Saturday, 15 January 2011

Poetry and Society in the UK

An attempt to list the participants in the UK poetry scene, map some of their interactions, and describe their impact on the non-poetry-loving public.

The Players and their reputations

Many parties participate in the creation of the canon. In this section I'll briefly introduce them. In the next I'll look at at their interactions. The parties are roughly classified as follows

  • Media
    • Anthologisers - Traditionally they have quite a lot of power, marginalising and reviving writers.
      • General - The Motion/Morrison anthology of the 80s provoked several reactions, in particular "A Various Art". Recent anthologies assembled by non-UK people ("Oxford Guide to English literature", "Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry") have reassessed the canon presented in these older anthologies - out goes Douglas Dunn, in comes J.H.Prynne.
      • Themed - Some of these (e.g. "The Faber Book of Love Poems") are aimed at the general public. Others (e.g. "A Various Art", "Naming the Waves") attempt to publicise a new school/tendency or destablize a prevailing one.
      • Annual - Two main publications
        • New Writing - sponsored by the British Council. Poetry and Prose. Mostly commissioned or agent-driven, I think.
        • The Forward Book of Poetry - prizes for best/first collection, best poem etc. Room for a few surprises amongst the short-listed pieces.
    • Magazines - The Poetry Review is far more influential than any others. The UK has few campaigning magazines though there are some women-only ones ("Writing Women", "MsLexia"), and themed ones (Shearsman - late-modernist, "Parataxis" - experimental). In the USA there are more single-school magazines - e.g. "The Formalist".
    • Book Publishers - Fewer nowadays. Does that make the remaining ones more important? Or have books in general become less influential? Smaller presses are making something of a come-back. A few publishers (Chatto, Oxford) produce(d) showcase books with about 6 new poets presented. "Forward Press" (founded in 1989, based in Peterborough) claimed to be the largest publisher of new poetry in the world. It went into creditors' voluntary liquidation on 29 November 2010. Forward Poetry now exists. They publish many anthologies (often themed) under various imprints.
    • Reviewers - Do they affect people's buying choices? Newspapers and publications like the Times Literary Supplement have few poetry reviews nowadays, and poetry magazines have an increasing rarefied audience. Even if reviews do affect sales, do book sales matter very much?
    • Newspapers - A few have weekly or even daily poems. Ruth Padel's column had an influence during her period on The Independent.
    • Radio - Programs like BBC radio 4's 'Poetry Please' reflect rather than influence public tastes.
    • TV - Negligible impact. Tony Harrison's V appeared on channel 4 and was much discussed - for the bad language as much as anything else.
    • Film - Negligible impact. My impression is that "Four Weddings and a Funeral" had a greater impact than "Sylvia".
    • Celebrities - Hughes, Heaney, John Hegley, Zephaniah and Poet Laureates attract column inches. They can be quite important, championing other poets.
  • Education
    • Academics - Little impact: a life-support system keeping poets' work alive long enough for others to notice.
    • Curriculum designers - These have quite a long-lasting effect. Current trends ("creativity" vs "cultural studies" vs "national heritage") will influence the choice of poets represented and thus the set-books.
    • Creative Writing/Workshops - in the US this is a self-sustaining subculture. The UK isn't yet at that stage.
  • Performance
    • Performance Poets - An increasingly popular scene and a useful springboard, though not as big as in the days of Horowitz's Albert Hall show (1965).
    • Singer/songwriters - Not a factor in the UK but elsewhere the size of their audience is significant
    • Poetry festival directors - They network as well as decide who to invite to their festivals
  • Organisations/Initiatives
    • Arvon writing tutors - Their recommendations have influence with publishers, editors, etc.
    • Initiatives - National Poetry Day (promoting populist poetry?) Poems on the Underground (promoting short poetry?)
    • Competition Organisers - The Whitbread awards (and to a lesser extent the National Poetry Competition and Peterloo competition) are covered in the press. The organisers pick committees of judges who'll preserve the status quo. If big competitions are judged by (say) McGough, some types of poems will be denied the chance of publicity. The Poetry Business competition winners have a book published - such competitions are much more common in the USA.
    • Local poetry groups (word of mouth) - negligible influence.
    • Poetry Society - Involved with many national initiatives, so its stance matters. It also publishes the "Poetry Review".
    • The Poetry Book Society - sells discounted books by post and recommends certain books. In 2004 they had a 100k ACE grant and about 2,300 members.
    • Grant-giving organisations - NESTA (who sometimes give 6 figure sums to poets), the Society of Authors, the British Council (who have an agenda).
    • Regional Arts - The Arts Council feeds money to regional offices. They are in control of grants and residencies, and can have quite an impact on the type of poetry encouraged in a region. Sometimes they support magazines and wider participation, sometimes they focus funds on individual writers. Here are some rough figures from the list of regularly funded organisations in 2008, to give you an idea of scale - Arvon £320k, Poetry Society £260k, New Writing Partnership £200k, Carcanet £110k, The Poetry School, £100k, Bloodaxe £90k, Anvil £90k.
  • Movements - Based on common race, ethnic background, gender, style, etc - feminists, experimentalist, Welsh-speaking. These used to be loose agglomerations of friends who lived in the same region, though nowadays organisations like the "Long Poetry group" survive with a scattered membership. Improved communications (e.g. using the WWW) have made distance less of an issue.

