Tuesday, 9 August 2016

BOOK REVIEW: ROMANCE FOR DELINQUENTS BY MICHAEL WAYNE HAMPTON

 


This short story collection by Michael Wayne Hampton came highly recommended to me in an interview that I did a few months ago with poet C.M.Keehl. She said that anything by Hampton was incredible, but Romance for Delinquents she described as "wowza". Now I am no expert, but that sounds like pretty high praise to me. The title of the book sounded like it would be right up my alley and I knew that I had to track down a copy for myself. Released by Foxhead Books in 2013, the physical paper and ink version now appears to be out of print and prove to be a bit of a bastard to track down without paying through the nose, but that just made getting my hands on a copy all the sweeter.

Aside from the old lit fiend satisfaction of tracking down the hard to find, this really was a fantastic and fascinating read. Hampton's stories feature an array of different characters in wildly differing scenarios and stations in life, but similar themes of loneliness and detachment and misplaced love run throughout each. Loners and outsiders, out of place, out of sorts, searching for connections in all the wrong places. Each character is nuanced and unique, and Hampton is equally at home writing working class, everyman characters as he is writing about the study of theoretical physics. In the best possible way this collection reminded me of my favourite short story collection, Loners by Mark SaFranko, which has similar themes and characters (and you should check out right now at MurderSlim.com). This is deft and delicate writing, an authentic voice that deserves a much wider audience than it currently receives.

If you can track down a copy of this book then I highly recommend that you do so, immediately. If not, I believe there is a Kindle (shudder) version available. And if C.M.Keehl ever recommends a book to you, you damn well listen to her!
    

Thursday, 7 July 2016

BOOK REVIEW: GRIME KERBSTONE PSALMS BY MIGGY ANGEL



I first became aware of poet Miggy Angel when Jim Gibson, editor of Hand Job literary zine, began singing his praises. Anyone who has ever read an issue of Hand Job will know that Jim Gibson knows his shit when it comes to poetry, so I made a mental note to get my grubby mitts on a copy of his Miggy's debut collection, Grime Kerbstone Psalms. Cut to just over a year later and shamefully it has taken me this long to finally get around to reading it. On the one hand, yes, it was worth the wait, but on the other hand it is so bloody good that I wish I had read it immediately!

Miggy grew up in South London and "lived to tell the tale". Grime Kerbstone Psalms is that tale. A tale of struggle and addiction, of disconnect and indifference, of resilience and recovery, and ultimately one of survival and hope. Miggy's poems cut deep into the soul. They do not so much tug at your heartstrings, but wrap a fist tight around your bloody, beating heart and pull it straight out of your chest. If you ever have one of those days when you're not sure you know how to carry on, when it feels like it would be easier to lay down and give up than to stand up and fight, then those are the days when this book will come in handy. I am not saying it will save your life, don't be absurd, but it will certainly give you a swift kick up the arse. Because if nothing else Grime Kerbstone Psalms is a testament to the power of words, and a poignant reminder that life will kick the shit out of you if you let it, so don't let it. In the words of Miggy himself, YOU are the riot you seek.

Grab a copy right now from Celandor Books.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

LIT FIEND INTERVIEW [#12]


Interview number twelve is with one of my favourite poets. A total kick ass woman whom I first met online many years ago and I have since been fortunate enough to publish her work in a number of issues of PAPER AND INK, and also had the honour of editing her recent poetry collection 'Magic Spells from the Cosmic Dragon'...

First things first, what's your name, what do you do and where do you come from?

I was named Akua Ananeh-Frempong and baptised as Mercy when I turned 13. I come from Ghana and I no longer believe in organised religion.

How long have you been writing poetry and what inspired you to start?

I've been writing poetry since 2009. What inspired me? Exhaustion. Manic emotional exhaustion with prose writing.

You recently self-published your first collection, Magic Spells From The Cosmic Dragon, which is a great collection. How did you come up with the title?

This question is one of the reasons I've taken so long with this interview. I keep grappling with it. I can't seem to find the words to explain how I came up with the title; but after much thought I think it's safe to say this title captures my spiritual evolution in 2014.

You've been living in Cambodia for the last few years, what is the poetry/literary scene like over there?

Poetry and literature is alive and well in Cambodia. Cambodians have their own poetry styles and formats (complex and simple) extracted from nature, of which they are very much a part of. There is so much to learn from Cambodian poetry. The expat community is active with literary groups like the Phnom Penh Writer's Project which meets regularly to review writers' works. Art Cafes like Java and a few others organise regular readings and poetry slams to bring artists together; and last year, a group of artists collaborated with various organisations and individuals to create the first vibrant Kampot Writers' and Readers' Festival.

How does that compare to back home in Ghana?

It's hard to compare as I've only exposed myself to small groups and individuals in Cambodia. I've not visited Cambodian schools to see how students are engaging with literature. I know a bigger scene in Ghana where a lot of schools have extracurricular activities for students which include poetry/literary and debate clubs and events. In Ghana I attended and participated in both regular and one-off poetry readings and slams, such as the Ehalakasa Talk Party and The Writers Project of Ghana's book club and radio show, all of which are still very active today.

As a keen traveller, always on the move, how do the different countries and cultures that you experience inform your writing, if at all?

