Saturday, 26 December 2009

And cake for all

As anyone who's just shapeshifted their way through a bundle of Marvel characters - including Rogue and Ben Grimm - while running through a Macbethish landcape full of moors and castles from an unknown but terrifying assailant, before waking up slightly confused at midday, can confirm, overindulgence is a danger at Christmas. So while we all hole up and pray for Harry Hill, here's a few virtual food-based Rennies to ease the pain of those seven extra tatties from yesterday:

W. N. Herbert, a favourite at the Fuselit den, has written this awesome festive poem about the forgotten martyr of the season - the noble chicken.

The Nativity Chicken

Below the trembling udder-thuribles
of carolling kine, beneath
the suddenly-loquacious ass

lo, the nativity chicken, roaming
between the shifting pillars
of their leggy temple

to be plucked out on the morn
and executed, though innocent of envy
to provide a nourishing broth
for both mother and boy
(Joseph's speciality for the journey)

let her severed head be set among the stars
to guide all poultry home
to the great after-egg of release
from pucking and pecking
from straining and laying

let her startled beak announce peace
for all those who labour but do not know it
who serve with no sense of duty
and sacrifice without grasp of regret

let her blessings descend upon us like feathers

For more Herbertage, why not explore these realms?

On a poultry theme, check out artist Matthew Meyer's awesome Chickens of the World sequence.

and to drink?

Dark Roasted Blend, who find the weirdest and most intriguing artwork and objects in their "on-going quest for wisdom and beauty, for all things cool and wonderful in our world, and beyond - in the spiritual realm. " have featured a gorgeous array of robot art here. Check out their steampunk page too.

Right-o. I'm off downstairs to ignore all warnings against a surfeit of food and sample some of my future sister-in-law's stunning cakes. Please don't let me Hulk out tonight, body.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

I forgot to say ...

We'll be giving the blog a makeover too. Frankly, I think it looks bum and I want to be doing the best impression possible of a professional organisation, even if we aren't one. It would also be helpful, I'm sure, if readers knew who was writing a post at the beginning of it, rather than right at the end!

All Systems Go at Sidekick Books

The second micro-anthology, Obakarama, is out, which means Dr Fulminare and Sidekick Books are steaming into the new decade with both produce and plans for the future. Just to recap, here is what the micro-anthologies look like:

That's Obakarama, and here's Coin Opera:

Both are £5 (plus p&p) and can be ordered from the Sidekick Books site. They're pocket-sized and between 40 and 50 pages each, packed with poetry and (in the case of Obakarama) full-colour illustrations. The contributors are a combination of poets we admire and have approached, poets who we have discovered purely through Fuselit and ones we have encountered through the thriving London poetry scene. Although there's a bias towards the capital, there are also contributors from India, Scotland, the US and Finland. We've got a nice gender balance too, with 12 female poets and illustrators to 13 male.

We're very pleased with these books - they may not be handmade in the same way Fuselit is but every bit as much love and attention has gone into making them. The print quality is excellent (thanks to the chaps at Good News Press) and everybody involved has been both enthusiastic and hard-working. I feel like this sort of approach to publishing poetry is genuinely different, taking the emphasis off the individual as demi-popstar and removing the need to slap over-the-top praise and commendation on every interesting new poet in order to get people to read their work. Instead, the focus is on poetry as a way of engaging in an entertaining way with our past and our future, with other cultures and our own. The common theme gives readers an entry point to an individual's work and also operates as a way of getting people outside the usual circles interested in what poets are doing.

At least, that's the theory! And on that basis, we're planning more collections in the new year, aiming for an even broader range of poets and still more fresh and exciting subject matter, as well as continuing the sort of collaborative formal experiments we started with Chimerium and Telemorphics. It will also, I hope, give us a little breathing space with Fuselit - that is, to continue in the tradition we've established of publishing a unique, lovingly put together literary magazine based on the connotations of a single word, but without the pressure to use it as a vehicle for all our new ideas. With any luck, that means we'll be able to settle into a more regular cycle, and our aim is to get three issues out in 2010, starting with Tilt in January, followed by Jack in May and then ... well, the next word will be announced soon - I've already got the CD design done for it, and a plan for the cover.

