Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Short Review April

Another brilliant issue of the The Short Review this month. More short story collections to put on my wishlist...

And it includes my review of Unlucky Lucky Days by Daniel Grandbois...

Here's a snippet...

These very short stories are weird conundrums that bring to mind fairytales, fables, folk tales and the strangest of our own dreams. They are surreal, disturbing, funny, absurd, leftfield, and might leave you feeling as though you’ve swallowed slightly too many prescription drugs.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Pank magazine...

I have some weird little short shorts at Pank Magazine this month. Have a read here if you are so inclined. Be interesting to hear what you think of these pieces. I find it hard to define them, prose poems I guess, although a little weirder than my usual ones.

In this issue I really like Patience by Rebecca R Branden...

Friday, 10 April 2009


I went to a folk and poetry night yesterday For Folk's Sake at Cup on Thomas Street in Manchester. I'm afraid to say I got my times wrong and arrived late and left early. So, I can't comment on the whole event. But I did see Linda Chase read a lovely poem about Bob Dylan, two beautiful poems about living in San Francisco in a caravan, and a series of funny/moving very short poems from her books. It's an interesting (fairly) new arrival on the Manchester poetry scene, and just that little bit different.

While listening to one of the folk bands, we discovered a small (what I would describe as) 'coffee table book' of photographs /writing called Lost in the Post. It is written by a man who used to be a postman in Huddersfield, and collects some of the stories he has from the job. It is hilarious and the photographs are beautiful, including pictures of the very strange things people post into postboxes. Worth a look.

I intended to write every day this month. I have discovered Robert Lee Brewer's poetry prompts on his blog Poetic Asides. He is posting a prompt every day this month. It's already the 10th of April and I haven't done any of them. But I thought I might join in anyway. I will try a month of writing every day that progresses into May.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


I posted a photograph as a writing prompt a few weeks ago and had two wonderful responses. I know that other people (yes, you) wrote something as well, but never posted it here. So, I found it hard to decide who should get the prize.

Am I allowed to give two prizes? Yes, I think so. It's my blog after all.

There is only one copy of the book, but I thought I might offer an alternative to the other winner.

There were images I loved in each poem. In Eileen's poem I love 'how he left with sea/in his pockets' and 'wonders/if his words have washed up on city streets'. Wow. In Michelle's poem, I love the way she reworks the myth, in such a powerful way - 'violent hope' is a wonderful end.

So, here they are:

She Imagines

With every in breath she imagines his walk
towards her, the dark and light of thirteen years spilling
over rooftops in Tinsel Town, how he left with sea
in his pockets and waves swallowing goodbye. In Oxfam
shops she whispers to wind-chimes, asks about a man
carrying an ocean. She leans towards the second-hand books, wonders
if his words have washed up on city streets, wonders if he stepped
into tomorrow, remembering to count stars, to slip Orion’s belt.
Someone with a backpack and his eyes bumps into her shadow, she looks
twice as a twist of scent gathers up her heart. She pushes through
the door, follows pavements where footsteps have burned into dust.

Eileen Carney Hulme
(Tinsel Town is a reference to Glasgow)
©ECH 2009

Calypso Waits

She imagines Odysseus will return to the island leaving Penelope at the loom in Ithaca. Rowing across the whispering black sea with his hands, he will abandon his kingdom to fall exhausted, penitent, at her feet, a golden conch coughed up on the sand. She deserts her arching cavern and cypress grove, forgets to eat ambrosia, drink nectar. Silver mantle floating around her, she spends her days in the burning sun beneath the limestone cliffs gazing at the horizon, consulting hedgehog entrails, interpreting burning laurel branches and the flight paths of honey buzzards and marsh harriers. At night she converses with stars, swims in the moonlight, weeping below the waves, her tangled braids writhing like copper sea snakes. Sick with mortal longing, she does not sleep. Her heart lists and founders. Hurling secret curses towards the lambent palace aloft Olympus, she despises herself for this violent hope.


Returning home to Ithaca from the Trojan War, Odysseus is shipwrecked and washed up on an island. Here, the sea nymph, Calypso, falls in love with him and holds him against his will for seven years until the gods on Olympus insist upon his release.

Michelle McGrane

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Brian Turner @ The Whitworth

On Saturday 21st March, 2.30pm, I wait on a fold away plastic chair in the upstairs gallery in the Whitworth on Oxford Road.

I’ve never heard Brian Turner read neither have I read any of his poems. I’m here because of an email from poet Linda Chase, the driving force behind Poets and Players; an invitation to a reading by a soldier-poet whose debut collection is called Here Bullet.

