Thursday, 31 March 2011

Found Pages #3: The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

This caught my eye, primarily because on the Many Books website it's categorised as "gay / lesbian" and was published in 1896.

The blurb

Considered Jewett's finest work, and described by Henry James as her ''beautiful little quantum of achievement.'' Despite James's diminutives, the novel remains a classic. Because it is loosely structured, many critics view the book not as a novel, but a series of sketches; however, its structure is unified through both setting and theme. Jewett herself felt that her strengths as a writer lay not in plot development or dramatic tension, but in character development. Indeed, she determined early in her career to preserve a disappearing way of life, and her novel can be read as a study of the effects of isolation and hardship on the inhabitants who lived in the decaying fishing villages along the Maine coast.

This is the short opening chapter to the novel:


The Return

THERE WAS SOMETHING about the coast town of Dunnet which made it seem more attractive than other maritime villages of eastern Maine. Perhaps it was the simple fact of acquaintance with that neighborhood which made it so attaching, and gave such interest to the rocky shore and dark woods, and the few houses which seemed to be securely wedged and tree-nailed in among the ledges by the Landing. These houses made the most of their seaward view, and there was a gayety and determined floweriness in their bits of garden ground; the small-paned high windows in the peaks of their steep gables were like knowing eyes that watched the harbor and the far sea-line beyond, or looked northward all along the shore and its background of spruces and balsam firs. When one really knows a village like this and its surroundings, it is like becoming acquainted with a single person. The process of falling in love at first sight is as final as it is swift in such a case, but the growth of true friendship may be a lifelong affair.

After a first brief visit made two or three summers before in the course of a yachting cruise, a lover of Dunnet Landing returned to find the unchanged shores of the pointed firs, the same quaintness of the village with its elaborate conventionalities; all that mixture of remoteness, and childish certainty of being the centre of civilization of which her affectionate dreams had told. One evening in June, a single passenger landed upon the steamboat wharf. The tide was high, there was a fine crowd of spectators, and the younger portion of the company followed her with subdued excitement up the narrow street of the salt-aired, white- clapboarded little town.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Eyes like dinner plates

She had eyes like dinner plates,
And they were dinner plates.
You could eat your dinner off them,
So we ate our dinner off them,
Using her nostrils as holders
For our salt and pepper shakers.

You may think we were the victors in this scenario,
And she was the victim,
But she was smiling all over her face,
And we were so unhappy.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Open Mic Disasters #5: Reading and Running

"Thou shalt not attend an open mic and leave as soon as you've done your shitty little poem or song, you self righteous prick."

So says Scroobius Pip in his seminal track, Thou Shall Always Kill (although he also says "Thou shall always kill," which isn't necessarily the soundest advice).

Of course, most people who attend poetry open mics should agree with that. Shouldn’t they? Although, let's be honest, many people appear to think it's OK to rattle their way through their allocated slot and then mysteriously disappear. I'll admit to having "read and ran" myself a couple of times, although there's always been a valid reason - mainly to do with living so far away from the venue that the last train leaves ridiculously early. What Scroobius is quite rightly criticising is the hypocritical practise of performing at an open mic and simply not bothering to stick around to see the other performers.

The worst offenders are those who can't even be arsed to stay for the duration of the first half. On more than one occasion I've witnessed the hilarious sight of the first poet of the night stumbling through their carefully-crafted verse then vacating the premises before the polite applause has had a chance to die down. You get the impression they've got a helicopter waiting to whisk them off to their next open mic as part of a whistle stop tour of the "smaller, intimate venues". Or they could just be what's known on the poetry circuit as "wankers".

Equally bad are the poets who disappear midway through someone's set, taking their entourage (who on occasions make up three-quarters of the audience) with them.

Nonetheless, there's one practise that's even worse than reading and running. This is where the poet will perform what Scroobius Pip all-too-accurately describes as their "shitty little poem" before heading off to the bar and talking to their friends for the rest of the evening, distracting the audience and generally making themselves look like a tit.

If any of these people happen to be reading this, I'd just like to say, you are not the centre of the universe. If you're not interested in watching the other performers do their thing, regardless of whether or not you like them (or how highly you rate yourself in comparison) perhaps it would be better if you just left. Or even better, don't bother turning up at all.

