McKendrick is among the most interesting, surprising and distinctive poets of his generation. Sean O'Brien
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About Jamie McKendrick
Jamie McKendrick was born in Liverpool in 1955, and lives in Oxford, where he teaches part-time and reviews poetry and the visual arts for a number of newspapers and magazines. He is the author of six collections of poetry: The Sirocco Room (1991); The Kiosk on the Brink (1993), winner of the Southern Arts Literature Award and selected for the New Generation Poets promotion; The Marble Fly (1997), winner of the Forward Poetry Prize and a Poetry Book Society Choice; Ink Stone (2003), shortlisted for the 2003 T. S. Eliot Prize and the 2003 Whitbread Poetry Award; Crocodiles & Obelisks (2007), shortlisted for the 2008 Forward Poetry Prize; and Out There (2012), winner of the Hawthornden Prize. His selected poems Sky Nails was published by Faber in 2000, and translated volumes of his poems have been published in Holland and Italy. McKendrick is editor of the Faber Book of 20th-century Italian Poems (2004); his translations from Italian include two novels and forthcoming short stories by Giorgio Bassani and a verse play by Pier Paolo Pasolini. His translation of Valerio Magrelli’s The Embrace: Selected Poems (published in a U.S. bilingual edition as Vanishing Points) won the 2010 John Florio Prize for Italian Translation and the 2010 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, and his translation of the poetry of Antonella Anedda, Archipelago, was published in 2014.
Sean O’ Brien has commented that in McKendrick’s poetry we encounter material that “can be both sobering and amusing” – the poems in this selection bear out that remark, with their fascination at how forces, whether seismic or historical, continually threaten to disturb everyday reality: it is in the nature of the often uncanny interruptions presented by these poems that their implications and broader meanings are met with a degree of uncertainty – caught between humour and alarm, or in some unsettling combination of the two. McKendrick’s poetry restlessly investigates such states: in the chronicle of prodigies in ‘Ancient History’, which splices an account by the Roman historian Livy with the contemporary in the form of the first Gulf War, or the equally troubling multiplications of morals and menace in ‘Six Characters in Search of Something.’ McKendrick’s delivery in these recordings echoes the poems’ hesitations and leaps of conjecture, whose consequences are never easy, and are often still grappled with at a poem’s close.
The sites of these poems are wide-ranging in place and time – from the northern reaches of the Orkneys and Iceland to Mediterranean Barcelona and Naples, even to outer space in the recent poem ‘Out There’; from ancient Rome and the Sicily of the Bourbons to modern Italy. The writing brings a vivid sense of otherness into collision with a particular British sensibility. Included in this selection are ‘Epithets’, McKendrick’s litany of misgivings and wry tributes to his hometown Liverpool, and ‘Sky Nails’, a poem that could serve as his poems’ manifesto, a search for the language to ‘nail anythingto nothingand make it stay.’
Jamie McKendrick’s favourite poetry sayings:
I’m wary of resorting to the mythic or the supernatural to explain how poems are made, but I like both of these comments for the way they acknowledge the almost equal claims of gift and graft:
‘The gods graciously give us for free that first line, but it’s up to us to forge the second, which must accord with the other, and not be unworthy of its supernatural elder…’
‘There is no forcing the muse, but sometimes a state of earnest solicitation may help.’
This recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 15 May 2013 at The Soundhouse and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.
Poems by Jamie McKendrick
Six Characters in Search of Something - Jamie McKendrick
Books by Jamie McKendrick
Eric Gregory AwardPrize website
The Kiosk on the Brink - winner of the Southern Arts Literature AwardsPrize website
The Marble Fly - winner of the Forward Prize for PoetryPrize website
The Marble Fly - Poetry Book Society ChoicePrize website
Ink Stone - shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot PrizePrize website
Ink Stone - shorlisted for the Whitbread Poetry AwardPrize website
Crocodiles & Obelisks - shortlisted for the Forward Poetry PrizePrize website
John Florio Prize for Italian TranslationPrize website
Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation PrizePrize website
Out There - winner of the Hawthornden PrizePrize website