Ivor Bowen's film of Ken Smith reading 'Three docklands fragments', from the DVD-book IN PERSON: 30 POETS, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008). These poems by Ken Smith are from SHED: POEMS 1980-2001 (Bloodaxe Books, 2002). Ken was the ﬁrst poet to be published by Bloodaxe Books, back in 1978. His old friend Ivor Bowen filmed him at his home in East Ham, London, in January 2002. Ken contracted Legionnaire's Disease in Cuba the following year, and later died after contracting an infection in hospital in 2003.
Ken Smith was a major figure in world poetry. Once dubbed 'the godfather of the new poetry', his politically edgy, cuttingly colloquial, muscular poetry influenced a whole generation of younger British poets, from Simon Armitage to Carol Ann Duffy. His work shifted territory with time, from rural Yorkshire, America and London to the war-ravaged Balkans and Eastern Europe (before and after Communism). His early books span a transition from a preoccupation with land and myth to his later engagement with urban Britain and the politics of radical disaffection. 'Three Docklands fragments' are representative of just one vein of his later poetry. We all miss him terribly, and it's just great to be see and hear him again, captured on film by Ivor. (And thanks again, Ivor, for letting us include your film in our project.)
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