Friday, 29 April 2011

Extract of the Moment: Tom Hamilton

This is the opening paragraph to Tom Hamilton's novella, The Darkened Corner:

Sharp palms scratched against a clear, cold sky and the fading yellow light baked away from the black outlines of the buildings like a beautiful gas. Out in the groves we could hear the sprinklers spitting as the farmers tried to cover the tangerines over with ice. Their goal was to coat the trees with just the proper amount of slush. If they could manage to keep the temperature right at 32 degrees Fahrenheit then they could preserve the endangered crop; freezing it so that it doesn't freeze. Like lowering some one's pulse rate so that their heart doesn't burst. But like every idea this was much better in theory than it was in practice and if they were off by only a couple of degrees, the trees wouldn't be able to hold the weight of the hardened ice and they'd split down the middle like a broken heart.

Read online or download for free here.

Vault by David Rose

Haven't read this yet, but it looks massively interesting.

I discovered this through an interview with the author in 3am Magazine.

Here is the novel's (or anti-novel's) page on the Salt wesbite.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

New Novel - The Third Person by Stephanie Newell

Introducing the new Philistine Press ebook release ...

Stephanie Newell's The Third Person is a brutal, tragic and darkly humorous novel about growing up, sibling rivalry and the ultimate dysfunctional family. In a series of diary entries, fourteen year old Lizzie shares her secrets about coming to terms with her parents' break-up, battling with her younger sister, and her obsession with the man she is destined to marry…

About the author

Stephanie Newell lives and works in Sussex. She has published numerous books and articles on African literature and postcolonial literature. The Third Person is her first novel.

Download the novel for free or read online here.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Sam Riviere

Some very interesting poems by Sam Riviere here ...

Infinity Pool, an online chapbook published by Silworms Ink.

Sam's blog, 81 Austerities, is definitely worth checking out as well.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Bust Down The Door and Eat all the Chickens

I'm a few months behind on this, but better late than never.

The current issue of the always-excellent Bust Down the Door and Eat all the Chickens (The Journal of Absurd and Surreal Fiction) is available as a free download here.

It's the Winter 2010 issue, and it's dedicated to online flash / micro fiction.

The main website is

Friday, 22 April 2011

Extract of the Moment: Tom Duckworth

This is taken from Happy Fat Children and Protein Enhancers, a collection of poems based on anagrams and rearrangements of words.

Cut-out hero

The queen stares! Across checked land,
Religious service rechristened at her side

Castles, limbs of stone, advance
soon shatter to ruled ruins

Sixteen hooves fight,
clash, rider spirit fiery

Royalty rooting sacrifice,
cop out & plot over coco

This is an anagram of the following:

Heavitree road police station
Exeter Vehicle access
Do not secure bicycles to the post in front of this door access required at all times
Access strictly for residence & visitors only
No through route parking for unauthorised vehicles

Read or download the full collection for free here.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Frank Burton on THRESHOLDS

Take a look at this new blog post on the subject of short story writing on University of Chichester's THRESHOLDS blog.

I'm chuffed to note that the legendary Hanif Kureishi recently contributed to the blog, which almost makes me feel as important as him...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

New Review

Here's a very good review of Clare Fisher's The Hole in the Wall by Dan Holloway in Pank Magazine.

Well deserved!

Read the novella online or download it for free here.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Doing it First: An Unofficial Introduction to Mr If's Violence is the Answer

By Frank Burton

So, here we are again. In the absence of an interview with the author, I’d like to say a few words about Mr If’s Violence is the Answer.

I’m not surprised Mr If doesn’t give interviews. The brief biographical note accompanying his two ebooks states: “Everything you need to know about Mr If is contained within his books. All other biographical information is irrelevant.” I agree. Every piece of work Mr If writes is in some way about himself – his own experiences, his own opinions, or an analysis of himself as a writer. Certain facts (such as how old he is, where he’s from and his real name) are held back from us – with good reason. Without this air of mystery, Mr If’s poetry and prose would perhaps be less interesting.

