, When you move into a new field, as I did with poetry around the end of 2014, you become aware of certain people who are universally respected. As my route into poetry was via Kim Moore's stint as poet-in-residence at the Ilkley Literature Festival, I soon ran into just such an individual in the person of John Foggin.
John had the knack of writing trenchant, instantly memorable poems in workshops as the rest of us were fumbling for a start. I later found that this was not just due to the respect and rapport that existed between him and Kim (though that was palpable in itself): he could repeat the trick in Poetry Business writing days and anywhere else, while being a perceptive and genrous commentator on others' work.
I also found him to be justly in-demand as a guest reader at poetry nights as well as co-organising Puzzle Poets.
One wonderful resource has been his regular blog, The Great Fogginzo's Cobweb, on which he has written in depth about some of the best contemporary poets. It shouldn't be rare to see so much care, attention and (that quality again) generosity devoted to the work of someone likely to sell us a copy of their new collection after we've heard them read at the open mic - but I can think of few other places where this happens and virtually none where it is done with such enthusiasm and intensity.
This is why it felt like such an honour to be accorded this treatment myself, following the publication of my pamphlet, Smithereens. That close reading and appreciation is there in spades and I'll take compared to Tony Harrison (even if only for a vocabulary choice) any day of the week!
While I'm heaping on abstract nouns, I'll add John's commitment to the cause of poetry in the act of witness that is the Cobweb and his grace to continue this under the shadow of the gruelling cancer treatment he describes in his posts. My thanksfor finding time to write about Smithereens.
I'm poor at self-promotion, so I'll leave some words to John: "What you need to do, of course, is to buy the book". As he mentions, you can do so via 4Word's website or directly from mine.
You quotes four of the poems from the pamphlet. I'll leave people with another on the theme of the relationship between myself and A, but that was written too late for inclusion:
The world’s least valuable Hockney
You say you haven’t seen him since a chance
encounter in a business lounge – it takes
years to sink in – that you know someone so
legendary – so of another world –
to hail each other in a public space –
complain of how you’re dying for a smoke –
pass fifteen minutes – go your separate ways –
and know that when you see him on TV
or on the coffee table of a friend
part of him’s yours – the part that shares a past –
the part that maybe once fancied your father
when they were schoolmates – back when he was slower
to name these things – back when your dad was too
innocent to guess that he might be
the object of another boy’s desire –
back when one unknown student gave another
the canvas on the wall that you dismiss
as being the world’s least valuable Hockney.