THE INKWELL MAGAZIN E
A. L. KENNEDY
DEEP FRIED INK
THE SPOKEN WORD
S L A M P O E T RY
THE LITERARY CITY
P OE T RY PRO SE DRAMA presented by
Publish E D
Welcome to the fourth issue of PublishED’s creative writing and publishing magazine. This is the start of a new year for a new team, and we have a new name to match: The Inkwell. We’ve had an overwhelming number of submissions for this issue, and it was harder than ever to choose what to feature. But never fear! We publish everything on our website (publishedinburgh.weebly.com) alongside digital copies of previous issues and information about upcoming events and visiting speakers. With this edition’s diverse bouquet of drama, poetry and prose, we have run three competitions - Fresh Prose & Poetry, where the writer is invited to portray their first experiences in Edinburgh, the Six-Word Story competition which needs no further introduction, and finally the haunting Halloween competition: to write a chilling Gothic Story. We are also honoured to have spoken to A.L. Kennedy, renowned comedian and novelist. And so much more than will fit in this wee circle. Enjoy! Introducing the
Publish E D
without whose hard work none of this would be possible Editor in Chief General EDITORS Prose Editors Poetry Editors Drama Editors Head of design PROOFREADING
L ois Wi ls on E lizab et h Eb da le O c t avian MacEwen Stephen Wor t hington Vicki Madden C laudia Mar inaro Kar ishma Sundara Kieran Johns on Sara h Thegeby Emi ly McFarland Roisin O’ Br ien
Society president Sara h Hu l l marketing & pr Sara Pierdominici Anna Hafsteinss on events Jenny Al lan Rosie Brown advertising Tara Msiska secretary Madeleina L au lund treasurer Matt he w B e ven researcher C aroline B ottger web design James McKel lar Photography C laudia Mar inaro
Deep Fried Ink hears from Caroline Bottger about Missing the Point in the UNESCO World City of Literature
Fresh Poetry Competition - The winning poem and two highly commended
Fresh Prose Competition - The winning short story and runner up
12-14 The Inkwell learns some tricks from renowned author and comedian A.L. Kennedy as takes a moment to speak to Lois Wilson
15 Competitions outside the bubble - opportunities to earn big bucks and to be published elsewhere
16-19 Poetry Section plus a note from the Poetry Editors 20-21 Six-Word Story Competition 22-27 Prose Section plus a note from the Prose Editors
28-29 Rosie Brown speaks out about Slam Poetry and Soap Box 30-35 Drama Section plus a note from the Drama Editors 36-37 Gothic Story Competition - the winning tale... 38-39 Future PublishED Events and Contact Details
Deep Fried Ink 4
Deep Fried Ink focuses on all things literary in Scotland. In this issue our very own Caroline Bottger talks to us about Missing the Point in a World UNESCO City of Literature. When I moved here in 2008, Edinburgh was something of a cultural disconnect for me. As residents, we are constantly reminded of the cultural heritage in which we are participating simply by living here and contributing to its diverse population. In humanities courses at our universities, the terms ‘Scottish Enlightenment’, Confessions of a Justified Sinner and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie are presented as wellworn but still shining examples of what Edinburgh’s minds have given the world. But in the early years of my undergraduate degree, sometimes I felt like I was missing something. I stood in line at Sainsbury’s to buy milk, I trudged up the stairs of the David Hume Tower, I cursed the state of the crosswalks; for a few years, Edinburgh as a literary city failed to move me. I did not realise it at the time, and I am only realising it now, as graduation rears its head and graduate school applications sit uncompleted on my computer’s hard drive. The point I missed was that Edinburgh is happening, and it’s happening all the time. It is a city in the perpetual present tense. There are so many things going on that even trying to record them all would be doomed to failure from the beginning. Or so it seemed to me. I grew up in Switzerland, which does not prepare you for life outside Switzerland. The fact that people were perhaps less litter-conscious than myself took some years to accept. In terms of my writing, things were going nowhere fast. As a teenager, I would try writing about Switzerland but gave up after a time. It only seemed to inspire a twee remembrance of snow-capped mountains and pairs of skis propped against the dark, weathered wood of a chalet. I was interested in the everyday occurrences of falling in love (and not much else), but my immediate environment was not conducive to writing The Great Novel. When I moved to Edinburgh, something changed. Something inside me was knocked off its axis and what it was, I could not tell. Reality began to shift, and the result was less than I had hoped for. I was sad, lonely and felt inconsequential, and Pollock Halls was another circle of hell. The George Square lecture thea-
tres were torture chambers which served to remind me that everyone had friends except me. And that was when I finally began to write seriously. What is fiction but a description of the vagaries of everyday life? Even James Joyce’s Ulysses is about a day in the life of one man. Growing up in an insular ex-patriate community ensured that I was always safe, but creatively, my brain was on lock-down. In Edinburgh, I saw and met so many odd folks who slowly changed my perspective on how I write and who I write about. There is no Big Issue guy where I grew up. He is unique to our city, to my experience of Edinburgh.
