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Half price poetry books for Winter Solstice

Winter solstice sale

OMG great deal

It’s one year to the day since the publication of “Rhymes for all times”! Happy first birthday to my second publication.

To celebrate this (and the fact that I didn’t bother making the book available via Amazon or any real-life physical book-shops, or doing any promotion whatsoever, and have therefore only sold about 3 of them this year), ALL (i.e. both) of my wonderful poetry books are retailing at HALF PRICE for the rest of 2016. Whether you’re a poetry connoisseur or simply an ordinary hard-working member of the public looking for a relatively cheap Christmas present for your favourite aunt/nephew/dog, our shop is now the destination of choice for the discerning capitalist consumer of culture.

You can also read (or watch) some of the poems before you buy, just to make sure you don’t think they’re completely rubbish and/or inappropriate gifts for your chosen recipient. Some of them do contain swear words (e.g. “cock” – a UK English slang word for the male “penis”) and a lot of them also rhyme (i.e. use corresponding sounds at regular intervals by way of rhetorical and mnemonic technique). You have been warned.

If you want books gift-wrapping, just ask. (E.g. add the request to the PayPal comments).

 

Nonstandard means of procuring a poetry book

If you have a book of poetry you’ve written (or possibly even something else like a CD/sculpture/novel/large loaf of bread) I will happily swap one of mine for it, unless I already own it or don’t actually want it. Feel free to barter with me.

Madness, and the way to the Men’s Room

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Draft art photography for forthcoming book: a replica Judas cradle in the Museum of Torture, Zagreb.

What’s the definition of madness then?

Some people say the first sign is talking to yourself.

Some people say madness is characterized by doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Oxford dictionaries online qualifies it as “The state of having a serious mental illness.” This official version sounds slightly less like a definition and more like something that needs defining. But the sub-definitions serve well. So let’s compile:

  1. Talking to yourself
  2. Repetitive actions
  3. Extremely foolish behaviour
  4. Wild and chaotic activity

It is in the spirit of all four of these modes of being that I bring you news of my upcoming third poetry book: “In the Men’s Room”.

I haven’t quite put book two, “Rhymes for all times“, to bed yet. It’s nearly a year since I published it. I’ve done precisely nothing to further its cause since fruitlessly sending out about 15 review copies in January, so I thought I’d read all 33 poems from it in the Boiler House and upload them to my YouTube account for posterity. There will be no critique or coverage, it seems; and there was never going to be a tour or any kind of follow-up to the launch event due to the chasm between supply and demand. By the time I record and upload all 33 poems I’ll be able to assess whether it succeeded or failed on its own terms. I suspect a bit of both…

But back to “In the Men’s Room”. It’s taking shape. In theory it’s all but done; with 31 poems in the folder and the two remaining ones only in need of editing. But it’s mutating. It began concurrently with Has Doubts volumes One and Two as a collection of poems on the theme of feminism. Around the time I was compiling “Rhymes for all times” I began to suspect that nobody needed 33 poems by me about that. So I broadened the scope of it to include some “nature” poetry I’d been writing. And the dichotomy I was seeking began to emerge.

For “Mistaken for art or rubbish” it was art and commerce. How the two were related; whether they could happily coexist. For “Rhymes for all times” it was history and truth; perhaps an even less subtle pairing. For “In the Men’s Room” the doubt is focused on nature and destiny. Some of the questions I’m hoping to pose via the medium of poetry:

  • is natural synonymous with good?
  • is humankind distinct from nature?
  • ought humankind to have mastery over nature?
  • does humankind have mastery over itself?
  • is nature synonymous with destiny?

They’re all variations on a theme. And, as usual, the questions are inevitably posed from a (vaguely) Western-secular-Christian-postmodern philosophical viewpoint. Funnily enough, I’ve found myself returning to explorations of feminism here and there in the newer poems. Sometimes less explicitly than when the outlines of the book were first drawn. And hopefully for the better.

But it’s hard to look out the window – or even to look in the mirror – without being reminded that humanity is universally divided into two types; and that one is better valued than the other. Notwithstanding race, class, religion, and the many other modes of societal grouping and separation, nowhere and never has humanity been without the overriding biological truths of male and female. And everywhere and always these natural truths of sex have been used to effect distinct (and supposedly also natural) destinies in the form of two genders – with little tolerance for anything existing or passing between the two.