Ah. Rant over. Good to get that off my chest. Peace and love to the rest of society.

Now, just for the hell of it, here's a link to the Scroobius Pip track …

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Found Pages #2: Grimms' Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm

Another random extract from a public domain text here.

Anyone who, like me, was brought up on the wholesome, sanitised Disney versions of the Brothers Grimm tales really needs to check out the dark and twisted originals. This particular volume features a wide range of familiar and unfamiliar tales. One such story begins like this.


Some men are born to good luck: all they do or try to do comes right--
all that falls to them is so much gain--all their geese are swans--all
their cards are trumps--toss them which way you will, they will
always, like poor puss, alight upon their legs, and only move on so
much the faster. The world may very likely not always think of them as
they think of themselves, but what care they for the world? what can
it know about the matter?

One of these lucky beings was neighbour Hans. Seven long years he had
worked hard for his master. At last he said, 'Master, my time is up; I
must go home and see my poor mother once more: so pray pay me my wages
and let me go.' And the master said, 'You have been a faithful and
good servant, Hans, so your pay shall be handsome.' Then he gave him a
lump of silver as big as his head.

Hans took out his pocket-handkerchief, put the piece of silver into
it, threw it over his shoulder, and jogged off on his road homewards.
As he went lazily on, dragging one foot after another, a man came in
sight, trotting gaily along on a capital horse. 'Ah!' said Hans aloud,
'what a fine thing it is to ride on horseback! There he sits as easy
and happy as if he was at home, in the chair by his fireside; he trips
against no stones, saves shoe-leather, and gets on he hardly knows
how.' Hans did not speak so softly but the horseman heard it all, and
said, 'Well, friend, why do you go on foot then?' 'Ah!' said he, 'I
have this load to carry: to be sure it is silver, but it is so heavy
that I can't hold up my head, and you must know it hurts my shoulder
sadly.' 'What do you say of making an exchange?' said the horseman. 'I
will give you my horse, and you shall give me the silver; which will
save you a great deal of trouble in carrying such a heavy load about
with you.' 'With all my heart,' said Hans: 'but as you are so kind to
me, I must tell you one thing--you will have a weary task to draw that
silver about with you.' However, the horseman got off, took the
silver, helped Hans up, gave him the bridle into one hand and the whip
into the other, and said, 'When you want to go very fast, smack your
lips loudly together, and cry "Jip!"'

Download the full ebook here.

Monday, 21 March 2011


After the apocalypse
When we’re huddled together in the cold and dark,
Wondering who will die next,
Will we still be having those conversations
About how The A-Team
And Thundercats
And Benji, Zax and the Alien Prince
Were works of art
In an ironic way?

Annette Greenaway

Friday, 18 March 2011

Extract of the Moment: Richard Britton

"Extract of the Moment" is our regular feature showcasing the Philistine writers.

This is the first part of Richard Britton's narrative poem, The Birth of Taliesin The Bard, which can be read in full online or downloaded for free here.


Keridwen laboured as if her womb was filled
With stones fired in the acidic larva
That gored its path to fathom valleys
Between the star-threatening peaks
Of Snowdonia, in sleepless prehistory,
As time cut its cord from its creator.
Tegid Voel, her lord, glanced once only
At the wretched bundle, the love
For which had stemmed her bitter blood,
And then left the room to take wine.

Whilst her lord was slumped under his
Antler-mounted fire-place, she stared
At the pink moon as it haemorrhaged
Love into the bruised-blossom night.
Her son, Avagddu, smiled at her
Despite the tightening of his cleft lip,
Flashing his crooked, premature teeth,
His body covered in hair as thick
As a boar’s, his hoofed feet kicking.
“The gods have rid their brittle clay
To render your form” she whispered
“But I will engender you with wisdom
And craft that will emblazon your name
Beyond the curse of your misshapen body.”
The baby opened his mouth and roared,
His hunger-echoes shaking the stillest
Nests in the undefiled trees of the forest.

