Thursday, 16 October 2008

FuseLit interviews Richard Tyrone Jones

He's known around town, from bordellos to theatres. His Utter! nights are a treat to catch. His poetry features in the preview for FuseLit's Aquarium. His name is suspiciously similar to that of the Wu Tang Clan's ODB. He is Richard Tyrone Jones, and he and FuseLit had a grand chat.

FuseLit: Tell us a bit about yourself, to start with.

Richard Tyrone Jones:
Born Rechavia K. Silvermann 1981 in Tel Aviv, one of identical twins. After my brother died in infancy I was adopted by Gloria and Tyrone Jones and so grew up in Wolverhampton, a slightly less glamorous location. Some of my comic poetry takes the piss out of my granite lion-guarded upbringing and deals with issues of adoption and genetic survival. I did comedy at Cambridge with Fat Fat Pope, described as 'God's gift to comedy' as The Observer and 'Wanky, self-important brats' by the Independent. We did sketches about Max Ernst, Viking settlement patterns and the pre-Russian revolution proletariat selling their joints to the aristocracy so they could reticulate like massive arachnids, but I dropped out before my finals to work in the Gulf. Moved to London 2003, did a load of shitty public sector admin before finally having the balls and the contacts to say 'fuck this shit' and become the subtle, considered poet I am now. I run 'Utter!', have at least one biological child with up to ten pending and have performed everywhere from the O2 Wireless festival to Welwyn Garden City.

FL: Who has influenced you in general?

John Peel for his eclecticism and chatty style – he was like a surrogate uncle growing up in a frankly cultureless home. In poetry; my first exposure was to Lear, and his influence lingers, Tims Wells and Turnbull, Clare Pollard, Paul Birtill, Betjeman, Bukowski and many more. Comedy: Louis CK, Larry David, Chris Morris, Kenny Everett, Mark Watson, Simon Munnery. Fiction; Self, Eco, H.P. Lovecraft, Stewart Home, Blyton, Poe. Tell you what, that Shakespeare's not bad either.

FL: Reclaiming ginger. Discuss.

Or 'the G-word'. As you probably already know the word was coined in the eighteenth century, as an anagram of, and corollary to, 'the n-word', expressly to foment anti-Keltic racism along the same lines of anti-Afrikan prejudice. In the New World the former failed, the latter sadly retained its hold for socio-demographic reasons. In the Old World the situation is now reversed; due to the imperium's centripedal post-war settlement patterns it is considered unacceptable to define an 'out-group' on the basis of skin colour, but acceptable, humorous even, to do so on grounds of hair colour. This is partly due to the aforementioned prejudice against the Celtic fringe/diaspora and the recessive nature of the sixteenth chromosome's MRC1 gene. This is compounded by recent reports of, and including a photographic project predicated on the premise that, the Ginger phenotype will die out in the next 150-300 years. Such defeatist predictions, were they applied to blacks or Koreans, would rightly result in accusations of racism.

Utter! Gingers seeks instead to celebrate our genetic diversity, its global spread and the cultural heritage of the original, pre-Ice Age inhabitants of the British Isles through the spoken word. It will take place on Tuesday 11th November at the Green Note, Camden Parkway NW1 7AN and feature a wealth of Ginger talent including A.F. Harrold, Eric Gregory award-winner Heather Phillipson, Tamsin Kendrick and John Anstiss. I will also be delivering a lecture of Ginger History and achievements. Free genetic tests for the ginger haplotype will be conducted, to show just how many of the population are blessed with carrying the recessive Afro-Kelt genes!

How are the writing workshops going and what's been the overall response so far?

RTJ: The Utter! writing group has been meeting for five years now, on Saturdays (except the first in the month) from 11am-1pm in Wood Green library's Community room, welcoming many guest poets and writers. Roddy Lumsden is running the workshop on October 25th. It's been great for the confidence and skills of all involved, many of whom have been there since the very beginning. It's a lot of fun getting people to write in new styles like sci-fi, pulp, sonnets, villanelles. I only wish the members of the writing group would actually finish more stuff and submit it to exciting quality publications such as Trespass, The Delinquent or!

What's been the best/worst live experience you've had, either as a performer or as a compere?

Probably my best live experience has got to be the very first 'Utter!'s, or more recently winning over 400 punters crammed into the Rhythm Factory who were obviously only there to see Pete Doherty by charmingly putting down their heckles and saying we'd got some guy called 'What's his name? Keith Goggerty?' doing five minutes of open mic at the end. I enjoyed baiting them. Thank fuck he turned up. The worst live experience was my second stand-up appearance when I was totally cocky from initial success and was woefully unprepared. That taught me to graft!