Anyway, what's left to say is Merry Christmas to everyone out there, and have a fantastic New Year, from all of us at Fuselit!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Showing your workings

I've just been to see The Paper Cinema's The Night Flyer at the Battersea Arts Centre tonight, a story of a young man's heroic endeavour to save his beloved from fiendish top-hatted rail travel enthusiasts.

The set up was as follows: a video camera is set up in the centre of the room, which is linked up to a projector. The animation is then created in real time, using a series of beautiful paper cut outs which are moved in front of the camera by the two animators/puppeteers.

It struck me that there was an enjoyable tension created by having the mechanisms of the animation laid bare in this way - you could see a pictorial cut out being readied, wonder how it was going to be used and then see it realised on the screen. It didn't distance you from what was taking place within the story, but the two inalienably connected spectacles of creating and creation resonated with one another strangely. You could never actually see the act of creating an effect or movement and the effect or movement itself, but you could infer perfectly between the two (a kind of aesthetic 'knowingness' perhaps?) Against this was a semi-improvised musical accompaniment which in part acted as a glue for the visual experience, allowing you to become immersed in its tensions - or despite them, if you should so choose. But the music must have been more than this, because what was happening visually was of course a parallel of the music, but made clear in a way that we wouldn't normally hear or see in music. Or perhaps it was there all the time, and I'm just not sensitive enough to it.

Phew. I hope that made some kind of sense - I may have been reading too much aesthetics. After the performance, we were showed sketches and talked through what The Paper Cinema presently had in the works - a retelling of the Odyssey. Interspersed with this was further music - some of it the planned score for the new work. It was a pleasure to see a project in its early stages, and it was good to be given an opportunity to input into it - though I question the use of standard BAC forms as a means of accomplishing this. It seemed slightly undiscursive, and the questions didn't quite fit with what we'd seen and been shown. In fairness though, we were all perfectly free to ask questions, and food was offered in an attempt to create a more congenial atmosphere. As with so much, it was what you made of it. For my part, it has got me to consider carefully how you can expose artistic processes to generate more than just critical distance, and what kind of strategies you can employ to encourage people to engage in what you're doing.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Wordplay: Devilry at the Good Ship

Something to kick off the new year - both Kirsty and I will be reading at wordPLAY on Tuesday 5th January in the new year. It's at The Good Ship, 289 Kilburn High Road, £4.50 (£3.50 for concessions) from 7pm. Really neat venue - the readings take place in a sort of sunken pit area with rows of leather sits within it and extra chairs around the edge, so that lots of people can get a clear view of the stage - good job as Facebook claims that 80+ people are planning on turning up.

Other readers include Chris Horton - who has a splendid poem in Fuselit: Mars and whose work turns up more and more regularly in the big national poetry competitions - and Joshua Idehen. I saw Idehen perform at the Fling festival this year and he actually - I'm not even joking or exaggerating - seemed to magnetically draw people towards the poetry tent. He got up on stage and people started to flood in from all directions, beyond the range of the speaker system. He is undoubtedly responsible for most of those 80 who've already put the date in their diaries. Is it just that he's astonishingly tall? Is it the easy-going charisma he exudes? I dunno. But if it means more people are coming to see poetry events, that must be a good thing.

There's also going to be some stories and music, keeping things nice n' eclectic. And I'm going to bring a CD with some music from Sonic 2 in it, which I am going to incorporate into my set. Also some Caligula poems. In fact, I'm going to be mostly doing Caligula poems.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Need an Emergency Christmas Present?

Pentone mugs. I've been meaning to mention these for a while now. Nick and Sue Asbury, a writer/designer team, have come up with Pentone (geddit?), a system for organising voice into different tones.

