Jam

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Here’s the cover of Jam, my new collection, due out next month from the brilliant smith/doorstop. It’s been a couple of years since the Selected Poems, seven years since the first publication of Frank Freeman’s Dancing School, and there were ten years between Frank Freeman’s and Henry’s Clock, my first full-length collection, so I must be speeding up. Jam contains some poems from my pamphlet Bike, Rain, and a lot of new work. To be honest I’m quite surprised by Jam. I thought I hadn’t written anything for ages, but when I looked, I found all these poems.

For a preview of some of the work, there are poems which have recently appeared online in Stride Magazine here: ‘We Didn’t Go to the Cinema in Those Days’ and ‘Riversound (in which Kevin learns to breathe above water)’. I was pleased that Kevin managed to find his way into Jam. He first made his appearance in ‘The Pond Poems’ in Henry’s Clock, where he had three heads. I wrote a whole sequence about him, leaving his pond and moving in with his girlfriend, going on the run when the scientists got too close, riding into the Atlantic on his motorbike to start a new life. Four of those poems got into Henry’s Clock, and a handful of others found their way into magazines. Kevin turned up in a poem called ‘Return’ in Frank Freeman’s Dancing School, and also in ‘Invisible’ a short story anthologised by Comma Press, where he appeared in the final paragraph playing drums in a band. In some ways, Kevin hasn’t made much progress, he’s still struggling to breathe above water. On the other hand there’s a world of difference between ‘The Pond Poems’ and ‘Riversound’.

Another poem, ‘The End of the World Again’ went online today at the International Times, illustrated by Claire Palmer. I used to buy the International Times from a newsagent on Mill Street in Kidderminster, when I was at Kidderminster College. It’s good to see it online, still standing its ground.

Not all the poems in Jam are like the ones in Stride Magazine and International Times. In some ways the collection feels like it was written by a bunch of different people. That’s just me saying that, of course. My ambition is always to write something completely different to everything I’ve written before. I remember thinking I’d managed it one time, I showed the poem to a friend and they said, ‘This is such a Cliff Yates poem.’

Oh yes, the cover. I have to say something about the cover. The photo of the plane and the sun was taken by my brother Paul. I was knocked out by that photo when I first saw it.  You can imagine the chances of taking a photo of a plane flying in front of the sun. It’s not photoshopped, it’s the real thing.

Michael Marks award

Really interesting shortlist for the Michael Marks awards. It’s great to see pamphlets get this attention – I’ve always liked them, ever since I started writing. You can try things out in pamphlets, warming up to a full-length collection. And the publishers’ award is a great idea. They’re in good company here, but if anyone deserves an award, Smith/Doorstop do – to keep going as long as they have, and consistently champion new writing, is a real achievement.