Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas All You Gods

Last year we featured this great story by Rob Sherman (author of Valve Works) on the website, and we like it, so here it is again for the festive period...




Merry Christmas All You Gods by Rob Sherman.

A merry one to people of all faiths - see you in the new year.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Web Lit Roulette #3

A semi-random selection of highlights from the world of online literature.

This entry focuses on short stories (Kyle Hemmings’ Spiral pushes the boundaries of the form to the extent that it may not be a story at all, but you know what I mean).

The Great Frustration by Seth Fried (from the collection of the same name, published by Soft Skull Press - showcased on the Fifty Two Stories website.)

Map of the City by Valerie Laken (also from Fifty Two Stories)

A Dead Vampire by Madeline Dyer (from Madswirl)

Spiral by Kyle Hemmings (from Infinitys Kitchen)

The Uncertainty Principle by Samantha Schoech (from Big Ugly Review)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Interview with Frank Burton on Eight Cuts

OK, there's an interview with Mr Philistine, Frank Burton, on Dan Holloway's Eight Cuts here. It's good.

Thanks to Dan for doing the interview and for being one of our greatest supporters.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Tune of the Year: Spin That Girl Around by Euros Childs

Without a doubt, this is the best song I've heard in 2011. It burrows its way under your skin and nestles there comfortably like a joy-inducing parasite. It may only be two and a half minutes long, but it stays with you much longer.

It's from the album, "Ends," which is available to buy as a CD or download for free from www.euroschilds.com.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Web Lit Roulette #2

A semi-random selection of highlights from the world of online literature

As you may gather from this list, I tend to be attracted by interesting titles. It's a good way of getting your work noticed. They used to say, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but I think "don't judge a book by its title" is perhaps more appropriate when talking about online literature. It's definitely a good way of getting yourself noticed.


Crossing Shoal Creek by J.T. Ledbetter (from Haggard and Halloo)


The Woman Who Was a House by Sarah Layden (from PANK magazine)

'Facing by Michael Newsham (from Subtle Tea)

Harold’s Purple Crayon by Glen Armstrong (from Red Fez)

The Grand Canyon Brings People Together by Molly Prentiss (from Kill Author)

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Voyage Anthology

Here's a mention for a free ebook released by one of my favourite webistes (as regular readers of this blog may have gathered), Silkworms Ink.

The Voyage, edited by Chandani Lokuge & David Morley.



In their own words, "Welcome to the voyage, an innovative new anthology of writing by staff and postgraduates from both Monash in Australia and Warwick in England. We believe all writing, at its best, is creative writing. To that end we have drawn our distinguished contributors not only from English and Creative Writing but also from other departments in Humanities, from our Faculties of Science and Social Science, and from our Administration. What's more, we invited writers and scholars who have some practical connection with Warwick and Monash from both within and outside the academy."

Cool.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Web Lit Roulette #1

A new feature for this blog - Web Lit Roulette is a semi-random selection of literary highlights from the net. It’s impossible to sum up everything that’s happening online so I can only report on things I’ve discovered.

This first entry comes from www.poetrymagazines.org.uk, a large and expanding archive of out-of-print poetry magazines from the 20th and 21st Centuries (mainly from the last 15 years). You could spend hours and hours on this site, and it’s difficult to select particular highlights, but here are some things I like:

Pervert by Thomas McColl (from Global Tapestry Journal)

Decree Absolute by Rachel Kerr (from Rain Dog)

The Mushroom Woman by Geraldine Green (from Neon Highway)

Bluebottles by Fashion Penis (from The Ugly Tree)

Sir Osbert Sitwell, The Woman Who Could Not Die (from Poetry London Festival Issue, 1951)

Thursday, 1 December 2011

"Alps" by Motorama

Ever wondered what Joy Division would've sounded like if they were from Russia?

Well, here's your answer. I just can't stop listening to this. Genius.

Monday, 28 November 2011

XKCD



XKCD (not an acronym but an unpronounceable word) is described by its creator as 'a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.' I like it.

http://www.xkcd.com/

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Teatime @ the Bouquet Morale

Poetry collaborations are pretty rare, probably because poetry is such a personal thing. So it's refreshing to discover a 2006 collaboration between one of my all time favourite poets, Fred Voss, and Joan Jobe Smith, who I must confess to never having heard of but her poetry sits very well alongside Voss's. You could call it a shared vision.




Read a sample here.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Further Thoughts on Antipoetry

I've met quite a few young poets who claim to write 'poetry for people who don't like poetry' or admit to not being a fan of poetry themselves despite writing it (or attempting to). I'm tempted to say it's a male thing, purely because I've never heard a female poet make the same claim.

I don't expect any of you guys to be reading this (why would you?) but just in case you are, here's my advice: think about what you're saying. I'm sure you're already aware that 'poetry for people who don't like poetry' is a neat little paradox and in a way it sounds kind of clever. On closer examination, however, it makes absolutely no sense. What you're trying to say is that your work appeals to people with alternative taste, which also happens to be the case for many, many other writers who refer to their work as 'poetry'.

(I'd go as far as arguing everyone without exception likes poetry even if they claim not to. Anyone who's ever been moved by song lyrics officially likes poetry regardless of what they think of Wordsworth.)

As for poets who write poetry without actually reading any, how do you know you're any good? How do your supposedly poetry-hating admirers know how you measure up to the competition? And what are they doing reading poetry anyway? You really haven't thought this through.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Nicanor Parra




As mentioned in the previous post, Nicanor Parra describes himself as an 'antipoet' - although it's debatable whether the term means anything at all. It's debatable as to whether the term 'poetry' can be properly defined, so anything labelled antipoetry is equally problematic. Definitions aside, I think Parra is very good - but judge for yourself.


Chronos

In Santiago, Chile
The days are interminably long:
Several eternities in a day.

Like the vendors of seaweed
Travelling on the backs of mules:
You yawn - you yawn again.

Yet the weeks are short
The months go racing by
And the years have wings.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Anti-

Anti- is one of the most interesting poetry sites on the web.

http://anti-poetry.com/

In their own words:

"Anti- is not aesthetically affiliated with Nicanor Parra's school of antipoetry, though the editor does think more poets ought to heed Parra's advice that "You have to improve the blank page.""

Their current Featured Poet (#74) is Bernd Sauermann who is very good indeed, and very much in keeping with the whole antipoetry thing - a poet but not a 'poet'. (If that makes any sense at all.)

Monday, 14 November 2011

Paul Birtill




Last time I checked, Paul Birtill didn't have a proper website so it's great to discover what must be a relatively new site with lots of samples of his poetry on there. He's one of the best poets around - not nearly as well-known as he should be.

www.paulbirtill.co.uk

Sample poem:


Counting For My Life

Sitting in my local pub
I find myself counting
the number of candles
on tables and imagine
they are the years I have
left to live. But seven
is not enough - so I stare
down at the floor and count
the number of discarded fag ends -
though nine is still too short -
so I turn my attention to the spirit
bottles behind the bar and with some
relief count fourteen - that's more like it.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Joseph Brodsky

I was introduced to the poetry of Nobel Prize winner Joseph Brodsky through the brilliant Russian biopic, Room and a Half.

There is a small selection of his poems here including this one:



To Urania
To I.K.

