What’s that? The sound of virtual corks? Wish us luck as Robin Houghton and I launch our podcast on an unsuspecting planet.
To be honest, it feels a bit like standing on a diving board, and gazing into the cold deep water with trepidation. But here we go! The first episode of Planet Poetry is now live, and available wherever you get your podcasts.
In our first episode we were absolutely delighted to meet multi-award winning poet Pascale Petit and explore the lush Edens of her poetry. Hear Pascale talk frankly about the troubling shadows cast by her mother and father on her life and work. Enjoy her readings from several collections, including the recently published Tiger Girl, which describes the sanctuary offered by her relationship with her Indian grandmother.
Robin Houghton and I have teamed up again, and we are about to launch a podcast featuring poets, influencers and editors. We are preparing to launch soon — so expect us to be parping enthusiastically on our social media trumpets with more details than you can shake a stick at very soon.
Delightfully, this project has reminded me that, first and foremost, I am a fan. The fact is, I straightforwardly love poets and poetry. I have found it absolutely fascinating to begin to talk to accomplished poets and publishers about their work and how they function in today’s world.
Yes it has been a steep learning curve, and there is still plenty of that curve ahead. But apart from, ah-hem, occasional John Cleese style IT rages, I have loved every minute of it. Robin says she has too.
Obviously none of this happens in a vacuum. Our better halves have been top too. My Lorraine, home from a hard day’s headteachering, has been compelled to tiptoe around the house, while Nick, Robin’s professional musician husband, has been warned away from the piano on more than one occasion.
Robin and I have interviewed all our guests online, and chatted to each other in the same way. Only once, a few weeks, ago did Robin and I actually meet up on a sunny day in an empty pub garden in Brighton for a few beers and a chat. The podcast is a product of its socially distanced times.
Meanwhile here is a pic of me and Robin from March, when Robin was launching her latest pamphlet in London, taken by our pal Sarah Barnsley. Just as the time that you could actually have a beer with your mates (without cringing) was coming to an end.
As a horror and weird fiction newbie, I’m delighted to have my first story The Inheritor in Supernatural Tales, edited tirelessly by David Longhorn. My tale is set in Guernsey, and draws on my childhood experiences of living in my Grandparent’s haunted 16th century granite cottage.
The story concerns the return of an exile, a burial and a the return to a haunted house (see above). You’ll be pleased to learn it all ends horrifically. I preface The Inheritor with a quote by Victor Hugo, who lived on the island.
‘Houses resemble those who dwell in them, and can, as it were, die… These weird looking abodes are not rare in the Channel Islands; all agricultural and seafaring classes have a strong faith in the active agency of Satan.’
Victor Hugo, The Toilers of the Sea
The table of contents has some heavy hitting horror and weird fiction writers. Chuffed to be among them.
That the Sea Shall Be Calm by David Surface
Pertrichor by Sam Dawson
Old Habits by Stephen Cashmore
The Sea Man by James Machin
Sorrow is the Mother of the World by Jeremy Schiliewe
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…
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.”
I don’t dwell much on past projects. I’m always focused on the next thing. On Friday I had a few beers with Glen Capra, and this reminded me of Glen and I recording my poem Minotaur, which had been set to music by Matthew Pollard, in one take back in 2011. I made this video afterwards, using a flip camera to get a labyrinth effect walking around in Brighton. The poem’s hero doesn’t realise he appears monstrous to others.
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.
Here’s a nice piece in the Daily Mail about Dylan. For an 18 year old, he is already extremely mature and professional. His grandfather, the much-loved performer Ronnie Corbett died during the period we were rehearsing the play. Although very sad, if anything his grandfather’s passing made Dylan more determined to succeed.
This week was so important for Dylan for all kinds of reasons. And as a cast, Beth, Kitty and I are really proud he did so well.