The maxim of many creative writing classes is to write what you know, but after these last few years in Edinburgh, I am beginning to believe that this is not true. I could not write what I knew back home because nothing happened to inspire the embryo of a story. That feeling only came when I moved to Edinburgh at age eighteen when novelty, good and bad, was part of each day. Writing what you know presents no challenge to the writer who wants to break boundaries and really say something. Write about what scares and inspires you and you will have material for years. When you live in Edinburgh, you’re half-way there. Caroline Bottger
writing what you know presents no challenge to the writer who wants to break boundaries and really say something.
” Laura Tomlinson
FRESH Congratulations to Ruth Mainland for her moving and subtle portrayal of that infamous first night spent in Edinburgh, reaching into the past and future respectively. Though not a long poem, ‘First Night’ delicately and succinctly captures the tiny yet poignant moments that are so often missed - truly poetic! Further congratulations go to the writers of our two highly commended poems Gillian Connell and Beth Robertson. The former for calling upon a masterful array of the senses to paint a vivid picture of those first few moments in her poem
poetry ‘Arrival’. We can almost taste and see the images as we read them. Beth Robertson took advantage of a more abstract form in ‘Letter Home’ which really carries the rhythm like spontaneous (but still poetic) speech. Contrasting with the other two, ‘Letter Home’ has a dry wit which, with use of parentheses in ‘knowledge / [gossip] / knowledge’ amused all of us! We were thrilled to have so many entries - what a pleasure to read and what a task to choose between them! Thank you to all who submitted - remember to check out the website where we publish everything!
Winning Poem: First Night I have no home now, only this A new room which reeks of old. Now at my door, I drop, ungrasp My suitcase which has woven Eager handgrips into my palms. I watch each imprint fade. I must be The peeling corners of this wallpaper now, That graffiti on the side of this bed.
At night, I find one of those Glow-in-the-dark stars, light-springing Under my bedsprings. I hold it in my palm. Next year, I am a beer-cupped mouth, a lecture hall hum, a library’s last hour. But for now I am Glow-in-the-dark. Still a flicker of familiar light. Ruth Mainland
First Runner Up: Arrival
As I drove along the highway Speeding lights blurred to Bending, luminescent wires, Crossing borders and mapping Distances which opened up Between us. From the window it was beautiful. A foreign city drenched in undertones of Home, yet somehow strangely Different. I floated in the myriad of faces; white faces and staring upturned eyes. Syllables like hieroglyphics Glittered from the corner Of each strange new street: Sprawling, swarming streets Cast out from an endless centre, Threading the great city web Of our now-dormant spider.
