Tuesday 26 March 2013

Poetry: Invisible Architecture (ii), Antlers Press, The Roundhouse, Camden


We had a snowy train journey to London on Saturday to visit the Invisible Architecture Installation in The Roundhouse, Camden, curated by Antlers Press, in celebration of World Poetry Day 2013. This was our first visit to this extraordinary venue. The building itself is well worth exploring if you have the chance. You can read my previous post about it here.  

Arriving at The Roundhouse ...
... with its steam engine shed relics.


We were feeling pretty chilly after a train and two buses, so we warmed up with a spot of brunch at Made in Camden, the restaurant-cafe bar that adjoins the Roundhouse. We can both recommend the chipped potato wedges, and I thoroughly enjoyed the apple pancakes with passion fruit coulis.   


It was soon time for the opening of Invisible Architecture, a literary 'library and listening station' curated by Nichol Keene of Antlers Press. This unique cross-cultural library (of visual and audio works) has been developed for the purpose of 'forging international links and creative collaborations between writers and publishers, swapping stories from around the world as they build their cities through what they say.'

It was this global dimension that caught my eye in the first instance. I strongly believe that writers and artists from diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds have much to share. The experience of taking part in a collaboration of this kind has many benefits.  


Part of the Invisible Architecture Installation


We walked through the dimly-lit engine shed, emerging into a central circular space. There was a display of English PEN literature against the wall. There were also a few musicians testing the sound in preparation for a later event. Some of you will know that I am fascinated by echoes, and it was fun to stand on a silver square and try out the acoustics for myself.


One of the tunnels receding from the centre


So here we were, in a dark space that would once have housed the turntable for steam engines. The arches all round the edge led off into short tunnels rather in the way that spokes on a wheel spin outwards in all directions. It seemed to me, and this is where I would need a pigeon's eye view, that each tunnel was soon intersected by a middle wall, before extending further back into the darkness. 


The Roundhouse: interior, with tunnel


Nichol Keene, the force behind Invisible Architecture, had set a ring of fold-up chairs around the central area. Most visitors were pleased to have the chance to sit down in these extraordinary surroundings.



Antlers Press was founded as a small nomadic press by Nichol Keene in 2011. Nichol is keen to participate in projects concerning pamphlets, book design, illustrations, paperbacks, hardback books, Japanese bindings, presentation documents, portfolios, slipcases, solander boxes, photo albums, invitations, posters and fine art prints. It was good to meet her, and to learn about the hand-crafted books that she produces and about the collaborative work that she undertakes. We chatted about poetry and linguistics, about TEFL and Gertrude Stein.  

Nichol Keene (supplied by Nichol)

So where does Invisible Architecture come in to the picture? The library and listening station comprised poems and prose pieces from many corners of the globe. My poetry chapbook, The Holy Place, (co-authored with John Dotson of the USA, and published by Peter Thabit Jones of The Seventh Quarry, Swansea, in conjunction with Stanley H. Barkan of Cross-Cultural Communications, New York) had been selected for inclusion in the Installation. A copy of the recent Antologia, the Orizont Literar Contemporan anthology from Romania (edited by Daniel Dragomirescu) had also been chosen for the display, along with an audio mp3 file of 'Turner's Loch Coruisk', one of my poems about Skye.  


With The Holy Place and the Antologia


There were many other items and we were able to 'borrow' these as we sat on the chairs. We could also listen to the audio files, as our recorded voices echoed through the tunnels. I encountered a huge variety of publications, ranging perfect bound volumes with photographs to small pamphlets (including one that contained a map of part of Wales). One large (A4 plus) handwritten work, Long hand, had a minimal but memorable Pepsi poem on one page. 


Long hand and other selected items

Nichol showed me some of her 'products'. The term, however, seems out of place for such finely crafted publications. There was something very special about the new pamphlet, Invisible Architecture, that had been put together by hand just in time for the Installation. It was the result of Nichol's pairing of those participants in the Invisible Architecture project who wanted to write a shared poem or piece of prose. 'The Wanderer' by Amber Massie-Blomfield and Anil Godigamuwe made an arresting opening poem, with its 'shadows that flicker' and the smell of 'the candle's light'. I bought a couple of copies of the new collection. I was also tempted by Bought, a publication in a small green envelope. It is available from the Antlers Press online shop. The narrative entitled 'The Kamikaze Dingo' is written by Toby de Angeli and illustrated by Nichol. Again, this is a novel and innovative publication, and this is the beauty of Antlers Press.  


Antlers Press publications can be bought from the website by clicking here


It was good to meet some of the other visitors to the nomadic library. One man had heard about the Installation through a news article (which he thought had been in the Daily Telegraph). Another was the author of a Turkish publication. There was a work by Oona Grimes and another by Alev Adil


Photo of the Installation library ...


