Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Last week saw the final date in the short tour that promoted Murder of Krows 2.

With audiences averaging around 15 per night (excluding performers!) Abigail Wyatt and I felt that

photo-1

the tour was a great success.

A few Cornish Lit readers have suggested that people might be interested in a brief explanation of how one goes about organizing the production of a poetry anthology and tour.  So, if this is something that you are thinking of doing yourself, read on….

The first hurdle you may need to get over is the one of self-justification.  This is something that I have addressed in the “Afterword” of Murder of Krows 2.  The two fundamental questions are:

  • Is my work/ the work of others that I like or respect worth publishing?
  • Is publishing my own work “vanity” publishing with all the negative connotations that go with that word?

This depends on several factors: many respected poets begin by publishing  their own work; many small poetry presses are run by one or two people yet command a great deal of respect from lovers of serious poetry (examples include Barque Press and Punch Press).  Often these operations are just a couple of people with a passion for language and the means of production.

What makes you any different?

The flipside of the argument is that there is an awful lot of poetry out there.  There is also an awful lot of inadequate or poorly edited poetry out there. There is also an awful lot of poetry as therapy.  Are you going to add to what is essentially poetic detritus or does the work you stand behind have something to say which people may be interested in?

Don Paterson (who I don’t always agree with) states:  “serious poets, I should say, don’t start off amateurs, but apprentices – just like any other vocation”.  Therefore, it may well be wise to heed this when considering putting work out there.  Just because you’ve written it/ read it and liked it doesn’t mean it’s ready.

So how do you know its ready?  You don’t – not really.  Having said this, here are a few ways in which you could gauge whether there is sufficient interest in the work you have produced or are representing.

  • Have you performed it at open mic nights/poetry readings?  Do people give you feedback?
  • Have you made contact with more established poets who you respect and asked them what they think? Many are prepared to do this although obviously not all of them.
  • Have you published any of your poems previously?  Where?  Did your receive any reactions?

So now I have discussed the issues of whether to publish, let’s consider how.

Murder of Krows 2 looks reasonably professional (so people tell me!).  It was designed on a MacBook using Microsoft Word 2011.  This is hardly ultra high-tech.  Therefore, I would suggest some kind of visual eye and common sense are all you need to design a reasonably good looking poetry pamphlet.  Hopefully, so far you have noticed my repetition of the word “design”; making the hard copy of a poetry book can be a little more challenging as well as expensive.

When it comes to producing hard copy you have two options: amateur or professional – both of which have their advantages.

An amateur collection can be produced on a photocopier for next to nothing.  If you can recruit some friends who are half way decent artists then you can even make it look quirky and interesting in a 1970s “Sniffin’ Glue” kind of way.  This is a perfect if you want to get your work out there and sell it cheaply.  There are also independent bookstores that, if you are polite and gracious, may be willing to stock it sale or return.  A few pieces of advice: don’t make the mistake I made with the first Murder of Krows by making the writing too small or copyrighting each author’s name under the poem which is entirely unnecessary.  Look at other poetry collections to get an idea of style and layout and what to include.

The professional option is only appropriate if you have a lump of spare cash, complete belief in the work and a relentless energy when it comes to promoting it.  Abi and I decided to “publish” Murder of Krows 2 with higher production values because we believed in the work (not to denigrate any contributors to the first one) and felt that this was appropriate this time.  In addition to this, we had managed to persuade some well-established writers who we respected to submit.  This meant that we were able to use this to potentially sell more copies than we would have done otherwise.  This is an approach well worth taking but I would only suggest approaching people whose work you genuinely admire, (and that you are able to substantiate this admiration) otherwise your opportunism will quickly become apparent.

If you are still keen to go down this route, you need to make contact with a printer.  At this point I will give Booths in Penryn a completely shameless and unasked for plug as they did an excellent job of our anthology.  Local writer, illustrator and publisher, Chris Odgers of Sawhorse Books, also uses them and the production values apparent in his work are also to their credit.  Another factor to consider in depth is how many copies you should produce. My advice would be 50 unless you know you have an insatiable fan base.  Make sure you see a proof before printing and that you check it carefully otherwise you will have 50 inaccurate copies that you are legally obliged to pay for.

