‘I do not take photos/I give them/as I always give/in love’, the protagonist of Christine Sloan Stoddard’s poetry/photography collection Heaven is a Photograph declares, a characteristically bold admission of vulnerability. These lines, taken from the poem ‘Unrequited Pixels’, evoke an overarching theme of the collection: the emotional intensity of the protagonist’s relationship with photography. Charting the protagonist’s journey, from a childhood as the daughter of a photographer to becoming a photographer herself, Stoddard’s brief and beautiful collection explores the power of both photography and photographer – through a deft and deeply meta combination of verse and photography itself.
by Alex Valente
Content warning: suicide
On the evening of Friday, 18th October 2019, I attended Massy Books launch of Kai Cheng Thom’s latest book I Hope We Choose Love – A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World, a collection of non-fiction and short poetic pieces that together form a net of radical hope-building for a time – and it has been a long time, as rightly noted in the introduction – when all hope seems lost. I follow Kai Cheng’s work online already, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the event. I’m glad to say I’m still not entirely sure what happened.
On a recent trip to Mexico, I decided to take with me three books by authors of Latin American heritage, including two of Mexican background, and one Cuban. All were women. Aside from eating the most delicious chimichangas, learning about the ancient Mayan ruins, and climbing up the Ixmoja part of the Nohoch Mul, I spent a lot of my time reading these authors by the sea with a strawberry daiquiri. Within just one week I had nearly consumed them all and discovered a new love of Latin American writing.
by Lewis Martin
On Sunday 6th May I attended Scratch It! hosted by Hack Theatre at the Norwich Arts Centre. Aimed at attracting new writers and ongoing projects, the evening looks to give a platform to work that is happening in the area so it can be developed and flourish. The arts varied across the evening, ranging from comedy to drama and using different styles and formats.
Saturday the 10th Feb 2018, a day that I will always remember. I had been invited to speak in relation to prison education and the arts. I was speaking to an audience alongside Jacob Huntley, a lecturer in English literature and creative writing from the UEA. I met Jacob whilst I was a serving prisoner at HMP Norwich. One of my roles at HMP Norwich was as an education mentor and I was told that there would be a new creative writing course starting, which would be facilitated by Jacob. I have always found that penning emotions onto a piece of paper allowed me to free my mind.
by Rob Harding
I stay hidden while Adil opens up again, rates the police on their app, and sends them packing. Once that’s done, Adil’s daughter nods to me. ‘You’re welcome.’ She says. ‘Now, if you don’t mind?’
I stammer my thanks and head out the front again. Adil nods to me and lets me duck under a shutter, and back out onto the street.
There’s no sign of the police, or the hijacked DeepGrey workers, or anything particular. A Community Security bot has rolled into place at the far end of the street, but if I don’t go near it it won’t ID me and do the digital equivalent of the staring-eyed pod person screech. I’ve long since resigned to having to work around the damn things, and these days I only vaguely keep track of the forum posters who fight a constant arms race with their glassy-eyed developers out in San Francisco or Vientiane, or wherever the fuck has the most reliably gullible investors this week.
by Zoe Harding
The woman on the street is making those noises as the shouting starts again, the raw-throat all-out hate that only hysterical men can shriek. I barely recognise what they’re saying.
The woman coughs and sobs again, and I hear a fleshy impact, like the sound of a shoe hitting a stomach.
And then there’s the wail of a siren, right around the corner, and the burglar-alarm scream of an LRAD blots out all other sound. A huge armoured police car with tires as tall as I am comes grinding down the street, a pair of armed officers walking alongside it. The turret on top is swinging to bring a grenade launcher to bear against the fight. Hopefully they won’t fire it. I like this jacket, and the stink of chemical riot dispersant is designed with a half-life of about fifty years.
by Zoe Harding
I push the shop door open, and nod to Adil. He smiles back, salt-and-pepper beard twitching, and goes back to watching an old taped football match on his TV. I like Adil, even though we rarely talk. He’s a paid-up inhabitant of the Real World, the proverbial Englishman whose home is his castle, running his shop and veg garden like the world around him isn’t going to hell. I imagine his sitting room’s a comfortable throwback to the last millennium, kettle boiling and football on the TV glaring off the brown wallpaper.
by Zoe Harding
Speaking of, I decide it’s time to go for a walk. Staying active is good for your mental health, which is why every single public park and footpath is perpetually rammed with DeepGrey drones trying to keep their brains stable enough to run the god-spreadsheet – in my case it also helps immensely with the dysphoria, which is useful because nothing else is going to any more.
I pull on a bomber jacket and a baseball cap, opting for relatively shallow heels in case I need to out-sidle a DeepGrey recruiter. For once I’ve got enough money for a solid grocery shop, and near me there’s still a place that takes cash, earned scandalously but (in my opinion, anyway) honestly. I feel a solid meal coming on tonight.
by Zoe Harding
Once you write off the shambling hordes of DeepGrey-infected marketing consultants who make up most of the population, what’s left? The Nazis, of course. That persistent yet cannibalistic and insular sub-species, still reeling from the swift and brutal Consequences that followed their atrocities during the Meme War. When the War began, the tech industry was on the verge of realising what human society took several world wars to realise: fascists are poisonous to any system they’re allowed to root in, and should be rapidly expunged with fire and extreme prejudice.
by Zoe Harding
This thing that’s now installed on the brains of nearly three billion people, across pretty much all but the top levels of every single first-world government (and even then, one wonders if MPs have always been this weird and robotic – oddly, history would seem to confirm yes). What does it do?
by Zoe Harding
I kind of like the attack map. It’s nice to visualise the whole thing, even if perhaps ten percent of what I’m seeing is actual data derived from a fearsome net of analytics tools and keyword tracking.he rest is pretty colours and lines for the cheap seats and the press. It’s a nice reminder to stay on my toes, as well – that grey blob that covers three-quarters of my screen would love me to let my guard down so it can eat my brains and make me sell insurance.
by Zoe Harding
(Part 2 of a serialised prose fiction endeavour. Read part 1 here.)
