Saturday, 1 January 2011

2010 Retrospectacular / 2011 Plotorama

Happy new year to everyone, particularly those to whom I have not yet wished it.

I don't think I've had good reason to write a retrospective of a year before because nothing very much seems to have happened. But some time in mid-December, I started miserably trying to account for all the months that had drifted by, and realised that actually, it's been quite a good year for Kirsty and myself, as poets and poetry activists if not so much in our professional capacities. So I'm going to do a quick run through 2010, and then talk a little about our plans for 2011.

In January and February, we were still working on getting Cut Out & Keep off the ground as a regular online journal, as well as promoting the first two Sidekick Books micro-anthologies and putting together Fuselit: Tilt, in much the same way as we begin this year putting together Fuselit: Contraption. I found out a poem of mine had placed highly in the National Poetry Competition (although the ceremony wasn't until March), and after a lightning-quick weekend editing session involving (possibly) dozens of emails exchanged between me and Helena Nelson, my debut pamphlet, Scarecrows, was ready to go. The reception it received, coupled with the prize, doubled my confidence in a very short space of time and created some much-needed momentum. I was offered more readings in the next few months than I had been in my full and awful 27 years up to that point, and I still feel genuinely thrilled to have been able to do sets at events like The Shuffle, Days of Roses and the Torriano Reading Series. It all feels rather jammy, in fact.

National Poetry Awards ceremony. I'm the smuggest one.

In March, we were finally able to make Tilt available to buy, and reams of positive feedback followed, with initial demand far outstripping our ability to make a paltry ten or so copies a week. Kirsty appeared for a reading and interview on Sydenham Radio, while articles we published on Dr Fulminare's Irregular Features included ruminations by K on the endings of poems, and Chrissy Williams on her new job at the South Bank Poetry Library. We also dusted off our guitars to play a one-off gig called Suffering Jukebox, alongside other bands, including Dec Ryan's The Shingles, and it was there that a plan was hatched to put on a Leonard Cohen tribute night.

In April, said tribute night came to fruition, with poets and songwriters a-plenty, as well as NME/Guardian journalist Gavin Martin giving a short talk. But we spent most of April writing a poem a day in the much-maligned tradition of NaPoWriMo.

In May, Kirsty read at The Golden Hour in London, as part of its nationwide tour and we both took part in Roddy Lumsden's Lardermania event, writing and reading poems about food (I chose um ... 'tongue' and K went for ... 'ants').

In June, we went to Edinburgh for Happenstance's 5th birthday party and to be special guests at Rob Mackenzie's Poetry at the .... Happenstance, who published Scarecrows, went on to win the Michael Marks Publishers' Award, the only prize in this country for a pamphlet publisher. K had a poem published in the first issue of George Ttoouli and James Brookes' sumptuously produced Polarity and something of mine turned up in Dwang 2. I was also the Friday Feature poet one week in Todd Swift's well known Eyewear blog, and he said some flattering stuff about me.

So far, so good, eh? In July we went on holiday. Not for the whole of July, but that was the main achievement.

In Conwy with chums. Cheap hols ahoy!

August was something else. In August, we joined up with Days of Roses (Dec Ryan and Chris Horton) to celebrate Fuselit's 5th birthday (apparently a lot of stuff was being birthed in 2005 - Eyewear was also 5 this year) and to launch the 16th issue of Fuselit, Jack. It was a free event with cake, and we sold out of almost everything we'd brought to sell. Silkworms Ink published my e-pamphlet Thra-koom and Mercy's Twelve Angry Zines project included extracts from past issues of Fuselit, as well as new poems by Kirsty and me.

In September, Kirsty read versions of her poems in English and German to an audience of ninjas in at the first Kunoichi Taikai in Hannover. Then she went on to sell copies of Coin Opera and Obakarama to them at a little stall. She also read at Roddy Lumsden's Broadcast Old, New, Borrowed, Blue event, while I did my first of three talks about the more cerebral side of 1980s cartoons at Camden School of Enlightenment. After a lot of tinkering, we uploaded up a brand new site for Fuselit in anticipation of the coming change of format.

Technically, it's 'bujinkan', not 'ninja training' or 'ninjing'

October saw the release of the third Sidekick Books micro-anthology, Pocket Spellbook (which was originally supposed to be out in April/May). Scarecrows was reviewed favourably in Poetry London and Kirsty and I both contributed to the Liverpool Biennial Audio Guide released by Mercy. I made my third appearance in under-30s poetry e-journal Pomegranate, and both of us read at the insanely popular Clinic Presents.

November was almost too much for us. It was back up to Edinburgh for an experimental night of poetry, art installations, computer gaming and ... some sort of music (dubstep?) under the banner of Golden Hour vs Plastic Forks, while a weekend of intensive writing produced our collaborative, pseudonymous pamphlet No, Robot, No! There was also the second Camden School of Enlightenment, and we managed two in two months with the release of a fourth micro-anthology, Korsakoff's Paper Chain. Best forget we also nearly lost our luggage at Gatwick.

Finally, in December, About a Minute, the inaugural exhibition at The Gopher Hole opened, featuring six new poems by me as part of a piece called Staring Into Space. It's running until early February, so there's still a chance to catch it! Kirsty and I also turn up in the much anticipated Stop Sharpening Your Knives 4, edited by Jack Underwood, Sam Riviere, Nathan Hamilton and Emily Berry.

Retrospectacular over. Plotorama begins.

NOW, what of 2011? First of all, we'll be booking a venue for the official launch of the two micro-anthologies. That's priority 1. Priority 2 is getting our first full-size anthology, Birdbook I, to the printers. It's huge and scary, and no doubt still needs the last few errors knocking out of it by a thorough proofing. We want it out this month, since many artists and poets have been waiting nearly a year to see their work on the page.

At the same time, we're working towards a February release of Fuselit: Contraption, which will be brought out simultaneously as an e-broadsheet, and in a limited edition of 100 print copies. There's a whole truckload of extra stuff going into this issue, fingers crossed, that should see us increasing its cross-medium appeal and readership, while keeping the old spirit going. What's more, there'll be badges. Or stickers. One of the two.

In February, we're also appearing at this event, which means we're going to have to scrabble around for anything that might be considered 'love' poems. Some time around, before or after then, there'll also be the rescheduled Orbiting event, which sees poet Richard Evans coming up to London to headline a fundraising literary auction event. Kirsty and I will both be reading at that too.

After that, we'll be pushing to finish and print Coin Opera II, the full-size sequel to our first micro-anthology. Some amazing poems lined up for this one, some of which (as with those in Birdbook I) are already finding their way into collections and other scheduled publications.

Rather than continue with micro-anthologies, the next set of books we want to aim towards will involve full collaborations between poets and illustrators. Not a case of illustrations based on or inspired by the poems, but something more even-handed. I'm envisioning intense talks - editor, poet, artist - about the structual integrity of each pamphlet, deep into the night.

There are a couple more projects, as well as personal missions, that I'm going to keep quiet about for now, at least until they're set in motion. We've certainly got plenty to keep us busy, but I'm hoping there'll be a few more surprises along the way as well. Cheers!

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