Everything has its limit, including sorrow.
A windowpane stalls a stare. Nor does a grill abandon
a leaf. One may rattle the keys, gurgle down a swallow.
Loneless cubes a man at random.
A camel sniffs at the rail with a resentful nostril;
a perspective cuts emptiness deep and even.
And what is space anyway if not the
body's absence at every given
point? That's why Urania's older sister Clio!
in daylight or with the soot-rich lantern,
you see the globe's pate free of any bio,
you see she hides nothing, unlike the latter.
There they are, blueberry-laden forests,
rivers where the folk with bare hands catch sturgeon
or the towns in whose soggy phone books
you are starring no longer; father eastward surge on
brown mountain ranges; wild mares carousing
in tall sedge; the cheeckbones get yellower
as they turn numerous. And still farther east, steam dreadnoughts
or cruisers,
and the expanse grows blue like lace underwear.

translated by the author

Friday, 4 November 2011

The World According to Rupert Murdoch by Attila the Stockbroker

A fine example of the work of a prolific and idiosyncratic performance poet and musician. Long may this man continue.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Lazy Book Covers

There's a regular feature in Private Eye magazine called "Bookalikes," comparing the strangely similar cover art for bestselling novels. In many cases the images are identical copy-and-paste jobs.

This leads me to wondering, why do so many novels from China and East Asia feature naked women on the cover, regardless of the content?

Geling Yan's The Uninvited, for example (see previous post), features a naked woman on the cover despite the fact that no one takes their clothes off at any point.

This is a disappointment to everyone. A feminist would call it sexist. A chauvinist would call it false advertising. I just call it lazy.

I'm particularly annoyed by the way Haruki Murakami's novels are packaged almost like pornography. Granted, Murakami writes about sex, but there are so many other things going on in his fiction which the erotic cover images fail to reflect.








See what I mean?

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Uninvited by Geling Yan - a one word review




It was described by the Daily Telegraph as "A deeply political and masterfully executed novel that exposes the inequalities driving the world's next superpower." But that's too many words. My one word review:

"Satirical."

The word "satire" is overused and often misapplied. In this case, it's the most appropriate description of a novel I can think of.

I disagree with the Telegraph review on one point: the stark contrast between rich and poor in Yan's novel doesn't just apply to China. In many respects, the book could have been set anywhere. As in Orwell and Swift, the satire in The Uninvited can be universally applied.

I read it primarily because I'm working on a novel with a similar premise and wanted to see how other people are doing it.

Damn. I've got a lot to live up to.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Interview - Andy Hopkins

Andy Hopkins interviewed by Frank Burton.

Andy's second poetry ebook for Philistine Press, It Will Always Be. Like This:, can be read online or downloaded for free here.

His first collection, Dark Horse Pictures is here.





Is everything in 'It Will Always Be...' written from direct personal experience?

The short answer is yes. The scan of the ticket that starts The Rothko Room is the real ticket used on the day the poem was first created. The 'drift' across London is genuine, too. It was written about the very real experience of seeing The Seagram Murals for the first time. So, that's direct experience. I tried to impress upon the poem more of a linear narrative, and even 'characters', but these didn't work. I had to stick close to the original, written the day that the ticket was purchased. In Protect and Survive, the 'Antithesis' establishes the character of the teacher/educator, first introduced in part ii - to create contrast with the actions of the language-of-power of the 'Thesis', introduced in part i; although this is an invented persona, it is from direct experience. With At the EDF Rally, the whole poem is lifted directly from experience; that all happened. The poem hatched out of the experiences across the day, but the genesis moment (after which I walked up the high street and bought a pen and paper) was watching the two demonstrations collide - a moment that touched the sublime (in the heart of the ridiculous), in a more traditional sense.


How does this collection differ from Dark Horse Pictures?

I don't know where to start. The Philistine Friendly blog points (almost to the day) to when I started writing again. In between Dark Horse Pictures and this second collection goes several years of life and a 'going back to the drawing board' in writing. If a poet ever can be said to work hard, I worked hard at starting again - using iambs and trochees much, much more and using structures more. That said, The Rothko Room predates Dark Horse Pictures, in its first form. In many ways, The Rothko Room represents many of the faults, themes and sparks of Dark Horse Pictures; Protect and Survive is a showcase of what happened stylistically in the year after the first publication of Dark Horse Pictures, by Selkirk Lapwing Press (in 2007). So, those two poems represent a before/after. At the EDF Rally and Protect and Survive deal directly with our political landscape; they are studies of the application of domestic, foreign and economical policy upon our bodies and the bodies of others. That is something that Dark Horse Pictures did not do, explicitly. Although poems like 'Levee' and 'Ending Chairs' used metaphor to say things about the world we live in, the collection did not make a coherent statement. It Will Always Be. Like This does that; it functions as a statement, all held together with the epigraph.




What is the significance of the painting, The Destruction of Soddom and Gomorrah by John Martin?

John Martin did one thing very well - and that was that he painted apocalypses outstandingly. The poem is the lynchpin of the first poem of the collection (At the EDF Rally). Every single other section (or sub-poem) of At the EDF Rally relates to that picture - tied together with Tacitus, the story of Lot (obviously, he's in the painting!), and the epigraph to the collection. These intertexts underline the poem’s language, form and structure, I hope, and reinforce the central drives - the narrative, the auto-ethnography, and the 'ideology', for want of a better word.


You've said this book is partly a response to the work of fellow-Philistine Mr If. How does your work relate to his?

I would go further. It is a response to both Mr. If collections and Annette Greenaway’s most recent collection. Essentially, you could read Dark Horse Pictures and come away with no idea about many of the poems; it is – in some ways – too experimental, too Modernist. You could also look at it and have no idea about when or where it was written; some of it e.g. ‘evil’, ‘When it is winter in the soul place’ is timeless and that is a credit to it, rather than a fault. Also, whatever you might say about Mr If’s chapbooks, they respond to the world: they comment on it solidly and draw a line in the sand. This is arguably more the case with the second If collection. Similarly to Greenway’s second collection, the message is clear. I wanted to respond twice: (a) firstly to the clarity of their messages and (b) secondly to the messages themselves. Mr If’s collection set a position on our government’s military policy; In Dark Horse Pictures, ‘Levee’ did, too – but in a cowardly way; the collection is more of a move to wear the influences of our age for all to see, rather than as inflections. Greenway states very clearly where her persona stands on atheism and love; the didactic quality of those poems is also responded to by It Will Always Be. Like This:.

If you care about the world, you should be stirred by our age – and you should feel motivated to ‘answer’ the questions posed explicitly or implicitly by the chapbooks of others. In short, and to answer the previous question, I feel that It Will Always Be. Like This: asks its own questions, and answers those of others.


Is it a poet's job to ask questions or provide answers? (Or neither of these things?)

I used to sneer at poets who responded to national disasters and events, as little more than amateur Laureate-lite. However, the poet is part of the world and is writing for it. You can be honest about its influence, or not. The poet’s job is to be an auto-ethnographer. You can seek to engage the world, or not. The answers have to come from the individual – but it is art’s job (and it is all art’s job) to get people to question themselves, to question others and to call into question the things that we all know are false. Art can show someone the Emperor, but only the reader/audience can say ‘he’s got no clothes on’. ‘Art’ is important; we should defend it – as much from its practitioners and financiers, as from its detractors.


Arguably 'It Will Always Be...' is written from the point of view of a poet operating outside of the world of art and politics, looking in. Would you agree?

I’m not sure Wittgenstein would agree, if he surfs the net. Ludwig aside, there is no ‘world of politics’, or ‘world of art’. These things are down to individuals and the decisions they make about engagement. Each life is political; every decision we have made today (or in the last five minutes) has political ramifications, which then act directly upon the physical experiences of others. We have to make ourselves engaged with these concepts, so that they stop being concepts. To ‘drift’ is to discover these forces and how they act upon us.


Are you optimistic about the future?