I do the digital equivalent of slipping off the main street down a back-alley, activating two spongy ‘legal’ VPNs at once to provide the paper-thin security necessary to sneak an actual functional VPN into life without precipitating a time-delayed ISP shit-fit. It’s a sort of rite of passage, at least for British free-internet users, to accidentally break the vestigial mess that is the remains of the Snooper’s Charter and get a whiny message in the actual mail six months later complaining about it. The word ‘terrorism’ was almost entirely inflated to meaninglessness well before Meme War propaganda began labelling the entire world simultaneously with it in white-hot strobe-flashing GIFs, so the strident accusations and threats that are all the government can do about you breaking the rules aren’t particularly punchy any more. It can be another strike towards losing your net neutrality privileges, though. Besides, much nastier things lurk in the same patch of those particular legal waters, and the absolute last thing you want to do is thrash about and make a fuss.
by Zoe Harding
(Part 1 of a serialised prose fiction endeavour.)
Download the attachment, click the link and whoah hang the fuck on here.
It’s not easy to properly rip a headset off your head. They tend to tangle on your ears, or else there’s a cable somewhere that gets in your hair and insta-knots itself until it might as well be glued there. When I had long hair it was even worse, but even my current slightly-longer-than-a-buzz-cut approach still manages to trap the occasional stray wire in its velcro-like hooks.
Still, I manage it, because when you’re the sort of person that I am, you develop a pretty impressive set of reflexes for certain situations. Part of that is down to the still-can’t-quite-believe-that-happened bullshit that was the Meme Wars leaving its scar on our collective psyche. Some of the shit the Russians worked out how to do with flashing lights and the Mark 1 Eyeball remains impossible to describe, both due to of its design and because of the gag limitations of the human stomach. But it’s also partly down to my own situation which is sadly far from unique but also far from common.
I feel the sort of revulsion you get when you accidentally stick your hand into something dead. In the first few hyperventilating seconds after I rip off the headset, it dawns on me that what I’ve just witnessed indicates that that, metaphorically, is pretty much what’s just happened.
by Kev Walker
Content warning: mentions substance misuse, mental health, homelessness, conflict
It’s all bling and totter, down the lights of the highstreet, drunk by the train journey there
Cackles and shouts, tales of shagging and swearing, cosmetics squeeze out the air
Bravado and vanity, beer and wine, heading for the first open club
Boys strut with their chests out, showing a leg, only thoughts are of getting a rub.
He’s crouched in the corner, a-top a damp box, wrapped in a half soaking doss-bag
A dog by his side, as companion and protector, a mucker to share a sparse nose-bag
He shakes with the cold, but also the comedown the cider has long since left him
A blot-out, a release, from the pain in his mind and the mess he now finds himself in.
Are you looking for a way to get your voice heard? Do you have a book of poems on your bedside table that nobody ever reads? Isn’t it time somebody listened to you?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then you may be suitable for “Words w/ Friends Vol II”.
by Eli Lambe
There is a new independent publishing house in Norwich. Seam Editions has already published some amazing pieces (seriously I am ashamed of everything I’ve ever written in comparison). Focusing on the emerging field of creative-critical writing, they provide a platform for interactive, experimental and formally disruptive writing. I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with four of the team to talk about the incredible progress they have made since their launch late last year. I met Sara Helen Binney, Sarah A. Jones, Simon Pook and Rob Ward at the Playhouse.
by Laura Potts
This year’s degree show was of striking magnitude. The work in all departments was of a very professional standard, with the textiles department in particular showing great craft and display skills with their breathtaking exhibition. These high standards were maintained throughout, even into the degree show shop, which housed snippets of work for sale.
by Eli Lambe
How can you have anxiety and whatever
and read aloud to rooms.
How do you flinch at loud noises and not stares?
Speaker, the mind is unintelligible
and this unwell mind doubly so.
I do not hyperventilate this performance,
is this performing the cause.
by Hannah Rose
This is a missive from the past (June 3rd) to the future (June 10th). Futures are shady places where the detail is rubbed out; they nearly always keep us in darkness, because we saturate them in too much hope. Perhaps that’s where it all went wrong: we should have shone a finer light between hope and cynicism. In Back To The Future, Marty McFly asks his girlfriend:“What happens to us in the future? Do we become assholes or something?”
by Eli Lambe
The Underpass Anthology launch was a real testament to the work and co-operation evident in the newly student-run EggBox publishers – a packed celebration of new talent and potential, and a true contribution to the uniquely welcoming and encouraging style of the Norwich arts scene.
The anthology itself worked in the same way, amplifying both familiar and new voices, and bringing them together in a truly collaborative and beautiful book. The experimental and the traditional complement each other, and every writer and editor involved should feel immensely proud of themselves.
Point of view is surprisingly important. As a child, I was always being told by my mother to ‘put my feet in another’s shoes’. It’s surprisingly difficult for children to actually do this.
According to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, children between the age of 2 and 7 are in the preoperational stage. During this stage, children are egotistical in the purest sense. They display Centration and Egocentrism which means the child has a tendency to focus on one aspect of a situation at one time and they have an inability to see a situation from another’s point of view.
The cover of Better Watch Your Mouth displays a set of lips and teeth pulling the kind of expression you would make after being told such a thing. It suggests an unapologetic rejection of censorship, which is later reflected in the poem ‘Ugh, Men’ with the statement ‘we will not censor ourselves (x3)’.