I rolled the clumsy sounds across my tongue: Rankeillor, Dalkeith, Buccleuch, It was all New Town to me. But always in the distance: The homing castle, Rising up and turning on its rocky nest, Pulled me back like a black anchor (Still pulls me back today). It took some time, but one night I uncovered it: the tacit secret That draws us here in tides: Dripping in November rain Like a hazy watercolour Edinburgh rippled And bloomed alive. Gillian Connell
Second Runner Up: Letter Home University is exactly as I thought it would be. Boys with blazing eyes And blazers Discuss politics and poetry In cramped kitchens Changing the world, one mug of wine (socialist red) at a time University is exactly as I pictured it. Girls with flowery names And dresses Curl up in caffeinated corners Polystyrene cups of knowledge [gossip] knowledge
University is exactly as I envisaged it. Perhaps we all read Brideshead too: young stupid many times Everyone is stepping quicker, dreaming bigger, idealistic hedonistic narcissistic University is exactly as I imagined it. Beth Roberston
FRESH Congratulations to Katya Johnson, the winner of our prose section for ‘East Mains Industrial Estate. Broxbusn. 1700.’ We found it to be written from a refreshingly different angle - the deserted industrial side of Edinburgh - which makes by contrast the proud and ancient face of Edinburgh with which we are so familiar seem like a strange dream. Finding a quiet moment alone during the first few days on arrival provides the narrator with a rare opportunity to dwell on what it really means to start a life in a new place.
pro se Further congratulations to Algernon de Swan who made us laugh with his heightened and droll social analyses. We think most of the readers would admit to be able to identify with many of the aspects through which our poor narrator struggles. Thank you once again to everyone who submitted entries. Visit the website to read more: publishedinburgh.weebly.com
East Mains Industrial Estate. Broxburn. 17.00. It’s hard to know quite why I’m here. What brought me here. I don’t believe in first causes but if I did (and we rewound the movie reel of actions and events and strange synaptic lurches – if we chased back, contracted the tail of Chinese boxes in search of that illusive first cause, the seed of all that was to come) – perhaps we would see it all prefigured by that thin slip of yellow paper balancing precariously on the balustrade inside. It was for me. A note for me, perfunctorily informing me that I wasn’t there, taunting and chastising me. He’d thrown down his mark, so I’d throw down mine. Fine, I thought, I’ll go. I’ll go directly to the source, to the depot, I’ll pick it up myself.
This was not meant to be a quest. I had already been initiated, self-initiated that is. That had been the day that I had chosen to walk with a woozy head, in the most circuitous manner possible to the Firth of Forth, (the estuary, the isthmus, the fistula between
land or ocean or whatever it is.) When I caught my first full sighting of the balking waters, hit square between the eyeballs with that blasting cold wind, gulped down my first mouthful of saline, fishy air; I held onto the sun-blanched rocks like a sailor. I felt like I was in Cornwall again. Leith. I thought. How beautiful you are. And I don’t mind the docks, the industrial shipyards, the loopy seagulls, the schooners, the pea-green ship bound for war somewhere, the modern developments, the terrible, cavernous ‘O’cean Terminal. It is all part of it; the hardness here, the non-negotiability of the water: Grey-black, adamantine whip. You, oh you. I had strayed by the seashore like a harlot, and at one point crouched right down (at the point where the water meets roughly chopped stones like a jigsaw puzzle), and really touched the water. They must have thought I was mad crouching like that, so full of everything. Maybe they thought I was having a wee.
COMPETITION But anyway, that was initiation. Silver water, silver horizon, ruddy cheeks, a bus back. (A couple sitting on the arched peninsula, wearing hats, bicycles thrown down casually on the stones beside them.) That was the way the story books have it, that was the way it was meant to go. No disappointments: a sense of gravity, a sense of the sea and that horrible flecked paintwork. So why was I here? Why was I in a no-man’s land, the lotus-eater’s zone, mid way between the centre and the airport populated only by factories, storage facilities, motorways and car parks? I even saw a nursery in this godforsaken complex. Wee gems, it read. Christ. From birth till
So after almost an hour on a local bus, I have reached my destination. I have wandered along Dunnet Way searching for the magical sign ‘Interlink.’ I find it – details and smiles, small talk. I receive it into my arms like a child. The mystery is explained: two books. From Amazon. I will probably never read them.
five years old, it boasted. Sweet mother of mercy. Very easy to lose your sense of humanity here, very easy to forget that we were meant for something better than this, something better than motorways and days in the office, grey towns and grey businesses. Weren’t we?
mumble approval and reproduce yet again with their cameras. Is this the anti-myth, the antidote, the wakeup call? What does it all mean?