With poetry it's difficult to have a truly bad gig (unless it's really badly organised, usually by someone else), because you've done all the hard work writing the things and poetry audiences are more open to experiencing a range of emotions and subjects. In the end it's just reading off some slices of dead tree and the humans like it or they don't.

What would you like to see more of and less of in poetry, in both performance or the written word?

I'd like to see a UN peacekeeper-enforced moratorium on versions of 'The Revolution will not be televised', dying Dad pieces to be rationed to one per poet, and for whiny American girls to realise that rapping your personal problems with a hanging article at the end of each line only makes me want to laugh at them, no matter how many of your puppies died of AIDs at the hands of THE MAN. I'd like to see more daytime and outdoor readings, sestinas, villanelles, clerihews, ventriloquism and pantoums delivered using loop pedals.

Whose poetry are you currently enjoying?

Julia Bird's long-overdue first collection 'Hannah and the Monk' is beautiful. Each poem has a definite plot or argument and works symmetrically as a contraption. Reminds me a little in her historical empathic imagination of the Forward-commended Angela Cleland. Matthew Sweeney is another favourite. Well dark, dreamy unspecified menace. S'boss crunk. Rising's aways great. Live, Jow Lindsay is a strange, intelligent and fearless performer and I hope to get him to remix some of my ordure.

What swings you more with a poem? Subject matter or execution/style?

To the extent that, as Don Paterson has it, poems are 'little machines for remembering' themselves both subject and style support each other. However, I possess a very visual imagination. Thus, probably if one were to encounter a poem with sparkling subject matter, yet badly executed, one would in any case later reconstitute it narratively in the manner one would wish to have heard it. On the other hand, wonderful execution cannot save an essentially slight conceit from being forgotten.

FL: Having seen the quote from Tim Wells about you bridging the page/stage divide, what do you make of the whole argument and are you plotting a collection?

Hah, that was an adaptation of some lazily-written Apples and Snakes copy. There exists no divide but a continuum, and wherever I find myself on it at a particular reading I can't help but bloodymindedly take the piss out of its conventions. I know that my over-use of mocking ironic detachment could be seen as a safety net to protect me from actually feeling any emotions but hell, we all need a psychological stab-proof vest of some kind, and better that than OCD or drug use. I have some silly, learnt 'party pieces' that I wheel out when it's necessary but generally I like reading stuff out from 'the page' because unlike some hosts I like to turn over new material and it makes you look more intelligent to all dem gaal in the audience. Coming from a failed comic background, I can forgive nerves but not mumbling or lack of eye contact.

I am indeed plotting (I like that, it makes it sound as if it'll be full of coded references to the return of a Catholic to the throne of England) a compendium of dark poetry, daft poetry, fiction, diagrams and slightly inept fanboy pictures entitled 'Germline'. I'd like to make it clear to the Forward judges it is, as such, not a first poetry collection. It should be out with Black Box in January 2009.

FL: Finally, what plans do you have for expanding the Utter! empire and for your own work?

In addition to continuing Utter! Camden at the Green Note, Parkway on the second Tuesday and Utter! Dalston at the Arcola theatre, 5pm on the last Sunday of the month you mean? Well, for when the Arts Council money's run out, I'm in talks with various Arabs about jetting out to set up 'Utter!' Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. Plus we may well do an Utter! cabaret at the Edinburgh free fringe, possibly alongside a one-man show 'Richard Tyrone Jones: Human Fertilisation Authority', and a second anthology. More (Mis)Guided tours are planned for Archway, Crouch End, Stoke Newington and Abu Dhabi in 2009. An episode of is forthcoming and I hope to do an MA and more schools work.

For my published work, there are three second books in the pipeline. 'All the beautiful ones self-harm' will be a compassionate but bathetic sonnet redouble about my meagre sexual conquests. I have but one more Pokemon to catch to crown that. 'Crush All Liberals' may or may not have an ironic title and 'Wisdom and Depravity' will be a revised collection of Burroughs, Carter and Eco-influenced sick fiction I wrote in the early 21st century.

In other words, Richard Tyrone Jones shall perfect Hubris as an Art form.

FL: Richard Tyrone Jones, thank you!

For more things RTJ, consult the webbery at or stalk him on facebook.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Underwatergo: A preview

To the left is a preview of a Cut Out & Keep game we're putting together to coincide with the launch of Fuselit: Aquarium. It's one of twelve downloadable playing pieces, which can be printed out onto card, cut out and stood up on the gameboard. Obviously it is lacking the dotted lines a the moment. I shall say no more.

