Poem of the Month: May

Each month Influx Press is featuring a contemporary poet you might not know but definitely should.

This month to mark Dementia Awareness Week (17th- 23rd May) we chose a couple of poems from Sarah Hesketh’s The Hard Word Box. This collection is a result of the twenty weeks Sarah spent in a residential care home as part of a project called Where the Heart is. This month we’re also featuring a Q&A between Kyra and Sarah which delves further into this fascinating project and behind Sarah’s creative process.

Spoons

   Spoons break up the day.
Yes. No. Out of mouths
    wedged in the spaces
between who and when. In
    bookshelves and along
windowsills, bright slugs
   who came in for the night.
Such shiny visitors,
    they give us back to ourselves,
our faces strangely curved.
   Small windows into tiny worlds
we hold to impossible angles.

The Hard Words

Look, let’s be clear: don’t imagine
there is anybody here who enjoys
dribbling poetry. If you think we’re
holding stars on our tongues
that’s your eyes want testing.
If you hear music when we grunt
you haven’t understood exactly
what it is we needed to say.
You might enjoy the ruins
of our grammar, the way we
chew up our nouns to song.
It’s not your hand that’s getting
thinner on the blanket.
Please don’t ask us to speak
the hard words all at once.

Did you do a lot of research into writing that has already been produced through working with Dementia patients? If so did that influence how you approached the project?

When I first started on the Where the Heart Is project it was all quite daunting so yes I did start by trying to research and read as much as I could. I was already familiar with the work of the artist David Clegg and The Trebus Project, so that was a huge help as a starting point. What I quickly discovered was that there wasn't all that much writing out there that had been produced as a result of working with people with dementia. I read a lot about memory, both scientific and more literary works. Penelope Lively's book Ammonites and Leaping Fish was very helpful. Most of my research ended up being more around form and the crossover between visual art and text, because as well as the book, I knew my poems were going to have to feature in a physical exhibition, and that was a new kind of work for me.

I love the fragmentary form of these poems. I think you've perfectly captured in poetic form how memory works - we don't remember things in a linear way yet often as writers we attempt to impose this linear narrative structure, so I think the poems work because not only are they reflecting the disorienting, disintegrating aspects of Dementia but of life generally which is fragmentary and disordered. Did that kind of style come about because of the project or were you already naturally inclined to write that way?

The fragment form was something that I was already very interested in. I'd already started a fragment sequence on another topic, but these parallels that you're describing were part of the reason why I was so attracted to the residency opportunity in the first place. I'm very interested in gaps and what readers choose to put into them, and I think that the experience of reading a poem, and the experience of having a conversation with someone with dementia can be very similar and require similar strategies for extracting meaning.

You work with found material and the collection includes conversations you've transcribed. Did you find it challenging balancing your own poetic voice with the voices of those whose stories you were communicating?

From the outset, all of the artists on the residency were encouraged to think of the work we produced as collaborations with the people we were working with. I wanted my own impressions to have a place in the book, but I was also very keen to capture the voices of residents, relatives and the care staff, and also to find a way to represent those who were no longer able to speak, but were still full of communication. In some ways I thought of the book as a group portrait - a picture of a certain group of people at a certain time. I think that image also stops people from looking for too many general 'truths about dementia' in the writing.

Can you tell me about the inspiration behind the title?

The title comes from a line in an Anne Carson poem, 'Mimnermos: The Brainsex Paintings,' that features in her collection Plainwater. Carson's poem is, as you would expect, a complex one, but one of the ideas she's exploring is the pressure we place on people to speak and tell of themselves, and that was something I was very interested in during my residency. It's also a line that gestures at the difficult connections between dementia and language.

As it's Dementia Awareness Week and I know the project was keen to get past the simplistic use of the arts in health care settings, maybe you could comment on the value of poetry in particular in exploring the topics of Dementia and old age.

I'm very wary of making any special claims for any kind of arts practice in dementia settings. I think the arts can bring a huge amount of joy and interest into people's lives - whether you have dementia or you don't. I don't think the arts should be positioned as a 'cure' or a 'treatment' for dementia, because I think that can lead to situations where the arts end up as a smokescreen for bigger problems in a healthcare setting. I do think that art, and perhaps in particular words, can be a great advocacy tool for improving care for older people. People with dementia are largely voiceless in society at the minute, and I think artists and writers can help to amplify those voices and encourage them to be heard.

Sarah Hesketh is a poet and freelance project manager. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from UEA and her work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies including The White Review, Soundings, Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot and Binders Full of Women. Her first collection of poetry, Napoleon’s Travelling Bookshelf, was published by Penned in the Margins in 2009. These poems are taken from The Hard Word Box (Penned in the Margins 2014). In 2013-14 she was a poet in residence with Age Concern Central Lancashire. You can read Sarah's blog on the project here: http://wheretheheartispreston.tumblr.com//

Poem of the Month: April

Each month Influx Press is featuring a contemporary poet you might not know but definitely should.

This month we chose Keston Sutherland said by The New Statesman to be 'at the forefront of the experimental movement in contemporary poetry'. Sutherland’s radical poetics confront social and political issues. The Odes infiltrate the conventions of prose poetry combining a highly sexualised language with the jargon of capitalism, computers and the products of our rampant consumer culture.

Excepts from The Odes to TL61P

by Keston Sutherland

(NB.

In order to keep Keston's poetry as true to how it was published as possible we've had to create a image of it in order to get the line breaks and justified text correct)

Keston Sutherland is the author of The Odes to TL61P, The Stats on Infinity, Stress Position, Hot White Andy, Neocosis, Antifreeze and other books of poetry, and of Stupefaction, a book of essays about Marx and poetry. Lots of his essays on poetry, art, politics and Marxism are available online. He is the co-editor with Andrea Brady of Barque Press. He lives in Brighton and works at the University of Sussex.

These excerpts are taken from The Odes to TL61P (Enitharmon Press, April 2013) His collected works Poems 1999-2015 will be published in May 2015 by Enitharmon Press.

Influx Press at Stoke Newington Literary Festival

Last year, the year before that, and the year before that we have had the pleasure of holding events at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival.

In 2013 we collaborated with 3AM Magazine, Galley Beggar and the Lonely Coot Press. It was at the Mascara Bar and those who came will always remember it as, 'that time I saw Eimear McBride read from A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing before it was even published'. Probably.

In 2014 we did a late night, booze sodden, literary salon with Galley Beggar and 3AM again. This time the night would be less well remembered due to the amount of alcohol consumed, but with fuzzy recall you would definitely remember Nikesh Shukla reading from Meatspace before that lamb chop got on in the pages of the Broadsheets. You'd have also been captivated by the inimitable Jack Cheshire performing a cover of 'Killing Moon' by Echo and the Bunnymen.

