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The Weird And Wonderful World of Peter Knaggs

A great review of Peter Knaggs’ “You’re so vain (you probably think this book is about you)” by Dick Ockleton in Dream Catcher Magazine. 

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It’s not every day you come across a poem with the title “Scunthorpe Police Swoop on Lunatic Bean Fetish Man”, but by the time you reach page 72 of Peter Knaggs’ “You’re so vain” collection, it doesn’t seem anything out of the ordinary. “Normal for Knaggs”, you might say.

You know you are in for something different from the off. The arresting cover – a face formed from a pair of scissors, a comb and a button, should seem harmless enough, but there is something unnervingly fierce about it and the significance of those bloody (literally) scissors comes back to haunt you.
Page by page, Knaggs has the ability to surprise, intrigue, amuse, sadden and shock in equal measure and it makes for an oddly addictive collection. You really do want to know what happens next. The accessible style of these pithy, cleverly crafted pieces keeps you turning the pages.
Knaggs’ gritty, witty poems take you on a journey through a world populated by meticulously observed and totally believable ordinary people, just trying to get by on a day to day basis. You are introduced to their shortcomings, their labours, their hopes, their dreams and their frequent disappointments. They just keep at it, ever more inventive in their efforts to keep their heads above water by whatever means, be it working in unrewarding jobs, lawbreaking, fighting, practical-joking, conning. And, now and again, the odd murder is dropped into the mix – quite literally in the case of an adulterous trapeze artist. Those scissors also make a couple of appearances, broken and sinister.
They are a motley bunch, Bobby, Billy, Ox, Banana Dave, Arnie, Stiggy and the rest. You join their lunch breaks and eavesdrop on their conversations. The author’s acutely-observed scenarios and quirky fine detail (“White bread impressed with grey fingertips like dabs down the nick”) put you right there with the characters. You could perhaps warm to some of these lads, but you definitely wouldn’t want to meet Gasher on a dark night.
But the hapless, ever-optimistic Crusoe is the star of the show. He appears as a steady thread running through the book. There is more to Crusoe than meets the eye. Stuck in an unhappy marriage, too scared of his wife’s brothers to get out, he “sometimes wants God to give him his receipt so he can take his whole life back and get a refund”. Even his own mouse traps attack him. Crusoe has firm opinions on what does not constitute modern art, and is meticulous about cleaning his van. He is on a relentless (so far unsuccessful) quest for self-improvement, but has also been known to “moon” in Macdonald’s. His frequent appearances and obviously sympathetic treatment might lead you to the conclusion that he is the narrator’s best mate.
Recurring themes of poverty, law-breaking and tediously stupid, incompetent bosses, are lightened by moments of joy and release. There is a character who goes up on the roof in all weathers to escape – “it’s the quietness, the otherness, the being above”. There are “boisterous shirts” which apparently make the wearers irresistible to the opposite sex – or is that just the beer talking? Even the relentless bashing of inept managers is punctuated by a couple of moments of (almost) sympathy for their situation. The ongoing fight between the “Devil” and “God”, or the pitying parallel drawn between a boss and an old library book that nobody wants to borrow.
But now and again you are brought down to earth with a bump. The gnawing poignancy of a woman who dies, alone, with “two losing lottery tickets in her purse”, or the helplessness and horror of a football stadium tragedy.
And then there are moments of pure whimsy – a relationship with a mermaid, or a “Clockwork Orange” style over-luxurious use of language to describe the gluttonous “Badger the Cadger”. You can almost hear the slobbering.
This collection is a pick and mix of real lives. It takes you through the highs and lows and it makes you stop and think. Never boring, it crackles with originality. The wry wit keeps going right through to the end, with the final poem’s take on being hard up – directions given to an imaginary bargain hunter on how to navigate by a succession of “Pound shops” to reach the ultimate goal – a shop that sells everything for 10p – Paradise!
All in all, a refreshing read.

Dick Ockleton

 

Subscribe to Dream Catcher here: http://www.dreamcatchermagazine.co.uk

THERE, ON THE HORIZON, SWINGING TOWARDS US …

So what (un)earthly delights are we offering in 2017? 

Here’s the line-up so far :

JULY 

Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile

by Adelle Stripe 

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“You write what’s said, you don’t lie. Or say it didn’t happen when it did all the time…”

Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile is the keenly anticipated debut novel by Adelle Stripe and is inspired by the life and work of the Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar.

 This slice of kitchen sink noir tells Dunbar’s story in print for the very first time. Featuring a cast of real and imagined characters, it is the result of four years’ painstaking research that has unearthed the hidden story of one of the North’s most enigmatic figures. It is a tale of the North / South divide and reveals how a shy teenage girl defied the circumstances she was born into to become one of West Yorkshire’s greatest dramatists.

