02 September 2023

Lune has landed!

I'm over the moon to be on the launchpad with The Red Ceilings Press! Lune is here – and doesn’t it look swell? Perfect in the week of a once-every-ten-years supermoon… The fabulous cover shows the moon from Georges Méliès’ amazing 1902 short film sci-fi adventure “Le voyage dans la lune” (“A Trip To The Moon”), as spotted on telly on Monday (moon-day, Lundi en français) in the University Challenge picture round. You should watch it (“Le voyage dans la lune”, and p'raps also University Challenge).

Here's a bit of blurb... Lune is a mini collection inspired by rivers and seas. Three short sequences dive into erosion by water (“Lune”), the effects of the moon on mariners (“Moon”), and weather happenstances, shipwrecks and lighthouses (“Juxta Mare”). Currents might collide, but go with the flow.

Here’s some blether wot I wrote for the e-missive that went out to announce Lune’s presence in the world: “I’m inspired by nature and the North, and curious about place and places. I’m fascinated by dialect and language, and the way my work sounds is as important as how it looks. I’m influenced by Oulipian and experimental ideas, and love playing with constraints and concrete, forms and found text.” All true.

Here are a couple of lovely quotes, and thanks to Zoë and Vik for provision!

“At the heart of this playful collection is a deliberate unsettling of place that allows the reader to set off on multiple journeys.” Zoë Skoulding

“In Lune, Conlon captures the atmosphere of language with Blue Lagoon highballs and aqueous ice-pancakes, navigating storm surges with excitement and glee.” Vik Shirley

And here’s a link to order Lune from The Red Ceilings Press – and big massive huge thanks to publisher Mark Cobley for giving the book the nod and for his patience in the face of having to typeset concrete poetry (not to mention a bunch of other right daft ideas I had but subsequently scrapped). 

Alternatively, order direct from yours truly and I can supply a *signed* copy in the next couple of weeks. You can even order some of my other titles. Look at them here together, four mates, all lovely. All out in just one year after producing nowt in the way of books for fifty years previous.

28 August 2023

August readings

The Sealey Challenge encourages folk to read one book of poetry a day for the month of August – a massive 31 titles, which is no small feat. As I mentioned on FB, this isn't quite how I like to consume poetry, which is usually more of a dripfeed affair, but it’s been making me try lots of new stuff (I got quite a bit out of the library, which ended up altering the original pile pictured above) and also stuff that has been on my to-read pile for ages and I’ve not been getting round to.

I will admit something, which is that some days I haven't read the full collections (I have my own work to write – with more deadlines now I'm part of a poetry group that meets online at regular intervals – and I've been proofreading and signing off the manuscript to my latest book; aside from which, I do actually have to work for actual money), although I have done so for the library loans.

nature + gardens > watery words + blueness

To be honest, on the whole, it's some of the books I got out of the library that I've found the least rewarding. I suppose when I'm buying stuff, I'm going for poets I've read before or I've seen perform their work or they're on a publisher I rate or someone I know has recommended them.

more nature wanderings + seashore ponderings > fab folk wot I know on indie presses doing good things

Of the books I own, where I've enjoyed them but not managed to get them fully read – sometimes because I want to do the dripfeed thing and not guzzle them all in one sitting – they have been placed in a special pile on my poetry bookcase (see above), from where I can in future just grab one and go when I'm leaving the house and am public transport bound.

"collections in sections" > months & years

Aside from the books in the various photos here, I've also continued my usual practice of consuming poems shared on Twitter, looking at the Poetry Foundation website when I want to find out more about a particular poet, dipping into anthologies to look at certain people, scrolling poems sent via enewsletters and wotnot, and reading the stuff in The New Yorker, cast-off issues of which are donated to me by David. (That habit started because I originally expressed an interest in doing the crossword, but even the beginner's puzzles are proving to be on the challenging side to anyone not immersed in US culture.)

