12 February 2024

Stockport Stories

It's all about Stockport this month as I'm currently researching the Town Of Culture for a new commission called Stockport Stories and I'm also reading there this coming Saturday, at the first-ever event at the brand-new Underbanks branch of Greenhouse Books – the showcase of Confingo writers, including myself, Elizabeth Baines, David Gaffney and Adrian Slatcher has now sold out!

Not to worry if you missed out on tickets to that, though – tickets have just gone "on sale" (they're free!) for our first Stockport Stories performance. You can get your mitts on them here. The premiere takes place on Thursday 11 April at the awesome Rare Mags in Underbanks; the second airing will be at the wonderful Mura Ma Art Gallery in Marple on Saturday 20 April. See the lovely poster by creative Stopfordian David Bailey for all the details – I can’t wait to meander among you with my watery words exploring the rivers swirling beneath your feet as you wander the Merseyway mall munching your Greggs pasty!

A week or so back, I took advantage of a day swap with Jobshare Matt and jumped aboard a No42, heading off on a day trip to sunny Stockport (actually, it made an attempt to mizzle as we got off the bus). ‘Twas a writing project research trip to check out the rivers and find the confluence of the Tame and Goyt and the resulting source of the Mersey, as seen from a cobbledy road that crosses the nice old double span sandstone bridge shown here in various guises, including as a painting by the rather ovelooked artist Alan Lowndes (below), who was born in Heaton Norris. The confluence is right next to the M60 ringroad motorway, and the Mersey promptly turns a corner and disappears into a culvert beneath the shopping precinct, only to be spotted via a peculiar hole in the pavement near the British Heart Foundation, before disappearing again out of sight and mind.

Once the Mersey re-emerges, down the bottom end towards the Pyramid and near the Weir Mill warehouses being developed under the viaduct, next to the bus depot, opposite Kwik-Fit, there's a weir and a beach I located from good old Google Earth, but no way of getting down to them. The trip also saw us locate a blue plaque giving a nod to Lowry having painted it on occasion (as in in paintings, not as in the Forth Bridge), pop in the Plaza and chat to a nice old gent in a red bowtie about afternoon tea, scoff a Greggs pasty (told you), procure some secondhand patent peeptoes for a dream, swing by the “new Berlin” Underbanks and Marketplace, and quaff a bev or two in the Cracked Actor. Good day out!

31 January 2024

Up to much?

Just getting in before January becomes February (how is that even a thing?), here's the first post of 2024 with a wee round-up of things.

Over the moon to see Lune pop up as a Poetry Book Society Winter Selection here and then for it to be picked by Will Mackie, Senior Programme Manager at New Writing North, in his "New & Recent Poetry from the North: Winter 2023" round-up, where he says: "Inspired by rivers and seas, these are dextrous and playful poems that feel alive and urgent." Read that in full here. (I contributed my own "best reads" to Northern Soul, here, if you want to read about people other than just little old me.)

Chuffed also to be one of the 52 artists exhibiting in this year's Blah Open with some concrete pieces about places you might live, called “Dwellings”, one of which is lifted from Lune. The show closes this Sunday (4 February), so I'm planning on swinging by Cafe Blah late afternoon/early evening to stage mine and David's finissage (someone snapped up his piece straight away, so I guess he deserves a drink!).

Delighted also to have a piece in the latest issue of Blackbox Manifold, which I've been wanting to work my way into for a while now. It's a collaboration with Robert Sheppard, called "Untitled" (we tried really hard, but we couldn't land on what to call it!), originally created for European Poetry Festival in the summer. And in such fabulous company, too, including Zoë Skoulding and Jazz Linklater. It's about the River Mersey, which is my next project. See here to read that and here to see Robert's blog about it.

Coming up is an appearance in the rather brilliant Spelt Magazine – they've accepted a sequence of urban-rural poems offering glimpses of life from city centre viaducts and edge-of-town motorway bridges, of which another, separate one, has been published just now by Poetry Scotland. I have also been frantically writing more about motorway bridges this past fortnight to meet a deadline – specifically Jen Orpin's motorway bridges, including the one pictured below, which carries Pennine Way walkers safely across the highest point of the M62, at the aptly monikered Windy Hill.

January has also seen a new episode drop of The Reading Ramble (find it wherever you get your podcasts!) from Lancashire Libraries, and you can now listen to my Lancashire Stories anthology commission "Proceed With All Due Caution" read beautifully by Karen Esposito.

Performance wise, and 2024 opened with the launch at Manchester Cathedral (wow!) of a new anthology that resulted from the Doubt Wisely workshops run by poet-in-residence Tom Branfoot in conjunction with Manchester Writing School at Manchester Met, plus my first-ever visit to Manchester Poets, which is currently happening in Withington Library, so I might be putting in more appearances in future.

Closing 2023 was a headline slot at the last Verbose of the year in December and just before that the launch of Lune, with three fabulous guest readers Tom Branfoot, Ian Humphreys and Lydia Unsworth, at Peste in November, and, just before that, in October, Four Poets at Saul Hay Gallery, reading with Petr Hruska, Jake Morris-Campbell and Jennifer Lee Tsai.

Next up, I'm reading at a Confingo Publishing showcase on Saturday 17 February at Greenhouse Books in their brand-new spot in trendy Underbanks, Stockport – tickets here and see you there!

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.