Monday, 28 June 2010

Three Magazines

The small press scene in Britain is thriving, says I. Helena Nelson's Sphinx, which finished this year with issue 12, was entirely dedicated to interviews and features on non-mainstream publishers of books, pamphlets, literary journals and zines, and never ran short of material (it was wound up due to time and costs, and will continue in part in an online format). Here's three recent discoveries of mine, all well worth investigation. All of them feature a mixture of poetry, fiction and art and all are published by either one-man bands or very small teams of individuals who have invested their time and cash into these ventures with next to no expectation of financial reward.

Polarity #1: Death & Taxes
Polarity is the brainchild of George Ttoouli, whose debut collection Static Exile I've reviewed for Dr F's Irregular Features. Under him, the poetry editor is the excellent, Eric Gregory-winning James Brookes, and there's a small team of other dedicated individuals handling other aspects. Issue 1 is a beaut, in full colour and packaged with a free pamphlet, all for a tenner. The contents have a gleefully surrealist/anarchistic bent, and the layout is exemplary, from lushly arranged colour photographs to poems swimming in space. The names that crop up aren't the usual ones doing the rounds in poetry magazines either - this is mostly new blood.

Polarity website

Dwang #2
Dwang is a huge, hand-bound, limited edition annual, put together by Michael Curran (we've interviewed him for Irregular Features here). The quality of the binding is exceptional - I quote from the website:
"Fully bound in Colorado Loire Green cloth covered boards; 3-page stepped' 160gsm Canson Mi-Tientes front endpapers—the page colours being Poppy Red, Havana Brown and Deep Dark Blue; 160gsm Canson Mi-Tientes Poppy Red back endpapers; 85gsm Off-White Fabriano Bio Prima archival quality acid-free text paper."
 Much of this issue is given over to a beautiful short comic, For Whom the Balloon Tows, by Kelsie T. Harder, originally published in 1969, and there's a general taste of counterculture to many of the contributions. Curran is avowedly catering to the underground, with little here that could be described as mainstream.

Dwang at the Tangerine Press website

Nutshell #2
Nutshell is a different prospect again. The cheapest of the three at a bargainous £3.50, its current issue carries interviews with Don Paterson (during which he tells the well-prepared interviewer: "Oh, you're good.")  and Simonetta Agnello Hornby and runs to 80 pages. The contents are black and white, but this doesn't diminish much from the art - photography, collage, line drawings and computer art all feature. Again, the quality of the writing is nothing to be sniffed at, even though nearly every contributor was a new name to me. Their website is also rather spiffy, and the editors keep the blog regularly updated with more articles and news.

Nutshell website

Eyewear Feature

As ever, I'm completely on the ball. I mean, you'd have to get up pretty early in the morning to get anything past me. I have spies everywhere, you see. I'm a one-man nuclear response unit.

That being the case, I was instantly aware of being Eyewear's featured poet on Friday 18th June, and in less than two weeks, here I am, mentioning it on Cut Out & Keep. That's why they call me the Quick-Draw Devil. Or was it Freaky Lightning Fingers?

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Rice Planting Song #6

Rice Planting Song #6
Dolphin Tanker SRL

Say 'nub', 'crux', 'gist', 'thrust' -
words held close to bosoms.
'Knock-out point', 'bite' - just
no more Wilde aphorisms.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Microfiction Club, Week 2

Is there no stopping Microfiction Club? It has now been running an incredible two weeks, bringing together the work of a staggering two writers. And since 'two' seems to be the number of the day, here's two more pieces for your delectation:

They Came At Us Sideways
by Chris

They came at us sideways, from where we least expected them to strike.

The first warning signs were tiny, inconsequential, ignored.  A man in Hawaii awoke screaming in a tongue nobody could recognise.  A nurse in Germany remained awake for seventeen consecutive days, perfectly rational and healthy, went to bed, and simply lay there staring at the ceiling and smiling, always smiling, until she wasted away from starvation.  There were far fewer cats around than there used to be.

