Thursday, September 30, 2010

Peter Daniels, Work & Food

Peter Daniels' Work & Food is a very small and very stylish pamphlet from Mulfran Press, about, well, work and food. It's illustrated by Moira Coupe. I've been reading it over the last day or so, with great pleasure. The effect is calming – the poems, realist but tender, and the varied and interesting illustrations, are like a tiny day off from it all.

Peter says, 'Leona Carpenter, who runs Mulfran Press, was involved with Vennel Press in the 1990s alongside Richard Price. Vennel published a series of “Brief Pleasures” which were A6 pamphlets with themes, one of which was my Blue Mice. I was very pleased when Leona was starting Mulfran with a similar series and was able to publish Work & Food. As the Mulfran Miniatures were to be illustrated, I asked my artist friend Moira Coupe. She was fun to work with, and also satisfyingly careful about getting the right relationship of image and words. Work & Food was a possible title for the “long awaited” collection, but at least one person reading the manuscript wasn’t happy with it. I thought a more precisely themed group of poems about work and food would go well as a pamphlet, and use the title which I did quite like. The pamphlets come with an envelope in a little transparent sleeve like a greetings card – you do need a display copy, though.'

You can buy Work & Food here. And here's a poem from it, with accompanying illustration:

The Guru’s Coat

I’m going outside in the evening rain:
it’s not cold yet, but the wind’s begun.

We’re allowed to borrow the Guru’s coat
without asking, and I need to use it

but people still wonder, “Does he know what he’s done?”,
with their looks that call me to justify the loan.

The coat’s a big blanket blazoned with his face:
I walk it up the night street, wear it on the bus.

I broke the Guru’s favourite pot.
I don’t know how to replace it

and I’m not satisfied to learn
that I’ve already been forgiven,

so I go looking: but this mission’s embarrassing.
Determined I’ll go home with something,

I think of a shop with pots in the window.
I saw it last Wednesday, and it isn’t there now.

Instead there’s a railing, like any in this town,
spread with a coat I can claim as my own:

a patchwork of red and yellow imitation furs,
a hood of silk, and buttons like stars,

but as I lift it, it snags on a spike
that rips it to pieces. And so I go back

and I hang up the Guru’s coat in silence
with nothing to show. The disciples don’t notice,

busy cooking pancakes on an old iron stove:
a thin coat of batter, that keeps us alive.

Peter Daniels, from Work & Food (Mulfran Press, 2010)

Matter Launch

Three launch events for the wonderful Matter magazine to tell you about. Matter is associated with the creative writing MA at Sheffield Hallam University, and always contains some great work and looks spiffing too. You can find out more here.

The main launch is at Blackwell's at Sheffield Hallam on the 13th October from 7:15pm. Refreshments will be provided. There is also a reading at The Riverside in Sheffield on the 21st October at 7pm. This will be many of the same readers, but they'll be reading more of their work, rather than just what's in Matter. The London Launch is on 4th November at London Review Bookshop from 7pm.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Aldeburgh First Collection Prize Shortlist

I'm very very happy and pinching myself with the news that The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street has been shortlisted for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. Wow.

You can read more about the book here and you could even buy it, among other places, here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Massive Book Sale at Salt

You can get 70% off selected books in Salt's Autumn sale – some great books in there. But be quick: the Salt online shop is about to close (because the bleeding Royal Mail is closing their local Post Office), so although you'll still be able to get wonderful Salt books from any of the usual on- or off-line retailers, too-good-to-be-true sales like this one will become, well, untrue. Get 'em while you can.

Stories for Pakistan

I'm really happy to be included in Greg McQueen's book 50 Stories for Pakistan, in aid of the Red Cross Pakistan Floods Appeal.

Greg's last project of this sort, 100 Stories for Haiti, went from concept to publication in six weeks, so the Pakistan book should be in production pretty soon. I'll blog about it again when it's available to buy.

Greg says, “Once again I have found myself in the position where I cannot ignore the need to do something. This time it is Pakistan … The United Nations estimates that twenty million people have lost their homes as a result of the flooding that started last July. Add to this the thousands who have already lost their lives, and the thousands who will lose their lives because of famine and disease … And well, it is once again time to do something!”

Writing 'The Prisoner of Mansfield' was a bit of a jolly, really – writing a story of a single page is hardly doing something. So I'll be making my real contribution when the book comes out, by buying a copy – and you can help to make a difference by doing the same.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sarah Hymas, Host

I'm very pleased to feature the poet Sarah Hymas and her Waterloo Press collection Host.

Sarah Hymas lives in Lancaster and at Echo Soundings. She is a poet and playwright and was a short story writer (Closet Collection appeared way back in 1994). She's not afraid of celebrity: I Wish You Love, a conversation between Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich was commissioned and toured by Gambolling Arena in 2009. They are beginning production of her second commission: Annie's Song (a play featuring songs by John Denver). At the other end of the spectrum she performs with Mouthtrap, a trio of spoken word and vocal improvisers.

She's a born collaborator, and has worked/played/performed with other writers, musicians and artists; as such her work has appeared in magazines, anthologies, multimedia exhibits, dance videos, art books, lyrics, theatre programmes, and as an improvised opera, Flocking. She wrote her poetry collection, Host, pretty much all by herself, albeit with a bit of input from virtually everyone she knows.

She is also the editor of Flax, Lancaster Litfest’s publishing imprint and the NW co-ordinator of the Poetry School as well as a freelance workshop facilitator, tutor and coach.

