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:


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

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:


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

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:


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.