I’ve posted drafts of some of the poems from the upcoming book online as far back as 2010. One or two took the form of video performances way back when I first got a webcam.

But next week I’ll post a video reading of the first poem proper from “In the Men’s Room”. (And you know I mean business because I said “poem proper” and not “proper poem”.) Fittingly, it’s called “Welcome to the Men’s Room”. I sent it to a political-poetry blog to see if they wanted it, but they probably won’t: It’s an 828-line rhyming ballad; and I wrote it.

The poem serves as a time capsule addressed to my daughters, telling them what the world was like for women in October, 2016; and what to expect if it’s still the same when they’re reading it. Maybe, hopefully, by the time the subject matter is fit for their consumption (10/15 years), we’ll have made progress. But, in the immortal words of Coolio: “the way things are going, I don’t know.”

I couldn’t memorise it in the time, but I’ve recorded an okay reading in the shed. No frills: just me and a mic, and some crushed velvet in the background.

So, yeah. Make some room in your diary for Monday.

It’s 25 minutes long.

Yours in good faith,

A Velky

Doubtcast 3: FEAR – call for contributors (by March 6th)

DOUBTISTUpdate: FINAL deadline: Sunday 6th March.

I want to put together another Doubtcast, to examine what FEAR is, and what it means to us human people, and how we use it, and how it uses us, and why we should be interested.

So here’s the official call for contributors.

If you don’t know what a Doubtcast is, it’s a podcast featuring poems, songs, audio-blogs, stories and other sound-related stuff. It’s easy to get on it: you just write/record/dig-out something about the topic, and send it to me by email at helloATdoubtist.com. It’s pitched as an art, culture and philosophy thing; but it has me narrating it, so it isn’t that highbrow. If you think you might be interested in submitting something, check out the details here. And listen to one of the others. Probably both. They’re both good.

For the avoidance of doubt, you don’t get paid for this. It doesn’t make money. It’s supposed to be fun.

At the time of writing we have six things (a terrifying poem, a less terrifying poem, a short story, two songs, and a sequence of paranoid tweets read by a robot). These are all by men. Two of them (33%!) are by men with some Sri Lankan heritage. None (0%)  are by women. You do not have to be a man to submit stuff to the Doubtcast, in case that was not clear. (Although it’s fine if you are; I have no actual quotas to meet.)

We need at least four more things, or I’ll be spending a long time talking about a computer game I’ve been playing over the past month, and the podcast will therefore be worse.

Cheers.

A Velky

2015, the year in poetry-reading

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Poetry books, artlessly arranged.

I don’t know if I’ve read a single novel this year. If that’s true it must be the first year I could say that since I could read (novels). I won’t judge myself: I’m very busy; I’ve been reading a fair bit of poetry, some short stories, some dense and very rewarding non-fiction, and (oddly) quite a few issues of Awake and The Watchtower.

Articles too, of course – bits and pieces, fragments, sentences, status-updates, tweets. More and more of my reading is fragmented and interrupted, so poetry has the advantage in at least being (usually) relatively short.

I’ve still not found any poetry magazines or blogs I feel keen to develop a loyalty to, and this is probably not entirely unrelated to having had no success in submitting to any. The greatest enjoyment in my poetry reading certainly still comes from single-author collections, and they’ve been best represented in the year’s reading. In addition to library loans I’ve forgotten by this point in the year (oh – Merlin’s Lane by Robert Nisbett was hugely enjoyable), I’ve probably bought more poetry books this year than in any previous year. I’ve recently been enjoying two part-biography part-retrospective volumes about dead white women: Unicorn, the poetry of Angela Carter (whose title poem is worth the price alone) and Hope Mirrlees‘s Collected Poems, containing her unfashionable later work (which I naturally like) and the very striking (and very long) early modernist poem “Paris” for which she is sort-of quietly famous.

On the subject of dead people, I’ve been enjoying Walter de la Mare a lot, and I’ve rediscovered my Everyman collection of WB Yeats poems in a big way. I’ve enjoyed them so much, and felt the themes so relevant to the world today (and my own attempts to poeticize it), that I decided to read “The second coming” at my own poetry launch. The collection treats the poems abysmally, breaking them in the middle for the convenience of a page; it makes me very grateful that I have such a wonderful designer working with me on my own books, so that at least if the poems fail it will not be due to their presentation. My copy of Plath‘s Ariel (a desert island book, I reckon) has also been getting a good airing (and more; I unfortunately let it get sodden with rainwater while camping in East Landskeria) and the poem “Morning song” now gets me so much deeper than it did when I was young and child-free.