This, of course, makes this unofficial introduction to Mr If’s second collection of mashed-up poetry and prose somewhat superfluous. But Mr If’s work always invites further comment and analysis. You can’t read this collection and not talk about it afterwards.

Violence is the Answer is a striking title for an extremely provocative and controversial collection. I use the word “controversial” not because of the explicit language or the graphic sex (which I’d argue isn’t controversial at all – it’s just not to everyone’s taste). Even the potentially treasonable “The Queen’s a Bitch” turns out to be a fairly reasonable assessment, not of the monarchy, but of Mr If’s own writing process. (“I agonised over this poem, even though saying “the Queen’s a bitch” isn’t in any way intelligent or poetic, or shocking in any meaningful way.”)

What’s controversial about the book is the poet’s uncompromising critique of the armed forces, and his repeated assertion that soldiers are under an obligation to refuse to fight. (“She spouted the usual paradox about being against the war but supporting the troops. I said, “That makes no sense. If you’re against the war, you have to be against the troops, by definition.””) His most vitriolic piece, “People just don’t want to hear this” (which contains plenty of material the Daily Mail would love to quote out of context given the opportunity) spells out Mr If’s unsettling central message: we shouldn’t be blaming the government for the state the world is in – we should be blaming ourselves. “We should blame anyone who voted the fuckers in. We should blame anyone who drives a car or uses public transport or consumes products with plastic packaging. We should blame the soldiers who’ve agreed to go out there and fight. We should blame the factory workers who manufacture the weapons.”

Nonetheless, Violence is the Answer is much more than a series of political rants. The main focus of the book is on Mr If’s affair with Marilyn, the wife of his friend, Nettles, who is away fighting in Afghanistan. (Names have been changed to protect the identity of the people involved.) The back story to this narrative is Mr If’s first collection, Entertainment, a series of confessional poems about various affairs with the wives and husbands of his friends. These encounters are always brief and meaningless. With Marilyn, our serial adulterer appears to have found love. If only Marilyn wasn’t married to one of his oldest friends. And so, Mr If’s personal conflict is skilfully contrasted with the conflicts in the Middle East – a difficult task to pull off successfully. His masterstroke is the final piece, “The First Time,” in which the revelations about Marilyn and Nettles’ relationship cast a new light over everything that’s gone before, inviting the reader to turn back to the start of the collection and begin reading again.

No doubt, many people will have stopped reading before they reach the end. This book will divide readers more than any other I can think of. Still, for my money, Violence is the Answer is one of the most daring and original books I’ve ever read. Mr If clearly isn’t the first poet to write about sex and violence but I’ve never seen it done in this particular way. By writing completely anonymously, he’s performing a trick many bloggers have pulled off successfully, but very few poets have attempted up until this point. (Plenty of performance poets base their act on an assumed identity but they will never be anonymous for obvious reasons.) I may be totally wrong but I can’t help thinking we’ll be seeing a lot more poets adopting mystery online aliases as time goes on. If that happens, remember: Mr If was doing it first.

Read Mr If's Violence is the Answer online or downlosd here.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Found Pages #4: Damn! A Book of Calumny by Henry Louis Mencken

I wouldn't recommend reading this unashamedly racist and sexist book with pleasure. Considered as an historical artifact the book offers an insight into how such views were once acceptable (the book was published in 1918). The author, Henry Louis Mencken, defends his humorous (and to the 21st century reader deeply unfunny) work below...


What is the origin of the prejudice against humor? Why is it so dangerous, if you would keep the public confidence, to make the public laugh? Is it because humor and sound sense are essentially antagonistic? Has humanity found by experience that the man who sees the fun of life is unfitted to deal sanely with its problems? I think not. No man had more of the comic spirit in him than William Shakespeare, and yet his serious reflections, by the sheer force of their sublime obviousness, have pushed their way into the race's arsenal of immortal platitudes. So, too, with Aesop, and with Balzac, and with Dickens, to come down the scale. All of these men were fundamentally humorists, and yet all of them achieved what the race has come to accept as a penetrating sagacity. Contrariwise, many a haloed pundit has had his occasional guffaw. Lincoln, had there been no Civil War, might have survived in history chiefly as the father of the American smutty story--the only original art-form that America has yet contributed to literature. Huxley, had he not been the greatest intellectual duellist of his age, might have been its greatest satirist. Bismarck, pursuing the gruesome trade of politics, concealed the devastating wit of a Molière; his surviving epigrams are truly stupendous. And Beethoven, after soaring to the heights of tragedy in the first movement of the Fifth Symphony, turned to the sardonic bull-fiddling of the scherzo.