Several of these agents are also importers.

The Action

If one wants to influence events or make progress it helps to know how these groups interact, and how one thing leads to another. Some of the bodies mentioned above have little power or influence but can act as a useful bridge between other bodies, formalising the "Old Boys Networks" of the past. Relations between these various power bases aren't always cordial - links are fluid and alliances temporary.

In the UK a small group of friends can be in control of various groups (publishers, judging committees), and from time to time people suspect a poetry mafia. The Poetry Society plays a central role in national events, as a transmitter at least. To take a hypothetical example, suppose a famous poet reveals in a Sunday newspaper supplement's interview to having suffered years of mental health problems. This opportunity could be exploited by poetry-as-therapy groups, who'll have a chance to write follow-up articles, appear on the radio, and have a more sympathetic reaction to grant-applications. An association with the "Poetry Society" would strengthen their hand, with the possibility of longer term National Lottery or National Health Service support. A "Poetry Review" feature would put the poets on the map. There'd be more workshop tutoring openings for sympathetic poets who in turn will be able to write more, and sell more. They may champion the cause of certain neglected poets from the past, or be asked to put together a themed anthology. The participating poets become better known and more influential, being asked to judge competitions. Before long there could be a small but perceptible shift in the poetry climate - even a shift towards a pre-existing pigeon-hole like confessional poetry.

A few examples serve to illustrate the diversity and transience of associations (some of which are one-way)

  • Media
    • Magazines are read by contributors and other editors. Nowadays book publishers are unlikely to look there for talent. With major publishers less interested in the poetry market, new ventures have appeared linking poets to publication
      • Magazines are beginning to publish books again - "Rialto" and "Acumen" for example.
      • Creative Writing courses (UEA, Sheffield) are producing anthologies of work, magazines or even single-author books.
      • High-quality books are being published online - the Shearsman Gallery series for example.
  • Education
    • Academia and creative writing are no longer in opposition - creative writing is now finding its way onto university syllabuses and MA courses. According to the Higher (Aug 6th, 2004, p.22) there are 40 creative writing post-graduate degrees in the UK (the US have about 300), and over 11,000 adult education courses.The established centres (Norwich, Machester, etc) act as magnets for writers, conferences and publications.
    • The UK usually lags behind the USA in curriculum development. Currently the trend is away from creative writing (and before that heritage preservation) towards cultural studies (Carol Ann Duffy, etc).
  • Performance
    • The ability to perform is becoming more necessary for published poets in the UK, which has helped traffic in the other direction. Several semi-regular venues exist, even outside London. A mix of performance specialists and book-based writers read. Other outlets are festivals, schools and events run by libraries/councils. Poetry Slams are on the increase, the UK championships being televised by BBC3 in 2004.

      Recordings of modern poetry are uncommon though in Poetry Review V94.1 (Spring 2004) there was a CD featuring Lavinia Greenlaw, Tom Raworth, Keston Sutherland, etc.

