FREE SHORT FICTION
93 Tania Hershman Paul Lyalls Lawrence John Frank Burton Nora Nadjarian Niall Boyce Thor Heyerdah John Turner Inua Ellams David Hermann
Thursday 11- Sunday 14 March Spring Collection 2010 Battersea Park, London
WELCOME TO ISSUE 93 OF LITRO From the Editors “We will take the story back with us and spread it like butter on the toast of our item-rich society” – says Robyn Hitchcock, of Iceberg TV, in his dispatch for the Cape Farewell expeditions to the ‘frontlines of climate change’, out-takes from which form our central feature, this issue. A richly allusive and ambivalent remark: what is the place of story, of fiction even, in debates about climate? Can we afford the luxury of butter or is it in fact an essential? Read on. Apart from Cape Farewell and its raft of artistes, the issue contains a strong showing of unorthodox forms, everything on the spectrum from poetry to prose, taking in prose poems, flash fiction and unclassed literature in the middle. On the shorter side, we bring you a lyrical double-bill from Tania Hershman; David Hermann goes back to the dictionary; Inua Ellams celebrates pandemonium; Frank Burton skims stones; John Turner revisits the Flood and Nora Nadjarian is optimistic. And at somewhat greater length, but not much (this is Litro), Lawrence John laments the rise of an unexpected rural literary community, Niall Boyce knocks Avatar into a cocked hat and (with Litro Classics) we take a snapshot of waterless living, mid-ocean, from that other, famous, raft, the Kon-Tiki. This is Litro as barometer of mid-range atmospherics. Sophie Lewis
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Litro is sponsored by UK Trade and Investments
Contents Think of Icebergs Tania Hershman.......... ................................................ 7 London Park Tania Hershman .......................................................... 8 The Value of Wales Paul Lyalls ................................................................... 9 Once Upon a Time the Medway Literati Lawrence John .......................................................... 10 Playing Frank Burton ............................................................. 14 Dispatches from Cape Farewell, with contributions from Lemn Sissay, KT Tunstall, Marcus Brigstocke and more ..................................................................... 15 Miracle Nora Nadjarian .......................................................... 28 The Reconstruction .................................................. 29 Niall Boyce On Thirst in mid-Ocean, from the Kon-Tiki Expedition (Litro Classics) Thor Heyerdahl ......................................................... 37 Green Man ................................................................. 39 John Turner Pandemonium Inua Ellams ................................................................ 41 climate David Hermann ......................................................... 43 March Litro Listings Alex James ................................................................ 44
Think of Icebergs Tania Hershman “It’s hot,” you said. “Think of icebergs,” I said. “Melting,” you said. “All melting. What happens?” “When?” “When we run out of ice?” I put my arm around you, felt your bony shoulders. “Don’t worry,” I said. “People are clever. Very clewver. There’ll always be freezers. And iced coffee.” We spent the sweltering summer wearing very little and standing very still in the dark corners of your dust-filled flat. I traced the sweat sliding down your thin arms, you wiped my forehead with a towel as if I were your poor, dying Victorian husband. When things got unbearable, our refuge was the lobby of the Grand. We sat, our long bare legs curled up beneath us, sipping iced coffees and bathing in the freezing air. We watched businessmen in heavy suits flock together and swoop into the dining room, and ladies with small dogs, high hairdos and large luggage being escorted to the lifts. “Heaven,” you said, slurping your iced-coffee-flavoured foam. “Paradise.” But when we revolved out of the doors, it was worse than ever. A sizzling frying pan to the face. “Hell,” you said. “We’re taking the Fire Line straight to the Inferno.” You tipped your head back and looked up at the blueperfect, dazzling sky. “I think ...it might rain,” you said. “That’s what I’ve heard,” I said. Both of us, standing on the melting pavement, heads tipped back, pools of salty sweat running down into our aching, dry eyes.
