John Wain and Hugo Williams

Tuesday 21 April 2015

John Wain’s short story, ‘A Message from the Pig Man’, was in an anthology my secondary school used. I have my copy, still, marked with my name and form, 5 alpha. I haven’t heard of John Wain for a long time, but in the late 20th century he was still very well known both as a prose writer and poet. A website cataloguing his work suggests a revival is due and certainly the skill and impact of this story is a good reminder of this writer, dubbed with several others, one of the ‘Angry Young Men’ of the 1950s, socially aware and rattling the establishment’s cage.Wain would have been 90 on March 14. His first novel was published in the 1950s. He wrote 13 in all, a life of Samuel Johnson and was Oxvford Professor of Poetry from 1973 – 78.

Hugo Williams is a highly successful contemporary poet, notable nowadays for remaining a poet and not veering off into other genres. Williams has built a reputation on the honesty of his work, which is often concerned with relationships and their success or failure. But he has also written starkly about illness and family. He’s been a generous and inclusive supporter of poets and a chronicler of the poetry world for the Times Literary Supplement, among others. We looked at a poem of his, ‘Blank Pages’, from the collection, Billy’s Rain, published by Faber and Faber in 1999.

Lorrie Moore and Alicia Ostriker

Tuesday April 7

Lorrie Moore is one of the leading short story writers in the US and greatly admired in the UK as well. She established herself early – first publishing a story at 19. Born in 1957, she has been prolific but published a lot less in recent years. She focuses on women’s lives, on relationships, illness, motherhood. She teaches at Vanderbilt University, Nashville and regularly publishes in the New Yorker. She has published four collections of short stories, two novels, a children’s book and essays. Her Collected Stories was published in 2008. She has won the Irish Times international fiction prize, the O Henry award and has been shortlisted for many other prizes.

She talks about her latest collection, Bark, here: lorrie-moore-the-powells-com-interview-by-jill/

We read¬†‘Referential’, a story of Moore’s published by the Telegraph which is a tribute to another story by Vladimir Nabokov.

Alicia Ostriker was born in 1937 and has written more than ten collections of poetry and many books of criticism. She has won the William Carlos Williams award, Paterson Poetry Award and San Francisco State Poetry Center Award. She is not as well known in the UK as Moore but is Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a political activist.

We read Ostriker’s poem ‘Birdcall’, dedicated to Elizabeth Bishop.

There are links to both texts and the Nabokov on the Reading Round texts page.