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“we are your kind / so be our kind”

December 16, 2011

After months of delays and snags and lots of shouting, we finally did it.

The first issue of ILK journal launched on the 1st of December and we have been utterly overwhelmed with the support and encouragement we’ve received. It’s really a stellar issue; I think it’s safe for me to say that both Caroline and I were humbled by the talent that submitted their wonderful words to us. We are proud to be able to give a home to these poems. It’s a home I’m particularly proud of, having spent hours of my inexplicable sleep cycle slaving over the CSS. But it’s here, it’s beautiful (if I do say so myself) and it dearly wants to meet you all.

On a personal level I want to thank NAP, PANK and > kill author for spreading the word and saying such lovely things about baby ILK. But the latter especially for all of their technical help when I was sending begging letters across the internet in a desperate bid to see the debut issue realised.

So, yes. Thank you all.

But of course, ILK is not a one-trick pony (ponies don’t have antlers). We are now OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS for our second issue. And the fantastic responses we’ve had for Issue One mean we have a lot to live up to. So,

We want your poems. We want to shiver with them, laugh with them, get hot and heavy with them. We want your poems to meet our parents. We want to take your poems on the run from the law, rescue them from a burning building. We want to snuggle with your poems on the couch and microwave popcorn with them.

Submit to Issue Two of ILK here and make our new year. We close on the 15th of January, be quick but be kind.

We’ll experiment with you. Just try us.


“words that rhyme with /kwɪ(ə)r/”: an approximation of an update

November 10, 2011

After all of my attempts at building hype, PANK Queer Two is here. I have a poem in it that does not make for comfortable reading. Not that reading should be comfortable — that’s what the chair is for.

The issue is introduced with a hybrid text / lyric essay / unidentified word object by Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, who also contributes three engaging and unabashedly funny prose poems. Rosenthal says:

something about “qu” is phonetically off. a voiceless stop caught in your mouth. it resists being articulated. /kw/ wants to be /k/, but it wasn’t born that way.

Her bang-on interrogation of the language of queerness makes for the perfect segue into the issue. Also the fact that she manages to work Marx into the equation gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, as it’s not very often that I get to enjoy the synthesis of queer and Marxist (except when perusing my Twitter feed and realising that those two inclinations are the most common denominators among the people I follow).

The rest of the issue is a refreshing mix of literary objects — prose, poems, visual and hybrid pieces — many of which are accompanied by recordings of the work being read aloud. Sadly my own recording sounds like Jack Dee at a funeral, but deadpan is just how I roll. I try to be bright and conversational but the undertaker voice climbs out of my throat every time.

I’m rambling. Stop reading this and go read this. It (often literally) speaks for itself.

Today it’s rain of toads

October 25, 2011

Sometimes I think Xander from Buffy would have made a brilliant poet. He had the uncomfortable charm, the poverty and eventually the work ethic…not to mention that only a poet could really rock an eyepatch nowadays.

And there’s the toad thing. Which is really the main thing; I just like to get a tenuous Buffy link in wherever possible. There is a long-standing love affair between poets and toads (and frogs, but ‘toad’ is a nicer word). Indeed Norman MacCaig was famed for it, and readers’ comments on this fact in turn produced ‘My Last Word on Frogs’ (totally not his last word on frogs). There’s even an online literary journal called TOAD.

As MacCaig observes, they do keep jumping into poems. Kathleen Jamie’s poetry has seen frogs caught in coitus interruptus by an oncoming car, and a human speaker desperate to rescue them. A young Seamus Heaney flees from “the great slime kings” in the poem literature teachers just can’t let go of. Even younger poets like Jack Underwood have caught the toad pandemic, and Marianne Moore has gone so far as to call poems “imaginary gardens with real toads in them”. So why are these damned amphibians so important to poetry?

It may be that poets just can’t  escape the life-cycle lessons from primary education — that the toad’s existence is the one most easily allegorised to the human condition. Maybe we feel guilty for all those biology class dissections and jars full of frogspawn, so we resurrect the dead in the impossible space of a poem (or countless, in this case). Maybe we see our own flaws in the toad’s warty visage, and we write them out of fellow-feeling. Maybe a poet is someone who never stops waiting to kiss the frog and marry the prince/ss.

Maybe I’ll stop idly wondering about this one day and make it my reserch interest for a PhD. Actually, that’s a good idea — shotgun!

For now, have MacCaig’s most famous toad poem (or listen to Jackie Kay read it), and enjoy my favourite opening line of all time:


Stop looking like a purse. How could a purse
Squeeze under the rickety door and sit,
Full of satisfaction in a man’s house?

