Archive for November, 2010

More from Featured Poet Ryan Van Winkle

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Ryan is the Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library and the author of the prizewinning debut collection Tomorrow, We Will Live Here. See his poem They Will Go On here.

My 100-Year-Old Ghost

sits up with me when the power cuts,
tells about the trout at Unkee’s Lake,

the wood house burned on the hill.
He says he was intimate with every

leaf of grass. Wore one hat
for Griswold, another for his own field,

the possibilities of the century laid out;
an endless string of fishing pools. But

they never got ahead of my ghost -
he took them like cows, one at a time,

never lusted for the color of trout
in a pool a mile away.

He knew from the smoke in the sky
Mrs. Johnson was starting supper, and, in March,

when the candles appeared,
he knew Bobby’s boy had died.

My ghost only ever had one bar
where the keeper didn’t water his drinks,

nor did he feel the need to hide his moth cap,
his potato clothes, or scrub himself birth pink.

My ghost tells me there was a time you’d look out
and not find a Dairy Queen. You could sit

on your porch a whole life and never think
about China. Sometimes I see my ghost

bringing cut sunflowers to his wife
and it seems so simple.

Then, sometimes, it is dark,
he’s just in from work and Griswold says

they ain’t going to raise his pay. And even back then
the power went out, long nights when they had no kerosene.

And my ghost tries to sell me on simpler times:
the grass soft, endless –

lampless nights,
pools of crickets singing.

Praise for Tomorrow, We Will Live Here:

“The experience of exile haunts these poems, as speakers reach helplessly towards forever-lost pasts and glimpsed, impossible futures. The wide and empty landscapes of America are stalked by ghosts and silences, suicides and roadkill. Words go unsaid; the old family life is unreachable because “They do not know the time in my zone”. Even death is ambivalent: is it a longed-for escape, or yet another numbing failure of intimacy?

Ryan Van Winkle’s back-country lyricism is tinged with cross-cultural influences – the beat-up resignation of Springsteen’s smalltown USA, the teabags and toast of bedsit Britain – that come together in a distinctive and harmonious poetry of distance and loss.” — Kona Macphee

(Photo by signs and wonders)

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Procrastination Station #81

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Bloggeekery this week.

Chris and Juliet join the campaign to Save The Forest!

Are literary magazines making a comeback?

I’ve always loved this poem, so I was very pleased when Swiss posted it!

Let’s rescue obscure words…

Pretty pretty book covers

The Rejectionist on ideas (I also loved this).

ONS fans and friends… what they’re up to this week: Howie Good at a handful of stones // Rachel Fox at Bolts of Silk // Mairi Sharratt too! // this new one from Alex Williamson struck a chord with me // Lucy Baker is the cutest // Ryan Van Winkle is EVERYWHERE this week, including Poetry & Place and Surroundings

I really, really want some of these for my students’ work!

Have I mentioned that Shakesville rocks my socks? Check out this, this and this.

New Simon’s Cat!

An appeal to Kanye West: bring back the arrogance!

This one’s for the vegetarians!

A poem by Paul Watsky (yep, he’s a relation of George’s!)

I was lucky enough to get to go and see The Hollies, who I have LOVED since childhood (blame my Dad), at the Usher Hall last weekend… and it was amazing. Check out Tony Hicks’ solo intro to ‘The Baby’…

Horrifyingly true.

There are not words for how cool this version of this song is.

Have a great weekend!

(Photo by little-who)

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This week’s Featured Poet is Ryan Van Winkle

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Today marks the Edinburgh launch of the brilliant Ryan Van Winkle’s first collection of poetry, Tomorrow, We Will Live Here. A recipient of the prestigious Crashaw Prize and published by Salt, the book will be launched at Blackwells book shop on South Bridge from 6.30pm. One Night Stanzas will most definitely be in attendance!

Ryan Van Winkle is currently Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library and Edinburgh City Libraries. He runs a monthly “Literary Cabaret” called The Golden Hour and is an Editor at Forest Publications. His work has appeared in New Writing Scotland, The American Poetry Review, AGNI and Northwords Now. He lives in Edinburgh but is still an American. In 2010 he won Salt’s Crashaw Prize for his debut collection Tomorrow, We Will Live Here.

They Will Go On

The western horizon is still lightning blue.
To the east, everything is side-of-the-bridge grey.
I am patient as trees and flowers, desert cacti.

The grandkids hide inside with swollen eyes
and I want the rain to come quick, slap
their pale necks. I’ve counted the summers left

and the young should take this rain beside me
as I took father’s wheat, corn, and whole bloody harvest.
I roll one more September cigarette,

Summer coughs her last cough ;
a dribble from which the children hide,
stay dry as rain loosens soil.