Beyond the debris, beyond the manmade boxes which peppered the landscape, I could see that great flocks of birds were circling overhead. There are so many birds in the sky at this time of year. Perhaps they are all migrating somewhere, leaving for sunnier climes as winter approaches. An ornithologist could tell me. What fantastic trajectories nature makes for our eyes! And beyond these myriad, moving groups of aerial trippers, their wheeling and buckling is framed by the contrail of a descending plane as it lurches into landing. To my right a huge Victorian bridge spans and then recedes from view. I think it is an aqueduct but it is too squat. A train zips by on top of it. It is red and its arches are perfectly uniform. The age of industry, yet beautiful too.
But what is real and what is not? What can I, an interloper have to say about it? There are geographies and there are mythologies. There is a myth about Edinburgh which is daily reproduced by the itinerant bag pipes and then by the spectators who
It is Broxburn. East Mains Industrial Estate. There is little other sign of human life here—no other pedestrians. My shoes clip clip to a vast, vaulting concrete silence. Everyone else has gone, fled, or is fleeing in their cars or in their offices. This place was not meant for walkers. I retrace my steps eagerly. Walk right into a bed of geraniums. I wait by the bus stop. I am alone. The wind is up. A few people look at me suspiciously. The bus comes. The conductor questions me about my change. He is fierce. I do not have enough money. He relents. I sit back. East Mains disappears behind me; for forever I imagine. Once I am settled comfortably and am sure that I have secured a passage back home, I take a grey, textured case out of my bag, gently unzip it and retrieve my laptop. I flip it open, punch it on, and begin to write this. Katya Johnson
FRESH Runner Up
Survival: the aim of the Fresher Fear. It hits the moment you leave the safety of the embarrassing parental embrace. Fear of a new life, new city, new country. Brief panic over whether it actually IS a new country. No time for these thoughts. It is vital to concentrate on appearing to be normal and socially acceptable in the piranha tank which is university halls. The awareness that the friend making window is shockingly brief forces instant attempts to form acquaintances, when every bone in your body wants to hide in your new,
unfurnished room and sob quietly. Hot people have somehow already formed gangs. It’s probably a sort of exclusive membership club for the good looking. Just try to walk past and appear sophisticated. Are they waving at me? Wave back in panic. SHIT. They were waving at someone else. Play it cool. FUCK. Tripped over. Flee.
There were so many discussions with old friends (discarded now) over what Uni would be like. Dreams of creating a new identity, a fresh start, somehow being cooler. It soon becomes apparent that no one is fooled. But what of the other images of University? The drinking starts early and in earnest. But really there is just one major thought on everyone’s mind. SEX. University has been feted as an utopian paradise of easy living, easy lays and no responsibility. The Valhalla of fornication; eat and drink by day, screw by night. You can practically
pro se smell the pheromones. There is also the worry over which so many great philosophers have agonised: where is the fine line between sexual deity and skank? Worse is the rapid realisation this is not a conundrum which you have to face anytime soon. Nowhere is more intimidating or intriguing than the JMC canteen. This is the field of battle, where reputations are made or broken. Better to starve than eat alone. It is a perilous place: artery clogging food is a minor evil compared to the danger of dropping your tray, the social equivalent of suicide. Food actually plays a relatively minor role in the hall, in reality it is actually a catwalk. Hours of planning have gone into costumes and elaborately
coiffed hair in order to allow a casual stroll thought the heavily judgmental audience. Muscles are flexed and heels raised to precarious heights. The first night. Is failing to score a disaster? Did today go well? Will I be friends with those people? Will my liver cope? When will that accursed banging noise from the lucky neighbours stop? Finally sleep begins spread through heavy limbs... BRRRRRR BRRRR..! Argh. Oh god. Where am I? What’s happening ? Is it an air raid? The full horror of being dragged shrieking awake by the fire alarm is never forgotten. Slowly people file out into the foully icy chill, in various states of shivering undress. Many of them are not alone. Bastards. They got lucky.