Set in the Thatcher era, it maps the extraordinary rise of a young woman from the Buttershaw estate, who is discovered via a Women’s Aid refuge. She is propelled into the London theatre establishment and an adapted screenplay of two of her early plays brings her wealth, accolades and notoriety, while raising three young children.

Rita, Sue and Bob Too! is a national scandal upon its release, and its tagline ‘Thatcher’s Britain with Her Knickers Down’ ensures it is a box office sensation. Fame brings anxiety however, and Dunbar is unable to cope with the media attention, pressures of family life and writer’s block. She slowly succumbs to the pitfalls of drink and spends her last days in her local pub The Beacon, where she completes her final script based on a gang of unscrupulous debt collectors. In 1990, aged 29, she collapses from a fatal brain haemorrhage.

One of the most important writers of her generation, this remarkably stubborn ‘genius straight from the slums’ recorded the everyday realities of working-class life. Dunbar’s unflinching autobiographical plays included themes of domestic violence, underage sex, poverty, racism, alcoholism and the declining status of men. By using frank and expletive-ridden dialogue she created a no-holds-barred account of the underclass composed in the tradition of social realism.

A bittersweet literary depiction, Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile explores a world whose themes are more relevant today than ever. It marks the arrival of one of the UK literary underground’s best kept secrets.

Adelle Stripe was born in 1976 and grew up in Tadcaster. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester University and is the recipient of the 2016 K Blundell Award for Fiction. She teaches at MMU.

Adelle is the author of three chapbook collections of poetry, the most recent, Dark Corners of the Land, was 3:AM Magazine’s Poetry Book of the Year. Her writing has appeared in publications in the US and UK including The Guardian, Stool Pigeon, Caught by the River, Penny Dreadful and Chiron Review.

Her prose-poem The Humber Star will feature at Hull City of Culture 2017 as part of John Grant’s North Atlantic Flux programme. She has recently recorded vocals and lyrics for production duo Smagghe & Cross. Their experimental ambient track Cock of the North will be released in spring on Offen Music.

Find out more at: 

www.adellestripe.com

 

AUGUST 

Spit and Hiss 

by Mike Watts 

 

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photo by Jerome Whittington

Spit and Hiss is the fourth collection by Hull born poet Mike Watts. As well as carrying Mike’s trademark brutal honesty and hardboiled insight, these poems betray a deeper and more lyrical maturity to Mike’s current way of looking at the world. From corrupt local councillors and lost weekend lovers to memories of youthful exuberance and present-tense mid-life panic, all life is here, in all it’s marvellous bare- arsed glory.

Here’s a little taster, a poem called Let The Good Times Roll, which has been selected for publication in The Morning Star:

 

Let The Good Times Roll

 

His tearful mug crumbling from the front page of the local rag,

the political candidate swore-blind he’d been punched

simply for posting his party’s propaganda.

 

Turns out he was being economical with the facts,

 

the alleged ‘man-mountain’ of an assailant insisting he

didn’t take a swing at all,

 

he merely objected to having unwanted junk posted

through his letterbox and attempted to return it

by pushing it back into the posters pocket.

 

The candidate assumed it would be good publicity if he

reported it,

so the local press sent out a team to capture HIS version

of events.

 

The paper has an on-line comments section.

It stirred-up quite a debate.

 

Some said the guy was probably an unemployed thug

whilst others defended him.

 

Personally, I think the political candidate is a weasel

(I think most of them are)

and in this town I think he got off pretty lightly,

considering his politics.

 

This crappy bull-shit no-news story made front page,

so obviously all is well;

 

diminishing crime rate, zero unemployment and

the local economy booming.

 

Quick, pour the cognac, light the fire-works,

pass the cigars;

at last, we’ve cracked it!

 

In other news, Mike has just had a poem “Yorkshire Princess” selected in this year’s “Anthology Of Yorkshire Poetry”. 

 

 

SEPTEMBER 

 

International Poetry Collection … TBC (!) 

 

 

OCTOBER 

We Know What We Are

Short stories by Russ Litten 

 

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painting by Mark Hebblewhite

 

The debut short story collection from the author of “Scream If You Want To Go Faster”, Swear Down” and “Kingdom”. This latest batch of tales are all centred in and around Hull in the year 2017 and feature a cast of citizens whose lives play out in the furthest edges of the penumbra of the City of Culture spotlight. 

 

Here’s a short excerpt from “The Light That Lights The Dark”, which previously appeared in “Pearl” in the USA and “Verbal” in the UK. 

