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Barney Farmer, Drunken Baker, Coketown and Brexlit

The Observer featured an article on Sunday 27 October about the growth of a subtle and complex new movement in contemporary British literature: Brexlit. “Some are epic tales of the ancient kings who battled to rule Britain. Others are books about bakers in abandoned northern towns.” The latter, of course, referring to Drunken Baker by Barney Farmer, published by Wrecking Ball Press.
 
“Novels about ‘the left behind’ make up another strand of Brexlit. In Drunken Baker by Barney Farmer, characters created for the celebrated Viz comic strip Drunken Bakers are immortalised in a book ‘so soaked in booze the pages almost smell’, according to one critic. It’s a comic novel that takes place over a single day: as the bakers get drunker and fail to bake, they reflect on their failures in life and the decline of everything around them. ‘You see the impact of the collapse of a northern town from the point of view of the bakery workers. And it’s just so full of despair. It’s very, very bleak.'” Read the full article here.
 
On the same day, Robin Ince hailed Drunken Baker as “remarkable” and named it his book of the day on twitter. Ince said: “This book is a remarkable book and if it wasn’t connected to Viz, or it was published by Faber & Faber it would probably be considered to be one of the most intriguing, fascinating and beautifully written books about a world of austerity, a broken world and a world of drunken bakers. Some of you will read Drunken Bakers in Viz it’s one of the most brilliant cartoons anyway, Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The Ballad of Halo Jones) believes so. Alan Moore sees it as Samuel Beckett with Battenberg. Drunken Baker by Barney Farmer is remarkable. So, buy this book. It would be nominated for stuff if the literati knew what they were talking about.” View Robin Ince’s twitter post and video here.  
 
Barney Farmer’s second novel, Coketown, is published by Wrecking Ball Press in November.  Barney told The Observer: “I’m interested in the people that politics creates. When it comes to cause and effect, the cause is endlessly discussed. But the effect on the individual is more interesting to me, as a writer, than the grand personalities and the great sweep of events. There is more for writers to reveal by approaching political writing from that angle.”
 
Coketown can be ordered online here.

BBC Contains Strong Language is back

For the third year in a row, the BBC Contains Strong Language literature festival is running in Hull, co-directed by the BBC and us here at Wrecking Ball Press. It will take place the last weekend of September from 27th to 29th.

This third incarnation of Contains Strong Language promises to be the best yet. Like the past two years, it will combine established poets of global importance with Hull talent, such as the Scottish Makar Jackie Kay reading alongside Peter Knaggs on the Sunday at Hull Truck Theatre 4pm. The incoming Poet Laureate Simon Armitage will be returning to read from his latest collection on Sunday at 4pm Hull College and will also be working with local schools all week to format the performance Zoom!, combining poetry, dance, light and music (composed by John Harle) with an intergalactic theme, shown at Hull College on the Saturday 11am. Adding to the line-up of nationally acclaimed voices, the outgoing Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, will be performing at Hull College alongside two Laureate Choice poets on Sat 28th Sep 4-5pm.

You might remember that Editor Shane Rhodes headed to Indonesia in May 2018 to the Jakarta and Makassar International Writers Festival to form publishing networks. This link will see an exchange of poetry with poets arriving from Indonesia and Northwest Africa to share their work. Adil Latefi from Morroco will be running an interactive workshop with his translator on Saturday 28th at 1pm, with attendees taking part in creating a new translation. On Sunday at 11am there will be readings from the Indonesian poets and further discussion and practical insights into translating poetry, followed by the Indigenous Language Gala at 4pm. Languages closer to home will have their part with Welsh and Shaetlan – the native tongue of the Shetland Islands – featuring in the work of Rufus Mufasa and Roseanne Watt. This festival will be showcasing poetry as the varied and international art form it is, and an art that is increasingly important in a world facing international issues.

19 poets – The Hull 19 – will be resident in the city for three days, presenting special commissions, performances and readings. The entire BBC radio network will be covering the festival. Last year over 6.9 million people tuned in to listen across the weekend.

The festival’s directors are the BBC’s Susan Roberts (Editor Audio Drama and Radio 3’s The Verb) and Editor Shane Rhodes. “Contains Strong Language 2019 follows two extremely successful festivals held in Hull since 2017,” said Susan Roberts. “Once again we will present a packed programme of powerful, eclectic and visionary work that will resonate with audiences both live and via broadcast and online. This really is a celebration of the power of poetry and spoken word.”