The penultimate stage in this process is promotion.  Realistically, you are not going to sell any books to people who are not friends and family unless you promote very thoroughly.  The reading for the first Murder of Krows attracted thirty plus people but it was promoted on this blog, the local papers and Radio Cornwall.  In addition I sent “press packs” to every bookshop in Cornwall as well as putting up posters everywhere and e-mailing and texting everyone I knew or had ever met.  I also asked Alan Kent to read which added an established name to the event.

A quick reminder: all of this attracted thirty people.  Don’t misunderstand me: thirty keen and enthusiastic supporters of the anthology but it was a lot of work getting them there!

A final point regarding promotion: please do not think that Facebook is the world just because you use it.  In my opinion, although it is valid – it is only one form of promotion and not an exceptionally high impact one at that.  Ask yourself: which is more striking – a well designed poster in a bookshop that you frequent or a Facebook update?

Of course before you promote your event you will need to have arranged venues, dates and have list of reliable performers (even if you are promoting your own work, you will need a “Support Act”).  Here are a list of venues that I have found to be supportive when trying to put on events:

In short go for local independent places but remember that they are doing you do the favour.  Don’t expect them to welcome you with open arms – do your homework and make sure people come otherwise their time has been wasted.

That’s about it.  I won’t give you my guide as to which are the most appropriate wines to go with a Sestinas (written in quadratic hexameters) as that may well be a bridge too far.

I hope this has been useful.  Please feel free to re-blog, re-post, re-quote or downright challenge or disagree with this advice.  However, I would appreciate being notified at lallocropia@gmail.com.

Finally (you knew it was coming) there are only 15 copies of Murder of Krows 2 left…..please buy them and make the world a more poetry loving, literate place.  Copies can be bought by e-mailing me at: lallocropia@gmail.com

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Redruth writer Abi Wyatt has news of a second Murder of Krows Anthology, co-edited by Abi and Duncan Yeates, which is due to be launched in the autumn at The Melting Pot in Redruth. Along with special artwork, poems include offerings by Dr Alan Kent and Les Merton, and other poets in Cornwall. It will be a limited print run ! Copies are sure to be snapped up so get in touch with Abi, perhaps via Poetry24 or by Red River Poets facebook page.poetry24

Co-edited by Abi, in addition, is the international, news-inspired poetry web site Poetry24, and Abi is keen to encourage submissions from poets based in Cornwall. If you are a poet in Cornwall and would like to contribute, scoot over to Poetry24 and have a look . . . If you don’t yet feel up to contributing (yet), why not scoot over to Poetry24 and have a look anyway at today’s muse on the news.

Of Abi’s own work, her poem ‘The Long Falling Down‘ is included in a recent anthology of poems ‘Journey to Crone‘. This is one of the five star reviews:

Excellent and moving poetry. The Poems are original, insightful, well crafted, and distinctly female. The voices resonate long after the reading is complete.

Ashley and Eileen Ludgate organised a mini-folk music festival at the Bath Inn, Penzance, where Abi performed more of her poems, including the haunting and soon-to-be-anthologised ‘Dozy Mary‘. It’s good that music and poetry are mixing at events in Cornwall.

Staying in Penzance, a new writer’s group called Writer’s Cafe is set to meet every other Tuesday, at 2pm, in the Lost and Found cafe, Chapel Street, Penzance. The 9th July 2013 is the next meeting, that’s this Tuesday coming !! And from the 17th to the 21st July is this year’s Penzance Literary Festival, with dozens of excellent events – have a look at the website and browse through the schedule – too much good stuff to list here (and much of that is Cornish in composition and/or content – the usual suspects and some interesting others (including music) . . .).
Passio Cristi page from Scawen
One of the talks at Pz lit fest is presented by the Penzance Conservation Community Interest Company – in May they took delivery of William Scawen‘s original manuscript of his Antiquities Cornu-Brittanic 1688, and also his Observations on a Cornish Manuscript entitled Passio Christi i.e. the poem Pascon Agan Arluth. Cornwall Record Office also contracted Pz Conservation CIC to restore William Borlase’s 1750 Memorandums of the Cornish Tongue original manuscript. (These historically significant Cornish manuscripts might be held in the proposed Redruth archive centre, which was recently awarded a £386 thousand heritage lottery grant towards the price tag of around £15 million. It would be nice if these manuscripts above were fully digitised for public viewing before too long. Mar plek.)
Williams Llawnt
In 1865 Rev Robert Williams of Llawnt Ugha (Lawns Ughella / Upper Lawn) in Wales published Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum, which was perhaps the first modern Cornish dictionary. Now, Cornish cultural writer Derek R Williams has authored Williams: The Llawnt – a biography of the Welsh minister and linguist, published by the excellent Y Lolfa.
causley-theatreworks
Looking to Cornwall’s east, another publication brought to our attention is Theatreworks, a collection of plays by Charles Causley, edited by Alan Kent and published by Francis Boutle. Included among 11 librettos and other dramatic works are The Doctor and the Devils (inspired by the work of Dylan Thomas), The Ballad of Aucassin and Nicolette, first performed at the Exeter festival in 1978, and The Tinderbox,which Charles Causley wrote for Kneehigh Theatre in 1990. Alan himself drekly will have published his new books Towards a Cornish Philosophy and a book for children, Surf Dogs.

