Categories
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.

Categories
Poetry Readings Telltale Press

Make 28th April a date for poetry in Lewes

There will be one of Telltale’s splendid reading in Lewes at the end of the month. Super talented Telltale pals Sarah Barnsley and Siegfried Baber, plus Sussex-based Marion Tracy, whose book Dreaming of Our Better Selves, I find distinctive and unusual. I’m looking forward to hearing more of Katrina Naomi’s work too. We have a great time at the Telltale events in The Lewes Arms, so please come along if you can make it.

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 18.37.04

Categories
Performance Publishing Reading Telltale Press

Jessica Mookherjee’s ‘The Swell’ – hear her with Judy Brown, Siegfried Baber and Michaela Ridgway 19th Oct in Lewes

img_0095
Jessica Mookherjee earlier this month

Gillian Clarke’s remarks on the pamphlet flap for Jessica Mookherjee’s Telltale Press pamphlet  The Swell are spot on. Among them she says Jess’s poems are ‘Bold, fiery, truthful, they tell an original story with power’.

Other than reading The Swell at a fairly late stage before publication, I had little to do with Jess’s pamphlet. Sarah Barnsley, who along with Robin Houghton, helped Jess edit The Swell said that, in the process of finalising the selection, Jess had a whole sheaf of possible replacements for each poem. Amazingly prolific at the moment, Jess is already well on her way to forming a first full collection, and her work is frequently cropping up in many magazines. The reason is that they are fabulous.

The first poem of the The Swell pamphlet, ‘Snapshot’  depicts the loss of a mother’s attention away from the little girl ‘I’ of the poem. ‘I passed on my birthright to all those unborn/ boys,’ the mother tragedy spills into the poem, she becomes a person who needs her ‘worried forehead’ soothed, needs to be watched over:

Stood behind my mother as she prayed
at the front door, led her to the kitchen,
made sure she looked at the babies.

but finally we are left with an image of childhood abandonment, how the absence of attention leaves its mark with an image of neglect:

There is no photograph of me climbing the stairs
two at a time, no evidence that I tried
not to slip and break my neck.

One thing I love about Jess’s work is the balance between such nuance, and unabashed boldness. In the poem ‘Red’:

The red curtains in my mother’s house
looked like someone had shot her.

A colour is shown as a symbol for domestic disagreement, and disappointment:

I tell you not to wear that that red shirt,
it doesn’t flatter.
There’s blood in the bathroom again,
this month.

The pamphlet is fraught with thwarted hopes and expectations, and its arena is the female body.  We glimpse the weight of expectation on women to have sons, to create families, to select the right partner. I find the poem ‘Mother’s Day’ to be eloquent about assigned roles. The poem opens, with typical boldness, describing a delivery of flowers:

Delivered like unwanted children,
I didn’t put them into water.

I find a passion and rebellion in The Swell.  I can’t recommend it enough. And if you’d like to hear Jess’s next reading, at the Telltale Press & Friends reading in Lewes with a fine array of poets. These include Judy Brown, whose book Crowd Sensations is becoming one of my favourites of recent times, and will write about it on here soon. It’s a great opportunity to hear Telltale’s Siegfried Baber up from Bath, and Brighton’s own Michaela Ridgway showcase their work too.

flyer-for-email-and-online-oct16

Categories
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!

Categories
Poetry Readings Telltale Press

Telltale & Friends reading 7th July

Just a quick note on here about a Telltale & Friends reading coming soon. I shall be hosting the evening. A great bill… First, and hotter than a sizzling hot thing, is John McCullough right now. He’s a long-term Telltale friend, and his spanking new collection Spacecraft is already going down a storm. On the night we’ll also showcase Telltale’s latest recruit Jess Mookherjee, whose collection Telltale will be launching later this year. You’ll also find on the bill are fabulous Telltale stars Sarah Barnsley (The Fire Station) and Siegfried Baber (When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid). 

june16-flyer-for-email

Categories
Blowing my own trumpet Poetry

Getting in ‘Under the Radar’

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 🙂

Categories
Blowing my own trumpet Performance Poetry Readings

See the future this Thursday

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?TT invite

Categories
Poetry Readings Uncategorized

Reading Jan 7th Poetry Cafe

Here’s another Telltale Press event to jolt you into 2016 wide-eyed with wonder. I’ll be reading with Jack Underwood, snapped up by Fabers like a hot kipper, Kitty Coles whose poems are charged with mythic power, plus Cartoon Kid and Telltale favourite Siegfried Baber.

A shout out to Andrew King whose photograph of me reading at the Red Roaster I purloined for use in this poster.

 

TT invite

Categories
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.

cover-image-FireStation

Categories
Poetry Publishing

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

IMG_1961

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!