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Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre Podcast

The Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre podcast focusses upon the work of one poet or features discussion about poetry with poets and academics. The theme music for the podcast, entitled ‘Leaving for the North’, was composed by Aneurin Rees, and played by Aneurin Rees (guitar) and Rosalie Tribe (violin). For more information about the Poetry Centre, look up our website or find us on social media @brookespoetry

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Episode 23: Dinah Roe talks to Niall Munro

This latest episode marks something of a departure for the Poetry Centre podcast. If you’re a regular or just occasional listener to this podcast, you’ll know that it normally features a poet in conversation about two or three of their poems. This episode is the first of a series in which Niall Munro talks with colleagues at Oxford Brookes University and showcases some of the very exciting research that they have been doing into poets and poetry. In this episode, Niall Munro talks with Dr Dinah Roe, Reader in Nineteenth-Century Literature here at Oxford Brookes. Dinah is an expert on Christina Rossetti, Victorian poetry, and the Pre-Raphaelites. During this past semester Dinah has run discussion groups and contributed an introduction to a Weekly Poem featuring Rossetti’s work that you can still find on our website, and we’re releasing this podcast on Sunday 5 December - Christina Rossetti’s birthday. In the discussion with Dinah, we focus on three poems by Rossetti: 'The heart knoweth its own bitterness', 'Love understands the mystery', and ‘Goblin Market’ and explore how Dinah came to be interested in Rossetti, the poet’s reputation, and the place of religion in Rossetti’s work. We also consider how Dinah’s view of Rossetti has changed during her time working with her poetry and prose and in the course of writing a book about her family, and how Rossetti’s experience as a carer affected her writing. Dinah received her BA from Vassar College and a PhD in English Literature from University College London. She is the author of Christina Rossetti's Faithful Imagination: The Devotional Poetry and Prose (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) and The Rossettis in Wonderland: A Victorian Family History (Haus, 2011), and the editor of Christina Rossetti: Selected Poems (Penguin Classics, 2008) and The Pre-Raphaelites: From Rossetti to Ruskin (Penguin Classics, 2010). Dinah is currently writing a monograph on the interactions of literary and visual arts in Pre-Raphaelite art, taking into account the influence of nineteenth-century literature on book illustration, painting and the decorative arts from 1848 to the turn of the century. She is also editing a three volume edition of The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti (Longman Annotated English Poets), due for publication in 2025. You can find out more about Dinah's work on her profile page on the Brookes website, and follow her on Twitter - find the links on our Podcasts page.

1hr 5mins

5 Dec 2021

Rank #1

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Episode 22: Leah Umansky talks to Niall Munro

Leah Umansky is the author of two book-length collections, The Barbarous Century (2018), Domestic Uncertainties (Blazevox, 2012), and two chapbooks, Straight Away the Emptied World (Kattywompus Press, 2016), and the Mad Men-inspired Don Dreams and I Dream (Kattywompus Press, 2014). Her writing has been widely published in places like The New York Times, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A Day, USA Today, POETRY, Guernica, and American Poetry Review. She has been the host and curator of the New York City-based poetry series COUPLET since 2011, and is a graduate of the MFA Program in Poetry at Sarah Lawrence College. Leah has become well known for her poetry inspired by TV series, such as Mad Men, Westworld, and Mr. Robot. Many of her Game of Thrones-inspired poems have been translated into Norwegian and Bengali. In 2013, Flavorwire named her #7 of 23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry, and her chapbook Don Dreams and I Dream was voted one of The Top 10 Chapbooks To Read Now in 2014 by Time Out New York. Leah has been a middle and high school English teacher for fifteen years and has also taught workshops at The Poetry School, Hudson Valley Writers Center, and Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Visible Ink Program. She is also a collage-artist who has designed all of her book covers. In ‘Where are the Stars?’, one of the poems in her collection The Barbarous Century, Leah writes: ‘The self is mapped in certainties. I am certain that I can measure this in words.’ Those kind of certainties are consistent preoccupations of Leah’s work: hers is a poetry that frequently asserts ‘I am…’, ‘I will…’, ‘This is what I mean…’, and there is a self-confidence and ambition in her writing, especially in a poem like the first we look at together, ‘Unleashed’, that makes an interrogation of the self possible, especially the female self. In that poem and elsewhere, Leah explores the way that people change and suggests that such change can be immensely rewarding if we risk embracing it. This is sometimes an idealistic poetry that seeks to celebrate what is good in the world (at one point in our conversation, Leah says that ‘there’s always room for celebration’), but it is also a realistic one. With its desire to show what it’s like to be alive, Leah’s poetry is also happy - and sometimes seems compelled - to call out those things and those people who live meanly and selfishly, such as the ‘tyrant’ in her recent work - a thinly-disguised version of Donald Trump sometimes, but often a much broader figure of someone, usually a man, who has no sense of decency. And often that examination of goodness is bound up with questions of gender and in particular - as is evident in a poem we discuss, ‘[Of Men]’ - in the relationship between men and women. Just as these poems challenge traditional and obsolete notions of gender roles in their subject matter, so too their form bends and sometimes dismantles poetic conventions. Leah brings a tremendous energy and virtuosity to her work and to the way she talks about her work, and I think that comes across clearly in this interview. Please do check out the poems, which you can find on the Poetry Centre website - just look up the Podcast page - and seek out Leah’s work. There are links to her books, her website, and her social media on the Podcasts page too. Thank you for listening!