This year, on June 6th the festival have given us a full day to programme whatever we want. This is a great opportunity for us to share the platform, or hand over our platform to other presses and organisations we believe are producing important and interesting work exploring Britain and London. We are grateful to Liz from Stoke Newington Lit Fest for giving us this space and we've put together a diverse and fascinating day.

All events will take place in the charming upstairs room at the White Hart on Stoke Newington High Street. Dangerous, you may think, given our fondness for the sauce, but rest assured, we shall maintain a professionalism right up until we don't have to.

The programme is as follows. The details aren't fleshed out, but this should provide a taster of who we've invited and who might be reading.

1-2pm: Test Centre

Test Centre is an independent publishing house and record label with an interest in the spoken and written word. Based in Hackney, East London, it was established in 2011 by Will Shutes and Jess Chandler. Test Centre's authors include Tom Chivers, SJ Fowler and Stewart Home.

"Test Centre…have returned Hackney to a state of readiness and experimental action. - Iain Sinclair

3-4pm: Unofficial Britain

Unofficial Britain is a celebration of the uncelebrated. A champion of the overlooked. A history of the forgotten. Unofficial Britain is a hub for unusual perspectives on the landscape of the British Isles, exploring the urban, the rural and those spaces in between.

5-6pm: Media Diversified

Media Diversified is a young and growing non-profit organisation which seeks to cultivate and promote skilled writers of colour. Media Diversified has provided a much needed life-line and vibrant forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences. It’s a mothership of affirmation and nurturing for writers, building resilience for the future and supporting people to take risks in tackling controversial topics and subjects that others aren’t.  It also articulates how racism works in so many areas of life, be it from colourism to the fashion industry to the recent moral panics. More positively/subversively, it considers whether having more writers of colour in the media undermines racism.

7-8pm: Squatting London: Total Shambles and Place/Waste/Dissent

Total Shambles by George F. and Place/Waste/Dissent by Paul Hawkins are both books that explore squatting culture, self-housing and the occupation of buildings for political, social and economic reasons. This event sees George and Paul discuss squatting and space in London - its history, social effects and its future.

9-11pm: Influx vs Galley Beggar: The Late Night Literary Salon

Similar to last year's salon, we have invited old pals and collaborators, Galley Beggar to join us in the evening for a book party like no other. Rounding off the day with drinks, music and readings from Influx Press and Galley Beggar authors, this is the only place to be on Saturday evening of the festival. Expect laughs, profundity and entertainment in full measure. Who knows, you might be watching the next big thing before anyone else. Or just watching Kit make worse and worse jokes as he introduces each writer into the sweet hopped heat of the night.

Poem of the Month: February


Each month Influx Press is featuring a contemporary poet you might not know but definitely should.

This month we chose Sarer Scotthorne. Sarer's poetry is a visceral descent into the psycho-sexual. In this poem Sarer interrupts the domestic and the urban scene with words which ooze with the pulse of an ebullient female sexuality.

The Blood House
by Sarer Scotthorne

The stairs creak voices - ketamine thuds bleed through
a single skin of brick; floorboards leak every secret.

The clock reverses - intermittent Gabba - radar moon. Cats scream,
I scream, howl my longings into cotton sheets. I scratch at the floor,

draw words in the mist of breath on pane; look through letters
lit orange by the light of the city night, at my beloved street below.

Bodies crawl, fumbling for keys - staring into shadows.
My hand-printed curtains float, lifting up as the city's sweat billows into my room.

The shouts of children climb through my windows like burglars,
angry mother’s scream and drag them back out.

This house breathes for me - joists splintering with love,
the beat of slamming doors hides the sound of the past

that is buried alive in the red brick cellar below.

Sarer Scotthorne is a feminist, poet and martial artist who plays with film and teaches Kung Fu and Creative Writing. This poem is from her first published collection The Blood House (Hesterglock Press, 2015). She co-edits the poetry/flash fiction pamphlet Boscombe Revolution and Westside HERstory. She has a website here: https://thebloodhouse.wordpress.com/

Poem of the Month: January

Each month Influx Press is featuring a contemporary poet you might not know but definitely should. This month we chose Alex MacDonald's poem to complement the release of Dan Duggan's Influx book Luxury of the Dispossessed.

Reasons for Asylum Admissions

by Alex MacDonald

Alex MacDonald lives and works in London. He has poems published in Poetry London, 3:AM, The Quietus and Clinic. He hosted a series of readings at the V&A Museum on independent poetry publishers and was recently the Digital Poet in Residence for the Poetry School. Reasons for Asylum Admissions was compiled from a list of real and imagined reasons people were admitted to an American sanatorium in the 1800s.

Books of 2014 - discussed by Influx Writers

 

We asked ourselves and our authors to tell us what they've been reading this year (not necessarily released in 2014). This post would be ludicrously long if we included pictures of the book sleeves, so you'll just have to imagine them there!

Also, the length of recommendation varies wildly.

Gareth E Rees (author of Marshland: dreams and nightmares on the edge of London)

Light by M. John Harrison
-head-mangling quantum space travel epic.

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer by Philip K. Dick
- in which a bishop questions the origin of Christ

One Three One by Julian Cope
- a narcotic Neolithic time-slip romp.

The Village that Died for England by Patrick Wright
- a multi-angled history of the lost Dorset village of Tyneham, swallowed up by the MOD’s tank range.

Springfield Road by Salena Godden
- a moving evocation of 1970s childhood

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
- a series of shifting poetic perspectives on loss and landscape.

On Walking by Phil Smith - a mythogeographic journey in Sebald’s footsteps.

In the Dark Room by James Knight
- an abstract and nightmarish short story combined with artwork

Hard Shoulder  by Baron Mordant and Zeke Clough
- a highly surreal comic strip road-trip.

 

Sam Berkson (author of Life in Transit)

Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest

Regardless of the hype, Kate is a good poet. She is also remarkably prolific, having put out two music albums, three theatre plays, two poetry collections and is working on a novel. She turns 30 next year. Hold Your Own is a Picador publication and starting with an 25 page retelling of the Tiresias story which becomes the coda for the collection, Kate reflects on her life changes from tom-boy to teenage woman to gay adult (using the sex-shifting blind prophet as its archetype) to successful truth-teller, exploring issues of gender and sexuality. Its edited by big cheese page poet Don Paterson and his influence is evident. It's more like proper poetry. She even uses line breaks this time. Some of that's good. At times maybe we lose a little of her distinctiveness but then again some of her 'this is how the world is', rhyming streams of consciousness stuff doesn't work as well on the page as it does in highly emotive live performance. "You've only yourself to blame when someone half as talented as you ends up achieving twice as much" is one piece of didactism which doesn't sit too comfortably with me. The gatekeepers have certainly welcomed her but then again she is five times as good as most of the Kate Tempest lookalikes pulling their tee-shirts and screaming out bad platitudes meant to be grand truths at poetry nights all across the country.