The Pentone website has tones ranging from 'Hallmark' to 'Palin', 'Boring' to 'Daily Mail'. The mugs, which can be ordered individually or in a set, are 'Yorkshire', 'Sympathetic', 'Stirring' and 'Mug'. You get a swatch sheet featuring the full range with every order though.

Asbury & Asbury are also responsible for the book Corpoetics, which myself and others reviewed for Happenstance here. It's a rather clever little book made up entirely of poems collaged from corporate mission statements.

Back to Pentone, and my current favourite is probably 'Dithering':

Christmas with Audrey II

(Being a quick recap of our day out at all-day poetry bash The Christmas We Get We Deserve)

Sunday was fun. It really didn't feel like eight or so hours in the same joint, although there's no doubting that a hell of a lot of entertainment was packed in, and the Fuselit gang were very happy to join in. The event was co-hosted by Broadcast, Rising magazine and Donut Press, aka Roddy Lumsden, Tim Wells and Andy Ching.

The festivities kicked off in the afternoon, with a series of short readings by Ashna Sarkar, Sabrina Mahfouz, Suzanne Andrade and Sophia Blackwell, compered fantastically by the latter. I hadn't seen Suzanne before, but particularly loved her set of mimed-to-backing-track tales - eerie and as darkly deadpan as a Blue Jam sketch.

Then it was Team Fuselit with the readers from Coin Opera and Obakarama. Roddy Lumsden, Simon Barraclough, Chrissy Williams, Ross Sutherland, Rowyda Amin, David Floyd, Cliff Hammett, Amy Key, Adham Smart and me and Jon compering, reading from Coin Opera and Obakarama, all introduced to a soundtrack of classic game themes. We were over the moon with the readings, and it made us all the more excited about the books, which sold well!

15 to 1 saw a veritable conga line of poets, including Jon, answer questions from Roddy's magazine of quizzery, the winner being the mighty Rowyda Amin.

Then we saw sets by the authors of some of the year's best poetry collections, including Penned in the Margins head honcho Tom Chivers, Luke Kennard and the wounded-but-game Kate Kilalea.

Penultimately, we had the fantastic Donut poet Tim Turnbull. If you haven't seen him and you have the chance, you probably should. Especially when he rounds off his set with a chorus by acapella group the La Di Dahs to accompany him.

The immaculately-coiffed La Di Dahs rounded the reveleries off with Andrews sisters-esque renditions of Creep, Lose Yourself and Earth Song, before the wartime classic Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.

And that was that - the day slid so easily by. The Betsey, as usual, proved a grand venue (with top mulled wine), the spirit was decidedly festive and there were even presents. Here's hoping it's repeated next year.

PS: oh yeah - the Audrey II mention is in reference to the huge pot plant that you can see in the Tim Turnbull picture above, which thwarted most of my other photos. Ah, I'm fooling nobody. I blighted the shots by being supremely rubbish at photography. But enthusiasm? I got that.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Clothes Airer Flash-mob exhibitor

A few weeks back, I was set a task to create a Free Media tool. Free Media, if you're not familiar with the term, is about creating accessible and open methods for people to get their messages across - and for a lot of people, accessible means cheap! But not necessarily for free - the 'Free' is 'Free Media' is as in freedom, not free cake.

And in line with this, once you've had an idea, it's good to share it will all and sundry, so they can give it a go if they fancy it. So here it is - the Clothes Airer Flash-mob Exhibitor (or, ermm, CAFE for short). It's a device to provide an easy, portable stand for presenting work in a variety of mediums.

What I had in mind was producing a simple presentation system suitable for flash mob exhibitions. Flash mobs, if you're not familiar, are large groups of people who suddenly come together for a small amount of time, usually to do something unusual. And so a flash mob exhibition is a sudden group exhibition which comes out of nowhere, and then after a short amount of time is disbanded.