Gradually the signs grew worse - they grew bolder as they realised we paid them no attention.  The nights grew colder, darker, more solid and glittering with pinpoint lights.  New stars appeared in the heavens, unknown lights of previously unseen constellations.  And the old ones moved, seamlessly, without anybody seeing their motions.  Overnight the patterns changed, without explanation.  The moon inexplicably shrank to two-thirds of its original size, then bloated and loomed like a sick cow over the horizon that now seemed to bend downwards, not upwards, as if it were trying to escape the monstrosities above it.

In daylight, these things disappeared, and we all laughed and joked about how silly we had been, how ridiculous it all was.  We had imagined it, of course.  Clearly we had not been getting enough sleep.

Sleep, when it finally came, blanketed the earth like a polythene sheet, suffocating the consciousness out of us and crushing us to the ground, comatose.  Beneath us, the earth spun like a compass needle in a magnetic storm, while far above our closed eyelids the stars were made to wheel and turn, as if to mock us.  We had watched the skies for them for so long, fruitlessly, and ignored the true threat.

They came at us sideways, from our dreams.

by Jon

Copies of the judge’s decision were handed down in English. Zaglanikis’ lawyer, through Mr. Siaraferas the interpreter, told him that they would have it translated by tomorrow morning. Zaglanikis waved them away melodramatically:

“No, no. Please.”

He knew enough; he had lost! Those arrogant bastards at the Jockey Club – the vets, the groomers, the executives, wretched Kappas – they had all betrayed him and betrayed his trust and betrayed the truth. They had done it maliciously, capriciously, to cover for their own mistakes. They had taken his money and given only grief in return. They had killed his best horse, Perseus, and had it covered up as a boxcart incident. A boxcart incident! Then they had the temerity to blame him for not treating the fractured bone! And they had hired those Arab boys to throw stones through the windows of his business school. Then they had all lined up, one by one, taken the oath and explained, nonchalantly, how he was mistaken, how it wasn’t like that at all. And their lies had perverted the course of justice.

Well, never again!

“Fresh air. Smoke,” he said, raising two fingers to his lips before fleeing the courtroom.

He was finished with horseracing. Finished with the whole damned business. He would put it all – the shadiness, the jealousy, the cowardice – all behind him. Never again! He had his business school, after all. And his children. They had suffered the most through this whole ordeal.

Zaglanikis staggered out into the weak sunlight, down the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice where the photographers milled. He lit a cigarette. A taxi waited at the crossing. Behind the taxi was another taxi and behind that taxi was – what kind of car was that? One of those classic British things. Elegant. Racy. Humming with curves. Much faster than a horse …

If you want to join 'Microfiction Club', just email me at!

Rice Planting Songs #4 and #5

Rice Planting Song #4
Mjölner 23.06.10

Expecting thunder,
the sky's nest filled with hot coals.
But no such splendour -
they just keep drilling shot holes

Rice Planting Song #5
Caribbean FOS v Noble 24.06.10

I think that screaming's
my knuckles, now worked threadbare?
the room as it swings?
the leaking of compressed air?

Monday, 21 June 2010

Rice Planting Song #3

Rice Planting Song #3
CTC Marine v. Saipem Spa 21.06.10

They're ploughing seabed
hard with all their engines but
finding the turbid
water hides how deep they've cut

Friday, 18 June 2010

Fuselit News Update

We've very nearly finished the layout for Fuselit: Jack. It's the biggest issue of Fuselit yet - the contributors section alone is nine pages long. We're sticking with the stab-binding method we used for Tilt, and Kirsty and I have passed various ideas for front covers between us over the past month. I've done some draft sketches and designs but am not completely sure what we're going with. The back-up booklet is a bit of an issue. We've been given a great idea but we've been slow on getting people on board for it because we've been concentrating on recruiting for the Sidekick Books side of things. It's on my emergency to-do list!