CONTINUED Morning brings fresh horrors. The room seems to have been hit by a hurricane of dirty clothes and broken glasses. Worse still, a crone with a deliberately grating voice appears to have been caught in the act of stealing your bin. Leaping up to apprehend the villain leads to a few profound truths and a moment of great clarity. Firstly you need to be sick, secondly you are in fact stark naked and thirdly that this must be one of the mysterious ‘cleaners’ who seem to have stepped out of a bygone age of servility. Mortification results and the apparition departs with a cackle and her mischievous master key. The beginnings of friendships are always difficult. There is approximately one hundredth of a second
to attempt to create a favourable impression, while simultaneously making cutthroat judgements yourself. The great difficulty is that there is a limited number of times in which you can say your name (and secretly curse your parents for their cruelty in choosing it), your course and where you are from. Perhaps merely exchanging cards with these pointless details would facilitate matters? But woe betide the person who breaks these social conventions and attempts an original and witty opening. Social ostracism is swift – norms must be maintained. In fact the ancient and arcane pact of friendship is only sealed by the consumption of vast quantities of paint stripper-like vodka, falling over, being thrown out of clubs and being violently sick together. Clubbing is an art form. The goal is to achieve a level of drunkenness before arrival that still allows you entry, and to take advantage of any possible
groping, but otherwise be as far from reason as possible without resorting to recreational drugs. These are also a possibility, but one best avoided by the wise and somewhat cautious fresher. One thing at a time. Floors so sticky you can hardly raise your feet, booming wordless songs, sweat slicks making people appear strangely shiny and hoping everyone is too wasted to realise how ghastly your awkward dancing truly is. There is also the eternal drunken hope that a stunning member of the opposite sex is inebriated or short sighted enough to suddenly realise how amazing you are and sweep you home for a night of passionate love making. Stumble back alone. On the positive side you finally have your own room and a laptop for company. Hope they
don’t check the internet history. Nights and days begin to blur together, leaving only headaches and a wallet which is inexplicably sticky but empty. You now have ‘friends’; you may not like them, remember their names or even recognise them, but at least the fear of being treated as a leper and shunned has been averted. At last you are established. Monday morning finally dawns. There is a nagging panic in the back of your mind that there was some reason for being here not related to drink. Something academic? Alas, in response to the twin evils of fresher’s flu and a hellish hangover, the only option is to slide down into your sheets and hope the end comes quickly. Algernon de Swan
A trick or two
© Campbell Mitchell Glasgow-based author and comedian A. L. Kennedy won the Costa Book of the Year Prize in 2007 for her last novel, Day, and has been twice selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists as well as scooping up several awards in her career. Her new novel The Blue Book was launched earlier this year, and despite her busy schedule alongside teaching creative writing at the University of Warwick, A. L. has taken a moment to talk to PublishED. Your new novel, The Blue Book, has been described as ‘a fiction which may not always be lying’. Why? I think that much of the public discourse at the moment - and for some time - has been about deception and truth: were there weapons of mass destruction, can we trust the banks, are our politicians lying to us and ripping us off..? And we are in a time when the media are in flux, so in some ways it’s easier for us to be lied to and in some ways new lying is revealed. And of course, lying within relationships - for good and ill - is probably as old as relationships. You must have met some unusual folks in your research into the world of magic. Do you have any weird and wonderful stories for us?