Sadly for its workers as well as for the future of book production within Cornwall, MPG Books of Bodmin has gone into administration in the last month with the loss of more than 50 jobs.

Written, and with photographs collected, by motor engineering aficiando Ernie Warmington of Redruth, Cornish Road Transport Through Time, published by Amberley Publishing (Amberley in Sussex being the resting place of ASD Smith/Caradar, by the way) traces its subject from Murdock’s engine, and horse drawn vehicles of various kinds to internal combustion motor vehicles used, and produced in Cornwall.
Road transport Cornwall

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 www.stiveslitfest.co.uk


      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.

O Troon ! A Trewoon ! Fortress Troon, Troon: down-farm, kennels and shafts, no relation of your namesake in western Scotland, cradle of Alan Kent’s Trelawny estate trilogy, bard Pol Hodge, choirs of curls, and replete with many other unsuspected wonders of talent – not least John Harris !

The Extinguished Candle – Re-Lit is a selection assembled by the John Harris Society in 2009, celebrating the work of the miner-writer, born 1820, died 1884, who went to bal aged 10, yes – 10, and worked the drifts and stopes for the following 27 years.

Then the darkness of the dangerous mine,
His daily, nightly tasks of tedious toil,
Where never star, or moon, or sunbeams shine,
But sulphur-wreaths around the caverns coil,
Which health, and strength, and mental might despoil,
Giving the feet of time a tardy pace,
Through heated hollows and rude rifts to moil,
When boyhood’s blossoms opened on his face,
And greenness clothed the tree which gave his being grace.

And what he saw, and what he suffered there,
by day and night, can never be expressed,
Where sulphur-fairies thronged the sickly air,
And Danger burrowed in the blackest vest,
Mid rocks which rent to aid his mineral-quest,
Exploding holes, and shafts dark as doom,
Where hollow echoes sink into the breast,
And solemn breathings hurry through the gloom,
Like those which wizards say are murmuring from the tomb.

Sometimes his arms were heavy with his task,
So that ’twas hard to lift them to his head,
His face like one who wore a dismal mask,
Of black, or white, or yellow, brown, or red.
Exhausted oft, he made the flints his bed,
And dreamt of groves of olives far away,
By dews divine and gales of gladness fed,
Where sunlight glitters all the livelong day,
And harpers mid the trees and falling waters play.

The heat, the cold, the sulphur and the slime,
The grinding masses of the loosened rock,
The scaling ladders, the incessant grime
From the dank timbers and the dripping block,
The lassitude, the mallet’s frequent knock,
The pain of thirst when water was so near,
The aching joints, the blasted hole’s rude shock,
Could not dash out the music from his ear,
Or stay the sound of song which ever murmured clear.

The cavern’s sides, the vughs of shining spar,
The roof of rock where scarce the candle gleams,
The hollow levels strangely stretching far
Beneath the mountains, full of mineral seams,
Were evermore to him befitting themes,
For meditation and his rustic lay;
While in the darkness his pale visage gleams,
To read rich sonnets on the furrowed clay,
And craggy slabs that jut the ladder’s lonely way.

Thus month by month, and tedious year by year,
This heavy mining darkness closed him round,
So far away from all he held most dear,
The rocky hillside and the lower ground,
Where the dear wild flowers blushed so sweetly round,
And taught him more than books, or learned men,
And all their creeds and axioms profound,
Although propounded by the page or pen;
A higher voice he heard in every glade and glen.