Where are we on Aquarium in general? As I write, the first batch of 50 are enjoying an overnight stay at the copy shop so that the edges can be trimmed. We're terrified that something will go wrong and they'll be lost, because it's taken us a while to put these together!

Stay tuned for more news though, because Aquarium will surely be the most fullsome, surprising Fuselit yet. Catch us at the Mixtape event on the 23rd in the Betsey Trotwood for a first glimpse.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Mixtape: Lineup changes!

FUSELIT's Oktoberfest, Mixtape, is shaping up, but with a few alterations!

Andrea Tallarita can sadly no longer perform, as he's been whisked away to Frankfurt on a translation job. These are the tribulations of being multilingual. Hopefully, he'll perform at future events.

Every cloud, though, and stepping into the fiery Roman's shoes is the excellent Barnaby Tidman, whose performances have seen him here , there and everywhere, including a spot supporting Patrick Wolf.

We also have a guest spot from the fantastic Eggbox-published poet Richard Evans, who will be making the gargantuan trek from Hastings to come and make us a mixtape to remember.

Just as a reminder, 23 October at the Betsey Trotwood in Clerkenwell. Check the home page for Jon's rather groovy pop art flyer.

FuseLit: we blow bubbles into paint for you.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Graham Rawle and the Wizard of Oz

I went to Foyles bookshop on 24 September to see the fantastic collage artist Graham Rawle talk about his latest project, a gorgeous new illustrated edition of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz.

I've been a big fan of Graham Rawle's since Jon bought his novel Woman's World (indeed, I used a quote from the text for a poem) and I promptly purloined it. It's frankly incredible: a sizeable novel composed entirely of collaged text from women's lifestyle magazines and narrated by the wonderfully deluded devotee of such magazines, Norma Fontaine. Worth checking out.

But to the matter in hand. In this edition of Wizard of Oz, Rawle has provided over 100 weird and wonderful collaged images to accompany and enhance the original story, and also to encourage people to read or re-read Baum's tale, instead of simply watching a certain iconic film, which is almost a different story altogether.

One of the best things about the talk, other than hearing about the trials and errors involved (the slideshow of dolls 'auditioning' for the part of Dorothy springs to mind) was the amount of thought the artist had put into breaking away from the film's aesthetic. Take Dorothy's shoes, for example. Most people would demand ruby slippers, but, as Rawle pointed out, when the film came out, many people would have been frustrated not to see Baum's original silver slippers.

With this need to create a fresh frame of reference outside a cinematic classic, Rawle says he deliberately went for images that were 'a bit clunky' and roughly composed. After all, what's the point in competing for slickness against the movie, with its huge budget, legendary status and different format to begin with? You might as well recreate the surreal, sometimes frightening world as it would have been seen by a young girl from Kansas.

The results are enchanting. Toto, whom Rawle sees as a representation of Dorothy's judgement in the film, is portrayed as fairly useless in the original text. Hence him being transformed into a toy dog on wheels. The lion, a second-hand shop find, had the perfect expression but no back legs, so Photoshop replicated his front ones, giving him a slightly wonky, completely endearing look. Other characters, such as the Tin Man, were made from scratch, but using salt shakers and various bits and bobs, to create a collage within a collage.

It struck a chord with what FuseLit aims to do. From fairly early on, we were aware that a) we were never going to look as professional and sleek as many other magazines of this ilk and b) we didn't want to. I hardly look twice at glossies. They leave me a bit cold and they don't suggest much hands-on involvement by the creators, however brilliant the content may be. Hence the stitched up binding that began with CABARET, the masking-taped rough brown envelope and guillotined rusty paper (hand painted - yes, Jon did every one with his own fair paws) used in FOX and the fun and games of machine-stitching the gauze 'lingerie' for NUDE.

Rawle seems to throw himself completely into his work, and yet have immense fun with it. He built, destroyed and rebuilt an entire Emerald City because it wasn't right, but you get the feeling he enjoyed making each version because he got to experiment, interpreting an already vastly imaginative text in his own kooky way.

Even if you think you know the story backwards, this edition is a gorgeous tribute to the original narrative that adds an entirely fresh layer of enjoyment. And frankly, it's chunky, it's hardback and it's outright beautiful.

Further reading: Woman's World

To see more of Graham Rawle's creations and for sneak peaks inside Wizard of Oz, sally forth to