Ian Pindar
(United Kingdom, 1970)   
Ian Pindar

Ian Pindar was born in London and lives in Oxfordshire. His first collection of poetry, Emporium, will be published by Carcanet in 2011, and his second collection, Constellations, in 2012. Pindar is an active writer, contributing poetry and reviews to many of the UK’s notable broadsheet and poetry magazines. Last year he was awarded the Arthur Welton Award by the Society of Authors to assist towards writing his third collection, provisionally called Late Night Movie.

His poems have appeared in the London Magazine, Magma, New Poetries III, Oxford Poetry, PN Review, Poetry Review and the Times Literary Supplement. He is the author of Joyce (2004), a biography of James Joyce, and he co-translated The Three Ecologies (2000) by the radical French theorist Félix Guattari. 

Pindar compiled The Folio Book of Historic Speeches (2007) and The Folio Book of Historical Mysteries (2008). After graduating from Oxford University he became an editor at J. M. Dent, then moved to Weidenfeld & Nicolson before coming to rest at the Harvill Press, where he edited W. G. Sebald and Haruki Murakami, among others. 

He is now a freelance writer and editor, and regularly contributes to the Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement. He is married with two young children. His pleasures include listening to Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Leoš Janáček, D&B, dub and the blues. He also loves watching films: silent films, French films, zombie films.

Pindar has described many of his characters as victims, like Big Bumperton in the long poem ‘Big Bumperton on the Sabbath’, which was inspired by the tragic life of an Outsider artist; or the sophomore cowering in a basement in ‘The Rainy Day Murders’, or the dead tourist in ‘Advice for Travellers’. 

Pindar’s interest in postmodern French philosophy and surrealism is also a factor in his work, as is an emphasis on the body and materiality, and the absence of any transcendental dimension, although the bleakness is leavened by a dark sense of humour.

The poet Mark Ford has written about Ian Pindar’s first collection: “In this sparkling debut collection, Ian Pindar brilliantly fulfils Verlaine’s injunction to the poet to take eloquence and wring its neck. Emporium offers the reader a beguiling and compendious range of styles and voices, and signals the arrival of a fascinating and original poet.”

Pindar sees the modernist poets, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, as his influences, as well as Baudelaire, John Ashbery and Friedrich Hölderlin. William Carlos Williams observed that “A poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words.” Pindar has commented that his poems are not so much ‘inspired’ as engineered: “Often,” says Pindar, “I feel impelled to make a word-machine.”

Pindar’s poem, ‘Mrs Beltinska in the Bath’, won the second prize in the National Poetry Competition 2009. Of it he says:

“‘Mrs Beltinska in the Bath’ had a rather complex genesis. It began as a poem entitled ‘Piper’s Nude’ in which Piper, an elderly widower, wakes and shaves; then he hears running water and a woman’s voice singing softly in a foreign language. Pressing his good eye to a spyhole behind a painting of a stag at bay he sees ‘Mammi Wata taking a bath’. Mammi Wata is a serpent priestess venerated in parts of Africa. 

“How it was then transposed to a European setting I cannot say. It simply evolved. Like much of my poetry it gradually – over a very long time – became something else: a voyeuristic epiphany. Why Prague? I suspect I was inspired by seeing Little Otik (2000) by the Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer. There isn’t (as far as I recall) a scene in which a woman takes a bath, but my mind borrowed something of the film’s claustrophobia. 

“Pavel is also related in some way to Kafka’s lonely young men. With the Prague floods of 2002 everything fell into place. The poem has taken on a life of its own now. I like to think there is still something of Mammi Wata in Mrs Beltinska, however. After all, according to Raw Vision (#49 Winter 2004/5): ‘Mammi Wata is seen to be both beautiful and dangerous, a female spirit that can both satisfy carnal lust and bring forth great wealth, but – in her negative role – render a person infertile and, possibly, drag him or her to a watery grave.’”

The poet Neil Rollinson, one of the judges for the prize, spoke at the National Poetry Competition Prizegiving about why this poem, for him and for the rest of the judges, was a winning poem. “A woman is taking a bath while Prague floods. A man called Pavel is watching her through the keyhole. Now this is definitely my kind of poem. On the one hand its kind of a snapshot — a dirty Polaroid . . . but also much more. Who is Pavel? Is he a lover? A pervert? A spy? Who is Mrs Beltinska? The poem has all the atmophere of a middle European, Cold War scenario, but also a delicious Kafkaesque menace about it. And perhaps the Deification of this Peeping Tom with his ‘odd kind of halo’ points to an altogether stranger story. This is one of the joys of this beautiful poem. Its mystery and ambiguity. Its seductiveness.”

© Aviva Dautch / Naomi Wood


Emporium, Carcanet Press, Manchester, forthcoming 2011
Constellations, Carcanet Press, Manchester, forthcoming 2012


Ian Pindar won second prize in the National Poetry Competition 2009 with his poem ‘Mrs Beltinska in the Bath’. See all of the winning and commended poems at the website of The Poetry Society

Pindar is published by Carcanet Press

Pindar’s blog

See Pindar’s articles for The Guardian and The Times Literary Supplement


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