Saturday, 16 November 2019

BOOK REVIEWS: HANG IN THERE AND ORPHAN ROAD



TWO REVIEWS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE! Two new full length poetry collections, both published by UnCollected Press (therawartreview.com). The first, Hang In There by British bard John D Robinson and Orphan Road by US punk Tohm Bakelas.

!!!NEPOTISM KLAXON!!! Before I get into the crux of this review I would just like to point out that I am good friends with both of these poets, so take my words with a pinch of salt if you will. However, I would certainly not bother to review any books that I did not deem "worthy" of praise. I wouldn't just peddle any old shit because I was buddies with the author (no matter how many times I review a Dave Matthes book). 

With the housekeeping out of the way, let's dig in to the poetry. I always find it difficult to review poetry because it is pretty fucking subjective. It is different to prose - prose is either well written or it is not. Poetry can really be whatever the fuck the poet wants it to be, so who the fuck am I to judge it? I may be a poet and a zine editor, but I have no formal poetry "education" other than reading poetry that I fucking like. With that said, I really fucking like the poetry in both of these books...

John D Robinson and Tohm Bakelas, although almost thirty years apart in age, and living on different continents, are kindred spirits. They come from the same school of poetry - they both tell it how they see it, without sugar coating or glossing over embarrassing or personal details. Both shoot from the hip and bash out short, snappy verse that kicks you straight in the gut. You won't find any fourteen page, flowery, metaphorical snore-fests in either of these books, that is not their style. You won't have to dig beneath the surface to find hidden meaning or be left scratching your head trying to work out if you really understood what you just read or not. And that is no criticism, that is why I love reading their work. Call me simple, or stupid, or both, but I came to poetry via punk rock and if these books were albums they would be by The Clash and The Ramones, UK Subs and Black Flag.


You can buy both of these books and others by UnCollected Press from therawartreview.com

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

'FIRST WEEKEND' BY TJ CORLESS



It’s Friday and I’m in the big lecture theatre which they’ve called the Mansfield for some reason. There are students all around me and I’m zoning in on one two rows in front who I’ve seen in a few of my classes. She’s really pretty and she’s got a good sense of style, not like a lot of the girls you get here who wear any old current shit from the high street. She’s got an amazing figure too; slim with a big bum and pert little boobs, which all just comes together perfectly.
The lecturer is this fifty-odd-year-old hippy woman with long red hair, who’s pacing the stage and passionately telling us about some theorist she obviously can’t get enough of.
We enter the world through language and we discover language once we’ve discovered ourselves – we become a being, an individual…’
The girl strokes her hair and I imagine how it might feel gliding through my fingers. I’m also thinking about the girl I cheated on Liz with the other week in the Junction, back home in Cambridge. My phone vibrates and I take it out and have a look.

LIZ: Can’t wait to see you next week babe, maybe we can Skype later? ;-) Xxxx

I put the phone back in my pocket and start to sketch Fit Girl, beginning with that long hair and working my way down.
‘…The child with its fragmented sense of self crawls over to the mirror, sees its reflection and experiences a brand new feeling, a wholeness…’
I think the Junction girl’s name was Eleanor, although I’m not 100%. Me, Ian and Billy were towards the back of the club, jutting along to the wave of music that the DJ had pulsing from his speakers. Ian's coke hadn't lasted very long and I was feeling hammered from all the beer I'd been necking to compensate. The music seemed to get louder and with it a desperate urge to be close to someone built up in me, so I broke away from the boys and moved through the crowd.
I found a skinny blonde girl with another girl and stood next to her for a while, dancing awkwardly until she realised that I was there for more than the view. Eventually I turned and said something, I don't know what, and neither did she because she shouted ‘HUH?!’ and smiled – and then I laughed and she laughed too and I took her hand and twirled her around like a ballerina and she laughed even more, and before we knew it we were aggressively necking each other in the corner of the club, pressed up against each other like two moths humping on a kitchen wall.
Her mate came over and told her she was getting a taxi home, so I went with them and on the way back we carried on necking as her mate gabbed to these other two lads, and I realised that they all had frightfully posh accents, including Eleanor, who came up for air every now and then to laugh and say 'yar, yar'.
We got out of the taxi (which I paid for) and went into her accommodation, which was this small, Hogwarts-esque building. We went up a few flights of stairs and I remember saying something along the lines of ‘this is a really beautiful place’, and then none of them saying anything back.
She took me into her room whilst they went off into the kitchen. We started up again and I tried to put my hand down her pants but she pulled it away, grinned and said, ‘not yet darling’, in that really posh accent, and I suddenly became aware that she wasn't as fit as I thought she was, but I didn't care so I tried again and she said the same thing and laughed, more like scoffed actually, then ushered me through to the kitchen while I tried to reshuffle my hard-on.
We all sat on these chesterfields listening to some old folk music as they carried on grunting and talking about how fantastic the night was and how hilarious it was how someone did something to someone else.
Eleanor took her hand off my leg, which was bouncing quite rapidly at that point, and I realised she was losing interest. One of the lads said something to me and I quickly responded with something completely nonsensical, which I thought was really funny, but they all fell silent. Eleanor looked awkwardly to the floor and I felt frustrated at the exclusion, so I said something really quite horrible to her and she got very irate and started sobbing, whilst I nervously laughed and slugged my beer. Their circle of gazes felt quite severe so I said something else and then one of them jumped up like a big peacock showing his plumes. I pounced and gave him a hard thud in the chest as the others shouted, and then I tripped back into the centre of the room, spit bursting from my mouth and my whole body vibrating. I grabbed an iron from the side and started swinging it around until they backed off, and then I dropped it and ran.
I do a few more squiggles and smudges before stopping to take a look at the finished piece. It's got nothing on her, but still, it's pretty good. The lecturer says something that everyone laughs at and then we're all up, packing up our bags and leaving the theatre.
Outside, I see Fit Girl and some others chatting to a lad I know from my halls – Andy, or is it Mike? I’m half tempted to go over and suggest going for a drink at the student union, but instead I leave and spend a few hours walking around Nottingham until I get tired and go back to my halls for a nap.

