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a writer's life Peter Kenny The Writer Ltd. Poetry Travel Working

A pre-Christmas ramble

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A side-street not taken in Vienna.

My double life requires me to switch from working in advertising agencies, back to picking up the threads of my creative life and vice versa. My most recent agency stint was with a lovely crew at DDB Remedy in London, which culminated in six days in Austria. The work was a bit full on, however, so all I could do was imagine the foresty, golden Klimts in nearby Viennese galleries I knew I had no time to see. One night I broke away for half an hour and walked randomly from the hotel, looking wistfully at the side streets not taken, but happy that I had at least a few minutes to  breathe the cold night air of Vienna and feel for a moment that I was inside a film.

One thing about doing agency work for a couple of months is that it gave me plenty of commuting time to read.  I can devour a short novel in a day or two, and I usually take some poetry with me to dip in when feeling the need. I read novels by, among others,  Ali Smith, Elizabeth Stroud, Richard Ford, Lloyd Jones and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and  poetry by Fernando Pessoa, J.O. Morgan, Adélia Prado, John McCullough and Tess Jolly.

I’ve noticed several agency creatives over the last few years using Instagram and ‘late-adopter’ that I am, I now use it too, documenting lunchtime strolls around the canals of Little Venice near Paddington, London, and a couple of snaps in Vienna.

Now, feeling a bit exhausted, I’m taking stock of my own creative work. Apart from two poetry readings, and some quickly scribbled drafts of poem ideas, I have left everything untouched since October. And not having much on the horizon feels odd and dangling. I have no play in production, no new play written, my children’s novel is waiting for another agent to look at it, with one rejection so far that took over four months to receive.

But poetry, my first love, remains true and I’m always tinkering at some poem or another. I met with some fellow poets on Monday in Lewes, to talk about a forthcoming poetry anthology from Telltale and to drink some beer. This is therapy for me. Chatting with friends Robin Houghton, Sarah Barnsley, Charlotte Gann and Stephen Bone, makes me feel the obsession that has dogged me since my teens is actually a perfectly reasonable response to the world. Writers can be as backbitey and competitive as anyone else, so when you find yourself among supportive colleagues the affirmation is priceless.

I am doing a course in making stained glass windows in the new year, something I’ve always had a hankering to try, despite not being very good with my hands. A poem I wrote in the 80s, The Window Maker was printed on some National Book Tokens. Apparently an impostor went into a northern bookshop raging because Book Tokens had stolen his poem, and he was in fact the real Peter Kenny and wasn’t happy about it. I often think about doppelgängers, because my life contains quite a few incidents like this. Having a twin brother is the worst nightmare I can imagine. But I digress… I love stained glass. I love the way light passes through it. I love the leading too, and how these thick lines allow something to be  assembled from fragments into a whole that plays with gorgeous light. What’s not to love? I already have designs in my head that are on the scale of Coventry Cathedral. I might have to reign in my expectations.

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Me, before the Santa beard went on

So to end this pre-Christmas ramble, I would just like to wish you a very Merry Christmas. I love this time of year enormously. Even looking at a Christmas tree can bring a tear to my eye. Luckily I got to be Santa this year at my wife’s village school. To play a part in the unfurling of Christmas was great fun, and I am always amazed by the intelligence of children. I was plunged into ontological debates about the reality of Father Christmas with three or four nippers, (trying not to feel affronted, for did I not refute their argument just by being there in front of them?) I came out of that quite well I thought.

Cheers! Have a peaceful one.