London Park Tania Hershman The pathway slides away as trees peer down onto the boy, his hand stuck in his mother’s. The benches sway like drunks, and a lamp-post, untoppled, guards manfully the walking of the strollers. A leaf calls from the ground, and messy grass bears witness to the winter’s hang. Into her coat she whispers, as if hidden microphones spy slippily on strange and sudden longings. The boy, his hand suspended, carries her along and he, carried too, lifts feet, one then the other, into view and out again. And when they leave, the park’s edge holds them frozen til the lights, cars staring as if curious, blink for them. The road allows the crossing, and the mother, hand-in-hand still, lifts up her head to blinking clouds and watches grey skies locking. Commended by the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers, The White Road And Other Stories (Salt Modern Fiction), Tania Hershman’s ﬁrst collection, is a combination of science-inspired stories and ﬂash ﬁction. Tania is ﬁction-writer-in-residence at Bristol University’s Science Faculty, editor of the Short Review and judge of three short story competitions. She reads a lot of short stories. www.taniahershman.com.
The Value of Wales Paul Lyalls Its chief contribution to the UK must be as a unit of measurement, as night after night a news desk declares ‘An area of Rainforest, the size of Wales disappears every year’. 0r, ‘The amount of water London loses through its creaking Victorian pipes would fill a swimming pool the size of Wales’. Every part of the world has a similar unit of measurement: in the United States it’s an area the size of New Jersey; on mainland Europe the reference more often than not is Slovenia – which appropriately happens to be 98.4 percent the size of Wales. But just how accurate is Wales as a unit of measurement? Just how constant is that land-mass? It’s worth remembering that at low tide Wales measures 20,761 SQ KM. Whereas at high tide, it’s only 20,449 SQ KM and to really put it into context, each year coastal erosion erodes an area of Wales the size of Central Swansea. For those of you in Europe trying to visualise this, that’s the equivalent of an area the size of down-town Ljubljana. In 2008 Paul was poet for the London borough of Brent and he performed at the new Wembley Stadium. He has two poems in the new Penguin A-Z of children’s poetry. ‘The Value of Wales’ is taken from his new collection Catching the Cascade. www.paul-lyalls.com
Once Upon a Time the Medway Literati Lawrence John Once upon a time, a couple of years ago, the Medway literati consisted of myself and Godknows. I feel this should be known. Just in case you hear it different. Right the way back, right from when I was small and ever since, I’ve been cursed with melancholia. The reasons are mine alone so I’ll spare you the details, but that particular night, the birth of the literati, I’d decided to end it for good. Sitting on a bench down the Riverside I drank at first to combat the nerves. Within the icy, March chill, I went over the slapdash suicide note. Taking in the night view, the settlements and oil refineries, a shimmering lasso around the estuary shore, I psyched myself up for the sleeping pills. Two hours later I awoke pissed and sprawled upon the frostbitten floor. Cursing to myself that I couldn’t do anything right, I was caught in two minds. Screw the world and down the pills all at once, or scream and toss the pills into the estuary sludge. I was still considering when I caught something upon the horizon. Flashing. Not the usual flashes I knew off by heart, but more a series of flashes, irregular yet patterned, delivered with a burning emergency. With my head still fuggy I watched for a while before I realised it was Morse code. Conjuring flashbacks of my time in the Cub Scouts, I pulled a pad and pen from out my satchel. “Hamilton left the door open,” went the dots and dashes, “and then he thought better of it and closed it halfway.” And then it stopped. Although I waited a little longer, there was nothing more, just the habitual glittery tints as there had always been. The sound of water trickling through creaks and inlets, the hollers and chuckles of the marsh birds Waking in the afternoon, the events of the night consumed the rest of the day. Working it round and round my head I wondered what the message could’ve meant. I couldn’t let it rest. Close to the time when I had seen the lights the night previous, I ventured down to the river. Sitting at the exact same spot, half expectant, half stupid, I looked out across the water and waited. At midnight, it began. “Fall, by Bill Duncan,” the shimmers went, caught between spasms and lethargy. For the next twenty minutes I furiously decoded and read until, “Young voices then a child drawing,” signalled the end. I got