( Mining Toil )

Working as tributer (that is, bidding by dutch auction for the lowest % of the proceeds obtained, if any, like a sharecropper, then living without fixed pay and prospering only if by fortune, hard lowster and crafty scheming to chase the paying dirt), J Harris eventually moved from Troon Moor, to Falmouth, where his writing was sponsored and became more prolific, almost a full-time occupation. The Mine, The Moor and the Mountain was published while John was still working from his cottage on the croft above Bolenowe (Bos lynnow, “dwelling by pools”) – his appreciation of nature can be seen in varied verses on flora and fauna, as well as localities such as Treslothan (Tresulwedhen / tre wydhen (?), “tree farm”) down the hill from Troon, where his daughter had been buried, and where he too was laid to rest.

How alter’d are thy features, Quietude,
Since erst upon thy lap at eventide,
Or in the cot of Hospitality,
Or by the margin of thy infant rill,
I swept the poets lyre ! A change has come:
Thy mead a burial-ground, where friend and foe
Lie slumbering ‘neath thine ivy-shining walls.
How alter’d are thy features, Quietude !
Change has been revelling with thy rustic robes, –
Not as she does in ruin-rented halls,
shaking the turrets with her gusty blast,
And gnawing down the iron battlement
As easily as one can crop a flower:
Not as she does upon my mountain’s head,
Tearing the heath-locks from its wrinkled pate,
To decorate the spirit of the blast,
Raving and roaring round my crumbling cot.
No; not like this, but clothing thee in smiles,
With pencillings as fair as Art can give,
And tricking thee as for thy bridal-hour.

( from Treslothan )

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Request for topic suggestions

Posted: June 20, 2012 by Peter J in editorial, news, poetry
Tags: , ,

I’m looking forward to handing over the helm of Cornish Lit blog soon after Lee gets back online, end of June hopefully, for one thing because it’ll be splendid and, frankly, braer excitin’ yow to see what fresh ideas other contributors will bring.

Even if you’re not thinking of getting an invite to contribute, have a think about, or better still pop a comment in, about what you’d like to see on Cornish Lit blog.

For example, things which have occurred to me (mostly practical things to help contemporary writers in Cornwall), that I’d 4 1 like to see some articles on, include:-

  • how to proof-read dialect (and whether and how to write / render it)
  • how to proof-read (& spell check) Kernewek and accommodating orthographies – what and how do other languages without spell-checkers manage – the challenge and benefits of developing automated grammar and spell-checking for minority languages (e.g. Welsh)
  • past and likely present publishers of books featuring Cornwall or written in Cornwall – histories and features of these publishers – also self-publishing method comparisons and case studies (with reference to Cornwall where possible)

. . . these leave still fresh and untrodden the fields of poetry, “classics”, mashups with other media, composition techniques, . . .

What else would you like to see on Cornish Lit blog ?

Please pop your ideas on a postcard  . . . or better still post ’em in the comments or make ready to use them when you’re a contributor ! 🙂


Off topic, but V important – tonight starting from 7:30 at the Farmers Arms, Causeway, Penzance is the latest Be Spoken Word event, featuring poetry performance – free entry, lots of of poems, also stories, jokes & other spoken word ! Hopefully we’ll be able to feature a report (all event debriefs are welcome, as comments or other contacts) but even I’ll be kinda incommunicado for a few days, so unless Lee or Dawn can pitch in 🙂 that’ll probly be in the weekend roundup. Enjoy !

I use a word processor now –
although when I first started
it was the
fist fight of a typewriter
that really inspired me.

The slow deliberate press,
the looping right hook of the
letter “L”; bruising the paper thin-
skin of the page.
The platelets
of ink would smudge
ever so slightly like
a real
contusion as I
punched my imaginary
audience with fists of words.

I marvel at it now – that
inarticulate barrage of blows –
body shots which missed their marks
scarring the youthful face
of prosody.

During our last fight; punch
drunk with words I tied the broken
ribbon of failure around
my hand like
gauze hand wraps.

I thought a word processor would change
me – my fingers would dance
along the keyboard like miniature Isadora Duncans
– I would use fluent feminine grace to
show subtle ideas of eloquence and perfect poetic
reserve.
I would tap the keys with the translucent grace
of errant butterflies on a bright summer lawn.

Nothing’s changed though:
as every key press still jabs at
the page with the
oblivious martyrdom
of a bee
sting.

(“Styles Make Fights” – from Lallocropia 2)

An ongoing, tragic, manic discourse doggedly fought out through a typewriter – very Lallocropia.

