Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Mark Kermode's Secrets of Cinema

from :)
I've always been a big film fan. I think as a kid, I found comfort in the rise and fall of a classic fairytale-esque storyline and, of course, good triumphing over evil (such good preparation for later life...). Later I enjoyed watching writers and directors push the boundaries of all the action you could fit on a screen, my teenage years filled with films that were about exploring coolness via largely large males wreaking havoc on various villains, seemingly invincible, yet just human enough. Since then I have, as with all medias, tried to expand what I watch, learn about what effects are used (and how), become critical of the mainstream and generally seek to find things that offer fresh perspectives on art and life.

Mark Kermode is a bit of a hero of mine. For a long time I wanted to be a film critic, and he is just one of those people that I'd like to be like: knowledgeable, erudite and cool to boot. Now I (we, us!) can watch five hours of him on our screens, doing what he does best: entertaining and educating us, in his groovy way.

I've watched three episodes so far, the Heist one (probably the genre I'm most familiar with on the list), the RomCom one (I'd never been a big fan of the idea of RomComs, especially as the ones I've seen (Along Came Polly, or Hitch type saccharine shtick) have done nothing to inspire me, but Kermode explains examples I'd never thought or heard of in a way that changes my conception of what they are and what they can do, which makes me want to watch more) and, just now, the Coming of Age one (which is quite moving, actually. It explored the idea of the filmmakers' personality and experience coming out in the finished product and, indeed, explained the gravity of the task of trying to capture a universal human moment, such as when adulthood invades and subsumes child-like innocence for good). The reason why I didn't want to comment after watching every episode was because I'd end up with five separate rambles (I struggled to write as little as I did in this paragraph, and it's hardly 'streamlined'), and writing this half-way through at least helps me comment on why I think you should watch the series.

It's such a joy to learn from experts. What you get per episode is someone who looks at archetypes and exceptions to give you a picture of the overall genre - structured with a few sub-sections, such as character, location, music etc. What is so amazing to me is the period of time that an episode spans. Because Kermode's knowledge base is so broad, we are taken on a trip potentially from the first movie of its kind (so potentially even pre-1920, before the first 'talkie'), to this year's releases. We are shown instances of homage in the intersticial period (and you may be surprised how many homages there are in a single genre, the Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers/Mission Impossible one being salient), but also points to where writers and filmmakers grow tired of the self-referentiality, the clichĂ©, and break out to do something unexpected.

Another part of why the series as a whole is worth a look, is that it examines (if only in passing) outside the films, the current Hollywood (and beyond) 'scene', addressing sexism and inequalities etc, hoping for things to be addressed further and bettered. I suppose it's this - looking at what's being done wrong and right in the industry, to how exactly humanity and other existential dilemmas are configured through filmic arts directly - that makes me feel privileged to watch it. I'm learning about life and philosophy, about the possibilities of our mind. It really feels that deep to me, while not coming across as heavy or lecturey at all. Even though I consider myself (at least temporarily) 'offline' as a writer now, I find this series inspiring, and I hope you do too.

Enjoy! It's available for another nine months from the time of publishing this - and the horror episode might well be good for the upcoming Halloween celebrations :)

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Till Roll Unravelled!

I'm excited to say that some of my poetry has been published. The title's Till Roll, the press is If a Leaf Falls, and you can order your copies from here:

A huge thank to Sam Riviere for bearing with me thru the process, and to the folks who ran The Other Room, where the early version first appeared.

Peace, love and light x

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Recent Ruminations [As of Two Months Ago...]

First thing I want to get into is the [Peter Barlow's Cigarette] reading. As I said in my post announcing my participation, I wasn't feeling myself beforehand, thanks to one of the deeper and more prolonged periods of depression I've had. I was consistently anxious, thought I had nothing to offer and that I was generally going to be a failure, outed as 'not really a writer' and all the other destructive thoughts you get at times.

Actually, the reading turned out to be very positive. I didn't read well - I mean, it was beyond doubt in my own mind that I wasn't projecting well, and interrupted my own rhythm at a couple of points, but it was pointed out constructively by someone else as well, so not just my own opinion - yet there was good feedback on the poetry itself, which is more important to me to be honest. There were other supportive comments about my reading, and a nice chat about the act of reading in general (even people I see as far-ahead stars still suffer nerves and crises of confidence. We know this, and yet we forget it sometimes, especially when we compare ourselves to others). I read first, which was a big help (especially because that's how I'd visualised it happening), so then I could sit back down as soon as possible and enjoy the other readers, who were great (still can't believe I had my name anywhere near theirs on the same bill... I know that's no measure of me, or my work, but it still feels amazing). At first, I tried not to buy everybody's books (just because of the finances), but everyone moved me to the extent that I felt I had to have their works to peruse fully, which shows their high quality.