I have to split the question. In our world, in our time, money is like the thermodynamic laws of energy; it cannot be created or destroyed (Quantitative Easing, notwithstanding). The reason that there is poverty is because there is extreme wealth, in a society that only believes in short term gain. The reason there is urban tension in our world is a direct result of economic (and therefore political, although really you cannot distinguish the two) decisions made, remade, reinforced and protected by those who can profit from it. There can be nothing but pessimism for macro political forces, and the paranoiac political and financier class (‘the centre of money and privilege still intact’ – Justin Sullivan) that profits by them.

However, I am nothing but optimistic about the power of individuals. We are going to go through a major fall in living standards; we have already begun our Empire society’s decline and fall. Now it is up to the people (a people made up out of individuals, who all have to learn to think for themselves) to change the world by reversing, adapting and changing the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

And I believe in the soil. I am optimistic about the soil.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Work for MegaCorp and Make MegaCorp Work for You! by Bradley Sands



Along similar lines to the previous post, one of the more recent entries on the Pangur Ban Party is Bradley Sands' Work for MegaCorp and Make MegaCorp Work for You!

Sharp, funny, satirical, surreal and other such adjectives - everything you'd expect from Mr Bizarro.

More info about Bradley Sands' work at www.bradleysands.com.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Let's Plan Our Funerals Together by DJ Berndt




You can read Let's Plan Our Funerals Together by DJ Berndt (one of many free e-chapbooks at Pangur Ban Party) in a short space of time, and it's several minutes well spent.

It's got everything you could want from a poetry collection - dark humour and zombies, alongside thoughtful and serious words. There are some great titles as well such as 'the moment that every single person realized he or she is weaker than he or she used to think.' What more could you ask for?

Friday, 21 October 2011

Jerusalem by Gonçalo M. Tavares - a one word review




I discovered Tavares through his collection of flash fiction pieces in the Best European Fiction 2011 anthology. Here's my one word review of his novel, Jerusalem:

'Peerless.'

Seriously, I can't think of another writer who can do what Tavares does. He has the extraordinary ability to establish an engaging, fully formed character in the space of a page. Then he does it again. And again. A thousand pages are condensed into the space of two hundred. No messing. It's a haunting book which includes an unsettling (and completely believable) portrayal of mental illness. It's also very entertaining. It's the kind of book that makes you wonder, 'How the bloody hell has he managed that?'

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Joseph Young




www.josephyoung.net

So, this is the website of micro-fiction writer (among lots of other things) Joseph Young. Loads of original and interesting stuff on here, and that's just a sample. Young also has 2 books in print:

Easter Rabbit, a flash fiction collection.

Name, a vampire novel.

Like it.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Badbadbad, A Transmedia Novel by Jesús Angel García - a one-word review




As promised a while ago, here's my review of badbadbad:

'Cool.'

Everything about it is cool - the subject matter (sex, drugs and rock and roll, minus the drugs), the style in which it's written, and the way it appeals to people who wouldn't usually read books. It's the kind of novel rock stars would recommend. (Expect an endorsement by Nick Cave soon.)

A lot of books with similar themes end up superficial with one-dimensional characters. Badbadbad has a great deal more depth and intelligence. It's much more political than the blurb suggests, although ironically the narrator (also called Jesús Angel García) claims not to be interested in politics - 'You only win if you've already won.'

Another great thing is that it's a book about online culture that doesn't take any part in the 'Isn't the internet great / awful?' debate. The internet is just there. The book is all about the characters, not their means of communication. In addition to the book, there's music and a documentary which can be viewed online here.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Thomas Love Peacock


Hate poetry? So does this guy... to read his essay 'The Four Ages of Poetry' click here.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Gogol's Dead Good

There's a brand new writer on the scene who I expect great things from - Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol.



If you haven't read his hot new novel, Dead Souls, I suggest you check out the free download here. Surely this is destined to be one of the masterworks of Russian literature and one of the great works of satire. No doubt about it - Gogol is my 'hot tip' for 2012.

Admittedly, Gogol died in 1852 and Dead Souls was first published ten years earlier than that, but I've only just read it so it's new to me.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Fanny Hill - a candidate for the Bad Sex Awards?

If you fancy a good laugh, I recommend John Cleland's notorious 18th Century novel, Memoirs of Fanny Hill. Hilarious from start to finish. I'm still trying to work out if it was intentionally funny.




If only they'd had the Bad Sex Awards in those days. (If you're not acquainted with the Bad Sex Awards, I suggest you take a look at last year's winner.)

Monday, 10 October 2011

Interview - alienpoet

alienpoet AKA Daniel Hooks interviewed by Frank Burton.

alienpoet combines music with spoken word, which can be heard at Soundcloud and Podbean.





Do you think more poets should do what you do?

I would encourage poets to consider using music as a backdrop to their poetry but I wouldn't push them to do so it's up to the individual - it's their choice! But sometimes a bit of atmospheric music can add another dimension to the spoken word.

How does the combination of poetry and music differ from songwriting?

It is not so different although I create the poem first the beat next then the music so it's a bit back to front. My emphasis is the words rather than the music for the most part thats the difference although it is a very small difference.

Do you make all your own music or is it a collaboration?

My music is made from royalty free samples as I can't play an instrument so it's all looped together. I use magic music maker. I do collaborations sometimes with DJ Badgersett off of Soundcloud to produce DJ mixes like alienmixology and I have collaborated with my friend who is a singer, Sophie smith.

Do you perform your work at live events?

Yes but only spoken word at poetry gigs and slams I am still working on the live music from computer to PA speakers and performing as alienpoet.

Is it easy to promote yourself online?

Yes and no. I put back links to my other sites on my other sites if you get me! Like on tumblr which is good site for networking there are links to my other sites such as my magazine on Facebook, Soundcloud and Podbean but I am not generally good at networking and making friends online I struggle a bit, but hey, I can still improve!

What advice would you give to poets who want to do the same thing as you?

Most people find it difficult to rap but poetry can work just as well without rapping. Also just get there and experiment you may end up genre breaking! It is better to try than give up and if you ask why you'll already know the answer. You should have started it rather than giving up before you have even started.

Getting a good mic is a good place to start but don't spend too much money on music making programmes unless you're serious about making something out of it!

What's the best platform for music and spoken word online?

Soundcloud is a good place to start. It has a waveform timeline so you can add realtime comments. Podbean is good as it links to the podcast systems on iTunes if you want to reach that audience. Last FM is only good if your an established artist! Myspace is good for artists page and announcing gigs.

Has the internet changed the poetry scene for the better?

Yes, it has made poetry freely available to the masses, i.e. everyone, but it has cheapened it by making it into copy and paste culture. It suits me cause I want to get well known by being infamous as well as famous for having a free PDF of my poetry on Poemhunter under my name Daniel Hooks. Having stuff there for free has made me up my game by creating a magazine which is £4 called Poetic Licence on magcloud with poetry and artwork to supplement what I do though.


Friday, 7 October 2011

New Ebook - It Will Always Be. Like This: by Andy Hopkins

Andy Hopkins' second ebook for Philistine Press has arrived.



It Will Always Be. Like This: holds a question mark to art, politics, education and the role of the poet.

Read it or download it for free here.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller

The current issue of The Short Review (always a worthwhile read), features a very interesting review of The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller.



I'm definitely adding this to my ever-expanding reading list ...

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

New Review - Smaller Than Most

A great review of Kristine Ong Muslim's flash fiction collection Smaller Than Most in Neon Magazine here.

"There is an element of the poetic in the careful selection of phrasing and placement. These pieces read snappily, catchingly and incite a compulsion to read on, despite some of the horrors held within."

(Many thanks to Laura McDonald.)