Lallocropia 1 and Lallocropia 2 (both written and produced by Duncan Yeates in 2012) each comprise a single sheet of A4. This simple format conceals a dense complexity of language within – “lallocropia” being a diagnostic term for a person’s tendency to use offensive vocabulary in speech, even in the most inappropriate circumstances. There is no evidence of any such cursing in these so-named pamphlets: au contraire, the language deployed is self-disciplined and direct. In fact its efficiency is what draws in the reader’s eye and mind, the rhythm and rich imagery of its blank verse sustaining attention.

Amid the unexplainable dirt,
sweet wrappers and loose change
I have hidden something.

Under the fabric greased with a thousand
sittings, a mood board to the minutiae
of everyday experience, I’ve left you
with a small work of questionable worth.

A sentiment, selected from similar ones:
not profound – a piece of fluff to be
brushed off the cushion of the consciously
cyclical motions of empirical experience.

It’s the best I can do when I write
down what’s been said so many
times, a cliché that gags on my pen
nib; that draws mucus from its influenza
flecked throat of a barrel.

It’s the most I can promise you
to say that if you discard this Rizla-thin
epithet you’ll miss no profound sentiment;
that, in its utterance, removes you from
the spell of everyday life.

However, if perchance you find it,
the gluey biro ink smeared like tears
across a “Dear John” letter, cautiously invest in it:
no reading is necessary – just the rhythmic brush of your
fingertip will
suffice.

(“A Small work of Questionable Worth” – from Lallocropia 1)

The Small Work alluded to above, for all I know, might be a note that someone rang for you half an hour ago, selling double glazing. It could be an admission that will tear your relationship free by its roots. It might be a nice little ditty. That’s the spirit of Lallocropia – there’s no way of telling what is at the the final destination of a Lallocropia poem, but it’s a rough and fun hike getting there, even if you’ll need your helmet, boots and crampons on the way to gazing into that misty, Brocken spectre of a view from the end. Speaking of which, you’ll probably need an encyclopedia too: names are dropped eruditely and playfully like mantraps for anyone following the poems’ scent too closely.

Duncan’s best work in Lallocropia 1 & 2 happens where, in unforced runs of sense, a tale is told, a point made, an important argument calmly passed on in text clear, compelling and concise. That’s my opinion – but then the verses of Lallocropia are often deliberately diffuse and very hard to focus on. Enough to make you curse. 🙂

You cannot force time. The fiercest push on the plunger of the hypodermic syringe that contains it only emits a wheedling stream. Nevertheless, you plunge it into your bloodstream; feel that limiting prick of consciousness on skin. When you were a child and the first set of goose bumps erupted on your skin like mini adrenal volcanoes, this was your first revelation of mortality – your first taste of time.

(from Lallocropia 2)

This review has included a taster of Lallocropia and Lallocropia 2: for copies, please just e-mail Duncan at lallocropia@gmail.com , sending your postal address, and he’ll send you it in pamphlet form. Duncan’s inventory of poetry will be featured in future on Cornish Lit blog.

Notes:

Isadora Duncan


Duncan Yeates lives in Redruth, and is a founder member of Red River Poets. He has published various non-fiction articles and regularly performs his poetry at The Melting Pot in Redruth (where he helped to organise and promote the recent spoken word event) and The Unplugged Chameleon in St Ives – in fact he’ll be with the other Red River Poets, and many more, at the Be Spoken Word event in the Farmers Arms, Penzance, this Wednesday 20th (tomorrow) @ 7:30pm. Duncan’s appearance with Sue Farmer on Redruth Radio’s Do The Write Thing, on Friday 15th June, can be listened to online [EDIT: CL blog just listened to that and now probly ‘gets’ A Small Work of Questionable Worth a bit better :-)]. His first short poetry collection, Lallocropia, can be found hiding inside in the poetry books of Redruth Library or wherever else he might carelessly decide to leave it for your edification. Lallocropia 2, too, has now been produced. To contact him or to receive a free copy of Lallocropia, please e-mail: lallocropia@gmail.com.

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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
recognizing
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:

Leaning
in

to blind
wind

frantic
gulls

ransack
light

(VOCATIVE)
. . . 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
for

reading it
self to
see

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
wants
for the sake of
hearing it
said

(FIVE)

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
ourselves
we don’t know is
looking for
(SENTENCE)

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.