    • With music as vehicle, poetry can reach bigger audiences. North America has a tradition of Poet/Songwriter links. Dylan, Cohen, etc produce lyrics which work on the page, and in the USA some performance poets use music and sell CDs. The performance circuit in the USA is sympathetic to musical support (percussion and bass guitar if nothing else). Joy Harjo speaks poetry over a musical/jazz backdrop (John Betjeman in the UK did it with a Cello, I seem to recall). And there are Performance Artists who use if not poetry then at least words - e.g. Laurie Anderson of "O Superman" fame.
      France (at least until the early 70s) had strong lyricist links too (Greco sang Prévert and Apollinaire, Jean Ferrat sang Aragon) and also there were singers who were considerable poets - Brel, Aznavour, Trenet, Barbara, Brassens.
      In the UK I think only the Beatles have gained any respect as lyricists.
  • Organisations/Initiatives
    • The New Generation Poets campaign (mid 90s) made an impact and is still discussed a decade later - "A new wave of poets has been scooping the prizes", it was claimed. The Poetry Society administered it (when Peter Forbes was Poetry Review editor). Most of the choices were very safe bets - all the poets had been published by major companies. 20 poets (under 40 years old or having had their first book published in the previous 5 years) were promoted in bookshops, in a series of readings and in the media. Support came from BBC Radio 1 (a pop music channel), the Arts Council, the British Council, various smaller charities, Waterstones (booksellers), and the publishers of the poets. Not all the poets were enthusiastic about the venture. I suspect it boosted the career of some marginal figures (Sue Wicks, Sarah Maguire).
      The Next Generation Poets were announced in June 2004 - 20 poets who'd had their first book published in the previous 10 years. 7 judges: 3 poets (Motion, Armitage, Evaristo), a short-story writer, a member from Radiohead, someone from the PBS and a radio journalist. The 5 page article in the Guardian included no poetry but had a 2-page photo-spread.
    • National Poetry Day has become established. It's a chance for organisations to combine forces, keeping poetry in the public eye.
    • The slant of the Poetry Review editorship affects the UK poetry climate. During Eric Mottram's reign (1972-1977) experimentalists had a look-in. Currently one of the editors reviews for the Guardian and is sympathetic to the so-called avant-garde, re-opening that channel of communication. But such shifts can foment rebellion amongst the mainstream membership.
  • Movements - Movements can have tie-ins with Anthologies, Magazines, Presses and Festivals. In some other countries (Italy for example) movements are self-defining and manifesto-driven (an early example being the Futurists). UK movements are less strident, more of a journalistic convenience. Indeed, the unity of such groups ("The Movement", "The Lakeside Poets", "The Martian Poets") is sometimes an illusion created by posterity or the press. Take for example "the Cambridge School". Nobody belongs it. By day they teach Keats to younger generations but under cover of darkness they experiment in their labs, producing small-circulation leaflets or books published by Salt, maintaining international contacts, and meeting yearly at the Cambridge Conference of Contemporary Poetry. Movements are amongst the most vulnerable components of the poetry community. Their survival depends on how well they exploit networking, but the marketing benefit of self-branding can cause internal tension -
    • Solidarity and individuality can be in conflict. In the UK black feminists found themselves fighting on several fronts - should they align with white feminists? with black males? or against black males, striving for representation within the black movement? In the USA, feminist writing had a more experimental edge than it did here (Emily Dickinson may have been the cause. Rich helped). In the UK Wendy Mulford and Denise Riley (and from the less experimental tradition Carol Rumens) were quiet at first then criticised the regressive poetic styles of feminist anthologies.
    • Forms are considered old-fashioned in some countries but in others they're used by the avant-garde. In the UK modernism never took hold and forms remain in the mainstream.
    • The mainstream-experimental divide waxes and wanes. Every so often like a lightning bolt a name crosses the chasm and tension lessens. Just as often each side remain invisible to the other. J.H.Prynne's a case in point. He's unmentioned in most general anthologies, though his collected poems were nominated for a New Yorker book prize. In China, a translation of "Pearls That Were" (only 500 copies of which were produced in England) has sold more than 50,000 copies. Edward Larrissey (author of 'William Blake' etc) wrote that Prynne's poems are as "rich, complex and powerfully original as any poetry written in the English-speaking world in this century". Andrew Duncan views J.H. Prynne's 'The White Stones' as being 'probably the most significant single volume of the 1960's.' Duncan, like many putative avant-garde sympathisers, reads widely. Though keen on Ted Hughes he thinks that "Larkin never managed to write a good poem,... The one moment which saves him from complete vileness is the phrase 'accoutred frowsty barn'". As Peter Middleton writes (in Poetry Review V94.1, p.53-54), "The avant-garde and voice-based poets don't share values, poetics or literary theories"

