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Omnesia: Alternative Text Paperback – 21 Feb 2013


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More About the Author

W.N. Herbert was born in Dundee in 1961, and educated there and at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he published his thesis on the Scots poet Hugh MacDiarmid (To Circumjack MacDiarmid, OUP, 1992). He has published seven volumes of poetry and four pamphlets, and he is widely anthologised.

His last five collections, all with the northern publisher Bloodaxe, have won numerous accolades. Forked Tongue (1994) was selected for the New Generation promotion, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and was shortlisted for the T.S.Eliot and Saltire prizes. Cabaret McGonagall (1996) was shortlisted for the Forward and McVities prizes; and The Laurelude (1998), written whilst he was the first Wordsworth Fellow at Grasmere, was a PBS Recommendation. All three books won Scottish Arts Council book awards. The Big Bumper Book of Troy (2002) was longlisted for Scottish Book of the Year and shortlisted for the Saltire Prize. His most recent Bloodaxe collection, Bad Shaman Blues (2006), was a PBS Recommendation, and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot and Saltire prizes.

After holding several Scottish residencies he moved to Newcastle in 1994 to take up what was then the Northern Arts Literary Fellowship, and has remained there ever since, holding residencies with Cumbria Arts in Education and the Wordsworth Trust. He taught in the Department of Creative Writing at Lancaster University (1996-2002), and is currently Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University.

He has engaged in numerous public art and cross-media projects in the North-East and Borders, making a film in Berwick, originating sculptures and stained glass pieces in Ambleside, Dumfries, Sunderland and North Tyneside, and wrote a poem for a strip of stainless steel set into the pavement in Graingertown, Newcastle. He has produced libretti for the composers Keith Morris, Naomi Pinnock and Evangelia Rigaki. He edited the interactive CD-ROM Book of the North (NWN, 2000), featuring prominent writers and artists from the region. Since 2001 he has been the lead poet for the award-winning Westpark development in Darlington, a text-led public art project.

He was co-editor with Richard Price of the Scottish cultural magazine Gairfish (1989-1994), culminating in the anthology Contraflow on the Superhighway: an Informationist Primer (Gairfish/Southfields, 1994). In 2000 he edited the bestselling anthology Strong Words: modern poets on modern poetry with Matthew Hollis. In 2006 he contributed the poetry section to Creative Writing: A Workbook (Open University/Routledge), which appeared from Routledge as a separate volume, Writing Poetry, in 2010.

In 2007 he edited an anthology of translations from contemporary Bulgarian poetry and original poetry by the translators called A Balkan Exchange (Arc); and with Martin Orwin he translated the Somali poet Gaarriye for the Poetry Translation Centre, published as a pamphlet by Enitharmon in 2008.

His latest creative publication is Three Men on the Metro, a collaborative volume of verse about the Moscow Metro written with Andy Croft and Paul Summers (Five Leaves Press, 2009). He is currently working with the prominent Chinese poet, Yang Lian, and the translator Brian Holton, on Jade Ladder, a book of translations from contemporary Chinese poetry.

He lives in an old lighthouse in North Shields with the novelist Debbie Taylor, and their daughter Izzie.

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Review

The very form of Omnesia is innovative and intimately related to his creative concerns. The book comes as two distinct books, dubbed the alternative text and the remix...The two books aren't halves of one whole. The real poem might be stranded in the limbo between them, ever out of reach (in some ways this aligns Herbert more with a poet like John Burnside). There is no definitive or original version. That seems to me to be an attitude and ideology worth taking forward into the 21st-century Scotland. --Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman

For poetry I have WN Herbert's latest collection Omnesia, which comes in two versions and has the most mind-alteringly brilliant cover imaginable --Andrew Crumey, Scotland on Sunday, Summer Reading feature

...Omnesia (Remix) and Omnesia (Alternative Text) are two different books....Each mirrors, interrogates and subverts the other. Each adds to and subtracts from the other. While one book contains poems satirising English ideas about Herbert's native Scotland, the other contains poems satirising Scotland's idea of itself. --Andy Croft, Morning Star

W N Herbert's Omnesia comes in an Alternative Text and a Remix, either of which could be the most ambitious, wide-ranging and formally accomplished collection of 2013. Herbert is interested in everything, especially the plurality of knowledge, spinning global connections from Newcastle to China and Somaliland, taking on the major forms of ode and elegy, adding satire, comedy and the ancient Scottish tradition of extended insult, as well as modes still undefined. --Sean O'Brien, Independent, Books of the Year 2013

W. N. Herbert's dazzlingly ambitious Omnesia in its remix and alternative versions, showed the range and wit of this outstanding poet. --Sean O'Brien, Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year

About the Author

W.N. Herbert is a highly versatile poet who writes both in English and Scots. Born in Dundee, he established his reputation with two English/Scots collections from Bloodaxe, Forked Tongue (1994) and Cabaret McGonagall (1996), followed by The Laurelude (1998), The Big Bumper Book of Troy (2002), Bad Shaman Blues (2006) and Omnesia (2013). He has also published a critical study, To Circumjack MacDiarmid (OUP, 1992). His practical guide Writing Poetry was published by Routledge in 2010. He co-edited Strong Words: modern poets on modern poetry (Bloodaxe Books, 2000) with Matthew Hollis and Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (Bloodaxe Books, 2012) with Yang Lian. Born in Dundee, he is Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University and lives in a lighthouse overlooking the River Tyne at North Shields. Twice shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize, his books have also been shortlisted for the Forward Prize, McVities Prize, Saltire Awards and Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award. Four are Poetry Book Society Recommendations.

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