The poetry community is a displaced, wandering mass. We meet at events and readings, see each other daily on Facebook and Twitter, but in reality we tend to be reclusive, crotchety and paranoid individuals scrabbling about in dingy offices. There is nothing wrong with that, she says, shying away from daylight, but it’s hard to be ‘in the scene’ if you don’t know where the scene is.
We hear so much in the press about poets bitching about other poets; the TS Eliot prize is a prime example, as was the New Year’s Honours list and…god, any time one poet succeeds and another poet fails. The thing about poetry is that the paying work, the publications and the success are few and far between. It makes for a strange herd instinct where those limping along on the outside feel they have to attack the ones running gleefully in the light.
Call me a freak of nature but I like to celebrate success. I like to big up other poets who are doing well, and not just because I want the same respect when I achieve something, but because it’s a community. It’s my community, my family. I’m at my most relaxed and happy around creative people, I feel connected to them.
Anything that highlights what’s going on in the world outside of a word document has to be a good thing. So here we are at Northern Soul’s first ever Northern Poetry Scene preview. It will be a regular round-up so if you have something you want to shout about, let me know at email@example.com with ‘Northern Soul Poetry Interest’ in the subject box.
What’s Up North?
First up this month is the launch of Middlesbrough poets Bob Beagrie and Andy Willoughby’s collaboration project, Sampo: Heading Further North. Sampo “explores the links between 21st century Teesside and ancient Finnish mythologies”. It’s an absolutely fascinating project – a 12-year cultural exchange between Teesside and Finnish poets that has resulted in this amazing poetry sequence. I ‘know’ Bob and Andy through Facebook; Bob introduced me to the old Norse poetry form of Dróttkvætt which I used as part of my own Norse based poetry pamphlet, Lapstrake. His enthusiasm is addictive and contagious.
You can hear Bob read on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/bob-beagrie
Sampo: Heading Further North launched at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle on January 12. Although I couldn’t make it, I hear it was a lively night and there will be more readings and events around it in the future. Sampo is available from Red Squirrel Press. You can buy it here: http://www.inpressbooks.co.uk/browse/poetry/sampo-heading-further-north-5853/
January also saw the launch of the first in Pankhearst’s new ‘slim volume’ series of anthologies, No Love Lost, edited by Kate Garrett. It is “a poetry and flash fiction collection bursting with striking works of ‘anti-romance’. The full spectrum of love: the broken, the funny, the tough, the sideways, and the lost.”
As a contributor, I had a sneak preview and I knew it was going to be something special. It’s packed with wonderfully disturbing, surreal, moving and funny poems and flash fiction and I am proud to be a part of it. Kate’s first outing as an editor really pays off, she has a natural sense of what works in an anthology and what doesn’t. The launch, featuring various No Love Lost authors and an open mic, is from 6.30pm to 9.30pm at The Harland Café in Sheffield on February 5. It’s free entry which is always a good thing and I’ve heard that Sheffield TV will be there filming the readings. This means I’ll have to run a comb through my hair and put some make-up on.
No Love Lost can be bought online by following this link: https://pankhearst.wordpress.com/portfolio/no-love-lost/
There’s also this amazing No Love Lost YouTube channel which includes readings from the poets featured – take a look, it’s a great idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTDCQaqQtfw&list=PLN0CBs6qiCDO75DnFNJ2_dryg4CsckYNd
You can tell that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching as another love, or rather an anti-love, anthology launched in January. This is another one I’ve had a sneak preview of as I wrote the blurb on the back cover. It’s fantastic. This is Paper Swans‘ first anthology and it is strong. These are dark poems in a brutally honest collection. The collection is put together by three poets, Stephanie Arsoska, Ellie Danak and Sarah Miles, all of whom I have had the pleasure of working with and all of whom are talented and definitely names to watch out for. They obviously have some sort of fantastic poet magic going on as the collection as a whole works so well. When I read it, I was completely riveted. The Darker Side of Love can be bought online by following this link: http://paperswans.co.uk/. There is also a call out for submissions for the next Paper Swans collection which you can find out about here: http://paperswans.co.uk/submission-guidelines/
I recently found out that the fiction and poetry magazine Bare Fiction is moving into the poetry collection business. I know Bare Fiction’s editor Robert Harper through Facebook and through submitting to his magazine. He’s a genuinely nice person and has a true and absolute passion for poetry and words in general. Bare Fiction is one of my favourites. I love the mix of poetry and fiction and play scripts, something that works incredibly well on the page. So when I heard that they were publishing Zelda Chappel’s debut collection I knew it would be good.
