Free Poetry, Wordless Books, and Not a Literary Festival by Dan Holloway

A last minute edit to add a touch of controversy. This is from an interview with Adelle Stripe, who is headlining next week's Not the Oxford Literary Festival which I have been running for 4 years now. In 2006 she was the founder of Brutalism, often called the first literary movement spawned by the internet, and her latest collection, Dark Corners of the Land was 3am's 2012 Poetry Book of the Year (and the best poetry book published in the UK in many years IMO). What she says could apply just as much to contemporary prose as contremporary poetry and is an object lesson to all of us when we think that what we need is to produce better-edited, more professional works in order to make our mark.

“Most poetry I have come across in recent anthologies has a peculiar corpse-like quality to it. It’s as though you have walked into an art gallery, and under glass boxes, on whitewashed plinths, sit a collection of porcelain roses. They are elegant to observe, immaculately rendered, objects of refined beauty, but they don’t smell of roses.”
Full, brilliant interview, here.

This last month I have been chasing my tail frantically with two enormous and concurrent projects. First, I have been reading over 100 submissions for my forthcoming installation NOTHING TO SAY. Hugely time-consuming but very rewarding and highly instructive - so much so I wrote a long article HERE about what I learned about the state of contempoarary literature.

Second, I have been preparing for the 4th Not the Oxford Literary Festival, the independent, underground alternative to the very corporate event taking place here at the same time. We have been growing each year and this year have no fewer than 4 amazing events, all at the Albion Beatnik Bookstore, 34 Walton Street, Oxford, OX2 6AA.

17 March – 5pm Ice Cold in Albion 
A year after the 100th anniversary of Scott’s ill-fated trip to the Antarctic, two brilliant and very different writers, Kiran Milllwood-Hargrave and Richard Pierce, take you back to the heart of winter

18 March – I am Blackbird 7.30pm
I am Blackbird a6 oxford web (2)

20 March Sadcore Dadwave 7pm
Sadcore Dadwave 

And rounding off the week, a rare as gold dust reading form the UK's greatest living poet Adelle Stripe, whose new collection Dark Corners of the Land was 3:am Magazine's 2012 Poetry Book of the Year.
22 March – Dark Lands and Cigarettes 7.30pm

All of which is to say I haven't really had time to stir up much in the way of awkwardness or trouble this month in the world of all things internet except for that first thing, where I accuse most modern writers of being utterly derivative and tear my hair out at the proliferation of very good, very polished books - of which there are TOO MANY.

Oh, the other thing I have been doing is almost finishing my new book, Guy and Evie, a heartbreaking story of obsession, lost ambitin, and redemption that has no words - it is told wholly in numbers. I won't say any more for now, but here is the opening paragraph:

29/10 18:15 (457), 30/10 10:30 (577) 13:15 (126) 14:15 364, 3/11 23:45 129, 10/11 22:17 134, 25/11 09:38 148 

poster Feb 2013
On a more conventional note, let me leave you with some poetry. First a free pdf of my collection "i cannot bring myself to look at walls in case you have graffitied them with love poetry" which accompanies my show "Some of These Things Are beautiful" at Cheltenham Poetry Festival on April 24th. There are tickets here. Click the image below to go to teh free download.

 And finally, a new poem I hope you will enjoy. See you all next month when I will be back to my old tricks I'm sure.

together alone (together) ()

276.314 kilometres from the postbox on your street
is a room
where i imagine you
watching marina abramovic
folding and unfolding opalescent bodies
into the envelope of a fireplace.

as the crow flies.
by road
my endless iterations of attempted quantification
are thwarted like beginner’s gambits
by carefully positioned lay-bys
where i climb banks and piss in coke bottles dusted with cigarette ash and pace in bushes in silent circles
waiting for doggers who never show.

it consoles me
that marina has fuelled 47082 more seconds
of our combined fantasies
than the someone
whose shit-smeared picture pulled cubist through
a salesman’s ass
catches tears warmed by that thought.

beside open bacon
in your kitchen are two bowls of
powder paint

red and blue and tomorrow
after we masturbate on the vinyl floor
we will mix them separately with the fluids
and in the afternoon
we will chip pieces of quartz from neighbours’
driveways and talk about
how one day we might paint them purple.


Lydia Bennet said…
Hi Dan, what a wide-ranging post! Much food for thought. Am also fascinated by the contrast in style between your poem here with its somewhat brutalist imagery, and your tender, even sentimental postings about your beloved rats. is this a deliberate schism, a choice, or is your poetry sometimes similarly emotional? Your book written in numbers intrigues me, as a mathematician. I'm wondering how you will be able to assign values or meanings to the numbers eg the groups of digits after what look like dates and times.
Lydia Bennet said…
Also let me say I will be performing at Cheltenham Poetry Fesitval also on April 24th, at Cafe Rouge, and it's been arranged for 8pm overlapping your event. I wish I could see you perform but it's not to be! Good luck with your albion beatnik readings, I'm performing some of my pathology poetry etc in June.
Jan Needle said…
as a non mathematician - with failed certificates to prove it - the idea of a novel all in numbers makes me sweat with fear. don't be so cruel, dan!
Dan Holloway said…
Lydia/Valerie - y, I'm disappointed to be missing your show though if I'm in Cheltenham early enough I'll come and say hello in Cafe Rouge.
What an interesting question - my writing always tends, often veers positively ferociously, to the sentimental. My show is " a lyrical, heartbreaking, but ultimately joyous picaresque across the neon-soaked night cities of the world in search and celebration of lost friends" which sums up the level of emotional charge, and if you download the pamphlet you'll see poems like "We Were Makig Fairytales", "Holly", "i cannot bring myself..." and "Hungerford Bridge" where I had to have the steer on full lock to avoid mawkishness. Likewise in my novels, the form is often experimental, but the core is always emotional, as in The Man Who Painted Agnieszka's Shoes, which is essentially three different stories about the loss of the most important thing in your life. And Evie and Guy, for all it is written wholly in numbers, is a story of obsessive lust that turns to aching love and then loss and the long, painful search for wholeness over emptiness and brokenness. I think I find the use of jarring forms a way of tempering the sentimentality (though with the lyric poems that's hard, which is why they're best not on the page but in a jazz bar live late at night), working as a negative of kitsch where sugary forms are used to temper an almost unpalatable harshness. Also, my main influences are artistic - Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, and musical like Patti Smith, Janis Joplin - so the confessional aspect with its emotional longing drives everything.