Playing Frank Burton “Pebbles or sand?” she said. “Sand, obviously,” I said. “But pebbles are alright.” We stumbled towards the sea, the pebbles forming minicascades beneath our trainers. She hung onto my arm and giggled as her foot slipped. “They don’t look real,” she said. “It’s the colours. And they’re so smooth. It’s like they’ve been mass-produced in a factory somewhere.” I was going to say, “This isn’t a genuine shingle beach – the stones were shipped in to form a sea defence,” but I didn’t want to sound like a smartarse and ruin the mood. I said, “They’re all different, though. I bet we can’t find two pebbles that are the same.” “Like fingerprints,” she said. We crouched down and collected a few, examining their misshapen curves. They were all strangely imperfect. I found one that looked like a face, with holes for eyes and a long ridge underneath like a set of smiling stone lips. “I’ll call him Brian,” I said, “after Brian Wilson.” “Brian who?” “Brian Wilson? Beach Boys? No?” “Before my time, obviously,” she said. I was going to say they were before my time too, but I didn’t want to make it sound like I was having a go at her for not knowing. I knew things she didn’t; I knew things she didn’t. “It’s not a pub quiz,” I almost said. We carried on peering at the ground. “Do you know how to skim?” I said. “What’s “skim”?” “You know, when you make pebbles bounce on the water?” “I’ve seen it done on the TV,” she said. “Never in real life. It must be a boy thing.” “You need to find a flat one,” I said. “Make sure it’s not too heavy.” We wandered hand in hand along the shoreline, looking for flat stones. I found a round splodgey one that was flat on one side, but had a sticky-out bit on the top like a shark’s fin. “This one might work,” I said. “What you do is, you hold it flat, like this, and grip it in your hand like this, and then you just …”
I thrust my arm out, sending the pebble spinning horizontally into the lightly lapping surf. It made a double splash – the skim was so small and fast you couldn’t see it. “Wow!” She hung onto my arm like a groupie. “That’s amazing!” I knew she wasn’t impressed at all, but I loved the way she was playing along, because it meant she understood how important it was for me to demonstrate my skills and how important it was for her to be impressed. I didn’t know why it was important, and maybe she didn’t know that either. It’s just something people do. I was pretending to be a boy and she was pretending to be a girl, and even if it all ends in tragedy we’ll still have that afternoon playing with pebbles. Frank Burton is an award-winning ﬁction writer and performance poet. His short story collection A History of Sarcasm is forthcoming through Dog Horn Publishing. In 2007, he released the performance poetry CD Collected Words and is currently working on a second album. His ﬁction and poetry has been published in magazines including Etchings, Poetry Monthly, Pulsar, Twisted Tongue, Obsessed With Pipework, Gold Dust, Skive and Whispers of Wickedness. www.frankburton.co.uk
Dispatches from Cape Farewell
with contributions from Lemn Sissay, KT Tunstall, Marcus Brigstocke and more Since its conception, Cape Farewell has worked in partnership with scientists and artists to create a cultural response to climate change. Scientists have worked tirelessly to identify climate change as a global problem but the causes are rooted in the way our societies have evolved and are magnified by the way we live now. Human activity is causing our planet to overheat. We need a cultural shift that addresses the problem and a creative shift to evolve and map new solutions. - David Buckland, Founder and Director of Cape Farewell
artists who have joined the trip to develop creative work in response to the journeys... During their voyage, the crew members of the 2008 Disko Bay expedition were blogging from the Arctic and in 2009 twittering from the Andes expedition on our website www. capefarewell.com .
A selection from the blogs of the 2008 Disko Bay expedition: David Buckland Thursday 25 Sep Almost ready to go Tonight we head north after 9 months of very detailed planning with the Cape Farewell team. We are collectively relieved, excited and somewhat proud. Vicky, Hannah, Kathy, Nina, Lisa and I have lived and breathed this reality and now we voyage north with what I believe is a quite outstanding group of highly creative artists, musicians, comics, poets, architects, craft based artists, film makers, writers… I’ve been speculating about whether such a powerful creative group has ever been assembled before to address what is a culture- and life-threatening future truth. We will spend ten days together in the High Arctic working with the scientists and crafting our own response. As Vanessa Carlton has put it, ‘to challenge a stubborn world’. Many of the artists have projects planned and as you can see from my frantic last minute packing, I too am planning video projections – a physical theatre. Bolted to the front of the ship is a container with all the science equipment, projectors, lighting and a piano [electric]. The ship has passed through two storms getting to the West coast of Greenland so I hope all this stuff is OK. Tomorrow morning [very early] the US and the European groups get together for the first time in Reykjavik before we complete the final leg of our journey to the ship. This is an outstanding effort with people coming from faraway places, LA, New York, Canada, France, Scotland, Holland, Italy, England… I can’t wait until we can all join the boat and voyage north. The weather promises a bit of a blow for Saturday, which should bring the first winter snow and a whitening of the landscape and next week looks to be
very clear and cold, -7C. We are declaring a Cape Farewell independent time zone on the ship to make the most of the daylight hours and to give Peter Gilbert and his film crew the best chance to work. Roll on the northern lights.