You clamber towards me on your four corners –
Right hand, left foot, left hand, right foot.

I love you for being a toad,
For crawling like a Japanese wrestler,
And for not being frightened

I put you in my purse hand not shutting it,
And set you down outside directly under
Every star.

A jewel in your head? Toad,
You’ve put one in mine,
A tiny radiance in a dark place.

I refuse to give up my obsession. / America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.

October 24, 2011

Post title a quotation from ‘America’ by Allen Ginsberg, 1956

This isn’t so much an update as a massive shameless plug, but such are the days we live in.

My review of Starry Rhymes (a retrospective anthology of new poems, collected in tribute to Allen Ginsberg on the 85th anniversary of his birth) is available for your perusal at Sabotage Reviews right now.

Reviewing this led me unsurprisingly to a more involved reading of Ginsberg himself. For some reason I’d always resisted the famed top dog of Beat poetry — I’d dabbled in Burroughs at 17 and even experimented with the cut-up method, chopping a Plath and a Blake poem into word-confetti and making a poem out of the jumble. But I think coming to university in a town so populated with Americans soured my enthusiasm for the Beats before Ginsberg really got onto my radar. So many jazz-eyed all-American boys* saw Kerouac and Allen himself as the crux of literature, it put me off. The beatnik age had passed and for all that I devoured On the Road and Naked Lunch, I couldn’t put that much romance into brass and Benzedrine.

I’m sorry Mr Ginsberg for not giving your work my time earlier. My slender Penguin Selected Poems has taught me the error of my ways. While I still think there is a lot more to get excited about in the here and now of new poetry, I must — especially given my recent embracing of America and her rollercoaster of vibrant emerging writing — acknowledge the debt the world owes to this feverishly talented poet.

I’m grateful to the two Claires: Askew and Trévien, for putting Starry Rhymes in front of me. And of course to Allen Ginsberg for his patience with the boy with no howl and no ear for jazz.



*including one boy in particular, who’ll pop up again VERY SOON in the forthcoming Queer Issue of PANK, containing a big confessional-poem-shaped overshare by myself.

On living the poetry

October 10, 2011

Before we start: yes, I’m aware how nauseating that title is and no, I’m not drafting a screenplay for a Julia Roberts feelgood piece.

Ok now we can be serious. In the last few months or so, I’ve heard several people use this phrase or one just like it (including me). I decided it merited a break in my criminal internet silence when a friend of mine commented on my unemployment and general idleness positively, with the wonderful (if overly generous) affirmation that ‘you’re living the poetry’.

This struck me because of just how much it didn’t strike me, if that makes sense. I don’t really understand how what I do can be termed so romantically. I do what I’ve always done. I read poems, I write poems, I talk — far too much — about poems. That’s how I’ve been passing my existence for at least the last three years. When I was writing an essay or washing the dishes, I was thinking about poems. That’s probably why my employment as a dish-washer wasn’t lengthy.

When people like my friend refer to ‘living the poetry’ like it’s a noble, all-encompassing pursuit from which things like a job and a functional adulthood are just a distraction, it prompts me to ask, so everyone isn’t living the poetry? Don’t mistake me here, I believe that poetry as a practice is ubiquitous and constant and inescapable — I really believe that nothing is not giving messages. And in an ideal world, sure I’d do nothing but read/write/talk/think poetry, 24/7. But that’s not why I don’t have a job. I’d like a job, I could really do with one. Even if I find one, I’ll still be ‘living the poetry’ because I can’t not.  That’s just the way I’m wired, and my place in the figurative dole queue isn’t about to change that (though it is likely to cease being figurative at this rate).

I guess really what I want to know here is this: do you guys live it too? Is it so unusual that I eat/sleep/breathe poems? I’ve met people who write poetry but don’t read it, or at least not contemporary collections, and my mind boggles. How does that even work?

While thinking about this post I kept coming back to one quote from Selima Hill, which Caroline posted on my Facebook almost three years back. It seems stupid not to share it, as it pretty much makes all my points for me:

 “First of all you need to be obsessed. There’s no good reason to do it, nobody wants you to do it, or gives you the time or the space. You have to do that yourself. (Try putting a sticker saying I’D RATHER BE WRITING POEMS on your car window.) Being a poet is like having an invisible partner. It isn’t easy. But you can’t live without it either. Talent is only 10 per cent. The rest is obsession.”

Lastly, you can now find three of my poems in the shiny new fifteenth issue of the wonderful > kill author! If you’re an auditory masochist you can also listen to me reading them on the site. Poets can have faces for radio too you know.

