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

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