Springfield Road by Salena Godden

Long awaited childhood memoir, the result of many years of struggle - both internally and with fickle publishers. It is a brilliant book. She recreates the 70s and 80s of her East Midlands childhood, growing up with a single Jamaican mum as a mixed race girl in a white area., the family trying to come to terms with the disappearance of her dad. Issues are there but it's not an 'issue book', there are some achingly sad moments but it's not a 'misery memoir'. Its brilliance comes from the way she gets into the world of children and to recreate in detail what it is to be a child, her ability to empathise so perfectly with children in contrast with those adults in her life who (like her stepdad) clearly cannot. Memory, you realise, is an act of imagination. We recreate a plausible fiction from what we know of the characters and events, the test of its truth not being a measure against some absolute reality but the consistency and plausibility of what we describe. Her cuts between scenes keep the book moving, the decade she describes and the experiences of her childhood a common experience but one much under-represented in literature. Get it!

 

Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures by Mark Fisher

Capitalist Realism was to my mind, the best political book written by a British person so far this decade. It was one of those that said all the things you had been thinking but hadn't managed to find the words for. Ghosts of My Life is a different kind of book. It's a collection of his blogposts and essays, a lot of it about music and TV that I don't know. Although he is very good at music journalism, I always find that stuff hard-going: reading descriptions of the sounds of tracks I don't really know. I leant it to my muso mate and he loved it. However, the central idea is an interesting one: he is not nostalgic for the 70s and 80s, he is nostalgic for the imagined futures that people were seriously hoping for in the 70s and 80s - the dream of a better world that got lost as the world didn't really get any better and popular culture got less and less interesting.

 

Kit Caless, Influx Editor

Meatspace by Nikesh Shukla.

A very funny novel about social media, writing and family. Now famous for sending a Tayyabs lambchop into space.

 

The Way Inn - Will Wiles.

A wry, insightful and surreal look at the world of mid-budget hotel chains. I've not looked at a hotel the same way since reading it.

 

Sapiens: A brief history of mankind - Yuval Noah Harari.

A page turning anthropology book. Who'd have thought it?

 

Darkmans - Nicola Barker.

I know it came out in 2007 but I read it this year. An astonishing book. A crackling energy charges page and its brilliant characters.

 

Eat Your Heart Out by Zoe Pilger

I recommended this for Summer Reads. And it's definitely one of my favourite books of this year. Very, very funny.

 

PUSH Anthology

Collection of the best stories and poetry from PUSH magazine. Writing that's as raw and upfront as possible. Featuring Adelle Stripe, Ford Dagenham, Melissa Mann, Michael Keenaghan and an introduction from John King

 

Linda Mannheim (author of Above Sugar Hill)

Go Well, Stay Well, by Hannah StantonOne of my favourite books in 2014 was published over 50 years ago. Picked up in a second hand bookstore some time back, this memoir about South Africa during the 1960 State of Emergency  revealed things about that time and place that I have not seen anywhere else, and believe me – I’ve gone swimming in an archive of writing about the period.  Stanton writes from the perspective of an insider/outsider  -- passionately and without illusion, and never taking herself too seriously.

 

Handbook for an Unpredictable Life by Rosie Perez was a revelation. Yes, that Rosie Perez – star of thegame changing Do the Right Thing and early ‘90s Hip Hop choreographer. I kept waiting for the usual disingenuousness that laces through celebrity memoirs to appear, but in this book, there was none. Perez’s voice is as distinctive on the page as it is in the cinema, and here she writes about her childhood in a Catholic children’s home and unexpected success in Hollywood with brutal honesty and buoyant humour.

 

Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem

Despite having grown up in the United States, I don’t often recognise the territory described in novels that are supposed to be about America, but I know the place that Jonathan Lethem is writing about in Dissident Gardens. It’s my home turf.  Lethem’s story about three generations of New York Communists was so familiar to me that I was almost spooked. And, unlike many of those books that are supposed to be about America, there is no author’s ego hovering in each scene. There’s instead a chaotic, playful, and magical narrative and revisiting the streets that I knew through it shook me up, left me moved.

 

Gary Budden, Influx Editor

The Dig by Cynan Jones

This was my knockout novel of 2014. Short, to the point, like a kind of condensed fusion of the best work of Niall Griffiths and those tight-lipped masculine American writers (yes, such as Cormac McCarthy). Rural fiction with not a drop of sentimentality, addressing head on the grisly issue of badger baiting in west Wales. I liked this so much I immediately went and read and Cynan Jones’ other three novels. Highly recommended.

 

The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

First novel from activist Paul Kingsnorth, The Wake is a timely reminder of the bloody roots of the current system of land ownership in Britain, charting the fates of a bunch of ‘grene men’ Anglo-Saxon guerrillas fighting the Normans post-1066. Written in an Old English ‘shadow tongue’ this really is something special.

 

Beastings by Ben Myers

Another novel that takes tropes and possibly also its style from those aforementioned US writers, but transforming into something utterly British, timeless and also quite unpleasant. At times I had images of Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter wandering through the Lake District. Another brilliant addition to a growing canon of what I’d call ‘anti-pastoral’ writing. I then went and read Myers’ 2012 novel, Pig Iron, which was also really quite good.(Also Ben Myers turned me on to the joys of English landscape death-metal and we must commend him for that at the very least.)

 

Vulgar Things by Lee Rourke

A Guardian review said this novel was repetitive, claustrophobic, and ‘too aimless to inspire’. That, of course, was the point. Dr. Feelgood, Southend, Canvey Island, quite a lot of alcohol and a disturbing look at the male gaze, Vulgar Things brilliantly captures the strange atmosphere of the Thames estuary. A breath of fresh air, and inspirational in terms of what you can do with a modern British novel.

 

Gorse Journal

I really recommend, if you don’t know about it already, Gorse Journal from Dublin. Edited by Susan Tomaselli, the essays alone in the current issue (#2) are worth the price of entry. Favourites were pieces by Claire-Louise Bennett, Simon Reynolds (‘This Was Tomorrow’ is a very powerful piece looking hard at our current obsession with the past, and how our dreams of a future have died), and best of all, Brian Dillon (mainly because he was discussing Canterbury and Powell & Pressburger). In addition to this, it’s a real thing of beauty on your bookshelf that makes you look clever. Check them out: www.gorse.ie

 

Feral by George Monbiot

I read an article criticising Monbiot’s talk of invasive and ‘non-native’ species upsetting ecosystems in Britain, somehow comparing basic science with views akin to supporting the EDL and hating immigrants. Animals, of course, are not people, and thinking Japanese knotweed is a problem is not the same as voting for UKIP.This book is a passionate and eloquent call for the process of ‘rewilding’ to begin; not an attempt go back to some mythical pristine wilderness, but to give nature a bit of a nudge up and then let it get on with things. To put a little bit more diversity and enchantment back in the world before it’s all too late. The first book to give me any sense of hope for the future in a long time.