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Blowing my own trumpet Performance Poetry Readings

Poetry readings with Pighog and Telltale coming soon

I have two poetry readings in the pipeline in about a month’s time. In Brighton, and London. Here are the deets:

N.B. DATE CHANGE Wednesday October 25, 2017 7:30 pmThe Nightingale Room, Grand Central, 29-30 Surrey St, Brighton BN1 3PA Pighog poetry evening with Charlotte Gann, Peter Kenny and another guest TBA – Tickets on the door £5, £4 concessions, £3 for open mic participants.
Wednesday November 1, 2017 7.30 pmThe Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton St, London WC2H 9BX  Telltale Press & Friends with Catherine Smith, Abigail Parry, Robin Houghton and Peter Kenny – FREE

I’ve fan-boyishly blogged on this blog about Charlotte Gann  who is an amazing poet, and I loved her book Noir.  We are reading at one of the Pighog events in Brighton on Oct 26th organised by Michaela Ridgway. The excellent Clare Best  was also due to read with us, but has had to pull out as the date of the reading had to change.

Then, the following week on November the first, there’s another Telltale & Friends reading. I’m keen to hear Abigail Parry, who has been a magnet for poetry prizes. Her highly-anticipated collection Jinx will be published by Bloodaxe next year. I’ll have another opportunity to hear the extremely accomplished and sometimes saucy Catherine Smith, as well as my pal Robin Houghton, who has a new pamphlet All the relevant gods, out from Cinnamon next year. There are a few more details about the Telltale reading on the Telltale Blog.

I like the flyer Robin put together for the Telltale Reading below. I am pleased I asked Innis McAllister to do a decent shot of me.  I think Robin looks like she has something really important to tell you. And what’s more, she has. But you’ll have to come along to hear it.

Telltale reading

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A Glass of Nothing a writer's life Brighton Blonde Productions Poetry Telltale Press Theatre

Precious time

I’ve spent the last couple of months with little time. I’ve been commuting to London to work in an advertising agency every day (a four hour round trip). The Gods of Freelance then added in more work for me to do on the train, and in the evenings and weekends and through holidays. By chance this coincided with one of my worst-ever bouts of depression. I rarely get depressed. Glum, sure, but that’s usually over in a few days. But being down for weeks on end was unusual for me, and my respect for people who keep on keeping on, despite dealing with repeated depression, is more acute now.

Now, having thawed from that glacier, I feel myself again. Being depressed for me means having myself at the centre of all my thoughts. And you can take it from me, it is a tedious place. Now I can laugh about myself again,  I can’t wait to get stuck into being creative on my own projects. The enforced ‘downtime’ has given me unexpected benefits. I am suddenly much clearer about two of my projects. Time is often the best editor. I could have done without pouring tea into my laptop the other day, however, but that’s a different story.

* * *

I attended the recent Telltale Press reading in Lewes, which featured Siegfried Baber, mining his love of Americana to enormous effect, Marion Tracey whose poems have an Apollonian dreamlike clarity.  Sarah Barnsley read particularly well I thought. One of her poems, called The Fugitive, I loved. It reminded me of C.P. Cavafy’s wonderful concreteness. I think Sarah’s work is fantastic. Sarah introduced her friend Katrina Naomi who also read excellently, despite being interrupted by the Telltale Stand collapsing dramatically as if some poltergeist had given it a good shake. Katrina’s work seems effortless, both accessible and deep. Everyone lapped up her reading.

I snapped two rather poor photos on the night. One of Sarah Barnsley, and the other of Katrina Naomi. The room was packed, although it doesn’t look like it.

* * *

Meanwhile two of my poetry chums are on the cusp of new publications, and I’m delighted for both of them.

By old pal Richard Fleming is just about to publish Stone Witness, a new collection with the Guernsey-oriented Blue Ormer Publishing. Richard’s box of books has just arrived and his blog captures the moment. It is going to be launched during the Guernsey Literary Festival, and I am really looking to seeing him soon, and owning a copy.

Meanwhile Robin Houghton has had a pamphlet accepted by Cinnamon, called All The Relevant Gods, to be published next year. Robin has an inspiring blog post about the journey to acceptance here. For all kinds of reasons, even for an exceptional poet like Robin, making progress can be tough. But it means getting the breakthrough is even sweeter.

* * *

Beth Symons and I are beginning to sort out our Edinburgh Fringe run. We all have somewhere to stay, which is a start. We are just about to start auditioning for a male actor (preferably Brighton based, or within striking distance) to join the ensemble. So if you happen to be male, in your twenties, and an actor with comedy chops, then please get in touch with me through this site.