Pamphlets can be dealt with swiftly. I’ve only bought three, and they’ve all been excellent. (So I suppose I should read more?) I was lucky enough to attend the launch of Mark Fiddes‘s The Chelsea Flower Show Massacre, which is one of my books of the year – laugh-out-loud funny even on return visits, and also deathly serious at times. It even (perhaps unintentionally) taught me how to prepare a delicious nutritious snack with the poem “How to make Pan Catalan”. Josephine Corcoran‘s The Misplaced House deals elegantly with love, death and memory among other weighty matters. The juxtaposition of the comfortable and the uncomfortable association of words in “You say ‘drone'” is very clever, and the poem about Stephen Lawrence is quietly heartbreaking. I don’t like to pick a “best” because this isn’t the point of this post, but the biggest of the three is definitely Victoria Kennefick‘s White Whale (A4 pamphlets – who knew?) It comes highly recommended and after previewing a couple of poems (I think via the American magazine imaginatively titled “Poetry”?) I was sufficiently impressed to want to know more. Moby Dick, which I haven’t read but have some awareness of, is a foil threaded throughout to give a sense of shape and narrative to the collection, and the poet’s voice is clear, confident and striking. I especially enjoyed the uneasiness of “The preacher’s daughter” and the sweet sadness of “Zero”.

What else? I treated myself to another Matthew Sweeney: A Smell of Fish. Almost as good as Horse Music, but not quite. Nothing is. Quite. Having enjoyed “A thousand nights…” and On Poetry, I read Glyn Maxwell‘s Pluto, which was generally very good, occasionally sublime (especially lead poem “The byelaws” and “Birthplace”) but generally a bit of a downer. I finally got around to ordering a Selected Poems of Blake Morrison so I could enjoy the full-length version of “Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper”. I say “enjoy”: it’s horrible, obviously, but definitely one of the best poems I’ve read this year. Any year, in fact. The others are good too, but struggle to flourish under its shadow. I enjoyed Paul Kingsnorth‘s Kidland early in the year. (Though not as much as I enjoyed his debut novel last year.) It has moments of near-Romantic beauty, and aims admirably high for a sense of (usually eco-oriented) artistic purpose. It hits mostly, and misses sometimes. The title poem, epic and impressive though it is, feels a bit too heavily allegorical to really engage the imagination, and the poem about not wanting to hear about someone’s baby because the world’s dying of global warming or something just makes him sound a bit humourless. Humour runs through Kevin Reinhardt‘s Birdworld like stringy bits in celery; it’s the spine of the collection I’d say (though I haven’t quite finished it yet). There’s also a surreal quality to the anecdotes and family reminiscences that frequently harbours more depth of thought and emotion behind it. The scrapbook-like presentation, including numerous scans and illustrations, many of which overlap with the poems, makes good use of the print format too. I can forgive the serifless font because the bold weight seems to add a certain deliberate volume and vibe to the poems. But I do have to read this book in small doses. I don’t know if this is something unique to me, but I frequently struggle with sans-serif reading. My pal Dave always sends his proofs in Ariel and it delays my editorial progress through his (otherwise very engaging) stories.

Two other full books I’ve been reading this year are printed in serifless font, and I’ve struggled with both for that (and, I think, only that) reason. Jackie Biggs‘ The Spaces in Between contains delicate observations on nature and human relationships (often both), and draws inspiration from visual art as well as the more usual poetic sources. I’ve enjoyed many of these poems live (she attends a West Welsh open mic I sometimes go to) so it’s nice to see them in print and hear them in my head, even without the serifs. Donna Sørensen‘s Dream Country (which I won on Twitter, believe it or not!) is a stark contemporary work thematically (loosely) connected around the theme of home. It feels both spiritual and metaphysical and is as far from what I write as you can get – which is usually a sure sign I’ll really like something. Indeed, I think I could like it very much, but I’ve as yet found it too dense to really get into, and I am 100% sure this is because of the font of the poems. I probably sound mad by this point. But this sort of poetry for me I ideally want to hear, and I find it so hard to read, and to internally vocalise, with that DAMN font. I either need to print them all out in Garamond or have some time away from children and social media to clear my constantly buzzing brain so I can read into a clean mind, and overcome the shapes of the letters.