 

Stories from The Weird

The backbreaking anthology, The Weird (edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer), is something I have the feeling I’ll be dipping into for the rest of my life. At over 750,000 words, I doubt I’ll ever ‘finish’ it.Inside is an entire novella by the Finnish writer Leena Krohn. That novella is called Tainaron: Mail From Another City and is, in all senses of the word, fantastic. Conjuring up echoes of writers such as Calvino, Borges and Bruno Schulz, the novella is presented as a series of letters from the narrator to an unknown recipient, charting her times spent in the titular city, a place that shifts geographically and appears to be inhabited by giant sentient insects with fluid identities. Essential stuff.

 

Another stand out short-story was A Redress for Andromeda  by Caitlin R. Kiernan, horrifying, mind-bending and guaranteed to give you nightmares about marine biology and anything will gills or a carapace.Apiece of weird fiction about bird-watching is in many ways a dream come true for me, so discovering The Hide by Liz Williams was a real joy. An unclassifiable and eerie story, reminiscent at times of some of M John Harrison’s short fiction, it mixes the banality of British bird-watching with intimations of some ancient pre-Christian force in the landscape expertly, and like all the best weird fiction, doesn’t really explain what happened.

 

Finally, reading Kathe Koja’s Angels in Love made me feel quite ill and upset, therefore was a resounding success, so I went and bought her collection Extremities, and you should too.

Poem of the Month: November


Each month Influx Press is featuring a contemporary poet you might not know but definitely should.

Fist
by Hannah Lowe

When my brother put his fist through a window
on New Year’s Eve, no one noticed until a cold draft
cooled our bodies dancing. There was rainbow light
from a disco ball, silver tinsel round the pictures.
My brother held his arm out to us, palm
upturned, a foot high spray of blood.
This was Ilford, Essex, 1993, nearly midnight,
us all smashed on booze and Ecstasy and Danny,
6 foot 5, folding at the knee, a shiny fin of glass
wedged in his wrist. We walked him to
the kitchen, the good arm slung on someone’s neck,
Gary shouting Danny, Darren phoning for
an ambulance, the blood was everywhere. I pressed
a towel across the wound, around
the glass and led him by the hand into the
garden, he stumbled down into the snow,
slurring leave it out and I’m ok A girl was crying in
the doorway, the music carried on, the bass line
thumping as we stood around my brother, Gary talking
gently saying easy fella, Darren draining Stella in one
hand and in the other, holding up my brother’s arm,
wet and red, the veins stood out like branches. I thought
that he was dying, out there in the snow and I
got down, I knelt there on the ice
and held my brother, who I never touched, and never told
I loved, and even then I couldn’t say it
so I listened to the incantation easy fella
and my brother’s breathing,
felt him rolling forward, all that weight, Darren
throwing down his can and yelling Danny, don’t you dare
and shaking him. My brother’s face was grey,
his lips were loose and pale and I
was praying. Somewhere in the street, there was
a siren, there was a girl inside who blamed
herself, there were men with blankets
and a tourniquet, they stopped my brother bleeding,
as the New Year turned, they saved him,
the snow was falling hard, they saved us all.

Next generation poet Hannah Lowe was born in Ilford to an English mother and Jamaican-Chinese father and currently lives in London. This poem was published in her first book-length collection Chick (Bloodaxe Books, 2013), which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry 2014. Her published work includes The Hitcher (Rialto, 2011), R x (sine wave peak, 2013) and Ormonde (Hercules Editions, 2014). Her family memoir Long Time, No See will be published by Periscope Press in April 2015. She has a website here: http://hannahlowe.org/

Here is Hannah performing this poem and others at the opening ceremony of Norwich Showcase ’12.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80DAj18Z_DA#t=13[/youtube]

Poem of the Month: September


Each month Influx Press is featuring a contemporary poet you might not know but definitely should.

Disaster Outdoors
by Andrew Spragg

you are a beast today
nervous visits and on
the bench, or rather a log
talking in the light
over there are standing stones
made of concrete
and tucked into the recess of that
log is an empty foreign export bottle

becoming fascinated the park erupts
across a spectrum of cricket songs
and out in the wild flowers

insist that you can’t
work here reconsider our position
we didn’t buy it

Andrew Spragg is a poet and critic. He was born in London and lives there presently. This poem was published in A Treatise on Disaster (Contraband Books, 2013). His books include The Fleetingest (Red Ceiling Press, 2011), Notes for Fatty Cakes (Anything Anymore Anywhere, 2011), cut out (Dept Press, 2012), To Blart & Kid (Like This Press, 2013), A Treatise on Disaster (Contraband Books, 2013) and OBJECTS (Red Ceiling Press, 2014). His writing was also included in Dear World & Everyone In It: New Poetry in the UK (Bloodaxe, 2013). He writes reviews for The Quietus and Bonafide magazine. He has a blog: sectorhabits.tumblr.com

The Anti-Canon: The Meeting of Failures - by Fernando Sdrigotti

 

Situationism meets Facebook – the 1960s Left Bank meets Dalston. These are the first things that come to my mind when I start thinking about The Meeting of Failures, attributed to Francis, member of a collective by the name of Everyone Agrees. I bumped into it by chance, after reading Michèle Bernstein’s The Night. (Bernstein, in case you don’t know her, is one of the founding members of the Situationist International; she was also Guy Debord’s first wife. This relationship would feed directly into her work as a writer, particularly into her novels All The King’s Horses and The Night.) Everyone Agrees contributed to the first English version of The Night (2013), and after this collaboration it is hardly surprising that their book is deeply influenced by Situationism, rehashing many of its clichés, from derivé to aborted revolution. I don’t mean this in a pejorative way, for in the age of solipsistic psychogeographic literature a la Sinclair any quirky re-appropriation of Situationist tropes is nothing short of a blessing.