He gets up before you, goes downstairs and lays the table; a plate of toast with the margarine at two o’clock, the jam at three o’clock, a mug of tea on the right hand side and the knife on the left. You sit and eat together and talk about the day ahead. He tells you that it looks like it’s going to be a nice day outside and you should both go for a walk, blow away the cobwebs. When you’ve finished breakfast he runs you a bath and holds your hand as you step in. He washes and conditions and rinses your hair and then goes through to the bedroom and lays your clothes out on the bed from left to right; knickers, bra, fishnets, the long multi layered black and mauve skirt, the black satin bustier, your favourite mesh top. Then he gets himself dressed and flicks through the TV channels until you call for him to help you out of the water.

   And when you’re dressed he blow-dries your hair, your head between your knees as the heat roars around your scalp. Then the backcombing, the gentle tugging and teasing of his fingertips and then the throat catching blasts of hairspray, the mist settling on your spikes like a sticky net. He sits you down in front of the mirror and does your make up. The cold lick of foundation and the tickle of the brush on your cheeks and forehead. He describes the colours he’s using around your eyes, the purples and the greys and the greens and then falls silent as he leans in closer and concentrates on drawing in the lines around your eyes, the arch of the brows and the cat lick at each corner, his warm breath at the side of your face.

   I’m getting good at this, he says, and you say that you’ll be the judge of that.

 

NOVEMBER 

 

Debut Poetry Collection from exciting northern punk poet … TBC! 

 

We’ve also got amazing short story and poetry collections coming up from some very exciting new and established names. But that’s not until next year. In the meantime, if you want to get on the Wrecking Ball Press Book Club and take advantage of our ludicrously generous nature, please follow this link here:

 

http://wreckingballpress.com/product/wrecking-ball-press-book-club/

 

In the meantime, steer by the light of the whalebone and look after each other. 

WBP

x

 

 

One Minute Inquest – Peter Knaggs

 

Can you cook? What do you consider your signature dish?

I don’t like to comment on my ability as a cook, I’ll leave that to those that eat my food. I really love cooking, especially things that you can get involved in like a soufflé or a risotto. Of course I’m far too working class to have developed a signature dish, but it goes without saying, that my Yorkshire puddings and Toad in the Hole come out well every time.

A few years ago, I become besotted with baking bread and that has stayed with me. Sourdoughs are the way to go. Scotch morning rolls, always good. My bread explorations led me to discover Arkatena bread, a Cypriot recipe which uses gram flour, chickpea flour that is, for the polish. Truly, it is the most amazing bread I have ever tasted.

Recommend a book to cheer us all up? 

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty

The most triumphant, jubilant, pump your fist in the air and cheer book I have read. It is impossible to read this book and not be happy or cheered up. Buy it right now! I don’t say this lightly, because I’ve read thousands of books and this is singular in springing to mind in that this story, which is a good story, it is so up-lifting. What else is there? Do you know any? The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint maybe. If you are going on holiday, take Ron McLarty with you. It will make your holiday.

What was your favourite game as a child, and why? 

My favourite game is psst, which I still play, given four people who will acquiesce, at any given opportunity. There is the normal version, or you can introduce a tennis ball or football for variation. Endlessly amusing, everyone should play psst everyday and the world would be a better place. In fact here’s an idea for a book. Lose Weight by playing psst… For those uninitiated, you need five players who form a quincunx, the corners being roughly four metres apart. The participants psst each other and if the psst is acknowledged, the psster and the acknowledger exchange places. The person in the centre of the quincunx attempts to steal a vacant corner and replace the switchers. If successful, the runner heading towards the now occupied corner goes to the middle (does that make sense?) Anyone fancying a go, I’m always happy to demonstrate.

If you weren’t a writer, what else would you have liked to be?

Are you presuming writing to be my career and asking what other career I fancy or if I have a propensity for another proportionally futile and self-indulgent activity? I have always enjoyed being Peter Knaggs and I think I am the best person for the role. In the eighties I co-ran a mobile disco called Itchy Feet. Itchy Feet Pete, available for weddings, birthdays and football dos. I would have liked to have been a highscoring winger such as Andrei Kanchelskis. If I could sing I would front a rock-a-Billy band, The Love Cats.

I fantasize about monetarizing the things that I am good at. I am good at and enjoy listening to music. Would it be possible for a workaholic time-skint stiggy who, in wanting to be cool, may pass over this role so that somehow he could become vicariously cool? Re-holidays, I am good at going on holiday, so maybe there is a time-skint workaholic who hates holidays who would pay another to go on holiday for them?? I have this other fantasy (impossible to exist) job. I can see myself presiding in a comfy upholstered chair in a room not dissimilar to the James Reckitt Reading Room at the library, a bow-tied Jucundus; I have the vision of being sat there turning the page of a poetry book and reading it silently to myself. I’d be wearing a dog tooth jacket and my lectern style desk would have an ink pot, for some reason I would swaddle a quill and get paid for being a poem reader. As well as this I’d like to be taller and more handsome. Radio DJ that would be a good one, getting paid to play music, that would be good.

