me out.” (This is Roethke talk, who during mania often alluded to The Mob.)

— from Donald Hall, introduction to James Wright, Above the River (1992), p. 29-30

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‘The Dig’ in Through the Gate

Through the Gate (in its current form) is “a weekly of fantastical poetry”. I’m delighted my poem ‘The Dig‘ is this week’s poem.

Thanks to editor Mitchell Hart!

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Joseph Harrison on writing and Penelope

Penelope’s situation (in Homer, of course, it’s a death shroud she’s weaving) seems to me an interesting figure for the predicament of the writer or artist: making something, ripping it up, making something, ripping it up, all the while vaguely hoping for one’s ship to come in, whatever that would mean, with nobody in the immediate vicinity paying much attention.

–Joseph Harrison, note on ‘The Cretonnes of Penelope’ in The Best American Poetry 1998, ed. John Hollander and David Lehman, p.302

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W. H. Auden on the function of poetry (1938)

The primary function of poetry, as of all the arts, is to make us more aware of ourselves and the world around us. I do not know if such increased awareness makes us more moral or more efficient;I hope not.

I think it makes us more human, and I am quite certain it makes us more difficult to deceive, which is why, perhaps, all totalitarian theories of the State, from Plato’s downwards, have deeply distrusted the arts. They notice and say too much, and the neighbours start talking.

— W. H. Auden (1938) quoted in James Fenton, Auden at Home, The New York Review of Books, April 27 2000

Edited to add: I don’t share Auden’s certainty that poetry “makes us more difficult to deceive”. It’s an interesting assertion, though, and I’m wondering how one might test it…

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‘headache (hoofbeats)’ in Butcher’s Dog

Butcher's Dog Issue 8

Butcher’s Dog is a biannual poetry magazine, founded in the North-East of England. It has rotating co-editors, and a policy of anonymous submissions.

The 40-page issue 8 is co-edited by Sophie F Baker, Amy Mackelden, and Clare Pollard, with a cover by Isabel Rock. It contains work from 25 poets, and I’m delighted it includes my poem ‘headache (hoofbeats)’. I’ve really enjoyed reading the issue.

Thanks to all the editors!

Update Feb 2017: There’s a good review of the issue by Eleanor Benson at Cuckoo Review. My poem is described as a “hallucinatory and gritty monologue”.

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