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And so to bed (and Bath)

Actually I wish I was still in my bed right now as I’m feeling a tad slug-like after another late night ‘up in town’ as my mum used to say. (It was always ‘up’ to London – even at the station announcers would always say “attention please on the up platform…” – I wonder if one goes ‘up’ to London from points north? Hmmm.)

reading pile, may 20th 2015

But the ‘bed’ reference is more to do with what’s on my bedside table in the process of being read. The latest additions are a copy of Brittle Star issue 36 and a sleek little pamphlet called ‘Earthworks’ by Jacqueline Gabbitas. I was fortunate to meet Jacqueline and her Brittle Star co-editor Martin Parker last night at the launch event, at the Barbican Library. She was a warm and effervescent host, a hugs-rather-than-handshakes person who made everyone feel like long-lost friends. It was a lovely relaxed atmosphere. Oddly enough I was asked to read first, which is becoming a habit – I think I’ve been on first in the last four readings I’ve done. I also noticed I made a teensy error in the poem that appears in the magazine (‘practice’ instead of ‘practise’) but thankfully I wasn’t had up by the grammar police. My apologies nonetheless.

I was dead impressed with the whole operation – the magazine and other publications from Stonewood Press, their imprint, are beautifully produced, the event was well organised and well attended and they even provided free wine, Pimm’s & strawberries. Nice! Not only that, but it was a impressive range of readers (poetry and short stories). I particularly enjoyed a two-hander from Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire, who read a selection of poems from their project ‘London Undercurrents’ featuring tales of feisty London women from different periods of the city’s history. Also very nice to hear (and speak to) writers Jonny Wiles, Ruth Brandt and Stewart Foster.

Also on my current reading list is the May issue of Poetry (the cover alone has been giving me strange dreams). I suppose one of the pleasures of editing a monthly poetry journal (as opposed to the more usual half-yearly) is the ability to include longer pieces if you so wish, or to focus on a single theme or style. April’s edition was dedicated to ‘breakbeat poetry’, or a celebration of ‘new American poetry in the age of hip-hop’ as Don Share says in his introduction.  This month the magazine opens with a 35-page long poem by Frank Bidart. Equally daunting is a 22-page essay by Donald Revell entitled ‘Scholium.’ I’m never sure of the best way to tackle longer pieces – I find the amount of concentration needed makes them impossible to digest in one sitting. So it’s usual case of start, skim, and go back. Or not, depending on how gripped I am.

And finally, Sonofabook – a new twice-yearly journal from CBEditions, a mix of poetry, short stories and non-fiction pieces which looks very promising. There’s an offer on at the moment as an incentive to subscribe. Sonofabook features a guest editor for each issue, and is the brain child of publisher Charles Boyle, who incidentally writes a very honest blog by the same name – check out this excoriating piece about Faber, for example!

Siegfried Baber pamphlet launch, photo by
Photo of Siegfried Baber by

Just a quick mention about last week’s event in Bath, which was such a pleasure for me – to unfurl the Telltale rollerbanner in Toppings bookshop and to introduce our latest Telltale poet Siegfried Baber and his pamphlet When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid. When I began the whole Telltale thing I didn’t realise how much enjoyment and satisfaction I would get from helping other poets on their way. The more you give to these things the more they seem to pay back. That’s not to say I’m not still ambitious for myself – but the two things (helping yourself and helping others) aren’t incompatible. Personally I think I they balance each other up.

It reminds me of a singing teacher who once told me that the way not to ‘run out of breath’ is to support it and keep fuelling it, rather than giving up too soon. If you believe all you have is a small amount of breath, that’s all you’ll ever have. But if you trust your lungs to do what they’re good at you’ll find there’s a lot more inside you than you think.

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  1. Really enjoyed your reading last night, Robin, and the event overall. Thanks so much for your encouraging words about our London Undercurrents poems and for including links. And your Telltale venture sounds immensely rewarding – well done!

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Robin Houghton 2021
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