2 Nov 2021

Rank #2

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Episode 21: Christopher Kempf talks to Niall Munro

In this episode Niall Munro talks with Christopher Kempf about his new collection of poetry, What Though The Field Be Lost, published by Louisiana State University Press in 2021. Chris’s first poetry collection, Late in the Empire of Men, won the 2015 Levis Prize from Four Way Books and was reviewed widely, including in The New York Times. His scholarly book, Craft Class: The Workshop in American Culture, is forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press. You can find out more about Chris on his website: christopherkempf.com What Though The Field Be Lost may be grounded in the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but it doesn't just offer just a fascinating engagement with the soil and statues there. It is also a profound exploration of conflict and memory more broadly in the United States. Indeed, one of the most striking things about the book is the way in which it is so attentive to the complexities of history. Through the discussion of two poems from the book, ‘Remembrance Day’ and ‘After,’ (both of which you can read on the Poetry Centre's Podcasts page), Chris considers first of all what motivated him to write about Gettysburg, ‘the presentness of the past’ that he felt there on what many consider - as he puts it - ‘the most consequential piece of land in the United States’, and how he responded to the ‘tactical beauty’ of the Confederate monuments that dominate the landscape now. We go on to think about how far it is still possible to claim an ‘American we’, something that Chris himself recognises might be an old-fashioned claim, but one that he puts forward with great vigour and skill in the collection, making use of the poetic or rhetorical strategy of the synecdoche - that is having one part of something stand in for the whole thing - to think about the relationship between the human body and the body politic. Chris also discusses his interest in the Civil War re-enactors that he met at Gettysburg and their motivations, and thinks too about art’s capacity to re-imagine the present. What possibilities does poetry provide as a space to think about radical equality in America, and what responsibilities does the poet have to society and to history? If you enjoy the podcast or have any comments, feel free to get in touch: we’re on social media where our handle is @brookespoetry, and you can e-mail me via the Poetry Centre website. Thanks again for listening!


24 Jun 2021

Rank #3

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Episode 20: celeste doaks talks to Niall Munro

celeste doaks is a poet and journalist. She is the author of Cornrows and Cornfields, a collection of poems published in 2015 by Wrecking Ball Press. The book was listed as one of the Ten Best Books of 2015 by Beltway Quarterly Poetry. In 2017, she edited and contributed to the anthology Not Without Our Laughter: Poems of Humor, Joy, and Sexuality, published by Mason Jar Press. And in 2019 she published American Herstory, which was the winner of Backbone Press’s 2018 chapbook competition. The chapbook, which we talk about in the podcast, was named best chapbook by the Maryland Poet Laureate, Grace Cavalieri, and includes poems about First Lady Michelle Obama. celeste has received numerous awards, such as a 2017 Rubys Grant in Literary Arts, a Lucille Clifton Scholarship, and residencies at Atlantic Center of the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. In addition to American Herstory, on the podcast we also discuss celeste’s five forthcoming poems about the nineteenth-century African American entrepreneur Mary Ellen Pleasant and an article that celeste wrote in Ms. Magazine about a recent innovative online concert given by the singer-songwriter Erykah Badu. We also mention celeste’s monthly book recommendation column, which blends together celeste’s thoughts about literature with astrology, Litscope, and her review of the poet Rachel Long’s book My Darling from the Lions, out now in the UK but soon to appear in the US. You can find links to all of these books, articles and poems on the Poetry Centre’s Podcasts page (https://www.brookes.ac.uk/poetry-centre/podcasts/). On the podcast, celeste reads two poems from American Herstory: the title poem and also ‘What the First Lady Found in my Homage’, and we talk about what Michelle Obama’s role as First Lady has meant for American life and politics, the recent election of Kamala Harris to the Vice Presidency, and a number of significant but neglected American women. celeste also explains how she wrote about Michelle Obama through the art work that the First Lady chose for the White House and what these choices can tell us about not just Obama herself, but America more generally. You can find out more about celeste's work on her website (https://doaksgirl.com/) and follow her on Twitter (@thedoaksgirl). It was such a pleasure to hear celeste read these poems and to talk to her about them. I urge you to check out American Herstory; it’s a truly vibrant and exciting collection of poems that explores - through humour, fine detail, and beautifully-imagined situations - Michelle Obama’s experience in the White House and some of the positive and painful challenges that came with that, as well as thinking through black women’s experiences in the United States now. And make sure you look out for celeste’s fascinating and important forthcoming poems about Mary Ellen Pleasant in Volume 33 of the Chicago Quarterly Review. Again, there is a link to the journal on the Poetry Centre’s Podcasts page. If you enjoy the podcast or have any comments, feel free to get in touch: we’re on social media where our handle is @brookespoetry, and you can e-mail me via the Poetry Centre website. Thanks again for listening!


