“A poet of fantastic inversions.” Poetry London

“Multifaceted, mega-fabricated, louche architecture.” Magma

“Voraciously experimental, precociously accomplished.” Poetry International

No, Robot, No! Final Days of Submissions

Broadcasting on all channels! The next collaborative interactive experimental Headbook I’ll be editing and publishing with Kirsten Irving will be No, Robot, No! We’ve been looking for proposals from writers and artists as to how they would fill 3-5 pages of this book, and the deadline for proposals is midnight this coming Monday. Full details of the call for submissions here. Please share with anyone you know you may be interested.

Back to School

School of Forgery is out in paperback, after being out of print for nearly half a decade. I’ve written a new version of the blurb for my website, and it goes like this:

School of Forgery is handily divided into two sections: Originals and Fakes. It’s possible, however, that there might have been some cross-contamination between the two. One or more of the translations of classical and contemporary Japanese poets in the Fakes section may, in fact, be made up. Some lines from the autobiography of Harpo Marx could somehow have found their way into the tale of the bandit Goemon. There are rumours that the liars, hoaxers and plagiarists who are both subject matter and tour guides in the first part have infiltrated the ranks of the dashing heroes and agents of the second. Some of these poems even steal, shamelessly, from each other.

Innocent believers in literary authenticity are advised to take especial care. This work may be, in its entirety, nothing more than a fabrication.

Drafts: Jun the Swan

OK, something for International Women’s Day. Here’s the first handwritten draft of ‘Jun the Swan’, which was published as part of the Tatsunoko sequence in School of Forgery. I wanted to write something about Jun because she’s the archetype – and possibly the prototype – of the lone woman on a superhero team. The team in question being Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, a Japanese animation from 1972 that was dubbed and released in English-speaking countries as Battle of the Planets in 1978.

Being the sole female protagonist, Jun is treated rather poorly by her costume designers and animators – clad in pink, and saddled with the swan persona where Ken, Joe and Ryu (the other adults on the team) get to be an eagle, condor and owl respectively. No talons for you, Jun! And of course, she’s in the miniest of miniskirts, so flashes her pants whenever she hoofs a villain.

But there’s more to her than that. As well as being the team’s electronics and demolitions expert (ie. the Donatello of the outfit), she’s a small business owner, successfully running a café and somehow raising her adopted brother Jinpei at the same time (they’re both orphans). Plus, she’s an outrageously skilled biker. In one episode, ‘Bird Missile of Bitterness’, she clearly fancies her old biker friend, Koji, but rightly suspects him of being a wrong’n and insists on blowing him up herself to save the team.

So anyway, I tried to write about someone steely, brilliant and daring, with dreams and appetites, who’s somehow got lumbered with being the girl of the group, and with all the attendant impositions.

End of 2017 deskjam #2: TICKETS & THINGS. First image, clockwise from top left: The Japanese House exhibition at the Barbican, with handwritten amendment permitting re-entry the following day (Abby successfully argued we had been misinformed about how long it would take to see everything); Into The Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction, also at the Barbican, which I saw with visiting family; The Great Gatsby, interactive theatre experience (tickets generously offered for free by a friend who couldn’t go); Vanishing Man at the High Tide festival, which the lovely Tom M invited me to see with him.

Second image, clockwise from top left: The Cabinet of Dr Adam, a lecture on film set design at Arnolfini in Bristol followed by a screening of Dr Strangelove; Robots at the Science Museum; Guzzle, who is there just to square off the shot; the Great York Ghost Search, a map of York City Centre marked with the general location of tiny hidden ghosts. 

End of 2017 deskjam #1: NOTEBOOKS. First image, three notebooks finished this year: x-ray one was a gift from Abby, the other two were cheap purchases from the Barbican, picked up on visits to the Into the Unknown and Japanese House exhibitions respectively.

Second image, still-active notebooks. Clockwise from top left: all-in-one address book and planner, a gift from Abby; softcover lined book for general notes, also a gift from Abby; outgoing 2017 Dodopad, a gift from parents; ‘Play With Us’ Ladybird notebook, specifically for collecting new and unusual words; relatively expensive ‘Monokaki’ Japanese paper notebook specifically for drafting poems.