Robyn Hitchcock Monday 29 Sep Iceberg Television Two standard responses to the problem of global warming are that either it’s not really happening or, if it is, there’s nothing we can do about it now so why not leave all the lights on? Well, it is happening, and the sooner we tame our energy emissions, the sooner the earth can return to being habitable for the citizens and other creatures of the 22nd century. Time is unlikely to stop when we die, it just seems that way sometimes. It’s true that we on this Cape Farewell expedition used aviation fuel and diesel to get here, but we will take the story back with us and spread it like butter on the toast of our item-rich society. As the scientists aboard research the effects of ice-melt on the ocean bed and trace the possible mutation of the Gulf-stream through salination tests, we artists are being exposed to a landscape that cannot fail to affect our work. Earlier in the day, I was lucky enough to see Marcus Brigstocke half way up a snowy crag, doing a stand-up routine in his corduroy suit. As this was for the cameras, we were told not to laugh, which made his show even funnier. As his fingers froze, Marcus ranted on the malevolent spirit of Londoners in traffic, cursing into mobiles about other cell-phone users at the wheel. In the distance behind him stretched miles of slowly crumbling blue icebergs, a terrain most of us had never seen before and, if we leave it more than 10 years, will never see again. Just prior to that, as we reached the summit, we discussed The Edgar Broughton Band and the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival: the more majestic the ice-scape around us, the more we sheathed ourselves in pop culture. We are stardust, we are golden, and we make one hell of a mess. Greenland has been assaulted by alcohol (‘mad water’) and Christianity; now it has the chance to make some money selling its oil. This would be like giving a terminal lung-cancer patient a consignment of duty-free cigarettes.
Lemn Sissay Monday 29 Sep Things Disappear Listening to radio, an interviewer asks their interviewee: “describe the experience for the listener”. Description is all the listener needs, imagination does the rest. “well…” comes the reply “its just too beautiful for words”. The answer makes me want to rip out the interviewee’s tongue and slap them with it. The pursuit of description engages and overcomes the possibility of failure (to describe). If something is worth pursuing it means it matters. Ergo “it’s just too beautiful for words” causes things to disappear. You think I am taking this too far. Good. Then we are on the same page. If a tree falls in the forest and if nobody saw it or heard it fall then did it? We have an obligation: to share what we see. It did. The act of sharing is as important as the information it carries: the action of description and acknowledgement is the greatest gift of language. The first words of a child are often the description and realisation of some body. Imagine it did not speak because the world was too beautiful for words. But the child does speak and therein its power. And in the relatively recent story of colonisation, language was the first to be taken from the children of indigenous peoples. The languages of the Inuit, here in Greenland taken by the Danes, the language of the Australian aborigines taken by the English, the language of the Kenyan peoples, in east Africa taken by the English. This is why I blog. I never had family. I blog because it gives me a point of record or reference that I was alive at any given time. In acknowledging the disappearance of the ice from our earth, in blogging, a simple act of description, we are acknowledging that they were there. Did the tree fall in the forest though nobody saw it or heard it? It did, ‘cause I did, I saw it. And if I don’t say it now there’ll be none left to fall. And what was the first word of the child? And why did it matter?
KT Tunstall Thursday 2 Oct Perdlerfiup Sermia Glacier Woke up with a belly-full of metaphorical tequila. Still feel the shape of the balloon-dog heart in there, but feel altogether better about that. I know it’s good to feel this.
Snap, snap, walking in a Baltic alien landscape and still the grass grows through the snow, all that life that waits patiently beneath for endless sun. Dark red berries fresh under foot stain the powder like blood and trigger thoughts of the hunting that goes on here. Blood on snow is a disturbing picture, and one that says much about our situation as humans on a planet straining to meet our needs and greeds. But the Greenlandic skill of using every last scrap of animal and knowing what to use it for is undoubtedly impressive.