16 Apr 2021

Rank #4

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Episode 19: Niall O'Gallagher talks to Niall Munro

In this episode, Niall Munro talks with the Gaelic poet Niall O’Gallagher. Niall studied and then taught at the University of Glasgow before going on to work as a journalist. As Niall mentions in the podcast, it was in his early days as a journalist that he began writing the poems that went into his first collection, Beatha Ùr (‘New Life’), published by Clàr in 2013. Three years later, he published Suain nan Trì Latha (‘Three Nights Dreaming’) in which - and again you’ll hear Niall discussing this - he made use of classical Gaelic forms to write modern love poems. A third collection, Fo Bhlàth (‘Flourishing’) has just been published. Niall also recently won the Gaelic prize in the Wigtown Poetry Competition in 2020 for his poem, ‘Penelope’. Niall has worked as a translator of poetry from Gaelic, Irish and Catalan, including work by Christopher Whyte (shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Poetry Book of the Year in 2019) and he has also published Scottish Gaelic versions of work by the Irish poet Biddy Jenkinson in the Gaelic journal STEALL, where he acts as poetry editor. In 2019 Niall was named Bàrd Baile Ghlaschu, the City of Glasgow’s first Gaelic Poet Laureate. He is currently editing a selection of poems celebrating Glasgow and Gaelic. In the conversation, Niall talks about how he came to write in Gaelic, links between the Irish language and Scots Gaelic, and the kinds of traditional Gaelic metres and rhymes that Niall employs. He also discusses his decision not to translate his own work, the historical and contemporary Gaelic community of writers and readers in Glasgow, and Niall’s work as Glasgow’s Gaelic Poet Laureate. Niall reads - in Gaelic and in English - three poems, ‘Apologia Poetica’, ‘Scottish National Dictionary’, and ‘The Bird That Never Flew’. You can find the poems that we discuss on the Poetry Centre website - just head to the Podcasts page (https://www.brookes.ac.uk/poetry-centre/podcasts/episode-19--niall-o-gallagher-talks-to-niall-munro/) - and you can find out more about Niall’s work on his website, www.niallogallagher.com or follow him on Twitter, where his address is: @niallogallchoir


22 Mar 2021

Rank #5

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Episode 18: Ana Sampson talks to Niall Munro

In the podcast, Ana discusses how she got into editing anthologies, how she goes about putting her anthologies together and making tough decisions about which poems to keep in and leave out, and why she thinks her most recent anthologies featuring only women poets - She Is Fierce and She Will Soar, both published by Pan Macmillan - are particularly important. You can find out more about Ana's work on her website (anasampson.co.uk) and follow her on Twitter (@AnaBooks). Ana and Niall discuss three poems from She Will Soar: 'The Sea-Shore' by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, an excerpt from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's verse novel Aurora Leigh, and 'Sonnet XXXI' by Edna St. Vincent Millay. To read these poems, we are absolutely delighted to welcome the acclaimed actress-writer-director Romola Garai. Romola has worked extensively in film, television and theatre, and you will very likely have seen her in films such as Atonement or Suffragette, or on television, in shows like The Crimson Petal and the White for which she was nominated for a BAFTA. Her debut directorial feature, a horror film called Amulet, was released earlier this year, and Romola will shortly be appearing in a film with a poetry connection when she plays Dylan Thomas's wife, Caitlin, in a movie about the poet called Last Call. As you'll find out by listening to the podcast, she is also an exceptional reader of poetry.