England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales > me me me

Anyway, I've been reading in groups of four loosely linked tomes, to give the project some structure, and posting the photographic evidence to X. The final group is just three because that's how the maths of dates works, so to save myself too much homework on this bank holiday-abridged week, I'm posting a picture of my own three books to date, while we wait for the fourth to drop (imminently!). One of my poet pals actually picked Using Language as one of her Sealey Challenge selections, and called it "a brilliant collection that made me feel excited about visual presentation and sounds", which is rather nice.

30 July 2023

July ramblings

July's been a busy old month. First, there was the premiere of my brand-new "Flight Patterns" commission at Didsbury Arts Festival, as mentioned previously. Completely sold out, we couldn't have fitted anyone else in the room – and there were even pictures of some feathered friends on the wall. Plus, the performance, complete with birdsong and church bells and Ladybird books and poetry map, and the new sequence of 12 poems seemed to go down well, with lots of lovely comments.

Partway through the month, I was to be found at Saul Hay Gallery interviewing Dave Haslam at his sold-out event promoting his new Confingo book, Adventure Everywhere: Pablo Picasso's Paris Nightlife. We chatted art, poetry, records, cancel culture, Montmartre versus Montparnasse, hidden histories, place as character and much more besides. Again, lots of lovely comments. And I remembered to wear my cool heels and Barbara Hepworth earrings (we were in an art gallery, after all).

Then, a hop, skip and a jump up to Edinburgh, and straight out of the car and into Portobello Books to hear from Kirsty Logan, then on Monday ourselves (me and David Gaffney) reading in the lovely Typewronger Books (also well worth seeking out, this gem at the top end of Leith Walk), alongside Edinburgh-based poets Vik Shirley and Nicky Melville. Here's the blurb: "In a journey through both poetry and prose, from the joyful Oulipian and conceptual, through to film noir and moribund miniatures, whether surreal-absurd, dark, uplifting or comic, play is at the core of all of this writing." Lots of lovely comments once more! David and I shall be hosting Vik and Nicky in Manchester in the near future – watch this space.

06 June 2023

Flight Patterns

I'm busy working on a brand-new sequence of poems – "Flight Patterns" – that is a special commission for this year's Didsbury Arts Festival. Last week, I met up with Linda from the Friends of Fletcher Moss Park & Parsonage Gardens, and spent a very pleasant hour or so sitting on a bench in the new "spiritual space" (I'm not sure what it's officially called, but that seems apt) near The Croft, watching the birds (a jay, a magpie, a parakeet, a heron, and more, since you're asking) and chatting about all things nature – our feathered friends, seasonal plants, unusual trees, butterflies, all sorts.

I also popped to Didsbury Parsonage, having decided to focus one of the poems on stained glass, prompted by my online poetry group's latest writing exercise, which was to write about someone else's job, inspired by Paula Bohince's "Among Barmaids". My fascination with stained glass was piqued when I was writer-in-residence at Victoria Baths, and I had the opportunity to visit the studio in Lancashire where they revamp the "amazing glazing" – it was such a privilege to be able to see the craftsmen at work and witness the sounds and sights and smells. Anyway, I spent some time at the Old Parsonage (where I'll be performing the poems) admiring the acorns and brambles and other flora and fauna and also the Luna and Sun depicted in the windows. I was also at Manchester Cathedral for a creative writing workshop, when we were invited to study the architecture in relation to metaphysics and I got drawn into the misericords and, of course, the colourful glass, dappling the paved floor. This follows a detour on the way home from our Frodsham trip, nipping to Daresbury, where Lewis Carroll grew up, to see the Alice in Wonderland panes at the church there. 

Emily Williamson and birds. Pic: Claire Huntley

Here's the brochure blurb for my Didsbury Arts Festival project: "Flight Patterns is a unique performance, premiering poems inspired by legendary local resident Emily Williamson and her Wear No Feathers campaign, created especially for the Festival by Didsbury-based writer Sarah-Clare Conlon. Join the poet in the atmospheric Old Parsonage as she reads the new work and shares the process of making it, exploring the life and legacy of Emily who co-founded the Society for the Protection of Birds (now the RSPB) at The Croft in neighbouring Fletcher Moss Park, where a statue is set to be unveiled in her honour."