Praise for Tomorrow, We Will Live Here:

“This luminous collection begins with the workings of the author’s ghost and ends on a bar stool contemplation of days lived and quietly lost. In between is all the richness and wonder of things. Like a ghost, he returns again and again to concern himself with the workings of the dead, gravity, the passage of time; growing up and growing old. If he had picked up a guitar rather than a palette, these are the songs Edward Hopper would have sung. They are songs of the season past, of the waning day, of the half lived life. But there’s nothing melancholic about this book – far from it – the poems are shot through with light, with a determined joy. Van Winkle’s strength as a poet lies in his ability to focus on the quiet epiphanies that transform loss into wonder and wonder into art.” — John Glenday

(Photo by Skyroad)

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More from Featured Poet Joshua Jones

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Apologies for not getting this posted before the end of the weekend. Here, Josh speaks a bit about his writing — there’s also a final poem for you to enjoy. See the previous poems here and here!
I’ve been writing on and off since I was a kid. I used to write ten page novels based on Die Hard and Terminator 2. They had token sex scenes as imagined by a seven-year-old. Rimbaud would wince. I started writing ‘properly’, though, around the age of eighteen, after listening to too much Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Bright Eyes. I would say my ‘proper’ writing stopped being awful and obscure a couple of years ago, around the time I started submitting to journals.
Like many young poets yet to learn their poetry history, I began writing a lot of absurdist, ironic stuff and thinking I was the shit – until I read Luke Kennard’s The Harbour Beyond the Movie and learned what poststructuralism was. I think it’s probably the best collection this current wave of young poets has produced. Unlike a lot of writers doing similar things, it takes the American poetry it is influenced by and does something original and exciting with it; it doesn’t simply ‘borrow heavily’ from its influences and give them a British accent. The reason I mention Kennard’s collection is that reading it brought about one of the most pivotal stages in the development of my writing so far – he was doing, had done, everything I thought I wanted to do with poetry, but better.
I’m interested in poetry that has a philosophical drive – not achingly overwritten drivel dressed up in line breaks and terminology, but a poetry that engages with ontological concerns as much as with linguistic innovation, as exemplified by amazing writers like Jorie Graham and Tim Lilburn, and, more recently, by the intimidatingly good Ahren Warner. In Thought Disorder, I’ve tried to explore ideas of perception, self and the other: what it is to be a subjective being, attempting to capture in writing the presence of things that are a priori absent, while trying to navigate some of the self-defeating pitfalls an awareness of postmodernism and poststructuralism can instil. It’s too easy to point out, in verse replete with windswept lyricism, that to express is to fail to express; more than that, I don’t think it’s even the case. The poets who have provided me with blurbs have probably elucidated the work far better than I could. Nonetheless, I’d describe it as a collection that knows its inevitable inadequacies and failures but, instead of isolating them and making them the object of the image, incorporates them, utilises them, sweeps up the debris of language and moulds it together into something that is (hopefully) expressing something worth hearing, without ever taking itself too seriously; a poetry that strives regardless to reach outside of itself and move forward, to enunciate clearly, to speak with assurance and not relish the incoherence of a mumble; a poetry that struggles to connect despite not being certain it can, that only turns its gaze on itself in order to turn away from itself.
What else? Composition and editing. I was very lucky to have such a good editor. The Thought Disorder MS was provisionally accepted providing I was willing to work with Alec (Newman, boss of Knives Forks and Spoons) on editing. Blindly excited, my answer was an immediate yes. Then he told me to take ‘Exposure’, the opening poem in the collection and, at the time, the one I thought was my best, and massacre it. I balked, but did as I was told, albeit tentatively. Until about five minutes after I’d started rewriting, when I realised that what he wanted from the poems, what he saw in them, was exactly what they needed to be, exactly what I wanted them to be without quite knowing it. So I’m very very grateful to him for taking the time to help me make the collection what it is. Since finishing it I’ve been on a summer-long writing binge, and have plenty of ideas for the next one. So it’s strange to go back to these poems, to have to get my head around them again. But I guess that’s a good thing – it stretches out the time it takes to get bored of your previous work when you can see it as other, as written by someone else, a past self.
I’m not really sure what to expect from it being published. It’s a fairly small-scale affair, so its success depends a lot on how willing I am to promote it – both an exciting and terrifying prospect. I guess, like every writer, I’d just like it to mean something to a reader. That and make some beer money. Or, even better, some rum money.
One Version of Autumn
It’s drunk inside and we are talking plans
because plans are what the press of wet dark glass instil
in rooms of jumpers and smoke and the thigh-touch
of warmth when the door is closed and light switched.
Plans: joining palms churchily and at least pretending
the heat of skin on skin is that of another, damp
empathy, shared teeth of a zipper closing its mouth,
shifting leaves from abstract paths and scrubbing shoes,
glint in the corner of the eyes at the sight
of white encasing feet ready to go and imprint.
You take a season like it’s a text in a mediocre class
and tear it apart until the word, let alone the concept, means
nothing, and there are empty cans
on the table that is enforcing the living room light
just the same as it would on any other night, and you
forget it even exists in the tonsil-fuelled room
and the whole time we are talking I can see
the headlights of a car through a gap in the curtain,
flecked with rain, rumbling like it’s building something
I wouldn’t understand until I saw it complete, finished,
and we have agreed that something is going to happen
at some point, on some day,
and we shake hands or hug at the end
and I construct my shape in the covers
heavy with dark and drink and sleep
and little breaths of cold and changing weather
creep in through inevitable gaps.
Praise for Thought Disorder:
“Thought Disorder is a fine first collection from Joshua Jones. These are terse poems that take the everyday and reimagine it in new and fantastic ways; each poem vibrates on the page, “rumbling like it’s building something,” shifting the ordinary onto a whole new plane. From phenomenology to smoke breaks, the girls downstairs to the turn of the season, this collection is unafraid to look at day-to-day life in all its manic, exuberant truth. “It doesn’t matter if it’s been done before”; these keen poems, with their dry wit and clear eye, are doing it in an entirely new way.” - Jenna Butler
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(Photo by Ming chai)
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More from Featured Poet Joshua Jones

