Poetry reading at Oliver’s

Wednesday 9 June saw the 3rd ‘Days of Roses at Oliver’s Music Bar’ poetry event, which ended up being one of those somewhat quirky, chaotic evenings where, in some cases, people who were supposed to show up didn’t, and at least one gap needed filling — which meant, lucky me for living in the neighbourhood — I got to fly home and grab some poems to do an impromptu reading.

This was incredibly helpful because I read some completely new, raw material and it gave me a good feeling for the direction it might go.

Creative interpretation by Kat Austen.

The official line-up for the evening, which made for a varied and very entertaining time, were Todd Swift, Jon Stone, and Luke Heeley. Christopher Horton ran this and the previous two Olivers/Roses events, which had great turnouts. He’ll be co-hosting Days of Roses readings at The Book Club in Shoreditch with Declan Ryan.

Also, happily, I met Kat Austen, a polymath indeed — it was her New Scientist review I posted last time, and this time I’m posting her cool artwork which she made while I was reading my poems. She incorporates major imagery from my poem ‘An Ambivalence of Ladybirds,’ as well as imagery from the Human Genre Project’s ‘Jargon,’ and some of my new work on life modelling.

Kat is going to be the resident artist for the Shoreditch Days of Roses events, so keep an eye out. You should also check out her website. Thanks, Kat, for sharing your drawing!

Quacks & Cures at the Wellcome

Friday 4 June saw a bustling event at the Wellcome including top-hats, trumpets, leeches and liquorice. ‘Quacks and Cures’ proved an entertaining and efficacious evening of enlivening anecdotes and phrenological facts.

Kat Austen has a review up at New Scientist which I highly recommend. Whilst she mentions the panel of doctors who humorously gave medical advice from their ‘respective centuries,’ as well as the panel discussion on medicine today and films of old public health announcements, I must mention the live leeches and information about how they are used even today in — surprise — cosmetic surgery!

The evening began with an excellent talk by Dr. Richard Barnett about the lost spas and healing wells of London. Hope may Spring Eternal, but I was mostly grateful that now is not then, and we are not (at least, we think,) consuming at least a portion of our own waste in the water we drink.

Richard’s talk drew from his book ‘Medical London,’ a recent favourite of mine, and a book meant not only to be read with delight but to be used as a treasure-hunter’s map for those interested in the history of medicine as it pertains to our multi-faceted city. The Medical London website has a smattering of videos describing certain walks discussed in the book: the book is a gorgeous boxed set including essays, a gazetteer, and map-pamphlets of walks so you can guide yourself through the history of our ‘Sick City.’ Medical London could not be a more perfect read for those interested in history, medicine, and/or London.

Questions on Genre

Thanks, Summer, for pointing out this really interesting interview with Lee Gutkind on Creative Nonfiction. It is a healthy reminder of how many challenges the genre has gone through to earn a respected place, especially in academia. Though I think there is a good point in that readers have been reading creative nonfiction anyway, it just may not have been going by that name. I tend to think of it as ‘good, true stories,’ or maybe ‘travel writing,’ or ‘nature writing…’ genres blur quickly.

It also strikes me that ‘creative nonfiction’ never seemed new or unusual to me when I completed the excellent BA in English with a focus in Creative Writing at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now Randolph College,) perhaps because our skilled professors were (and are) talented and published in a variety of genres, including novels, poetry, and environmental (creative) nonfiction.

Sue Guiney's book 'Dreams of May' is a poetry play.

That, coupled with my predisposition for doing what I pleased (from birth: my mother will attest,) meant I didn’t question genre too closely when writing. I do remember being absolutely certain, as an undergrad, that I could and would write poetry and creative nonfiction, but that I needed to stay away from fiction as I was rubbish at it, especially dialogue. And now I’m working on a third novel manuscript. These things take time.

While the aforementioned manuscript is under critique and before I delve into serious revision, I’m working on a different project, and I’m not quite sure what it is yet. Poems, dialogue, and narrative are all coming out around a particular theme in (surprise,) the history of science. There is a clear story, and distinctive characters, as well as a lot of strong imagery and tone. There is also a very specific setting, certain artwork and a particular music album that is influencing the writing. I wish I could weave something that employed all of these (though I don’t know about copyright permissions!) It almost feels like a play; a performance. I know so little about any of these (besides reading a lot of Shakespeare in Uni,) that I don’t quite know what to do with the material. For now, I’m writing. We’ll see where it goes…

My friend Sue Guiney has written a novel as well as a poetry play. She also works with a charity that puts on plays. Multi-genre talents!

 So, dear readers, I would appreciate your thoughts. What genre(s) are you writing in? Do you feel you can write in some but not others? Have you moved around or are you a devoted poet, novelist…What about cross-genre writing? A play in poetry, or a novel with poems in it? An entire verse novel? A sequence that can be read/performed but also works as a book?

‘New Fairy Tales’ for Spring

New Fairy Tales is a free, online magazine that enchants and intrigues.

Even the music on the youtube trailer inspires Hansel-and-Gretel butterflies.

But ladybirds, not butterflies, have made it into Issue 5 of New Fairy Tales, in the form of a new and very different poem of mine — and I’m delighted to have been selected for the lovely publication. Read ‘An Ambivalence of Ladybirds’ on page 36.

Do have a look and read through New Fairy Tales. ‘It was greatly enjoyed by all who fell under its spell…’