Having been long-listed for the International Dylan Thomas Prize back in January, Disinformation has now made it on to the final shortlist of six books, alongside wonderful work by Claire-Louise Bennett, Sunjeev Sahota and others. I’m delighted. There will be a showcase reading in London on 12th May (more on that soon), and the winner of the £30,000 prize will be announced in Swansea on May 14th. To read about the prize and the shortlist, visit http://www.swansea.ac.uk/dylan-thomas-prize/2016-shortlist/.
Looking forward very much to reading with Colette Bryce at the dlr Mountains to Sea Book Festival in Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, on Saturday 12 March. The reading begins at 4.30pm at the dlr Lexicon. I’ll also be teaching a workshop on the Sunday morning at 10.30am. More information can be found on the festival website.
I will be reading from “Broderie Anglaise” and discussing the art of the short story with Kirsty Gunn, Helen Simpson and Claire Armitstead at the St Hilda’s College Writers’ Day at the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival on Saturday 9 April. The event starts at 2pm. For more details, visit the festival website here.
Disinfomation has been long-listed for the International Dylan Thomas Prize 2016, which makes an award to “the best published or produced literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under”. The shortlist will be announced in March and the winner in May. You can see the full longest of twelve books on the Swansea University website here.
I’m very happy to say that my essay “Mothers and Marimbas in ‘The Bight’: Bishop’s Danse Macabre” has been awarded the 2015 Andrew J. Kappel Prize in Literary Criticism upon its publication in volume 61:4 of the peer-reviewed journal Twentieth-Century Literature.
The essay offers a close reading of “The Bight” that demonstrates how the poem unites the key elements of danse macabre—skeletal imagery, musical procession, grisly humor—with apprehensions of the absent mother, an approach founded upon but aesthetically distinct from original symboliste works such as Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal, or the work of American symbolists such as Wallace Stevens.
Professor Brian McHale, awarding the prize, wrote:
“Mothers and Marimbas” undertakes an exemplary close reading of Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “The Bight.” It attends scrupulously to details of sound and sense; it excavates wordplay and etymologies; it brings to bear wide literary-historical and cultural learning, and justifies the relevance of that learning to Bishop and her text; it makes judicious and resourceful use of Bishop’s letters, her discarded drafts, and the facts of her biography to illuminate the text at hand. It does, in other words, exactly what we have in mind when we characterize a piece of critical writing as a close reading, and it does so with tact and imagination.
Which is not to say that its horizons are limited to explicating the thirty-six lines of Bishop’s text. Rather, “Mothers and Marimbas” joins the ongoing scholarly conversation about Bishop, in particular the part of that conversation having to do with the relationship between Bishop’s writing and her difficult and troubled life. Precisely because her poetry often seems deliberately reticent—or maybe because it aspires to reticence—it has prompted a great deal of biographical and symptomatic reading that seeks to restore the effaced contexts of her childhood displacement, her sexuality, her alcoholism, and most relevantly for this poem, the loss of her mother. Without at all denying the somewhat cryptically biographical dimension of “The Bight,” “Mothers and Marimbas” reminds us that private expression is mediated here (as everywhere in Bishop) by her deep engagement with her poetic precursors and the cultural traditions all around her.
“Frances Leviston’s second collection of poems, Disinformation (Picador), displays a most beguiling voice, deeply thoughtful, varied in tone from innocent to sharp, and ending with an urgent series of questions about where our stories are taking us.” – Marina Warner, TLS.
“The two individual poetry books that I returned to most often for the precise, scalpel-like sophistication of their technique – by which a steely knowledge of the world was revealed just below a limpid surface of anecdotal language – were Frances Leviston’s Disinformation (Picador) and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen (Penguin).” – Jeremy Noel-Tod, TLS.
“Another eagerly awaited collection is Frances Leviston’s Disinformation (Picador), following her stunning 2007 debut, Public Dream. Her new poems extend her technique as well as her range, and are more obviously politically engaged.” – Sinéad Morrissey in the Guardian.
“Among younger English poets, Frances Leviston’s Disinformation (Picador, £9.99) brings unsparing enquiry and musical intelligence to the place in which we find ourselves.” – Sean O’Brien, Independent.
“Likewise, in a poem called ‘Midsummer Loop’ that is itself both loopy and summary, Frances Leviston brought the news that the most meticulous stylistic contrivance and the most distractable empirical openness could fuse to produce a new way of inhabiting time itself.” – Patrick Mackie, ‘Poems of the Year’, CB Editions.
“The 2015 Best Collection Award goes to Frances Leviston’s Disinformation: technically achieved, somehow ruthless and generous at the same time: a substantial advance on Leviston’s already astonishing debut, Public Dream.” – London Review Bookshop.
Delighted to be reading for the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast on Thursday 19th November, alongside the excellent Catríona O’Reilly.
The reading starts at 8pm in Crescent Arts Centre. More information can be found on their website.
I’ve written a tiny piece on Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” for Psychologies magazine’s “Stories to Change Your Life” feature. You can read it here, along with responses by the other writers shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award to books and stories that have been important to them.