The lack of headspace is an issue. It’s rare that I even get through a poem without being interrupted by a child, a spouse, a pet, an electronic device, or something else of that kind. The need to read does battle with the need to write, and the need to blog, and publish, and market, and graft, and grift.

What else? Mab Jones‘s Poor Queen was hugely enjoyable. Rude, raucous, sharp and funny. Richard James Jones‘s Little Man. I picked that up after seeing him read at an open mic. It’s short, perhaps fittingly, but doesn’t waste words. It’s pleasingly plain, linguistically, for academic poetry; indeed, there’s a fair bit of prose-iness/prose-etry creeping in, but always with some sense of a song in the background. The creepy “Snow Globe” and contemplative “Len’s engineering services” are highlights for me. Words by Simon and Julia Indelicate is an oddity I suppose, given that it includes lyrics from their collaborative musical project The Indelicates; but the poems part beautifully contrasts Julia’s “difficult” (I quote them; I’m not distancing myself from the word) short poems – whose lines are always in danger of breaking, whose meanings lurk below murky depths then rise up to bite your face off – with Simon’s bittersweet elegy to childhood “The Principle of Quicksilver…” and a few other pieces. If I didn’t love their music so much I’d mourn poetry’s loss, imagining what their first full-length collections might have read like. Indeed I do mourn it still, but hope they haven’t entirely abandoned the less popular, less lucrative and less current artform. Another part-time poet (bloody part-timers) is Simon Sylvester, who includes a couple of fantastic poems in his latest short story collection Dare. “Coffin Routes” was one of my favourite poems of last year. And “Was I Scottish” is a timely examination of belonging, patriotism, and nationalism, warts and all. It speaks very clearly and directly to me as an Anglo-Welsh neither-nor child, and it makes me think he should spend more time writing more poems for me to enjoy rather than doing the other things he does; although I gather he does have another novel to write or edit, so I won’t press him too hard.

Emma Hammond‘s The Story of No might just be the most difficult book I’ve read this year. Possibly one of the easiest too. It’s hard to explain really. It took a few reads and rereads of the first couple of poems to attune to the strikingly modern stream-of-consciousness style (sort of like picking up an Irvine Welsh book; it seemed dense to the point of impenetrable, and suddenly I’d broken the surface and plunged right in and had to learn how not to drown) but it was really the juxtaposition of hilarious highs (the brilliantly observed awkwardness of Hairdresser and digi-currency of Thinkpiece for example) with existentially bleak lows (especially in End, Trinity, Utility). This is a diary entry, not a review, so I won’t quote or even link (you know how to find things, and this site’s SEO is hopeless) but anyway, this is really brilliant stuff. I took out Clive James‘s celebrated Sentenced to Life from the library the other day and have very much been enjoying its plainness and exactness of language and sentiment; and his finesse with form. But that hasn’t really excited to the degree EH’s “…No” did (and no doubt will again).

Finally, a couple of collections. I’ve dipped in and out of For Books’ Sake’s “warrior women” volume, Furies, and enjoyed its variety of mythologically-inspired voices, tones and styles very much. But perhaps my most enjoyable poetic reading experience of the year has been in slowly ploughing through Owen Sheers’s A Poet’s Guide to Britain. I’ve been reading 5 poems a week (each at least three times) then discussing them on the phone with my mother, who has been doing the same. What a wonderful way to read a book! And so many fine poems. Too many to list. But some new names I have to explore: Alice Oswald, Alexander Smith, Douglas Dunn, Tony Harrison, Paul Farley, Fleur Adcock, Lynette Roberts, Kathryn Gray, William Barnes, Paul Henry… to name but a few. All this along with your Larkins, Blakes, Plaths and other existing joys.

For 2016, I’ll be continuing with and rereading some of the above, and taking recommendations (please recommend away here or @AlexanderVelky on Twitter!). I’ve probably forgotten some of what I read (especially those I had to return to the library) but there we go. If I have time I’ll do a similar (but shorter) blog about what I’ve written this year and another (yet shorter) about what I’ve performed.

Yours,

A Velky.

Rhymes for all times – launched

  1. IMG_6723Thanks very much to everyone who came down to the Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon yesterday (some from almost as far away as us!) to observe the launch of “Rhymes for all times” and the declaration of the Most Serene Republic of Landskeria. It was a very special night and it was lovely to see so many friendly faces.

