Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Making Memories Together - What creative moments will stay with you forever? by Dan Holloway


          Today is National Flash Fiction Day. It would be fairly criminal of me not to state that from the outset. First off, this is the first time ever we’ve celebrated this marvellous form as a nation – the Arts Council have even got behind it. Second, tonight, as part of the shindig, we’re holding a flash slam in Oxford, combining the worlds of poetry slam and flash fiction as twelve of the UK’s finest practitioners battle it out, reading their stuff in front of an audience and celeb judge, the short fiction legend Tania Hershman. If you’re anywhere near Oxford, do come along to what will be a truly wonderful evening. And if you’re not, please do check out what’s going on in your area. Third, to celebrate National Flash Fiction Day, my two short fiction collections are free for today and tomorrow:


          (life:) razorblades included contains some award-winning short stories and poems with some adult content. Free in the UK and elsewhere


          Ode to Jouissance also has some award-winning shorts of a lyrical nature, exploring questions of ageing and identity in 20th century Europe. Free in the UK and elsewhere


          And whilst we’re on the subject of invitations, here is something to which I want to invite you all. My new poetry collection, Last Man Out of Eden, is out on June 12th, and there will be an ebook (STOP PRESS: the ebook is available now for 99p HERE), but it’s performance poetry (below is a video of one my favourite poem from the book, Hungerford Bridge, performed in Gloucester earlier this month), so I’ll mainly be selling it at shows, and what better than a book with accompanying CD. And to make the CD, I’ll be holding a free recital of all 9 poems at The AlbionBeatnik in Oxfordon 8th June and recording the show. I hope it might be the chance to be part of something rather fun.



          Which brings me to the question and reminiscence part of the post. Don’t worry – I WILL get there!

 (with Katelan Foisy at Covent Garden Poetry Cafe)

          Last Man Out of Eden draws directly for many of its poems on my friendship with the writer and photographer Cody James and the writer, model, artist, and publisher Katelan Foisy, whom I met through Cody and with whom I collaborated on a wonderful event in Oxford this time in 2010, Lilith Burning, for which Katelan dressed as Lilith and whilst we walked around Oxford I took photos of people’s reactions to her. We made the photos into an artwork and invited everyone we’d pictured to a reading of stories based on the Lilith myth. I don’t think I can remember having my head pulled in so many wonderfully creative directions. Katelan was only in the UK for a few days before heading back to New York but it’s a creative relationship I am delighted to say is still going to this day.

          Katelan was in the UK primarily to launch her book Blood and Pudding, the story of her relationship with her childhood best friend, Holly. She’s an obsessive recorder, and during one glorious, sun-drenched, xanax-fuelled road trip she left tapes running the whole time, and the transcription of their conversations forms the majority of the book. The rest comprises anecdotes from the few years between that trip and Holly’s death from a heroin overdose. It is, without doubt, the most life affirming book I’ve ever read, the most unsentimental and beautiful celebration of a life (standing alongside that other great doyenne of New York art, Patti Smith and the exquisite Just Kids, the story of her ill-fated but wonderfully productive friendship with the late great Robert Mapplethorpe).
(Cody in San Francisco)

          My own brush with creative friendship and tragedy came through our Cody, who had introduced us. One of the most extraordinary moments of my literary life came when I performed a duet with her of her story Fifteen Minutes From the Golden Gate Bridge, one of many heartbreaking and coruscating pieces she has written based on her time in San Francisco in the 1990s, where meth addiction and schizophrenia nearly killed her. Thankfully it didn’t, and I have had the privilege of working with her for two years, and through two suicide attempts on her part. She is now so ill I don’t know if she will ever write again, but what we achieved in the time we had was remarkable. There is something transcendent about creative friendships, and Last Man Out of Eden is a celebration of that – and of the importance of living whilst we can. Many of the poems are about or for Cody, like Hungerford Bridge. And below is one I wrote for Katelan, simply called Holly. There are two quotations in the front of the book, one from each of them. Together they sum it up, and pay tribute to the three beautiful lives of Holly, Katelan, and Cody:

“sometimes we can’t make the world a better place, and there’s nothing to do but tell the truth” (Cody James)

“go out and live. And live. And go on living, because you never know when it’ll stop” (Katelan Foisy, Blood and Pudding)

          Which brings me to the question – what moments of your creative life will stay with you forever? Who set you on this path? Writing is often a solitary profession, but often it is only in the completely creatively safe space of the company of one special person who completely “gets” what we’re trying to do that we can truly explore and start to bloom. How about we spare a comment to remember someone special.