Interesting that you find this poem harsh - for me it veers uncomfortably close to mawkish - the theme is a regular one of mine (and the central theme of Evie and Guy), that of two people who are together completely but also totally separate and yearning at a preconscious level to be properly together. For me the opening stanza is almost sugary sentimental in its expression of longing.

Jan - I am no mathematician either, though I love numbers dearly (I'm an arithmetician if anything). But trust me, they function entirely like words only, because they do not have preprogrammed meanings the idea is that they mainline the emotion even more directly by bypassing our presuppositions.
Bill Kirton said…
Interesting that you say your lyric poems are best in a jazz bar live, Dan. I downloaded the pamphlet and started reading silently but, after only a couple of pages, went back and started again but reading aloud. I'm not a poet but I love rhythms in language and yours, together with the intricate tanglings of rhymes and euphonies, have the excitement of jazz improvisations. (I know, I know, Pseuds' Corner is beckoning, but that's the effect they have.) I found myself unable to stop and read them all and I know I'll be reading them again. Thanks.
Jan Needle said…
29/10 18:15 (457), 30/10 10:30 (577) 13:15 (126) 14:15 364, 3/11 23:45 129, 10/11 22:17 134, 25/11 09:38 148

Dan, maybe i'm dim as well as innumerate. My father, an engineer, despaired after trying to explain to me for an hour how many eighths there were in an inch. I've now wrestled with your 'opening paragraph' for ten minutes, and I promise you I'm alone in a wilderness. I'll have to revert to words: wtf are you on about?

Please, if you can, enlighten me.
CallyPhillips said…
Great post. the only numbers I like are pallindromic! And even then, I spent a long time telling people 'I don't believe in numbers' However...

Dan, I want to talk to you about Ag's shoes, specifically about the function of the 'narrator' and the relationship between narrator and author (against the whole death of the author thing - suggesting that the narrator is a place for the displaced author to hide and stay alive) as part of a feature for ebook festival about narrative and psychology. Would you be up for that? Nothing happening on it till May/June time and it would probably just be some email question/answers batting back/forth. But I felt the 'presence' of the narrator as something more in that book and would like to discuss it.
AND if there's anyone else around here who would like to be included in the feature - that is anyone who feels that in their fiction there is an interesting psychological relationship between narrator/characters/author - you know where to find me - just email!

Jan - just say after me 'I don't believe in numbers. I don't believe in numbers' It worked for Tinnkerbell, we could radically alter the world if enough of us all say it at the same time!
Dan Holloway said…
Bill, thank you - many of those poems have come out of my experiences on the performance poetry circuit, often held in small cafes and mixed up with music - and on the back of much watching clips of the Beats, and reading Patti Smith's Just Kids and the like.

Jan - they are, as you probably got, dates and the numbers relate to something on those dates - I'm keeping just what under my hat until next month. There are also two sections - one for Guy, and one for Evie, covering the same dates.

Cally - I love palindromic numbers (and on a related theme I find something rather magical about multiples of 11). YES!! definitely. The 1st person plural in particular is designed to comment on the reader's relation to the text, but the "presence/absence of the author" is throughout - from the hermetic schoolboy to the artist who may or may not exist to the dominatrix who can only express her loss through violence. Would love to - I'm very sorry I've been too tied up to be in touch as much as I'd like - in addition to the stuff in this post, my wife's had another major breakdown and we've been struggling with lots of very ill pets, but after Not the Ox Lit fingers crossed
Jan Needle said…
ah, that's clearer, thanks. and yes, i did get the dates bit. cally, when i saw peter pan at the barbican a few years ago i refused to do whatever they asked me to do to stop tinkerbelle dying, so there. tinkerbelle lived, my children hated me, and i saved myself the price of several ice creams to show them who was boss. the power of numbers, see...
Lydia Bennet said…
thanks for replying Dan, just to say it was your imagery I said was brutalist rather than the theme, not to say the poem as a whole didn't have lyrical or emotional depth, but the language is so difft from your rat pieces. I look forward to more of your number novel.
Dan Holloway said…
I think I'm very aware that if I let myself, I get very very sentimental, so I need to avoid the possibility (my novel Songs from the Other Side of the Wall is written in fairly conventional prose, as are the stories in Ode to Jouissance and really walk that line). I write a fair amount of non fiction where I let rip :) I'm also a huge fan of Banana Yoshimto, and find her way of creatig depth through omission fascinating
glitter noir said…
At 5:30 p.m. in my work week, something like dawn for most civilized folks, I needed a wake-me-up. I found it in the poem. Absolutely smashing, Dan.

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