No, there is not the slightest disharmony between sense and nonsense, humor and respectability, despite the skittish tendency to assume that there is. But, why, then, that widespread error? What actual fact of life lies behind it, giving it a specious appearance of reasonableness? None other, I am convinced, than the fact that the average man is far too stupid to make a joke. He may see a joke and love a joke, particularly when it floors and flabbergasts some person he dislikes, but the only way he can himself take part in the priming and pointing of a new one is by acting as its target. In brief, his personal contact with humor tends to fill him with an accumulated sense of disadvantage, of pricked complacency, of sudden and crushing defeat; and so, by an easy psychological process, he is led into the idea that the thing itself is incompatible with true dignity of character and intellect. Hence his deep suspicion of jokers, however adept their thrusts. "What a damned fool!"--this same half-pitying tribute he pays to wit and butt alike. He cannot separate the virtuoso of comedy from his general concept of comedy itself, and that concept is inextricably mingled with memories of foul ambuscades and mortifying hurts. And so it is not often that he is willing to admit any wisdom in a humorist, or to condone frivolity in a sage.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Guest blogger

For anyone who missed my two-week blogging stint on the sadly-departed Incwriters website earlier in the year, I'm reposting everything over the next two weeks on Andrew Oldham's website,

Lots of interesting stuff about Philistine and publishing.


Frank Burton

Monday, 11 April 2011

Interview with Richard Britton #2

Richard Britton interviewed by Frank Burton, discussing his second Philistine Press release, Words from the Sky, an audio poetry collection featuring a diverse selection of verse from Wordsworth to Goldfrapp.

The live poetry circuit is very much focussed on poets performing their own work. Do you think this is something that ought to change?

Yes. If we look at the live music scene we find that artists and bands perform covers of existing songs amongst their repertoire and that is very inspiring. I find cover versions very interesting as they are in essence re-reading the song. As a fan of the semiologist Roland Barthes I believe that the author is not the only authority over their work. T S Eliot once said that he had no idea what some of his poems were about and that he was open to interpretations! I think he means that he could write a poem and then in ten years time forget what he meant or remember what he meant erroneously, but someone else could read it and interpret it in the sense in which he had written it ten years ago. In that situation, which interpretation is more authoritative – the author’s erroneous recounting of the original meaning or the reader’s interpretation which is closer to the original meaning as it was written?

As such, it is vital that existing poetry is read live. Back at the dawn of humanity, poetry was part of religio-shamanic oral ritual and that oral nature should never be lost. We should not relegate the work of the established poets to tedious text-books – it should be read out regularly. The problem with today’s live poetry circuit is that many are interested in their own egotistical pursuit of “being a poet” rather than sharing the enjoyment of poetry, much in the same way as many contemporary actors and sports people are more concerned with their own celebrity than being great at what they do. We need to show respect to the many wonderful poets who have inspired and helped us develop. To anyone who disagrees with this I would say: imagine if you turned up to a wedding and the band decided to treat the guests to their own thrash-metal songs?

How did you go about selecting which poems to include in the collection?

I think I just felt around and put them together in the way an interior designer might match the colours of wallpaper and carpets! It is hard to explain, but I kind of “felt” whether they were right or not. A few poems didn’t make it in because they did not resonate with the others. It is very much a case of feeling the rhythm and ensuring that the end of one poem tapers into the beginning of the next – a bit like DJing. I did have a theme to begin with – the sky – although the semantics of that were wide.

How has your own work been influenced by these poems?