1hr 1min

3 Dec 2020

Rank #6

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Episode 17: Chris Beckett talks to Niall Munro

In this episode, the poet, editor and translator Chris Beckett talks to Niall Munro about his latest book, "Tenderfoot". Chris discusses growing up in Ethiopia and questions of privilege, perceptions of Ethiopia and a responsibility he feels to write about the place and its people. Chris also talks about how he portrays his nascent sexuality and how he reflects on Ethopia then and now after numerous trips back to the country in recent years. Chris has published two collections with Carcanet, “Ethiopia Boy” in 2013, a sequence of praise poems about his childhood crush Abebe, and “Tenderfoot” in July this year. He co-translated and edited the first ever anthology of Ethiopian Amharic poetry, “Songs We Learn from Trees”, also out from Carcanet earlier this year. Chris’s partner is Japanese painter and sculptor, Isao Miura. Together they published a book of drawings and poems in 2014, “Sketches from the Poem Road", after Matsuo Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North” which was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award and led to a wonderful exhibition of sculpture, paintings and paper installation at the Glass Tank at Oxford Brookes University in 2016. You can find the poems that Chris discusses on the Poetry Centre's Podcast page, where there is also more information about Chris and his work.


23 Nov 2020

Rank #7

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Maya C. Popa talks to Niall Munro

Maya C. Popa is an American poet, researcher, editor, and teacher who has published two pamphlets: The Bees Have Been Canceled in 2017, and You Always Wished the Animals Would Leave in 2018. Most recently, her first full-length collection, American Faith, was published by Sarabande Books in 2019. The book was the runner-up in the Kathryn A. Morton Prize judged by Ocean Vuong and the winner of the 2020 North American Book Award from the Poetry Society of Virginia. She is the recipient of awards from the Poetry Foundation, the Oxford Poetry Society, and Munster Literature Centre in Cork, Ireland, among others. Maya is the Poetry Reviews Editor at Publishers Weekly, an English teacher and director of the Creative Writing Program at the Nightingale-Bamford school in NYC, and is currently pursuing her PhD on the role of wonder in poetry at Goldsmiths, University of London. As you’ll be able to tell from the recording, Niall Munro spoke with Maya in late May whilst the Covid-19 lockdown was still in place in New York City where she lives. They talked about three of the poems from American Faith: 'The Government Has Been Canceled', 'Meditation Having Felt and Forgotten', and 'Knockout Mouse Model'. You can read the poems that Maya discusses on the Poetry Centre’s Podcasts page, and you can order a copy of American Faith from Sarabande Books and the Poetry Book Society, as well as the usual retailers. You can also visit Maya’s own website and follow her on Twitter. Do tell us what you think of the podcast by e-mailing us or getting in touch via social media - we’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thank you for listening!


22 Aug 2020

Rank #8

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Jennifer Wong talks to Niall Munro

Jennifer Wong was born and brought up in Hong Kong. She now lives in the UK and works as a writer, translator and teacher. She has published three collections: *Goldfish* (2013), Diary of a Miu Miu Salesgirl - a pamphlet with Bitter Melon Poetry (2019), and most recently Letters Home 回 家, published by Nine Arches Press in 2020, which was selected as a Wild Card Choice by the Poetry Book Society. In this podcast, Jennifer reads and discusses four poems: ‘of butterflies’, ‘Girls from my class’, ‘My father, who taught me how to fold serviette penguins’, and ‘Truths 2.0’. You can read the poems that Jennifer discusses and find out more about her work on the Podcasts page on the Poetry Centre website – just search for ‘Oxford Brookes Poetry’. In our discussion, Jennifer explores topics such as the relationship between her past and present life, how far the Chinese family might be perceived as ‘a perfect state of happiness’, her use of Cantonese and English in the poems, her formal choices, and the challenges of writing about the recent Hong Kong protests. Do tell us what you think of the podcast by e-mailing us or getting in touch via social media - we’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thank you for listening!


20 Jul 2020

Rank #9

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Doyali Islam talks to Niall Munro

This interview was recorded in late November 2019 when Doyali visited the UK, and in it Doyali discusses the tensions in her poetry, how her work deals with chronic illness, the innovative formal choices that she makes for her poems in her Griffin Prize-shortlisted collection heft, the link between poetry, art and healing, and how she represents her family in her writing. She discusses three poems, all of which you can read on the Podcasts page of the Poetry Centre website: ‘sagittarius {the archer}’, ‘bhater mondo’, and ‘flare’.


8 Jun 2020

Rank #10