Shane Rhodes commented on the continuity of presenting three festivals over three years. He added, “Hull was chosen as the location for the festival due to its vibrant, creative and innovative reputation as the nation’s poetry city. We’re continuing to build on two previous successful festivals that have left people with a hunger for more and we’re taking poetry and spoken word to a wide and growing audience. This year’s programme of work is ambitious and exciting.”

As previously, most events at BBC Contains Strong Language will be free to attend. Three paid evening events are available for booking here and the rest will go live at 10am 23rd Sep at hulltruck.co.uk. Keep a lookout on our social media for details of the festival events or get your hands on our brochure, which is now being distributed across the city.

Tickets at: bbccsl.eventbrite.com and hulltruck.co.uk/whats-on/

BBC drama Bathwater now available from Wrecking Ball Press

BathwaterBathwater, the script of Vicky Foster’s BBC Radio 4 drama, has been published by Wrecking Ball Press. The book contains the full-length script, including material not aired in the radio version, and additional prose.

Bathwater is a gripping, ever-twisting, often moving, somewhat shocking and often agonising piece of work.

Vicky Foster said: “Bathwater is based on my real life experience of domestic abuse and the impact that violent crime has on families.”

Rather than a cathartic over-share, however, Foster goes way beyond writing what she knows in order to craft something that is simultaneously hard-hitting and poetic. She has written a work of literary beauty, despite the harsh and uncomfortable subject matter, combining prose, poetry and dialogue.

This is as bold a line in the sand as a writer can make to announce their arrival.

Poet Helen Mort, five-times winner of the Foyle Young Poets award, says that Bathwater is, “A powerful, extraordinary piece of drama. It has left me changed. Courageous and compelling poetry from a very talented writer.”

Bathwater is available to purchase now and can be ordered from the Wrecking Ball Press website.

A limited number of copies of Bathwater signed by the author will be available. Please indicate if you would like a signed copy when you place your order.

Award for Doom ’94 translation

Doom 94

The translator of Jānis Joņevs Doom 94, published by Wrecking Ball Press, has received the 2019 Lillian Fairchild Award for her translation of the Latvian novel.

Kaija Straumanis, editorial director at the University of Rochester’s Open Letter Books, received the award in March. 

At the presentation ceremony, Rosemary Kegl, chair of Rochester’s Department of English, said the translation is a “remarkable artistic accomplishment,” adding “Her prose is equal to the immediacy of the voices of our protagonist and his new friends. The subtle shifts in perspective and tone that locate them within larger and longer personal and historical acts of rebelling, faltering, remembering, and forgetting.”

This is the first time in more than 80 years that the Fairchild Award has been presented to a literary translator. Previous winners have included visual artists, writers, choreographers, and composers.

As reported on the University of Rochester website, Kaija Straumanis said: “I wasn’t expecting to win. It’s almost surreal that I saw my advisor, Jennifer Grotz, receive the award several years ago, and now it’s my turn. By making people aware of translation, we’re bringing world voices into English and making world literature accessible.”

She added: “This is a book that spoke to a lot of people. I wanted this to resonate with people who were in the same generation as the author, in the States or around the world.”

Doom 94 was Jonevs’ debut novel, published first as Jelgava 94 in Latvia in 2013, and quickly proved to be a big hit and bestseller. Translated into 11 languages previously, Wrecking Ball Press presented it for the first time in English.

The story is set in the 1990s in the Latvian city of Jelgava and looks at the burgeoning craze during this decade for the alternative culture of heavy metal music. Jonevs takes the reader deep inside the world of music, combining the intimate diary of a youngster trying to find himself by joining a subculture, as well as a skilful, detailed, and almost documentary-like depiction of the beginnings of the second independence of Latvia–where Jonevs is the first writer to stir up memories of this period through a fully-fledged literary depiction.

To buy Doom 94 visit the Wrecking Ball Press website.

Poetry in motion

Dean Wilson (of Sometimes I’m So Happy I’m Not Safe On The Streets and WITH fame) and Dave Lee (of An Insider’s Guide to Hull: ‘It’s better than you think, honest…’ fame) went to the seaside a little while ago. Withernsea, being on the North Sea, does winter with real conviction, but they went up to the cliffs all the same and battled the wind and rain, and Dean read some of his poetry whilst Dave filmed him.

