Peter Riley — What Happened to Poetry?

A survey of observed changes in British poetry in my fifty-year acquaintance with it, informal and non-judgemental.  The objective claim of the  critical overview is not accepted. c.1960 poetry had virtually no public presence beyond the printed page and no reward structure beyond sales. Absence of readings, competitions, festivals, prizes etc. with exceptions noted. How these things came in, the reaction to them, fears and hopes that, mechanical and external as they were they were capable of transforming the nature of the poetry being written.  Any advantages in the  older structure outweighed by inflexibility and exclusions, therefore unrest, which was answered by segmentation and opposition, a plurality which courted the risk of reduction to binary opposition (“poetry wars”). Some current results of all this: radical change — utility of poetry, inversion of reward and management structures, spread of readership) as against persistence of orthodox narrowing discourses as shown by fixed attitudes especially to the 1940s and the 1960s and general distrust of totalising force in the writing, such as common humanity.


Sandeep Parmar — Race and British Poetry

Sandeep Parmar discusses the relationship between race and British poetry in the past 40 years.


Brian Lewis — The Edge of the Map

Brian Lewis discusses the role of affordable, accessible technologies in the development of Longbarrow Press, the economics of small press publishing, the value of digital (and non-digital) communities and informal alliances, and the ethos of craft, collaboration and care that sustains this ‘marginal’ practice.


Ian Duhig — Desearch/Digressions

It seems appropriate for ‘The Motley Muse’ to invoke Sterne, whose marbled page he called the “motley emblem of my work”, because it embodied an artistic process uniquely governed by chance. This session will share lessons I learned from my ‘Digressions’ project based around Shandy Hall, driven by accidental discoveries and techniques, which I hope may be useful to you in harnessing paradox to steer your own writing in new and unexpected directions. As the saying goes, the definition of a bad researcher is someone who finds what they are looking for.


Vahni Capildeo & Chris McCabe — Blackbox Testing

Vahni Capildeo and Chris McCabe will read from their ongoing collaborative work Blackbox Testing. The work has been developed through a project of ‘interdreaming’, translating the night into amplifications, silences, echoes and repetitions. Through a duologue with dead writers such as Nashe, Donne, Joyce, and Borges the performance aims for a half-invented conversation with powerful yet absent voices.


Clare Pollard — Modern Poetry in Translation and Diversity

8% of Britain does not consider English its main language. Our publishers and prize systems ignore some of our greatest talents because they write in their mother tongues: Welsh, or Pahari, Somali or Arabic. This paper will consider the history of Modern Poetry in Translation, which was founded by Ted Hughes and Daniel Weissbort as ‘an airport for incoming translations’, but also inspired by the fact Weissbort’s parents, Polish Jews, spoke French in the house. Since then MPT has always been a magazine that is both local and global, believing that translation is necessary both to create links between communities and for poetry to develop. Editor Clare Pollard will draw on the archives, as well as discuss her own experiences of translating Somali and putting together the Spring issue of MPT with its Caribbean focus.