Which part of the world has made the biggest impression on you?

I have been lucky enough to go to Croatia, Montenegro and Portugal out of these, today, the memories of Montenegro spring to mind. It is utterly beautiful, rugged. Snow-capped mountains descend to the sea, so unlike Hull. Because of it’s troubled recent past and it’s slow economic development, there is very little infrastructure. By this, I mean there are endless tracts of coastline with no adjacent road. This results in a touristless, tranquil unspoilt beguiling sea.

There was this one day, my wife and I and our two kids went on a boat – I call it a boat it was like a Spanish Galleon – to the Bay of Kotor. The crew were pirate-like. Unexpectedly halfway through our journey the crew brought out a feast of Mediterranean fare; cheese, olives, bread salami and brescola, as much as we could eat, and then they brought out the wine. The boat anchored up and the passengers could jump off the boat, swim in the sea and climb up the rigging to get back on board. Swimming in that ocean, the mountains right there. That was magic.

When was the last time you were utterly terrified? 

I took my kids to Go Ape. Now, my son is of the type … well, listening to health and safety talks at seven wasn’t his thing. Anyhow, you go up into the canopy of the forest and they have these zip wires. Now having both my son and my daughter, I was a bit uneasy, because it meant at any given time we would be on a platform fifty foot up in the air, then if the girl went first, she would have to unhook herself, using the correct method and in the right order – safety hoist, carabiner, belt-hook, second safety rope etc – and me being at the other end of the zip wire, I would be unable to check and if she got it wrong. Consequences could be fatal. Being in between my two, that petrified me.

Favourite book cover?

I own hardbacks of all Bukowski’s prose published by Black Sparrow Press, Hollywood, Hot Water Music, South of No North, they all spring to mind … and the cover of The Reater number one … and I like the cover of The Slab of Fun, mostly though, or numero uno, I would say is The Book of Fuck.

Writing Tip?

Writing is about one thing, doing it. Write! Fill the wheelie bin every week… In the longer term, write like you. Write with individuality, write like no one else, then you will be remembered, if you are lucky.

Pull a portrait out of a magazine and have a go at describing a person’s face. don’t just do it once, do it a few times. Practise, get good at getting down the detail.

Favourite TV moment of the last 50 years?

Well, remember that programme, I forget what it was called but it was on BBC4 on Worldwide Egalitarian Day, where justices are restored to their natural equilibrium. It was great programme, firstly the BBC itself, as a concern paid for by the populace, had to restore the workforce to an equilibrium where it contained seven percent or less of staff who hadn’t attended public school. Then it was the bit were Cameron had to go to Scunthorpe and give three of his vehicles to Martin, who was on a zero hour contract at Asda. The best bit though, it was the faces, those public schoolboys walking out of the BBC buildings with their glum looks and their folders and files. Anyhow, this bit where they erected a Marshall speaker outside Dom, of Dick and Dom’s house and every seventeen minutes it emitted a BOGIES at volume. Twenty one days in and Dom comes out and he kicks the speaker, he starts punching it, wild-eyed and addled. We knew, of course, that the speaker was rigged so that if it was punched it would broadcast a BOGIES thirty seconds later, which riled Dom even more. Justice was truly done that day, he was zany, demented, off his head and I laughed my head off.

The last song to stop you in your tracks?

Music, eh! I’ve been listening to and enjoying the Mexican band Cafe Tacuna a lot. The last music that made me go f**king hell. That has to be William Onyeabor, ever since I’ve been slightly hooked on Nigerian funk from the sixties, there are two tracks that are particularly gobsmacking, from Who is William Onyeabor? The first is Atomic Bomb, the second is Fantastic Man. If I wasn’t on question 10, I would probably say more. But do have a listen. It is remarkable and you would have difficulty pinpointing which decade this stuff comes from, so ambient, so funky, so mysterious, so bloody cool.

 

 

 

One Minute Inquest – Lee Harrison

The first in an occasional series of brief yet intense quizzing sessions with our writers. 

Today, we interrogate the master of epic kitchen sink fantasy, Lee Harrison. 

 

 

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Can you cook? What do you consider to be your signature dish?

A nice curry – but its not signature because it changes every time – an ongoing flux curry.

Which book would you recommend to someone who needs cheering up right now?

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. Things can always get worse.

What was your favourite game as a child, and why?

I used to love playing block in the dark, back in the days when kids still did that sort of thing. I was good at hiding in plain sight, and enjoyed the mix of applause and unease this provoked.

If you weren’t a writer, what else would you have liked to be?

A jellyfish

Which part of the world has made the biggest impression on you?