According to the current timetable, we should have Jack ready to print by the end of the month, then it's early July for our 'inevitable problems with printing' period and mid-July for contributors and subscribers starting to get their copies in the post.

Actually, I just had an idea regarding the layout. I'm going to go back to it and put that in right now.

Rice Planting Song #2

Rice Planting Song #2
HMRC v Mynt 18.06.10

I stash a receipt
about me. A dozen more
flower in my suit.
I'm crisp as a conjuror.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Microfiction Club, Week 1

Me and my friend, Chris, have formed Microfiction Club. It's just us, writing a piece of microfiction each week for a while, and then posting the results here. Anyone who wants to join in should say. Here's this week's efforts:

Flash Fiction
by Chris

Ian Westwood, accountant, wore tweed and carried a pistol in a shoulder holster.

Accountancy, some claimed, was a lifeless occupation of numbers and sharks-teeth smiles. This was correct, and initially Westwood had suffered the long slow paralysis of a mind in decay. His numerical skills had grown in inverse proportion to his sense of self-worth. If all he did was juggle numbers, what did that make him? A calculator, a mere formula in a suit.

On the day that he found his calling, Westwood cowered in the stationery cupboard for the hour before his meeting. The clients were dissatisfied with Westwood's performance, relying as it did upon writing what the numbers said rather than what the clients needed them to say. This cardinal sin was due to bring down the wrath of God or, worse, Westwood's director upon him. Ignominy awaited.

Yet inside, when the yelling began, something made of ice cracked behind Westwood's weeping eyes. He unsheathed the pen from its scabbard pocket and, without hesitation, stabbed each and every person in the room to bloody death.

Ian Westwood, wanted felon, wears tweed and carries a pistol in a shoulder holster, and holds everyone accountable for their crimes.

The Rationalist Anti-Christ
by Jon

No one noted his arrival; he was suddenly at large, in the town square, fog leaking in rivers from his hounskull.

We rationalised that he couldn’t be the devil. The devil would be irrational.

When it became clear he was the devil, we rationalised that he could do no harm – after all, no one could ‘win’ an argument. We had no arbiters, no gods. Either agreement was reached or it was not. He rationalised that if he made it his business to never agree, then nothing could ever be settled. That way, he could never lose.

Soon he had us locked down in a Sisyphean cycle – once we had thoroughly discounted his points, one by one, coldly, pragmatically, he simply returned with fresh refutations, more numerous, more diabolic. He rationalised that it was easy to introduce an idea or assertion, difficult to discount it entirely. In time, he abandoned a central thrust altogether, in favour of a swarm of smaller affronts to reality and logic. We were fists batting at clouds of flies.

After we murdered him, the gentle buzzing in our blood was as wonderful as anything. We rationalised that mistakes only made us stronger.

Join us next week for more Microfiction Club!

Rice Planting Song #1

I'm going to try to write a short haiku-like stanza for every day I work from now on. Can't see it lasting more than a week, but hey ho. I don't really like my work. I mean, in many ways it suits me down to the ground, but I do feel very envious of (a) anyone who genuinely enjoys their job, (b) anyone who feels their job serves a genuine social purpose and (c) all these writers (hundreds of them! Thousands!) whose work has a ring of literary authenticity about it, either because they're actually surviving on grants, prize money and publishing fees or because they're teaching other people about literature or writing in some esteemed institution. The first and last time I felt like the world around me was saying, "Be a writer, Jon!" was the first year or so of the creative writing minor at UEA. Before and after, it's just me having ideas above my station.

So in an effort to make work something more than simply a large chunk of my waking life traded in for cash, I'm going to try to find something in it to write about. Every day. Forever. Or maybe for a week, or just today. Um.


