Fiona Curran’s new collection Never Try to Outswim a Bear, is published by Wrecking Ball Press today (26/10/2020).
This second collection from poet, sonic artist and filmmaker Fiona Curran is a stunning combination of dark humour, grief, nature, botany and science: Reflecting on art, love lost and found, and the poetry of place and displacement – from where she sends us knowing postcards. Within these pages, Curran captures fleeting moments and momentous events as so many impressions caught in the corner of an eye. Her work resonates with those who are alive to their own burning experiences. These poems are a curveball. Catch and propel them forward, on fire with your own thoughts.
We asked Fiona to share the books that inspired her at the time of writing this new collection.
Fiona said: “What amazed me, when Wrecking Ball asked me to come up with ten great books which had influenced me during the time of writing Never Try to Outswim a Bear, was just what has made the cut. And in fact eleven books feature, and I could quite possibly have given you 11 x 11 more!
“I think that in Carson, Thackery and Woolf, there is joy, wit and nothing short of a delicious harmony of high style with epic storytelling. A smile rarely leaves your lips when reading these books. Educated, Stasiland & Chernobyl Prayer are testaments to people maintaining their humanity, under extraordinary, unthinkable pressure.
“Cohen, Graeber and Odell write on a subject, by which, I am quite obsessed: the “culture” of work, and how our sometimes unquestioning workaholic natures (combined with new home working conditions) have imprisoned us in a capitalist labyrinth.
“The Vanishing Man is certainly one of the greatest examinations of the folly and conviction of the art collector; as well as an exquisite love letter to Velazquez.
“The Lost Pianos of Siberia is an elegy to the impact of music at ‘The End of Everything’ – a place so far away, as to be the centre of the world. It is a magnificent, almost accidental, history of the Russian people and their hungry musical embrace.”
Fiona’s selection of inspirational books is as follows:
The Autobiography of Red – Anne Carson Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray Orlando – Virgina Woolf Educated – Tara Westover Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall – Anna Funder Chernobyl Prayer: Voiced from Chernobyl – Svetlana Alexievich Not Working: Why We Have to Stop – Josh Cohen Bullshit Jobs: A Theory – David Graeber How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy – Jenny Odell The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velazquez – Laura Cumming The Lost Pianos of Siberia – Sophy Roberts
Fiona Curran is a poet, sonic artist and filmmaker, and also a lecturer in filmmaking. Her first poetry collection, The Hail Mary Pass, was published by Wrecking Ball Press in 2006. Wilton Carhoot, editor of The Slab, said: “Fiona Curran is a bright and feisty northern voice. She treads the landscape of the urban and the domestic, from the smokey fug of the betting shop to the lavender scent of the bathroom. I like Fiona’s poems because she writes about real people who truly exist and whose lives and wine-fuelled loves I can believe in. The Hail Mary Pass is spunky, sexy and brash. This is a belter of a debut and I very very much look forward to the next verse.” Wrecking Ball Press will publish Fiona’s new collection, Never Try to Outswim a Bear, on October 26. We spoke to Fiona to find out more about the collection.
You’ve got a new collection on the way – Never Try to Outswim a Bear – great title, by the way. What can readers expect?
Hummmmm, it’s a real mix to be honest, black humour, grief, period pieces, nature, reflections on art, examinations of the language of flowers, lost lovers, found lovers, the poetry of place, The Postcard Series, Poetry as Script, The Scientist Series…
Can you tell us something about where this collection came from, when you started work on the pieces within, why you wrote it, how it developed?
It’s such a mixed bag, and frankly was written over quite a long time, but I think the underlying theme is one of loss in many forms. Also I was trying to capture some fleeting moments, the things (sometimes quite momentous) just caught in the corner of the eye.
Some of the poems are presented in the form of postcards, what is the reason for this?
I always loved the way that postcards “limit” what you can say, that you have to be succinct, and yet, no matter the picture, they always seem to me to be a joyful and unexpected thing, and I always loved receiving them. They deserve to be celebrated as a writing form. Angela Carter, for instance, was brilliant at them.
How does your work as a lecturer, sonic artist, filmmaker and poet intersect?
It intersects completely. Eventually I gave up trying to reconcile all of the practices and just decided to call myself an artist and be done with it. Nothing I do really stands alone, it’s all water from the same well.
You’re creating films to accompany the collection, can you let us know what to expect?
Some are already in the bag. For instance, The Scientist Series (where a lone female scientist tries to distill and understand grief) gave birth to four experimental films. These are pretty diverse and include a process documentary with a twist, set in a coffin factory, a dancer coming to terms with the lid of the final box, and the escape from purgatory of the dead (me, in fact), making my way back to the land of the living – in this case arriving finally in Ridley Road Market – God Bless Hackney!
