Apologies for absence is normally read as absence of apologies. Sorry I haven’t been around, if anyone cared. Not ‘as if anyone cared’.
I was away in Scotland, at a writing retreat. I mortgaged two weeks of holiday and two weeks of unpaid leave to do that, so I hope the results will turn out to have been worthwhile. I wrote a lot, at least.
While I was away, it was announced that I am shortlisted for the Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize for Second Collections, winner to be announced at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July. This was obviously gratifying.
Then I read / reread the other five books shortlisted for the prize. My initial thought was: I’m fucked. Elaborated thoughts: it’s nice to be on a list, even if just to make up the numbers, with such good poets. In alphabetical order, the books on the shortlist are:
1. A.K. Blakemore, Fondue (Offord Road Books).
Line I liked the most: ‘so touched always by misunderstood human gestures.’
Line I liked the least: ‘they’re winking in the diphtheric sun’
2. Adam O’Riordan, A Herring Famine (Chatto)
Line I liked the most: ‘I called her by another’s name, we fought,’
Line I liked the least: ‘alone with the prayers and sandwich pastes of her aged aunt;’
3. Danez Smith, Don’t Call Us Dead (Chatto)
Line I liked the most: ‘men leave me be, i dance with the ghost i came here with’
Line I liked the least: ‘with permission. sometime between here’
4. David Tait, The AQI (smith|doorstop)
Line I liked the most: ‘My mother fed her sharks our heirlooms by hand.’
Line I liked the least: ‘Teachers meeting: we brainstorm ideas’
5. Rory Waterman, Sarajevo Roses (Carcanet)
Line I liked the most: ‘a slow pink swipe across a pad of black,’
Line I liked the least: ‘in the Eden Project Visitor Centre Café.’
6. James Womack, On Trust: A Book of Lies (Carcanet)
Line I liked the most: ‘I nicknamed you Gift Horse, because you let me come in your mouth.’
Line I liked the least: ‘Then I saw the sign hung across the road,’
There will be a reading on Friday 5 July, the opening day of the Ledbury Poetry Festival, at which the winner will be announced. But, you know, we’re all winners already.