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Published Poet, Small Press

The BBC premiered a new six-part crime series last night: Luther, starring Wire star Idris Elba (who should be the first Black Bond) as the eponymous DCI. Elba has extraordinary charisma, and his star power can keep even the flimsiest vehicle afloat, such as Obsession, but this is actually a good show, though not quite as smart as it wants to think it is. Starting with the Hitchcock trope of a man falling - this time a serial killer of small children dressed in a retro suit that makes him look like Attenborough from a noir - Luther has a breakdown and goes away for 7 months to deal with the fact he let the killer fall. Returning to applause, his first case involves the murder of a husband, wife and family dog - the father is summed up (slumped at his desk) as "published poet, small press" - which got a laugh in my household.

The villain (Ruth Wilson) is a sexy Oxbridge physics researcher with genius-level IQ (goodness!), icily promiscuous and apparently so narcissistic she doesn't have the empathy to yawn when others do (try this test on your loved ones at home, kids!). I am not sure many killers fall into this category of being motivated to play cat-and-mouse with handsome detectives (including hat-pin-threatening their estranged wives) but the idea of a Jane-the-ripper meets the English Locked Room Mystery is clever, and her Adleresque wickedness will give the series a backbone. Let's hope poetry figures more prominently than cremated pets.

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JOHN ASHBERY HAS DIED

With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.