This is a collection that mixes everyday language with profound metaphor, and beautiful imagery with emotive stories. It begins with the telling of others’ stories and gradually becomes more personal, yet in a way that is also relatable, as time skips back and forth like the mind floating back to memories, some singed with pain and others with nostalgia.
by Eli Lambe
Rich with reference and metaphor, Ali Smith’s Autumn is a triumph. Published incredibly quickly following the chaos of the EU Referendum in June 2016, it fully captures the feelings of isolation, division, and distrust that seems to have characterised the 12 months since. The atmosphere of unreality is masterfully tied together with dream-sequence, ekphrasis, and lies. The principal character, Elisabeth sums it up concisely as an eight year old in 1993: “It’s about history, and being neighbours.”
by Eli Lambe
The Power is a profoundly affecting read. In it, Naomi Alderman envisions a switching of roles and of power dynamics, deftly parodying and reflecting back the ways in which we justify, enforce and understand gender roles.
It asks the question: “What if women were stronger than men; What if men had to be afraid of women?” and follows its core characters – Roxy, the daughter of a British crime boss; Tunde, a Nigerian journalist; Allie, an American foster kid who escapes an abusive household; and Margot, an American Mayor trying to balance her city in the wake of this sudden shift, and protect her daughters Jocelyn and Maddie – as the world progresses towards “Cataclysm.”
by Hannah Rose
Virginia Woolf stated in her 1929 seminal essay A Room of One’s Own that, because women remain unequal to men in society, they are less likely to succeed as writers. A writer has two basic requirements in order to write productively: an independent income which provides basic necessities—food and shelter— and uninterrupted writing time. In 1929, the majority of British women were either working to provide the basic necessities for others, and did not have a private space in which to pursue a creative life or an independent income. This, says Wolf, is why the literary canon is dominated by men. “Intellectual freedom,” she writes, “depends upon material things.”
Almost a century later, some women are still having to argue their right to a creative life.
by Lewis Martin
In a recent article for the Guardian, UEA SU CEO Jim Dickinson wrote about universities’ failure to produce anything satisfactory for its students, as well as the lack of transparency around how tuition fees are spent. Helpful though it is to point out the issues faced by the student movement, Dickinson fails to offer any type of remedy for them at any point, suggesting that cynical resignation is the only possible response.
On the face of it, rural train stations don’t feel as though they should be particularly thought provoking places, and they’re probably the last place you’d look to find an inspiring piece of community art. ‘Community art’ in this sense may be bending the meaning of the term a little too far for some – what I saw outside Wymondham train station the other evening were simply thinly scrawled words spray painted onto an old grey wall.
The words were ‘graffiti is a crime’.
An amusing phrase to go alongside the obvious activity – but as I walked past debating whether or not I could be bothered to take a picture or bring it up in pub conversation later, it got me thinking more and more about how graffiti is viewed in society. I don’t condone defacing clearly private property; I believe graffiti is an art form that needs to be given space.
by Eli Lambe
Hopkinson’s writing is enchanting. Her words wrap around you and inhabit you, they turn your skin to bark, the wind into a goddess, your body lifts and falls with the lines of beautifully crafted prose. To read her work is to be transformed, transported, transcended. Her first novel, Brown Girl in the Ring (1998), explored community, magic, and family in a Toronto “hollowed out” by white-flight and financial catastrophe.
Her second, Midnight Robber (2000), used language — particularly dialect — and mythology to imagine, from a Caribbean perspective, “what stories we’d tell ourselves about our technology – what our paradigms for it might be” and to bring together ideas of storytelling, colonialism and trauma. Since then, she has published several other novels and collections, all of which are thoughtful, accessible and fundamentally affecting, the most recent of which is the subject of this review.
by Hannah Rose
Vote only once by putting a cross (X) in the box next to your choice. My ballot paper reads like a lover’s ultimatum: Leave or Remain. There is no room on my ballot paper to explain, negotiate with, mediate between. All dialogue between us has ended. Now there is only silence lingering like the smell of damp coats.
I was given this book shortly after its publication in 2013 by mi abuelito, Juan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas, whose work is featured in the anthology of short stories, memoirs and poems. Currently living in Spain, it felt like a good time to read the whole book. The collection showcases twelve contemporary writers, in both Spanish and English translation, and definitely has a modern, experimental feel to it. The use of first person throughout blends the line between truth and fiction, and despite often feeling personal, there is always a sense of the political throughout.
by Rose Knapp
Odd Jung Freudian
Salem salām kalam
Still the same Paul?
Rowena Knight has been making waves both in terms of poetry on the page (including Magma, Cadaverine and The Rialto) and on the stage, being a regular at poetry nights across London, as well as a team member of She Grrrowls. Self-identifying ‘Feminist Killjoy’, the collection deals with becoming a woman and growing up as an immigrant from New Zealand as a teenager.
I’m straight with you.
When it rained I ran across town
and it did rain and I did run
to fly-tip all the sad.
For the past few weeks I have been mulling over the phrase ‘What’s in a name?’
Famously posed in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the question itself addresses a complex struggle between society’s influence and personal principles. For Juliet, Montague is a cursed history and a treasured ill fate. By virtue of being Capulet, her query is a forceful defiance to alter the course of her history, thus changing the alliance to her name, her lover’s name, and the relation between the two families.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Alessandra Carnaroli (1979-), ‘le bambine devono’. Part of Sartoria Utopia’s Calendario Utopico 2017.
little girls must be
with long hair
or short if sweaty
they get ready to have children
to earn less than boys
He rolls the ‘r’ in my name, and the resentment I’ve felt fades,
resentment for the absence of mi abuelito, and the language
my tongue stumbles over, yet hungers for like tortilla Española.
They greased their rifles with olive oil, with Vaseline, with cold cream, with bacon-fat:¹
an opera, with the occasional death.²
by Gary Olson
Content warning: mentions mass murder and drone warfare
Mr. Robert Walpole
1000 Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Dear Mr. Walpole:
I read in The Atlantic that Cole Bolton, The Onion’s editor in 2015, said that his publication is devoted to “calling out bullshit” and has “had an anti-corporate rebellious streak throughout [their] editorial history.”