The various landscapes certainly open my world view. Nature, the universe is our mother and God. Like clay we may be able to mould her into various forms that take our fancy, but few humans understand how gravity works. Gravity is the main phenomenon controlling everything. I'd say Gravity is God. People in essence are similar in personalities. The differences often lie in conditions of life which influence cultures and mindsets. What am I saying with all this jazz? Simply, I am evolving in ways I cannot track as I travel, and my writing is one output of my evolution. I'm still learning.

Are there many countries that you have not been to that you're keen to visit?

Yes, so many more. To see the world and connect with the universe deeply will probably take my whole life time. I have absorbed many spaces into my being but I haven't even seen half the world yet.

Do you read much contemporary poetry? What poets do you dig at the moment?

I have been reading a number of political books and mystery novels. I would not call myself an avid poetry reader, however, Maya Angelou and Charles Bukowski are writers whose poems I keep reading over and over again...and zines, I love most of the poems I read in PAPER AND INK (I swear I am not kissing your bum with this), and most recently the work of Vittore Baroni titled Don't You Rock Me Dada-O.

Do you ever write prose?

I did; but my voice in prose tends to sound like that of a raging buffoon. It's exhausting. Too sharp. Too much slicing at cores. Offending others with my directness does not bother me, but it does take more out of me than I am willing to give. I'm currently learning how to channel my prose in more nourishing ways through observing various communication styles of the people I interact with in the countries I visit; I'd call that self teaching wouldn't you?


What was the last book you read that blew your mind?

Women by Charles Bukowski.

If you could get drunk with any three celebrities, dead or alive, who would they be?

Grace Jones, Charles Bukowski, and Chinua Achebe
.


What advice would you give to your fifteen year old self?

At 15 I was in a girls boarding school in Ghana established by Irish nuns. There, I chose cadet training and the debate club as extra curricula activities. What advice would I give myself then? Drink wine and rum. Lots, and ignore everyone.

What do you think your fifteen year old self would make of the person you are today?

She'd say to her 35 year old self: you did it. You are living your dreams, are you bored yet? (or maybe that's just my 35 year old self speaking now, haha)

Do you have any upcoming publications due? What do you have planned for the future?

I do. Magic Spells from the Cosmic Dragon is a complete work capturing a creative phase of my life. My next zine will capture a new phase and will bear another title.

Follow Mercy's blog for updates on future projects and buy MAGIC SPELLS FROM THE COSMIC DRAGON here.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

BOOK REVIEW: JIGSAW YOUTH BY TIFFANY SCANDAL



Jigsaw Youth is the second novel by writer, photographer and Suicide Girl, Tiffany Scandal. It tells the story of Ella and "what makes her, what breaks her, and what helps her find the strength to keep going despite constantly being expected to fail". The story is not told in a linear chronologically, but in fragments and snapshots, crust punk vignettes from a rollercoaster life. It is a story about pulling yourself together when you are falling apart. About picking yourself up when you fall down, dusting yourself off, giving life the finger and going again. Ultimately it is a story of hope. 

Tiffany Scandal does not pull any punches and the sensitive subject matters covered can sometimes make for a challenging read. For example, Ella is raped in the second chapter (So yeah, trigger warning, I guess), but that uncompromising, raw honesty is what makes the book so refreshing and inspiring. Scandal's prose is also right up my alley, from the Hemingway/Bukowski school of refined and direct, with seldom a wasted word in sight. 

Jigsaw Youth has a huge beating heart at it's core and you will live and breathe every moment with Ella, through good times and bad and when it is all said and done you will wish she was your best friend. My only real criticism of the book is that it is too short! I did not want it to end, not least because of the juicy moment that it finishes on. Sure, you could make an argument for the whole "leave them wanting more" thing, but DAMNIT I WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE CREDITS ROLL. I may never find out what becomes of Ella but I do know that I will be waiting with bated breath to read whatever Tiffany Scandal writes next!

Grab a copy of Jigaw Youth directly from Ladybox Books or from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (US).

Monday, 30 May 2016

I READ ZINES [#12]


I have not reviewed any zines for a while now, mainly because I have not bought as many recently as I used to. My 'to read' list is ridiculously long and I have been attempting to whittle it down, and that means not buying ALL THE ZINES, ALL THE TIME. Just some of the zines, some of the time...



I have reviewed a few issues of this Nottingham based literary zine in the past and there are really not many more superlatives I can use to describe it. This tenth issue is most certainly their best issue to date and is just brilliant. It is their first "themed" issue (Occult Realism in case you were wondering) and also comes with a CD of spoken word performances by past and present contributors. Beautiful risograph printed pages, deftly designed by Sophie Pitchford accompanied by screwball stories and prophetic poetry selected by editor Jim Gibson. Grab a copy for yourself right here.



This is a short story zine by Constance Ann Fitzgerald (author of Trashland A Go-Go and head honcho of the awesome Ladybox Books). It tells the story of the can of worms that is opened when a woman sleeps with her ex boyfriend. I love Constance's writing, it is searing, to the point, unapologetic and entirely beautiful. I highly recommend that you check out her stuff, and also the stuff that Ladybox publishes, because it is all amazing. Check out her website right here.  



This is a really fun zine by Clara Heathcock about "the emotional intimacy of friendships between women conducted via Facebook chat". She has plucked snippets and lines from various conversations with her friends, illustrated them and put them all together in this collection. The things friends say to one another when they think nobody else is listening are often the most revealing, and that makes this a very intimate and interesting read, I only wish it was slightly longer. Grab a copy from Clara right here.