THE SEA. THE NORTH.

When was the last time you were utterly terrified?

Utter terror is never far away. It sits on my shoulder like a fucking parrot.

What is your favourite book cover of all time?

There are loads, but I was particularly fond of an old paperback edition of The Hobbit I had, that featured the dragon Smaug posing on a mountain top. He made smoking look cool.

Tell us a writing tip

Don’t give up your day job, and don’t listen to writing tips.

Favourite TV moment of the last fifty years and why?

It’d have to be an old, formative one because these days i don’t watch it. I’ll say Rik Mayall on Jackanory, reading out George’s Marvelous Medicine, and showing off how naughty and cool and hilarious and slightly sinister books are and should be.

What was the last song to stop you in your tracks?

Just the other day I heard Still Life by The Horrors, and it sent me into a lovely, and most welcome daze.

WRECKING BALL PRESS BOOK CLUB

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POETRY AND PROSE FROM THE POSTMAN 

Here’s a happy notion – a brand new Wrecking Ball Press title delivered to your door every single month! Here’s how it works – you send us a cheque for sixty five quid and we send you a book on the same day every month for a year. We’ll pluck one out at random, or you can go through our back catalogue and pick the book you want.* Choose from literary legends like Dan Fante, Roddy Lumsden, Geoff Hattersley, Niall Griffiths and exciting new voices like Dean Wilson, Lee Harrison, celeste doaks, Andy Fletcher and Peter Knaggs. Good, eh?

So what are you waiting for?  Hit this link

http://wreckingballpress.com/product/wrecking-ball-press-book-club/

 and we will add you to our lovely list of lit. lovers who will be getting a years worth of words, one month at a time.

*Excludes 2017 titles onwards.

TALKING DOORSTEPS: BLOG ENTRY #5

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Wrecking Ball Press have teamed up with The Roundhouse and the BBC in a global project that will see Hull performance poet Joe Hakim travel to Trinidad & Tobago. Talking Doorsteps is for spoken word artists aged 16-25yrs and offers an accessible and interactive physical and digital community to share and platform work centered on the theme of HOME. Starting from next week, Joe will be observing and participating in workshops with young Caribbean poets before returning home and working with young Hull poets, then bringing the two artistic communities together for a performance in September as part of the “Contains Strong Language” Poetry Festival, which will be programmed by the BBC and Wrecking Ball Press. Joe will be writing daily blog entries so we can follow his progress. Here’s the fifth instalment:

 

Before I go any further, I have a proposal. Of the many, many foods I have stuffed into my face during my time here, one of the most familiar is the Alloo Pie. Now the Alloo Pie is not a pie as we know it. It’s not a pastry; it’s actually made of mashed spud, seasoned with spices (one of which is cumin, I believe) and then coated with a kind of batter and fried. Sounds familiar? Pattie, anyone? With that being the case, I think we should arrange some sort of food twinning as opposed to a town twinning. The Pattie-Alloo connection; you know it makes sense.

Anyway, it turns out that the previous day’s school performance was just a warm-up. Jean Claude picked us up nice and early. Hurtling along the Macoya highway, the main artery for traffic heading into and out of the Port of Spain, we pass the huge flag of Trinidad and Tobago flapping in the wind, flanked by the massive billboards that feature strangely white faces guzzling various sugary juice drinks and rum-infused beverages, and the Coca-Cola bottling plant. Men with carts filled with fruit and water patrol the embankments, waiting for the traffic to sufficiently slow so they can peddle their wares from car-to-car.

As I said in my previous blog, performing in front of kids makes me all kinds of nervous, so you can imagine the state I was in when we rolled up to Carapichaima West School and discovered we were performing in front of the entire school. Jean Claude informed us that the school was one of the poorer schools in Trinidad. All the kids were assembled in an outdoor area and we arrived to find the event in full swing. Hosted by Marcus and Denika, two of the younger members of the 2 Cents Movement, I was immediately struck by just how professional and slick they were. They whipped the crowd up with poems that involved audience participation. They hosted and performed with an assured style that belied their youthful appearances, and here I was flapping like a wounded seagull.

I took to the stage, ably introduced by Marcus. “Does anyone here like football?” Huge cheers. “Does anyone like the Premier League?” Another chorus of cheers. “Has anyone heard of Hull?” Confused murmuring. “Hull, as in Hull City, the Tigers?” A cheer of recognition.

I have to admit, I’ve never really been a massive fan of football. Although liking football and music is not mutually exclusive, I’ve always used to pride myself on being an alternative sort at school, choosing to spend my time soaking up books and culture (and cigarettes if I’m honest) rather than sport. But one of the things that I’ve discovered is that football really is an international language, so performing a poem that includes references to the KC Stadium and the Tigers has really helped bridge the cultural divide, and given me an ‘in’ with the young people of Trinidad.

