Posts Tagged ‘John Phillips’

sniveslitfestThe St Ives Literature Festival 2013 is running from Saturday 11th – Saturday 18th May. (NB That’s this coming Saturday folks ! :-)) A host of events are to be held at St Ives Arts Club, St Ives Library and Café Art. Books by festival authors are for sale from Harbour Bookshop.

  • Book Launches, Readings and Workshops.
  • Poetry And Music In The Square – daily in Norway Square.
  • Free Speech – Open Floor – daily at Café Art.
  • The Big Frug

    • On Friday 17th May. Local duo Tir ha Tavas, Delia and Dave Brotherton, have teamed up with guests Vaughan Bennett, Peter Burton, former Grand Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd Mick Paynter and fluent Welsh speaker Gareth Parry for an evening of words and music starring the Cornish language, Kernewek, with a tasty serving of Welsh alongside.

      “We will be presenting our personal selection of prose, poetry and song in the old Celtic tongue,” said Delia, “a language almost lost in the mists of time yet one that lives on in the daily life of West Penwith and beyond.”

      Featuring many original compositions, this special evening will be held at the St Ives Arts Club starting at 9pm and marks the first of several events over the coming months to raise the profile of the Cornish language in a performance.

      “The Celtic language of Cornwall is once more being embraced as a symbol of her historic past,” added Delia, “reviving from ancient roots, while ever changing in the hands of the next generation who cherish the old culture and nourish the new.”

      Tickets £6.50, or 5 for £30, are on sale now from Café Art in St Ives, tel 01736 799450, or from the St Ives LitFest organiser on 753899 or from Dee on 799305. There is a full programme with more information on the St Ives Literature Festival website

      John Phillips was born in St Ives. His poems pose questions about how we perceive the world through language and the senses, deftly weaving together details of the external world with reflections on the thought processes and on the nature of words. At the St Ives Arts club at 15:00 on the opening day of the festival, Saturday, the 11th May, he will be reading poetry from his work so far.

      His publications include Language Is (Sardines Press, San Francisco, 2005) and What Shape Sound (Skysill Press, Nottingham, 2011). He work has appeared and been reviewed in a variety of magazines in this country, the U.S., Australia, Austria, Japan and Israel; it can also be found in the following anthologies: From Hepworth’s Garden Out (Shearsman Books, Exeter, 2010), Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2013), and Succint (Broadstone Books, Frankfort, Kentucky, 2013). He runs Hassle Press, which has published a range of poets.

      Tickets £ 5.00 from Cafe Arts, tel 01736 799450, at the door or ring Jasna Phillips on 07969727040.


Following the “Call for Submissions” post in the Cornish Lit blog last year, Duncan Yeates and Abigail Wyatt are delighted to announce the launch of their poetry anthology, “Murder of Krows” on 20th March at 7:00 pm at The Melting Pot, Redruth.

Featuring guest readings from the prolific and talented Alan M. Kent alongside Les Merton, the editor of “Poetry Cornwall”, this promises to be both an exciting and significant occasion to make space for in your diary.  The anthology itself is a selection of local poets from the Redruth area and beyond and gives an insight into the sheer diversity of work being produced in the small community of people who often convene to perform their work at The Melting Pot’s late opening Wednesday nights. In addition to this are other previously published and well respected poets such as John Phillips, and visual artists who work with language such as Janet McEwan, ensuring that this is a collection of work that really does showcase what Cornwall has to offer.

The night itself will include a free buffet and drinks for all who attend and a chance to buy a copy of this numbered and strictly limited anthology at the sum of £1.00.  If you are interested in purchasing an advance copy, please contact Duncan Yeates at

Please come and support Cornwall’s burgeoning creative writing scene. We intend that this anthology will be the first of many to promote Cornwall’s many published and unpublished writers.

book cover image enlarged

John Phillips was born in St Ives. He is the operator, from there, of Hassle Press, redoubtable poetry pamphlet producers for 14 American, Cornish, and French poets (cf CL blog tomorrow for Duncan Yeates, a pamphlet self-publisher, of Red River Poets).

John is the author of What Shape Sound, 110 pages of 92 blank verse poems – please find below a review for Cornish Lit.

What Shape Sound – ‘what shape is sound ?‘ ? –  I query the title, unsure of the sense, because, between this book’s covers, language takes on a deceptively casual precision – but if tis a question, we are not talking here about a question for signal processors or synesthesia sufferers.

This is words – with sharpened edges. Look at this, and be careful to not cut yourself on the not-not-not :

Look, the sky’s still there.
It doesn’t even
surprise you. As if
one day soon you will
not look up and see
nothing looking back
at no one looking.

(Look, the sky’s still there)

One comes to
places curious
like years ago
faces there
that never were

(One comes to)

Note the ‘recognizing’: this could be the return of the native to St Ives but also of the native bearing back with him the culture of a hosting metropolis, of the USA. But what of that recognition of what and who never was ? Rex non quondam futurusque . . . ? New faces . . . ? New places . . . ? Search me.

Although I hesitate to insinuate the usual clichés here, on reading it I more than once felt a (possibly mistaken) sense of place as in Vocative:


to blind



. . . a sense of the elements subjectively addressing themselves, which anyone who’s been for a hike out Hellesveor way on a rough day can perhaps visualise the more easily. I’m unaware of the name of the technical form of this poem – by all means let me know –  but it’s representative of What Shape Sound‘s compressed bursts of succinct text crackling from the white page, like vital bursts of speech crackling out from the white noise and static of a radio set. There are more adventurously typeset verses in comparable vein which I chickened out of quoting here. In a simpler layout, here’s a bewdy:

Language is
using us

reading it
self to

what we are
to say

(Language is)

“language is using us” . . .  “to see what we are” . . . enough, I fear, to send shivers down the spines of those of us non-cornuphone Cornubians who consider what that implies. Ah, Kernewek, now be still . . .

Language is . . . or isn’t . . .

. . . and yet – hope:

My daughter
writes me
a poem –
some words
she knows
on a page,
saying what-
ever she
for the sake of
hearing it


A triad. Sort of.

Language Is was the title work in John’s 2005 anthology. It was published by Sardines Press. I’m guessing that there’s a pun in that name. If there isn’t, there should be (sardines/pilchards have to be pressed free of oil, as they belonged to be in old village fish cellars with a gurt stone and a lever). Sardines Press is run by Roger Snell, who lives in San Francisco.

We are someone else
we don’t know is
looking for

So. Logic not merely chopped, but spliced into cables of craftily cantilevered semantic sleights-of-hand which leave the reader’s mind looking back out through the doorway it thought it had just come in through. In some ways this book is like a verbal Escher planar drawing. It retains a human element tho’. I recall reading some ekka’s opinion, mercifully I forget whose, that every one should make up their own poetry while shaving. What Shape Sound would’ve been extremely difficult to concoct while shaving, indeed would be tricky enough to listen to while doing so, but, although its razor edges are daunting – just like shaving – you’ll feel better for it afterwards.

What Shape Sound was published by poetry specialist Skysill Press in 2011.

John Phillips’ publications include Language Is (Sardines Press, 2005), A Small Window (Longhouse, 2005), Soundless (Punch Press, 2007) and Spell (Kater Murr’s Press, 2009). He runs Hassle Press and lives in St. Ives.