The normal convention used in these affairs appears to be the clothesline (or whatever the line is that you use to put up your photos when developing), see for instance:


and here

This has a pretty nice DIY aesthetic and is eminently suitable for photography - but I think there's definitely room for alternatives - the 'clothesline' has low visibility and arguably isn't suitable for media and artworks in larger formats. So here's what I came up with:

Making the Clothes Airer Flash-mob Exhibitor

What you'll need:

A clothes airer like the following:

A fold up clothes airer with little plastic joiners

It's far better to get one where the plastic joiners are separate rather than doubling up as caps for the tops and bottoms

Other helpful bits include curtain pegs, drawing pins, and bedsheets:

Sheets, curtain pegs and pins - but you could use other things

Oh and things to display!

How to make it:

1. Adjust the connectors and 'panels' into a creative configuration. Leaving the panels all at one levels is boring - you can make a far more interesting display by raising the central panel.

If you have two or more of the clothes airers you can connect them up into a multiplicitous wonder.

2. Put up your creation. If the ground is soft, push it down into the mud to make it more stable.

3. Fold the bed sheets and place them neatly over the panels of the clothes airer, making a nice clean surface for you to attach your work to. If you want to look smart you could go so far as to iron the sheets - but this is a bit dull and time consuming, so I probably wouldn't bother.

4. If you don't mind putting pins through what you're showing (or alternatively mount it on paper), this is perhaps the easiest way to attach things. You can use curtain pegs under the sheets to hook things - it's difficult but doable!

You can hang all kinds of things:

My bedroom trial exhibition

Here's a link to a video of me putting it up and taking it down in a park in Camberwell. Don't watch it through, skip through on the bar at the bottom:

Setting up the CAFE (Clothes Airer Flashmob Exhibitor)

It took me 10 minutes to set up on my own without a clue what I was doing - with preparation and friends you can have it up in no time. Coincidentally, it ended up an exhibition of

And in case you were wondering how I hung the laptop - I unscrewed the back panel, placed two hairbands round the screwholes...

.. and then screwed them up again. Try at your own risk!

Creative Commons License
Clothes Airer Flashmob Exhibitor - howto (inc all images, video and text) by Cliff Hammett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Obakarama: preview

So Jon's provided you with a sneak peek at Coin Opera, has he? Very well, then I want to scuttle in and whisper some words about the legend of Obakarama!

The second micro-anthology from Sidekick Books, Obakarama contains poems and artwork inspired by Japanese folk monsters. With thanks to the brilliant Obakemono Project, we've rallied a band of wandering ronin to study some of these weird and wonderful beasts and come up with poetry based on their bizarre and sometimes beguiling traits.

Long-necked and long-tongued demons, winged dogs, mysterious children hiding in umbrellas, amphibious tricksters, killer scarves and cloud apparitions are just some of the characters you'll encounter inside.

Features poetry by Adham Smart, Wayne Holloway-Smith, Roddy Lumsden, Ian McLachlan, Aiko Harman, Chrissy Williams, Richard Watt, Kirsten Irving and Amy Blakemore, and artwork by Mike Stone, Hanne Härkönen, Seb Manley, Mary Graham, Darnae “Crimsonwolf” Sobolewski, Jd and Jon Stone.

I'll round off with the following poem from the anthology, by Chrissy Williams:

Hainu in Chikugo Fields

Hideyoshi whistles through the tall grass,
katana held low.
Hainu's ears prick up in the azalea bed.
He yawns a wide grin
and stretches his white wings
from shoulder blades to feather tips.

Hideyoshi comes closer.
Hainu springs up in delight
and gives a hearty shake.
The sharpness of his teeth
and glinting of his eyes
form a soft smile on his pantomime-fierce face.

Hideyoshi raises his sword arm.
Hainu starts, then howls a battle cry.
Fierce dog of the skies, defier of gravity, remember:
you must not pay for loyalty
with your life.