Who are you writing for?
That is a very good question! Curious women who are shot through with their own burning experiences.
What experience do you want your readers to have with your work?
I’m just vain enough to hope that a single poem catches a reader and echoes in their mind – perhaps enough to lead them to explore a subject personally.
When you’re embarking on a new piece of work, whether a poem or a piece of visual or sonic art, what approach do you take?
I used to be a big over-thinker. I almost had it done in my mind long before I committed to paper. I’ve stopped doing that now. It kills it. I’ve learned, too, that if I am collaborating, to give the other people succinct direction, but also a lot of freedom – there’s got to be something in it for them. It pays to be surprised when you are making work. I like the feeling of “Good grief, where did that come from and what am I going to do with it?”
Tell us more about your process?
I used to be very much a morning person, but now I take it when it comes! Nothing is ever wasted. It’s all in there somewhere, so I work when I can and when I feel I’ve got something worth saying/showing. I am quicker to spot what won’t work now, before I’ve written myself into a corner and destroyed what was just about flowing. But I’ve also learned that even seemingly insurmountable problems are best addressed by temporarily walking away. Sleeping on it will often give you the solution, or the clarity, you need. And sometimes you just have to abandon ship.
Do you do a lot of planning or procrastinating before you sit down and get writing?
No – there is a Zen saying “We are wrong if we think there is time…” Procrastination doesn’t really exist if you have something driving you to examine your own humanity.
Do you have any thoughts about your experience of independent publishers?
Frankly, they have never been anything but good to me. I’ve had some wonderful relationships with publishers of small presses and magazines over the years, and I very much include Wrecking Ball here! It’s great to see some of the small presses managing to grow and being recognised as part of the reading culture, simply through their own publishing discernment.
The Hail Mary Pass was published 15 years ago. Looking back, what are your thoughts on the collection and the response to it?
My God, 15 years! It was such an urgent thing getting that first collection published, I wish I had just enjoyed it more! Some of the writing still stands up but in some other poems, it’s like meeting a stranger.
What else are you working on now?
Ahh, well it was going to be a new, much bigger film! I have a re-occurring image, but no detail I can share! But we will have to see what happens in a (hopefully) post Covid-19 world. I think all writers and artists will be reexamining their ideas in what could be a post capitalist world. Whatever we do next has to be relevant, and address that world, not be just more of the same schtick.
So what’s the future hold for Fiona Curran?
For the moment crossed fingers. And I’d like to go back to Rome very soon…
Wrecking Ball Press is delighted to partner with the BBC once again on BBC Contains Strong Language.
The partnership has seen three previous Contains Strong Language festivals delivered in Hull, from 2017-2019. For 2020, the UK’s largest festival of poetry and spoken word has relocated to Cumbria.
The festival takes place from September 25-27 at multiple locations that include Wordsworth Grasmere, Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness. Live coverage of the festival will see events on BBC Arts BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 with additional programmes on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds.
To find out more about Contains Strong Language 2020, view the brochure below and visit bbc.co.uk/containsstronglanguage, where you can also view highlights from previous festivals.
Wrecking Ball Press is overjoyed at the news that the Dean Wilson Film Club is about to become a reality.
Dean is the self-titled fourth best poet in Hull and the second best poet in his beloved Withernsea. He collects pebbles off the beach and posts them on twitter, and writes poems that make your sides burst with laughter one minute and have you crying into your handkerchief the next.
Wrecking Ball Press has published three collections by Dean: Take Me Up The Lighthouse (2020), WITH (2018) and Sometimes I’m So Happy I’m Not Safe On The Streets (2016) and he also appears in The Reater.
Earlier this year, Back to Ours hosted the online premiere of Dean and Dave Lee’s short film East Coast Fever. There was so much love for it that Back To Ours decided to ask the dynamic duo to film some more of Dean’s poems to create what the world has been waiting for – the Dean Wilson Film Club.
To access tune in to Back to Ours’ facebook and twitter streams at 9pm on the last Thursday of every month for a proper Dan treat and, in addition, get your dabbers ready for a game of bingo.
Ahead of the Dean Wilson Film Club launch, and between those monthly Thursdays, stock up your shelves with Dean’s three Wrecking Ball Press titles by visiting the links below.
Paul Birtill’s new collection Bad News sees the poet return to his favourite themes of death, relationships and mental illness with his usual brand of dark humour, deep-veined irony and more than one poem about Coronavirus.
