The North – 62: The Alive and Kicking Issue


The North 62 showcases 140 outstanding poems by 67 poets

Out Of Print


After an unsuccessful Arts Council bid, this 62nd issue of The North could not have been brought into being without the generosity of our 380 supporters who came to our aid when the future of the Poetry Business –the whole of its teaching and publishing programme – was in jeopardy. Within 48 hours our crowdfunding campaign had received over £14,000 in pledges, wonderfully bringing us back in to daylight.

The first The North was printed by hand by its editor in the mid-eighties, with two then-unknown destined Poet Laureates in its pages. Now, 33 years later, it remains a key aspect of The Poetry Business’ work.

Featured poets include…

Sally Baker | Eric Berlin | Ramona Herdman | Jenny King | Michael Laskey | Sean O’Brien | Michael Schmidt | Anthony Wilson | Jennifer Copley | Simon Armitage | Philip Gross | John Harvey | Libby Houston | Jessica Traynor | Jon McLeod | David Hale | Emma Simon | Karl Knights | John Whale | Jennie Osborne | Ian Pople | Julie Lumsden | David Underdown | Ed Reiss | F J Williams | Maitreyabandhu | Michael Henry | Audrey Molloy | Tess Jolly | Robert Etty

Features include: Pam Thompson on John Ashbery’s A Wave, Echoes from a long hot summer: Twenty years of Slow Dancer Press, Hannah Lowe discusses Poets I Go Back To, and our featured title is Arcades by Imogen Cassels.

The Alive & Kicking issue also includes reviews of dozens of books and pamphlets, including Razmik Davoyan, trans. Arminé Tamrazian, Julian Flanagan, Wes Lee, Hannah Hodgson, Eleni Cay, Jane Commane, Fiona Moore, Kate Davis, Kit Fan, Tom Weir Jane Draycott, Jonathan Edwards and Ruth Padel.

The first The North was printed by hand by its editor in the mid-eighties, along with a handful of pamphlets, mostly growing out of early poetry workshops. Who was to know that, among other then-unknown luminaries, two destined Poet Laureates were in its pages…

Extract from the editorial, The North 62

The North 62 opens with Michael Schmidt’s tour de force, ‘About Homer: an epyllion’, featured here:

About Homer: an epyllion

by Michael Schmidt

Ακόμα και ο Όμηρος νεύματα

Homer is old, he nods, at everything.

Tell me, O Muse, does he mean yes or no?

Perhaps he means perhaps. He nods agreeably.

      He sneezes

Into a red bandana the size of a bath-towel.

It’s no surprise to see him. He tops the bill.

His presence has drawn the poets out.

Every single one wants to be like him –

      Well, not blind,

Not old, but immortal, name turned adjective.

He can still stand on his pair of ancient feet

In Birkenstocks (Arizona Regular), a grizzled

Statue roused from stone by archaeology and


His jaw drops, he wails like an opera diva,

Spilling coloratura, then basso, down deep.

The poets want to be like him. Not write like him.

Not write at all, in fact. Perform. They want


Laurel crowns, tripods, money. How does he do it?

The audience eats out of his palm like a chicken pecking

Corn; all the applause and half the ticket sales

Are his, and he wins prizes despite his years.

      Dear Miles,

I wish you were sitting here, cross-legged, beside me.

You read him in Greek a long time ago at Wadham –

How would it be to come to the Singer of Tales

When you’re old yourself? Lord and Parry were wrong,

      He’s not a tradition.

He’s skin and bone and a paunch, he needs a haircut.

You can smell him in the back row. Armpits. Onions.

He’s senior to everyone else, even to Stanley

Who’s got ten years on you, you’ve got ten on me:

      Go figure.

He’s famously blind, too, as a bat, with, nowadays,

A yellow guide-dog and a white probing cane.

There was a time when a boy in scuffed chiton and sandals

Led him from gig to gig all over the classical world:


Boetia, Corinth, Delphi, by boat to Lesbos, Mytelene,

Even Crete, and on the way home, Spartan Sparta.

Going from city to city they sometimes begged

A ride on a wagon, or Homer did, while the boy

      Cantered beside.

Hospitality was generally sparse; listeners

Listened out and cheered for their local heroes.

After a recital, those that could read and had money

Bought scrolls (one of the boy’s jobs was to hump

      The scrollshop

From venue to venue on his little back

And ring up the drachmas). They’d get Homer to sign,

Steadying his twisted fingers on a biro.

When you think about it, the boy that guided him

      When Homer

First took to the road with poems and blank eye sockets

Can’t have been immortal like the poet.

That first boy must have grown up and graduated,

Gone into farming or arts administration

      Or set out

To be a performer on his own, having heard the old man

Over and over and over, like a scratched record,

A very, very long scratch, retell the sombre war

Of Greeks and Trojans, then, for light relief,

      The farce

Of that idiot Odysseus (the irony of the adjective ‘wily’

Lost on audiences but never on his readers)

Stumbling and whoring the not very long

Way home to Ithaka, the tottering house,


No spring chicken, and taking a decade to get there;

Then as soon as he does and the dog wags its venerable tail

Slaying everything male that might be described as a suitor,

Apart from his son who’s set out to seek him at every


And inn in the Ionian ports and fortunately

Hasn’t made it home yet, or he might have been for it

Along with the rest… Homer’s first guide-boy’s successor,

Another bucolic brat, this time (for diversity) out of

      Parched Thessaly

Or further north, a Macedonian orphan, or an urchin

From Paeonia, will have earned crusts, kicks, an infrequent

Caress. – Nowadays dogs get a better deal than boys

Ever did, what with biscuits, chews and brushings,

      Regular vet care,

No one ever was cruel to a guide dog. Next summer

Homer’s current Labrador will give way to a puppy

By the name of Waldo from outside Chesterfield.

– Being so old, Homer snoozes a lot of the time.

      Before recitals

He sits bolt upright on his stool and sleeps like a baby.

He doesn’t look asleep, his sockets ajar.

If he held a paper cup folk would drop coins in,

Pat the dog and give him the time of day. He knows

      His poems

Off pat, or is it rather, that each time he pulls

The first line like a cork out of his heart,

The old old story wells up new as vintage blood

And steaming? Though you know just where the story’s


The words, always the same, carry a sense

Unique to the moment of utterance, you’re charmed

Again, the wine dark sea is one time Thessalian

Limniona, the next a Moschofilero, or just plain


The grey of Athene’s eyes may be sea mist,

A churning dolphin, ash, whorled pearl or pumice.

He leads us on the story’s single journey.

We bring, each of us, different luggage, and arrive

      Safe and sound,

Uniquely grieving, at Hector’s ritual obsequies.

Being old myself, I’ve packed a thermos of brandy,

A knapsack with fruit and sandwiches, a rug,

Plus a change of clothes in case the poem’s journey


Beyond the advertised time and the last train home.

My mobile is fully charged so I can take photos.

His recitals vary a lot though the words spoken

Are the same each night. The torches cast different shadows.


Homer sees is outline. We fill in dimension and hue.

The poem latches on to each listener: it keeps me

Watching the dog who’s delivered the poet on stage

And sits like Patience by his side, not listening but lolling

      Its tongue,

Then gnawing at an itch low down by its pink boner.

Eventually the dog subsides, puts its chin on its paws.

It starts snoring gently, gently. Its legs twitch.

Homer marches us on, into battle again.

      Swords drawn,

We hack at the waves, we rush the wine dark tide.

Tell me, O Muse, when will the story be over?