I found myself enjoying the poetry in a day without olives is like a day by Jack Piers Scott. There is some delightful artwork on the accompanying digital album. Hallucinated Horse, another anthology on display, is a Pighog Press publication of New Latin American poets. The volume has been translated and edited by Nicole Cecilia Delgado and Tom Slingsby. There were free copies of back issues of Popshot magazine for us to take home.


... and another


There were times when we browsed at the display, times when we sat down to read and times when we listened to the audio files. It was a strange and positive experience. 


David browsing


Nichol had placed large empty sheets of paper and small blank cards in the centre of the circle, along with pens and a fat black marker. We were encouraged to participate by writing creatively on these. David and I attempted short Haiku.  


What a great day. Thank you, Nichol! 

Antlers Press

Email: antlerspress[at]gmail[dot]com
Follow: on twitter
Check out the Press on facebook
Keep up to date on the blog and join the mailing list


Invisible Architecture was curated by Nichol Keene


Individual participants include: 


Alev Adil * Amber Massie-Blomfield * Amir Hedayat-Vaziri * Anil Godigamuwe * Caroline Gill * Django Wylie * Dorothy Lehane * Emily Fitzell * Fani Parali * Jack Scott * Jennifer Brough * Kymm Coveney * Mark Pawson * Mert Erkan * Mischa Pearlman * Miss Quotes * Moya Pacey * Olga Koroleva * Peter Swaffer-Reynolds * Sascha Aurora Akhtar * Selina Nwulu * Stefania Salamida * Tania Hawthorne-Marchori * Theodoros Chiotis * Toby de Angeli * Zia ahmed *   


Presses involved include:

LemonMelon * Onomatopee * Pighog Press * Popshot Magazine 


N.B. Many (but not all) words in bold are livelinks, so do press through to the linked sites.   


Monday 25 March 2013

Poetry : Invisible Architecture (i), Antlers Press, The Roundhouse, Camden

We had a snowy train journey to London on Saturday to visit the Invisible Architecture Installation in The Roundhouse, Camden, curated by Antlers Press as a celebration of World Poetry Day. This was our first visit to this extraordinary venue. The building itself is well worth exploring.

First impressions on a cold day with snow and sleet ...

Roundhouse Roof, with Antony Gormley Sculpture

The Roundhouse, a Grade II* listed building and registered charity in Chalk Farm, dates from 1846, when it was constructed as a steam-engine repair shed, complete with turntable. Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest. 5.5% of all listed buildings in Britain have this rating attached to them. Some ten years later, the Roundhouse became a production warehouse for Gilbey's Gin. It fell out of use before World War II.

Link to www.transportheritage here for more Roundhouse facts

The playwright, Arnold Wesker, and his Centre 42 Theatre Company made the Roundhouse their base for part of the 1960s. The venue closed in 1983. Its next chapter began in 1996 when Sir Torquil Norman of the Norman Trust bought the it and began to introduce a programme of artistic events once more. After a further closure, a period of overhaul took place in 2004, under the auspices of architects John McAslan + Partners.

These days the Roundhouse, with its slate roof and cast and wrought iron supports, is known as a legendary venue for artists and their followers. It has been described as 'the crown jewel of Camden’s performing arts scene'. The venue has hosted music festivals, theatre, circus, installations, the BBC Electric Proms and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Histories. Artists such as of Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney and The Who have performed here. 

Reflections and Echoes: The Roundhouse Tunnels
According to Marcus Davey, chief executive and artistic director of the Roundhouse, young people are at the heart of everything that happens. The Roundhouse offers a year-round schedule of creative projects for 11–25 year olds in 24 state-of-the-art studios, where facilities include TV, radio and music production, media suites and rehearsal rooms for music and performance. It was announced last October that the Roundhouse Studios had been given a £5 million donation by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, named after the publisher and philanthropist.

The adjoining restaurant-cafe bar comes highly recommended!

More snow in the air, about to fall ...

If you find yourself in the Chalk Farm and Camden area of London, do look out for this venue. It was good to find a display of literature about English PEN. My next post (click here) will feature the Invisible Architecture Installation project. 

Thursday 21 March 2013

Calendar Corner: World Poetry Day 2013

A world of poets: the First Swansea International Poetry Festival (2011)


Many celebratory activities seem to be overflowing into other days of the week, making it a time of celebration for all involved. You may like to read about the UNESCO beginnings of this day by clicking here. For some more up to date poetry news from UNESCO, you can click here and here.

Naturally, not all the activities that go on in the poetry scene are organised by or officially affiliated to UNESCO, although many would represent the same cultural aims. There are many independent events, and I, for one, seem to be having a busy poetic time!

