Set List Poem 16/03/2015

You’re asking me about my vices while you spark hand-fire,
I’m hiding four layers into Dad’s jacket, my skin a magnet

to the passing train,
my body, a tear in light,
leaving silhouettes,

a dark burn on the rose-bleached pavement swallowing the rain.
I hang my heart-shape answer on the hook in your finger.

Set List Poem 14/03/2015

Steam lifts out of the bucket
when you stem the spark.
It reminds you of a friend, their glow.
We’re catching firework
and the exploded limbs in the eye.
Dent the sky. Star’s aren’t important.
Learn the loss of night,
how it stays as long as it can.
Grab the boys, feed them salad
all evening. Dark tricked them
into eating chocolate wrapper still on.
Forget the time for how weighty
it moves into our body,
lays us out like roses.
Wonder how many people read tear
as tear, when you mean tear.
I tell you this is how books can die.
Listen to the reverse HEY of the friends
leaving. Know the train home tomorrow.
Wish Houdini was still around to inspire
doorways to cut into the air and lead
you anywhere. Pick up
the rusty-burnt metal with a magnet
in the morning. Count every heart,
the beats that are listened to,
hold the ones that aren’t.
Say the word love, know it’s a stone
you could imprint on the sun.

Set List Poem 13/03/2015

Heart eats a mattress, digging for a spark.
It’s a shovel built inside boys
who are writing songs about the girls they break all the time.
My bag is full of homecoming-windows, jingles before the train.
The water was bubble-thick, my brain said milk. Before here, I was running a magnet
through a bath of iron shavings, a puddle bent into love.

Pushing a RomCom into a DVD drive teaches a TV to love.
The microwave is church for metal being more than a spark.
I have alloyed the inside of a nest, lifted it from the tree with a magnet.
The birds will not know a home to come to, blame the boys
with their morning-shot song, punctuated by a leaving train,
holding men hauling house-guts hoping they make back time.

Mum tells me two years is a long time
to lose. I slept through all my burling in love,
wrecked by the push downs on the earth until I can train
my heart to follow more than a spark,
so I’m not written about as one of the frozen boys,
the ones obsessed with becoming a flesh magnet.

I don’t know enough about gravity. I carry it’s reject magnet.
They put it in your chest to keep it in time.
You will show the river-scar in your breast to boys.
Their hands, fresh in grab, hope to earn your love,
because they’re amputated, thinking rubber. You push them back with a spark,
know that on a platform, it’s tempting to outrun the electric of a train.

He’s talking about his sound on a train.
I’m trying to be a listener, hands clutching a paper magnet.
The couple opposite rub the Standard pages to make a spark,
the flames are the articles who forgot time,
a section of anons who thought they saw love
in a face in the blast-through landscape. Tired boys.

You grow with the damage, the lightning skin of boys.
How sorry you are, carrying a train
into a person you wanted to love
for longer than their body, from their toes to their skull-magnet,
the mind that chooses time
before static, before dampening a storm into a spark.

I wanted to be more than the boys, a hand-magnet,
to train my heart into a steel-woollen nest, take the come-go of homebirds and time,
bury what the mattress teaches love, breathe further than the spark.

Set List Poem 12/03/2015

Spark a dance in the body shower, crematorium,
stays panic and leaving of lungs,
boys clamber into their invisible
silhouettes of old men who forget music sets
time in their unfolding
roses that die too quick, give them light,
tear the clocks from the walls, leave whole minutes,
return the ashes to a place they are understood.
Train fire to know when to leave a building alone.
Houdini was about freedom as much as he was escape.
Magnet me into place, into always smiling, into never falling.
Heart, give me a punch bag to take elsewhere out on.
Love the shatter and crumble of what we built.

This poem is written using the set list words as the first word per line.

Set List Poems!

