Wednesday, 15 March 2017

States of Independence (Leicester, 2017)

On Saturday I went to States of Independence in Leicester. It's the 8th one. I think I've been to most of them. I recommend it to writers of all types, but especially small-press people. I couldn't attend all the events/readings I wanted to - there are too many. In the end I plumped for "How to Submit to a Literary Magazine" (Maria Taylor), "Shoestring Spectacular, with poets from Romania, America and Leicester" (I went to see Roy Marshall), and "How to Talk About Poetry" (Nottingham STANZA) - they looked at Jacob Polley's "Jackself".

I bought "The book of tides" by Angela Readman (Nine Arches Press, 2016), "The Great Animator" by Roy Marshall (Shoestring Press, 2017) and "Swimming with Jellyfish" by Stuart Pickford (Smith Doorstep). I've already started on the Angela Readman book. I've read (and liked) her story collection, "Don't try this at home" and am already finding her poems interesting, varied and worthy of slow reading.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

"A short history of synchronised breathing" by Vanessa Gebbie

Vanessa Gebbie's one of the writers I follow. I never know what she'll come up with next - novel? poems? short stories? Flash? Metafiction? Her latest book of prose (available from Cultured Llama) is more on the "comic/ strange/ thought-provoking" side. My write-up of "A short history of synchronised breathing" (with stories from BBC Radio 4, Smokelong Quarterly, etc) is now online. I'm unbiased of course, but I'm quoted on the back cover.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Ouse Muse

It's a struggle organising poetry events. The web has made publicity easier, and getting performers isn't always the hardest part. Venues are a problem though - cost (£100/night isn't unknown for a pub-room, even though the pub makes money from people buying drinks), location (city centres are expensive, church-halls are lifeless), atmosphere (you don't want too much noise from a nearly bar, but you want to be close to the action), and access (without wheelchair access, grants and help from the council become more difficult) are all issues.

Yesterday I popped over to Bedford to see Stephen Payne (Smiths Knoll and HappenStance) perform. The evenings are run by Ian McEwen (Templar and Cinnamon) who's found a good venue and a list of good poets. Ouse Muse has been going for a while and is well worth a visit. A wide range of styles are presented, and there are open-mic opportunities.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Storia della bambina perduta

My Italian isn't good, but I can battle through novels, the most recent one being "Storia della bambina perduta" by Elena Ferrante. Reading in Italian emphasises my tendency to see a text as a construct, a contrivance. In "Close Calls with Nonsense", Stephen Burt advises readers who are searching for a poem's "meaning" to "Look for self-analyses or for frame-breaking moments". It works for prose too - when authors want to get a point over, they will flip from "show" to "tell", or dissolve the fourth wall. I've picked out some tell-tale moments in my write-up. They are perhaps in character, suited to the occasionally reflective Elena whose first-person narrative it is. Some other characters however become rather overloaded with plot functions at the expense of believability.

There are few admirable characters, but as she writes on p.429, "Only in bad novels do people always think the right things, does every action have a cause, are there pleasant and unpleasant people, good and bad, and a happy ending"

Monday, 16 January 2017

Some miscellaneous literary links

  • Issue one of (b)OINK magazine has appeared - fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, art. Looks good.
  • While reading Flash Frontier I stumbled across Ingrid Jendrzejewski's bio - "... studied creative writing at the University of Evansville, then physics at the University of Cambridge. She has soft spots for Go, cryptic crosswords and the python programming language". Her 2016 list of pubs (36 items) is impressive - Aesthetica, 50-Word Stories, Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine, Flash Frontier, Litro, and various competition mentions (first place, Bath Flash Fiction Award, etc). One to watch.
  • If you like diagrams constructed from texts (Hamlet for example), you may be interested in Network Theory, Plot Analysis by Franco Moretti
  • Matthew Stewart's The Best U.K. Poetry Blogs of 2016 begins with "There's no point beating about the bush or glossing things over: 2016 hasn’t been a vintage year for U.K. poetry blogs" but he puts a brave face on it

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Maria Taylor and Gregory Leadbetter

2 poets, 2 pamphlets, 2 books, 2 publishers. Both of these poets had publications last year which were successors to earlier publications.

At a recent poetry meeting that I went to there was discussion about the changing role of pamphlets. They needn't be a stepping stone towards first-book publication. If you produce only 2 or 3 decent poems a year and you don't want to compromise on quality, a pamphlet's the only alternative to waiting a decade or so between publications. These two poets have interchanged publishers (Nine Arches Press doesn't do pamphlets, HappenStance doesn't do many books). Maria's taken 4 years to produce a pamphlet, and Gregory's taken 9 to produce a book, so neither has rushed. And it shows - both the second publications feel the right length; they're free of padding and have long acknowledgements sections. Both of the later publications have a prevailing but not monopolising theme that provides cohesion.

Both the poets have families and have written or edited other books in the interim, and they both write reviews, so they haven't been twiddling their thumbs while waiting for poems to arrive. All it needs is patience. What perhaps helps is that they inhabit creative writing environments that enable them to keep in touch with poetry-writing even when they're not feverishly writing poetry themselves.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Poachers and Gamekeepers

Gerry Cambridge edits "The Dark Horse" magazine and Nell Nelson runs HappenStance press. They both review, write articles, and still manage to write poetry. Both have written books of (and about) poetry, and both judge competitions - Gerry Cambridge is currently judging the National Poetry Competition.

  • Down with Poetry! by Helena Nelson (Happenstance, 2016) includes poems from "Ambit", "PN Review", and "The Rialto" - a heavier list of magazines than many unlight poetry books can boast. Several of the poems are about poetry. You shouldn't assume that the views expressed in these poems represent the publisher's opinions, but prospective submitters could do worse than read this collection.
  • How (not) to get your poetry published by Helena Nelson (Happenstance, 2016) has exercises and tables of information.
  • Notes for lighting a fire by Gerry Cambridge (Happenstance, 2011) is a book of poems that's been reviewed in "The TLS", "New Walk Magazine", "Critical Survey", "Poetry London", etc.
  • The Dark Horse by Gerry Cambridge (Happenstance, 2016) is the history of the magazine and much else besides. Well worth a read even if you're not thinking of submitting to the magazine.