Last night I attended the first of a series of poetry workshops, organised jointly by students at University Campus Suffolk and members of the Suffolk Poetry Society. It was a great opportunity to hear and offer poems in progress and to give and receive feedback.   

I shall be at the Ipswich Poetry Workshop this afternoon in Gainsborough Community Library, where we will be reporting back on the writing-related books we have been considering over the last week. My chosen book is The Bridport Prize 2012: The Winners.

Some of my work (a copy of my chapbook, The Holy Place, co-authored with John Dotson along with an audio mp3 of one of my poems and a hardcopy of the recent multicultural and multilingual Antologia from Orizont Literar Contemporan, Romania) has been selected for inclusion in an Installation created and curated by Antlers Press. The project is called Invisible Architecture, and the Installation, comprising a nomadic and international library of poetry books and audio files, will be up and running from 2pm to 5pm this weekend at The Roundhouse in Camden, London as a continuing celebration of World Poetry Day. Invisible Architecture is 'a library and listening station forging international links and creative collaborations between writers and publishers, swapping stories from around the world as they build their cities through what they say.'

I hope you will be able to engage with some poetic activity. Here are a couple of events ('A' then 'Z'), in the hope that you may feel tempted to look out for something in your corner of the world.

  • World Poetry Day in Armenia, where The Writers' Union of Armenia will host recital of Hrachik Tamrazyan’s poems.
  • Poets will come together tomorrow (Friday) for Zimbabwe's maiden World Poetry Day commemoration at Book Café. Kundai Marunya reports on this event here.

And did you know that today is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimation and the International Day of Forests?

* * *

Postscript ... you might also enjoy
  • a feature for World Poetry Day on young poets in India
  • Milton Keynes Poet Laureate, Mark Niels, is to visit nine libraries in Milton Keynes, UK
  • World Poetry Day in Jamaica 
  • Regina Mayor challenges cities to recognize World Poetry Day in Canada

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Poetic People: Kathleen Jamie in Conversation with Lavinia Greenlaw at UEA

Lavinia Greenlaw introduces Kathleen Jamie ...

... at UEA (the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK).

David and I attended a riveting poetry reading at UEA last night as part of the UEA Literary Festival. Kathleen Jamie, winner of the 2012 Costa Poetry Award, read a number of poems, many set in Scotland and the islands, from her new sparkling poetry collection, The Overhaul. We rapidly found ourselves in a world of Bottlenose Dolphins, Basking Sharks and Red Deer stags.

Kathleen, who said she was usually drawn to birds and animals on account of the fact that these creatures catch our eye when they move, also included three memorable flower poems. Kathleen was described by Lavinia Greenlaw as 'attentive' (to the natural world) but never 'attention-seeking', an attribute shared perhaps by the small blue bell-shaped flower in one of the poems. 

There was a fascinating conversation on the subject of engagement with the natural world, and how perhaps the poet sees her own approach as a thing apart from the more traditional Romantic notions of the all-seeing viewer-writer. Kathleen spoke wistfully of what might have been an awakening or flowering of a new phase in writing about the natural world. She gave the impression that in her view it was a wave that began to roll but perhaps failed to gather sufficient momentum. Perhaps it has yet to reach its zenith. I, for one, hope that this is the case, for it seems to me that there is an increase in 'wild' writing that balances 'engagement' with 'inhabitation', allowing the world (in Kathleen's words) 'space to be its own thing'.

Kathleen concluded that we engage with the natural world, 'because we have to; they (i.e. the creatures and component parts of our eco-systems) need us to, to keep the channels open.'

Book-signing afterwards ... a copy of 'Sightlines'

Friday 15 March 2013

Poetry People: Robert Drake's Haibun-Haiku Journey

Richmond Castle: 'Richmond's defences held'

 Review of by In Fading Light Robert Drake

torrential waters
wash the night of stars
a kestrel hovers

Robert Drake
In Fading Light

I have bought my first eBook for Kindle, and I don't even have a Kindle! Did you know that you can use Kindlereader via Amazon?

I discovered this some days ago when Swansea friend, Robert Drake (Bob to his friends), invited me to take a look at his new publication of Haibun and Haiku, In Fading Light. The eBook is available on Amazon for the princely sum of 77p (great value and considerably less than two First Class stamps!). It is published by Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing Facility.