A year ago I wouldn’t imagine I’d be able to pull something like this off, organisationally, performatively, logistically, etc. The sympathetic and appreciative nature of the audience made it possible. As did the truly fantastic array of folk we had providing accompanying entertainment via the open mic.

Here’s the set-list, comprising both poetry sets I read and performed to varying degrees of success, helped at times by my prompt, Steven Handforth, and my DJ, Zef Cherry-Kynaston, AKA DJ Cherry Midnight:

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All of the poems I read are in “Rhymes for all times” except “The second coming” which is by WB Yeats, and “Attitude: rampant” and “Scollock rath” which I’ve yet to publish, and “Please don’t fund my art”, which was in my first book “Mistaken for art or rubbish“. The music playing as I read the Yeats poem was by Rima Ymadha (AKA Oh Dear Airstrip One): http://ohdearairstripone.bandcamp.com/track/the-resurrection

Several people have asked if I can list the open mic performers and where to find them online, so here you are:

  1. Emma Hammond read a few poems from her brilliant new collection “The Story of No”:
    http://emmahammond.blogspot.co.uk/
    http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/index.php/2015/09/the-story-of-no/
  2. David Nixon read one of his inimitable “New Ghost Stories”:
    http://www.newghoststories.com/
  3. Lloyd James (of Naevus, Retarder, and many other fine bands) played two songs (one new, one old):
    http://www.trufflesoflove.com/
    https://naevus.bandcamp.com/
  4. Adam Bambury read two poems (one of which graced the soundwaves of a Doubtcast). http://www.twitter.com/adambambury
  5. Hestia Peppe read some “ficto-crit-poesy” I think – certainly something hard to define:
    http://www.full-stop.net/author/hestia-peppe/
    http://www.peepsgame.net/
  6. Gaptooth played a couple of new songs from her forthcoming EP:
    http://www.gaptoothmusic.co.uk/
    http://gaptooth.bandcamp.com/
  7. Steven Handforth played a cover of the Robbie Williams song “Advertising Space” using the words of my poem of the same name.

I could enthuse about each of the above no end if I had more time and thought the words would do them justice. I’ll just say it was an honour to hear them all, and I hope it will not be the last time our paths cross. Some of them have contributed to Doubtcasts before; those who have not, I hope to persuade in future. Do check them out. Some are at large on social media sites and probably wouldn’t be offended if you said hi.

Finally, thanks to everyone who funded the book via Kickstarter, everyone who came to the event, and everyone who wanted to but couldn’t. Thanks to my brothers Marek and Zef for helping out, Sam and Harry for putting us up/putting up with us, and my wife Victoria for organising things and actually insisting I do the thing in the first place. Had she not, I would never have either bothered or dared.

Here’s a gallery on Flickr of photographs taken by Victoria throughout the night. Only Lloyd is missing from the open mic shots, because I stole the camera to record blurry footage of his performance of “Chairs are men”. Oops.

I’m also putting a buy-link for the new book on the site when I can remember how.

Thanks,

Alexander Velky

“Rhymes for all times” is coming!

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Me, celebrating.

I don’t often blog on here, because there’s rarely anything to say. Actually, this would be better as an email, because then people might actually see it. But I’ve become increasingly dubious about invading the personal space of people’s email inboxes for anything but really important news since Homebase started doing it to me every Friday afternoon.

So…

As you almost definitely know, I’ve been raising funds via Kickstarter for my new book “Rhymes for all times“. It took longer than last time for me to stop biting my nails, but we’re finally at the point (with just a few days to go) where I can comfortably say “we’ve done it”. So: we’ve done it!

This is the second book. There’s less novelty this time. We didn’t get on Kickstarter’s staff picks or anything, at least partly because there’s so many people doing this nowadays. So it feels like an achievement. I’m truly grateful to everyone who’s backed – especially those who have paid more than the basic price of the book for some of the other things I’ve offered. Because without those backers, there wouldn’t be enough general interest to really get it off the ground. And I know how difficult it is spending money on things – there are so many things. And so much art, especially, that one would like to buy, and one cannot buy it all.

Having said that about the money, any interest is gratefully received. (I know how uninteresting poetry is to a lot of people! And mine’s not even the regular sort.) Many very kind people who haven’t had the inclination or the means to actually throw their hard-earned money at me have helped out by sharing the link, offering advice, and generally being supportive over the years.