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The Anti-Canon: Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and 'The principle of non-acquiescence' by Kyra Hanson

 

The first time I heard about the Baroness was through an online course in Modern American poetry. She was introduced as having once advised American Imagist poet William Carlos Williams that if he were to contract syphilis from her he could then free his mind for serious art. She loved Marcel Duchamp, terrified William Carlos Williams and was praised by Ezra Pound for her ‘principle of non-acquiescence’. Duchamp even proclaimed that she ‘is not a Futurist, she is the future’. Her antibourgeois, anti-establishment and anti-hierarchical stance make her an undervalued precursor to the feminist punk movement of the 1990s and even conceptualist pop artist Lada Gaga. So what happened to this German poet, sculptor and model who was once the epitome of American Dada? Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven died in poverty in Paris in 1927. Like numerous other female artists, she was shunned as eccentric and mad in her own time and rejected from the overwhelmingly male literary canon of Modernism. Yet it is precisely her confrontational style and ‘linguistic fearlessness’ which deem her extremely worthy of attention.

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Poem of the Month: August


Each month Influx Press is featuring a contemporary poet you might not know but definitely should.

Congelatine
by Jennifer Cooke

here’s space punctured by skin where the linear races off tragic stories of a wanted self in Tescos noting codes or best befores the tracks there, meat running, soft pads ludicrous in aisles narrowed for hunting down sacheted emotions-for-one this id falls in the gap between civic art meets the drunk and both have something to say, yes, to each other, yes, this is

a fluted moment in precincts flickering of betrayals we sing wraps away me again shrinking and, breathe the cheese shop sign, breathe there’s Boots, oh, gains harden into paved passages duffed up and strangers are sudden and right fearful in the out placebos branded in blood-pumping force sidelooks of dislike reflecting me in many mannequined glasses

quick, there’s an apophatic quiz at the Brush Social Club a meat raffle for women who don’t own a thing from Ikea inching the animals out of market with cellophane-tightened muzzles while I is dreaming of spring onions growing from my scalp in a warehouse of chilled fruit there are busy plasma screens waxy-faced little slogans peep from boxes abroad, smuglike

empty they line canals awaiting youth and the dead fish so I say to the Booby Nymph “I think you should see someone, it might help” but I know he knows it’s no good because he just fell into the first sludge that caught his eye, camp stool and all. I can’t save him from his high street standards, I can’t love the animals because a tiger’s only perfect on TV, which it takes 369 months to yearn

with pretty hooves in your neon dessert eat more and wonder on jelly’s fat content, the least of its problems I’ve heard the singing is worsening in what looks outside every town like Asda but is more like footprints or stains. Closing down the shopped dreams and emptying the pubs not by force, oh no, by a boredom akin to waiting for a catch a pull a tug a faint sign of a

Jennifer Cooke is a senior lecturer in English at Loughborough University.
This poem was published in her first collection
Not Suitable For Domestic Sublimation (London 2012) from Contraband Press.

The Anti-Canon: Dick Lucas by Paul Case

Political finesse has never been punk's strong point. Its DIY ethos has always been inherently political – you don't need anyone to help you form a band, you don't need a distributor to start putting out your music, you can do it yourself. But the lyrics, even of the most 'political' punk bands, have often seemed like exercises in sloganeering.

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Summer Holiday Reads recommended by Influx

Sometimes game recognises game.

Here's our top picks for reading on your holidays this summer. Or for just reading anyway. In winter. Or whatever. Just books that have come out recently alright?

Gary has gone in all short and sweet on his nominations, whereas Kit has gone gushy. Kind of like in real life, only Gary is massive and not very sweet at all.

meatspace nikesh shuklaMeatspace - Nikesh Shukla

Meatspace is a wonderful book. It's funny – like proper funny – the sort of funny that makes read lines out loud to whoever is in proximity and highfiving them afterwards. It's also utterly contemporary. I personally have a hard time reading books that are set more than twenty years before the time they are written. It's irrational, probably. But it's a real pleasure to read a novel that is in tune with right now.

Shukla explores social media and it's impact on our offline lives with wit, verve and some great characters. Kitab is the narrator of Meatspace but it is his brother in the book, Aziz who may well be one of my favourite literary characters of recent years. I basically want him as my own brother. I could just add the 'ab' to my name I guess. In fact since Kitab's nickname is shortened to Kit and Aziz would sometimes address him as Kit... well, I think that just compounded my infatuation.

Meatspace can be read as a light beach read if you want; it's flows fast and strong. But it has depth. If you want to read this late into the night, when thoughts are like fizzing skittles in your mind, you'll have plenty to think about. [KC]

dig-front-cover

The Dig - Cynan Jones

From the self styled 'writer of short novels, Jones' tale of the interlocking lives of a bereaved farmer and a primordial badger baiter in the wild greenery of West Wales is a revelation; this is prose approaching the quality of blank verse. Like a Welsh Cormac McCarthy mixed with Niall Griffiths, but better. [GB]

zoep

Eat my heart out - Zoe Pilger

I loved this book. It was straight up fun. It's piss-taking, satirical, absurd, farcical and has a brilliant narrative voice. Ann-Marie is a great anti-hero. She is a mess but in all the best ways, convinced that love will save her despite much evidence to the contrary. The book really takes off when she meets an old school feminist in Stephanie who wants to sort of save her. Their interactions and dialogues are fantastic, satirising feminism without demeaning it, mocking idealism without undermining it.

I found the characters, though stretched for satirical reasons believable and somewhat sypathetic. I feel like I've met them in some form throughout my early 20s/art college life. It's a London book, granted, which can sometimes alienate readers but its drunken, hedonistic, woozy narrative would fit in any city.

However, the fact that some parts of the book take place around my neighbourhood mean I'm completely smitten.I've already given my copy away, bought a new copy, then given that one away. I'll probably go and buy another one in the future. [KC]

overturenew2
Sandman: Overture - Neil Gaiman & JH Williams III

Neil Gaiman reprises the Sandman series twenty-five years on from its debut. The worry was always: a) has Gaiman still got it, and b) is this necessary? I'm only two issues in, but the answer is a) most definitely and b) I could read the Sandman forever. Beautiful art from JH Williams III and amazing cover art as usual from Dave McKean. [GB]

fishing

 

Fishing in the Aftermath - Salena Godden

Salena's big collection. The one everyone who has ever seen her live have wanted to buy after a gig but haven't been able to because it hasn't been published until this summer. I'm a big fan of Salena's - like a lot of people I know. We even published a short story of hers in our anthology Connecting Nothing with Something. This collection is an cave of poetic wonders. From my favourite Live-Godden piece, I Want Love ('I want to clip love's toenails') to the Gil Scott Heron tribute poem When I Heard The Man ('it's like wetting the whistle but making no tune') there is gold embedded deep in this book.