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Joshua Jones is the author of Thought Disorder and the editor of Etcetera. You can see his poem ‘Breathing Smoke’ here.

Quiet Days

It’s a quiet day so I think really hard
and start to sever my limbs.
There’s a crunch as off go the feet
like I’m breaking chocolate from the bar
to share with someone else. But I’m
the only one here, and for now wouldn’t change that.

Next go the legs and I lean them
against the wall carefully, like instruments;
then arms, then onto the hidden stuff,
ribs left lying about the floor
like pencils waiting to be cased.

It’s not even evening yet.
Night will be a carpet into someone else’s house
and I plan on only partially assembling myself
by the time I’m invited in. I’d hope
an arm would be slightly lopsided, eyes
a bit dusty, and halfway through a conversation
I’d stop to sneeze and that one missing toe
would launch from my nose
like a secret revelation I don’t quite understand.

Praise for Thought Disorder:

“Joshua Jones has a bag of broken Kennard and wants to play with it. Thought Disorder thinks like the youth of tomorrow later today - this is sexual, literary, ironic writing post-poetics and ready for what’s next. Nature and vision become distorted in the lyric disrupting the prose poem and vice versa. At its best in poems like ‘Eyes’, ‘Glimpse’ and ‘Face’, Jones as young poet is adding to how what’s coming will feel, sound, and think like. Subversive, traditional, perverse and inevitable, place your orders now for the paradox of the new kid on the block.” - Todd Swift

(Photo by nardell)

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ONS Featured Poet (it lives!) this week: Joshua Jones

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Joshua Jones was born in 1988. He has lived in Liverpool and Canterbury, and currently resides in Norwich, where he is studying for a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing at UEA. He edits Etcetera, a blogzine dedicated to publishing exciting new writing and criticism. Thought Disorder, his debut collection of poetry, is published by Knives Forks and Spoons.

Breathing Smoke

The CCTV camera told me to do it,
it said, “Ruffle me with your eyes
like I was your girlfriend’s diary.” And so

I did, I watched myself
from a safe vantage point
going out for my morning cigarette.

There I was, pacing and puffing as if
performing an experimental dance called
Cognitions Leading Up To A Serious Crime.

The subtitle read: Voyeurism and the most
Severe Masturbation of the Mind, or Friction.

A line like an omen spluttered across the screen.

The me being watched leaned over the balcony, listened
to the distance between spitting
and the jolt as it hit the ground, like falling from sleep.

As a kid one time, I tried
to quit blinking, until my eyelids
felt like hands squeezing a spike between themselves.

The CCTV camera told me, “You’ll
never know yourself; I’ll always know more.
A diary isn’t tricked by lies of the pen.”

And just as it said this the me on the balcony stared
up at the camera like a kid being lifted by dad.
If our eyes met they were strangers passing in a mall.

That me flicked his cigarette and left,
went back inside to get on with his day.
The camera scratched its eyes out in a mess of static.

Praise for Thought Disorder:

“What I love about Jones’s work is the way it gives you the wild juxtapositions, dazzling colours and irresistible wit of the surreal, but then pulls your mind up short with a moment of such delicacy and slightness that you’re placed in the scene without warning and without your shoes on, anxious and blinking. It’s as beautiful and strange as poetry should be. There’s a tension and an urgency to these poems, the recognition of a failed transcendence – “I’d take you there if I could” – bound up in our need to reach beyond the everyday and a tacit awareness that he already has.” - Luke Kennard

(Photo by danvanmoll)

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Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

(Photo by Tim Macfarlane)

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll know what The Forest Cafe is… you will at the very least have heard me mention it/wax lyrical about it/praise it to the skies. Forest is an Edinburgh institution and a place that carries a great deal of meaning for myself and many other Edinvarians. And unfortunately, it is now under threat. Please, please read the following and help us to save this very deserving Edinburgh landmark.