Her priest risked the wrath of her lord
To ride through the densest woods
For seven nights and seven days
To enquire of the Holy Book of Pheryllt
From which she would draw sublime
Incantations, and breath life into her pledge.

At the city of Emrys the priest arrived,
The city of pyromancers, where red-bearded
Druids converse in koine with turbaned
Alchemists and draw potent symbols
In the shell-sands for far-eastern sages
And fakirs from the valley of Indus,
Who sweat water from the Ganges,
As they lean over their kilns and forges.

The Dragons of Beli lived underneath
The city, in a labyrinth, guarding
Rocks of great urge that calibrated
The measure of the power released
From these citizens’ metaphysical toils.
They never stirred, but always
Had one eye open and breath bated
Lest the laws of nature should be defiled.

After much consultation and seeking
Of advice and counsel, the priest was
Sent to the Grand Keeper of Books
In the Tower of Books, the most
Magnificent library in the world,
Housed in a hollowed mountain
Far from the city’s yellow-stoned core.
There, he was shown the ancient
Text, ciphered in ogham, but reading
In a tongue as ancient as the species
Of worms that the wizened librarian
Plucked from its spine, obsessively,
With the sabre-points of his grey nails.
And so he noted the concoction.
And he journeyed back to Penllyn,
Past quarries of slaves, dust shrouded,
The spoils of wars – sacked cities
And barbarian wastes, enemies subdued -
Excavating rocks or cosmic wisdom?
Muscled Gauls cracked whips scoring
Red lines in their lime-blanched skin.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Installation featuring a young Harrison Ford in miniature


Harrison is sealed within a glass bulb similar to a snowflake shaker. The bulb contains an array of wood shavings. Harrison is unable to speak because a wooden staircase is connected from the ground to his mouth. The staircase leads directly to Harrison’s oesophagus. Harrison appears to be in great pain, and on closer inspection you’ll notice he has splinters embedded in his cheeks. But don’t worry – it’s only make-up, and Harrison is acting.


Miniature Harrison stands in the centre of a medium-sized dinner plate. The upper half of his body is dressed as Indiana Jones. He is naked from the waist down. He is watching a live flamingo attempt to mate with a stuffed flamingo. At irregular intervals, Harrison shouts, “It belongs in a museum!”


Harrison is dressed as Han Solo. He is standing in a toilet cubicle. Once again, he is in miniature but the toilet cubicle is life size. He continually attempts to climb the white ceramic tower before him but slips back to the ground each time. The man standing next to you observes that the scene is reminiscent of the struggle of Sisyphus.

Annette Greenaway

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Spreading the joy

I wonder if our happiness
Makes the world better in any way,
Or does it just make unhappy people more miserable?
I’d like to spread the joy around
But spreading the joy is difficult.
Most of the time it just irritates people.
They smile while their eyes ask politely:
Please could you go and be cheerful somewhere else?

Annette Greenaway

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Looking good

Why does looking good have to mean so much?
Sometimes I wish I didn’t find you
So god-damned attractive.
I wish I didn’t keep thinking
How lucky I am to be with someone who isn’t ugly.
Please stop looking at me with those trance-inducing eyes.
Am I really this shallow
Or is this the way things are supposed to be?

Annette Greenaway

Monday, 14 March 2011

New Audio Release - Words From the Sky: a collection of poems read by Richard Britton

The latest Philistine Press release is Words From the Sky: a collection of poems read by Richard Britton.

Philistine Press's Romantic-in-Residence, Richard Britton, reads a diverse selection of verse from Wordsworth to Goldfrapp. Listen to the collection via Soundcloud below, or download the album from Mediafire.

Words From The Sky: A collection of poems read by Richard Britton by philistinepoetry

The real you

I want to split you open like an atom,
Releasing the real you,
Your heart,
Your guts,
Your brain,
Your spirit,
Exploding, splatting, gushing into mine.

Annette Greenaway

Friday, 11 March 2011

Found Pages #1

Welcome to a new feature for the Philistine blog. The concept: random extracts from public domain texts. Our first entry is taken from Chapter 7 of the intriguingly titled The Mouse in the Mountain by Norbert Davis - a hard-boiled detective novel from 1943.

The full text can be read or downloaded here.