Holly

Just a road trip,
That’s what it seemed.
Two more teenage hipsters
Zipped on xanax
Paying lip service to the Kerouac dream.

Holly’s hands on the wheel
My feet on the dash
And the sun splashed
Our lips
And every rash decision
Slipped into our private mythology,
Major key rips in a minor key mixology.

We lived at 200 beats a minute.
I was drum and she was bass.
Life was numb and we chased
The sun from dawn to dusk,
The dust in our face.
The delirious race left us crazed
Till we spent days playing space invaders
On porn booth joysticks,
Placed every cent on black
Jacked up
And had infinities tattooed on our backs
To seal our Beatnik pact.

But Holly wasn’t so strong.
I think I’d known all along
She was no survivor
And now she was falling apart.
I tried to revive her
By making our lives into art.
I tried so hard
But her life was a shard that had stopped reflecting the light,
Her heart was the dark on a starless night.

I couldn’t keep her safe from harm,
I couldn’t be her lucky charm,
And when she placed it in my palm and pleaded
I couldn’t even put the needle in her arm.

Just a road trip,
In truth it’s already fading.
Her outline’s lost its shading.
Our friends have got desk jobs and jaded,
There’s little left of those two teenagers.
Kerouac and Cassady are someone else’s dream
And Ginsberg is their melody
But Holly is their theme.

 

Hungerford Bridge

Remember the day we lay under Hungerford Bridge
And London stopped, just for us?

Like balletic bullets in a John Woo film
We toured the stillness.
Skateboards and blades played our private soundtrack
Scored from the clacketing
Backbeats of the Thamesside track.

We played hopscotch on Bankside,
Poured pints of London Pride
And downed them on the docks in Rotherhithe,
Embraced in the space between Bridget Riley’s stripes,
Defaced the latest White Cube canvas hype
With lines of lust typed blind on absinthe
And declaimed them to the planeless skies from Trafalgar’s empty
            plinth.

Neon flared through our Soho lair
And electric reflections glared.
We spotted pimps and toms in strip joints coming up for air
And in clip joints frotted by despairing gimps and johns,
The silenced timpani of Dean Street’s daily song.
We stole tubes of lube and 90 percent proof,
Got pissed on Chelsea rooftops,
Fisted, lay on Wembley’s centre spot
And kissed till our lips were blistered
And our minds went missing.

We met them by the river.
An army of the alkies and the dispossessed,
The depressed, repressed, the not so easily impressed,
The inconsolable and unconfessed
Who repossessed their lives for just one night
Howling Baudelaire like loons
And raving by a quarter moon,
Piping crazy tunes across the water –
A glorious guttersnipe Brigadoon.

Forget the lazy days,
The backward gaze, the haze, the sugar glaze we paint upon our
            yesterdays.
We tattooed London in our veins,
Inked in electricity and linked up to the mains,
Its maze of urban arteries,
Its winding streets that bleed from us
Plying meths to find the key to us,
Suppress the lethargy that hides our dreams from us
That lies against our sighing breast to squeeze from us
The dying breaths that wheeze from us
And leak into a lullaby that pleads with us –

Remember the day we lay under Hungerford Bridge
And London stopped, just for us.


19 comments:

CallyPhillips said...

Thinking about your question. Thinking hard. And long. But in the meantime, can I encourage EVERYONE to download Dan's freebies. My experiments with Amazon free promotions has proved (to me at least) that the real value of them is in 'discoverability' but that YOU have to help them along. And I think the deal should be THIS. When someone is good enough to offer their work to you for free the LEAST you can do is a)accept the offer and download it (it helps their rankings) b) use the facebook/twitter options on the amazon buy site to TELL people. I know it seems a bit cheesy/grim to post 'I just bought...' etc BUT there IS a good reason to do it. Writers do free giveaways to get readers. Potential readers can only be found through people's social networks, therefore if you click to download something free I think you have an ethical responsibility to click another couple of times to encourage others to do the same. It you benefit from a free promotion PLEASE pay it forward and promote it yourself. The more of us who do this, the more 'visibility' our fellow writers get.

CallyPhillips said...

It's me, back again. Still thinking. But have made some progress. For me,the most immediate 'creative' memories are those from drama. It used to always annoy me, the ephemeral nature of theatre (unless you're a west end musical of course) but once I'd 'done' several of my own (not west end musicals.. serious drama my friend) I learned to embrace the 'creative moment' which I think is the actual strength of theatre/drama, At best it is shared creativity. At worst its a boring expensive night out of course! So, thanks, because you've got me thinking about all those lovely moments and memories from my own 'dramatic' past. And remembering that moments are just that. One needs to embrace them, live them fully and then commit them to memory (or paper) where they become a different kind of thing. But that's all right. I'm leaving before I get poetical. I should, of course turn the above into flash fiction... but... I'm enjoying the trip down creative memory lane too much right now.