Read the collection for free on the Philistine Press website here.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Cafe Irreal




Cafe Irreal (currently on Issue 39) is one of the most interesting online literary magazines. Everything they publish is of the highest quality, and interestingness (if that's a word) appears to be one of their main criteria for publication.

Equally interesting is the question of what irrealism actually is. An essay by G.S. Evans asks: "What is it, it might be asked, that distinguishes irrealism from these other contemporary genres of literature and art that also ask us to accept the impossibility of their physics? One of the key differences is that, in these other genres, there is an internal consistency to the "impossible" physics of the story; that is, once the reader understands and accepts this alternative physics, he or she can assume that the story and the world it describes will be consistent with it."

More here.

The main Cafe Irreal website is here.

Friday, 23 September 2011

McGough and McGear

More McGough stuff here - well, McGough and McGear to be exact about it...

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The Trouble With Snowmen by Roger McGough

'The trouble with snowmen,'
Said my father one year
'They are no sooner made
than they just disappear.

I'll build you a snowman
And I'll build it to last
Add sand and cement
And then have it cast.

And so every winter,'
He went on to explain
'You shall have a snowman
Be it sunshine or rain.'

And that snowman still stands
Though my father is gone
Out there in the garden
Like an unmarked gravestone.

Staring up at the house
Gross and misshapen
As if waiting for something
Bad to happen.

For as the years pass
And I grow older
When summers seem short
And winters colder.

The snowmen I envy
As I watch children play
Are the ones that are made
And then fade away.


More on www.poemhunter.com.

McGough's official website is here.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

David Hailwood and FJ Riley

I'd like to take a moment to congratulate David "more customer reviews than Charles Dickens" Hailwood, and FJ "ten times higher in the Barnes and Noble sales rankings than Thomas Hardy" Riley on the extraordinary success of what's become Philistine Press's most popular ebook, Not a Lot of People Know That.



Judging by the customer reviews on iBooks and Barnes and Noble, the book appears to be dividing the reading public in a curiously Marmite-like fashion.

Various readers appear to have been fooled into thinking the facts in the book are true (despite the fact that the book is filed under "humour" and the fact that there is a pair of flaming pants in the cover). This isn't necessarily due to a lack of intelligence on the readers' part. Many of the fictional facts in the books are strangely plausible, which is all part of the fun.

Anyone who hasn't read it, I'd advise you to click here.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Favourite stuff

I was asked in an interview once, "What's your favourite poem, and what's your favourite short story?"

I don't have an answer to either of these questions, so I picked the first two things that popped into my head.

The story I picked was Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, and the poem I picked was Gil Scott Heron's B Movie (video below).

As to whether they're the best things that ever existed is up for debate, but you must admit, they're pretty damn good.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Best European Fiction

Possibly the best two books I've read in the last two years are Best European Fiction 2010 and Best European Fiction 2011.





These two books contain short stories from (almost) every European country and have introduced me to many great authors who I had absolutely no idea about.

They don't quite live up to editor Aleksandar Hemon's bold claim about the 2010 edition, "How could we call ourselves a literate culture without it?" (Come on, pal - get a grip.) Nonetheless, these books are extremely important, and I don't know of any other anthologies operating on this kind of grand scale.

Long may this fucking excellent series continue.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Observer / Cape Graphic Short Story Prize

Take a look at this Guardian blog post on the Observer / Cape Graphic Short Story Prize, which includes links to the work of previous winners. Very interesting stuff, and worth lots of attention.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Flood by Emile Zola

Some stories work better when they're read out loud.

Zola's classic, The Flood, is one such story.

Here's a link to the free Librivox audiobook.

It's good :)

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Don Giovanni at Soho Theatre

If you’re after some culture in London over the next couple of weeks, can I heartily recommend the performance of Don Giovanni at The Soho Theatre. It’s not for the purist (I doubt opera purists frequent this site, but just in case), but it is thoroughly good.

The company (Opera Up Close) specially commissioned a new English translation; it is full of comedy and pathos in equal measure. The story is one of a libertine lothario who finally gets his comeuppance. You can get (very reasonable) tickets here until the 17th of September. And you don’t have to wear a tux.

The update features ‘Jonny’ (see what they did there?) who is a banker leading the high life, immorally working through the women of London, abusing all around him in his rapacious greed. I can’t possibly guess what point the company might be making about capitalist money men; can you?
You’ll love it. See what the fuss is about opera, shorn of all of its pretentions.

Friday, 5 August 2011

A Summer Break

OK, I'm off for the summer. No blogging for a while.

See you in the autumn.

Frank

Newport (Ymerodraeth State of Mind)

Apparently this pissed EMI off because they saw it as a copyright infringement.

Come on. How can anyone not like this?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Chapbook Genius



Here's another very interesting series of free e-chapbooks - 29 of them so far.

Chapbook Genius is the sister (or perhaps the cousin) of Publishing Genius.

All of these are short enough to be read in one sitting but substantial enough to stick in your head.

I'm tempted to use the expression "cutting edge" here, but I won't.

(Oh no, I just did. Well, can't take it back now.)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Vault by David Rose: A One-Word Review



As mentioned previously on this blog, I've now read David Rose's Vault and here is my one-word review:

"Captivating."

In a way, I wasn't expecting it to be captivating because it's being marketed as 'an anti novel' which suggests there's no plot or characters or theme, but Vault has all of those things. Perhaps it's because I read a lot of metafiction-genre-splicing-multi-narrator stuff but it seems like a proper novel to me - and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. This is the way all novels should be written. Vault is the sort of book that sucks you up and spits you out, grabbing your attention from the first line and ending with a sharp bang.

More information can be found via Salt Publishing.

Featherbooks

Here's some free online fiction from Featherbooks in the form of downloadable mini-books, which serve as promotions for their paid-for titles. It's a good way into some interesting work.

Featherbooks Light Reading Series



The one that caught my eye the most (mainly because of the title) is Patrick Somerville's The Miniature Version of The Universe in Miniature in Miniature.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Alien Poet

A large shout out to Alien Poet AKA Daniel Hooks. Proper poetry and proper music.

The industry is a brutal beast, but I'd like to think this guy is destined for great things.

Listen at http://soundcloud.com/alienpoet and http://alienpoet.podbean.com

Some sample tunes:

Fallen by alienpoet

All words become me wind of words mix by alienpoet

Beautifully average by alienpoet

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Tom Frankenburg - Free Running

More from the guy who did the Eskimo tune...



See Tom You Tube channel here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Some Eskimo Tunes

Here are a couple of Eskimo tunes. Very different to each other. Not sure which one I like best.

Also there's an interesting debate attached to the first video on You Tube about whether or not Eskimo is an offensive term.



Monday, 25 July 2011

Photo Stories

Very interesting project here with some talented writers involved, including two of my personal faves - Janice Galloway and Tania Hershman.

Here's the blurb:
Photo Stories is an experiment in writing, photography, and design. Photographer takes photo. NFTU puts this in photo book. Author picks photo from photo book. Author writes story. Designer turns photograph and story into a typographic print. NFTU exhibits them then relaxes with a drink. The Photo Stories exhibition will take place at Saatchi & Saatchi this May and June.

Here's the website.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Mighty Mike McGee - If I Were

In addition to the last post, here's my favourite Mighty Mike McGee piece...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Mighty Mike McGee - Sweet Nuggets

A music and performance poetry retrospective from Mighty Mike McGee ...



Mike has obviously been doing this for a long time, and is thankfully still doing it, despite having released a "Best of" album.

You can listen to the whole thing for free online here.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Dean's Dad's Ducks

In addition to Dean Parkin's podcast (see last post), here's a video about his show, Dean's Dad's Ducks - a great concept...



