Tom Pickard

Tom Pickard, London, April 1984 – caption: Tom Picard (sic) in his flat London, before April Albert Hall reading –  photo: Allen Ginsberg, courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate

Tom Pickard and Allen Ginsberg, London 1985

“Young Tom Pickard for years ran the Morden Tower readings in Newcastle, Great Britain, and from early 1960s on was chief friend, host & proponent of new-wave American poetics . . . I am an old admirer of his poetry and believe he’s one of the livest truest poets of Great Britain. Under guidance from his friend the elder Basil Bunting he’s writ poetry with condensation, sharp focus and local speech directness, in lineage joining William Carlos Williams and ‘Geordie’ lyric vernacular.”  (Allen Ginsberg)

“His ear for rhythm is exceedingly delicate, his syntax strong and terse and his vocabulary free of fancy work. He seems able to select at will the detail which creates a whole scene or action” (Basil Bunting)

Tom Pickard, born in 1946, English poet (and also accomplished documentary filmmaker) remains ever the firebrand and iconoclast and pure lyricist, pure poet.

This, from the jacket of his 1971 book from City Lights:

“A working class dropout from Newcastle-on-Tyne, insisting to Dole authorities that his only “job” is Poetry, Pickard would seem to have written this wild “apprenticeship novel” on the run between bed and board. By turns ribald, caustic, tender, erotic, picaresque, it is his portrait of the young poet as a “flamin’ impudent layabout” born into the “class-trap” of coal-town Middle England.”

and this, from the jacket of 2014’s hoyoot- Collected Poems and Songs, published over forty years later:

“For Tom Pickard poetry is a free, and freeing, space. His pen ‘demands / complete autonomy’, and finds it as it explores both harsh and lyrical realities with a northern working-class sensibility. A lifelong counter-cultural figure, Pickard transcends formal and thematic barriers with a lightness of touch that is informed both by anger and by love.”
Ange Mlinkos long essay-review of hoyoot, The Dolemen and Nabmen” in Poetry is essential reading.
As is Alex Niven‘s review of the subsequent Fiends Fell  (2017), “Writing The Unwritten“, in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
“If the reception of his recent output”, Niven writes,  “is anything to go by, Pickard appears to be enjoying the sort of belated recognition that is customary for British modernists. It is heartening that such a free and unorthodox poetic talent has risen to this summit without ever having to follow the official routes.”
Pickard has been served well by his Chicago publisher, Flood Editions, starting with 2002’s New and Selected, Hole In The Wall, followed by 2004’s The Dark Months of May, and in 2008, The Ballad of Jamie Allan. A sequel to Fiends Fell is forthcoming.

Carcanet in 2016 released the collection, Winter Migrants.  Read the title poem here

Hear Tom reading at Durham University in 2014 at the Annual Basil Bunting Memorial Reading

and from that same year (with August Kleinzahler, and Maureen McLane), “An Evening of Poetry and Conversation” (at Columbia University‘s Heyman Center)

from 2016 at the Cork International Poetry Festival (with Gerry Murphy)

from 2018 (with graduate-student Leo Dunsker) in the University of California, Berkeley’s Holloway series (Tom”s reading begins approximately twenty minutes in) (an earlier appearance in this series (with graduate-student Hillary Gravendyk – this time Tom appears approximately thirty-minutes in) can be found here)

Notable from 2013 –  a presentation at a class in  Princeton:

More footage of Tom reading here, here, and  here

Audio at the University of Warwick – from ’81, a reading from Hero Dust, from ’71, reading from Guttersnipe, from ’75, reading and discussing his poem Dancing Under Fire

See also his reading with Allen and Peter Orlovsky here

Tom is also, it should be noted, a consummate documentarian

Jarrow March came out in 1982

Five years later the book and the film – We Make Ships

Writer-director-producer, his 1994 exploration of the work ethic – The Shadow and The Substance still holds true. That film can be viewed in its entirety here

and from the other side of the camera, Northumbrian Poet, here‘s a short film made about him, back in 1969

Interviews with Tom – “To Reach The Moon You Need A Rocket”Here‘s a wonderful interview with Alex Niven from 2012

More recently, “No Need For Permission”, with Chris McCabe for Poetry London

Looking to the future – “I’m writing an autobiography Scribbly Jack: Confessions of a Geordie Dole Poet which will also include a load of conversations I recorded with Allen Ginsberg and other folk. A ‘scribbly jack’ is a Northumbrian name for a yellow hammer, but maybe I should call it The Book Of Jobless..”

from “What the Chairman Told Tom” by Basil Bunting – “Poetry? It’s a hobby/I run model trains/Mr Shaw there breeds pigeons/  It’s not work. You don’t sweat./  Nobody pays for it/You could advertise soap…”

Tom Pickard, London, April 1985 – photo: Allen Ginsberg, courtesy Stanford University Libraries / Allen Ginsberg Estate

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