I was thinking, as the weeks have gone by, of the Poetry Symposium that we ran on May 19th. Again and again I keep coming back to seven wonderful moments. So I thought I’d share them.
Nick Pemberton has been a driving and enabling feature of the Carlisle poetry scene for a long time. Published in places like Acumen, Ambit, Envoi, Penniless Press and by Selkrik Lapwing Press, Nick has also started publishing the work of others through the Speakeasy Magazine. And there’s more to come. But I want to talk about Nick the poet, not Nick the publisher – or even Nick the host of Speakeasy.
Nick, put simply, is a master of what you might call the ‘medium poem’. Confused? If there is a thing that is a long poem – and if there is a thing as a short poem… then there must be a ‘medium poem’. By ‘medium poem’ I mean something longer than the industry standard 40 lines. The ‘medium poem’ covers a page and a half, or maybe more. Perhaps several pages. Nick’s medium poems have had a big effect on me over the years. Try this one (here). Or this one (here, at 20:11). There is a brilliant example in Speakeasy Magazine, too – but you’ll have to buy that.
Many poems of Nick’s set were poems like this. My favourite parts of these were the moments were the conceit seemed to be drawn away and the persona directly questions the material that is being conveyed. There is a nod towards the artificiality of the construction. This knowingness is not placed centre stage to replace content – that is essential to understand: the meta-poetic does not replace the poetic, like a verbose cuckoo. But, given that all poetry replies to all other poetry (or it replies to all the other poetry in the reader’s head) it is therefore about other poetry in some small way, Nick’s poems use this to question further the presences within poetry.