Technically this is an advert for an Edinburgh Festival show that's already happened, but if you're interested in future shows you can visit Dean's website, www.deanparkin.co.uk.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Dean Parkin's Soundstuff

Take a look and a listen to this thing ... I use the word thing because I don't want to use the word podcast because I think the word podcast is misleading. This is a series of ongoing audio recordings. ("But that's a podcast, isn't it?" / "Hmmm. Maybe.")

This "series of recordings" was created by the poet, Dean Parkin, between 2008 and 2010 (and will hopefully be added to in the future).

The first "episode" (if that's what you want to call it) is called The Balloon Landings.

The rest are here.

Nice one, Mr Parkin.

Friday, 15 July 2011

White Knuckle Press & Right Hand Pointing

Along similar lines to Pangur Ban Party (mentioned a few posts ago), these two inter-related sites feature some high-quality e-chapbooks, all well worth reading.

White Knuckle Press
Right Hand Pointing



Thursday, 14 July 2011

Narrative Masterclass - John Steinbeck

Even in a teaching day that involved Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale and Paradise Lost, this following passage stood out as a narrative masterclass from John Steinbeck.

It is interesting how frequently I feel myself pausing during a class and admiring a detail (sometimes a minor detail) so brilliant in its execution that it points the way to others. The following character is not a major one. Neither is it the first time he has been mentioned; neither is it the first time we've heard him speak. These are important: too many writers (are you paying attention, Mr Self?)hector the reader with a voluminous description the very second a character hoves over the narrative horizon; readers find themselves browbeaten into submission by adjectives and adverbs. Too often the authorial voice reveals everything, thus showing us nothing. Here the character has (a) been named previously near the start of this chapter, (b) already walked into the room on a previous page, (c) sat down - we've grown accustomed to their presence. This is 'Slim', from Of Mice and Men.

[H]e moved with a majesty only achieved by royalty and master craftsmen. He was a jerkline skinner, the prince of the ranch, capable of driving, ten, sixteen, even twenty mules with a single line to the leaders. He was capable of killing a fly on the wheeler's butt with a bull whip without touching the mule. There was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talk stopped when he spoke. His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love. This was Slim, the jerkline skinner. His hatchet face was ageless. He might have been thirty-five or fifty. His ear heard more than was said to him, and his slow speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought. His hands, large and lean, were as delicate in their action as those of a temple dancer.

Foregrounding of events? Check. Lexis perfectly fitting and balanced? Check. Sentence styles matching vocal styles of character? Check. Poetic use of defamiliarising work-speech (I’m given to understand that this might be called deixis)? Check. Firm establishing of character? Check. Cryptic AND simple? Check.

We can all learn from that.

Bookninja Comics

Let's travel back in time to the distant days of 2004.

I'm referring to the archive of very funny literary cartoons on the Bookninja website.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Sejanus

Have you noticed the lessons Ben Jonson has to teach us about our (mis)leaders?

If you, like me, have been glued to the media comedy and tragedy unfolding before our eyes – in the fulsome sense of the dramatic genre and its conventions – then you may have come across the wise words on the live blog at

http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gnm/op/syCAo-ZrJkZ7QOFhSpVXy9w/view.m?id=15&gid=media/blog/2011/jul/12/phone-hacking-scandal-live-coverage&cat=most-read

which was fascinating for many reasons. Firstly, it rather wittily implies that if Murdoch had read a bit of Shakespeare then it would have been to everyone’s benefit. Secondly, the wag points out that Shakespeare plays (comedies and tragedies) are full of intercepted letters, and the trouble that (a) letters cause, (b) intercepting letters causes, (c) misreading letters causes, (d) spying on (‘noting’) people causes. This is a valuable thing to think about. Do you think for a second that Rebekah Brooks reads Shakespeare? Even worse is the realisation that she probably did, but she was too busy counting her thuggery profits at the back of the class when the tired teacher swept their hand over their eyes, looked to heaven and asked the silent, passive class: ‘Can you see what the writer is trying to say here?’ It made me think of something wider – something bigger.

A key convention of tragedy is that at the close of the play we get what amounts to a ‘papering over the cracks’. In fact, a tragedy does not resolve; all the characters left alive stand (literally) around the bodies, they swear that ‘this will never happen again’ – and yet the audience realise that it has to: nobody does anything to address the underlining issues that have been brought to a head in the death(s) on stage of the character(s) we most sympathise with. So, we understand that the cycle will repeat, with a new metaphorical ‘cast’.

A tragedy whose spine I haven’t touched since my degree is Sejanus, by Ben Jonson. Those under 25 will know Jonson as the man who wrote the poem ‘On My First Sonne’ – it’s part of GCSE education. Sejanus plays out for us the fail of a cruel, corrupt leader who controls by fear. He is patronised (in the Roman sense of the word) by sycophants and schemers. He is hated, but followed because he has all the power. In the play there is a dramatic shifting on stage: Sejanus goes from dictator to exposed, fallen idol in a flash.

It stayed with me all of yesterday. I picked it out and began to read it again. The parallels are striking between this play and what is playing out in the media court currently. You could take any excerpt from the play, tweak it slightly and use it as a current commentary on the disgusting antics of the media and our political misleaders.

Here a bitter character at the start articulates the difference between those that succeed in Sejanus’ court (read: Murdoch/Cameron’s court) and those that don’t – like the speaker:

We want their fine arts, and their thriving use
Should make us graced, or favour'd of the times:
We have no shift of faces, no cleft tongues,
No soft and glutinous bodies, that can stick,
Like snails on painted walls; or, on our breasts,
Creep up, to fall from that proud height, to which
We did by slavery, not by service climb.
We are no guilty men, and then no great;
We have no place in court, office In state,
That we can say, we owe unto our crimes:
We burn with no black secrets

There is more, and I will indeed post more – I think that it’s a vital comment on our days. Those that climb a hill of creativity, desperately trying for the ‘new’ often scrabble up the scree and lever ourselves to safety: sweatily smug that we have thought, or written, or done something new - only to then notice the bootprints of some previous climber on the ledge. These are tracks of writers who have been this way, and may have been this way better.

This circus without clowns goes on, and on, and on. This is a rich seam. We will come this way again.
Frank has done a superb job of bringing some great (and genuinely interesting, if not ‘great’) free ebooks, downloads and sites to our attention. Sejanus, too, is worthy of a look. Don’t be afraid of iambic pentameter; it does not bite. Go to: http://www.readbookonline.net/read/18342/52944/. We will come this way again.
Andy Hopkins

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Wystan by Will Self

If this opening paragraph floats your boat, you can read the whole of Will Self's short story, Wystan, at the Times website (without the need to get past their paywall).


Chloe dreamt that she was having sex with her father-in-law’s dog, Wystan, a particularly skinny and nervous whippet. The whippet’s claws scratched her shoulders and breasts terribly — his needle-sharp teeth nipped at her ears; what was going on down below Chloe could only intuit, not feel, but the idea alone sent alternating pulses of nausea and shame coursing through her subconscious.

Continue here.

Monday, 11 July 2011

badbadbad - a transmedia novel by jesús ángel garcía



Well, here's a masterclass in how to market yourself as a novelist - audio, video, live events and a preview available online. In terms of self-promotion, García ticks all the boxes.

I haven't read badbadbad yet, but I will do because it looks very good. There are plenty of mediocre writers out there with excellent marketing strategies. García doesn't appear to be one of them.

Of course, that's just my first impression. I shall report back when I've actually read the book.

Here's the link to the website.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Found Pages #8: My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst

I don't want to patronise you by telling you things about Emmeline Pankhurst that you already know. What you may not know, however, is that her autobiography is available to read for free online.