Each of these poems has been influential on me at both a personal and a poetic level. Wordsworth’s “Prelude” is an antidote to depression in a strange homeopathic way and “Pilots” stimulates the image of the very architecture of the heavens. The lyrics of “Cry Little Sister” are reminiscent of the unbearable insatiable desires of adolescence. As it is part of the soundtrack of the amazing movie “Lost Boys”, it fills me with an awesome sense of wonder over the possibility that someone could be immortally locked into adolescence forever – an agony and an ecstasy.

Do you enjoy performing?

I have appeared at some brilliant live poetry events and some really dreadful ones. I am now retired from the poetry reading scene because I found it quite bitchy and cliquey in places. Also, I have recently been ordained a priest in the Society for Independent Christian Ministry (an offshoot of the liberal catholic church) and so I will soon be performing poetry in another form, taking it back to its origins! I think I have come round to the view that poetry performance is more effective in formats other than performance poetry events.

The poems in the collection seem to fit together despite being from different periods in history. Would you describe them as "timeless"?

Absolutely. I think that all good poetry is timeless, but these are particularly timeless. Poetry should never be anchored in sticky politics of the time – it should be able to transcend it. Poetry should be political without being political, in a similar sense to Tony Benn leaving parliament in order to devote his time to politics. “Pilots” is a brilliant poem-within-a-song, because all the words used that denote modern technology can also be archaic. For instance, the word “pilot” can refer to ancient boatmen as well as aeroplane operators. If you dropped that lyric into the eighteenth century no one would raise an eyelid. Yeats also transcends his era, as well as Keats and Wordsworth.

Is it your aim to introduce the poems in this collection to people who may not be familiar with them?

To a certain extent, yes. I think Anne Bronte is highly underrated writer. Wordsworth is often a victim of a brand created by twentieth century tourism in which “Daffodils” and a few others overshadow a lot of his other amazing work; “The Prelude” is a victim of this condition. Although, I think it would be interesting to see age-old favourites read against the grain of convention.

More information at

Download the album, Words from the Sky from Mediafire here.

Listen to the album via soundcloud below...

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

Richard Britton's epic poem, The Birth of Taliesin the Bard can be read online or downloaded for free here.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Violence is the Answer by Mr If

In his second collection of mashed-up poetry and prose, Mr If launches an uncompromising assault on the War on Terror through a confessional account of his affair with Marilyn, the wife of his friend Nettles, a soldier serving in Afghanistan. Crude, intelligent, shocking and at times very funny, Violence is the Answer is Philistine Press's most controversial ebook to date.

The collection's theme is summed up succinctly in the opening poem:

What we are

Nettles is away fighting in Afghanistan.

I am in England having sex with his wife.

In our own tried and tested ways,

The pair of us are proving

That we are men.

Read the collection online or download for free here.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Open Mic Disasters #6: Hecklers

Poetry hecklers are a strange bunch. They differ greatly from your average comedy heckler in the sense that they’re much more unpredictable. A comedy heckler is usually a drunken idiot, whereas a poetry heckler is usually a drunken poet. A poetry heckle could take the form of a random word – “Dolphin!” for example, or “Osmosis!” This isn’t usually intended to be an insult to the performer but something that the heckler considers to be their contribution to the show. Some people seem to think the poet is speaking to them directly and will therefore attempt to engage them in conversation halfway through a set, eager to share with them their opinion on Wordsworth or the Arab-Israeli peace process.

Poetry hecklers rarely say anything insulting. In fact I’ve only witnessed one occasion where a performer was aggressively heckled, and in that case, the audience turned on the idiot before the poet had time to respond. This is one of the great things about doing poetry open mics: unless you’re extremely unlucky, no one is going to insult you. That’s very reassuring for a first time reader. You can be as clichéd or pretentious or just plain shit as you like – the audience will still applaud. At poetry gigs, particularly open mics, there’s a real sense of camaraderie – we’re all struggling writers and we’re all in this together. The only slight warning I’d give to a new performer is that poetry audiences can sometimes be a little over enthusiastic.

But there’s nothing wrong with that.