My play, A Glass of Nothing, which is directed by and stars Beth Symons, and features Kitty Underhill will be on at  The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall, Theatre 2, 9.10pm on 5/8/17, (free preview) 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th August 17 (4-night run).  Naturally I hope to be blah-blahing about this more ere long.

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Poetry Telltale Press The Nightwork

The Interpreter’s House, a home from home

IMG_3029Since meeting Martin Malone, editor of The Interpreter’s House, last year at a reading we were giving in Lewes, and hearing him read excellently (and pyrotechnically as his folder of poems accidentally caught alight) I have finally got my act together to become a subscriber.  In fact I tend to share my limited subscriptions budget around among various titles, so I’ve only just received my first issue. And I’m happy to report that it’s a thoroughly well-edited magazine. I’m still dipping in, and rereading.

The issue featured prize winners from the 2016 Open House Poetry Competition. The winner, Little Things, by Jeremy Wikeley seems to be an object lesson in how to write a winner. Concise, deceptively simple about the space grief takes up in your heart. ‘Little things, like big distances, make all/the difference. In Japan, they’ve made a/skyscraper graveyard.’

It was great to see the Telltale Press posse being heavily represented, poems from Sarah Barnsley, Robin Houghton and Siegfried Baber. To my surprise, I found it also contained an encouraging short review of my pamplet The Nightwork by Neil Young.

Every line insists on attention in Peter Kenny’s The Nightwork (Telltale Press), and yet there’s a lightness of touch to the writing that rendered its craft seamless. An undercurrent of anxiety – and the dangers lurking in our apparent normalities — combine with wit and a fluidity of language to tug the reader along from first to final lines. This is a poet at ease with his talents. Everyday observations juggle with snapshots from mythology and history, but nothing jars. The opener, ‘A Sparrow at 30,000ft’, holds out a wry foretaste of what’s to come, with the speaker internalising reassurances that are sure to prompt an amused nod of recognition among readers: “Cattle class, in clear air turbulence / this shuddering is perfectly normal”.

Robin’s The Great Vowel Shift, was reviewed too. He found a ‘camera-panning quality to some of some of these observations’ and he particularly liked Robin’s ‘Fermata’, with its ‘intimations of menace and unresolved sorrows’ and concluded ‘These are impressive collections from Telltale’.

So good job I subscribed then!

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Performance Poetry Readings Telltale Press

Off the bench

Forgot to mention here that I was a last minute substitute for a poorly Siegfried Baber on a recent Telltale and Friends night at Telltale’s old stomping ground of the Poetry Cafe. A quick reshuffle meant that Robin Houghton introduced the event instead of me. Uncharacteristically I was not really in the mood for doing a reading, but having done so I was very pleased I did.

John McCullough read from his new book Spacecraft which is wonderful, and I will write something about it on this site soon. Sarah Barnsley read some extraordinary new and playful poems. Jess Mookherjee, the newest Telltale recruit and gave us a preview of her new pamphlet Swell, due out this Autumn. It’s lovely work, sensitive and direct.

All participants had to hare off afterwards due to the unspeakable Southern Trains debacle. Jess headed off to Tunbridge Wells, while Sara, John, Robin and I got the train to Brighton. Unusually for poets after the meeting, stone cold sober but the journey home passed in a flash with such good company.

Below left to right, Sarah Barnsley, John McCullough, Jess Mookherjee and me. Photo taken by Robin.

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Robin has long held an ambition to film Telltale performances, but for all kinds of reasons this has not worked particularly well.  During the evening Robin took a film of me reading Postcard from Ithaca. Seeing this film below has already had one positive outcome. I have started a frowny new diet.

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Poetry Reading

More on project 154

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I received my copy of the Live Canon Project 154 book a day or so ago. All of Shakespeare’s sonnets, with a response by 154 contemporary poets including friends like Robin Houghton, Antony Mair, Sue Rose and many more.