Taking that mission seriously, I submit to you the satire below.
In the spirit of speaking truth to power,
In a parallel universe, Henry Kissinger is being prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands. Seated at the table with Kissinger is his cunning choice for Chief Defense Counsel, none other than Karl Marx.
The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor addresses the three-judge Trial Chamber, reminding them that the preamble of the Rome Statute establishing the court states “that the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished.”
She draws upon a myriad of impeccable sources, including historian Greg Grandin’s new book Kissinger’s Shadow. The judges are stunned by the prosecutor’s searing portrayal of the defendant’s alleged responsibility for so many deaths — six million in Indochina alone. An anguished look crosses the face of Norwegian judge Olaf Ingeborg as he watches some unspeakably macabre visual evidence.
by The Norwich Radical
2016 was a bleak year for many. Across the world, the forces of liberty, of social progress, and of environmental justice lost time and again in the face of rising fascism, increased alienation, and intensifying conflict. That notwithstanding, there have been moments of light. In the Austrian Presidential election, the electorate confirmed the independently Green candidate Alexander van der Bellen; the #noDAPL water protectors gained a soft victory in early December; in fact, there is a full list of positives from the past year, if you want cheering up.
2016 saw our team expand to more than 25 writers, editors, and artists as well as host our first ever progressive media conference, War of Words. Our readership has grown from 5,000 per month to more than 6,500 per month. In total, nearly 80,000 people have read content on The Norwich Radical website this year.
In 2017, The Norwich Radical will turn three years old, with plans to grow our team and publication more than ever before. We’ll also be returning to Norwich to bring debate and discussion on the future of the media, with War of Words back for a second year.
by Gwen Taylor
How on Earth do I put these feelings into words? I’m sitting here just after finishing Love is Love and I have been utterly floored. 2016 has been an awful year all around, a year where hatred and intolerance appear to have won, and love has been firmly pushed into a corner. One of the most horrific events of the year took place in June at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. One person took the lives of 49 others who were celebrating their individuality and love in what had always been regarded as a safe space.
Love is Love is an anthology of responses to the shooting published by IDW Publishing and supported by DCComics to raise money for Equality Florida. It contains 144 pages of beautiful stories designed to celebrate love following a tragic event. Each piece is 1-2 pages long and all are incredibly powerful; the sheer number of contributors demonstrates how this horrific event was felt by everyone.
by Cadi Cliff
I dream in headlines
buried under my pillow
LED replay behind tired eyes
the stories we should be breaking
A book filled with moths, whiskey and full moons; reading Zelda Chappel’s debut collection The Girl in the Dog-Tooth Coat, published with Bare Fiction (2015), forces you to be in the moment with each and every piece. With each turn of the page comes a fresh clarity and precision, yet still connected like water – at times a stream, and at others, a rushing waterfall. It explores grief, and through its dark and sombre tones, there is a glimmer of hope: that this is a tale of survival.
herself for independence
Patron saint of privileged beggars
she petrifies old edifices to fix
She bleaches the open fields
and the streets
She ceases to bleed
The body curses its own
Kate Tempest is well known for her work within the world of poetry and music, yet her latest venture sees her trying her hand at prose, using her original modern mythologies weaved into a different form. Although the points of move from character to character, Becky stands out to be the central character.
The first chapter made me think of the question uttered by both Shakespeare and Brecht about the role of art, suggesting to possibility for it to be both a mirror and hammer, when it comes to most peoples’ realities. Yet, at times it felt like the outlook was too cynical, too similar to the thoughts in the heads in this generation where we so often feel powerless to make change. It was almost too real, holding a truth too close to the bone.
Prerna Bakshi’s debut collection Burnt rotis, with love was published in 2016 by Le Zaporogue via Lulu.com. Poems featured in the collection have appeared in many literary journals, magazines and anthologies across the world. Hailing from India, Bakshi offers a refreshing perspective on feminism and the wider would, enlightening readers with its undeniable South Asian roots.
by Liam Hawkes
Surreal. Beautiful. Terrifying. Adam Curtis’ newest documentary can be described in many ways. It bombards us with messages and narratives which seem to have emancipatory power by simply exposing the chains we all appear to wear. This mesmerising piece of film-making taps into the psyche of human consciousness, getting to the root of how we feel and why we feel it. Once again Curtis has created a terrifying exposé of the confusing and uncertain world we live in.
(in support of Black Lives Matter)
a, pustule, fleshspun, pierced, when,
echoes, become, loud, and, silenced—loudly silenced—
when, burdens, are, called, gifts—processes, of, unintuition,
when, killing, becomes, justified, as, horror, of, the, natural,
I picked this book up on my travels from a Silent Meditation Retreat in Ubud, Bali. Reading a good book is like meditation for those of us whose minds won’t shut up. It’s something I know I should do more, especially as an English Literature graduate and as a writer. But in the age of social media, I find myself clicking on different articles deep into the night instead. That said, a good writer will keep you hooked enough to pull you away from such distractions.
