Monday, 30 August 2010

Thra-koom & 12 Angry Zines #7!

We're back from a week away! And here is the weather:

Silkworms Ink have published a new free e-pamphlet on their website. It's called Thra-koom and it collects eleven poems about comic characters (mostly Marvel, I must admit). The introductory blurb goes like this:

"In which we explore superheroes and comic characters – as myths, monsters, invalids, metaphors, stereotypes and human beings – using the only medium that doesn’t require a license."

Meanwhile, #7 of Mercy's 12 Angry Zines project is out. This is a project based around the film 12 Angry Men and #7 (themed around the salesman juror) features new poems from Kirsty and I, as well as work from Fuselit and our soon-to-be-released Sidekick Books micro-anthology Pocket Spellbook, courtesy of poets David Floyd and Ian McLachlan. You can read the entire issue here.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Old, New, Borrowed, Blue poetry reading!

3rd September at 7.45pm sharp; £5; at the Betsey Trotwood, 56 Farringdon Rd
BroadCast presents Old, New, Borrowed and Blue

15 poets read four poems each:

  • a poem from pre-1860
  • a poem by a new poet
  • a favourite 'blue' poem
  • a new one by themselves.

With Kate Potts, Sarah Howe, Inua Ellams, Kathy Pimlott, Liz Berry, Kayo Chingonyi, Sam Buchan-Watts, Katy Evans-Bush, Andrew Parkes, Edward Mackay, Kirsten Irving, Rachael Allen, Oli Hazzard, Niall Campbell and host Roddy Lumsden.

Friday, 27 August 2010

5th Birthday Change of Venue!

VERRUH IMPORTANT NEWS! The Fuselit 5th Birthday Party, hosted by Days of Roses, has had a change of venue! Please go not to the Book Club, Shoreditch, but instead to the Rugby Tavern (map). Nearest tube Russell Square or check bus routes.

So for viewers just joining us, that's
7.30pm, The Rugby Tavern WC1N 3ES, 31 August 2010.

Come and help us celebrate with some top poets and raconteurs! I'm experimenting with cake recipes as we speak.

K x

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Fuselit 5th Birthday Event Update

All the details you need should be on this poster:

Fuselit on Eyewear

If you head over to Todd Swift's popular blog Eyewear today, you can read a cool little retrospective on Fuselit in honour of a shared (Fuselit and Eyewear, that is) fifth birthday.

Behind the Lines

Kirsty and I are both featured in this exhibition and are heading off to the launch event tonight! The character in the photo above is Wayne Holloway-Smith, who has a rather fine poem in Obakarama.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


On top of everything else, Kirsty and I are putting together a sampler booklet, containing extracts from the newest issue of Fuselit, Coin Opera, Obakarama and our imminent micro-anthology Pocket Spellbook

This is s'posed to be a sort of introductory thing to get new people interested in what we're doing. The plan is (oh god - me and 'plans') to get it distributed as far and wide as possible, which means the balance between quality and cheapness is a delicate one. We want it to look 'nice', worth keeping, but we also have to run off hundreds of them.

Incidentally, you can now buy Sidekick Books products at The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. If you don't know it, it's a wonderful little shop owned by a charismatic pair of gentlemen who really know their stuff. You should all totally buy some poetry books from their poetry section in order to counteract their negative experiences with selling poetry. It's not all Romantics anthologies and Wordsworth - I spied some Caroline Bird when I was there last time.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Too Much Poetry

I was struck by these recent comments by Hugo Williams, one of the judges of this year's Forward Prize, in the Guardian. He's talking about the 147 entries for the best collection category:

"That's too big a number of books in one year in one country to put out. I think it's something to do with the democratisation of everything – that everyone's got a right to get a book out ... I've got the feeling that sometimes it's more about desire than worth."

I didn't actually read the Guardian article; it was quoted in Rob Mackenzie's Surroundings, and from there I linked to another article, from some time ago, where Robin Robertson, an editor at Jonathan Cape, says this:

"There’s too much bad poetry being published, polluting the pool. That would be acceptable if there were arbiters in place, like editors in publishing companies. Now, in many cases, ‘gatekeepers’ are waving people through.” Buyers can’t make the decisions on what books to buy, or they just don’t know where to start, he argues."

I've been discussing this on a poetry forum and there are many interesting points of view arising from it, particularly around the idea that buyers are confused by what's on offer. My feeling is that comments such as these - which aren't that uncommon in the poetry world - arise from two kinds of fear. One is a genuine fear for the future of poetry. As I see it, one of the principle ways in which we judge an art to be 'alive' and 'thriving' is if we can point to several recent examples of greatness and give a collective nod of agreement (where 'we' is the culturally engaged general public). For that to happen, however, there has to be a common understanding as to what constitutes 'great'; otherwise we would just squabble about it, with nothing like a consensus emerging.

That common understanding is present where there is (a) an independent, trustworthy critical community and (b) a widespread public awareness and engagement. So when it comes to, say, film, we find ourselves putting a certain degree of trust in critics and acquaintances, whom we believe to use similar criteria of quality to ourselves. There's never total agreement, but let's face it, if someone says, "Let's go and see x. It's been getting great reviews", or if a friend recommends a film, we don't usually act with guarded suspicion.