Haibun and Haiku originate from Japan, and have become increasingly popular in the West. Robert handles his material with skill, and rarely refuses to settle for less than the exact word or phrase. In Fading Light includes the story of a 200 mile walk - the Wainwright Coast to Coast - from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, across some of the most challenging stretches of Britain. The whole book is, in a sense, a journey in its own right. Vibrant moments leap from the page in a few short syllables:

melting sea-mist
in the heron's eye

We encounter the poet's travelling companions in the form of dancing pipistrelles, a prowling cat, the old bookseller and the old man on a bench. It is no surprise to find a metaphorical rainbow of references to the season and the weather, a rainbow of 'warm air' and 'icy winds', of 'doleful rain' and 'receding cloud'. There is a sprinkling of words long associated with Haiku, such as 'snow', 'jasmine' and 'sparrows', so those of a more traditional persuasion will feel quite at home in this collection, as the old blends seamlessly with the new.

I have attempted to write numerous Haiku over the years, occasionally meeting with success in small competitions. Some of my Haiku have been published, but I am less familiar with – though no less interested in – the art and craft of Haibun. That said, I particularly enjoyed reading the Haibun account of the Wainwright Walk, with its 'realistic' changes in pace brought about by the alternation of prose and Haiku. Robert's prose style is full of detail and occasionally, it seems to me, somewhat reminiscent of Gerard Manley Hopkins ...

'There was a barrenness and oppressive solitude. At Angle Tarn the fluting of skylarks served only to emphasise this empty grandeur.'   

Robert's actual journey led him through torrential rain at one point to the towering fortress of Richmond Castle, which I remember vividly from my own visit on account of its raucous Parliament of Rooks. Does Robert make his final destination? You could buy the eBook and find out! 

About the author of In Fading Light 
Robert Drake was formerly an associate dean in the Faculty of Arts and Social Studies and senior lecturer in social policy at Swansea University. He now teaches for the Open University (UK). 

Thursday 7 March 2013

World Book Day 2013

Happy World Book Day 2013!

How will you be marking it, I wonder? 

I shall be at the Ipswich Writing Workshop at Gainsborough Community Library. I will then attend a poetry evening with “Managing a Masterpiece” Poet in Residence, Dean Parkin in Gainsborough House, Sudbury. Dean will be reading from his new collection, inspired by the artistic history of the Stour Valley. The event will include the announcement of winners of a County-wide Poetry competition for adults and young people, now published in a new book, Poems of the Stour.

And ... in case it is of interest, I am currently reading Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (memoir) and Pepys by Caroline Gilfillan (poetry).

  “I kept always two books in my pocket, 
one to read, one to write in.” 

Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday 1 March 2013

Anthology Alert: Orizont Literar Contemporan Antologia 2012

And the back cover ... 

I was delighted to receive my copies of the latest Orizont Literar Contemporan Antologia from Romania. The cover photo shows Vogaluz Miranda from Brazil. You might recognise a certain someone with Professor Don Riggs (we met in Philadelphia, USA) in the orange cover on the back. This international literary Antologia is over 80 pages long and edited in Romania by Daniel Dragomirescu. The magazine's strapline, 'All the world in a journal', is well illustrated by a patchwork photo inside the back cover of some 56 international contributors.

The anthology includes contributions in Romanian ('Un fel de-a fi Numai al Lor' by Mihai Cantuniari, Honorary Director of the journal, on p.40), in Italian ('Lucciole' by Ettore Fobo inside the front cover), in English ('Jumping In' by Katherine Gallagher on p.3), in Spanish ('El Tiempo' by Juana Castillo Escobar on p.20) - and also in German ('Basisdemokratie Besitzt Keine Basis' by Raymond Walden on p.70).

If that doesn't sound sufficiently international for you, there are also contributions from Neil Leadbeater in Scotland (whose feature on the Scottish Dizzen was so well received back in the September-October 2012 issue of the magazine), from Burt Rashbaum in the USA, from Lena Vanelslander in Belgium, from Katerina Kostaki from Greece - and from Ingrid Odgers Toloza from Chile ... to mention a few more.

The Antologia contains a good number of poems, such as 'Take My Hand' by Anne Stewart, which begins,

I'll take you to an island, any
Greek island town with winding
uphill paths ...

and has been translated into Romanian,

O să te duc pe o insulă, în vreun
orășel grecesc cu urcușuri intortocheate ...

Prose pieces include 'My Childhood and My Father', a touching family memoir from Mira Faraday in the USA; and, in a very different vein, an essay entitled 'Labor, Slavery, Exploitation and the Limits of Aid', a contribution based around the influence of Simone Veil, a Christian mystic who lived outside the (Roman Catholic) church.

If you would like to know more about Orizont Literar Contemporan and the ever-growing international family of literature aficionados it represents, do take a look at the website here. The Antologia also includes two of my poems, '1st May: Red Kite at Strata Florida' from my new poetry chapbook, The Holy Place, co-authored with John Dotson (details here) - and a short anti-slavery poem, 'Trade Winds'.

Thank you to Daniel and the team for yet another truly cosmopolitan publication!