a writer's life Blowing my own trumpet Planet Poetry Podcast Poetry

The wizard and the birdcage

It has been a while since I updated this blog. I like to lead a double life, and my commercial work with my favourite art director Keith Hardy has taken up lots of my time and energy.

Luckily, I have made time to continue to present and produce the Planet Poetry Podcast with my pal Robin Houghton. Being able to interview unusually excellent poets is really stimulating. Not only does hearing their stories make for a good listen, but these conversations have helped me think about my own creativity and methods anew.

Behind the wizard’s curtain, working with Robin is effortless and I think this comes across in our conversations. Most of what we do — interviews and conversations with each other and our guests are conducted remotely and we use Squadcast to do our recordings. Like a zoom or microsoft teams meeting, we can see each other’s faces but we only make an audio recording. I have earned lots from Robin as well as hearing from the poets (in recent episodes we’ve chatted to Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire, J O Morgan, Sasha Dugdale, Janet Sutherland, Jeremy Page and others).

Naturally doing the podcast means I read more poetry than I might have done. It is sobering how often I have been forced to revise my opinion on certain poems and poets. My first impressions are often wrongheaded but I am, at least, prepared to admit it!

As for my own work in poetry, I am herding the cats of my poems and trying to make them into a collection. I have, after many false starts, finally arrived at a shape and subject and am now writing additional poems to join the dots. I am enjoying the process and the work is surprising me. Should this collection see the light of day, I will be happy. I have, however, grown fairly Buddhist over the years and simply try to do the best work I can, and not be too attached to outcomes.

I recorded two poems for the launch of Ireland’s excellent Channel magazine. You can see this below. I was very subdued in my reading, but it was a day before I started testing positive for Covid so that might explain it.

One was a recent poem, Snow on the Hillfort, which I wrote about walking to the iron age hill fort at Hollingbury on the northern outskirts of Brighton. And as the magazine has an ecological bent, I read a poem I wrote after my trip to see the effects of desertification on the population of a village in Chad several years ago.

I also had a couple of poems in Black Nore Review. I have been writing about memory, and researching a good deal about the subject. Memory is one of the foundation stones of how we build our identity, but it is very unreliable. One of the poems here ‘Little Bastard’, is one of my earliest memories, but the story is told not from my perspective but that of the person who was supposedly looking after me.

One of my favourite metaphors for memory is from Plato who, I discovered, suggested the memory could be thought of as a kind of birdcage. As you live, you store your memories in the aviary. In later life perhaps, when your birdcage has become very full, you reach in and pull out the wrong bird — a pigeon rather than a wood pigeon for example. And get your memory wrong. There are lots of reasons why this is not an adequate description of the memory process, but it’s at least easy to remember!

By Peter Kenny

I lead a double life. Identity #1. A writer of poems, comedy plays, dark fiction and the odd libretto. Identity #2: A marketing outlier, working with London creative agencies and my own clients as a copywriter and creative consultant.

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