Read the full text here.

The book begins like this...


Those men and women are fortunate who are born at a time when a great struggle for human freedom is in progress. It is an added good fortune to have parents who take a personal part in the great movements of their time. I am glad and thankful that this was my case.

One of my earliest recollections is of a great bazaar which was held in my native city of Manchester, the object of the bazaar being to raise money to relieve the poverty of the newly emancipated negro slaves in the United States. My mother took an active part in this effort, and I, as a small child, was entrusted with a lucky bag by means of which I helped to collect money.

Young as I was--I could not have been older than five years--I knew perfectly well the meaning of the words slavery and emancipation. From infancy I had been accustomed to hear pro and con discussions of slavery and the American Civil War. Although the British government finally decided not to recognise the Confederacy, public opinion in England was sharply divided on the questions both of slavery and of secession. Broadly speaking, the propertied classes were pro-slavery, but there were many exceptions to the rule. Most of those who formed the circle of our family friends were opposed to slavery, and my father, Robert Goulden, was always a most ardent abolitionist. He was prominent enough in the movement to be appointed on a committee to meet and welcome Henry Ward Beecher when he arrived in England for a lecture tour. Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," was so great a favourite with my mother that she used it continually as a source of bedtime stories for our fascinated ears. Those stories, told almost fifty years ago, are as fresh in my mind to-day as events detailed in the morning's papers. Indeed they are more vivid, because they made a much deeper impression on my consciousness. I can still definitely recall the thrill I experienced every time my mother related the tale of Eliza's race for freedom over the broken ice of the Ohio River, the agonizing pursuit, and the final rescue at the hands of the determined old Quaker. Another thrilling tale was the story of a negro boy's flight from the plantation of his cruel master. The boy had never seen a railroad train, and when, staggering along the unfamiliar railroad track, he heard the roar of an approaching train, the clattering car-wheels seemed to his strained imagination to be repeating over and over again the awful words, "Catch a nigger--catch a nigger--catch a nigger--" This was a terrible story, and throughout my childhood, whenever I rode in a train, I thought of that poor runaway slave escaping from the pursuing monster.

These stories, with the bazaars and the relief funds and subscriptions of which I heard so much talk, I am sure made a permanent impression on my brain and my character. They awakened in me the two sets of sensations to which all my life I have most readily responded: first, admiration for that spirit of fighting and heroic sacrifice by which alone the soul of civilisation is saved; and next after that, appreciation of the gentler spirit which is moved to mend and repair the ravages of war.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

New Review of Stephanie Newell's The Third Person

A glowing review for Stephanie Newell's The Third Person in Neon Magazine here.

I think I'll quote this bit on the website - "It reads flawlessly, flowingly, with many of the diary entries verging on poetry."

Thanks to Christopher Frost for saying good things about one of our books.

Read or download The Third Person online for free here.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Pangur Ban Party

Here's a new discovery - www.pangurbanparty.com



No doubt I'll be writing more about this site when I've had more chance to read the work on there, but on first impressions, this is one of the best fiction and poetry websites I've seen for a long time.

Pangur Ban Party (no idea what the name means) publish a series of e-chapbooks featuring poetry and fiction, or a combination of the two. Quality work with a basic, no-bullshit design.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Bruno Schulz

I discovered Bruno Schulz through the Guardian's excellent Brief Survey of the Short Story. His entry on this list is well deserved - he's one of the great short story writers.



It turns out there are three collections available to read online: The Cinnamon Shops, The Sanatorium at the Sign of the Hourglass, and Uncollected Stories - all translated into English by John Curran Davis.

Visit www.schulzian.net for the full text to these three books.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Found Pages #7: The Poems and Prose Poems of Charles Baudelaire




Here's the link to the full text.

And here's a sample...


THE DEATH OF THE POOR

Death is consoler and Death brings to life; The end of all, the solitary hope; We, drunk with Death's elixir, face the strife, Take heart, and mount till eve the weary slope.

Across the storm, the hoar-frost, and the snow, Death on our dark horizon pulses clear; Death is the famous hostel we all know, Where we may rest and sleep and have good cheer.

Death is an angel whose magnetic palms Bring dreams of ecstasy and slumberous calms To smooth the beds of naked men and poor.

Death is the mystic granary of God; The poor man's purse; his fatherland of yore; The Gate that opens into heavens un trod!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Interview - Annette Greenaway

Annette Greenaway interviewed by Frank Burton.

Annette's second poetry collection, The Joy of Atheism, can be read online or downloaded for free here.

Her first collection, Big Fish Little Fish Cardboard Box was the first ever Philistine Press release.




How has your work developed since your first collection?

I think I've got better at writing what you could call "serious" poetry. Most of the work in Big Fish Little Fish Cardboard Box is playful and humorous. While there are plenty of laughs in the second collection, I think of it as being deeper and darker. I'd like to think I've got better at writing since I first started.

Did you set out to write a themed collection about atheism or is that something that developed during the writing process?

I'm not sure if you could call it a themed collection, because a lot of the stuff in there isn't specifically about religion. I didn't intend to write about this one subject as much as I did, but it's something that I was thinking about a lot while I was writing and that spilled out onto the page. I think The Joy of Atheism is a good title for the collection because a lot of my work is about finding joy in unexpected places. I think atheists have a reputation for being bitter and depressed, which isn't necessarily the case.

Do you think religious people will like the collection?

I suppose it depends on their taste. It certainly isn't intended as an insult to any other belief systems. You could say the same about other forms of religious poetry. I wrote a poem called "A Note to Richard Dawkins" which neatly expresses my position on this subject.

Do you perform you work in front of audiences?

No, I'm a 100% online poet. I've never been published in print, and no one has ever seen me read my work live. I must confess, I'm very nervous about public speaking. Never having performed my work in public may be a good thing in its own way because I like the idea of people reading my work online and having no idea who I am, or what I look like, or sound like. It's all about the work, not the poet.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

I'm starting to write some nature poems which are in their very early stages. I'm not sure if this will turn into another collection, or if this is a short phase I'm going through. We'll see.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Ostrich Cycles by Carl Antonowicz

Another great graphic novel available to download for free ...



This is a somewhat belated review as the book was published in 2007, but I've just discovered it, so it's new to me.

This is an original and thought-provoking piece of work. Antonowicz alternates between conventional comic strips and a series of scrawled notebook entries which eventually become unreadable. It's a risk for a writer to create something that the reader literally can't read but the risk has paid off. You may not know what I'm talking about. Read the book.

You can download it here.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Seamonster by Nathan Castle

I'd like to draw your attention to a brilliant graphic novel which can be downloaded as a free PDF.



Seamonster by Nathan Castle is a dark, haunting and often humerous tale, which grabs your attention from the opening right through to the end. The dialogue is spot on, the artwork is flashy and simplistic - perfect if you're reading on a hand-held device.

More information at www.seamonster-comic.co.uk.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Found Pages #6: Stalin and Khrushchev Investigate by Sidach

No seriously, this is a real online novel. Read the whole thing at http://stalinandkhrushchevinvestigate.blogspot.com/

Here's the opening chapter...


Fifties style downtown L.A.

The air is filled with the sleazy sound of a trumpet. Outside our block the road dips, starting a downward slope towards its ultimate descent. The front door is held open by a tatty, battered old brown loafer. The stairs and floor are cracked, dusty and all old wood that fills the romantic dreams of all those who never lived here. Rising up two flights of stairs it becomes apparent that the first two floors have no doors. No one else lives here. The base only exists for the purpose of housing those who reside behind the door on the top floor. Our view rising up the final flight of stairs and peaking through the gap left as the door swings slightly, creaking infuriatingly, finds one of our inhabitants.