*

In the evening, me and Liz have a long chat and it’s pretty nice, I guess. We talk a lot about how much we love each other and how we can make it work, and how it's great that we're at different unis because we’ll get to experience both cities. At one point we start crying and then semi-argue again about her going out dressed like a slutty devil to some party, and then we calm down and we’re back to the lovey-dovey stuff and then we say bye.
I see Andy/Mike on the way back from the kebab shop and he asks if I want to go out with him and some others to something called Havoc, so I agree and he gives me a T-shirt which has a to-do list on it with things like ‘kiss a girl’, ‘kiss a boy’, ‘do a shot’, ‘pull a moony’, etc.

*

I’m wearing the T-shirt and sitting on the kitchen counter as I crack open another beer and pour it down. There’s a sort-of-party going on but no one really seems to be talking, as in dialoguing and getting to know each other; it’s all very much focused on the drinking game they're playing and the rules you need to follow to ensure you get the most fun out of it.
Andy/Mike comes over to talk.
Sam, buddy! You up for joining in?’ he says, a big wide grin on his face.
Oh nah, I'm alright mate.’
Don’t be scared of the ring of fire, pal, I’ll make sure you don’t get burnt!’
I can’t think of anything to say to this so I just smile back and raise my beer and we do a cheers with his plastic cup. He carries on grinning and bobbing his head to some Jessie J song when I lean in close and ask, ‘who was that girl you were with earlier’?




'Quarter Life: A Few Weekends' by TJ Corless is a collection of all the chapters of his novel Quarter Life that have been published previously in various underground zines and literary magazines. 'First Weekend' was first published in the Hand Job Zine anthology. Click HERE to purchase the zine with exclusive Quarter Life beer mat.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

HOLY&INTOXICATED PUBLICATIONS CHAPBOOK REVIEWS [#1]


AMERICAN ALIEN INVASION
by John Grochalski



John Grochalski's vehemently anti-Trump rhetoric has been unwavering since the day the man was elected, and will undoubtedly continue as such until the day he is indicted or otherwise. This collection of poems is a manifestation of Grochalsk's frustrations and bewilderment at his country's current administration, and the resulting state of apathy that he sees growing around him on a daily basis. This is the first full collection of poems by Grochalski I have read, having previously enjoyed his novels (click here for my review of The Librarian), I was pleased with what I found within its pages - funny tales of shitty jobs and know-it-all colleagues as well as other amusing observations about day to day life and the rapid decay of a broken society. The perfect New Year pick me up! Contact him for a copy, of submit your own anti-Trump poetry for his blog right here.

SCREAM BEFORE THEY KILL YOUR POETRY
by Pete Donohue


This is Pete Donohue's second chapbook release of the year (The first being Poems for Johnny Two-Guns by Analog Submission Press - two print runs of which are both sold out). Pete is unquestionably The Bard of Hastings and a true patron of the arts. His lyrical, effervescent poems jump right off the page and will lead you on a merry dance into the wild night. At only fifteen poems long this chapbook is a short, sharp shot in the arm; a sweet collection of poems on love, loss, punk and peace. A worthy addition to any bookshelf. Pick up a copy from Hastings Independent Press website right here.  

THE LOST FUTURE IN A PAIR OF BLUE EYES
by John D. Robinson and Joseph Ridgwell


John D. Robinson and Joseph Ridgwell are two of my favourite poets, so when I heard they were producing a split chapbook together, my heart was aflutter - and thankfully I was not disappointed. What I got from this chapbook was exactly what I had hoped for - The way I truly judge a poet is the feeling I get when I finish a poem, if I am saying to myself "Fuck, I wish I had written that", then I know I am on to a winner -  and I most certainly had that experience on more than one occasion when reading this chapbook. A must have addition to any true lit friend's collection of underground rarities. It also comes with a separate, signed extract from Ridgwell's forthcoming novel, Civil Service, which is worth the price of admission alone. Pick up a copy directly from Ridgwell's website right here.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

LIT FIEND INTERVIEW [#20]


It's been a while, huh? Well, the wait for another Lit Fiend Interview is over and this new interview is with one of the hardest working men in DIY publishing, Marc Bruseke of Analog Submission Press...