I’m currently touring with Scott Freeman, acoustic rock madman, as part of his backing band. My fists are dedicated to drumsticks rather than pencils BUT I have to operate off of a set list of his songs each night, which just chimes of a poetry form challenge. After each gig, I’ll use the set list to generate work. It’ll be rough because we’re on the go, but better than not writing anything, right?

If you’d be up for some rock madness, check the gig poster and see if we’re in a place near you, it’d be great to see you.

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Antosh On Antosh – A Reading Review Of Ayoade On Ayoade: A Cinematic Journey by Richard Ayoade

Morning. Antosh and Antosh sit around a novelty tea party table. The cups are empty. There are no other guests.

Antosh:                                So, you’ve decided to review the book in the form of the book?

Antosh:                                Yes.

Antosh:                                And why’s that?

Antosh:                                It’s a visual representation of what the reader is in for when they sit down with this book expecting something straight forward, which I would argue was a mistake given it’s written by Richard Ayoade.

Antosh:                                OK… One of your comments whilst reading it was that you read more of the latter end of the book before the first half.

Antosh:                                How did you know I said/thought that?

Antosh:                                I was there…

Antosh:                                Ah yes. Well, it’s true. Ayoade essentially embarks on ten interviews with himself, all the while throwing you into the appendix section of the book to read reams and reams before you’ve advance past page 20. It’s a great technique. It means you can’t speed read and you’re totally focused on Ayoade’s voice, jokes and analogies.

Antosh:                                And did you learn much about cinema?

Antosh:                                Nope. Diddly-squat.

Antosh:                                So what was good about the book?

Antosh:                                It was funny. If you like Richard Ayoade, you’ll find this funny.

Antosh:                                But not one for cinema buffs trying to learn about ‘the process?’

Antosh does a dramatic claw-grab-the-air motion when he says ‘the process.’

Antosh:                I wouldn’t say so. Ayoade does his usual undercut-type humour where he leads you down the path of maybe talking about something that you will learn from and then makes another joke. But I think it works. It’s like a show-don’t-tell guide to him as a person. You’re never going to see him outside of his persona. Maybe he has no persona? He’s embedded in himself. I just love the fact that the book might have lured people into thinking it’s biographical and/or going to discuss his process, when really, you’re sinking into another facet of his comedic work. And he wants the reader to be angry, cheated, disappointed. He wants this book to be overanalysed. All of this is SO intentional. Which is why it’s worth a read.

Antosh:                                So, it’s an anti-book?

Antosh:                                That’s as good a conclusion as any.

Antosh shakes Antosh’s hand. They then break their tiny chairs over each other’s heads, laugh and exit the review.

Ayoade On Ayoade: A Cinematic Journey, by Richard Ayoade, Faber and Faber, 2014

Reading Review: The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

This is a fiction book about fictional books and the fictional people who write them. The Rabbit Back Literature Society is a prestigious collective of nine writers in Finland, led by Laura White, who is regarded as their literary mentor and saviour. She’s a writing God, essentially. The Society is joined by the unexpected protagonist, Ella after she writes a short story. The writers flock to her and on we go with a story of mystery, writing and sexual tensions and suspected murder and… It’s a weird book. Super metaphysical shit goes down. It has an off-kilter prose style, which is either intentional or symptomatic of translation. Clean cut prose with some major turns in lines that made it hard to stay on my chair.

The Rabbit Back writers follow The Game; a technique they use to extract raw literature from each other. You can’t lie, each writer playing The Game has to spill. These sections, for the most part, switch into a present tense perspective, when the rest of the book is in past, and it comes across as urgency but is a little jarring, making me check what tense I was in beforehand. Maybe I should pay better attention. The spills are the most driving parts of the book. We see the most horrendous parts of writers come to life on their own lips, as they stand there, bleeding out, to someone else who can use it as material for their own work. It’s psychotic and truthful. Makes me think of my poetry lecturer telling me, ‘when you’re being beaten up in the street, you can find solace in the fact you’ll have something to write about after leaving the hospital.’ Why do we do this to ourselves?