Salena is a poet with a big soul, generous with her all her emotions. Her language flits between warm, fighty, dreaming, slapped and tickled. There are enough poems in here for this to be the only collection you buy in 2014 (apart from Chimene Suleyman's Outside Looking On, obviously)

Big shouts have to go to fellow small press Burning Eye Books for publishing the collection, going to show – once again – that the good shit is happening where the good people run things. [KC]

thewake

 

The Wake - Paul Kingsnorth

Kind of a Riddley Walker for the Anglo-Saxon generation. Paul Kingsnorth's novel charting the fates of a bunch of guerrilla fighters fighting the Norman invaders of 1066, written in an Old English 'shadow tongue' is one of the most original novels I've read in years, and delves into the problem of Englishness without ever being patriotic. Beorn angland beorn. [GB]

bone

Bone - Yrsa Daley Ward

I hadn't read or heard any of Yrsa's poetry until our Late Night Literary Salon at Stoke Newington Literary Festival in June. Safe to say, after hearing her read I wanted to get hold of her new collection Bone (her previous On Snakes and Other Stories was published by our friends at 3:AM Press) straight away.

Yrsa's language exudes aches and pains, both the postitive and negative kind. Her poems are simple, they contain truths and lyricism that elevate them to a place of beauty ('Do not thin yourself, be vast. You do not bring the ocean to a river'). I was bewitched with the collection as a whole, each poem flowed well into the next and I read the whole thing in one sitting. This is very rare for me to do. I have revisited it since and again, like Zoe Pilger's book, passed it on and ordered another copy.

I'm pretty broke now, to be quite honest. Books are an expensive habit. [KC]

vulgarthings

Vulgar Things - Lee Rourke

Dr Feelgood, the Aeneid, and staring at Saturn from Canvey Island. Lee Rourke's second-novel is a mystery that isn't much of a mystery, a scathing look at the male-gaze and is besotted (as I myself increasingly am) with the huge skies and briny landscapes of the Thames estuary. This is a novel that feels like that rarest of things: new without any hint of vogueishness. Plus it's the only book that's ever made me want to visit Southend. [GB]

The Anti-Canon: The Domesday Dictionary - Eley Williams

I wrote a dictionary when I was fourteen. It was exam term and, in an effort to read anything other than the allotted textbooks, I had stumbled across a magazine article about Chambers Dictionary’s editors, specifically the surreptitious insertion of jokes into the text of their lexicons (See: ‘éclair n. - a cake, long in shape but short in duration’). The idea of lexicographers smuggling such entries into an otherwise sincere work of reference struck me as the most amazing act of literary subversion imaginable; I’ve been a fan of éclairs, and eccentricities in dictionaries ever since.

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SUMMER SALE!

cov_marshland2cov_CNWS2 Hackney Anthology

Throughout July and August 2014 we have a special offer on.

If you buy Marshland by Gareth E Rees or Acquired for Development By... A Hackney Anthology you can buy our south east costal anthology, Connecting Nothing with Something at half price.

To purchase Marshland and Connecting Nothing with Something go here:

[templatic_button link= "https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=HG3A9Z3CUV54L " size="large" type="warning"] M & CNWS: £15.48 via Paypal [/templatic_button]

To purchase Acquired for Development By and Connecting Nothing with Something go here:

[templatic_button link= "https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=3C4M7E9BJC8S4" size="large" type="warning"] AFDB & CNWS: £15.48 via Paypal [/templatic_button]

The Anti-Canon: Samuel R Delany's The Mad Man - by Jonathan Kemp

“Lying there, I thought: people feel guilty about wanting to do stuff like this. But this is the reward for actually doing it, for finding someone who wants to do it with you: The fantasies of it may be drenched in shame, but the act culminates in the knowledge no one has been harmed, no one has been wounded, no one has been wronged.” -- The Mad Man, p. 458

What I love most about this book is the way it blends the intellectual with the downright dirty. There are long, descriptive passages detailing sexual acts involving piss-drinking, shit-eating, smegma, toe jam – any body fluid you can think of. Some of this could only be erotic to someone sharing the same predilections. Mostly, though, the aim doesn’t seem to be sexual arousal, but more an exercise in tolerance, or empathy. Like De Sade, Delany seems to be endlessly cataloguing these sexual acts in order to move beyond mere pornography, to enter a terrain of ethics, even boredom. These extreme acts are presented in such a gleefully shameless way that one cannot help but appreciate the pleasure being taken by the participants. In his opening “Disclaimer”, Delany calls it a “pornutopic fantasy”, yet as Reed Woodman points out, the style employed is “mainstream realism” rather than fantasy.

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Transcript of Kit's Reading Walking Talk.

Kit was asked to curate a walk through east London and give a talk at the beginning for the Walking Reading Group - an arts collective who encourage participation and a chance to discuss issues surrounding participation, engagement, collaboration and social practice whilst walking through the streets of London.

Each guest curator chooses three texts for the group to read in the weeks leading up to the walk. Kit's walk started at Bow Arts Centre, through Westfield Stratford, past the Olympic park, on to the Lea towpath and up to Wick Woods. The texts he chose were Savage Messiah by Laura Oldfield Ford, Kingdom Come by JG Ballard and Marshland by Gareth E Rees.

Below is a transcript of his talk which highlights the need for fiction and poetry to understand your environment...

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"Hello and thank you Lydia for the introduction.

To those who don’t know me… I’m Kit, co-founder of Influx Press an independent publisher. We publish ‘site-specific’ fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction. By ‘site-specific’ we mean writing that has an explicit relationship to place. Place being open to interpretation of course, but most of our books either take the line of a geographic, mental or political space. For example, Life in Transit, a poetry collection by Sam Berkson was ‘set’ on public transport and addressed issues of private and public space, sharing space and the mental worlds we inhabit when we travel.

So with that in mind I tried to pick a few texts that reflect this idea and threw in an old Ballard book because I’m a cliché and he’s basically my replacement father figure – him and Arsene Wenger combined actually, but Wenger is less relevant to this walk that old Jim. Although, I’m grateful to Arsene for a banging hangover last Sunday.

Anyway… thanks to Lydia, Ania and Simone for inviting me to curate the walk.

The first thing I’d like to talk about is the relationship between texts. Particularly books written about this area of London. Reading books set in a such a city like London is a never ending hobby. I’m sure you’ve all read some. Or at least, you’ve read an extraction. Or at least, you should have done!

In a previous anthology Influx Press edited we used a phrase borrowed from Alexander Baron’s novel, The Lowlife. Baron was an east end novelist writing in the 1960s. He was largely out of print until one man Hackney magpie and groovy Welsh hipster Iain Sinclair brought him back to life, championing The Lowlife in particular. Ken Worpole, who led the first of these walks was also instrumental in Baron’s resurgence.

