My short story ‘Scutiform’ is up on the great Visual Verse site, a journal recently launched at the Writing Platform fair and conference 2013. Edited by Preti Taneja and with patrons including Ali Smith, Andrew Motion and Bernadine Evaristo, writers were asked to respond in one hour to a set image: in our case, this photograph of a Galapagos shell by Marc Schlossman.
What I found particularly interesting when reading the submissions were the shared associations that had been clearly ploinked out by the exercise and the image: the word ‘coracle’ and recourse to dictionary definitions are two cases in point. With a roster of different images to come, the journal wants your work too – submit to them here, and read contributions from Nisha Ramayya, Sophie Mayer and others.
Ambit recently relaunched under the directorship of Briony Bax and celebrated its new issue at the University of Notre Dame building in London.
With work by Alan Brownjohn, Jehane Markham and winners of the Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Prize and a front cover by Doug Argue as hot as a thumbed retina on a summer’s day, my short story ‘Spines’ is bundled-up in the prose section. Many thanks to Mike, Gary and Declan and Kate on the editorial team, and to all of Ambit for the sausage rolls.
There was poetry, prose-poetry and nudgings all for less than £1.01. Many thanks to Jade French for organising, Paper Dress Vintage for hosting and to fellow readers Kareem Parkins-Brown, Karl Smith, Antony Hurley, Prudence Chamberlain, playwright Devawn Wilkinson, Rosie Spence, Tash Cordeaux, Kate Lewin, Sam Stensland and Imogen Mahdavi for noises and faces in exemplary order.
On 16th October I had the opportunity to present some of my PhD research with a talk centred on ‘alphabetical indexes and narrative’ for RHUL’s Practice-based department.
‘Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex’s admonition, against Allen’s angry assertion: another African amusement… anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa’s antipodal ant annexation.’
- Walter Abish: Alphabetical Africa (New Directions, 1974)
Seed catalogues, telephone directories, war memorials’ lists of the dead: alphabetical indexes provide a simple, consultable system of collating written data. When the model of a follows b follows c is disrupted within a text by an author, it automatically signals a refutation of such artificial demarcations. I hope to discuss the ways in which various creative works, from children’s battledores to Ron Silliman’s thousand-plus-page poem, challenge traditional claims of abecedary structure and permit an expression of reality’s unruliness. In terms of my own practice, my novel’s central character works at a dictionary house; as his inability to perform with and within the codes required by his employers increases, the reassurance he found in alphabetical taxonomies and lexicographical strictures begins to fall away. Correspondingly, the novel’s architecture and content becomes disjointed and disarrayed. My talk and reading will examine my work and research into texts’ adherence to or purposeful subversion of conventional alphabetical order, and the ways in which the use of the alphabet as subject and procedure can affect narrative.
And so on and so forth. This was followed by a corresponding talk by Amy Cutler; an expert on everything that is interesting, this evening she gave an account of ‘forest trauma’ and cultural geographies of the coast and wood. You can catch her award-winning Passenger film project this week at Somerset House as part of The Culture Capital Exchange’s Inside Out Festival. Do’t.
The piece requires a mirror in order to get a good hold on the text, hence the ladylike poise, props and crossing-of-eyes. ‘Marks the Spot’ was first published in Chemical Imbalances journal, ed. Matt Lomas.
Under the aegis of POLYply, poet Prue Chamberlain and I coerced an evening of poetry at the Centre for Creative Collaboration featuring Sophie Mayer, Francesca Lisette, Sophie Robinson and Eileen Myles. Be still the stupid lucky engine of my heart etc.
Utterly and embarrassingly enjoyable, thanks to Špela Drnovšek Zorko, Nisha Ramayya, Matt Prout, Emma Wootton, artist Duncan Marchbank, Drs. Will Montgomery and Kristen Kreider and the C4CC staff for the evening’s smooth-running: calls to “put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard” have never felt easier nor more worthwhile.
To all the readers, particularly to Eileen and her generosity of time post-event, and to Prue: thanks. You’re all hot tickets and safe bets.
On 10th October, fellow members of the Generative Constraints conference organising committee and I staged a performance as part of POLYply 26. This was hosted by the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre‘s regular series and saw much scampering, lobsterment and moribund (z)shushing.
The theme of the evening was ‘Aphorisms’ and saw performances from Paul Buck, Vincent Dachy, Holly Pester and David Stent. This particular POLYply was run in association with Artwords Press and saw the launch of Vincent Dachy’s new book Scraps from the Bottom of my Pocket: Bywords in Flexions. Buy! Buy! Listen: buy.
Many thanks to Nik Wakefield, Diana Damian Martin, Prue Chamberlain and Nisha Ramayya, our inability to decide consistent pronunciations for ‘dramaturgy’, all the night’s performers and Drs. Kristen Kreider and Will Montgomery for puttingonupwithalong.
My story ‘Sketch’ crops up in the new, second collection of Annexe’s Introducing series alongside work by poets Dorothy Lehane and Milou Stella. Please do come along and support this great press, with a chance to snaffle both this and the series’ previous pamphlets on October 7th with an event at The Betsey Trotwood for the official launch – free entry, with 7pm start for performances.
‘Sketch’ is reviewed here, by Sabotage.
I have a short piece of prose in The White Review No. 8 alongside poems by John Ashbery and Jack Underwood, new fiction by China Miéville and interviews with Deborah Levy and Sophie Calle as well as critical work by Orlando Reade and Guy Gormley‘s photographs. From flyleaf to footnote, I’ve long been smitten with this journal so I’m a whole brace of unabashed up-thumbs to be appearing on their contents page this quarter.
The White Review is available to buy via their website, or in bookshops listed here.
I had the opportunity to present a short paper about giant rats in literature as part of a three-day conference titled ‘Monsters and the Monstrous: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil’. All the panels were held at Harris Manchester College, Oxford University courtesy of the Interdisciplinary Network and saw examinations of perceived ‘monstrosity’ in film, art, sociology and ethnography, literature and folktale.
Papers covered everything from transmutant axolotls to cannibalism, necrophilia as an alternative Heimlich manoeuvre to the posited connection between Shakespeare’s Caliban and Nicki Minaj’s music videos. Many thanks to Simon Bacon, Rob Fisher and Kasia for convening the overall event, my fellow panel-members Marcia Heloisa Amarante Gonçalves (‘The Devil Whisperer: Animality as a Path to Taming the Monster in The Exorcist‘) and Almudena Nido (‘Monstrous Heads on the Hero’s Body: Animal Art and Hybridity’) and all the conference delegates for their insights, prompts and fascinating conversation.