I had read John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, which rightfully brought him to critical acclaim (as well as a film deal). An Abundance of Katherines was first published ten years ago, but is seeing a revival now that Green is a bestselling author. I felt excited to start reading it, and I enjoyed it so much that I made sure I had a copy waiting for me when I returned home, in between jetting off to Spain, where I’m now living.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Sonia Gentili, ‘Viaggio mentre morivo’
I travel while I was dying and I was
absent or maybe only
alone: still before the last anchor
of the world as homeland of
I travel where the present is consumed
in the black womb of the light, see-through
like the dark waiting for the moon
it’ll come and it doesn’t come and I
Isaiah 11:2 New International Version (NIV)
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
Tristan does so without the fear of God, like a pinprick—
a spitting image of all those heretics and unknown curses—
no doubt, in this bog of a living room, where moments
of explosions become dictators, pushing him headfirst
Is that her mother whose arm she is touching? She holds a tablet
to the charity shop window and photographs nothing much. There
is nothing much to photograph when wearing a fox-head (which I
think of as brave on a day as hot as this). The tail perks up from
the waistband of her jeans, a wad of fur swaddling a pliable wire.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Maria Attanasio (1943-), ‘Rosso…’
which now is blade and shears
flaking wall shadow
the room gleams like water–all of them here are fish
from either the sea or the lake, salt and fresh,
their fins flapping–a vision of ecstasy, the smell–
pungent redefined, their slippery scales glimmering
in their pursuit of perfection. how do they survive
by Katy Derbyshire
If you read fiction, think of a translated writer. Just the first one who pops into your mind. Let me guess: Stieg Larsson? Karl Ove Knausgård? Thomas Mann? Marcel Proust? Haruki Murakami? If you thought of a woman off the top of your head, I salute you.
drank from lakes
that turned out to be droughts
cut our lids
to see the future
mined coal with safety pins.
‘It’s time for celebration, not gawking
at deaths crushed by credit,’ you say.
sick dentures pushing teeth back
rusty hammers made from origami cranes, pinkwashed. never grow
tired of going to the bank, where each need is a static noise
& a gunshot,
where you tell me,
‘you &I are beings in boats.
wasting the column. no column. no pronoun to speak.
rather the gusts than a wall
rather understanding than secular missionaries
rather the freedoms of you & me than glass ceilings
rather the prickled rose we will hold firmly than the diamond-sculpted cross
rather the blood &organs than shed skin
rather the body of blood & sinews than war-torn factories
this is stinking of sweet sorrow,
where dystopias are youth’s memoirs, &
where adulthoods are delayed because there is no
money & water.
& until this day, we are sat on swings
that you say will break from our weight.
Featured image via GlobalSocialTheory
The rush of the lapping waves of the sea,
the sound of shells, smell of salt, is where,
the humdrum left behind, I can just be.
The horizon before me, I can stare,
watch where the sea meets sky and then it leaves –
nowhere I’d rather be than standing there.
“You can’t even use apostrophes.” I may not have always said it, but I’m certainly guilty of thinking it and similar things to do with punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Whether directed at someone during an online debate, or used to make yourself superior because someone else has bigoted views or an unfavourable political standpoint. Even in cases where someone is verbally attacking you and making personal comments, you’re not the better person for commenting on their intellect or education.
I don’t know where I go
but boy, do I go.
traps of dead thistle.
Manholes for ditches.
You’ve been ditched. Remember?
I watched you cough dust and wipe
sand from your eyes. You said
you’d seen me in a past life.
We were here, on this dirt road.
I have seen Emily Harrison share her work countless times at Burn After Reading events, and at my own night, She Grrrowls. She never fails to amaze me in the way she is able to articulate herself, speaking out about mental health issues – amongst other subjects – interwoven with links to gender and class. When I read lines about imaging someone loves you ‘when you simply asked/during a routine blood test, ‘Emily, how are you doing today?’ I sort of imagine she’s what I would be like if I were an extrovert.
The first couple of poems are familiar to me, and it’s hard not to picture Harrison on stage delivering these words, because as much as it’s incredible to be able to read the pieces, seeing them live is an important part of the way the text works, as it tends to be with Burning Eye Books – the go-to publisher for writers who refuse to remain on one side of the page/stage divide.
by Hannah Rose
‘Can you define an audience the same way they define you?’ This was one of the questions asked by a young performer in Wild Life at the Norwich Playhouse, showcasing as part of the Norfolk and Norwich festival 2016. A question left hanging throughout the duration of the play, if that’s what it should be called. Wild Life is an extraordinary piece of metatheatre exploring the teenage psyche through a montage of music, performance, sound recordings, and monologues. Its cast is composed of ten 15-22 year olds from Norfolk, all with exceptional singing and songwriting skills.
Here’s something that will make poetry sound a little more dangerous (but not really), and doesn’t involve tattooing Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ from your neck to your toes: it is said that the poets chosen for the UK’s prestigious poet laureateship are plagued with a curse.
That is to say, the poems written during a poet’s tenure as poet laureate – an honorary position in which there is no strict demand but certainly an expectation for the poet to write original poems for important national occasions – are sub-standard when read in light of poet’s earlier, or later, work.
He types my name in for a password
but it isn’t long enough
so he uses seawater instead.
by Fern Richards
Over the past couple of years, the UEA Poetics Project has been doing the important job of sneaking radical poets into the institution without much fanfare. The Norwich Radical featured an article by Linda Russo fairly recently – one of the readers at the last Poetics Project event – but apart from that, not a huge amount has been written about these readings. As a fan of radical poetry, political poetry, anti-establishment poetry, I thought it might be worth giving a small preview of the second UEA Poetry Festival, or at least its featured readers, Sandeep Parmar and Sean Bonney.
Ban Ki-moon wonders if he’ll look much better
wearing a bindi. He Googles to see if they sell
them at the airport. Everyone has been having
so much fun, and now it’s his turn. Darling!
he cries. I’ve booked a ticket to a ‘foam party’!
Ban Ki-moon poses his questions to a forum,
in a thread titled KOS BOYS.
Hello, I am the former Secretary-General of the United Nations…
The replies come flooding in. People are so kind!
Ban Ki-moon learns what minesweeping is.
Darling! he cries. These young men tell me
that you can buy hydration tablets! Imagine!
They have little pictures of chickens on them!
But Ban Ki-moon isn’t finished yet.
He wants to see the wonders of the world,
the odd ruin, a place to get that fetching
UV paint he’s seeing so much of.