When we decided to edit an anthology of writing about Hackney in 2011, Gary Budden my co-editor pulled a quote from Baron’s novel: “And as I came away, I saw on a board that epitaph to all our yesterdays, ‘Acquired for Development By…’” – this phrase, ‘Acquired for development’ was something we were seeing, that had inspired us to create the book in the first place. It was a revelation to realise a text set in Hackney in the 1960s could be so relevant to our contemporary experience. The same billboards and notices that came up in Baron’s time were still coming up in ours. What also connected us was that we took to writing fiction to position our thoughts on the matter.

 Fiction has its own landscapes, it’s own worlds. Books develop and build on top of one another. Much in the same way that houses, estates, architecture and public spaces develop on each other. The walk we’re about to go on passes through whole swathes of development in progress – Stratford, Hackney Wick, the post-Grand Distraction Olympic Park. So we built our anthology on Baron’s work, acknowledging the foundations and adding to the literature. I see it kind of like the Sagrada Familia – each new publication adds another layer to the psychological architecture of an area.

Around the same time we released Acquired for Development By, Laura Oldfield Ford had her work collected and published by Verso under the title Savage Messiah – an extract of which you would have been sent to read. Despite a blindly obvious connection in that Laura provided the illustrations for the cover of Acquired for Development by – there are also connections with another one of our titles: Marshland: Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London.

I think Laura’s work is phenomenal. It’s violent, angry, spaced out, disappointed, elated all at once. The visceral quality of her illustrations are brilliantly punched with taught, provocative sentences.

In his introduction to Savage Messiah, cultural theorist Mark Fisher quotes Laura saying, “I regard my work as diaristic, the city can be read as a pamplisest, of layers of erasure and overwriting, the need to document the transient and ephemeral nature of the city is becoming increasingly urgent as the process of enlcosure and privatization continues apace.”

This is far more eloquent than I could ever hope to be about the need for writing, fictional, documentary or otherwise to provide layered narratives to allow us as city dwellers to produce and create our own stories of our lived environment. All of our Influx Press publications are designed to expose and highlight a counter narrative to the official stories and histories given to us by the people who control our environments. Mark goes on to write, “The perspective Ford adopts, the voices she speaks in – and which speak through her – are those of the officially defeated: the punks, squatters, ravers, football hooligans and militants left behind be a history which has been ruthlessly Photoshopped them out of its finance-friendly SimCity. Savage Messiah uncovers another city, a city in process of being buried and takes us on a tour of its landmarks.”

Given that neoliberalism and corporate capitalism have laid waste to much of our organic, fluid counter culture, I think the presence of the hyper consumerist circus Westfield, where the home has been renamed as ‘property’ and the global elite wealth generator Olympic park here, in east London, the traditional home of dissent, radicalism and new ideas is poignant.

Of course, I could be wrong. I’m not. But I could be.

Politics aside, one of the great aspects of Savage Messiah is Laura’s use of the ‘drift’ or ‘derive’ as it is called by those pretentious enough to want to impress people with their knowledge. The drift is an old psychogeographic technique developed and made famous by the Situationists, a bunch of lefties in 1960s France semi led by philosopher Guy Debord. The dérive can be defined as an “unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, on which the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct the travellers, with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience.” The main way to journey is to walk. Savage Messiah is like a walk through a London that doesn’t, does, has, hasn’t and will or won’t exist.

The extract you were emailed is a great example of the things I’m talking about. Firstly it references another text about imagining the city – Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, that's the process of building on a foundational text adding a layer to the writing I just mentioned. Then she writes her derive from Clapton to the marshes. I particularly love the verbs she and adjectives that are almost incongruent with the landscape: “We pick through ruins, an abandoned rose garden, bleached landscapes, we roam under motorway flyovers, tower blocks cascading down embankments.” There’s a pastoral, countryside feel crashing into the urban setting; producing a new experience.

Like Savage Messiah, Gareth Rees uses psychogeographic techniques in his book Marshland. Psychogeographers like to place limits on their walks, be it placing a map of another place onto your location and following it instead of the genuine map of the area, the time you spend walking or otherwise. Gareth uses his dog, Hendrix as a limit. He’s an excitable, blind cocker spaniel, Hendrix. He follows his own path, dances to his own rhythm, shits where no human dare go, sniffs out stained prophylactics, empty cider cans and old rags. Gareth just follows him, the willing blind being led by the blind. Marshland is a book of stories set in the Marshes, part history, part fictional, part autobiographical.

On his many walks through the marshes Gareth discovered the untold stories of London’s past, the alternative narratives – like the story of the Trekkers, those Eastenders who abandoned the city every night during the blitz for the safety of the marshes and Epping forest. His own fictional tales drew on his experience of the place as a character in it’s own story, the marshes produce their own narrative in anyone that visits there. Marshland is almost an account of the way the marshes changed Gareth from 9-5 tube riding, chain pub dwelling Londoner into a wanderer, psychogeographer and eventually, successful author.

At the beginning Gareth felt that he had discovered the marshes himself, like they were his secret and he tried to impose his own will on the place. As the years passed, he discovered that there have been many there before him, stories written and told and recorded from centuries of human activity with this ancient lamas land. By his own admission, Gareth says that the marshes wrote their stories, and he is just a conduit. The city tries to control its environment, but ultimately, it is never able to silence what has come before if you are willing to look hard enough.

When editing Marshland, there were many, many references points to research and read. Just a look at the bibliography will show you that. Layers and layers of  previous writing fed the book. In the same way layers of history fed the marshes. Fact and fiction became synonymous. Did it matter if a story about two Victorian gentleman falling into a time warp and ending up looking like hispters on the Hackney marshes in 2012 didn’t really happen?

For some people it does matter and we’ve been called up on Marshland for missing out facts or misrepresenting. For you, on this walk, try to think about whether the literal truth is anymore assured than a fictional one. Where do we read our literal truths from? Newspapers, television, websites – these mediums are known for their ability to fabricate, falsify and tell fictions. When we construct our own stories they are sometimes more relevant to us than the grand narrative we are presented in the media, in school or in history books. What do you know or have been told about Westfield, the Olympics, Hackney Marshes, Bow?  What do you see instead? What does your imagination tell you?

I like blurred lines, not the Robin Thicke Song, but the grey areas of fiction and fact. What do we see when we walk? Mysteries and stories of our own, we wonder what we are looking at, why it is there. Who planed those trees in Wick Woodland? Why is there a stone circle by the river lea? What was here before the warehouses? We cannot find the answers straight away at the time we are walking, or, before smart phones we couldn’t, so the walking experience has always been a fictionalization. We couldn’t find the truth or the perceived truth. We let our own imaginations decide. I’m completely guilty of checking my phone when I’m walking, live tweeting what I say, looking at the weather forecast when I should just look up at the sky. But I do try. Savage Messiah and Marshland have encouraged me to walk more, to put the phone away. To walk without purpose. To create my own narratives.