Headbooks Exhibition

I’ve done a very poor job of keeping this Tumblr updated for the last year. Here, however, is the culmination of two of the big projects I’ve been working on: the exhibition of pages from Aquanauts and Bad Kid Catullus, the first two titles in Sidekick’s Headbooks series: anthologies of visual and lyrical poetry mixed with collage, handy information and interactive/scrapbook pages.

The launch is tonight, from 6.30pm at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. It’s a toga party with an added underwater twist – transmediations and versions of the poems of Catullus are on display on the ground floor, while below deck are the visual poems from Aquanauts, including an entire wall for our collaborative oarfish renga, which has been blown up to the size of a real-life oarfish.

There will, of course, be wine, grapes and honeycakes. We’re also taking custom orders for prints from the book, and selling copies. One final big blowout before I get my head down to prepare for 2018.

3:AM Magazine / Squelettes

It’s Raymond Queneau versus the Skeletons! Three of my ‘Squelettes’ sequence are up at 3:AM Magazine. Any gamers out there will recognise Domino Hurley, Spinal and Undead Hero as the subjects of these short poems.

Background: my PhD explores the overall interplay between poetry and games. At the most basic level, I’m interested in the intermedial conversation – games that are aware of poems and poems that are aware of games, and talk to one another. In terms of my practical work, I’m contributing to this basic level of interaction by writing some short sequences that look in both directions: at other poets and poems, and at games and game culture.

These poems use the ‘quennet’ form that Raymond Queneau invented shortly before he died. It’s a very skeletal kind of poem – all pairs of words strung together, with sonic and semantic echoes as the ligaments. I mean, they basically look like the ribs, spine and hips. Queneau used the form to map out the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching; I’m using it for an exploration of the roles played by skeletons in a variety of computer games.

Cold Fire (with audio)

Cold Fire is a pamphlet of 18 poems based on different Bowie albums, published by The Rialto earlier this year. I supplied ‘The Hounds and their Half-Hound Master’, which riffs off Diamond Dogs – I won’t put the usual write-up here on my Tumblr, because I’ve actually written about it for The Rialto’s blog, where you can also find a recording of the poem in the style of ‘Future Legend’, the first track on the album.

Here’s an extract from the article, just in case you need a taster before you click the link:

Bowie as Actaeon Gone Wrong, and his dogpack made up of his choicest, bitingest words, roughly in the order they appear on the album. They’re his droogs, his boys, his girls and his selves, all leaping around him.

Poetic Interviews

How will you attempt
to turn the sands
back once more? …

I’ll tell you how, but first, hear that? The guard’s asleep.
He’s churring like a pylon, and that sparkling laugh?
I’d say that that’s the keys he gathers at his hip.

Aaron Kent (@godzillakent) runs Poetic Interviews, where interviews are carried out in the form of exchanges of poems. Today the first of our back-and-forths is up, in which I suggest that now is the optimum time for an escape attempt.

Of course, lulling your jailer to sleep is the easy part when it comes to poetry.

Poetry London #87

Work under my name has slipped inconspicuously into the latest issue of Poetry London. I say ‘under my name’ firstly because both poems are collages, assembled from the thieved morsels of other writers’ work, and secondly because I think of them as being written by The Salvor, one of the characters in the book I’m working on.

The Salvor is only interested in reforgery; he doesn’t even really believe it’s possible to write or speak with one’s own voice, except inasmuch as one’s own voice is a secret recipe whose ingredients are the fragments of other people’s voices. You might say that is indeed the case, and that his position isn’t remotely controversial.

Anyway, The Salvor’s section of the book consists entirely of poems collaged from old British comics. The ones appearing in Poetry London this summer are made from Misty, a spooky girls comic, and The Perishers, a strip which ran in The Mirror for 50-odd years.

I’ve published two poems in this series previously (just in case you want to collect them): ‘Mars 1988′, a collage from The Eagle, in issue 152 of The Rialto (now out of print but borrowable from The Poetry Library), and ‘2000AD’, a collage from,er, 2000AD, which was published in the anthology New Adventures in Form (Penned in the Margins, 2012).

Additional note: this is the first time I’ve ever sent anything in to Poetry London! I have been published in two previous issues though, as a competition winner. If I keep it up, one day I might make cover star – hopefully before I lose half my face in a furnace accident or forget how to raise one eyebrow.