This is almost, almost as good as going to see Dean perform live.

Almost.

Dean’s books are available in our shop, at Wrecking Ball Music & Books (Princes Quay, Hull), and sometimes even from the man himself.

The short films can be seen here or here for ‘Tablets’, and here or here for ‘Glass’.

Hull’s Fourth Best Poet PLUS Hull’s Foremost Black Elvis Impersonator

WITH launch posterA new collection of 11 poems by Dean Wilson will be launched on Tuesday 11th December.

WITH, a large format magazine, is published by Wrecking Ball Press. The poems within were all written in the East Yorkshire coastal town of Withernsea, where Dean has a cliff-top chalet. The collection is subtitled You’re Sad And Lonely And You’re Coming With Me and comes in a goodie bag packed with surprise seaside-related gifts. Design of WITH is by Human Design, with photographs by Graham Scott.

The launch takes place at Hull’s Pave, at 8pm (free entry), where Dean will be joined by Elvis impersonator Bobby Diamond for an evening of fun that also includes a raffle.

Copies of WITH will be available on the night or can be pre-ordered here.

New Work From With-loving Wilson

WITH cover and bagThere’s been anticipation for new work from the fourth best poet in Hull – Dean Wilson – since 2017 thrust him in front of bigger audiences. The secret’s out, now, and Dean’s increasing number of fans want more.
 
Dean has been living in Withernsea, East Yorkshire, for the last few months, and the poems have been coming thick and fast. 
 
“Why With? Why not? When people read the poems from WITH I want them to feel the urge to jump in the air and then jump in a car and go to Withernsea.
 
“I’ve been going to With on my holidays since the 1970s and I love the place. It’s friendly, and I never get bored there. It helps me. I tasted my first alcohol in the Spread Eagle and used to stay in a caravan on the park. It’s a place of pure joy and happiness and it always brings back happy memories.”
 
Withernsea has brought Dean’s muse back, in a creative period that has generated in excess of 150 new pieces of work, and has also seen him commence work on his first novel. WITH is a small selection of these poems, published here in a large format magazine by Wrecking Ball Press.
 
WITH page 3The creative outpouring followed an invitation from fellow poets Mel Hewitt and Vicky Foster to join them for an evening in a Withernsea chalet that Mel was holidaying in. 
 
“It was the opposite of debauched. It was in July. We chatted, went for walks, watched the sunset, and there was a strange and beautiful energy in the air, as there always is in With. Without that trip this poetry wouldn’t exist. I liked it so much there that I decided to get a place there of my own. I’ve got a chalet on the edge of a cliff.
 
“That place saved my life. I’ve been there recuperating and I’ve been writing like a silly bastard. All of the poems in WITH were written in With: the town runs through them and the place inspired the work.”
 
WITH isn’t a follow-up to Sometimes I’m So Happy I’m Not Safe On The Streets, because Dean would feel unfaithful bringing out another collection just yet, even though he’s written so much about the town that there’s probably enough for a full-length Withernsea collection in the future. Instead, WITH is a collection of eleven poems, with stunning photographs by Graham Scott of Human Design that capture the town’s spirit and magic. 
 
Dean bumped into Graham and Wrecking Ball editor Shane Rhodes in a pub a few weeks ago.
 
“I told them I was thinking of putting my With poems together as a pamphlet, because I have a stapler and I know how to use it. But they said no, let’s do it properly, and help increase the house prices in With.
 
WITH page 4Human Design designed my last book. Once you’ve had that level of perfection you keep on wanting it. The photographs and the design bring the town to life on the pages.”
 
A short title for a short collection, but not to be outdone by Dean’s first book WITH is subtitled You’re Sad And Lonely And You’re Coming With Me.
 
“It was a very personal moment. Someone was very insistent about it and that’s what they said.”
 
The mystery and intrigue doesn’t end there. WITH comes in a goodie bag packed with surprise seaside-related gifts.
 
“The contents are a secret. Well. One of them is a sixpence, because I remember playing in the arcades and amusements with sixpences. And there’s a bingo card, too, which has been ‘Dobbed by Dean’.”
 
Dean has written four pages of his novel so far. He’s given himself two years to finish it. Until then, WITH will provide its readers with quite enough to consider.
 