Career Paths

The traditional career path (publication in reputable magazines leading to pamphlet then book publication, then inclusion in anthologies) is still viable for some mainstream poets, but there are other ways in, exploiting the routes described above. Flexibility and risk-taking are required to exploit these options. Such an approach is hard to combine with a conventional 9-5 job or parenthood. Describing the US situation, Sam Hamill wrote that "A typical poet in North America finds it necessary to relocate every year for the first few years after college, and every several years for a couple of decades after that. ... The typical poet teaches". The UK isn't like that yet, but the signs are there. Unless one commits oneself to poetry wholeheartedly, one might be restricted to the traditional paths thus having one's progress delayed.

Winning the National Poetry competition will make a poet momentarily more famous, and may result in book publication, but this will not lead to climatic change unless another factor is present. Such a factor could be the unlikeliness of the person winning (by virtue of age, education, etc). It's unlikely that the winning poem will be innovative - the judges are mainstream and besides, they're in a committee. So the poet might need to follow the links listed above to amplify their influence. Fellow poets, the public and anthologisers will use different criteria to evaluate success. To be a successful published poet nowadays it's useful to be a performer and to be able to run workshops, but as we'll see later, there's a limit to how many groups one can join - some are mutually exclusive.

  • The USA's Associated Writing Programs offer a different way to fame in a literary world - master-classes, guest readings, etc. I read recently that at Brigham Young University "3 poems equals one research paper published in a peer reviewed journal".
  • John Hegley, Ian McMillan, etc have made the transition from stage to page.
  • The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets became known by being the subject of critical discussion by scholars, being included in specialist magazines and invited to international conventions. Cambridge School poets follow a similar path.
  • In the UK the range of options for career development has widened.
    • Lavinia Greenlaw is successful in publishing (with Faber) and major competitions. Her CV reads like a career guidance manual - 1990: Eric Gregory Award; 1995: Science Museum residency. Arts Council Writers Award, and British Council Fellow; 1997: Wingate Scholarship; 2000: three-year fellowship by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, also reader-in-residence at the Royal Festival Hall; 2003: Cholmondeley Award. Jobs include arts administrator, freelance writer, reviewer and radio broadcaster, teaching on a Creative Writing MA Programme and working on the Tate and Hayward Gallery education programmes.
    • Mario Petrucci (Ph.D in physics) took a more performance/workshop-based approach with Blue Nose poets and ShadoWork. He's a qualified secondary school teacher and "a leading exponent for site-specific poetry and has devised a number of successful residencies involving public art", including a Year-of-the-Artist scheme which led to the schools Poetry Study Pack in Essex and Havering. He's a regular Arvon tutor and is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. He's had a residency at the War Museum, London.
    Both these poets have tapped into many of the power-bases listed earlier. Neither align themselves to any particular movement (though each have specialisations: Greenlaw science, and Petrucci war). Both have written successful prose. Only by being active on many fronts do they have any hope of earning a living by writing.

Another route is to take advantage of Consultancy and Mentoring.

The Public

My suspicion is that very few poets are known to adults beyond the poetry world. Exceptions are: Motion (poet laureate who writes articles on Dylan, soccer chants, etc), Heaney, Paulin (known by arty types because he appears on a TV review show), Hegley, McGough and Zephaniah. I suspect more people have heard of Attila the Stockbroker and John Cooper-Clark than Simon Armitage, though Armitage (and Sophie Hannah) has recently become better known though his prose.

My guess is that while Arts-minded people might feel obliged to see particular films and plays, or read certain novels, they don't feel the same pressure to keep up-to-date with poetry. As Rupert Loydell said at Warwick University's "Poetry in Crisis" debate, "poetry as an art form does not seem to be part of our culture".