Chapter 7

DOAN CAME OUT ON THE AVENIDA REVOLUCION, and it seemed to him now that the street was appropriately named. It looked as though it had just gone through a revolution or one had gone through it.

Broken tile lay in windrows, and a stovepipe, canted over a wall, leered like a warped cannon. A house across the way had lost its front wall, and its owners capered around inside like zany actors in a movie set. They were making enough noise for a massacre, but none of them seemed to be injured.

Right in front of Doan a little boy sat in the center of the street with his eyes shut and his fists clenched and his mouth wide open. He was howling mightily, and no one paid him the slightest attention.

Doan walked over to him. "Hey, shorty. Where are you hurt?"

The little boy turned off his howl and opened his eyes cautiously. He looked Doan over and then saw Carstairs. His mouth made a round O of admiration. He looked back at Doan and smiled winningly. He had three front teeth missing.

"Gimme dime."

Doan gave him a dime. The little boy tested it with a couple of his remaining teeth.

"Denk goo," he said.

He put the dime carefully in the pocket of his ragged shirt, shut his eyes and opened his mouth. He started to yell exactly where he had left off.

Extract of the Moment: Kenneth Pobo

"Extract of the Moment" is our regular feature showcasing the Philistine writers.

This is taken from Kenneth Pobo's Fitting Parts, which can be read in full online or downloaded for free here.

Warren the Poet

complains about people
not getting him: the poem
I wrote about the sleeping cat
got rejected, the one I did
about a boy getting his eyes
jabbed out, his legs found washed
up on a Lake Michigan shore,
got snapped up, now
what do you make of that?

Dunno. Maybe
you write poorly about cats
and well about violence
or violence is now what
a red rose used to be.
Warren says he may quit writing,

says he wants to be
a leaf.

Poor guy, he’s caught.
New poems work on him
and won’t let him go.

Kenneth Pobo

The Joy of Atheism

In a hundred years
We’ll all be dead
But that doesn’t matter.

There are great things I’ll never do,
Great sights I’ll never see,
Great books I’ll never read,
Great films I’ll never watch,
But that doesn’t matter.

All that matters is the beauty of the here and now,
Heaven and Hell
In this moment.

Annette Greenaway

Friday, 4 March 2011

Extract of the Moment: TJ McIntyre

"Extract of the Moment" is our regular feature showcasing the work of the Philistine writers.

This is taken from Isotropes: A Collection of Speculative Haibun by TJ McIntyre.

This ebook can be read in full online or downloaded for free here.


The airships billowed overhead. The formation eclipsed the bright afternoon sun. I let go of my wrench, wiped the sweat from my brow with my grease-stained arm, and looked up. I saw the massive video grid displays. I saw a familiar face. Her face.

just this morning
we lay entangled and close
now so far away

Gerri told me to try and forget her, to go to work and remain silent. I did as she asked. Not out of cowardice but out of respect. She knew the risks, but, to her, it was worth it. She spoke of it all the time, read the forbidden books, studied the ancient encrypted sites on the Net.

forgotten knowledge
the holy books long silent
they meant everything

She said God spoke to her. At first, I was worried she was insane. No one believed in God anymore. It would have been laughable had she not been so sincere, had her eyes not had that sheen. There was something in her eyes. Whatever it may have actually been, it looked a lot like truth.

no words to dissuade
it meant everything to her
words brought new life

It was her job to spread the Gospels, she declared. I sighed, I shook my fists, and refused to hear her out at first. But soon, I saw her passion would not die. It overtook her body, her very being, and the woman who was my wife became someone else, someone better than me.

no more feuding
she would hug her enemies
win the world with love

“Through love,” she said when I asked her how she would do all this. “Through love.” I wanted to believe by then, really I did, but it all seemed so insane. The dusty old books, the encrypted files. It had all been discredited long ago, hidden away. The world had been promised peace then, but it did not take long to learn it wasn’t religion that caused the wars -- it was us.

with empty lives
nothing to look forward to
we all grew depressed

The wars raged on in spite of our beliefs, or lack thereof. The fighting, in time, actually increased. Corporations formed battalions. Bullets and bombs became the new currency as we all fought to control technology. In spite of all this, who was I to say she was crazy? Because of this, it appeared perfectly logical to imagine that Gerri might be sane.