I wait with 100 other people, mostly older than me, a somewhat familiar crowd of poets, writers, readers and other interesting folk. There is a hush as the event is introduced.
Thingumajig Theatre perform ten minute extracts from A November Day, a personal glimpse into WWI from the point of view of a girl whose grandfather fought at the Somme. It explores conscription, family left at home, and experiences in the trenches in a thoughtful way, magical because of the puppets, humorous due to the props (including a mask of the well-known poster ‘You’re Country Needs You’), and poignant.

But, I am here to see Brian Turner, a US soldier who has read the Koran and Iraqi poetry, who served in the US Army for seven years, including a year in Iraq. The first poem he reads is, Here Bullet. No intro. Straight into ‘If a body is what you want,/then here is bone and gristle and flesh.’ His voice is strong; his delivery direct. He has our attention.
Brian tells us he doesn’t know what this poem is about, still. He wrote all the poems in Here Bullet when he was in Iraq (except two, written very soon afterwards). He wrote them in his ‘downtime’ surrounded by barbed wire.

He reads HWY 1, a poem written about the day on 3rd December 2003 when he enters Iraq from Kuwait. He finishes the poem and says ‘This is how we entered this country.’ It is significant, poignant.

2000 lbs is a poem about a suicide bomb in Ashur Square, Mosul. It is about US soldiers and Iraqi civilians. There is silence when he reads it, this harrowing poem, beautiful in its empathy, shocking in its detail: ‘Lt Jackson stares/ at his missing hands, which make/no sense to him, no sense at all to wave/ these absurd stumps held in the air…’ It is difficult to take in these details - not fiction, not imagined.

Brian talks after some poems, gives us a little detail, asks us questions, tells us how difficult it is for soldiers to assimilate back into American life, how it is easy for us civilians to see the trauma of an arm blown off, but what about the trauma that is more difficult to find, that is even difficult for the veteran to find?

Eulogy is the poem I find most emotional, most difficult to hear, a poem about the suicide of Private Miller. The poem is such beautiful detail: eucalyptus trees, a mongoose pausing under an orange tree. But the incident is stark. It leads to another question: Is it possible for veterans to deal with what they bring back in their heads?

There are no answers, no easy answers. After the first half of his reading, there is a rush for the bookstall, as every copy of his book sells within ten minutes. Brian has time for everyone, shaking hands, signing books, answering questions.

We have more poems to hear, poems about bombs, nightmares, an Iraqi child outside the prison where his father is held, US soldiers (men and women) raped by fellow soldiers, M4 firing pins, post traumatic stress disorder, other people around veterans not noticing their ‘mute shock’.

The chairs are not comfortable, the gallery echoes so that at times it is a little hard to hear, probably none of us has been to Iraq or been in a war. Yet, we are taken there for a short time, witness to a brutal truth to which we were only partly aware: that the war continues long after the bullets stop firing.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Unsaid Undone...

Well, it was the launch of Unsaid Undone last night, and a fine launch it was. I was a little late, shamefully. I ran onto the platform at Carnforth railway station, and under the subway onto the middle concourse to the Refreshment Rooms, where Laura met Alec in the film Brief Encounter and famously got grit in her eye.

There was a lovely crowd of people including my mum, dad, sister and Aunt, and a couple of writing friends (thanks all for coming along). There was wine and nibbles, and postcards of our writing on the tables, little samples from the anthology itself.

The readings were wonderful. Andrew Michael Hurley read from his short story The Kelpie, a wonderful story of a brother and sister confronted with issues from childhood, kelpies, harmonicas and Dr Jin's strange herbs. A most beautifully written story. Then, Marita Over read some poems and her short sotry Bread, she was a lovely reader, and her story has such a dark edge.

We had a little break for cups of tea and chatter, and then into the second half for a brilliant reading by Brindley Hallam Dennis. His piece in the anthology is an extract from a novel The Bath Scene, and he read us a couple of entertaining excerpts from his novel, that brought a few laughs, and I could see people in the audience nodding away and smiling in recognition. John Siddique couldn's make it, so Andy Darby who runs Lancaster Litfest read his piece Prism. As an aside, it was wonderful reading in a train station as every now and then a train would rush through the station, not stopping and we could feel the vibrations through the floor.

I read some of my short shorts. I have five pieces in the anthology, so I read three of them, and two extras. I enjoyed reading, as it was such a warm audience. I usually read such dark, depressing pieces, but I read one or two more funny pieces, which I was pleased brought a few laughs.

So, a wonderful evening, and a really stunning anthology. Unsaid Undone is now online, and I really recommend having a read. It can be downloaded from the Litfest / Flax Books website .

There are all kinds of treats on there, as well as the writing, there are audios of each of the writers reading a short little something. There is extensive biographies on each writer, photos, and the whole thing is gorgeously designed, really easy to download and navigate. Thanks to designer Martin Chester, and editor Sarah Hymas.

n.b. the photo of me reading and the photo of the lovely audience are pinched from the Flax blog, and were taken by photographer David Andrew.