Of course I think the book’s great, and of course I think it’s better than the last one. But I look forward to finding out what you think. Do let me know. My skin is thick.

We have enough money to print it now, and to launch it at a cosy little venue in London on December 1st. Please come to that if you can, whether or not you have (or want) a copy of the book. Bring a friend. There’s an open mic. Please think about doing something on that. A song, a poem, a rant an anecdote… I’m going to try and learn all the poems and everything. I’ll probably buy everyone a glass of wine. I made a mask. And a special cloak. That cost about fifty quid. (I’m no good at doing “profit”.)

Finally, if you’ve been meaning to buy a book, but haven’t yet. Do it now! Or by Monday at least! The Kickstarter project thing ends in the middle of the day on Tuesday. I will be selling the books, of course, from my website when I have them (hopefully by December when I’m launching it) but the various other rewards are for now only: the flag paintings, the honorary citizenship of my made-up country, and the companion piece I’ve just written (“Versification without occasion”) which includes a history of the book, a load of poems that didn’t quite make it in, and editorial/historical notes on all the poems that did make it in. That last one will probably appear as blog posts some day, but you’re far more likely to actually read it, enjoy it, and enrich your general experience of “Rhymes for all times” if you buy one now. And it’ll be a book, or a pamphlet at least. A thing. Things are nice. Oh yes: you can also get a copy of the first book “Mistaken for art or rubbish” for £5 (half its usual price) as part of any of the Kickstarter deals. Great for Christmas gifts, anniversary presents, bah mitzvahs, etc.

So here’s the link to the project page one last time (probably – don’t hold me to that): https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/artorrubbish/poetry-book-has-doubts-vol-2-rhymes-for-all-times/

And here are all the videos so far produced for poems from the book, in the order the poems appear in the book:





There’s also a few more readings, performances, and things in-between on the update pages.

Yours, triumphantly, sort of,

A Velky

Doubtcast 2: HISTORY – call for contributors

DOUBTISTLet’s do another one.

The first Doubtcast was a massive great steaming success, if I’m to gauge that by the responses folks have volunteered, and how closely it met my brief. (As opposed to say, spending 8 hours failing to get it on iTunes, or the influx of wad-waving corporate sponsors that didn’t amass outside my house the following morning.)

There were lovely poems, scary poems, existential poems, drunk blogs, bewildered observations, and fun postmodern songs.

So let’s do another one. About history – from the personal to the planetary.

I mean about what history is supposed to be, and what it really is, and how we experience it and understand it, and maybe don’t understand it. Not just stuff that happened in the past; the happening of stuff, the apparent happening of stuff, the effect of the apparentness of the happening of stuff, the apparentness of the happening of stuff’s effects; the events, the narratives, the biases, the syllabi, the legacies.

Let’s do it. It could be fun. I’ll condense-quote the submission page in case you’re too lazy to click a link:

“Poetry, stories, music, audio blogs, sounds, ramblings, and broadcast journalism. MP3, Wav or MP4 please. (Something I don’t have to be clever to open.) Under 10 minutes unless it’s properly amazing. Preferably something you’ve made yourself. I won’t claim copyright but others might count this as publishing. Minimal selection process/editorialising; if your submission seems to satisfactorily address the subject as requested (and there’s room) I will include it. Open mic spirit, as opposed to academic lit-pub. No time-wasters.”

Come on. Get writing. Get recording. Get emailing. I’ll announce a deadline when my playtime is half-full, but don’t hang around. The world is ending, and so is your life.

If you didn’t hear the last one have a listen. It’s good.

A Velky

Doubtcast 1: Actual proper deadline nearing

deadlineFollowing January’s call for submissions for the inaugural DOUBTCAST (details here) we’ve had seven excellent submissions amounting to approximately 30-45 minutes’ worth of material. AKA “enough”.

I was originally going to compile and record on St David’s Day but I didn’t get around to recording my own stuff, so I’ve extended the previously vague deadline and set it in something metaphorically solid (although actually digital and therefore ephemeral) in the form of the following announcement:

LAST SUBMISSIONS FOR THE “RUBBISH” DOUBTCAST MIDNIGHT SATURDAY 7 MARCH

There we go. Pretty clear. I’ll record on Sunday, technology permitting, and upload some time in the week following. To reiterate, I’m looking for your recordings (amateur or professional) of poems, stories, musings, thoughts, conversations or sounds pertaining to RUBBISH. Your response to the theme can be whatever you want. Those so far submitted have ranged from the sublime to the bizarre, and each is a treasured artefact that I cannot wait to share. I don’t really have any sort of vetting process in place as I don’t consider myself to be any kind of artistic arbiter; as long as what you record has a recognisable link to the theme and there is still time and space, your submission will be gratefully received. If nothing else comes in there’s already enough, but I might pad it out with a couple of my poems, so you have been warned.