Suzan-Lori Parks Thursday 2 Oct Around 3:30 am As we leave Uummannaq I wake up, get bundled in most of my layers and head up to the top deck alone in the dark morning to have another look at the Northern Lights. We’d seen them earlier from shore but away from the lights of the town they’re more spectacular. Depending on who you ask it’s God’s curtains or wafts of electrical current or spirits playing football. Watching them I feel a great joy, an expansiveness and then, moments later, as we pass an iceberg and the ship’s light blazes on it, like a dutiful hand keeping the danger at arms length, I feel my phantom tail curl under. Deep fear. Afraid of something so much bigger than me. Do I travel to get away from myself or to find myself? Is the far-awayness of the place in direct proportion to my need to escape from my little me? They say you can find yourself in a foreign landscape. Is there an equation that can show the relationship between desire for self-discovery and distance? I seem to bring along little chunks of myself stuffed in my overfull suitcase. Will I get seasick? Will I be cold? Will I lose a mitten? It only took two days for my concern about the cold weather to turn into love. That surprises me. Maybe this trip gets me far enough away to lose myself, find myself and, god willing, make a difference. You can make wishes on the Northern Lights, and so, standing up there alone in the cold, I make wishes. Many wishes. Even though a science book would assert there’s nothing magical about them, but I say they’re science and magic and we’re lost and found; small and enormous; possible and hopeless.
Marcus Brigstocke Sunday 5 Oct Sunny days I’m going home in the morning. It’s been wonderful and exhilarating and beautiful but I’m ready to get back to my family now who are all of those things only much much louder. The good news is that we’ve solved that whole pesky climate change fiasco. It turns out it was the sun. It’s heat from the sun that is causing global warming. The sunshine did it. It’s not surprising, I mean when you look at the sun you have admit it does look hot doesn’t it. In scientific terms what’s happened is that the sun has sent a lot of heat energy down to earth for many hundreds of thousands of years making what scientists refer to as ‘sunny days’ (forgive the jargon but it’s important to be accurate I think). Now plants and little creatures have absorbed these ‘sunny days’ and then, sadly but with some degree of inevitability, died with the ‘sunny day’ literally trapped within them. then they have sunk down into the earth in the form of ‘sunny day’ rich fossil fuels. These ‘sunny days’ have later been released as people have needed the ‘sunny day’ energy in the fuel in order to power all the stuff we like – hair-dryers, Toyota Land Cruisers, Nintendo Wii’s, fridges, life support machines, jet boats, angle poise lamps, vibrators, DVD players, aeroplanes and whirlybirds, air-conditioning units to cool the effects of a ‘sunny day’, mobile phones, electric toothbrushes, motorised carving knifes, remote controlled cars, actual cars, car museums, Top Gear, cars and machines which can exactly replicate the browning effect of a ‘sunny day’. I like a ‘sunny day’ as much as the next man, but it strikes me that if we force several ‘sunny days’ into one 24-hour period things are going to get… well warmer. We can’t control the actual sun – bad news! - but we can easily and without too much discomfort control the amount of stored ‘sunny day’ energy we choose to release - good news. Obviously there are some people for whom it will be agony, but they are mostly old and stubborn and ridiculous and in any case they’ve had their turn, wrecked it, whinged, bellowed and accused, so now it’s up to us. Step aside you flat earth twats. Similarly, Ryuichi Sakamoto played one of his compositions on the piano and the hush that gripped the room as everyone realised how much gentle, passionate
Miracle Nora Nadjarian I look at the horizon for a trillion, trillion years. It will happen, perhaps, and I will be a witness. The earth will miraculously cure itself. Water will turn into ice. Mesmerised, I will watch the white sculptures, remember the Arctic and its magnificence, and shiver on the shore. The sun will play tricks on my mind, engraving on the pure white ice the shadow of a long stalk. A single red tulip. Congratulations, this flower is for you: the only human still alive, the only one who still believes in miracles. Nora Nadjarian is a poet and short story writer from Cyprus. She has published three collections of poetry and a collection of short stories, Ledra Street. Her ďŹ ction has recently appeared in elimae, fourpaperletters, Staccato Fiction, Metazen, PicFic, Up the Staircase, Curly Red Stories, LITnIMAGE and elsewhere. Blog: www.bettyboopinspired.blogspot.com.
