Categories
Book Launch Poetry

Poetry South East 2020, edited by Jeremy Page

This week I received a copy of Poetry South East, an excellent anthology produced by The Frogmore Press. According to Frogmore, ‘the original series was published by South East Arts between 1976 and 1983, with Howard Sergeant editing the first and Anthony Thwaite the last. The Frogmore Press revived the series with Poetry South East 2000 and published Poetry South East 2010 ten years later.’

I read the anthology from cover to cover, and what leapt out right away, even more than the individual talents, was how well the anthology had been edited. Each poem passes the baton without a false step or an uncomfortable fumble. Jeremy Page’s selection and arrangement — all conducted under lockdown conditions of course — is absolutely exemplary.

Fifty two poets are each represented by a single poem, and it is a pretty convincing snapshot of poetry written for the page in the South East. I am delighted to be one of them, and there are real treats in this collection from wonderful poets, many of them such as John Agard, Brendan Cleary, Sasha Dugdale, Maria Jastrzębska, Patricia McCarthy, John McCullough, Grace Nichols, Catherine Smith, Susan Wicks and Jackie Wills, who are rightly famed in the region. There are lots of my poetry pals in it too, such as Robin Houghton, Sarah Barnsley, Charlotte Gann, Stephen Bone, Antony Mair and more all shining.

And the cover by Neil Gower is gorgeous too.

Categories
Fiction Horror Performance Readings

Peter Kenny’s Little Horrors

Is anyone in their right mind interested in horror stories at a time like this?

Despite this, I find uploading readings onto YouTube is helping me manage my anxiety.  I was talking to my pal Robin Houghton yesterday that this outbreak makes me want to upload all my best work. Robin said it made her want to burn things, which made me laugh.

Anyhow… I intend to upload a few readings of published horror stories just for fun. Peter Kenny’s Little Horrors allows me to give published stuff another airing for a different audience, and to be there for posterity. 

This story was first published by the excellent Jeremy Page in The Frogmore Papers, in 2019. Hope you enjoy it….

Categories
a writer's life Blowing my own trumpet Horror Poetry Prose

The Dream Home

Very happy to have a new dark tale in the Autumn 2019 94th edition of the literary magazine The Frogmore Papers, edited by Jeremy Page. There are two other stories in this edition: A Citadel by Natalya Lowndes, and A Few Brief Words by Andrew Blair. I found both had a lovely balance of humour and pathos. A Citadel is an evocative portrait of the narrator’s Uncle Julius a lonely, hard-drinking British ex-pat in Moscow. A Few Brief Words, takes the form of a speech given at a funeral for a curmudgeonly writer who idolised Arthur Miller.

My own story The Dream Home is about insomnia, and is based on a technique I used in the past to fall asleep. The idea is when you go to bed, to imagine your perfect house. Night after night I would do this, adding to the house I was building in my imagination, and then I would nod off. In this story, there is naturally something lurking in the dream home. Like others of my recent stories, I set it in a place I have lived in. When I first moved to Brighton over fourteen years ago now, I lived in a Twitten called Camden Terrace very close to the railway station. I often lay awake listening to the rough sleepers gathered in the underpass of Trafalgar Street, and could hear them shouting and sometimes singing.

This issue of The Frogmore Press as ever has some fine poetry in it. Two poems have leapt out at me right away. One by my pal Stephen Bone, called Curry which is spicy in every sense, and another by Laura Chalar called The Nineties Revisited. This simply written poem about a lost time and lost love that got me right away. Here are its closing lines…

“Bring back

your gorgeous life and mine–never
to be merged, I’m afraid (too late for that),

but for the humbler treats of coffee
and a talk. You may of course choose to

remain silent, but I’ve always been curious–
how on earth could you fail to gauge

the depth of that love? Come back, will you? Can you?
We’re so young. A bright century is about to come in.”