Oh, I met all kinds of folks. Peter Lamont - he researches into the psychology of magic at Edinburgh University - lovely chap - Derren Brown - lovely chap. And that’s pretty much all the lovely chaps. I
mainly toured round all the different types of psychic as a punter and was lied to very badly and baldly. At one point I had my palm read by a Swami-style bloke who looked the part, but smelled of baked beans (I assume he’d just had lunch)... after our session he walked out of the shop, stepped recklessly off the pavement and narraowly avoided being hit by a van - which he didn’t see coming. I also met a psychic performer with an almost unique ability to alienate an audience - at the end of the first half of one show he yelled at the poor souls in the crowd “I hope you’ll all come back after the interval, not get pissed and go home.” And some wag yelled back “F##k me, he is psychic.” That made me laugh. But mainly I met vastly odd and unpleasant people who were making a living off the grief of others and a load of palmist types who were really just doing it by numbers Plenty of material for interesting and distasteful characters there! Do you ever piece characters together from some of the people you meet? No. Everyone thinks that’s what we do - but it would be terribly dull trying and very impractical. A personality you construct and discover as you invent the context and plot is always going to work better and be more interesting and fun for everyone involved.
So who or what inspires you to write? At this point I think I’m meant to mention the gas bill, or something - and paying bills does come into it, but I do love what I do and I did it for years when it was earning me nothing - I couldn’t really avoid doing it. I’m lucky that people will pay me to keep on going. And everyone else working in the arts or being some way admirable as a human being is an inspiration - or a nice sky, or whatever - one of the plus points of being a writer is that it trains you to look for inspiring things and so you find them. Do you have a strict regime when putting a novel together, or do you wait for inspiration to descend upon you? Both, really. Inspriation does descend, but it’s possible to encourage it and once it’s there it does need to be persuaded to work to a schedule. A lot of the long-term work of writing is about training the mind to do what it needs to, when you need it to.
Novels came first - but then again I was a drama student and I always did like improv and playing parts that got laughs, or getting laughs out of parts that might not have many. Comedy is much looser and always has elements that are to do with the specific crowd you’re facing and how they feel, and if they seem to have interests you can pursue or if they have features you can play with - it’s much more fluid you really prepare by having the areas you’ll deal with and boiling the points down; then you wing it. Novels are that, and then another year of making it work without tone of voice, without anything visual, for people you’ll never meet, whose tastes you don’t know... and you don’t get a reaction until you’re well into doing something else. A.L., I called the next question ‘Something about morbid or cynical humour being cathartic’ and, not knowing how else to express that as a question, I invite you to respond as you wish. I hope I’m not cynical - I don’t feel cynical. I think some of the humour is based on being realistic and
Wearing black and looking gloomy
in a free-floating way is a complete
waste of time. But you will. I did.
And how do you go about editing your work? That’s a series of essays.... put simply, I write quickly enough to stay fairly unfamiliar with the early drafts, then I go back and try to see it as someone other than myself might - would they understand it ? If not, then I rewrite. And then there are the other considerations: is it musical, is it as good as I can make it, can I even understand it, does one section lead into and prepare for another, is the overall pacing right, is anything missing, is anything dragging ? It’s where most of the real work of writing goes on. We’re doing a feature on the spoken word this issue. As a standup comedian do you prepare material differently from when writing novels? What came first?
The Blue Book, released earlier this summer, is A.L. Kennedy’s celebrated sixth novel.
Turn over the page for more from the expert.
realistically we all die and suffer and that’s about all you can rely on - so you need a laugh. I’m not that fond of humour which is just based on hating other people, or froth. Some nonsense has a lot of sense in it - I’m not against nonsense, but I do need there to be a point and for it to somehow be about us all coming together to partly deal with how shit things can be. I think that procudes the best laughs - the ones that are life-saving. Do you have any advice or tips for those of us who have resigned ourselves to the strange and lonely life of a writer?
© Campbell Mitchell
ARE YOU CRAZY ? Um... watch out who you take advice from and always make sure you’re doing the right thing for you as a writer, that way you’ll last the course and not go nuts and not end up pimping yourself for work you don’t enjoy. Not that you’ll enjoy yourself all the time, but an amount of the enjoyment is entirely down to you. Wearing black and looking gloomy in a free-floating way is a complete waste of time. But you will. I did. Everyone does. You don’t have to make yourself miserable to write - you will write and life will happen and make you miserable and you will keep writing and that will cheer you up. In fact.