From the entrance looking in, the window fills the back wall, covered by blinds, currently open brightening the room. On the left and the right of the room stand opposing desks, whilst a small television with rusty indoor aerial sits atop an orange crate, placed deliberately nearer to the left desk than the right. In the centre of this office, sat cross legged on the floor sits an industrious little buddha in the personage of Nikita Khrushchev.

Papers fly around the surrounding atmosphere, as Khrushchev sits as the chaotic centre of this mini system, throwing these satelites into the air chaotically. His blotchy bald crown and cheeks shine a bright red, whilst the pale white shins shown by the chasm between his grey creased socks and brown slacks reveal his natural tone. A short sleeved white cotton shirt, top button undone in concession to the heat fortunately conceals the undoubted sweat patches. Sensible black lace up shoes complete the ensemble, their scuffs revealing his haphazard, darting nature.

Khrushchev leans over, up on his knees, to reach to his desk and grab a pair of scissors. Upon relanding on the floor his shirt thankfully rides down again and recovers his flabby botched mid-driff, exposed during his recent excursion. He cack handedly holds his scissors at an odd angle as he stabs and separates sections of a newspaper. Then with a highlighter our rotund hero scribbles over key portions of the text in his hand like a child with his first crayon set.

Then a darkness sweeps through our visage. The sunny exterior is negated. The blinds slam shut of their own accord. Khrushchev nervously scrambles together his pile of papers, and hides his pair of scissors behind his back. A series of loud reverberating footsteps give a nightmarish premonition of what is ascending. As these sound stop a solid tension fills the office, like an arm over to slats of wood, quivering in the seconds before it gives and breaks. A dark monstrous shadow slips under the door, enveloping Khrushchev and freezing the sweat droplets immediately to his forehead. The door opens, then swings creaking to reveal a giant at the door. Khrushchev looks up from the floor and gulps. The owner of this office is revealed out of the darkness,

'Hello Nikita Sereyevich'

'Hello Koba.'

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Thanks!

Just want to say thanks to everyone who read my new poems prior to The Joy of Atheism being released. I posted quite a few of the poems on this blog before I completed the collection, and a few of them have been redrafted since then so I was going to delete the previous entries but then I thought it would be quite interesting to have two different versions of some of the poems out there.

I hope you enjoy the collection.

Annette

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Believing in Iron by Yusef Komunyakaa

While we're in a poetic mood, here's another one. More from Yusef Komunyakaa here.


Believing in Iron
by Yusef Komunyakaa


The hills my brothers & I created
Never balanced, & it took years
To discover how the world worked.
We could look at a tree of blackbirds
& tell you how many were there,
But with the scrap dealer
Our math was always off.
Weeks of lifting & grunting
Never added up to much,
But we couldn't stop
Believing in iron.
Abandoned trucks & cars
Were held to the ground
By thick, nostalgic fingers of vines
Strong as a dozen sharecroppers.
We'd return with our wheelbarrow
Groaning under a new load,
Yet tiger lilies lived better
In their languid, August domain.
Among paper & Coke bottles
Foundry smoke erased sunsets,
& we couldn't believe iron
Left men bent so close to the earth
As if the ore under their breath
Weighed down the gray sky.
Sometimes I dreamt how our hills
Washed into a sea of metal,
How it all became an anchor
For a warship or bomber
Out over trees with blooms
Too red to look at.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The White Room by Charles Simic

Another one from Poets.org. More Charles Simic stuff here.


The White Room

The obvious is difficult
To prove. Many prefer
The hidden. I did, too.
I listened to the trees.

They had a secret
Which they were about to
Make known to me--
And then didn't.

Summer came. Each tree
On my street had its own
Scheherazade. My nights
Were a part of their wild

Storytelling. We were
Entering dark houses,
Always more dark houses,
Hushed and abandoned.

There was someone with eyes closed
On the upper floors.
The fear of it, and the wonder,
Kept me sleepless.

The truth is bald and cold,
Said the woman
Who always wore white.
She didn't leave her room.

The sun pointed to one or two
Things that had survived
The long night intact.
The simplest things,

Difficult in their obviousness.
They made no noise.
It was the kind of day
People described as "perfect."

Gods disguising themselves
As black hairpins, a hand-mirror,
A comb with a tooth missing?
No! That wasn't it.

Just things as they are,
Unblinking, lying mute
In that bright light--
And the trees waiting for the night.

Monday, 20 June 2011

New Ebook: The Joy of Atheism by Annette Greenaway

Annette Greenaway was the first writer to be published by Philistine Press when we launched in 2010. Now she's back with her second collection of poems, several of which have been showcased on this blog in recent months.



Funny, touching and packed with attitude, The Joy of Atheism is a mini-masterpiece. It's partly an atheist manifesto and partly a book about life, art and love.

Read the full collection online or download it for free here.

Sample poem:


Reincarnation


She’s not me,

That child who sucked the nipple off her dummy

And drenched her bib in second hand orange juice.



She’s not me,

That spiteful brat who slammed her sister’s fingers in the door

When she lost at Monopoly.



She’s not me,

That teen who didn’t want to go to school

Assuming she was fat and ugly because no one told her otherwise.



She’s not me,

That girl who went out clubbing Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,

And didn’t pay for any drinks.



She’s not me,

That woman who allowed her boyfriend to treat her like dirt,

And secretly enjoyed it.



Sometimes I recall these people,

Inherited memories from my skin’s former occupants,

Reincarnation

In real life.

Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing by Margaret Atwood

Better known as a novelist, Atwood is one of the best poets and short story writers around. (To be fair, she's pretty well known for the short forms as well, so I'm probably preaching to the converted.)

I nicked this from www.poets.org - more Atwood stuff on there.


Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing

The world is full of women
who'd tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of
naked as a meat sandwich.
Selling gloves, or something.
Instead of what I do sell.
You have to have talent
to peddle a thing so nebulous
and without material form.
Exploited, they'd say. Yes, any way
you cut it, but I've a choice
of how, and I'll take the money.

I do give value.
Like preachers, I sell vision,
like perfume ads, desire
or its facsimile. Like jokes
or war, it's all in the timing.
I sell men back their worse suspicions:
that everything's for sale,
and piecemeal. They gaze at me and see
a chain-saw murder just before it happens,
when thigh, ass, inkblot, crevice, tit, and nipple
are still connected.
Such hatred leaps in them,
my beery worshippers! That, or a bleary
hopeless love. Seeing the rows of heads
and upturned eyes, imploring
but ready to snap at my ankles,
I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge
to step on ants. I keep the beat,
and dance for them because
they can't. The music smells like foxes,
crisp as heated metal
searing the nostrils
or humid as August, hazy and languorous
as a looted city the day after,
when all the rape's been done
already, and the killing,
and the survivors wander around
looking for garbage
to eat, and there's only a bleak exhaustion.
Speaking of which, it's the smiling
tires me out the most.
This, and the pretence
that I can't hear them.
And I can't, because I'm after all
a foreigner to them.
The speech here is all warty gutturals,
obvious as a slab of ham,
but I come from the province of the gods
where meanings are lilting and oblique.
I don't let on to everyone,
but lean close, and I'll whisper:
My mother was raped by a holy swan.
You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.
That's what we tell all the husbands.
There sure are a lot of dangerous birds around.

Not that anyone here
but you would understand.
The rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. Reduce me to components
as in a clock factory or abattoir.
Crush out the mystery.
Wall me up alive
in my own body.
They'd like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.
Look--my feet don't hit the marble!
Like breath or a balloon, I'm rising,
I hover six inches in the air
in my blazing swan-egg of light.
You think I'm not a goddess?
Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you'll burn.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

George Orwell - Why I Write

The greatest essay on writing ever written, by (in my opinion) the most important writer of the 20th Century.