I have half a mind to turn the pieces into a poetry map, not dissimilar to the sequence I wrote last year for my Ilkley Literature Festival residency (and which you can read here), inviting the audience to join me on a journey, this time around Fletcher Moss Park. Whatever happens, I'll be reading the new work on Saturday 1 July, 2-3pm, at the Old Parsonage, and you can now get your hands on tickets here. I'm really excited to share it, so do join me!

12 May 2023

Words colliding

It's all go here, as April flashed by in a deluge of wet weather and culminated in a rather splendid book launch at Peste bookshop-cum-bar or, more accurately, bar-cum-bookshop. Plenty came and listened so intently some of the photos look like they're taken during a church service (there are embroidered kneelers and lots of incense on the go, so it's not too inappropriate an observation), and tomes and money swapped hands – thanks to David for manning the bookstall and introducing the acts. I was ably supported by wonderful words from Jazmine Linklater – with whom I revived our European Poetry Festival collaboration that ended up in PN Review for extra amuse-bouchement – and Philip Terry, so it was a right proper Oulipian knees-up. 

So yes, my third book, Using Language, is out in the world, and currently being perused by reviewers, so I hope they like it as much as I do! As well as agreeing to hotfoot it up to Manchester from Essex, Philip provided a cover quote for the book (which you can order from Invisible Hand Press here), as did the rather marvellous Helen Mort and Joe Carrick-Varty. Here you go (below)...

"Using Language is an exploration of sound and speech. At one moment chatty and colloquial, the next deeply insightful and telling, the work here interrogates our ability to know ourselves through the noises we make. These poems stayed with me long after reading." Joe Carrick-Varty, More Sky (Carcanet Press)

"Sonic joy. Images that give you goosebumps. Infectious energy. Expect the unexpected: these poems will take you on a wild journey." Helen Mort, The Illustrated Woman (Chatto & Windus)

"Moorland fog as a wipe-clean canvas to conjure with, shape-shifting concrete poems where word becomes sculpture, poems that function like echo chambers where words collide and rebound metamorphosing as they do so, creels and crabs, Oulipian hi-jinks – whatever you’re into there’s something here for you. Using Language is a scintillating collection that reminds us what is possible in poetry today." Philip Terry, ed. The Penguin Book Of Oulipo & Extinctions (The Red Ceilings Press)

Just before UL came out, I also got word that my fourth pamphlet, Lune, has been accepted for publication by The Red Ceilings Press, so Philip and are publisher stablemates for a second time (we both have books with Contraband). That'll be out some time later this year, and one of my jobs for next week is to draw some illustrations for it, so I'd better get on and do the online art course David bought me for Christmas... I also need to cobble together a set list for next Saturday, as I'm reading as part of a Confingo showcase at Chorlton Arts Festival (you can read all about it in my CAF round-up on Creative Tourist here). That will be followed by a couple of performances on home turf at Didsbury Arts Festival, including a special commission, currently in progress (I scrawled the bare bones of a piece for it the other day at a creative writing workshop run by the writer-in-residence at Manchester Cathedral, Tom Branfoot; sat beside me, by chance, was another former European Poetry Festival collaborator, Lydia Unsworth, also published by Red Ceilings, as it happens, with a cover quote from yours truly, no less). A week ago, I was on old home turf, filling the role of guest poet for the Word Weavers event, alongside my old primary school teacher Andrew Rudd, at Weaver Words Literature Festival in Frodsham, which is where I moved aged 10 from the Wirral in order to have the Scouse accent grappled off me. 

Talking of which, last night saw a flying visit to Liverpool, amid more downpours and much Eurovision audience-member activity. Twas the European Camarade, when duos of poets are thrown together as if in a writing version of the large hadron collider (as with Jazz, and Lydia, aforementioned) – and for the final night of this year's European Poetry Festival, I was teamed up with Robert Sheppard, Emeritus Professor of Poetry and Poetics at Edge Hill University... so obviously we made a brand-new back-and-forth influenced, at least at the outset, by our rather hallucinogenic dreamworlds. It's about rivers and seas, and is, as yet, untitled. There's a video of us performing "Untitled" here