That’s all for now,

A Velky

22 poems from 2014

A picture of some cobwebs spun over long grass. Because a blog post needs a picture but I don't know what poetry looks like.

A picture of some cobwebs spun over long grass. Because a blog post needs a picture but I don’t know what poetry looks like.

Here are some poems I enjoyed this year, in alphabetical order, with links to text where available; and a video or a place you can buy the book where no text was available.

I was going to write detailed paragraphs about why I like each poem, but you probably wouldn’t have wanted to read that, and I have work to be getting on with.

I’ve read more poetry this year than most (if not all) previous years. With a couple of notable exceptions (e.g. Matthew Sweeney, Glyn Maxwell, Craig Raine and Gillian Clarke) the poems I’ve enjoyed have either been by dead people I already knew about, or relatively not-famous people I either don’t know or know only digitally, whose poems I have come across via competitions I’ve entered. Alas, 2014 will go down as yet another year in which I tried and failed to “get” a lot of relatively successful contemporary poetry (both truly contemporary and sufficiently “modern” to have been published within my lifetime).

Nevertheless, that there is good poetry (or rather, poetry I like) being written by people other than myself is in no doubt. And with that in mind, I shall rejoice.

  1. The Chelsea Flower Show Massacre – Mark Fiddes
  2. Coffin Routes – Simon Sylvester
  3. Dad’s Last Dance – Richie Brown
  4. Domestic – Matthew Sweeney
  5. Getting Ready – Stephanie Arsoska
  6. Home Brew – David Underdown
  7. John’s Curious Machines – Isabel Rogers
  8. Letter From a Far Country – Gillian Clarke
  9. The Next War – Wilfred Owen
  10. Memory – Christina Rossetti
  11. Morning Song – Sylvia Plath
  12. The Musician’s Wife – David Phillips
  13. My Stalwart – Hugh Pawsey
  14. The Pig Truck – Natalie Pfeffer
  15. Placebo – Craig Raine
  16. The Poison Dwarfs – Matthew Sweeney
  17. Rubik – Stephen Watt
  18. Someone at the Door – Glyn Maxwell
  19. Stowaways – Linda Atterton
  20. Travelling Light – Rosalind Musman Bleach
  21. Vote Britain – Alan Bissett
  22. Welcome 
To
 the
 Language, 
Leo – Oliver
 Mantell

2014 – the year in review

Another year has gone by and I am (and you are) one year closer to death.

Speaking purely in terms of my poetry “career”, what do I have to show for it?

(You may write your own blog post about what you have to show for it; but do continue reading mine first, please.)

I didn’t publish my second book. But then, I didn’t really plan or expect to. Looking back, I’m not sure why. It was readyish – as ready as the first book had been when I published that – way back in January. But looking at that earlier blog post now, it’s changed quite a bit. Nine of those poems are no longer in it. Nine new ones are. At least four others have been changed beyond recognition. The order is completely different too.

Leaving aside the ongoing saga of Volume 2 for a while, what else have I been up to? Well, in roughly chronological order:

Making a call for collaborators on future video work, and then not acting on the numerous responses. Thanks if you replied. I am still up for doing this, and actually I’m ready now (in that I have something resembling a reliable Volume 2 folio). And I was nowhere near ready then. But it’s fallen down my list of priorities, so I’m unlikely to chase anyone about it soon. I suspect if something is meant to happen, it will. Organically. Like the decline of all life as we know it. Or something cheerier…

My work was reviewed for the first time in print, in the New Welsh Review. The review was considerably more negative than the only previous review for my book, which was already pretty negative. Faced with negativity, it’s very tempting to respond to reviews – or indeed to review them – but I’ve been a reviewer (of music and wine, professionally), so I have some understanding of how this goes. And that living well is the best revenge. And that revenge is best served late. And that, if I’m honest, I was totally asking for a bad review with the press release; so, fantasies of literary spats notwithstanding, revenge isn’t really relevant here.