Ultimately, it’s about stories. Over lapping layered, lost and found.

The city tells as many stories as you want it to, if you’ll just let it.

This is one of the key things about writing, particularly fiction, for me.

Reading about an area in fiction transforms it. You look around you and the stories you are told emerge from the landscape to give depth and meaning. Stories allow us to engage emotionally with a place, they let our imaginations heighten our experience. As children we have all produced fantasy and narrative in our environments. The cardboard box became a fighter plane, under the duvet was a hideaway den, the bottom of the garden a world of magic where blades of grass host tiny worlds of chattering insects and green skyscrapers. As adults we can still access these vital elements of our psyche via fiction and poetry.

If you’d allow me a string of forthcoming pompous analogies, I think the areas we are about to walk can be related to the way we consume stories, how, as a culture they are presented and produced. If you can think about these things on the walk, do try. But if you want to tell me it’s all garbled, pseudo intellectual nonsense while we’re strolling, that’s also fine. There are never any full proof opinions.

The abandoned or unused buildings like Olympic Media Centre we will see on the two path of the lea navigation are like the stories we read when we are told to read them. How a novel suddenly becomes a ‘must read’ for a week, because everyone is talking about it and you don’t want to feel left out. One Day by David Nicholls for example, or even 50 Shades of Grey. Soon these books will lie dormant, forgotten. I used to volunteer at the Oxfam in Dalston. The number of Dan Brown books that were donated was off the scale. Most read, perhaps, but none cherished.

Where as the water way itself, the flowing nature that all the development has been unable to crush is like the old books with tales still to tell of relevance and the past. Those books that stick in the mind, resurface, like The Lowlife or those that will always be around like George Eliot or Austen’s work. That begs the question how does a book become a classic? In the same way, how does a building become iconic Brutalism is now iconic again after a long period of distain, will the Media Centre, in its bland neo-liberal forming serving a temporary service ever make an impact other than to exist as a ruin from a period of collective madness?

Bridges over water and roads over show you the old ways, the old stories whilst taking you on a new journey. You can see the river flow beneath you but you are now taking a different path. Like a book you have read before that you see echoes of in another, later on. Like the Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre, or Zadie Smith’s On Beauty and Forster’s Howard’s End.

 The controlled environments with specified pathways of the Olympic area refuse to let you walk anywhere but their designated pathways. Like the national curriculum deciding which poets are worthy, how we will learn about our imperial past, which novels tell us more about ourselves.

The new high rises on Stratford High Street look over the old terrace houses that look over the older river. This feels like the accumulation of knowledge and stories – each one overshadowing the next. The old story still flowing away underneath but no longer the only narrative, constructed upon and viewed from different angles, higher up, lower down.

The emotions we get from writing similar to those emotions we get from landscape. As Gareth Rees writes in Marshland: “The whole city, the whole country, the whole world is full of stories” and that “Every single human being is a node channelling the landscape in which they live”

I’d like to leave you with a brief touch on my boy Ballard and his novel Kingdom Come. When I decided to take the route through Westfield there really was no other option but to choose this book. The complete fiction in Kingdom Come is, in a sense, a way of documenting something. Ballard exposes the psychological landscape of the shopping mall through novel set in a fictional place. This allows him to control his environment completely, to decide what has happened, what space there is and what will happen. Fiction is a way of showing the truth without using anything real, without writing as documentary. Fiction can take the narratives to the extreme, revealing truths unavailable to the journalist or documentarian.

Kingdom Come was published in 2006, before Westfield was even proposed, yet when I re-read it before this walk it resonated more acutely than it did the first time I opened it. Fiction allows Ballard to write dialogue into characters mouths to posit arguments and theories. It allows him to create the narrative he sees in his head that others might not see on the ground. It lets the shopping mall become a character. And once you’ve read that, your imagination will run with it. Fiction lets us have new ideas, see things differently to how they are. Change our perspectives.

It is by no means his finest novel, but as we walk through Westfield, try to remember a few of the things he wrote in the book:

“Consumerism celebrates coming together. Shared dreams and values, shared hopes and pleasures… consumerism is a new form of mass politics. It’s very theatrical, but we like that. It’s driven by emotion, but its promises are attainable, not just windy rhetoric”.

“The travelator reached the end of its journey, carrying us into the heart of the Metro-Centre. We were now in the central atrium, a circular course where shoppers strolled to the escalators that would carry them to the upper retail decks. A diffused aura filled the scented space, but now and then a beam of concealed spotlight caught my eye. I felt that I was on the stage of a vast opera house, surrounded by a circle packed with spectators. Everything seemed dramatized, every gesture and thought. The enclosed geometry of the Metro-Centre focused an intense self-awareness on every shopper, as if we were extras in a music drama that had become the world.”

That’s the thing about place writing. It doesn’t have boundaries in any strict sense, but there are limits with the framework of the writing. Even the writing becomes part of the story of the place.

Ballard leaves me cold emotionally, but excited by ideas and visuals – like Westfield itself. Savage Messiah is trippy, other worldly where I experience in ruin lust, broken places, abandonment.

Marshland is packed with facts, humour, excitement and discovery, wildlife. Something wick woods and the marshes instill through incongruent and ancient landscape.

The place makes the writing makes the place makes the writing makes the place.

Full circle."

Liars' League presents: Above Sugar Hill - New York Stories

On Wednesday 25th June from 7:30pm, Influx Press and legendary live fiction team Liars' League will team up to celebrate the release of Above Sugar Hill by Linda Mannheim; a book of 'smouldering vignettes achingly sad and beautifully wrought' (Stuart Evers) with a night of New York stories set on river Thames floating pub. cov_ASH2 Entertaining, witty and moving short stories set in New York will be read out on the night by professional actors, bringing the great American city to life in London.

Liars' League Logo large w strapline Above Sugar Hill, which is being launched on the night and read out by actors tells "restive tales of a desiccated stretch of New York that provoke and abide like a slap." (Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half Formed Thing)

As well as stories from Above Sugar Hill, there are carefully selected stories from the Liars' League archive and a story by novelist Richard Smyth.

Liars' League is a monthly live fiction event where new short stories by emerging writers are read by professional actors: the motto is "Writers write, actors read, audience listens, everybody wins." Their archive includes over 400 stories and MP3 recordings and over 200 HD videos.
Details: http://liarsleague.typepad.com/
All set on the Tamesis floating pub, a 1930s Dutch barge moored on the Thames. This is a live literature night that will be hard to forget!
And it's FREE!

You will not get a better free live fiction night on a floating boozer for the rest of your life.

Extra details like a map to the venue etc here