Rice Planting Song #1
Anoutzas v Tattlesells 17.06.10

Crow is more lawyer
than most lawyers, his worn gown
skewiff on wire-
hanger-high shoulders, head down.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Coin Opera/Obakaram reviewed

A joint review for our two micro-anthologies at Hand + Star. Critic John Challis captures the spirit of the books perfectly in his concluding paragraph:

"Both micro anthologies present a landscape of unexplored poetic territory, and if video games and mythical beasts are the first muses of Sidekick Books’ experimentations then I look forward to what Dr Fulminare has cooking in his trough of lyrical candy floss."

It's also slightly disturbing how close Challis' own thoughts are to where I've been considering heading for one of our next projects:

"In keeping with the innovative tradition editors Stone & Kirsten Irving have set with Fuselit, I did wonder if they had considered creating an actual game, or phone app so readers could ‘play’ the poems; jumping from platforms of moving stanzas to catch the umlaut power-up."

Meanwhile, another Hand + Star reviewer (and contributor to Dr F's Irregular Features), Phil Brown, has just been announced as one of this year's Eric Gregory Award winners! Super well done to Phil, who I have met once and spoken to a few times but has never actually even told me he writes poetry, let alone wins things with it. I mean, I sort of assumed that he did, because most of us involved in poetry write it as well, but the point is he's such a dedicated reviewer, creator, investigator, celebrator and all-round team player that I hadn't thoroughly investigated the matter. Much the better, then, that an award goes to someone like him, rather than some character who expends all their efforts on self-promotion, eh?

Friday, 11 June 2010

Reminder to self

Jon - next week put up posts about Dwang #2 and Nutshell #2, two very different lit publications you have received in the post over the last week and think are pretty spiffing.

Also post up the Pocket Spellbook cover you've been working on, as a preview of what's to come from Sidekick Books in the near future.

J&K in Edinburgh

I promise we'll get back to more interesting bits and pieces soon, but just a note to say that both Kirsty and I will be special guests at Poetry at the ..., reading at the GRV on Guthrie Street in Edinburgh this Sunday night. The event runs from 7.45pm to 9.45pm, £4 entry (£3 concessions).

Other readers on the night are David Kinloch, Marion McCready and Phillis Levin. You can read about them and see samples of their work at the Poetry at the... blog. The event is run by past Fuselit contributor Rob Mackenzie.

Obviously we'll both be reading some kickass new poems!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Days of Roses @ Oliver's Bar

There's been a meeting of minds between London poets Declan Ryan, who runs the regular Days of Roses readings, and Christopher Horton, who runs The Hold in Greenwich. As a result, tonight will be the last The Hold event and it's been renamed Days of Roses, since the two of them are going on to run nights together under the Days of Roses banner from hereon in, or herein on, whichever you prefer.

Whatever the name, tonight is certainly the last event, for the time being, at Oliver's Bar on Nevada Street, Greenwich, with its charming underground cellar. I'll be reading alongside Eric Gregory winners James Brookes and Luke Heeley, and Oxfam poet-in-residence/Eyewear blogger Todd Swift. There's also music from Jaycub. I'm frantically trying to finish some new poems in time for it! 7pm start time.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Birdsong Zine

If you like gorgeous handmade magazines, you would do well to investigate Birdsong Zine. I was very kindly sent a copy of this lovingly produced journal to have a sneak peek at. At a tiny $6 plus postage, it's absolutely worth a flutter. Bagfuls of beautiful art in many forms, bushels of energy for promoting creative adventures and an obvious love of what they do. These guys make a fine tome.

Find out more at
and on Facebook.

Eurovision 2010 - 100 Word Review

The measure of a country's commitment being not so much the effort put into the writing of the song, but the proportional discrepancy between GDP and video/show budget. Germany's cute-as-a-Dr-Who-assistant singer Lena, with her quirkcore handclaps, has been bundled into a shed for the video with fairy lights and told to shuffle, while Romania, who came 3rd, recreated Terminator via Reboot for the video, and gave us latex, operatics, Shaninda Twainlisle, fire and a double piano on the night. Other notes this year: sexy robot, cybermullets, pretty men, surprise wings and Graham Norton sneaking the odd barb under the radar.