In the "Rhyme and Reason" survey, family, education and media were the 3 influences most cited as reasons for being interested in poetry. Much of the poetry world is isolated from the general public, though there are a few points of contact. Again, I'll group according to broad categories

  • Media - The greatest outbursts of poetry tend to be after events like the death of princess Diana. Regular events like the Whitbread prize-giving and Poetry Day events still receive coverage. Whenever the poet laureate publishes a poem (most recently on England's rugby success) the media cover it. But the event that gained the most attention of late was probably when a writer was given £2,000 by Northern Arts in 2002. Words were painted on sheep's backs to create a new form of "random" literature. According to the poet "I decided to explore randomness and some of the principles of quantum mechanics, through poetry, using the medium of sheep."
    • Magazines - The general public rarely sees specialist poetry magazines - some are on sale in the Borders bookshop chain, but that's about the limit of their visibility.
    • Newspapers - Ruth Padel's column in the Independent tried to explain modern poems to the lay-reader. The columns were collected in a book - "52 ways of looking at a poem".
    • Radio - The people who listen get what they expect
    • Books - Only Heaney amongst living poets sells in worthwhile quantities. Themed anthologies dominate the poetry book sales, especially around Christmas.
    • Films - sometimes spark interest
    • Celebrities - people like Viggo Mortenson attract attention. The current poet laureate (Andrew Motion) does a good job of keeping poetry in the news. Benjamin Zephaniah writes for kids as well as adults, and got publicity when he was candidate for the post of Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.
  • Education
    • Traditionally, teachers of English who have been introduced to poetry through their work acquire an interest in contemporary poetry.
    • There are many more "creative writing" evening classes nowadays
  • Performance - Hegley does slots in mainstream variety shows as a poet/stand-up-comic.
  • Organisations/Initiatives
    • The annual Poetry Day, and in particular "Poetry on the Underground" give people the chance to meet poetry and poets.
    • Residencies (in museums, take-aways, department stores, etc) offer a way for non-poets to engage in poetry. Attempts have been made to target particular professions (scientists, etc) and Arts (poetry as "the New Rock'n'Roll").

Most of these brief encounters lead to nothing. Not infrequently follow-ups can be disappointing to the prospective poet who has too little experience to see beyond well-publicised Vanity Press organisations, and has too little experience of studying poetry to cope with many poetry books. The "Poetry on the Underground" scheme spawned a book which has sold well, and once someone buys a poetry book there's a chance that they'll buy another, though poetry books are thin and expensive compared to epic novels.

The WWW has become the first place to look for those with an emerging interest in poetry. This interest can easily spread to non-WWW activities - many writers groups have grown since the advent of the WWW, and poetry books are often bought online.

The Future

The WWW provides a hitherto unavailable direct link from the public to contemporary poetry material and dedicated poetry groups. This bypassing for traditional media/organisations might have several consequences

  • The situation is likely to grow more dynamic as institutions (in the form of paper magazines) lose their influence and more international links develop. General anthologies will be treated with more suspicion. With groupings being WWW-mediated, it will be easier to belong to contrasting groups.
  • WWW-books and magazines may gain more respect as paper magazines fade away. Arts Council England's 2007-2011 vision statement said "While not disregarding the benefits of traditional production and distribution methods, we want to see these presses and magazines take a lead in developing new methods of distribution and explore new uses of technology for both publishing and distribution", which may signal further pressure on paper magazines.
    As more people use MP3 players, audio poetry/magazines will grow in popularity.
  • Major publishers are publishing even fewer books by new poets. In March 2007, George Szirtes in "The StAnza Lecture" said "Bloodaxe's noble act of redress in favouring women poets means that very talented young male poets have really only had Michael Schmidt's Carcanet to go to, before applying to less influential publishers, since houses such as Faber, Cape and Picador take on very few new poets of either gender". Small presses show signs of filling the gap - the recent Forward Prizes had more small press representation than even before.
  • Poetry organisations will tend to prefer the general media to literary channels when advertising events.

In the UK the increase in creative writing Higher Education courses will open new, more stable, job opportunities and lead to more flexible career plans.

Once the links between organisations are better understood perhaps money can be more effectively spent on networking rather than on organisations or magazines. The rift between intellectuals (not just scientists) and poetry has led to poetry being starved of useful input and audience. Also the career difficulties of those forced to follow traditional routes is detrimental to the development of poetry. It may even prove useful to constrict the flow along certain links. An "anyone-can-write" initiative, broadening the base of the pyramid, is one way to bring new money to poets who are prepared to be tutors, but it may not help the poets' writing.