WITH will be launched in Hull on Tuesday 11th December at Pave (8pm, free entry), where Dean will be joined by Elvis impersonator Bobby Diamond (“I think he’s wonderful, he’s mesmerising on stage”). There’ll be a raffle, too, where prizes might include a signed copy of Sometimes I’m So Happy I’m Not Safe On The Street or might be more compelling secrets from the mystical Withernsea.
 
A Withernsea launch of WITH is planned for early 2019.
 
WITH can be pre-ordered here.

Out Now: Dave McGowan’s Debut Collection

EarwiggingDave McGowan’s debut collection of stories – Earwigging – has been published by Wrecking Ball Press.

Earwigging is outside time. Conversations overheard in part, decontextualised by momentary existence, come together to create a world that exists only in the now. The man at the bar, the woman on the phone heading towards the Tube, the couple dragging their feet down Drury Lane: they are by no means connected but all inextricably linked, like the people in the background of a photograph, brought together for one time only, limited edition, a special occasion.

This overheard world is split apart by stories. Pieces of the past between the now, tales of who did what with whom and for how much. A world too unreasonable to have been real, but too unbelievable to be mere fiction. They say that there’s nothing as strange as the truth, and McGowan is the king. Travelling out of London, across the country, halfway around the world, the stories that punctuate Earwigging are absurd, hilarious, unlikely, and harrowingly real, dragging the reader on a rollercoaster ride of the bizarre until not even the normal is mundane anymore and each corner holds a new and strange surprise.

Earwigging & Other Stories is the momentary beside the memory: poignant, as unreal as only reality can be, and not to be ingested over tea for fear of surprise bouts of laughter turning beverage into projectile. The four-word foreword of only “Loose lips sink ships” sets McGowan’s book firmly in place: the telling of yesterday’s tales can begin a questioning of just how today happened, and private conversations held in public places are always going to be overheard by someone. Here, that someone is Dave McGowan – Londoner, writer, ale aficionado, wearer of hats – with his notebook of other people’s words.

“This is the real stuff. Stories from and about the street, from the soft belly of hard places. Stories that make you wince, laugh and wonder. A great collection from a writer of wit and talent.” — Kit de Waal, author of My Name is Leon and The Trick to Time.

“Dave McGowan is a trenchant observer of everyday life. These pieces are moving, insightful, hilarious and tragic by turn. Stories of London life in all its messy complexity — and a lesson to watch what you say, because you never know who is listening.” — Julia Bell, author of The Creative Writing Coursebook.

“Let Dave McGowan be your guide to a hidden seam of city life. He is part flaneur, part fly-on-the-wall, but be warned: once you’ve tuned in to the chatter you may not be able to turn it off.” — Tony White, author of The Fountain in the Forest.

Earwigging is available here.

First Wrecking Ball Title of 2019 Announced

JSS-BACHThe first Wrecking Ball Press title of 2019 has been announced. Martin Goodman’s J SS Bach will be published on March 6, 2019.

The book tells the story of three generations of women from either side of Germany’s 20th Century horror story – one side, a Jewish family from Vienna, the other linked to a ranking Nazi official at Dachau concentration camp – who suffer the consequences of what men do.

Fast-forward to 1990s California, and two survivors from the families meet. Rosa is a young Australian musicologist; Otto is a world-famous composer and cellist. Music and history link them. A novel of music, the Holocaust, love, and a dog.

“Most moving and impressive. In J SS Bach Martin Goodman manages an original slant on what has become all too familiar – the ‘Holocaust novel’ – and has created something really worthwhile as a result. It is beautifully structured and has a distinctive and haunting tone. Altogether a very clever and memorable piece f work that deserves to do well.” – Simon Mawer, author of The Glass Room.

J SS Bach can be pre-ordered here.

Isaiah Hull: A Voice Far Older Than His Young Years

NosebleedsNosebleeds, the first collection of poetry from Isaiah Hull, has been published by Wrecking Ball Press.

“Nosebleed is the first time you feel alien to yourself, even as a child, so imagine how I felt, when this came out.”

Visceral and raw, this collection explores family, life, and the real world. Hard-hitting poetry written to be spoken aloud, but making the transition to the page with remarkable ease and clarity.

Coming from a voice far older than the poet’s young years, Hull’s writing is soul-searching and down to earth. Nosebleeds is an exploration of expression, traversing emotion and form.

“Isaiah’s writing holds a weight and maturity unparalleled by anyone his age. He is the voice we all need to hear.” – John Berkavitch, poet and creative director of Shame.

Nosebleeds is available here.