Paul Birtill was born in Walton, Liverpool in 1960 and lives in London. He has published a number of collections with Hearing Eye, including New and Selected Poems. He is also an accomplished playwright and several of his plays have been staged at London theatres, including Squalor, which was short-listed for the prestigious Verity Bargate award.
Packed with short, sharp, witty and irreverent observations.” –John Healy
“Makes me laugh and feel depressed at the same time, and that’s a rare gift.” John Cooper Clarke
Time and again his dark humour hits the mark.” – Harry Eyres, Financial Times
His stark and hard-hitting verse skilfully echoes the neuroses of life.”Irish Post
We had a chat with Paul so he could tell us more about his new collection and squash the rumours about his use of correction fluid.
How would you describe Bad News?
The collection is a mixture of work, some of which is autobiographical, some of which is semi-autobiographical and a somewhat exaggerated version of events and some that display my usual black comedy.
Can you tell us something about where this collection came from, when you started work on the pieces within, why you wrote them, how they developed and how Bad News came to the attention of Wrecking Ball?
I started working on the poems in this collection just under three years ago. What tends to happen is that when I have enough poems together, maybe around 40, I’ll start to think about them in terms of a collection and come up with the title at that point. Coronavirus happened and I wanted to write something about it because we are living through history here and it’s important to capture that, even in my own funny way.
I’ve known the poet Dean Wilson for 20 years and I knew Roddy Lumsden, both published by Wrecking Ball. I sent some poems for inclusion in The Reater years ago but there were no more Reaters so that was that, even though the editor liked them. I read with Dean in Liverpool a couple of years ago and we swapped books. I really liked his book and the quality of its production and he told me to try Wrecking Ball again. So it’s all Dean’s fault.
Who are you writing for?
Normally I write poems in notebooks and if they’re any good I type them up on a typewriter. I start by reading them to half a dozen good friends and if they like them they’re in. If not, I don’t bother. So initially I write for my small circle of friends because they’re a good critical audience.
What experience do you want your readers to have with your work?
Somebody once said to Brendan Behan, “what’s the message in your work?” And he said, “there is no message, I’m not a fucking postman.” Sometimes I’m expressing ideas or my point of view which some people might find bleak and depressing but I also like to make people laugh.
Would you like to share something about your experience with independent publishers?
I had a great working relationship with John Rety, who founded Hearing Eye. He was the poetry editor of the Morning Star, an anarchist and a really good chess player. John published my first collection Terrifying Ordeal in 1996 and went on to publish other collections of mine and pamphlets and I liked him a lot. Good independents allow writers to remain independent too.
You avoid technology and continue to write on a typewriter. Why is that?
I do avoid technology, yes. I’ve never been on an aeroplane and if I travel to Europe I take a boat or Eurostar. I don’t drive a car and it was only in the last year that I got round to getting a mobile phone and only then because the landline was getting more expensive and there were some good deals to be had.
I’ve never really liked technology and I’m not the most practical or technically minded person, so I’ve never really wanted a computer. Someone told me once that they had a computer but quickly went back to a typewriter because they found it too easy to change things on screen and that’s what I feel too.
I have an electric typewriter, a Brother, that I’ve had for 30 years. I can’t even buy the ribbons in Rymans these days so have to order them and I hope I can continue to keep buying them when I need to but so few people use typewriters these days. I’m also a great user of Tippex. When I’m stocking up on Tippex at the newsagent’s I don’t think he quite believes that I use a typewriter at all. I’m pretty sure he thinks I sniff the Tippex.
How is the London life these days?
I moved down here from Liverpool on July 1, 1983. I’m quite good with dates. I’ve been here ever since aside from a year. I live down a leafy road near Hampstead Heath, so I’m in one of the nicest parts of London. Camden Town is down the road if I want to socialise, which I did a lot when I was younger.
I lived in Glasgow for a year, during the European Capital of Culture year. It was the dream place for a writer to be although I moved there for the drink and a woman I was unhealthily obsessed with. That was a great year-long party, the pubs never closed. I nearly stayed but then I ended up back in London after the year. If I ever do move from here now it would be to live back in Liverpool.
What does the future hold for you?
I’m coming up to 60th birthday next month. So with that and the publication of Bad News I’ll be enjoying myself. I’ve already got 20 more poems written and I’m still quite prolific as a poet, so more of that. I’ve also been a playwright since 1984, at the time of the miners’ strike, and have written ten plays and written poetry since 1987. The problem with plays is that you need a really strong idea to be able to sustain 90 minutes whereas with poetry, in ten lines you can write about something quirky and specific.