He consults the KOS BOYS, who tell him that
nipple tassels and strawberry-flavoured lubricant
should see him through fine. So he opens up
Amazon — he knows it’s a bit corrupt,
but fuck it, he’s got Prime — and orders everything.
His wife pokes at the lubricant when it arrives.
Ban Ki-moon is going to have the best time.
Paulfitness92 tells him he’s going to get
absolutely fucking wankered mate absolutely trollied
which Ban Ki-moon thinks sounds very appealing!
Ban Ki-moon books his tickets. Ban Ki-moon finds
his shorts, crumpled at the back of the wardrobe.
Ban Ki-moon checks his emails and gets ready for work.
Ban Ki-moon kisses his wife goodbye for the day.
There’s been another catastrophic humanitarian crisis!
Featured image © Reuters
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Maria Luisa Vezzali (1964 – ), ‘del mondo’
you lower your head to cross the doorway and beyond the threshold the world breathes
with vision, a restless wave that carries the smell of houses, damp,
rust, ashes, petrol, ages that vortex towards dusk
grains of sand pass like biology
my body ticking like a heart
my love straining like tea
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Alessandra Racca (1979-), ‘Un giorno qualunque’
In the match
between what we call good
and we despise as evil
today a bomb will make noise
smoke will assault the eyes
scattering shards on screens
a woman’s tears
will stand still
by Rebecca Tamás
This man is an angel
he is not a man
I reject the penis as my chosen ontology
even when his penis is in my hand
even when his mouth is open like a sodden
I need you to know I am hungover I need you to know
I went out and got alcohol poisoning I am in bed eating
pizza I am the real deal I need you to know I am the god
of all your comedy give me what I need I need you to
know I am jealous of you but I cannot say it properly
we grew up on html
love was a cartoon heart
pink or red
we dissected some cold slab of meat in science labs
and with that, every Disney film turned dirty
we would publicise our most private thoughts
kidding ourselves it was poetry
when it was catharsis at best
by Linda Russo
I wrote To Think of her Writing Awash in Light as a way to investigate aspects of literary women’s lives that tend to be overlooked. The questions that interested me – how do lived spaces (domestic, urban, or natural spaces or environments) effect women’s relationships to their materials and ideas and language? How do women navigate these spaces and their various prescriptions for what women should or can do? – suggested a geographic inquiry, one that required leaving my desk and books behind to wander about and write in various environments, literal and imaginary.
For those who are partial to a bit of poetry, you’ll probably have heard by now that Sarah Howe has been awarded this year’s T.S. Eliot prize by judges Pascale Petit (chair), Kei Miller, and Ahren Warner. You may also have seen this article, which questioned the negative tinge of the criticism of which Howe has received. Katy Evans-Bush argued that these criticisms were more to do with Howe’s age, gender and ethnicity (Howe is of dual Chinese-British heritage). Some seemed baffled both that it was possible to win on a first collection, yet also that it took her ten years to write. Surely the fact that she spent so long producing the poetry might suggest how it became possible to win? I mean, that, or witchcraft.
by Rowan Whiteside
All across the country, libraries are being closed. This has been happening for years: quiet reservoirs of knowledge and fantasy disappearing from villages, towns, cities. Since David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, library funding has dropped by 16% and we have 549 fewer libraries.
It is difficult to really assess the impact of this. We know that visits to libraries have dropped by almost 14%, but we don’t know how many lives have been changed, how many jobs have been lost, how many children can no longer borrow something new to read. 549 libraries is an abstract figure. It sounds like a lot (because it is), but it doesn’t actually show what has been taken away. And what has been stolen is so much more than statistics can show.
When I told a sub-editor of The Norwich Radical that I wanted to write an article in which I explore the fan-fiction community, his first words of advice were ‘steer clear of mpreg’. You can Google ‘mpreg’, if you like. If you’d rather not, socio-political zeitgeist Buzzfeed offers a simple definition: ‘the term for a genre of art and literature where a man is pregnant.’
This is precisely what fascinates people about fan-fiction: its alleged tendency to veer towards the bizarre, the unknown, and, some would say, the un-publishable (although nowadays the proliferation of fiction appearing online throws the whole question of what is/is not ‘publishable’ into question). Talking about fan-fiction right now conjures that which we have seen before – excerpts of sexually charged dialogue between Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes and Andrew Scott’s Moriarty, for example (a pairing so popular that Sherlock co-creator and renowned fan-teaser Steven Moffat wrote a scene in which the two lean in for a kiss, albeit in his usual roundabout, not-quite way).
But of course, we know that not all fan-fiction is like this.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Manuela Dago (1978-), ‘Cosa pensa la gente’
It’s a wordy problem
even not being able to say
not being able to explain
explain your words
to those listening.
I first came across Richard Yates’ work through Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in the screen adaptation of Revolutionary Road. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon the book in HMV, for something ridiculous like £1, that I actually read his work. I loved them both equally. Maybe I’m just a sucker for all things retro, but I felt he was extremely talented at capturing the human condition in characters who were entirely believable; both romantic and tragic. His ability to do this seemed to extend to a variety of characters and situations when recently reading his Collected Works.
My grandfather saw him on the docklands at four
in the morning, a flash in the waning light of a jazz bar,
a man honking his way out into fog with aplomb
In 2013 I was amongst around twenty poets long-listed for the first Young Poet Laureate for London prize. I remember meeting Warsan Shire that day; she seemed quiet, perhaps nervous, yet confident and bold. We performed one piece to a panel of judges, and I was either before or after Shire. Although she prefers writing to performing her work, I remember being blown away by not only the words, but the delivery of her poem Ugly. I remember that I had already heard lines quoted by Kayo Chingonyi from a workshop he was leading for students at the school where I work. It was no surprise when Shire was shortlisted, much less when she won.