Where the phoque have you been?: an update

August 22, 2011

Dear neglected readers,

Soon I will have some exciting news for you. Well I am excited anyway.

For now, here is what I have been up to:

  • my review of Michael Mackmin’s From There to Here is up at Sabotage Reviews (and has been for a while now).
  • I’m going to be quoted on the cover of Kirsten Irving‘s debut collection Never Never Never Come Back, due out next year! I cannot wait to read this, having absolutely loved her HappenStance pamphlet What To Do.
  • I did a reading at the Forest Café a week or so ago. I think intimate is the best word to describe it, but I managed to make sounds with my voicebox so all was fine.
  • The final line-up has been decided for ILK journal, and Issue One will be soaring onto the internet very, very soon.

As an apology for my disgraceful absence, please enjoy this poem by Brian Oliu, up now at RealPoetik. There are not enough video-game poems around in my humble opinion, and this one is a corker:


When I arrived, the music changed—all notes go silent:  the only thing audible is the hum of a soft rain, constant though we are inside, and for a moment it is peaceful, something we can sleep through, something that makes us turn off everything else so we can hear water on windows, on slanted roofs.  You appear in a flicker, fast strobe first, then slowing to a gentle spin, arms out stretched and palms upward like you are receiving something—that someone who loves you will place a gumdrop into your hand so you can close your fingers around the jeweled sugar and place it between your teeth in a dirty scarfing.  

This is where the lightning starts:  dry heat from the sky and into your hands leaving burn marks on skin, smoothing over heart lines like you have no heart, though I know it is there.  The bolts, jagged like raised veins come together in front of your stomach and slice towards where I am standing, speechless.  The outcome is uncertain:  the voltage runs over my body like a pulped orange turning everything I am into something I am not, or it doesn’t.  The current springs back upon you, knocking your helmet off of your head to reveal a face like mine, or it doesn’t.  The wind changes direction:  I know this because I cannot stand still—I must pick up what is left, I must hold your blackened hands.  I know this because for once I can see the rain slanted downwards:  falling in grey lines like the ghosts of our loved ones shooting towards the earth.

Poème du jour: Matthea Harvey

July 11, 2011

Dear readers,

There is not much to say today. I am strung, quite highly, between utter gross laziness and horrible stress. Postgrad applications and degree appeals are bogging me down with their various (and now overlapping) complications, but I still don’t feel motivated to get it all over with. But I will. I swear. Maybe.

On the bright side, my review of Kirsten Irving’s pamphlet ‘What To Do’ is now up at Sabotage! It is a fantastic website devoted to reviewing small press publications, run by the lovely Claire Trévien, who I met over two years ago at a festival in Warwick. You can find Caroline’s interview with Claire here.

In lieu of a proper update from my mushy mushy brain, have this poem from La Petite Zine 27 by Matthea Harvey, mostly because giggling at it made me feel better:

Cheap Cloning Process Lets You Have Your Own Little Elvis (World Weekly News)

If the real Elvis was a racecar,
the little matchbox-sized Elvi we buy 
are the half-galaxies of other cars’
odometers seen through a cab window
at night. When my Elvis does a hip swivel
(like a bobblehead dog on the dash, he’s game, 
will swivel all day long) it doesn’t cause 
a full-on swoon, just a tiny pinprick 
of desire felt in the arch of the foot.
Like a lozenge when you want a meal. 
The Elvi are smart not to serenade us 
with Baby If You’ll Give Me All of Your Love 
on their nanoguitars—we’d crush them 
with one corresponding hip spiral of our own. 
They stick to strumming Dainty Little Moonbeams 
while we smoke cigarettes and cloak them 
in smoke. My friend, who’s strangely loyal 
to the Original Elvis timeline, maintains hers 
nicely, smoothes baby oil onto his black hair. 
Using a microscope, she’s already sewn him 
a tiny sequined jumpsuit for his later fatter years 
and to that end she deep-fries breadcrumbs stuffed 
with a dab of peanut butter and one Baco Bit. 
Once I caught mine manhandling a sprig of parsley,
pretending it was Priscilla. Every month or so
we meet at a playground on our lunchbreak 
and corral them all in a sandbox. Fights flare up
instantaneously over who’s the real Elvis, 
who’s an impostor, and while they pull on 
each other’s pompadours, we munch on 
our pastrami sandwiches, imagining 
what’s up next: a tiny Jesus, or, a mini
Michael Jackson wearing Disco Barbie’s glove.