I'm really excited to get stuck into Linda Kemp's Lease Prise Redux, after having read extracts and, of course, enjoyed her performance. I think it's really important work, very sharp. Also to be enjoyed are Steve McCaffery's Certain Words, and Karen Mac Cormack's Rechelesse Pratticque, the readings from which I liked, too. Steve's felt more like a prose-collage poem, large and arresting in its being, but in Karen's I got the sense of smaller, more discrete pieces, with surprising twists in her delivery from one to another.

Afterwards, though, I felt a big change. Part of my worry leading up to the event was that some of my work didn't feel 'experimental enough' (to put it politely), and some of my more directly political pieces, I thought, were tending to less-substantial 'preach poetry' (and even though I've been told that I needn't worry about this, it's hard not to...). There's a time and place for that kind of work, and many people working wonders in [politically-based] performance poetry. I thought that I may have moved into that area because of what I'd recently read, but, thinking about it some more, saw through to what I think is perhaps a more core reason. I'm more and more 'down' about the world situation (more fearful, more angry, more ashamed, more disheartened...). I think that maybe some of these more 'performancey' pieces came out at this time because I want to address this, but even my best attempts feel shockingly ineffectual. Though I don't feel that all poetry is 'political' (or, rather, the main focus can be something else), and that in theory I should be able to 'just write about something else', I feel despondent and want to move on.

To be clear, even though the reading ended as a genuinely positive experience, the pervasive negativity in the world that I feel steeped in makes me want to stop writing poetry (for the time being at least). I was thinking about starting back up with an old novel of mine (started it last year, reached 39,512 words [including title], then started a job that hindered creativity for me) which, ostensibly, is a bit of silliness, but it was a good challenge, and a welcome distraction from what was going on at the time. I still want to read poetry, and I know that I'll still think 'poetic thoughts' - might even still put some of it down in words (or whatever else) - but, at the very least, my focus is moving on [to sorting out my life, hopefully]. In some ways, I'm only saying that I'm not going to 'try and force it' - which isn't really a readily recommended technique anyway - but I feel it's a tadge more nuanced than that.

[I was going to ruminate a bit on readings in general, too - some of those that have 'shut their doors', some that are still going, and some that have started up - along with a load of other personal, rambling garbage. I think, though, that this should end here, and I'll maybe put all that in another post, to possibly come out next year some time :P ]

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Morecambe Comedy Festival

I've just been to my first night of the Morecambe Comedy Festival, and it was great :)

I arrived late, so missed some of Ruth Cockburn's routine, but it was obvious in the half-hour I saw that she is a special talent. It's hard to come up with a single good song and put that into a routine seamlessly, but she sang many original numbers, and managed to weave them into spots of 'pure' observational stand-up, as well as other multimedia elements (including recorded interview material, which was quite touching, as well as amusing), which all combined to make a thoughtful and refreshing take on love and sense of place.

After a short break, we were supposed to enjoy Brennan Reece, but, filling in for the aforementioned double-bookee, was festival organiser and all-round nice guy Matt Panesh. I've never heard Matt perform before, so I was actually considering myself lucky in the situation. He mostly read out from a book of his poetry (if I find out what book that was, and where I - indeed, 'we' - can get our hands on a copy, I'll let you know), and the mix of humourous, political and social observations within his work fitted in well with the evening's entertainment. He's lived quite a life, and I really was rapt as he relayed tales of times on tour, or while working (indeed, being fired from work). Although not what I'd consider as an out-and-out comedy show, there were some unintentionally (no, they were intentional, but they were unplanned) hilarious moments, courtesy of a couple of arseholed pub punters who decided to spraff loudly about lord-knows-what and chip in with random corrections/affirmations, all of which were ad hocly batted back by Matt (charitably so, I might add), which pleased the audience no end.

Another break. Another pint. Another comedian - none other than Tom Little.

The first thing that struck me about him was his fantastic energy. It's really high-frequency, but he's so warm and charming, that you never feel attacked by his performance. In fact, there were many moments of audience participation that genuinely felt cherished by both audience and orator. I liked Tom intensely, and I really don't want to be over-wordy about why. He was self-deprecatory, a bit meta, decently cheesy, great at being funny off-script and hard-working in his writing (and memory! The things he's researched and memorised, you know, they're more than just trite set-pieces in an overall comedic game) - that's why I loved it. All those ingredients show a natural, yet industrious, talent, and I hope he gets to wherever he wants to be. I certainly prefer him to all of those terribly middle-class comedian clones... I was going to name names, but I just had a premonition of that coming back to haunt me, so I won't.

Anyways, I'll let you get back to whatever it is you were doing before clicking on this link. I know I didn't go into a lot of detail back there, but I don't want to spoil anyone's Fringe by revealing jokes ahead of time. In that sense, I feel honoured to be able to not just look through the window into a creative process, but be inside the house as it's happening and, if laughter be the comedic writer's barometer, maybe even be part of that process in some small way. In that sense, it is much like going to a poetry reading - an honour (not necessarily a solemn one), and I thank the performers, organisers and everything that led to the moment, for a great time.