Before starting Analog Submission, what were your first encounters with DIY publishing?

My personal connection with the ethos of DIY goes back to the mid 90s when I discovered punk rock. Bands like Circle Jerks, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, DRI, and the Dead Kennedy’s taught me the value of carving out your own path and resisting the persistent mediocrity and rigidity set forth by the bureaucratic nature of the culture industry. The punk spirit to me was never about a fashion style, or even a music style. It was about thinking for yourself and questioning the systems around us that we take for granted. It’s a way of thinking that goes back at least as far as the early European bohemians like Baudelaire and Rimbaud. So for me the small press movement is really just another extension of those sensibilities. The first indie publication that got me interested was Jungle Jim, a Cape Town based literary zine that publishes experimental African pulp-fiction shorts. The zine itself is an object of beauty, tri-colour printing and you are made to cut along this dotted line with a pair of scissors just to open it. It’s wonderful in concept and execution. I don’t know if they are still being made. I hope they are.


You have been publishing your handmade chapbooks at an alarming rate, how many have you put out to date?

Yea, I guess it’s been pretty rapid. Analog Submission Press was started in September 2017. By the end of this month, we will have published around 70 chapbooks. Is that too much for a year?

What keeps you motivated to keep going?

I seem to be riding this momentous unending wave of energy. The underground literary scene has been so supportive that it’s hard not to be enthusiastic. Just communicating with like minded individuals is it’s own reward. The more I create the more I want to create. I find myself dreaming about publishing and writing. I’m waking up earlier and earlier everyday to work on new ideas. I suppose there’s also an existential element to it; that impending sense of time running out, the quest for purpose and meaning, self actualisation, legacy and the desire to create something concrete that will hopefully outlive us. As you know from your own publishing and writing endeavours, motivation exists in dichotomy with procrastination - it’s something that every artist has to wrestle with. There will never be a ‘perfect moment’ to start writing that book you’ve had on the back burner for the last 10 years. You just have to do it, no matter what the odds are. You always hear people say shit like, “oh, once I get that shiny new laptop I’ll start writing”, or, “I really want to do X or Y but I just don’t have the time”. Bullshit. 
If you want something bad enough, you’ll get it done. We always prioritise that which is important to us. It’s all about taking action, it’s about willing those abstract thoughts in our minds into existence through hard work and persistence.The banal platitudes of day-to-day life, the nine-to-five job, waiting in line at the local supermarket to buy fucking toilet paper - these rituals grind us down, tire us out. But with the right perspective, we can turn these mundanities into raw materials that fuel our creative pursuits. So, I suppose art becomes a kind of warfare in which we battle against the ‘path of least resistance’. Bukowski calls it the ‘good fight’. Nietzsche says that “art is the highest task and the proper metaphysical activity of life”, I agree with that and I suppose that should be motivation enough in itself.

You recently tabled at York Zine Fair, did you get a chance to check out many of the other stalls? And if so, any particular favourites?

There were so many great zines on display, it’d be hard to hand pick any definite favourites. But if I’m going to make mention of anyone specific, it’s a local York artist/ musician who creates unde
the alias Dunmada - his first zine was available at the fair and he probably had around 20 or 30 copies. It was an exceptional labour of love. Each copy painstakingly constructed - scissors, glue, drawings - there was a pullout abstract map inside and a CD with a selection of his music. It was truly 'art for arts’ sake'. Kayti and Jade who organised York Zine Fest - the first of its kind in York - did a tremendous job and all their hard work was clearly evident on the day. They deserve all the recognition they can get. They’ve got another penned for the 8th December - so if you’re in the area, come check it out!


Are there any other small presses/zines from the UK that you follow?

Paper and Ink Literary Zine, Holy & Intoxicated Publications, and Concrete Meat Press - run by yourself, John D Robinson, and Adrian Manning respectively, are a huge source of inspiration to me. Tangerine Press is like the DMT of the small press movement, Michael Curran is surfing some sort of higher dimensional wave. Sure, he puts out some mass market paperbacks but his limited run, hand numbered, hand made books are magnificent in their brilliance. If it wasn’t for Tangerine Press I probably would never have read the works of William Wantling and Mick Guffan. He has rescued writers from potential obscurity - great poets that deserve an audience. It’s wonderfully idealistic, altruistic even. That, to my mind is probably one of the greatest things a small press can do.

FOLLOW MARC ON INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER AND TRY TO KEEP UP TO DATE WITH ALL OF THE CHAPOOKS HE PUBLISHES VIA THE ANALOG SUBMISSION WEBSITE