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality."

Can't argue with that.

Read the full essay here.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Tony Harrison - V

One of the few great examples of poetry on TV. An absolute classic.







Friday, 10 June 2011

Edwin Morgan - The Dowser

Some words from one of the greats…

More info and a few more poems at http://www.edwinmorgan.com/


The Dowser
With my forked branch of Lebanese cedar
I quarter the dunes like downs and guide
an invisible plough far over the sand.
But how to quarter such shifting acres
when the wind melts their shapes, and shadows
mass where all was bright before,
and landmarks walk like wraiths at noon?
All I know is that underneath,
how many miles no one can say,
an unbroken water-table waits
like a lake; it has seen no bird or sail
in its long darkness, and no man;
not even pharaohs dug so far
for all their thirst, or thirst of glory,
or thrust-power of ten thousand slaves.
I tell you I can smell it though,
that water. I am old and black
and I know the manners of the sun
which makes me bend, not break. I lose
my ghostly footprints without complaint.
I put every mirage in its place.
I watch the lizard make its lace.
Like one not quite blind I go
feeling for the sunken face.
So hot the days, the nights so cold,
I gather my white rags and sigh
but sighing step so steadily
that any vibrance in so deep
a lake would never fail to rise
towards the snowy cedar's bait.
Great desert, let your sweetness wake.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Interview - Stephanie Newell

Stephanie Newell interviewed by Frank Burton

Stephanie's novel, The Third Person, can be read online or downloaded for free here.




What kind of research did you do for the novel?

I wanted to give days and dates for each of Lizzie’s diary entries, but I didn’t want to specify the year in which the novel is set. I’d like readers to be free to imagine a period, rather than be told a particular year. Having said that, I did have a specific year in mind, so most of my research involved ensuring continuity and accuracy. For example, quite a few of the products and cultural references in the novel — from Superglue to Flashdance to the new pound coin — had to be double-checked, in case they appeared too early or too late for the year I had in mind. That’s why I had to cut out a reference to Hobnobs (and most definitely the milk chocolate version) because they arrived on the scene too late for the action in the novel. A packet of chocolate digestives took their place.

Another area of research was into bone processing, as a ‘bone factory’ features prominently in the novel. I found out all about the uses for bones in glue and fertilizer, etc., and also about how the industry deals with effluent and emissions. By the time I’d finished this research, I really could smell the fumes from a bone factory, and, to my nose anyway, the stench permeates the novel.

Perhaps the most detailed and most difficult area of research was into the interview techniques that would have been used back then by police and social workers when faced with child abuse allegations. This was before the ‘Children Act’ of 1989 when significant changes were made to procedures. In order to make the interview scene authentic — when Lizzie and her friend Katie Nelson are visited by a social worker and a policewoman — I contacted lawyers and social workers with long track-records, and asked them to help me reconstruct the interview scene. In the end, my cousin Anna Kerr, a social worker and novelist in her own right until her death in January 2011, sat down with me and provided the bare bones of the scene, for me to embellish. It took a lot of work, but now it’s my favourite scene in the novel.

Finally, in the process of writing this book, I became fascinated by the difference between secrecy and lying. While this fascination was developing, I went to a talk by Carol Smart, who has published a lot of work on the topic of family secrets. Reading her work really helped me to introduce and develop this theme. It’s not meant to be explicit or drummed home, just quietly sitting in the background of the book.


How does the first draft differ to the final book?

This novel went through so many drafts — at least ten — that I can’t properly remember a ‘first’ draft. The manuscript went through numerous changes. But two ideas I refused to budge from were, first, the need for the story to be narrated in fragments, not in smooth, continuous prose, and second, that it should be narrated in the present tense. At the start, I didn’t have any dates in mind, just jigsaw pieces and the immediacy of Lizzie’s voice. I wanted the motif of fracturing and breaking-apart to be part of the structure of the novel as well as a key theme. Numerous readers of drafts along the way found this to be really confusing, though, so I finally made the decision to clearly mark the text as a set of diary entries. But without giving the ending away, the final page of the novel problematizes this notion that the whole text is diary entries ‘as they happen’.


Who are your biggest influences?

I set out to write what might be called ‘Lolita’s story’, re-imagining Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita from the point of view of the adolescent girl rather than the older man. My writing was also inspired by Esther Freud’s two novels, Hideous Kinky (1992) and The Wild (2000), both of which explore sibling relationships and childhood rivalries with particular attention to the child’s-eye view of the world. Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) also provided a lot of inspiration because, as with The Third Person, his novel is narrated entirely from the perspective of a teenager. In Haddon’s case, the narrator is a fifteen-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome who struggles to understand and interpret other people’s responses.

In these books I looked for ways to resolve one of the key limitations you find in stories that are confined to young first-person narrators: while child or adolescent narrators often have the capacity for empathy, novels dominated by their voices often lack the space for alternative and mature perspectives, or for voices that have the ability to convey complex emotional expressions and interpretations. This is especially the case when a story is narrated in the present tense. Haddon makes a virtue of this simplicity of voice in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by creating an Asperger’s syndrome protagonist who is incapable of viewing the world through others’ eyes. The difficulties and failures of the boy’s connection with others is one of the story’s central concerns. I have tried to follow his example in The Third Person.


Does your research into African literature influence your creative writing?

Not in an obvious way, although my academic research often focuses on issues of visibility, gender and power, so that might have influenced the underlying themes in my novel. But generally when I’m writing fiction, I send my academic self away for as long as it takes to produce a piece of creative writing. I even get uncomfortable reading works of fiction that seem to be too scholarly or analytical. I struggled with Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore for that reason: even though I loved the characters, the wise cats, and all the magical, overlapping spaces in the novel, I fidgeted throughout the long ‘intellectual’ sections. Maybe I need to relax and let my academic side back into my writing. I even skipped all the sections about tractors in Marina Lewycka’s A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian because these parts reminded me of academic books!


Would you describe The Third Person as "controversial"?

This depends on how you see fiction. I think I would describe The Third Person as unsettling rather than controversial. To me, ‘controversial’ means that you deliberately stir up debate about an issue, or you take a strongly provocative side in a debate. The Third Person doesn’t engage in controversy in these obvious ways because there is no ‘side’ to take in a discussion about child abuse: of course child abuse is morally wrong.

Having said that, perhaps there is a controversial aspect to The Third Person in that it doesn’t simply condemn the abuser. The novel contains an intensely damaged and destructive love triangle, and it unsettles the typical media construction of abusers as ‘evil’ by trying to offer an understanding of the complex relationships involved, especially how an abuser both manipulates and charms the victim.


How significant is the setting of the novel in terms of place and time?

The time is not particularly important, but the place is vital. I wanted to create a slightly gothic location, with a creek separating the bone factory from the village, and the sound of boat rigging rattling in the night. I needed a setting that would carry the wildness of the salt marshes and birds into the world of the narrator, Lizzie, as she stalks and preys on her younger sister.


How do you feel about online publishing?

I’m really excited about the new kinds of audience and text that are produced by online publishing. The accessibility and cheapness of e-books opens up a lot of possibilities for readers to download large quantities of material, to read freely and widely, to expand their literary horizons.

For their part, online publishers can produce material that doesn’t have to cross the high profit threshold required by conventional publishers for a manuscript to be accepted. As a result, online publishing is a lot less conservative than publishing for bookshops. Online, books can be put into circulation that conventional publishers might feel are too risky financially because they don’t offer familiar themes.