As a rule this kind of intertextuality isn’t my bag. Nor do I need prompts for what to write about. But rubbing shoulders with the Bard wasn’t to be missed. I wrote my response to sonnet 19 very quickly, as I only had a week, and it was a busy one. I had a decent idea. I pictured the lover trapped between the lines of the Shakespeare sonnet, like a prisoner looking through bars. I wanted the language to the similar in tone to the sonnet, so I avoided contemporary language so not to seem anachronistic.

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I went to the Victoria & Albert museum on 24th April to hear the first couple of dozen sonnets and responses read. Maybe I’m letting the side down as poet, but the phrase poetry marathon (glimpsed on the sign outside) always makes me shudder. I LOVE poetry, but the idea that it becomes some kind of an endurance test is not for me.

When it came to the moment when my own poem was read out, the poem was read by a single person in the same voice so was unintelligible. I found this very embarrassing, and it left me a bit miffed that a theatre company devoted to reading poems hadn’t sussed that this could be read in two voices. But it’s my own fault. It was however a gorgeous setting for a reading, and I heard lots of other good poems (plus the Willie the Shake stuff of course).

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In the book are some genuinely interesting responses to the sonnets. Many braved a sonnet reply, such as my pal Robin Houghton with her Suggestion from The Rival Poet, or Abigail Parry whose Shakespeare in Space replied to No.18, possibly the most famous sonnet of all, with ‘Shall I compare thee to the Milky Way?’ and uses the language of astronomy. while leoemercer’s extraordinary poem called this depict the sad moment when you realise your beatuiful relation hip clearly hasnt workt out (an anagram of shaxespeares 107st sonnet) really has to be encountered for yourself.

In reply to sonnet 70, Mo Jones’s poem is easily the most stark of all, so stark it can be quoted in full:

Equation

My fuck up + my shiftiness = your fuck up + your deceit

We’re quits.

All in all, a collection that is thought provoking and well-worth checking out.

 

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Poetry Readings Telltale Press

Telltale Press reading, Lewes 13 April

The Telltale poets’ collective is positively gambolling into Spring, bringing with it some exceptional poetry to Lewes next month. I’m looking forward to this Telltale reading greatly, not least because I can hungrily engulf the poetry without having to perform myself. Plus the event is free and in the characterful Lewes Arms, one of my favourite pubs in the centre of Lewes.

Prepare a fiendish pitfall trap on a Lewes side street and you’d be unlucky not to end up with a half a dozen writers in it at the end of the day. This may account for why Lewes audiences are usually so thoughtful and responsive. I’m looking forward to blending in with them there.

I’m looking forward to hearing Abegail Morley read for the first time. She has a fine publishing track record, and I last encountered her yeti dodging at the Himalayan Gardens in Kent.  Her forthcoming book is ‘The Skin Diary’. Maybe I’m biased, but I always find my fellow Telltale poets Robin and Sarah to be moving and engrossing, and I’m interested to meet Rebecca White, who I am hearing good things about.

Hope to see you there, if you’re within reach.

A5-flyer-Lewes-2016

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Charity Guernsey Marketing Poetry Travel

Ready for Chad and missing writing poetry

Chad

Final stage of prep seems now to be done. Passport renewed, visa obtained, jabs jabbed (although inconveniently I had a fever when I went for my yellow fever jab so I had to return a few days later) anti-malarial Malerone tablets bought, while my wife has armed me with lots of practical things like wet wipes, hand sanitisers and so on. Final thing to buy is a mosquito net, and I need to locate and deploy my inner hairy-chested man of action.

My inner h-c man of action especially required after a day of compulsory security training. Essentially the training gave you an idea of what to do in every conceivable worst case scenario, delivered by a man who has spent much of his life working in the most hostile environments, bless his white-rimmed eyes. Lots of advice from what to do if you are being robbed (simply give them everything) right up to the best position to take on the floor if someone throws a live grenade into the room. Rather melodramatically a dummy grenade was thrown into our room, prompting us to flatten ourselves on the floor, heads pointed away from the blast. Hardly soothing stuff.