After taking to the stage and utilising my “Er ner” shtick (I hate to admit it, but this has also been invaluable in introducing myself) I performed the poem. What happened next blew my mind. After the concluding line, “We are Tigers/now hear us roar,” the kids roared back at me. Unbelievable. Just … unbelievable.

After I finished my routine, Debris took to the stage and blew the roof off. Debris’ style is very much grime influenced, and she can switch back and forth between spitting and a more traditional poetical delivery with ease, all the while incorporating movement and dancing. They went wild, and after the set, Denika did an accent swap with Debris, each of them taking it in turns to mimic each other’s accents by swapping slang and local turns of phrase.

After the performance, a bunch of girls came over to Debris to take selfies and get autographs. Trinidad has quite a macho, patriarchal culture, so seeing them respond so positively to Debris was really heartening. It was like a rock-star had arrived in their midst, and from their sheer exuberance, it was clear to see that they saw Debris as a role-model.

After the performance, we returned to the Cafe Mariposa to prepare for the evening’s workshop. Yesterday was concerned with the written aspect of poetry, but today we would be focusing on the performance aspect. Debris started the session by taking a set of characters and situations, prompts such as ‘Perform as a prisoner on death row’ or ‘Perform as an excited child’ or ‘Perform drunk’ (That was the one I felt most comfortable with, funnily enough). She then put them all into a hat and jumbled them up, and we split off into pairs. In our pairs we took it in turns filming each other performing in the style of whatever we’d picked. I partnered up with Ashley, and we performed drunk, without blinking and in the style of a newsreader. The ‘without blinking’ one was the most difficult. Turns out not blinking in the baking Caribbean sun is really, really difficult.

As we reconvened into our circle, Debris elaborated on the purpose of the day’s session. It was about ‘liveness’ – responding to the environment and circumstances during the performance, and then incorporating that into the performance itself. As she succinctly put it: “If you were performing on stage and a cat strolled on, you would have to acknowledge it, otherwise the audience would spend the rest of your gig looking at the cat.”

Following on from this, we engaged in an exercise where we got into groups of three. One of the three had to try and perform a poem while answering simple maths questions posed by one of the members, while simultaneously mirroring the physical movements of another. While it might seem pretty mad, the idea of the exercise was break regular patterns, to be able to think on your feet so to speak, so that if you find yourself distracted, or make a mistake, you learn to adapt on the spot and incorporate it into the performance. It also really makes you focus if you’re learning a new poem.

Once the exercise was over, we got into a circle again and discussed the role of emotion within delivery. Debris shared one of her poems with us, and then discussed the circumstances that led to her writing it for four minutes. We got into pairs again, and were encouraged to do the same. I partnered up with Denika, the very talented young poet I mentioned earlier, and we ended up having a really intense and enlightening conversation.

A major reoccurring theme that runs through all of the 2 Cents poets’ work is the notion of representing the real Trinidad and confronting its problems head on. It’s very easy for tourists and outsiders to just see the surface of Trinidad, the paradise that is promised in the travel brochures; the lush tropical beaches, the fresh coconuts and the balmy climate, the scrumptious food, the dense foliage and exotic wildlife. And for a large part of the Trinidad experience, this is absolutely true. But once you start to peel back the layers of the image that is presented to the outside world, a very different picture begins to emerge. Some of the inner-city areas of Trinidad are wracked by of massive levels of crime. Gang violence is at peak levels, and gun and drug related crime is a real problem. This year alone (and don’t forget we’re still in January) there have been around 30 brutal murders. And a large proportion of that violence is directed at women.

Denika identifies herself as a feminist, which in Trinidad is a very progressive thing to do. So much so that she has to take a lot of shit. She explained to me that a lot of the time the criticism she receives is quite subtle, designed to make her question herself and undermine her beliefs. People (usually men but not always) try to call her out over the subjects she writes about, with a common line of attack being of the ‘Why do you only write about women’s issues, what about men?’ variety. It was fascinating to hear such honesty. Despite the distance between us – geographically and culturally – we connected on a deep, fundamental, human level, so I gave her the only advice I know how to give: stick to your guns, keep moving forward even if it’s lonely and painful at times; because if people attack you or abuse you because of what you’re saying with your art, it’s because they see you as a threat, which means that what you’re saying is vitally important, and needs to be heard.

It restores my faith in humanity to know that people like Denika and the 2 Cents Movement are out there on the front-lines, showing the youth of Trinidad that drugs and guns aren’t the only path that’s available to them, that there’s another way to live. She has a big heart and a sharp brain, and she, like all of the of the 2 Cents crew, are the leaders that the youth of Trinidad so desperately need right now to educate and inspire them. It’s going to be a long, arduous journey towards the light, but I truly believe the healing process has begun, and it’s the spoken word movement spear-headed by Jean Claude and rest of the collective that is tending to the wounds.