What is Forest?
Forest is a unique access-all-areas arts initiative which works to provide space, resources, funding and encouragement for artists and creatives of all walks of life in the Edinburgh area and beyond. It “aims to advance access to art and cultural activities amongst the general public of Edinburgh and the wider community“, basically. The Forest Cafe is the base of operations for this initiative: housed in a former church and inhabiting a maze of rooms over several floors, it offers a variety of vibrant, unusual and versatile arts spaces to anyone who wants to use them. At the heart of things is the veggie and vegan kitchen, which not only helps to fund Forest’s other activities, but also supplies hungry visitors with the best vegan burritos and chocolate brownie this side of anywhere. The cafe is also Forest’s performance hub — if you want to watch, play or organise a poetry reading, an acoustic gig, a play, a film night, a gramophone evening, a reading group, a recital or any other creative endeavour, this is your place. Events are free to stage, free to perform at and free to attend. They’re pretty much always brilliant, too.

But Forest isn’t just a cool cafe that also holds events. Alongside the cafe space is Total Kunst, Forest’s very own art gallery, which hosts traditional, experimental and installation artists from all over the globe. Anyone can exhibit and it’s always free. Also always free is Forest’s downstairs space, which provides facilities such as a dark room for budding photographers and a rehearsal space for bands and musicians. For a small fee — or sometimes for free, depending on your event — you can also hire out the cavernous Forest Hall, which will accomodate anything from a small group of amateur filmmakers to a full-scale ceilidh band and a hundred guests. Forest also has its own shop, selling a variety of crafts; its own successful publishing imprint, Forest Publications, which I really cannot praise highly enough; it even has its own hairdressing salon. And I haven’t even got started on their monthly free shop, library facilities or free fringe antics

Forest 'o' Flash
(Photo by digiphotoneil)

How you can help.
Now, Forest is in danger of being evicted from its current home because the building has been put up for sale. Forest are currently tenants, and have been for many years — and although it’s very ambitious, they want to try and secure their future by raising enough money to buy the building outright. The current target is a massive £500,000, so they really need YOU to give as much as you can. The main way in which you can do this is by clicking here and donating via their simple Paypal form. For other ways to donate, or to get involved in other fundraising activities, just get in touch with them — they’d love to hear from you.

Why you should help.
Given all of the above, I don’t think I really need to tell you why you should donate to Forest. If you’ve ever been there, you already know what a special, unique place it is and what excellent work they do every day within and beyond the arts community in Edinburgh. If you’re local and you’ve never been there, now is the time to start — Forest desperately needs your support, and your life will be better for it. Even if you’re not an Edinvarian — hey, even if you’re not a Scot — you should still consider giving up a few of your hard-earned pennies for this very good cause. Like Shakespeare and Co and The Beat Museum, this is an arts initiative whose work resonates far beyond its small home city. If you donate to the Forest you’re helping hundreds of artists and creatives, and you’re making a stand for independent arts organisations the world over. Please think about giving as much as you can spare, even if that’s only a couple of quid.

(Photo by acb)

Let me tell you why I donated to ForestWhen I first came to Edinburgh, I didn’t know anyone. I was vaguely aware that a few people I went to high school with also lived in the city; that was about it. I was living in Uni halls with chilly rooms, unreliable internet access, and I was broke. Forest provided me with huge pots of tea for next to nothing, a quiet and comfy place to sit for as long as I liked, and totally free access to the internet. Later, when I got more acclimatised, I started getting interested in the Edinburgh literary community. Forest — and the fabulous Ryan Van Winkle, one of its most famous staff members — provided heaps of support for my writing, via their brilliant writing groups, workshops and events. One of the first Edinburgh readings I ever did was The Forest Golden Hour, and the crowd was huge, warm and wonderfully supportive. Later still, I decided I wanted to start my own literary magazine, and yet again Forest was there to help me. For two full years Forest gave us the space and resources we needed to print, hand-bind and distribute our own zine — all totally free. We ran Read This events in the Forest Cafe, we used their fabulous website, noticeboards and Facebook group to promote ourselves and call for submissions. As things progressed, Forest also supported Read This Press (in particular, Chris Lindores’ collection You Old Soak) by providing printing facilities and carrying our titles in the shop, cafe and online. Forest Publications have published and promoted my work and the work of my various projects on numerous occasions. I genuinely believe that without Forest I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. And I’m just one young artist of the thousands who make use of Forest’s services and resources every year.

I implore you to help keep this incredible project afloat. Please go here, and donate now. As much as you can — it will make a difference.

Thank you!