Monday, 27 June 2011

Mouthtrap at the Storey

This rather wonderful photo of Mouthtrap was taken by Richard Davis of Totally Wired, when we all met down at Cockersands, the other week. I love how the stones take up most of the frame - but there's still a bit of flotsam - wirey stuff to the left; I love our three poses - connected, but very idiosyncratic, which reflects very neatly exactly how we operate/perform together; and there there's that wonderful elastic sky behind us.

Richard also shot some motion film of us mucking about, and I was hoping to stick a short recording of a rehearsal onto it, but once again I was reminded how improvisation is really live art, and doesn't benefit from being pinned down digitally. The recordings didn't capture the spirit of expansion, wit and tenderness that I think comes from our three voices.

So, if you're interested, you'll have to come along to hear us at Storey Gallery, Friday 1st July, 7.30pm, as part of the Totally Wired cabaret, when we will have some massive films playing behind us as we perform.

There'll be other art, spoken word, music and short films during the evening, filling the fantastic space of the Gallery with a spectacular mix of visual imagery & sound.

"Many of the images on display highlight the incredible landscape which surrounds us in the Lancaster area. A host of talented musicians, playing in a variety of styles, will accompany the films: Jazz, Folk, Electronic, Classical & Experimental.

Bands/Musicians include : Turnstone, Huevos, Mouthtrap, Deep Cabaret Trio, The Ealing Electricals, Therese Standish/Jeff Barnes (From Dan Haywood's New Hawks ), Marc Nellis & Eleanor Denvir on spoken word."

Should be a corker
... And here is what happened

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Tailormade Poems

Finally, six months after our public debut/commissioning, Tailormade Poems has a website, contact form, sample card, examples of previous commissions and general all-round sense of being in the world...

Alongside the wonderful Elizabeth Burns and Rebecca Irvine Bilkau we're offering poems: whatever the occasion, whoever the recipient, we'll write the poem.

So, spread the word, dip your own toe in the water... we're up for anything (grab us while we're still fresh!)

Monday, 13 June 2011

Flax: Three Launches in One Day

On Saturday Flax made the brave move of launching three new titles in one afternoon. It seemed such a good idea way back when... Fortunately we had the gorgeous space of the Music Room in the Storey in Lancaster to provide a spacious and sunny backdrop to the proceedings, and set up three separate stages for each publication

Flash Mob, Flax026 is a flash fiction anthology of eleven new stories from NW writers. What I love about this anthology is its chape: from surreal/unsettling to tragic to classic comedy. It's mood shifts tremendously and the flow of ten of the eleven authors reading back to back kept that high energy.

A Book Tale, Flax027 is the ebook of the commission Litfest made last year. So the bewitching fairy tale is now available to read from the Litfest website, iBooks or Amazon, and we got another chance to hear Claire read it - in this amazing dress, made by Jennifer Pritchard. When I showed one friend this photo he asked if she was real...

And finally, although running throughout the afternoon, Flax028 - a stopmotion haiku. Made by Maya Chowdhry, with inspiration from several Flax026ers, this is a haiku sown in sprouts, filmed over the week of their growth and then turned into a wierdly absorbing stopmotion film. The poem's about growth, which is why we put it in an inside-out garden shed, what these people are huddled around. I'll get the film up online in the next week or so and add a link then.

So, an exhilerating afternoon of literary entertainment, and a great showcase of that can be achieved in very few words - a testament to the power of words. I'm happy.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A Dialogue between Past and Present?

The title is a quote from DH Carr's What is History (my question mark) and I'm considering it a lot while working on all things maritime. I have thought for a while that historical poems have a responsibility beyond being historically accurate or emotionally true. Or at least that's I want to do more than that in my work. I think the Bedrock sequence did that on the level of historcal sweep.

So what am I driving for now? How can I bring to bear the same perspective in a different way? Obviously there is a massive unconscious element at work whenever something is written, but I am also interested in a more conscious approach to contemporary/historical writing. It was what I loved so much about Wolf Hall - what got me through the book, really - how Hilary Mantel's reframed a historical personality.

Take, say, the buddhist perspective of the past being present. Perhaps there is nowhere more evident of that than the sea. Despite the growth of windfarms, it is an unchanged scape, unike much landscape. The tides work to a monthly cycle, but that month then repeats itself ad infinitum (unless there is major land shifts). I constantly find that incredible.

One way of approaching this dialogue is through the inevitability of social structures. I am a result of the present society/ethic/politic, my written language reflects that compression of time - using contemporary patterns in writing oute past, my selection of images recolour the past. I love Paul Farley's redrawing of rural subjects through urban imagery. His skill is deftness. And confidence. Awkwardly handled, this could easily pull a reader out of the intense experience of the past. Which is also a delight of strong historical poems - to reconjure a time/place, focusing on a detail, an angle otherwise overlooked.

It comes back to purpose and intention. What is the point of historical fiction/poetry? Beyond remembering the past. What can poetry bring back to life that a good history book can't?

I'd love to read some new (to me) poems by poets who play with reframing historical narratives, who are incessant in that conversation between now and then. Any suggestions? Any other views?