I wrote a fair few poems and entered a fair few competitions (at least one a month I think). While I remain quids out for that, I was lucky enough (and I know luck is a big part of it) to end up on two shortlists for two major (by which I mean four-figure top prize fund) international competitions: Live Canon and Poetic Republic.

downloadI was shortlisted by Glyn Maxwell for last year’s Live Canon prize (for “John Simpson’s burka“) and he picked another of my poems this year: “Sonnets from the corners of the map”. I might post it here come some rainy day, but for now you can piece it together from Facebook/Twitter image posts or buy the (excellent) Live Canon anthology where it sits very smugly among some great work by some poets known and some unknown (to me). I’m tempted to go into detail about my poem but now’s not the time. I’ll just let you know that part 3/4 is going down well with the Circassian diasporan community on Facebook. Which goes some way to balancing out those bad reviews and the complete lack of willingness by local bookshops to stock my wares!

The Live Canon event thing was great. I had family there to support. The ensemble performed every poem from the collection with fantastic theatrical aplomb. Hearing my scribblings brought to life by two great actors was utterly surreal, and so, so much better than having to dither through it myself would have been. It made the journey to Greenwich well worth it.

516WadeyThL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_And, yeah, Poetic Republic. If anything, this is a bigger deal for me. No offence to Glyn Maxwell; he’s been very kind; and this year I’ve enjoyed his book On Poetry immensely, his compendium One Thousand Nights and Counting very much, and his Live Canon remote poetry course hugely. (Running out of adverbs here.) But the Poetic Republic prize is judged and awarded by EVERY SINGLE entrant. And that is both a fantastic idea, and if you’re lucky enough (yeah, it’s still mostly luck) to be shortlisted through such a process, a massive buzz. You get comments galore if you make it through to the third round (I counted 90-odd, and read them all, aloud, to my wife, while she was driving on the M4), and, which is probably more important, you get to read and judge poems along the way, whether you end up getting through or not. (I know this because I entered the short-story sister prize and didn’t make the short list for that.) I guess any competition you ever get recognized in is going to suddenly appear great to you, but I’ve entered this on and off since its first incarnation as the MAG poetry prize about 4 years ago. So I’m dead chuffed that ‘Kuzka’s mother’ made it in. One day I hope to win it. You can buy this one here in ebook form.

There was one other shortlist. A filmed shed-performance of my favourite poem from book # 1, “The box”, made it onto a digital slam thing. Details here. It was a popularity contest, and I’m as likely to win a bronze medal in figure skating, or an MBE for my outstanding charity work. But it was nice for that poem in particular to get a bit of recognition, because it got singled out as “poor” in one of the reviews. And it isn’t poor. It’s brilliant.

What else have I been up to? Not performing live. Finishing my epic 33-video series from “Mistaken for art or rubbish”. Some are spot on. Some are miles off. All I’m weirdly proud of. You should roll up two or three massive spliffs and watch the lot on your own. Maybe pause to make some tea and go to the loo a few times.

And there was the interview videos: Velky on Velky. Who could forget those? Who could remember those? Who could watch all three of those, totalling the approximate length of an average feature film? Watch five minutes and you’ll get the idea. If you’re one of the five or so people that’s actually read the book all the way through you might actually find it interesting as well as just daft. I’d probably suggest mushrooms for this. Maybe LSD, but I’ve never tried it, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable prescribing it.

Oh yeah; and I decided my regular poems were a bit too accessible and poemy, so I started the National Anthems Project blog to catalogue my sonnet-form and oil-paint explorations into themes of statelessness, nationality and identity. Yet to be knighted for this, weirdly.

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Some of these have been recited (not performed; that would be inappropriate) on-site. I’m not going to be all completist about this, but I hope to do a few more before I’m dead.

And the blog? Well… it’s still going, but it’ll ebb and flow depending on Has Doubts commitments. And, you know, life, work, kids, etc.

I think that’s about it. You know. So, reverse order: read out some revolutionary poems in Tenerife, Christiania and Bornholm. Blogged about nationalism. Got shortlisted in a couple of competitions and didn’t in lots of others. Agonized about my second book, which probably even fewer people will read than the first. Filmed myself pretending to talk to myself. Filmed myself pretending to talk to you. Wrote some poems. Got a bad review in a Welsh periodical.

2014 is probably the biggest year in my poetry “career” so far. But it won’t take that much beating to make 2015 bigger.

More on that when I have more on that,

A Velky