The Reconstruction Niall Boyce Simon heard a sound like metal falling from the sky, and the planks of the pier clattered under his feet. He pitched to one side and grabbed onto the corroded rail of one of the fairground rides. A blonde girl wearing a blue dress fell to the floor in front of him, and he knelt down to help her to her feet. She took his hand and stood up shakily. She had knocked her head, and there was a deep cut above her eye that was bleeding profusely. One side of her face was covered in dirt. Simon took a tissue from his pocket and pressed it to her wound. She looked perplexed at first, not realising that she was injured. She winced as he touched her face, then put her hand over the tissue and pressed it firmly to stop the bleeding. Simon could see, across the water, the old burnt-out skeleton of the West Pier listing and toppling into the sea, the birds wheeling out and away from it in a great cloud. The Brighton seafront was obscured by a haze of dust; behind was a pillar of flame. A crowd was gathering around the sea wall, and people were fleeing onto the beach. Some were running into the water. There was the sound of screaming, of breaking glass, car alarms and sirens. The perfect summer sky had begun to darken, and he could feel a choking wall of heat radiating outwards from the coast. A middle-aged woman knelt at his left side. Her eyes were screwed tight, her hands clasped together. ‘I look for the resurrection of the dead,’ she prayed, ‘and the life of the world to come.’ Simon’s surroundings stuttered, froze, and broke down into a myriad of pixels. He sat back in his seat, sweating and feeling light-headed. ‘What happened?’ he said. ‘Why did we stop?’ Jen got up from her chair and knelt down next to him. ‘Atrial fibrillation,’ she said, examining the readout on his screen. ‘The system is a bit overcautious. It stops automatically if it thinks you’re unwell.’ ‘What?’ ‘I thought it was fixed, but paroxysmal AF can be tricky. I’ll check you over this afternoon.’ Simon sighed. Jen smiled affectionately at him as she unclipped his occipital cable. After another glance at his
Litro Classic: On Thirst in mid-Ocean, from the Kon-Tiki Expedition Thor Heyerdahl Even if our predecessors had started from land with inadequate supplies, they would have managed well enough as long as they drifted across the sea with the current, in which fish abounded. There was not a day on our whole voyage on which fish were not swimming round the raft and could not easily be caught. Scarcely a day passed without flying fish, at any rate, coming on board of their own accord. It even happened that large bonitos, delicious eating, swam on board with the masses of water that came from astern and lay kicking on the raft when the water had vanished down between the logs as a sieve. To starve to death was impossible. The old natives knew well the device which many ship-wrecked men hit upon during the war chewing thirstquenching moisture out of raw fish. One can also press the juices out by twisting pieces of fish in a cloth, or, if the fish is large, it is a fairly simple matter to cut holes in its side, which soon become filled with ooze from the fish’s lymphatic glands. It does not taste good if one has anything better to drink, but the percentage of salt is so low that one’s thirst is quenched. The necessity for drinking water was greatly reduced if we bathed regularly and lay down wet in the shady cabin. If a shark was patrolling majestically round about us and preventing a real plunge from the side of the raft, one had only to lie down on the logs aft and get a good grip of the ropes with one’s fingers and tots. Then we got several bathfuls of crystal-clear Pacific pouring over us every few seconds. When tormented by thirst in a hot climate, one generally assumes that the body needs water, and this may often lead to immoderate inroads on the water ration without any benefit whatever. On really hot days in the tropics you can pour tepid water down your throat till you taste it at the back of your mouth, and you are just as thirsty. It is not liquid the body needs then, but, curiously enough, salt. The special rations we had on board included salt tablets to be taken regularly on particularly hot days, because perspiration drains the body of salt. We experienced days like this when the wind had died away and the sun blazed down on the raft
in zoology and geography. Heyerdahl became notable for his ‘Kon-Tiki expedition’, in which he sailed 8,000 km by raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands.