After the workshop was over, Marcia and Ayinde from the Mariposa took Debo, Pip, and myself down to the steel-drum site at the foot of the hills so we could hear them practise. I’ve spoken before about the road that leads to Lopinot, the long, twisting, winding path that was originally laid for horses, which has only just begun to be improved for cars and buses. Marcia told us about how she and her sisters would often turn off their headlights and navigate the perilous journey using only moonlight. Ayinde decided to give us a quick demonstration by flicking off the lights but not slowing down. I’m not embarrassed to admit that we all screamed.

We arrived at the practise just as the steel band were warming up. In fact, calling them a band does them a dis-service – it was a full-on orchestra. I’ve heard steel drums before, but never so many played in unison. The sound and vibrations generated by the symphony shook me to my core, resonated throughout every cell in my body. As I sat there, watching all the young people working together to create such a powerful noise, it felt good to bask in the beauty of Trinidad, its people and its culture.

PRODUCTION MANAGER REQUIRED FOR HUMBER MOUTH LITERATURE FESTIVAL

Production Manager Required

For Humber Mouth Literature Festival and Contains Strong Language

About Humber Mouth Literature Festival

Humber Mouth is one of the most established literature festivals in the country, with its own distinctive style. We present writers who aren’t necessarily mainstream in an informal and accessible way; over previous years we’ve welcomed artists as diverse as Chuck Palahniuk, Amanda Coe, DBC Pierre and James Kelman. With all eyes on Hull as the UK City of Culture, we’re seeking a dynamic production manager to support us in delivering the Festival for 2017. Contains Strong Language is a new poetry festival produced in collaboration with the BBC, forming part of this year’s Humber Mouth.

About Wrecking Ball Press

Wrecking Ball Press has been publishing high quality, cutting-edge literature for twenty years. For the last six years, editor Shane Rhodes has been artistic director of the Humber Mouth.

Production Manager Role and Responsibilities
The production manager will be responsible for both Humber Mouth Literature Festival and Contains Strong Language, which opens on National Poetry Day (September 28).
Duties will include:
Managing the delivery of all production and operational aspects of the Festivals;
Working closely with the BBC, the artistic director and City of Culture team on Contains Strong Language to ensure that all planning and preparation is completed to time and on budget;
Managing all festival logistics, including venues, technical arrangements, artist travel and accommodation, itineraries, production elements and set dressing;
Recruiting and managing a team of volunteers to help deliver the Festival, including drawing up a suitable volunteer policy;
Carrying out appropriate risk assessments for festival events and activities and ensuring schedules and health and safety regulations are adhered to;
Managing Festival events on the ground and briefing others in working on those events;
Overseeing the collection of audience data and ensuring appropriate evaluation is carried out after the Festival, including collating any data relating to funding or future planning, as required;
Providing support and advice in the coordination of the Festival’s production activities, including scheduling staff and resources;
Providing advice to the artistic director and other partners regarding issues of venue suitability, technical management, and production costs;
Undertaking research and providing quotations for suppliers and equipment hire for the Festival:
Preparing production briefs and sourcing quotes from potential suppliers;
Liaising with suppliers and venues on technical and production matters;
Identifying and making recommendations on new venues;
Supporting in the preparation of technical event documentation including technical and event schedules, spreadsheets etc;
Managing the get in and get out of festival events, including all personnel and contractors;
Any other duties as agreed with the artistic director and other partners.

Type of Work

Contract – Full Time Length
90 Days
February – October 2017
Reporting to:
Shane Rhodes
Editor/Wrecking Ball Press
Artistic Director / Humber Mouth Literature Festival Salary
£10,500
Core Skills Required:
Experience of producing festivals or large scale events;
Excellent interpersonal and communication skills;
Experience of managing multiple events in different venues;
Experience of managing and organising staff and crew;
Proficiency in Word, Excel, Outlook;
Excellent time-management skills;
Excellent attention to detail.
Desirable Skills
An interest in literature and a desire to make it accessible;
Experience of working specifically in literature festivals.
For further information or to apply for this position, please send a covering letter and resume to editor@wreckingballpress.com.
Applications close Wednesday 25th January. Interviews will be on Thursday 2nd February.
For further information or to apply for this position, please send a cover letter and resume to Shane Rhodes, Artistic Director, at editor@wreckingballpress.com.

Applications close Wednesday 25th January. Interviews w/c Thursday 2nd February.