Categories
a writer's life Genius Prose Publishing Reading

A lost friend, agent hunting, and new collections of short stories

My friend Janet Summerton died on October 1st at the age of 79.  I was heavily involved in her care during her last two months, and that of her husband Ken who survives her. Janet was a lateral thinking champion of the crafts and craft makers – and a benign influence on a generation of arts managers in the UK.  There are plans to celebrate her life and work next year. My own relationship with her, however, started when I  was her lodger in my twenties. For the next thirty years she was a wise and affectionate aunt-like figure to me. What I learned from her is immeasurable, introducing me right away to the idea of having a portfolio career and, perhaps most helpfully, she stopped me being a genius.

* * *

Shortly after Janet died I attended a long-booked Writers & Artists ‘How to hook an agent’ day course for writers of Children’s and YA fiction, at Bloomsbury Publishing up in Bedford Square. The agents I heard from were Davinia Andrew-Lynch, Julia Churchill, and Ben Illis, all of whom were generous with their advice, and refreshingly normal and human. Lurking in Bloomsbury’s maze-like offices I kept imagining all the celebrated writers who must have visited there. My fellow attendees were a fascinating lot too, some had flown in from other countries. In the afternoon we all had ten minutes face-to-face with an agent. Pitching is part of what I have done for a living for the last twenty years or so, so the fact I made such an arse of myself was disappointing. Despite this, Ben Illis the agent I spoke to gave me excellent advice. I am acting on it.

* * *

I have been reading short stories recently, after buying two collections from writer friends, both published by Cultured Llama.

In Jeremy Page’s London Calling and Other Stories. I particularly enjoyed the novela-length title story London Calling. Its protagonist, a University drop-out called Eustace Tutt, is brilliantly drawn, and was for me like meeting someone from my own past.    Sadly, my past did not feature sharing a squat with two German girls with a propensity for nudity.  Jeremy’s stories are funny, touching and very human. I devoured the collection.

Unusual Places  by Louise Tondeur‘s style is fascinating, she has an alien’s eye for detail, and observations are made without the expected filters and hierarchies of importance. Louise is writing a crime novel at the moment, and I can’t help thinking the engaging oddness of her characters and description would make her foray into crime something to be greatly anticipated.

My other ‘discovery’ is Robert Aickman, a writer of what he called ‘strange Stories’, who died in 1981. I bought a new collection of his called Compulsory Games full of hauntingly weird stories. The story called No Time Is Passing, is one of the most disturbing and brilliant things I have ever read. It concerns a man who goes out into his back garden in West London and discovers a river at the end of it.  I found myself in the middle of the night worrying if I was going mad. I had been obsessing about the story lying awake and wide-eyed for hours. The way Aickman nudges up the weird every few sentences is just incredible. Dreamlike is a word that is overused continually, but Aickman’s stories are properly nightmarish, while rarely resorting to horror tropes.

Categories
A Guernsey Double Blowing my own trumpet Poetry

Guernsey is my Touchstone

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.

Touchstone by Peter Kenny

Categories
Poetry

‘The Nightwork’ reviewed in The Frogmore Papers

Delighted to find The Nightwork reviewed in The Frogmore Papers by the excellent Charlotte Gann — whose poem In the classroom of touch in the last issue of Rialto absolutely blew me away. I particularly appreciated Charlotte noticing:

“…how it (The Nightwork) invites the reader into its own world of atmospheres. I have real sympathy for the almost comic-tragic I who then soldiers through this. I lurch from the musty box/ of the toilet at the back,/take my place again/ among the ghost-faced sleepers (‘A sparrow at 30,000 ft.’) … There is real anguish here, held securely in poems of reflective subtlety.”

Having the fact I love balancing gloom and laughter picked up on is really heartening.

I am a subscriber to The Frogmore Papers, which is based in Lewes and has been a welcome fixture in poetry publication since 1983. It’s editor Jeremy Page was interestingly interviewed here by Abegail Morely a couple of days ago.

Lovely cover this time, by Carol Lewis.

FP 85 lr
The Frogmore Papers, with a lovely cover by Carol Lewis.