Green Man John Turner He had a lot of corners, certainly. For starters, take the names he gave his kids. What kind of a name was Ham? Sounded like a football team. His wife had wanted Enkidu, so popular for a boy. But he had his way. He got them down at the pub too. The way he kept banging on about how it had been a crime to kill Humbaba and destroy the cedar forest. Too much moral high ground. They nicknamed him Tree Hugger. Then there was the zoo. You couldn’t eat them, and—well most people had the odd pet, but the aye-aye and kakapo and things? A waste of rations. It got worse. He started obsessing about sea-levels. Look, they said, stop doom-mongering. There’s a sage in India has worked out that if you fix big sheets around a spindle, it’ll turn round in the wind. Put a belt between that and a screw, you can put all the water back in the river. We’ll cover the fields with the things if we have to. That’ll fix it. They knew he had flipped when they found their Tree Hugger and his sons in the woods with an axe. They had to laugh though when they saw what he was building. Call that a boat? Draught’s too deep for the river, anyroad. His wife had the worst of it in the end, having to leave her sisters in god, who had helped her through the difficult bits—and he was difficult. Their duty was to their husbands, hers to hers. It made tsunamis look like a surfer’s lunch break. They got to the high ground, the residue of the cedar trees. The snow melt had opened up some more cultivable land. With other survivors, a women’s group calling themselves the Daughters of the Plains, they used what they had rescued of the biodiversity. Being cursed with longevity, he watched the later generations go forth and multiply, and multiply, cutting down more trees. They had a story about how Him Whose Name could not be Written had been miffed—probably
Pandemonium Inua Ellams All is quiet. My room is a white canvas freshly drawn on, the grass - just pencil sketches and her words are forty shades of green. Her metaphors are emerald, similes are neon adjectives are kaleidoscopes of mostly monotone imaginings, I kneel on pillows that in her presence become tree stumps, the bedroom is all farmland, I am top sheep dog. I cock my leg and pee on tree stumps, my poetry meets root. Tree stumps begin to blossom, I yelp like a puppy bitten by possums, run behind the headboard and watch things unfold. She, lying on the bed, is never whole. She is dissipated - a thousand blades of tall grass. She is a million leaves, a handful of hibiscus petals; she is oak bark and acorn seeds. I bark, my breath becomes breeze twisting in she, petals shifting, a small storm cloud appears out of nowhere, I switch the light on and off enticing the thunder strikes! Followed by rain, she reacts to the weather, I am the weather vane. I am this metal melting. I am a ghetto boy made bashful beholding a beauty unfolding. She is an Iliad of bromeliads and boughs, the concave of her belly is the Amazonâ€™s river bowl. Her arms are savannahs and white plains. I nosedive from them into the deep soft between her grand canyon. She trembles, she starts; high, in her troposphere, a snowstorm starts. She sees this room will not contain us, moves the desert of her foot towards the door. I am the skier in the blizzard on her back. We avalanche down the flight of stairs together, her shoulder bones are mountain ranges, her spine is a glacier. She bursts out the front door teaming with crazy flora, vines and wild beasts, leaving spinning on the top step, in a crystal glass, a mixture of refined molasses, beetle berry and Australian amaryllis marinaded in new rain and I am certain, as a truth seeker having burned the book of lies I am certain, as I toast after her, certain, that everything will change: - From now on, pineapples will grow from street lamps, that light filtered through fruits, start a new trend in nutrients.
Climate David Hermann the weather conditions the whale congregations the wisdom constructions the wish consultants the whiskied conscience the worry controls the worship controllers the weather conditions them all David Hermann is completing his Masters in Comparative Literature at UCL. He writes a lot. Read him at hermannist.com
EVENTS March Litro Listings from Alex James You have your copy of Litro; now we go beyond the page with a round of events to tantalise the grey matter. We’re warming up for spring and a wellearned round of lyrical escapism to power us out of the bleak mid-winter. We have an exclusive reading by one of the UK’s most loved contemporary authors, words that inspired ﬁlm and some of the naughtiest tales ever to be told in the capital. Let us guide you through events that’ll give your soul a spring clean - edited by Alex James. Up to 7th March, Jewish Book Week (www. jewishbookweek.com) holds events around London and beyond, including not one but two discussions with Litro favourite short story-man Etgar Keret. JBW celebrates the culture’s rich literary offerings in the run-up to the reopening of the Jewish Museum, London, on 17th March. A £10 million transformation has created a landmark museum that celebrates Jewish life and cultural diversity. www. jewishmuseum.org.uk 4th – 9th March, East Festival. East is a six-day festival that celebrates the rich creative mix of East London. Curated by the Mayor of London and delivered in partnership with key cultural organisations across East London, the festival will feature around 100 events inspired by the themes of architecture, minimalism, the Asian sub-continent and travel. www.visitlondon.com/events/east 7th March to 1st April, London Word Festival. London’s pioneering celebration of words, text and language returns for a third year, playing host to the most adventurous programme yet. Having scoured the country and beyond, the organisers bring “the ﬁnest array of artists working with words” to venues all over the city. www.londonwordfestival.com 10th March, Keats House, 7pm: Poetry at the Movies. With the recent success of Bright Star, Keats House celebrates the world of poetry in ﬁlm. With poems by Wordsworth, Tennyson, Dylan Thomas, Frost, and of course John Keats, see: www. cityoﬂondon.gov.uk 11th March, 6pm, The Gallery at Foyles, Charing
EVENTS Cross Road WC2. Hanif Kureishi reads from his new collection of stories and discusses his literary career in this exclusive London appearance. Kureishi’s provocative short ﬁction portrays a society stretched to breaking point by political tensions and examines the forces they exert on people’s everyday lives. www.foyles.co.uk 12th March, AVANT! NOIR. Music from Led Bib & Get The Blessing Dark; ﬁction from Toby Litt, Cathi Unsworth, Courttia Newland & Ray Banks, Toynbee Theatre £10 / £12 from 7pm. A night of criminal ﬁction, comic art and music of a darker hue. Enter a world where murder smells like honeysuckle in Toynbee Theatre’s art deco, velvet auditorium. Four authors present bleeding-edge crime stories intercut with animated chapters of online, collaborative comic strip Huzzah!! Noir. Illicit jazz comes from 2009 Mercury-nominated ensemble Led Bib with a suitably hard-boiled soundtrack. see: www. toynbeehall.org.uk 15th March, Memory and Imagination, 7pm. William Fiennes, Maggie Gee and Candia McWilliam, chaired by Piers Plowright. What happened when Proust’s narrator dipped the madeleine into his tea? How does memory work and when does imagination take over? If poetry is ‘emotion recollected in tranquillity’, is recollection then a literary technique - and how far is it possible, or necessary, for memoirs to tell the truth? Find out at the Royal Society of Literature; see: www.rslit.org 17th and 18th March, Tales of Naughtiness for the Not So Prudish. 40 Winks. ‘Bedtime Story Nights’ at 40 Winks have been included in the Sunday Times Travel Magazine’s ‘14 Most Amazing Things To Do in the World’, which is quite an accolade. These delightfully different evenings will continue throughout 2010. In an atmosphere of dreamy decadence, guests are plied with cocktails and nibbles before being taken on a magical journey back in time to rediscover the wonder and curiosity they often left behind in childhood. Email: email@example.com 23rd March, Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad and A Pint for the Ghost by Helen Mort, Jamboree, Cable Street Studios, £8 adv, 7.30pm. Over a century after they were ﬁrst published, the ghost stories of M.R. James retain their power to terrify and amuse. Following his critically acclaimed
EVENTS one-man show A Pleasing Terror, Robert Lloyd Parry brings James’ classic spine-chillers back to life. A Pint for the Ghost has been nominated for the Ted Hughes award for public contribution to poetry. See: www.myspace.com/jamboreemembersclub 24th March, Tim Turnbull, Laura Dockrill, Luke Kennard, Instructions for Heartbreak by Francesca Millican-Slater. Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club | £6.50 adv / £8 door | 7pm. The cream of contemporary live poetry join forces for a night of surreal storytelling and darkly witty wordplay. A century on from the rise of modernism, hilarious Tim Turnbull offers a satirical survey of our new cultural landscape in a performance featuring poems from his 2009 collection Caligula on Ice and Other Poems (Donut Press). Drawing on popular entertainments such as the ballad, pulp ghost story, folk song and music hall skit, he lampoons human endeavour in all its ﬁelds and forms. See: www.londonfestival.com 31st March, The Art of Storytelling. Terry Saunders’ ‘Six and a Half Loves’; Matthew Robin; the Chip Shop Poem; the Tree of Lost Things, St Leonard’s Church | £8 adv, £10 door |7pm. They say the art of a story is in the telling. But a little help from friends can help! A coterie of skilled and acclaimed yarnspinners augment their narratives with puppets, cartoons, gift-tags from the audience and a live printing press. See www.stkinternational.co.uk
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Published on Mar 1, 2010
Litro's theme this month is climate, with writing from, Tania Hershman, Paul Lyalls, Lawrence John, Frank Burton, Nora Nadjarian, Niall Boyc...