Art Of Navigation

Written by Bernardine Evaristo for British Council Website, 2006 on Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

POETRY: Introduction by Bernardino Evaristo.

How does one navigate a route through the maze that is British poetry when some 3000 poetry titles are published annually? Who are the exciting new voices making an impact on the poetry scene? What are they writing about? Are there movements or recurring themes?

It’s a tall order because movements often reveal themselves after they’ve passed on, and most poets cling fiercely to their independence and resist reductive labelling. While some poetry collections are theme- or narrative-based, most are pretty eclectic. It’s the nature of poetry -- frequently oblique, opaque, crystallising and distilling particular experiences, ideas, memories, voices, through the poetic equivalent of montage and mural, and transforming the unremarkable into the memorable through the poetic form. In the UK today, poems are being constructed within the architecture of traditional forms, or being shaped more liberally with free verse, or, increasingly likely, poems are situated somewhere in between -- the mutant sonnet is a favourite. British poets, like their counterparts world-wide, are trying to say what cannot be said, or has been said, but differently, because only when experience is imagined anew is the caul washed away from our eyes.

But if you’re looking for a poet whose influences cannot be so easily traced to recent British antecedents, the ambitious Art of Navigation by Andrew Jefferson-Miles (who is of Guyanese origin) rises above the domestic, parochial and personal and is an intellectual challenge. His poems take in South America, Wales, Heidegger, quantum physics, and history.