The Rabbit Hole, the independent bookshop based in Market Place, Brigg, has partnered with Wrecking Ball Press to celebrate Independent Bookshop Week 2020 (20-27 June).
The Rabbit Hole will be selling a range of Wrecking Ball titles in addition to other titles from indie publishers, national publishers, alongside events, book token offers and more to celebrate Indie Bookshops during the week.
It will be one of hundreds of shops and events taking place at independent bookshops across the UK to mark Independent Bookshop Week.
The Rabbit Hole has just re opened after three months and is looking forward to the week to continue promoting Diversity in Books and reading.
Diverse Book Week started a run of events in June and working with schools and authors The Rabbit Hole will continue events throughout the summer. Authors like Richard O’ Neill, Onjali Rauf, Kathryn Evans Saviour Pirotta, Phil Earle, Katie Brosnan and up and coming local author/illustrator (Anna Terreros-Martin) Anna Doodles all supported reading for pleasure events during “lockdown” reaching readers as far away as South Korea.
Nick Webb, from The Rabbit Hole, said: “The Rabbit Hole will be working with the wonderful and innovative Wrecking Ball Press based in Hull in an ongoing project to ‘Bridge the Gap’ across the Humber region. Working with publishers and independent groups and authors based in Hull, Grimsby, Scunthorpe and the many exciting and creative projects in the region.”
Shane Rhodes, editor of Wrecking Ball Press, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with The Rabbit Hole during Independent Bookshop Week. Books, reading, stories and poetry have never been more important than right now and independent bookshops are the lifeblood that give independent publishers like us the strength and power to get our books into the hands of readers.”
Wrecking Ball Press titles at The Rabbit Hole will include signed editions of books by Dean Wilson, Russ Litten, Vicky Foster, Peter Knaggs and Lee Harrison, alongside work by Toria Garbutt, Shirley May, celeste doaks, Isaiah Hull, Dan Fante and others.
Independent Bookshop Week launched in 2006 and is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign run by the Booksellers Association. IBW is a celebration of independent bookshops nationwide, and the role ‘indies’ play in their communities. Last year, the number of independent bookshops in BA membership grew to 890 shops, up from 883 in 2018.
Imagine a Wrecking Ball Press title delivered to your door every single month. That’s what the Wrecking Ball Press Book Club is all about.
Here’s how it works – for just £80 we will send you a book on the same day every month for a year. The first book you will receive is your choice* – simply go through our back catalogue and pick the book you want.
After that we’ll select books for you from literary legends such as Ben Myers, Dan Fante, Roddy Lumsden, Geoff Hattersley, Niall Griffiths and exciting voices like Shirley May, Toria Garbutt, celeste doaks, Vicky Foster, Isaiah Hull, Barney Farmer, Dean Wilson, Andy Fletcher and Peter Knaggs.
So what are you waiting for? Join the Wrecking Ball Press Book Club, include all your contact details and, in the order notes, your choice of first book and we will add you to our lovely list of literature lovers who will be getting a year’s worth of words, one month at a time.
The £80 cost is fully inclusive of postage and packing, so the Wrecking Ball Press Book Club is great value for lovers of poetry and fiction.
So what are you waiting for? Head here to sign up:
At Wrecking Ball Press we are, like other arts organisations, independent publishers and everyone across the UK, coming to terms with the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on our work, day-to-day life, health and wellbeing. In the meantime, we’re giving away some free content to help you get through these difficult times and that we hope you will like.
Since 1997 Wrecking Ball Press has published high-quality, cutting-edge literature, building a national reputation that far exceeds its size. This is based on a commitment to connecting the most innovative and accessible novels and poetry with a readership not traditionally associated with literature. Wrecking Ball Press has a strong record of discovering exciting first time writers, many of whom have gone on to have further commercial and critical success with larger publishers.
We have a wealth of digital and analogue archives that we’re currently exploring and will be posting links to here for you to enjoy and engage with.
If browsing catalogues isn’t your thing, you can watch the video below for a quick view of our available titles.
The Reater – Issue 4
In 2000 we published a special Millennium issue of The Reater. The Reater – Issue 4 contains a 40-track CD, featuring live readings by various poets. Contributors include Brendan Cleary, Ian Parks, Dean Wilson, Daithidh Maceochaidh, Labi Siffre and Fred Voss. We’ve posted a large selection of those recordings for you here.
The City Speaks, by poet Shane Rhodes, reflects on Hull’s history and its people and is engraved in Hull’s newly paved Queen Victoria Square. Local author Russ Litten says, “The words will now last another lifetime, but their sentiment will chime in the hearts and minds of our citizens for generations to come.” The poem was published in 2017 as a beautifully bound limited edition (3,000) book.