In other places, it reads like a record skip. Stuff gets mentioned over and over, like the protagonist Ella, with perfect lips and defective ovaries. Nothing comes of these details. Jääskeläinen even mentions her job title over and over within short spaces of time. Turn the page, he’s reminding me she’s a lit grad. Again. This is all there really is to her. She’s a vehicle for the incredibly well-fleshed characters around her but I felt no arc in Ella throughout, so even though the journey is only possible because of her and what she learns is threatening weird and fun, she doesn’t progress as a character. She is still a researcher/lit teacher with perfect lips and an inability to have children. WHY MENTION IT?!?!!?! I mean, there is loose symbolism that I could tie it to in relation to the creation of work in the novel but it’s way loose…

Jääskeläinen has crafted a literary-mystery farce, loaded with heavy moments that are worth the read. But this is a book I was constantly asking myself ‘what is driving me to read this?’ The characters are worth it but if you want plot, stay away. It’s nice that Jääskeläinen gives you an opportunity to just be with characters, something that is undervalued BUT the plot still needs a sense of progression. Maybe if Ella changed more it would have been better.

Read When: You want character, visceral dream sequences, mystery, oddity, symbolism, some killer lines.
Don’t Read When: You want driving plot, conclusive endings, you’re avoiding ‘writer on writer’ type stories…

The Rabbit Back Literature Society, Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, tr. from Finnish by Lola M. Rogers Pushkin Press, 2013

Reading Review: First Person and other stories, by Ali Smith

Ali Smith is another universe I’m taking a brisk walk through. I accidentally didn’t finish The Accidental – I started it on holiday with way too little time, strife of a reader, right? It’s hard to know where to start with writers like her, every time I get the thought to read her work, she seems to have a new book out. So, where to start… I was first introduced to her short fiction, so The First Person and other stories seems like the best idea.

I’d describe Smith as a zany Cormac McCarthy, without American reference points. She treats the page in a similar way to McCarthy; no punctuation above letters, no ‘ or ” to be found. The prose is bleach-clean. Dialogue relies solely the reader’s attention, the speech only distinguishable by the line breaks and the odd ‘he says… she says…’ It’s ergonomic, but unlike McCarthy, Smith delves into snapshots of human lives with a swift in/out, yet burdens your heart with each story. McCarthy paints desolate landscapes where you fight to choose humanity or abandonment or inevitable doom. These are writers of gravitational fields. Sink wisely. Smith is funnier, too. But enough with comparisons.

Good short stories for me shut out your ability to read anything else for a period of time. Smith’s world is a slow place to find your bearings, but I was immersed after two stories in this book and living with characters that I could hate/love/fear with ease. Smith interrogates person and tense in ways I’m not sure I even understand yet. She’s not afraid to leap perspective and drop you elsewhere in the turn of a line. I want call it poetry… but that’s what poets do to narrative.

There is commentary in many of these stories on how to write a story. The opener, ‘True short story,’ charts Smith’s attempt to write a short story while she edits it over in conversations with her friend who is fighting cancer. In the final pages, she even lists quotes from short story giants, my favourites being:

‘Jorge Luis Borges says that short stories can be the perfect form for novelists too lazy to write anything longer than fifteen pages.’

‘Alice Munro says that every short story is at least two short stories.’

My favourite story in the collection would have to be ‘No exit’ in terms of its character’s neurotic sprawl and how that comes to affect their everyday dialogue and interactions with the world. Smith weaves a fire exit metaphor in the story both in physicality in the character’s world and the reader’s mind. It’s a pathway story that sets up so many beginnings and endings that are all driven by character obsession. It took me a while to exit the story and get back into my body.

Smith’s writing is a constant diversion to then draw you into her key themes. There are times where I got lost and that can be a turn off in narrative, but if you can trust Smith’s writing, you will have learnt something from the path she led you down.

Ali Smith, The First Person And Other Stories, Hamish and Hamilton, 2008