Hope to see you at more of the week's events (click on the link up top for all the news and performers). Peace, love and light.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Peter Barlow's Cigarette #28

I'm sorry I'm so late in posting this. I am in a long and tough period of depression, which is making it hard for me to function how I'd like to, and doing small things is taking me a lot longer than usual. That being said, I'm very excited and blessed to say I'll be reading at the next Peter Barlow's Cigarette.

I'm very nervous at the minute, but I hope people will enjoy what I read. I'm going to be sharing new stuff (I always like to - makes sense seeing as how I've not got any books out, or anything I'm particularly known for).

Also reading will be Steve McCaffery, Karen Mac Cormack and Linda Kemp. There's no such thing as a bad line-up at PBC, but I really am alongside three great poets and experimenters, so if you're free, do come along and enjoy.

Hope to see you there. All the best, folks <3 p="">
Details: Saturday, June 16th, 1600-1800hrs at Deansgate Waterstones.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Tib LANE is Not Tib STREET

This is not a public service announcement to raise awareness of the fact that Tib Lane is not Tib Street, and that, indeed, they are actually quite far apart, but if it was, I'd probably repeat the message over and over again until it got annoying. You see, there are some unfortunate people who, when going to Manchester, confuse these two places and, in trying to find their way around the big ol' city, end up being late for the event they travelled there for. But this is not about people mixing up Tib Lane and Tib Street - which, by the way, are different places, and have different Taverns on them - this is about Peter Barlow's Cigarette #26, and my musings upon it.

Unfortunately, for reasons I won't go into that had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with me being an idiot and getting confused between Tib Lane and Tib Street, I only caught the tail end of
Zayneb Allak. I was disappointed here, because I was looking forward to hearing her, and what I perceived would be her 'worldly writing'. She genuinely got a great applause, tho, which is a true endorsement.

James Byrne is a man who'd never get mixed up with Lanes and Streets, of a Tib-ish nature or otherwise. I'd seen him before at a few other groovy events, and he's always good as a writer and performer. He brought a lot of heavier flavours into his stuff this time, but always kept a quality of air (I don't mean that like 'full of nothing', but I mean an approachable fluviality. To translate further - it brought up serious themes and yet was enjoyable. Okay? You broke me down. Are you happy now, now that you've cracked the code?). As an example, he read out a piece about 'hash', which was a 'meditation' on the word and its origins, marrying drugs and corned beef in an important and effective way. There were other such 'trees', where the root of the poem was a particularly poignant word, upon which the rest was built. Right up my alley!

Caitlin Doherty was amazing. Again, a great performer, as well as her work being funny, cleanly witty ['clean' here meaning with a sense of linguistically hygienic sharpness. And 'not dirty'...], experimental, and - so I assume based on her performance of her content - formally exciting. I so enjoyed it, and haven't felt a buzz like that since seeing Jazmine Linklater for the first time. She read out some stuff that hadn't been published yet (can't remember who's going to publish it :( ), and, as I was just saying to a friend the other day, this creates a buzzing atmosphere, and I feel so lucky to be there. I just tried to splurge on some of Caitlin's works, but Satellites and one of her appearances in Salvage have sold out (China Mieville's article being credited for the first)! Couldn't find anything on eBay or anything, but I did order Salvage Issue #2: Awaiting the Furies and Our Party, so I'm excited for those to arrive.

What can I say about Peter Manson? His work was dripping in wit. He's a man not afraid to roll around in the cheeky dirt, and he had everyone laughing with his 'corporeal content'. Hats off to him especially for his reading from Poems of Frank Rupture. He read a piece from that, which he called a 'long skidmark of a poem', and even just to read it required such power and stamina, because of the long flurry of language (so much of that of high syllabic content). You felt the audience's breathing change - sometimes holding their breath, gasping a little, laughing too - as he rattled through his big beastie. The humour here was essentially very playful, and I'd say he's a brilliant example of someone who loves language and has sharp ears and eyes. I remember, apart from certain sexy references, 'song title mondegreens', which, I don't know, sort of felt akin to punctuation to me, but more for how I heard the poem, rather than how you'd probably see it on the page.

As I went away from the reading, I thought about the diversity of styles and subjects it represented. Byrne's poetry simulated thoughts about person and place, the politics of invasion and deprivation, foreign locations, but border-crossing themes. Caitlin's, while often amusing, seemed to be exploring a more abstract malaise, not so much pointing to causes, but I was certainly stimulated to think about, for example, male behaviours in everyday life. Mason's was possibly more 'purely linguistic' (I'm not qualified to say, really), and not the less intellectual for it's ludicity. I never know what the mix of styles will be like when I go to these events, and it's always a pleasant surprise.

I also want to point out that, since I was last at a PBC event, there's been an exciting change to the bookstall. Now, they are producing wee pamphlets with work by all the readers on the day, so you get a bit of work by each of them. The ones I got were £2 each, or three for £5 (which I think's nothing, when you enjoy it so much), and the money goes towards performers' travel costs etc. Wonderful idea!

By the way, just before I go, did you know that Tib Lane is NOT, in fact, Tib Street?

Peace, love, and light! x