Bare Fiction is a small non-profit organisation, set up by Robert Harper in 2013, to bring new writing to new audiences through print, online, audio and live performance. In the 12 months or so since Bare Fiction magazine launched, with their crowd-funded first issue, they have already published work by 131 writers from across the world. Supported by a handful of volunteers, Bare Fiction comes out three times a year and is thrilled to be discovering new readers for its growing list of writers. That visibility has been enhanced by running the first Bare Fiction Prize which garnered more than 1,600 entries over three categories.
Here’s Robert talking about Zelda’s poetry:
“Zelda initially sent in a couple of poems for the magazine. I read them and I was struck by her ability to make me forget what I was doing. When you’re reading hundreds of poems for a handful of spaces, that is an extremely refreshing feeling. She has a unique way of expressing ideas through beautiful miniature narratives and I immediately knew that I wanted to see more of her work. After an event I ran for the magazine in London we talked more, she sent me a manuscript, and we were on.
“The Girl in the Dog-tooth Coat is a collection about loss and discovery, it’s about the ways we fold our days into a corner to hide from the best of ourselves. I’m desperately excited about the journey Zelda and I are taking together in putting together this astonishing debut collection of approximately 60 poems. It’s out in July 2015.”
And if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, with kind permission from Robert, here’s a sneak preview of one of Zelda’s poems.
Before The Birds Begin
It’ll be a while before the birds begin so please don’t hold your breath.
I have watched you closely, and you I, both perplexed at why we speak nothing
of the storm that comes to rip our threads apart and shake our doll-faced selves
until our eyes rattle in their sockets, lolling stunned at what the world looks like
in jumped-up double-time.
Dark pupils take their time to recalculate, adjust, remember what it’s like
to find each of our vertebrae sung free, skins colliding in their flights, longing
to dance the night from her stronghold, feel the pleasures of blistered soles
and silk’s sweet friction burning above our knees, knowing the sun comes up
regardless of season and tidal shift.
Still, we know it’ll be a while before the birds begin and we are restless with cold
and tired of keeping watch for fissured smiles and menacing, looking to ourselves
for porcelain and the ways she finely cracks.
Beautiful stuff. To find out about both Bare Fiction and The Girl in the Dog Tooth Coat, follow this link: http://www.barefictionmagazine.co.uk/buy/poetry-collections/girl-dog-tooth-coat-zelda-chappel/
Kate Garrett gets a double shout-out in this month’s round-up because she is also one of the writers appearing in Prole’s innovative and engaging multi-poet collaboration, Caboodle.
Prole is on a fast assent to becoming one of the most highly thought of and recognised magazines out there. This is partly due to the excellent quality of the poetry and prose it contains, and partly down to the personable and approachable editors. And the boys at Prole know their stuff. They have gathered together a bunch of incredibly talented writers: Karina Vidler, Gill McEvoy, Russell Jones, Kate Garrett, Angela Croft and Rafael Miguel Montes, each with a separate, pamphlet-sized collection to create a poetry experience in the form of Caboodle. Here’s what editor Phil Robertson has to say:
“We’re always looking for new ideas at Prole – and this may have been tried before – but we’ve never attempted it. Six short collections in one larger volume, we thought, would/could be a successful way to bring more poetry to more people – at good value – and, no shame in this, get Prole’s name out there again.
“Caboodle contains six distinct and different voices, but they compliment each other too. Each short collection stands in its own right, but collectively there’s a feel and essence to the whole thing. Most of the writers have previously been published in Prole but were selected from an open submissions process. As ever, we were looking for something that had direct impact for the reader. These poems aren’t simple and shallow, far from it; they challenge, they engage, they entertain. The poems we choose all have something to say – some shout, some whisper, some sing – but they all do it in a way that pulls the reader along and in.”
Caboodle is launching in Sheffield on February 19 at The Fat Cat. There will be readings by some of the contributors, an open mic slot and a chance to buy the Prole editors a Guinness. What more could one ask for?
By Wendy Pratt, Poetry Correspondent
There will be a regular poetry round-up so if you have something you want to shout about, let Wendy know at firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Northern Soul Poetry Interest’ in the subject box.