by Tim Liardet
Though the goal remains the same – to deconstruct in order to reconstruct – each new incarnation of the MA Poetry Workshop generates a unique, unprecedented and irreplaceable energy. This has never been truer than for the poets who made this year’s workshop so rewarding an experience. Each poet took on a new critical vocabulary and put it to good use; each quickly understood the painful business of self-editing, the exactions of word-skinning and the animal traps poetry slyly sets for its devotees: in short, each learnt, to paraphrase Charles Olson, Harold Bloom and many others, the power of any poem is the poems it leaves out.
Josie Alford crossed the floor from Spoken Word to take on arguably the hardest job that poetry can tackle: the death of a father and, with him, the death (and continued life) of a deeply complex relationship. The effects were often as bold as they were confrontational, as stunning as they were moving, stuffed full of courage, impossible to forget.
Sophie Dumont mastered the luminous narrative-as-lyric, deeply personal in tone and founded in the sort of articulation which ensured it travelled way beyond itself to make its wider grasp. The images were exact and strikingly original. When she encountered the work of Ocean Vuong, her poems mined a rich seam, struck a crisp, a fresh, a compelling new register.
Anbur Ghouri put ancient forms like the villanelle and the sestina through the psychic spin drier and they came out the other side elegantly misshapen and unable to fit anything too orthodox. The effects were brilliantly subversive. In work that broke all the conventional rules of engagement, she made of the prose poem and the still life an exquisite if not otherworldly marriage.
Nicola Heaney, in the evolution of her own distinctive voice, made her peace with ‘Irishness’ and perhaps with the artistic gift/burden of her surname: her poems displayed a marked fidelity to an Irish ‘sound’, while simultaneously striking chords of European post-modernity, or perhaps what is better called post-Irish Irishness. The synthesis was exciting, and entirely her own.