To have the power to write poetry that sticks in the mind is certainly a gift that Shire bestows in much of her work. I have since had the pleasure of seeing Shire again at the launch of the first Podium Poets anthology, by Spread the Word, and attended workshops lead by her on an Arvon retreat. As an aspiring poet, she is an inspiration to many as a writer and as a human being.
In response to 2015.
I saw terror through a lens
and the public shaming friendships.
We called it proper work.
Feeling so very comfortable eating churros with a bunch of pregnant women! Just what I needed, the perfect chill yummy food birthday!!!!
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Leyla Khalil (1991-), ‘Un attimo qualsiasi di sproloquio’
A whatever rambling moment
which, by the way, they decided to call free internal discourse or interior monologue or stream of consciousness.
There must be – I just wrote mustard instead of must be and noticed it right away – some sort of difference dammit, I mean I’m sure there is but the essence at the end of the day is the same: they’re all ramblings.
Cate Blanchett, it’s come to this. You know they say the world will end when
BBC Radio Four stops broadcasting? Well, I’ve been playing with the dials on
my Roberts Revival RD60 DAB and I don’t know about you but down my end I
swear the voices are getting fainter and fainter.
Cate Blanchett, look, it’s like this: the world is a ruin, like I said. I’m not pulling
your leg. I wrote a poem called Strikes because I thought talking about
doctors and bombs was really clever, see, because… sure, you get it.
On the flit of hazel dormice
tripping through boscage,
a chaffinch chirping in maddening circles
between the calligraphic twigs,
a wrens’ bingo hall with trinket wins
and a brief presentation on the history
of shoots and shrubbery,
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Gilda Musa (1922-1999), ‘Costellazioni’
Coppering of stars, gold
illuminated designs, visible flashing
vanguards of a thousand million invisibiles,
sigils of a space that’s close and signs
of remote spaces
by Mike Carey
Continued from part one, published on The Norwich Radical two weeks ago.
I hate to rake up ancient history, but here’s another example from a little further back – dredged up because in this case it is a writer of literary novels (Edward Docx, in the Observer in 2010) who’s saying this, so the agenda is maybe a little more naked.
Even good genre… is by definition a constrained form of writing. There are conventions and these limit the material. That’s the way writing works and lots of people who don’t write novels don’t seem to get this: if you need a detective, if you need your hero to shoot the badass CIA chief, if you need faux-feminist shopping jokes, then great; but the correlative of these decisions is a curtailment in other areas. If you are following conventions, then a significant percentage of the thinking and imagining has been taken out of the exercise. Lots of decisions are already made.
Considering that Docx rails against “a fundamental dishonesty” in the way this subject is usually discussed, I’m going to pick my words with care.
by Jules Ignacio
In the dark, the reconnaissance units
spread out on the mountaintop—the stage—
gawking at the riots, with their sniper eyes.
by Tara Debra G
Among the young students who frequent this magazine it’s a safe bet to assume that most of us aren’t running to the nature writing section when we walk into our nearest bookshop. So let me introduce you to the women aiming to change that. Forget the image of a rambling old man in the woods with a Thoreauian beard, and come meet Cheryl Strayed, Kathleen Jamie and Helen Macdonald.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Antonella Anedda (1955-), from Notti di pace Occidentale.
She was running to shelter, covering her head.
She belonged to a tired image
not dissimilar from any other woman
surprised by sudden rain.
by Sara Helen Binney
It was November, and the school hall was packed with pupils and teachers freed from lessons. In the festive atmosphere people mingled and chattered and joked. A few nervously practiced their Bible readings; I stood, arms crossed, before a school administrator. She shook her collection box.
‘Poppy?’ she said. It wasn’t a question.
I said, ‘no.’ I doubt I was very polite – I was sixteen, angry and definite.
‘You have to wear a poppy, for the service,’ she said.
‘Why?’ I demanded.
‘Everyone has to wear a poppy.’
‘But I don’t agree with it. Can’t I refuse?’
‘You have to take a poppy – just make a donation.’
Neither of my parents had ever worn a poppy. They brought me up listening to the anti-war songs of the folk revival, and took me to CND marches while I still struggled to pronounce ‘disarmament’. But at school, saying no wasn’t an option. I eventually put a penny in the box.
by Mike Carey
The argument about the relative merits of literary and genre fictions just keeps running and running. There’ll be periods of decorous silence, and then it will break out again, usually in the form of some egregious statement in a broadsheet or magazine, and it will be like it never left.
One thing you tend to notice after a while, though: it’s almost never writers of genre fiction who are picking the fight. To be fair, it’s often not “literary” writers either – it’s academics taking up the cudgels on their behalf; considerately telling us which stories are worth serious consideration and which aren’t. And I guess we appreciate the help, right? Because it’s a bewildering fictional landscape out there and an innocent young seeker after truth could easily go astray.
It is quite something. I remember the days of children
dreaming of spending their inheritance on books
now waiting patiently, in that English way, for nothing
to happen, staring blindly at the ghosts that besiege
the moon late at night, push it, give marching orders
and last warnings. Those small assassins send troubles
to elected people, young and old, gathering them as books
often do, from bodies, sacred fleshy remains, sea-wood
chewed offshore. The history dividing them: no matter.
for every hunger pang, famished child, books.
I can’t wait to get out of these clothes and braid
our legs together, hold collarbones like fridge handles
and wait for the glow, then poke your dimples
like they are soft depressions on a hot cake.
I like Evie, for a girl. Rory for a boy. And I like the way
that you are everything, that you hold the world up
as a photograph of a photograph, or how you sing
when you re-enact The Lion King with the cat.
by Robyn Banks
I did my best to learn the rules.
The world was a nice place,
children shared, we waited our turn,
we helped those in need and said thankyou and please.
The board was black and the chalk was white,
together we learned to read and write,
I tried to learn the rules.
