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Tony Judt, who has died, would have had something to say about the new Bloodaxe anthology, Ten, edited by Daljit Nagra and Bernardine Evaristo - since it is an "identity" anthology - a selection of "multicultural" (in the UK case, Black and Asian) poets.  I haven't seen it yet, and want to.  It is, as all will agree, high time such poets were more widely published and celebrated.

The question remains, for the mainstream British poetry community, why such voices, such poets, tend to be marginal, special cases, requiring such a showcase - their own stage.  Of course, both Voice Recognition and Identity Parade included Black and Asian poets from Britain - and this book offers a satisfying trilogy for any shelf.  The woeful lack of interest in "multicultural" poets in the UK by many larger publishers has something to do with the conservative bent, the careful career-pruning, of some.  Tone and diction and intent are so important for English poetry, especially, that new registers and themes and ranges can be misread, or read accurately, as beyond the tonal limits.

"Good" English poetry is so often about restraint, about a drained verbal landscape.  Multicultural writing, to use that awkward term, and here I think Salman Rushdie is the exemplar, offers a rioutous hybrdity that by its very post-colonial and talk-back nature is rebarbative at times, and surely, "bad" in a good way - see the claims that Nagra was a "bad poet" in Arete magazine a few years back.  If Ten gets readers for these poets they didn't have before, that's the job done.  Might it be too much to hopethat future anthologies will be able to include such poets not because they have been marginal, but because they no longer are?


It would be really nice if people would support and celebrate the publishers that have already worked hard at bringing out collections by Black and Asian poets. Let's not forget that a good portion of the poets featured in the anthology are already published by Flipped Eye. Let's hope our existence isn't completely glossed over when the anthology comes out.

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Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
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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.