Without these two factors, which poetry lacks, there are two other models of 'quality' assessment. One is where an elite group make the choices for us, even though they may be unrepresentative and influenced by self-interest, and the other is where 'quality' is whatever we like best. Ben likes what Ben likes and Bill likes what Bill likes, and though they may argue, their tastes are so distinct that they can never agree on a shared set of criteria. Poetry hovers somewhere between these two systems, and, as I see it, sustains a degree of credibility because people are prepared to listen to each other, and are unwilling to subscribe wholly to either the subjectivist ("Anything I like is good") model or the elitist one. Because of this, some sense of shared criteria emerges, at least among those actively interested in poetry.

What Williams and Robertson fear, it seems to me, is a slide towards that total subjectivism, where, at worst, poetry becomes a world of a small number of people buying their friends' books and there no longer exists any credible assessment of quality. This effectively erases all possibility of 'greatness' since 'greatness' is created by a readership who recognise and agree on the depth of achievement of an author. In the vacuum of space, all books are equally duff.

But what Williams and Robertson also fear, I think, is an end to the era of poets as superheroes. I say this because the idea that most of the poetry floating around is simply 'bad', 'polluting the pool', with the few genuine articles still alive but struggling to be seen, is a comforting lie that people tell themselves in order to avoid dealing with the far more terrifying prospect: that there's more worthwhile poetry being written than anyone can properly read and assess. As readers and critics, we lose our ability to get a grip on things, to survey our own culture, when there is too much to take in. It's a situation we just can't handle.

Since we're all still stuck in a world that measures achievement through fame, it's so much easier to believe that we can ignore everything we haven't heard of, that the only things worth paying attention to are those that rise up from the general mass and make themselves impossible to ignore. We all, to some extent, want to believe this, I think. I know I do.

But this solution doesn't work for two reasons: firstly, what rises up and is impossible to ignore is, more often than not, powered by money, desperation and good timing. I seem to find Twilight impossible to ignore, and yet it is shit. The Apple bookstore's number 1 bestselling e-book was recently revealed to be badly written erotica. We know that, really, its tawdry crap that gets our attention better than what we really should be paying attention to.

Secondly, when there isn't enough tawdry crap, or when the medium is not readily conducive to tawdry crap - a la poetry - 147 books mean that a tiny readership is split 147 ways and no poet superhero emerges - no household name who shines above all the others. This leaves Williams and Robertson rightly fearing that, if no one is standing out, the world in general assumes that poetry is doing nothing exciting. It would be that much more comforting to have seven or eight bona fide poetry superstars whose fame carries them continually into the newspapers and onto television. But that would actually require the rest of the 147 to write very badly, so that there is wall of grey for the stars to stand out against.

The real problem with the poetry scene, therefore, is that there is too much good poetry.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Fuselit: Jack Update

The final stages of putting Fuselit together always seem to take forever, but today, I've put the pdf of the inside pages on my flash drive and we're taking it to the print shop to run off some pages and make up some test copies, which I hope will be perfecto.

Here's a sample snip of the cover of 'Hijacks', the extra booklet that comes with each issue:

I'm glad you asked. These are French boules with the faces of various famous Jacks on them. They relate to poems by Roddy Lumsden, Declan Ryan, Whitney Wish Johnson and Francine Rubin. There are two more not shown in this snip, relating to two more Jacks.

Why boules? Um. Well, there's a 'jack' in a game of boules and I just happened to remember those Madballz toys from the nineties. It all seemed to be pointing somewhere.

Rice Planting Songs #22 and 23

Last two for now:

Rice Planting Song #22
Hull360 30.07.10

In a quiet voice
he lays the blame for lateness
squarely on Rolls Royce

Rice Planting Song #23
JSC BTA Bank 02.08.10

Mr. Gatling-Round,
please. Words already travel
at the speed of sound.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

5th Birthday/Jack Launch confirmed

Just to confirm what I said on Saturday, Fuselit will be having its 5th birthday/Jack launch event on 31st August as part of the monthly reading series Days of Roses, probably at The Book Club in Shoreditch. Readers TBC, but we'll be delving through the entire Fuselit back catalogue to find the best morsels for your enjoyment. Stay tuned for a memorable poster as well.

Irregular as Ever

Dr Fulminare's Irregular Features was so named for a reason. Lest there be some confusion in the arrangement Kirsty and I have here, Cut Out & Keep is where we post our personal updates about projects and activities. Irregular Features, part of the Dr Fulminare's Queftionable Arts website, is where longer articles, reviews and features by ourselves and our contacts are hoisted up and flown. There's no regular publishing schedule - things just appear there every so often.

Here are three recent features worth investigating:

A review of Heather Phillipson's Faber pamphlet

An interview with Ken Edwards, conducted by Richard Evans

Part 1 of a trilogy of articles by Andrea Tallarita, discussing the evolution of major forms of poetry

Rice Planting Songs #19, 20 and 21

Rejoice, readers, for with August comes a temporarily lull in my profitable self-employment, and so there will be precious few rice planting songs over the coming month. I have these three, and then two more, and then hopefully that's it until September.

Rice Planting Song #19
Hull360 27.07.10

The debate on what's
the best way to not waste time
lasts thirty minutes.

Rice Planting Song #20
Hull360 28.07.10

Tribunals: purblind,
triple-headed beasts who are
of 1.5 minds.

Rice Planting Song #21
Hull360 29.07.10

Leathered desks? Even
the furniture in a court
room needs a thick skin.