 

TALKING DOORSTEPS – BLOG ENTRY #1

 

JOEHAKIMROAD

 

Photo by Graeme Oxby

Wrecking Ball Press have teamed up with The Roundhouse and the BBC in a global project that will see Hull performance poet Joe Hakim travel to Trinidad & Tobago. Talking Doorsteps is for spoken word artists aged 16-25yrs and offers an accessible and interactive physical and digital community to share and platform work centered on the theme of HOME. Starting from next week, Joe will be observing and participating in workshops with young Caribbean poets before returning home and working with young Hull poets, then bringing the two artistic communities together for a performance in September as part of the “Contains Strong Language” Poetry Festival, which will be programmed by the BBC and Wrecking Ball Press. Joe will be writing daily blog entries so we can follow his progress. Here’s the first: 

I didn’t sleep much the night before. For some reason, I kept replaying that scene from Airplane over and over in my head, that bit when an obviously distressed Ted Striker sits next to the little old lady on the plane, who turns and asks:

‘Nervous?”

‘Yes.”

“First time?”

“No, I’ve been nervous lots of times.”

Fortunately, my girlfriend, who has flown many times, took charge of the packing. It was a good job too, as I took it upon myself to have a couple of glasses of wine and start ringing round people to tell them things like: “If anything happens to me, I just want you to know that I’ve always been very fond of you.”

General Zod, my cat, usually wakes me up by planting himself on my chest and sticking his paw in my mouth, but on this particular morning he seemed to be a bit subdued, so I immediately took it as a bad omen, a sign that he was aware that something was about to happen, utilising that creepy extra-sensory pet sense that people often attribute to animals.

I like to think that I’m a rationalist, someone not swayed by vague non-existent spiritual forces, but like most people from Hull, I have a large superstitious streak that emerges during times of stress, and the fact that I was flying on Friday the 13th was all a bit much for me.

Eventually my girlfriend managed to tear me away from touching all the wooden surfaces in the house and shepherded me out the door and dropped me at the train station.

The extreme cold weather that the news had been warning us about for days was starting to hit, and as the train passed through Leeds the snow had started to fall, becoming a thick white blanket that covered the ground by the time I arrived at Manchester Airport.

My anxiety about flying for the first time was compounded by the fact that I was travelling alone, because I had no one to guide me through the whole thing. The first big test was passing through customs. As anyone who knows me reasonably well will attest, I have a very shady looking face, so it was almost inevitable that I was searched on my way through. After being manhandled by a bear-like bloke, I was let loose into the departure lounge. My original intention was to settle down to some work, but I was just too jittery, so I occupied myself by pacing up and down the lounge trundling my case behind me.

Eventually the big moment arrived, and I, along with my fellow passengers, was huddled into a big metal tube on the runway. Despite my nerves, I was chuffed to see that I had a window seat, so I sat down and prepared myself for the big moment, and it didn’t take long for my anxiety shift into pure exhilaration. For the first time, I was leaving the borders of my country.

Mercifully, the flight was smooth and uneventful, aside from a bit off turbulence that kicked in just as we were landing in Barbados, the place where I was due to catch my connecting flight. As I stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac, the warm air filling my lungs felt incredible. After a very brief stop it was time to board another plane for the next leg of the journey. I felt confident now, bordering on cocky, as I strolled out onto the runway. This new found swagger was short-lived however, because we got closer to the plane, I realised it was a small two-propeller craft. Once again I had been given a window seat, but I wasn’t as thrilled as I was last time, mainly due to the fact that the view from the window was that of the one of the engines. It was a bumpy, juddering flight, and my hands gripped the armrests every time we hit a pocket of turbulence. Not only that, the plane stopped off in Grenada, meaning I had to go through the whole take-off/landing again.

I was a bit burnt out by the time I landed in Trinidad, but buzzing. I met up with Debris and Pip at the airport, and after a gruelling trek through customs, I had finally arrived at my destination, Trinidad. Debo and Jean Claude, our man in Trinidad, picked us up at the airport.

It was dark out by this time, and our place was up in Lopinot, a village located a few miles outside of Port of Spain. This journey entailed driving up a long, thin, unlit winding road, bordered with thick bushes and trees, and the odd sheer drop. Jean Claude tackled the drive with much aplomb; foot down almost all the way, navigating the all the twists and turns with the speed and determination of a rally driver, even swerving to avoid the stray dogs did little to put him off. Indeed, he was so at ease that even managed to turn around and converse with us directly.

After being given a warm welcome by our host Hyacynth, we each retired to our rooms, knackered by our journeys. After taking off my shoes, I headed out onto my veranda to type this, the first of my blog entries.

Tired and sweaty, surrounded by the unfamiliar noise of thousands of exotic creatures, it suddenly dawned on me: I had made it, I was here, in Trinidad, and the real journey was just beginning.