Created for the opening ceremony of Hull 2017 UK City of Culture, this film by Dave Lee takes Shane Rhodes’ poem The City Speaks, which is about the history of Hull and its people, and attempts to reflect the words by showing the city and citizens as they are in the present day.
Wrecking Ball Press writer Vicky Foster has won The Imison Award at the BBC Audio Drama Awards 2020.
Vicky won the award, which celebrates the best in new writing for the medium of audio drama, for her radio play Bathwater. Bathwater was produced by Susan Roberts and first aired on Radio 4 in 2019. The award is presented annually to an audio drama script by a writer new to the medium and which, in the opinion of the judges, is the best of those submitted.
The prize was established in 1994 in memory of Richard Imison, a BBC script editor and producer. Previous winners include Adam Usden, Mike Bartlett, Gabriel Gbadamosi, Murray Gold and Nell Leyshon.
The BBC Audio Drama Awards – presented by the BBC together with the Society of Authors and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain – celebrate the range, originality and cut-through quality of audio drama on air and online and give recognition to creatives working in this genre.
Vicky was announced as The Imison Award winner at a ceremony in the Radio Theatre at BBC Broadcasting House London, hosted by Meera Syal, on Sunday 2 February 2020.
The list of finalists for the various categories of the awards included Stephen Dillane, Rebecca Front and Alexei Sayle.
Vicky was shortlisted for The Imison Award alongside Testament (for The Beatboxer) and Colette Victor (for By God’s Mercy). Bathwater is Vicky’s first full-length play, and is performed by herself and Finlay McGuigan with a sound score by The Broken Orchestra.
Vicky was one of the BBC’s selected poets for Contains Strong Language in 2017 and 2018. She continued her involvement with the festival, co-directed by Wrecking Ball Press, in 2019, with Fair Winds & Following Seas, jointly commissioned by CSL and Freedom Festival, and featuring on Radio 3’s The Verb with musical collaborators The Broken Orchestra.
Dean Wilson’s new collection Take Me Up The Lighthouse will be published by Wrecking Ball Press on January 31, 2020.
Take Me Up The Lighthouse follows previous Wrecking Ball publications of Wilson’s work Sometimes I’m So Happy I’m Not Safe on the Streets and the limited edition WITH. Wilson, whose humble brag is that he is the fourth best poet in Hull and the second best poet in Withernsea, is back with more of his trademark revelatory and brutally honest poems set against the backdrop of the Holderness towns and villages he frequents.
This new collection takes the reader on emotional journeys via bus, covers encounters on benches and trains and entertaining postmen, while celibacy, sex and the search for romance are juxtaposed with orange curtains, omelettes and Cheerios. Throughout, Wilson combines humour with heart-tugging pathos.
Having stepped out of the shadows during 2017 City of Culture year by making a host of live appearances and becoming a regular radio contributor, Wilson’s growing audience have been clamouring for more published work that builds on his existing output.
Dean said: “I’m happy and anxious about the publication of Take Me Up The Lighthouse. I’m hoping that readers will enjoy the fun and the rhymes about my East Riding adventures.
“My life is all there in my work, warts and all. I don’t decide what to write about and what to leave out. I’m writing in my head all the time whether I’m walking on the beach, dusting, shopping, swimming or watching Corrie. Rhymes never leave me alone.”
Dean’s pain will bring readers pleasure. This new collection will also allow Dean to return to the stage with new work to perform, something he is surprisingly nervous about.
He said: “I love performing and making people laugh. It’s the best feeling I know. I don’t like the build up – the rehearsing and the doubts and the nerves, but it’s all worth it.”
Dean might be viewed as a Hull and East Riding treasure but his live performances beyond the region have proved beyond doubt that his work goes down well anywhere he reads and performs. His many local references and the concrete details that litter his poems about his east coast existence ground his work in a specific place but also allow his work to travel. His local take on life brings into sharp focus feelings and emotions of universal appeal. As he navigates his life, and what it means, readers realise they share common ground with the poet, even in his wildest, untamed and passionate moments.
As for Withernsea, where Dean is based, it seems the perfect place for this former postman to be located.
“I moved here a year ago. It’s a magical and wondrous place. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.”
Wrecking Ball Press editor Shane Rhodes said: “Dean’s a one-off, a totally unique man and it’s good to see his reputation continuing to grow. I originally published his work in The Reater, at the beginning of the Wrecking Ball story, and we’re proud to continue to publish his work.”
Dean will be announcing a series of gigs in 2020. Follow him on twitter at @PoetDeanwilson6 for updates.