"The poems that make up Host cluster around my interest in heritage: family heritage and all the weight and joys that brings; and the heritage of our place in the natural world. By this I mean our expectations, fantasies and narratives of going out for a walk or visiting places. Everything reverberates, hooks into what has happened previously – to us or to others. Lineage is like a fishing reel. Although I need to remember I can throw the trout back."

Godmother Tongue

She appears late, a nursemaid
weaning me onto waters from the Bay of Biscay.

She finger clicks through my loosening larynx,
clap-claps sea-lisping English.

My childhood stutter is shunned.
Boiled octopus on the tongue

sucks each syllable with chopped tentacles.
She embroiders my name with sunshine frills.

Wind turbines spin for her.
I want to hear her sing pearls,

string them into long stories of short weeks;
dismantle my politeness, cod quick.

Once I’m home we’ll laugh less in Galician,
garble like a wide river mouth. A leviathan,

she’ll be swallowed by my barnacle.
I whet our lips, ready for the struggle.

from Host, by Sarah Hymas

You can watch Richard Miles' film of the poem here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

And the winner is...

I asked entrant to my competition to identify a factual error in the first few pages of The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street. The one I had in mind was in the poem 'Sand', which asserts that sand is 'the grain of dross in every pearl' – as I understand it, sand is very rarely the irritant which forms the basis of a pearl. But no one got that. Luckily, several entrants pointed out that Goethe didn't as far as we know, write:

Ja, ohne die Liebe wäre die Welt nicht die Welt,
aber Matlock wäre doch Matlock noch.

[Yes, without Love the world would not be the world,
but Matlock, of course, would still be Matlock.]

Those entrants went into the hat to win the prize, and the name that came out was – Joad Raymond. Congratulations to Joad, bad luck to everyone else, and thanks for entering!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Competition closed...

... but today has been manic – the results and announcement of a winner will take place by, like, Monday morning at the latest...

Friday, September 17, 2010


Yesterday's post brought a copy of Shoestring magazine, which has grown out of the writing programme at Keele University. It's got a rather nice A4 lifestyly feel and contains poetry, short prose, photography and illustrations, and two poems by me as well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Longlisted for the Portico Prize

I was just eating my lunch (yes – in front of the computer *shame*) when Elizabeth Baines got in touch to say I've been longlisted for the Portico Prize, which is awarded to 'books about, or set mainly in, the North of England'. I'm delighted and surprised in equal measure. The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street is one of only two poetry collections out of a longlist of 21.

Other names on the longlist include, oh you know, Simon Armitage, Reginald Hill, Jacob Polley... This is my first appearance on a prize longlist so please excuse my rapture!

Monday, September 13, 2010

James Sheard: Dammtor

I'm delighted to feature a poem from James Sheard's new book, Dammtor. My copy has just arrived and I'm slavering to read it.

Jim Sheard was born in Cyprus in 1962 and spent his childhood abroad, mainly in Singapore and Germany. His first collection – Scattering Eva – was published in 2005 with Jonathan Cape, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2005 and the Glenn Dimplex New Writers’ Award 2006 in the poetry category.

Sheard's poetry is intricately worked, musical and thrilling. His influences are mainly European, and his work is largely unlike anything else in contemporary UK poetry. In Dammtor it becomes more noirish, bleaker and at times funnier too. Sheard challenges expectations about what a poem ought to do – a feature at work in the poem below, 'Others', whose wry horror I find absolutely wonderful. Dammtor is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for this Autumn. Click forth and buy it.


There was a rule
and the rule said
that once was ok
and twice if you had to.
She laid the rule down
on our scarred table,
on our head-stained pillow -
she stirred it into our coffee
with a tarnished spoon.
She laughed, I laughed:
because once was ok,
and sometimes you had to
fuck them twice: to tie up
the frayed end;
to slap them down;
for pleasure, for vengeance.
Sometimes you had to,
had to, had to.
So for each one, once -
or twice if I had to -
I would bring strong tea
to her morning room, and kneel
to the slats of her low bed,
to her seaweedy scent,
to his surprise. She grinned,
I grinned. I laid the tray
on her lacquered table
and padded away. Because
once was ok, and twice
if you had to, had to, had to.
As for her, she would sit
in the kitchen’s dark, watch
the hallway, listen for my steps
and the steps of the others,
let smoke drift into the light.
She stayed silent. She had to.
She most liked the time when
my soaked sleep was deepest.
She would crouch on the floor,
finger the clothing and whisper.
I would wake, yes, but lie still.
I had to, had to, had to.

James Sheard

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Competition: win a copy of my book

OK, it's deliberate mistake time. I'm running a competition, with the winner getting a signed copy of my poetry collection The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street. Here's what you have to do:

Go to the book's webpage and download the PDF sampler from the link.

Somewhere in the poems featured in the PDF there's a factual inaccuracy. I'm not talking about a typo – one of the poems says something that isn't true. Identify that error and email me at (or DM me via Twitter or message me on Facebook). Please don't put your entry in the comments stream, but if you're having problems emailing me, you could let me know via the comments (and I'll send a bad kipper to my ISP).

At the end of next week (i.e. on Friday 17th September) I'll put any and all correct entries into a hat and send a signed copy of the book to the winner.

I've considered the possibility that there might be more than one factual error in the PDF - if someone finds a new one, I'll include that entry in the hat. But no entries for typos or plain bad metaphors...

Here are some links to reviews of the book to encourage you to enter...