Postscript (June 2013)

Salt's decision in May 2013 to no longer publish new single-author poetry books was covered by The Guardian where they say that "Official figures from Nielsen BookScan show a sharp decline in the overall poetry market in the last year. There was growth of around 13% in 2009, when the market was worth £8.4m, followed by small declines in 2010 and 2011, and then a major drop of 18.5% volume and 15.9% value in 2012, when the overall value of the market fell to £6.7m. … Over the past two years, according to BookScan, the three bestselling poetry titles have all been by Duffy". Later The Guardian published Poetry is not drowning, but swimming into new territory, part of a wider discussion that the Salt news has precipitated. Here are some articles that are worth a read

  • So. Farewell then / Salt poetry books ... ("A free-market capitalist system is no less bizarre, in its dealings with literature, than any old-style communist regime that favoured socialist realism and sent other forms underground" - Charles Boyle)
  • The Health of Poetry ("We seem to be moving towards a model where people are kept ‘emerging’ for as long as possible – preserved in a kind of hopeful limbo, where they can gain lots of encouragement and support, but also spend lots of money on mentors and Arvon courses and MAs and competition fees and retreats" - Clare Pollard).
    ("When Arts Council England made its last round of funding decisions, support for writer development was massively increased at the same time that presses like Arc, Enitharmon and Flambard were told their annual funding was to be scrapped … Print on demand isn’t compatible with promoting poetry to a wider readership" - Neil Astley)
  • Ripples on a smooth sea, or storm in a teacup? (Adrian Slatcher)

See Also

  • "Poetic Culture", Christopher Beach, Northwest University Press, 1999
  • Rhyme and Reason: Developing Contemporary Poetry
  • "The Oxford English Literary History, vol 12, 1960-2000: The Last of England", OUP, 2004
  • "Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry", A. Motion and B. Morrison (eds), 1982
  • "Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry", Keith Tuma (ed), Oxford University Press, 2001
  • "The Failure of Conservatism in Modern British Poetry", Andrew Duncan, Salt, 2004
  • "A Various Art", Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville (eds), Carcanet, 1987
  • "52 ways of looking at a poem", Ruth Padel, Chatto & Windus, 2002


  1. Thank you. That's pretty comprehensive.

    A little gloomier than I would be but then from the outsider's point of view I am inside. From my own I have never been quite inside, as you know.

    Book publishing: I don't think you say enough about Salt, whose list is extremely wide ranging. (Several of my ex-students are on it.) And it was Bloodaxe who published Prynne.

    And the Eliot Prize - the RFH pretty well sold out ahead of this coming Sunday's shortlist reading. The main poetry festivals - again booked up. And there is the international publication, festival and conference structure. Open to younger poets.

    Joy Harpo = Joy Harjo?

  2. It's a reprint (the original was 2004, slightly updated in 2009). I think Chris Emery's since done a similar thing and far more comprehensively. Mine wasn't right even in 2004. Agreed on Salt. I've never been to a Festival or Eliot-Prize, but I know people who have been, and yes, it's standing room only.

    The Forward Press went bust in Nov 2010 ("Forward Press claimed to be the largest publisher of new poetry in the world and was formed by managing director and aspiring poet Ian Walton in 1989. ... In 2008, its turnover was £5m").

    When I get time I'll have another go at the doc. I think Mentoring-schemes/competitions that lead to publication (Faber, Straid, Crashaw, Po Biz, etc) deserve more of a mention too.

    Ta for the comments. I bloggified the articles (and my write-ups) partly so people could crit/correct them.

  3. Great article, really useful. Yes, Salt are a forward-thinking bunch. Carcanet also could get a mention, I know they are highly respected.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. I think I gave up trying to fix the article when my attempts to draw diagrams foundered. I wanted to show connections. Carcanet has PN Review (and sometimes quite a lot of the work in PN Review comes from Carcanet authors). Bloodaxe doesn't have a mag, but their recent anthologies surely merit a mention.

  5. If you're interested in reading further, see

  6. Thanks for being so comprehensive. I'm surprised you made no mention of SoundCloud, where poets play as well as musicians.
    I got here via your truly fantastic article, 'Attention, Agility and Poetic Effects', which popped up when I was wondergoogling about whether I was alone in seeing links between cryptic crosswords and palimpsests. :-)
    Do you have time to sleep?!