My poem ‘1,000 miles from sea’ is published in London Grip this morning. I wrote this after visiting Chad, and seeing its struggle against drought and hunger. This poem is about how the conditions there brought my personal struggle with religion to a head.
Hideously busy lately but there’s always time for a quick toot on the self promotion trumpet. Another one of my endless love letters to Guernsey cropped up in the ever-interesting The Frogmore Papers last week. I am very grateful to its editor Jeremy Page. Other love letters to the island were collected in A Guernsey Double a few years ago.
I wish you every happiness for the new year.
On the last day of the year I attempted a deathless piece about 2016. But in trying to write it, I kept descending into pompous windbaggery. My conclusion was that kindness is good, and that treating people with common decency is a rebellious act. And blah, blah, blah-blah… I spare you the long version.
Sometimes saying nothing is okay, isn’t it? Preferable when what you have to say is barely worth saying. Often I read things in social media, and blogs like this, and I literally would rather have read nothing. It happens with poems sometimes too. It’s quite a good test.
I discovered through the power of google that someone called Sheridan Simove has made lots of money from selling a book with blank pages called What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex. I might think this is a pretty weak joke, but I expect Simove laughed all the way to the bank thanks to nothing.
Is laughing at nothing, the same as highbrow art that frames nothing? Such as John Cage’s 4’33”or the Chinese born UK painter and poet Li Yuan-chia’s 1963 painting above. I know people who have found John Cage’s piece to be hilarious.
One reason I am still under the spell of Samuel Beckett is that his work is full of people in various kinds of limbo doing nothing. In Waiting for Godot or sitting in dustbins like in Endgame or just mouthing into the void in Not I. As Beckett said, in possibly my favourite quote of all time (from Malone Dies), “Nothing is more real than nothing”.
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I really liked Robin Houghton’s recent blog post discussing Facebook. She is going on a Facebook detox for at least a month, and gives good reasons.
For my part, when a social media platform becomes an intermediary, with algorithms I don’t understand, it may be time to reassess. Robin talks about having more face time and actual connections with her friends, and I couldn’t agree more.
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Curmudgeon that I am, I find January bleak. So imagine my surprise when on January 1st the pleasingly austere postmodern site E·ratio went live and included one of my, ah-hem, postmodern poems An explication of three Light Age texts. Also on January 1st I heard from J.K. Shawhan, the editor of another interesting US site called The Basil O’Flaherty who kindly took four poems to be uploaded in March.
All very weird. Could 2017 turn out fine after all? I hope so.
The day before my 57th birthday last week, I had a photo session with the photographer Innis McAllister. Well known for his photography of beautiful models, Innis occasionally can be tempted to photograph the more aesthetically challenged.
Frankly, I was rather pleased and amazed at his ability to turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse… Due to self-consciousness and vanity I tend to avoid being photographed or, when it is inevitable, my face falls into gurning idiot or serial killer mode. Luckily Innis managed to normalise the whole process, and it became a relaxed and collaborative, happens-every-day kind of thing instead.
So what a week. I’m writing this first thing on a Monday morning, after an extraordinary week. A Glass of Nothing played to three sell out audiences. It garnered some great reviews (which I’ll link again to here and here).
Having now seen the play run in front of living breathing audiences, there are bits I’d like to quickly tighten up, and other bits I’ll cut. I’m convinced the play has excellent bones, however, and it is definitely worth pushing on with.
The cast were a joy to work with. Beth, Kitty and Dylan, were sensational and there were no passengers in this cast. People’s feedback to me on all three has been fabulous. Beth carried the show, had the biggest part and showed enormous bravery transforming herself into a sensational diva, by turns touching and outrageous. Kitty, proved herself a versatile, natural comedienne and won herself an agent through her performance.
The most pressure was on Dylan, who for reasons already gone into on this blog, was featured in the national newspapers. He showed off a delicious comedy timing. He really is a loveable young man, on and off stage. I am sure will go on to achieve whatever he sets his sights on. His family are wise enough to protect him from the weight of expectation and let him flourish in his own way.
I found myself being quoted (as ‘Peter Kenny playwright’) on page three of The Daily Mail. Inevitably in the telling of Ronnie Corbett and Dylan’s story there was a slight warping of reality. According to the press, Dylan had the starring role in the play, for example, while Beth and Kitty appeared in photos uncredited. That all their photos were on websites and in local and national newspapers, just from having been in a fringe show, is rather splendid though. And I’m naturally chuffed that a play I wrote was the context for all this.
So Beth and I are going to have a planning meeting later this week, to decide our next steps. But I think we’re both determined there will be next steps. And on a rather grubby practical note, having not made a loss on the show is rather nice. Traditionally fringe shows are holes into which money is poured, but when the beans are counted we will make as small profit, we can invest in the next production, such as buying tickets to Edinburgh for example.
Below: the glamorous backstage reality of the fringe.
Watching actors rehearsing your script is like being at a birth. Messy, noisy but rewarding too.
Over the last few weeks in all kinds of venues (a big shout out to Brighton’s The Duke of Wellington where we have been using an upstairs room for the last few rehearsals and lapped up a few drinks too). Beth, Dylan and Kitty have been hard at work. The blocking (where the actors position themselves on the stage and work out what they’re doing) is mostly sorted now, and the script is becoming something that comes out of people’s mouths and from their bodies. I always love this moment when words on a page become something people are doing in the physical world.