Nevertheless, the script I wrote which we are filming seems to have been approved by everyone, and next week we see how reality matches our expectation. I am hoping we can edge beyond the normal tropes of DRTV and see if we can get something exceptional. Fundraising DRTV advertisements have some rigid but proven conventions so it is definitely about striking a balance between abiding by conventions and managing to surprise people.

Poetry

I’ve not had much chance to engage with poetry over the last few weeks, due being very busy in my Peter Kenny The Writer Ltd mode. This is making me itch to write poems again.

I particularly enjoyed being on the Telltale Stand for the Poetry Book Fair. More than anything I value the chance to get a snapshot of what is going on in poetry in the UK, and also to drift about chatting to some old friends and putting some names to faces. I bought books too. One simply because I liked its name: Infragreen by Kate Bingham, and another because it was connected with Guernsey: Timothy Adès translation of How to be a Grandfather, by Victor Hugo. I spoke with Timothy who had just returned from the Guernsey Literary Festival, and had bumped into Edward Chaney there. I also bought a Carcanet New Poetries IV anthology. I love these Carcanet anthologies. They invite a kind of personal statement of its poets, which is a potential minefield. Some are illuminating while others make me hoot with laughter at their portentous vacuity. All adds to the fun.

Me, Robin Houghton, Siegfried Baber, Sarah Barnsley
Me, Robin Houghton, Siegfried Baber, Sarah Barnsley

My favourite moment on the Telltale stand was when a woman looked at the four free poem postcards we were giving away. Silently she picked up one after another, read the first line or two through her magnifying glass, and replaced the card on its pile with a visible shudder. She came to Sarah Barnsley’s card last, and lo! She regally retained it before moving on. Praise indeed.

In fact Sarah Barnsley’s new pamphlet is just out from TelltaleThe Fire Station contains some truly exceptional poems.When I get back from Chad I will write more about them.

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Poetry Publishing

TELLTALE PRESS at the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair – Conway Hall, London Saturday 26th September

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Yay! Telltale Press will be represented at the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair this weekend. Come to our stand say howdy to Robin Houghton, Siegfried Baber, Sarah Barnsley and myself. We’ll be armed with revolutionary pamphlets and plenty of chat. Plus you have to grab hold of Sarah Barnsley’s spanking new ‘The Fire Station’ as is it is released into the wild for the first time.

I had a blast last year there as an attendee, sloping about with Robin and feeling the poetry buzz – amazing publications, elegant design, live readings and much  bumping into old friends. I feel proud that just one year later Telltale is now a robust little press able to take its place at the fair too. See you there!

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Marketing Poetry Travel

Chad, Telltale Press and some poetry acceptances

I am off to Chad. In less than a month I shall be going to what is, according to the United Nations human development report 2011 is the fifth poorest nation on earth. I will be part of a small team to fact-find and shoot film for fundraising activities. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit twitchy about the idea at first (Chad being roughly three thousand miles outside my comfort zone) but this rare opportunity to do something good in the world has to be seized. My trepidation is rapidly being replaced by curiosity and excitement at the opportunity to grow as a writer and a person.

Telltale Press news… The Poetry Book Fair is happening on Saturday 26th in The Conway Hall London. I’m really proud to be on the Telltale stand (it’ll be our first time and we are sharing a stand with the lovely folks at The Frogmore Press) with Robin Houghton, Siegfried Baber and Sarah Barnsley.

Sarah’s spanking new Telltale pamphlet, The Fire Station, is about to released into the wild, and having read it I can tell you it is wonderful.

My own poems have had a couple of cheering acceptances lately. From Under the Radar magazine another with The Island Review which is a beautiful site visually and in content. While the excellent poetry anthology edited by Josephine Corcoran called And Other Poems will also feature a poem later this year. No doubt I shall be bragging about these more when they see the light of day.

Chad