she asked me to join
but it was her faith, not mine
I couldn’t believe

There were others who saw her eyes. They saw the light there and wanted to have some of what she preached. They wanted to feel what she had to offer: Hope. There was hope in her words and the words of those books. There was something in them that made sense, but I refused to believe. I am a mechanic. I work with my hands. I move a wrench, and the nuts and bolts lock into place. This is a simple thing, and I am a simple man. I like what I have and never asked for more. Her followers always wanted more.

her face in the sky
wanted for spreading false hope
police ships blaring

I know they will find her one day. The Euro-American Corps will track her down. They probably have already infiltrated her followers. There will be a corporate Judas at her last supper. Already I can hear them asking me if I knew her. I deny her already, just by not being there with her, and the proverbial rooster hasn’t even begun to crow.

unwavering faith
she was burned without a trial
saying I love you
burning tears wet my face
I fell to my knees and prayed

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Interview - Kristine Ong Muslim

Philistine author, Kristine Ong Muslim, interviewed by Frank Burton

Kristine's flash fiction collection, Smaller Than Most can be read online or downloaded for free here.

What is the appeal of flash fiction for you?

For one, its brevity. I can finish a cup of coffee at the same time I finish reading one. Writing flash is not as tiresome as doing a full-length story. I can finish doing five in one sitting. Just one burst of inspiration is all it takes.

A lot of flash fiction pieces share more in common with poetry than with conventional short stories. Do you agree with this? And do you think this applies to your own flash fiction?

Yes. It is more like poetry. The work of Bruce Holland Rogers is a superb example. I even send out my flash pieces to masquerade as prose poems, like the Bogomil pieces at Mary Journal.

Who are your influences?

I read a lot, and my writing is heavily influenced by what I'm reading at the moment I write a certain piece. These days, I'm reading a lot by Matt Bell. My favorite bedtime staple is Bruce Boston, whose books I've been hoarding for a long time. The prose poems of Matthea Harvey, Jennifer Knox, Arlene Ang, and Tom Whalen. Genre writers like Kurt Newton and Michael Arnzen. And Bruce Holland Rogers who writes the best flash fiction I've read.

Smaller Than Most defies categorisation by bringing together a range of genres. Was this a conscious decision or was this something that emerged naturally through the writing process?

Smaller than Most was unplanned. I was assembling various book manuscripts and had to read and redo a lot of pieces I've written over the years looking for something common to link them together. The stories in Smaller than Most are the "outcasts." So I zipped them up into one little ebook that can be read for free.

Do you think these stories work better as part of a collection rather than as individual pieces?

The stories are too short so they do work well when lumped together as a collection. The added breadth of a chapbook length builds some sort of a relationship with the reader. In retrospect, I think the second chapter, "Little Horrors," had a common thread running through the stories. That should have been the entire manuscipt.

Do you have any plans to write any longer works of fiction - a novel, perhaps?

Yes, of course. Ultimately, I'll find a way to finish one. I've come up with a novel-length piece before that has become too complicated to finish, or maybe, I've lost interest entirely because the characters have all strayed from what they're supposed to be doing, and I ended up chopping them up as short stories.

How do you feel about online publishing?

I love it. Online submissions have changed my writing life. All I need is to pay for internet access to submit my work. My dayjob keeps me in front of a computer for eight hours. Most of it, I spend reading online journals and books. It is free. When it is not, I buy it off from Fictionwise or directly from the site to read it off my computer at home. I love podcasts, too. It is a big, big world out there. In my opinion, online publishing has given literature an extra pair of hands. It has made it accessible to everybody. Years ago, I used to spend an unreasonable amount of money on books and back issues of journals I like. I live in the Philippines, and the shipping costs can kill. The postage costs more than the book. That has changed a lot with the proliferation of ebook publishing. In the office, in between my working for real and my bouts of daydreaming, I read like crazy. I've read the
complete works of Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft online. I've gotten so used to reading onscreen. Most books and literary magazines I've ended up buying, I did so on print because the online counterpart made quite an impression on me.