I sit in the corner feeling a little bit proud. The play is alive and well, and full of character and interest and – mercifully – quite a few laughs too. The script I’d completed in a week of intense writing (after starting it a year earlier) actually works. Every creative effort is a leap of faith, but the moment when you can see the thing emerging, blinking in the light, and healthy and well is a huge relief.
Beth is directing the play. As she is on stage most of the time, I am also attending most rehearsal so I can add new dialogue or cut cuttable bits, sometimes reword lines to make them more natural.
Me being there saves time too. The actors don’t have to puzzle over what the writer meant. They can simply ask. Repairs can be done to the script on the spot, and more often than not the actors will improvise in a way that fits perfectly and is added into the script. The play belongs to all of us. For me, who spends lots of time alone writing things in my office, this is a really happy feeling.
I’m pumped that we cast Kitty and Dylan. Both are professional, highly creative, and a delight to know. Oh yes, and funny too. Rather important in a comedy.
Below Kitty and Dylan: Nooooo!
I’m not fantastic at the humblebrag tightrope. I either come across as bragging or too self-deferential. But damning the torpedoes… I have a poem in the latest Under the Radar magazine. It has an inviting and mysterious design for the cover and a library book label inside, stamped ‘withdrawn’. I guess like everyone I look for names of people I know or have met first, and found excellent work by Charlotte Gann, Rishi Dastidar, Martin Malone and Marion Tracy – I’m now looking forward to consuming everyone else’s stuff.
Also a considered review of fellow Telltale poet Siegfried Baber’s pamphlet When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid by Charles Whalley. Under the Radar is an impressive publication – and having bought individual copies before, one I will subscribe to so I can continue to read with pleasure.
Here’s my poem, as a humble-bragging proof for posterity 🙂
Why on earth would you want to visit this site? This is a question that has been plaguing me lately. Personally I find ‘me me me’ blogs tiresome. Worse, I know I’ve been guilty of them too. So I thought it was about time I said what this blog was about, using that tried and trusted Internet favourite: a list snappier than a crocodile sandwich.
Five reasons to visit peter kenny : the notebook
- You can find out what a working writer’s life is like. Somehow I have made a living as a writer for over 25 years. When I say this I try to sound deeply impressive, and I adopt an impressive face. People think: J.K. Rowling. Then I have to tell the truth. And I can tell you that the reality is most of my income comes from working with advertising agencies as a writer and creative director. Occasionally this gets interesting, such as a recent trip to Chad. So this blog has a bit about marketing in it. If that’s your bag, then dip in.
- If you’d like to lead a double life too. How does a person go about balancing work with being creative? I had my first poems published in the early 80s when I was a handsome young devil of 21. Overnight I became a genius (more about that here) who worked in warehouses, did manual labour, and took depressing temporary office jobs for ten years while I struggled with my muse. Now I balance writing poetry, plays, libretti, etc. while not living in poverty. That’s genius!
- If you want to be surprised. It seems to me most successful blogs focus relentlessly on one subject. This makes perfect sense. If you want to get your twice weekly fix on nose flutes you visit the nose flute blog. Trouble is I’m not a ‘one subject’ kind of person, though I often wish I was. So if you visit here, you may find yourself reading about eclectic things that surprise you.
- Get an insider’s view of staging a play. I have been finishing off an exhausting writing assignment for a humanitarian organisation. My next major project is the staging of my play ‘A Glass of Nothing’ at the Brighton Festival Fringe this May. I’ll tell you a secret: I’ve not finished writing the first full draft of it yet.
- And because I make mistakes and take risks. Sometimes I get it hopelessly wrong, overextend myself, fail to correctly prioritise and generally make a mess. I want to be open about this too. So please come along to read about successes (and I’m hoping there will be a few) and what can be learned from falling flat on your face.
I used to write journals last thing at night. Trouble is those little books often became a repository of miserablist whining. Reading through them it seemed that my life was one dismal episode after another, which was far from true. As soon as I began blogging back in 2003, my perspective changed. The idea that others might be reading what I wrote allowed me to reframe not only the ‘how’ of what I wrote, but how I saw my life. So blogging has proved a healthy experience too. One which allows me to look at my own life in a more positive way.
I hope you find something to enjoy on this site in the coming months. See you soon I hope.
Below here is a recent shot of me in Moulin Huet Guernsey, where I first learned to swim as a child. I live in Brighton UK now.
Frankly I’d rather eat a cactus sandwich than not hear Jack Underwood, Kitty Coles & Siegfried Baber read on Thursday night at the Poetry Cafe at 7.00 pm. But then I’ll be reading with them too in an event hosted by Telltale Press. Please come along if you’re able, or find yourself in London’s Covent Garden and in desperate need of poetry.
For me it will be an interesting to compare our night with this weekend’s annual jamboree of the T.S. Elliot prize readings, which I’ll be lucky enough to attend. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of my colleagues on Thursday might find themselves on a TSE shortlist one day. So why not glimpse the future now?