CallyPhillips said...

Uust re-read your piece and poetry. Third time lucky in response. Though it's neither flash fiction nor poetry. Just a creative tribute.

John Dickson. A man of few words and most of them 'happy.' He loved to jump and wave his hands. He fell and broke his neck. But he's still happy. And he's the only person who laughs at my jokes IN ALL THE RIGHT PLACES. He taught me the true nature of shared creativity. And how to be happy.

Dan Holloway said...

Nothing at all wrong with getting all poetical! Laughing at one's jokes in all the right places is a very very rare quality to find in someone!!

Dennis Hamley said...

Dan, that's a great post. I like the poetry. Terrible to hear about Cody James. She's such a good writer. The Dead Beat is both frightening and beautiful. I'm very sad to think she might not wirite again.

I didn't realise the Slam is tonight. I've got myself a clash already tonight, to go with Kay to the Artweeks forum in the Natural History Museum or Cherry Mosteshar's writing workshop iun Blackwells, though it's non-fiction tonight and I won't have much input, and staying at home because I put my back out yesterday and though it feels better now, you never know.

I'll get to hear you on June 8 I hope. And I'll drop copies of the Oxford Writer round to the Albion, with your great articlke Not the Oxford Oxford LiteraryFestival.
I'm waiting for nreaction to it!

Dan Holloway said...

Which reminds me, I bumped into Ilaria at Chipping Norton Literary Festival and am hoping to be at one of the workshops soon!

dirtywhitecandy said...

Lovely piece, Dan. Makes me think of the creative banshees I used to know and wonder if they will ever wake up again.

Dan Holloway said...

It's the ghosts who make us everything we are, and too often we forget too many of them. Call this my all souls post - a time to bring them back and give them thanks.

Dennis Hamley said...

Yes, it's true. My life is littered with lost plots, imaginary people who never drew breath, wrecks of once brightly lit hulks slowly sinking in the mist. Sometimes I feel like a character in a novel by Jasper Fforde. Sometimes I feel that if I could swim strongly enough I might rescue them. Then I realise it's better to let them go, because if they were worth it I'd have persevered when I had he chance. and then I'm glad they're going because grief and separation only gets you so far.

JO said...

Years ago, in my incarnation as a Child Protection person, I told my supervisor I couldn't find a book that brought together different therapeutic approaches to working with children. There isn't one, she said - why don't you write it.

And so I did. And Blackwell Scientific published it.

If I could do that, then I could write about travelling, couldn't i? So I did.

Jennie Walters said...

Great post, Dan, and I loved the poems. There's something so poignant and intense about young friendships, when everything is possible and you think there's endless time...

julia jones said...

I'm just amazed by your energy and creativy - didn't even know what flash fiction was, let alone slam poetry. Have downloaded Jouissance and am looking forward to reading it - thank you

Dan Holloway said...

Jo, you can do travel writing exquisitely.

Jennie - yes, it's one reason I'm a sucker for films like American Graffiti. My friendship with Cody feels that intense form the other direction - she has been so ill ever since I've known her that I've been aware of the need to savour every second

Julia - then to add one more to the lexicon - the highest scoring piece at tonight's event was a piece of flarf by Anna Hobson that left the whole room aching and crying with laughter. Flarf is one form of alt.lit as I think it's written (avant garde digital stuff) - it's where phrases are lifted from the internet word for word. Anna used status updates from dating sites. It sounds like an easy target but despite the copious belly laughs she also wove it into a beautifully rhythmed and rhymed story. As we're electric, I should dedicate a piece to it next month

John A. A. Logan said...

Very much enjoyed reading those 2 poems just now Dan...they come alive in the hand of the mind as soon as they're picked up.

Dan Holloway said...

thanks you so much, John

Enid Richemont said...

Loved the poems... a rap element, surely? Loved that beat. Background info moving... will grab the books when they come out. E XX

Dan Holloway said...

:) I love rap but the main influence is the Beats - I particularly love Cassady

Pauline Fisk said...

They were exciting times. But then all times are exciting if we engage with them, and you certainly are. Great post. Flash Fiction here in Shrewsbury was brilliant, tell you more another time. Interesting to read about creative collaborations here, and the solitude of being a writer in Sherry's piece. Sides of a coin. I've never collaborated with anyone, except for a terrible children's animation series on ITV, so you've given me things to think about here.

Dan Holloway said...

Yes, it was one of those fortuitous serendipities that these two posts came next to each other