There used to be racism,
there used to be war,
there used to be poverty and workhouses and suffering
but Martin Luther King had a dream and women won the vote
and everyone shared now, and waited their turn
and Tony Blair painted rainbow children on my primary school walls.
by Jess Howard
At the end of last month, an image of a refugee in Beirut appearing to be selling a handful of biros, with his young daughter held to his chest, went viral. The image was captured and tweeted by activist Gissur Simonarson, whose Twitter feed was then flooded with requests for him to identify the pair. Simonarson quickly set up #BuyPens to find them, and within thirty minutes they were identified as Abdul Halim Attar, a single father of two, and his daughter Reem.
After identifying Abdul, through a woman who saw him daily around his house, Simonarson then set about organising a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.com, with the aim of raising funds for him and his family. Since the date this article was written the campaign has raised $190,824, completely overtaking the original target of $5,000. The amount of money that has been raised is incredible, and will completely change the lives of Abdul and his children.
Trigger warnings for mentions of rape, assault, substance abuse, violence.
When I tell people that I have recently moved into a house in which my bedroom window looks out onto a graveyard, I get one of two reactions. The first is a wince. ‘That sounds bleak.’ The second is a strange, slightly glazed and dreamy look. ‘Wow. Think of all the writing you’ll get done. That’ll be so inspirational.’
When I joined UEA as an English Literature with Creative Writing undergraduate in 2013, the prospect of my bedroom window allowing me to peek in over a graveyard was quite a dismal thought. As I prepare to enter my final year, nothing has changed. Yet being a creative writing student, there is an assumption that being so close to death in such a striking and obvious way can be nothing but a gift for what is, presumably, my twisted and morose mind.
burrowing into places dark and damp,
tucking itself into a brittle clot
Its womb was the catacomb
where its armour grew.
A wretched place, free from light.
I didn’t know what to expect from The Institute of Sexology, exhibited at the Wellcome Collection, but it was probably not the mass of phallic and explicit penis-shaped trinkets, supposedly associated with power. What would have been nice is the inclusion of similar vagina-inspired adornments. Nevertheless, it was bound to be that an exhibition about sex would highlight patriarchal power and women’s submissive role throughout history.
Recently, I went on a school visit to see To Kill a Mockingbird at The Barbican, and whilst I think the actors played their parts incredibly well – especially Zackary Momoh, who played the role of the falsely accused Tom Robinson – I’m not writing here to give a glowing review. I read the book around the time I started my job at the school three years ago, yet the play, adapted by Christopher Sergel, had a different impact on me.
Actors slipped in and out of character to read directly from the book, narrating through a multitude of different accents, obviously showing that they were each sentimentally and emotionally affected by the text. This sentimentality, however, was lost on me, and as the production drew on, I came to think of it as unnecessary that it was being heralded to such acclaim in 2015.
by Alex Valente
The year is 2015: Ali Smith’s How to Be Both wins the Bailey’s Women Prize for Fiction. Malorie Blackman concludes her extraordinary term as Children’s Laureate. The Nebula Awards feature women in all but one entry. The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is awarded to author/translator team Jenny Erpenbeck and Susan Bernofsky for The End of Days. 40 nominations for the Eisner Awards are women, ranging from writers to editors, colourists to pencillers, inkers and letterers.
And yet, research conducted by author Nicola Griffith proves that despite the multiple recent spotlights on the literary stage for women — both on the page and behind it — there is a significant disparity in their treatment when it comes to recognition. Collating data and results from the past 15 years of a number of prizes for literature, Griffith has found that books featuring women, focusing on women or written by women have a track history of receiving fewer awards than those by, about and from men.*
I first found out about Holly Hopkins by attending a ARTNAKED Poetry Session at Library Club in London, where she cut into the awkward silence of a tightly packed room with a mixture of chatting and poetry. For some, it would have offered an opportunity to gain an insight into her work, and for those like me, it inspired a purchase of her pamphlet Soon Every House Will Have One (smith | doorstop, 2014).
Hannah Silva, known for her success as a poet both on page and on stage, delivered her research on ‘Repositioning Performance.’ It was filled with quotations, energy, and analysis of a Salena Godden performance. Immediately it linked to the ever-complex discussion about the page/stage divide, connecting to Malika Booker’s paper later, as well as the She Grrrowls Q&A, whereby BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) poetry is positioned as ‘performance’ or ‘spoken word.’
by Mike Vinti
On May the 7th our fair isles will take to the polls. Across this (hopefully) green and pleasant land, the great multi-headed beasts, known to our political class as hard-working families, will be herded into schools and council buildings to cast their vote. It’s going to be, without a doubt, the most anti-climactic, and longest, election of our times. And what’s worse, E4 won’t be on all day.
But there’s good news guys! Jay Z’s new streaming service, Tidal, and your corporate Media overlords have teamed up to bring you a brand spanking new, musical, multi format, interactive #Election2k15!
To a soundtrack of thundering synthetic drums and the beeps of Britain’s metaphorical life support machine, the great shamans of the BBC, Channel 4, ITV and *whisper it* Sky, will debate, debunk and defibrillate #Election2k15: Now That’s What I Call Democracy.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Grażyna Miller (1957-2009), ‘Paese d’amore’.
And I, here to take in the old land
beauty and love call to me.
Lost souls find refuge here
– spirits parched for truth,
violated by the lies of history.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Chandra Livia Candiani (1952 -), ‘Ai miei maestri-bambini’
I keep your walking
glue each step to the ground
for you I wake up
draw my face
beneath fingers and water
I keep your words
like bread dunked
in the milk of memory
by Alex Valente
Original Italian ‘Le Montagne’, by Antonia Pozzi (1912-1938)
Like immense women taking over the evening:
stone hands folded on their chest
they stare at crossroads, silent
in the endless hope of returns.