Branch-Lines: Edward Thomas and Contemporary Poetry

Fifty or so contemporary poets share both their thoughts about Edward Thomas, and their poetry, in this new anthology from Enitharmon Press. That Edward Thomas, who was killed in the Great War, influences modern poets so much should be no surprise to anyone who has read his work. 

When I held my copy of the book yesterday, for the first time, I couldn’t believe it. It was so beautifully produced, with enormous attention given to design and appearance.  Then I had waited nearly two years for it to appear [perfectly normal, not a complaint], since  I was invited to submit two poems.  And I turned the pages slowly, savouring the alphabetical company I was in.  Surely they must know I’m an interloper here, somewhere after Seamus Heaney and Andre Motion, and somewhere before Owen Sheers and Ann Stevenson?   
I was on a bus.  Who could I show it to? 

I looked at the woman on my right, sniffling with a cold, or the girl behind me playing music on her mobile, with supreme disregard for anyone about her.  I carefully folded Branch-Lines away, back in its packaging, and into my bag.  And all day I felt it glow like a heat source amongst my diary, woolly hat and pens...

Not scared at all... Moral Panic at The New Beehive, Bradford

On Saturday I broke a vow I made about ten years ago not to appear with rock-bands and jugglers; when I made my vow I had just performed my poetry at an open air venue with two thousand very pissed rock fans in the audience; the sound system was seriously crap, and I was still a bit of a new boy in the performance world. It was scary.

To be sure there were no jugglers on Saturday’s bill, just me and two other poets (Oliver Mantell and Robin Vaughan Williams), and some pretty cool bands, amongst them The Chartists and Slumhunnies It all took place at The New Beehive in Bradford, had the fabulous moniker of Moral Panic, ran from 3pm on Saturday afternoon to 1am on Sunday morning. I was on at about 6pm and, do you know, it worked. An appreciative music audience turned out be an appreciative poetry audience and Olly, Robin and I had a very warm reception. I wasn’t scared, not scared at all….

So if there are any big bands out there looking for support next time you play Wembley, I’m your man.