The best book I’ve ever read about poetry is a novel: The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker. Baker’s narrator, Paul Chowder, dreams of an anthology made up only of the best single lines in poems; or even the best individual words. When he gets to Walter Raleigh’s ‘Give me my scallop-shell of quiet’, he stares into the ‘rippling depths’ of the line, and homes in on that final word – quiet – as the reason the poem succeeds, as the focal point for his response of love and amazement.

An anthology, or a blog, made up of single words might be a tough sell. But like Chowder, I want to hold the poems I enjoy – both classic and contemporary – up to the light, turn them around a bit, and see what seems to be going on inside. I want to engage with the poem on its own terms, and see what follows.

I’ll be posting the texts of poems to illustrate the points I want to make about them – if you are the author or rights-holder of a work on this site and you would like me to take it down, please get in contact on richardtobrien at gmail dot com.

My name is Richard O’Brien, I’m a British poet and performer, and if you’d like more information on my own work you can find it here.


About the art

The scallop logo above, and the title design, are both the work of Emma Wright: illustrator, giftmaker, and founder of The Emma Press. Emma’s books, cards and accessories can be bought online, or every Friday from mid-June onwards, from a market stall in London’s Lower Marsh.

6 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi,
    I liked the lines quoted in the TLS and enjoyed the entries of scallop shell analyses/appreciations I read.
    Are you aware that clicking on the ”here” link on the website brings a reader to a California lawyer’s website (Richard T. O’Brien’s)?

    • Hi,

      Unfortunately I am aware of that – I dropped the ball and the domain got sold, so now other than making a found poem out of rearranged lines about personal injury litigation I’m not totally sure what to do about it! Thanks for reading and I’m very glad you liked the posts and the lines. If you’re interested in reading more, there’s a sample poem in the image here: http://theemmapress.com/shop/the-emmores-by-richard-obrien-paperback/

      • Hi Richard, I really enjoyed your poem in the Emma Press’s latest anthology, Dance – and was fascinated to read about the ‘dancing plague’ (thanks for the author’s note!) I’ve just ordered A Bloody Mess and will be ordering your pamphlet, published by The Emma Press, next week.
        I’m also very interested in your PhD subject – contemporary verse drama – I love verse drama, and have written a pamphlet length ‘verse drama’ which was adapted for a Live Literature stage production, (with Arts Council funding bless ’em). I’m interested in the ways in which contemporary writers approach verse drama, and play with its conventions. Are you intending to publish your PhD in book form when it’s complete?
        All good wishes,
        Catherine Smith

      • Hi Catherine,

        Thanks, that’s very kind of you! And good of you to take a chance on the double whammy.. The dancing plague is the sort of thing that just *needs* an author’s note, isn’t it? Bombastic title aside, if you’re interested in the subject John Waller’s book ‘A Time to Dance, A Time to Die’ is pretty good. Such a strange and fascinating episode.

        As for the PhD, I think you’re the first person to declare themselves an actual fan of verse drama! I spend most of my first chapter going through the last 30 years of critical preconceptions and trying to work out where they come from (400 years of history, mainly, hence all the other chapters.) I would love for it to become a book, but not really sure how to even begin with that – I ought to at least get some articles published first, and then hopefully my tutor might give me a steer. I’ll do a few more conference papers on it, at least (I just delivered one at ‘The Place for Poetry’ at Goldsmiths.)

        Great to hear you’ve written a verse play. I see from your site you had something on the radio a few years ago – was that play in verse? And is your recent one The New Cockaigne, or is that something else again? I’d love to read it, and to discuss those conventions with you. Do send me an email if you’d be happy for me to see it.

        I’m interested in the Ekphrasis project you work on too – how did you get involved? Are you aware of Steven Sexton, another Emma Press poet whose PhD is on ekphrasis and writes about it more than I do? I really liked your poem ‘Fontanelle’ in the Motherhood anthology, and showed it to a friend who had cranial surgery as a child; she also found it very moving.

        Best wishes,

  2. Hi Richard, I’ve ordered both your pamphlets, really looking forward to reading them. I do love The Emma Press – such a breath of fresh air – and always such nice production values.

    My radio play, Jellybelly, (2006!) wasn’t a verse drams, it was a supernatural Rom-Com, which I wrote to cheer myself up after writing lots of dark and bitter poetry.;) Since then, the BBC has turned down at least 8 script submissions…but I’m still writing radio plays. One is sitting on the desk of Emma Harding, BBC producer and poet. It’s been there a while…Patience is a virtue, as we know…

    I love verse dramas – why aren’t there more on radio? The form works so well. It appeals to the ear.
    Please let me know if you publish articles from your PhD thesis.
    Thanks for the Ekphrasis heads-up. If you’d like to be involved in our next project – please see the website, and register your interest. We’d love to have you on board.
    If you let me have an address, I’ll send you a copy of The New Cockaigne – it’s bonkers! Scott Pack wrote a lovely review on his blog, Me and My Big Mouth, and there are details on http://www.leweslivelit.co.uk

    All good wishes, thanks for the reading tips…will definitely read that boom about the dancing plague. 🙂
    Catherine x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s