Professor Ian Gregson
- Professor Ian Gregson
Poems and novels
My starting-point has always been the writing of poems. I’ve written some lyric poetry, but my focus has mostly been on the construction of characters who speak the poems, in other words on extensions of dramatic monologue. So I have combined poetic techniques with those novelistic ones that focus on unreliable narration, coloured narrative, dialogic interpenetrations of point of view. The writing of novels, such as Not Tonight Neil (Cinnamon, 2011), has therefore been a natural extension of my thinking as a writer. But fictive strategies are also in evidence in sequences like ‘Superman and Lois’, where the two personifications of fantasised masculinity and femininity talk about themselves in ways that sometimes reinforce and sometimes contradict each other. ‘How We Met’, similarly, is based on a series of paired interviews that used to appear in a Sunday newspaper, where famous people described their friendships: here I invented five pairs of celebrities who are progressively revealed to be enmeshed in interlocking narratives that also involve their interviewer. ‘The William Ewart Gladstone Comic Strip’ gets its coherence from a core metaphor based on caricature and cartoon, but it is coloured from the point of view of an ageing, left-wing cartoonist.
These sequences all work on a large scale, but I have used dialogic effects as well in shorter poems, where it’s often just a matter of clashing registers. So in ‘Someone to Watch Over You’ I created a creepy stalker who speaks in the idiom of love poetry:
Sometimes I think myself so near to you
almost you might feel my breath
stir your hair
hover and hover but never appear to you
like your lover after his death
you speak to me...
My major publications are Not Tonight Neil (Cinnamon, 2011), How We Met (Salt, 2008), and Call Centre Love Song (Salt, 2006). [www.cinnamonpress.com and www.saltpublishing.com]. I have received a Gregory Award and been nominated for a Forward Prize.
Forthcoming: a novel, The Crocodile Princess with Cinnamon Press and a book of poems, The Slasher and the Vampire as Role Models, with Parthian Press
I am currently researching a third novel, on Cambodia in the early 1960s, and revising my second, Go Home or Burn, for publication. A third collection of poems is in preparation for 2014, and will contain my sequence The Slasher and the Vampire as Role Models which was ‘highly commended’ in the pamphlet competition of The North (Smith/Doorstop books) in 2011.
Personal web page
For more on my novels and poems, go to www.iangregson.co.uk
Support for other people's writing
I am also delighted to support other people’s writing:
- I am editor of Salt Wales [www.saltpublishing.com]; we are currently looking to expand our presence here. I am happy to receive unsolicited manuscripts.
- Since 1993, I have run the North Wales-Bangor University Visiting Poets series, with the kind support of Literature Wales [www.literaturewales.org/home/], bringing together students and locals to hear readings and interviews with the best of today’s British poets, including Peter Didsbury, Jasmine Donahaye, Douglas Dunn, Kathryn Gray, Lavinia Greenlaw, Philip Gross, Chris Hamilton-Emery, Selima Hill, Jane Holland, Alan Jenkins, Gwyneth Lewis, Patrick McGuiness, Robert Minhinnick, Sean O’Brien, Bernard O’Donaghue, Don Paterson, Oliver Reynolds, Carol Rumens, Eva Salzman, Jo Shapcott, Jon Silkin, Ken Smith, Matthew Sweeney, and Jeffrey Wainwright.
- I champion the importance of incisive, substantial and supportive reviews of poetry in a dynamic literary culture. My reviews appear in places like the Los Angeles Times Book Review, TLS, the London Review of Books, Poetry London, Stand, Planet, The New Welsh Review, and Poetry Wales. They cover new work by such poets as John Ash, John Ashbery, Zoe Brigley, Robert Crawford, Tom Disch, Katy Evans-Bush, Anne-Marie Fyffe, Paul Groves, Ian Hamilton, Paul Henry, John Haynes, Anthony Howell, Christopher Middleton, Mary Oliver, Ruth Padel, Michael Symons Roberts, Eva Salzman, Michael Schmidt, Frederick Seidel, John Stammers, and Ruth Stone.
- My criticism goes out of its way to cover emerging as well as major writers, from Martin Amis, J.G. Ballard, Angela Carter, Raymond Carver, Ralph Ellison, Joseph Heller, Ian McEwan, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, Will Self, and Muriel Spark, to Fleur Adcock, Simon Armitage, John Ashbery, John Berryman, Carol Anne Duffy, James Fenton, Roy Fisher, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Stephen Knight, Robert Lowell, Patrick McGuiness, Edwin Morgan, Paul Muldoon, Pascale Petit, Sylvia Plath, Craig Raine, Owen Shears, Stevie Smith, Derek Walcott, and C.K. Williams.
- With Carol Rumens, I have edited a collection of Hull poets, Old City, New Rumours (Nottingham: Five Leaves, 2010). [www.fiveleaves.co.uk]
As reviews of my work have repeatedly pointed out, I am distinctive as a critic in combining the roles of poet and novelist, literary theorist, and poetry reviewer. In my critical monographs, I explore the creative potential of theory.
Contemporary Poetry and Postmodernism: Dialogue and Estrangement (Macmillan, 1996) draws on Bakhtin to examine the dialogic elements of poetry now. The Male Image: Representations of Masculinity in Postwar Poetry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2001) demonstrates an identifiably masculine poetic evolving in certain major poets. Postmodern Literature (Hodder Arnold, 2004) measures how effectively the arguments of Baudrillard, Jameson, and Lyotard explain the features of a range of postmodern authors. Character and Satire in Postwar Fiction (Continuum, 2006) shows how, in satirical texts, postmodern theories of identity challenge humanist assumptions. The New Poetry in Wales (University of Wales Press, 2007) analyses the appropriateness of postcolonial theories in reviewing new work in Wales. My latest monograph is Simon Armitage (Salt, 2011), the first book-length study of this key figure in contemporary British poetry.
I have received awards from the AHRC, the Leverhulme Trust, and Literature Wales, to support this work.