And (apologies for the obvious question) can you offer us any advice on getting published in this dark and competitive literary ocean? I really can’t. It’s a nightmare out there. All you can do is write to the best of your ability, try and get into magazines, try and win whatever prizes are open to you, try and look for people to work with you who really support and understand your writing and who you’re going to be - sometimes the joy of finding an editor or an agent blinds you to the slight unease you might have about this or that direction they’re taking - listen to your instinct and only trust people - as far as you can ever judge - who are going to be trustworthy and with you for the long term. And try not to screw people over, or act like a prima donna - it just eats your soul eventually and being pleasant is much more practical and helpful. Join the Society of Authors - they’ll give you a great deal of good advice for just the membership fee. And get third party insurance if you’re working with groups and workshops - which I would recommend - you’ll learn infinitely more than you’ll teach. Lois Wilson
UK Competitions We like to keep you informed about what’s going on outside the student bubble. There are so many chances to get your work published and even win cash prizes. All you have to do is root around for the information. But we’ve done some of it for you! Magma Competition Deadline: 30th November 2011 Poems <80 lines. Prizes: £500, £200, £100 magmapoetry.com/competition Poetry Business Deadline: 1st December 2011 Poetry pamphlets of 20-24 pages poetrybusiness.co.uk/index.php/competition Cinnamon Press Several competitions for poetry and prose Various cash prizes and publications cinnamonpress.com/competitions
Remember there’s nothing like a bit of rejection to make you a better writer. Then when you’re sitting on 40 published novels you can swirl your wine about and say ‘yes I had hundreds of rejections before my unique talents were discovered.’ Chapter One Promotions Several Competitions running e.g. beginning chapter of a Novel chapteronepromotions.com/competitions Longworth Editors Short Story Competition Deadline: December 31st 2011 Prizes: £250, £100, £100 longwortheditors.com/wordpress The Writers’ Bureau Deadline: December 1st 2011 Poems & short stories. Prizes £500, £300, £200 wbcompetition.com
First off, we’d like to thank everyone who submitted poetry: we truly appreciate the emotion, thought and time that goes into writing. Choosing a few, from amongst at least eighty submissions, was not an easy task. We both agreed, however, that the ones we did choose were an eclectic lot. From the light and humorous to the more pensive, they were lyrical yet accessible. Hovering somewhere between dreams, reality and the imagination, the poems were refreshing and moving in their varied approaches. Some were simple and striking, like Miss Cunes’ untitled poem (discovered by her grandson 70 years after it was written), while others, like ‘My History’ used alOverkey ternating soft and vibrant brushstrokes to bring similar themes alive. Some were Well I can’t love her like an artist now, can I? equally passionate, while others were To have shaven the gritty real to the bone sweet, but soberly so. and still to look up water-smiling would be What we also found refreshing was not naive, like calling her the human being my own. just the breadth of subject matter and themes, but the variety of formal ap‘Delilah darling, supple, skittle-glitterful, proaches adopted. you sneeze a rainbow, taste like Domino’s,’ ‘Please save us your hyperbole. Come lie Poetry is like music: inevitably, you will with me.’ find something that speaks to you. Not for my flush mind one moment of repose. We hope you enjoy this selection as much as we did. Claudia Marinaro & Karishma Sundara Poetry Editors
I’ve come to know these burnt-backed hills, So resolute and wild, akin To hunched, unmoving animals Ready to spring. The tangled heather spreads a colour So quick to fade to winter’s greys; A sight as fleeting as the summer’s Departing days.
She laughs and overshoulders me, writes ‘should be sleeping, you’re not trying,’ turns, never to launch back into consciousness for hours for hours in spacious interim, I’ll never learn. But posing overkey this rhyme will still end up about the poet and the process, not the princess, not the goddess, not the flower nor the flame; no fuss, suffice to say I like this girl a lot. Max Meredith
The earth is seamed with thin red streams Of iron – mined for once, but now Forgotten. Buried deep beneath This ancient ground.
Forever I’ll remember here I’ll always have the memories But wonder constantly: will here Remember me? Jonathan Drake
Petals and Shards Memories can be tactile. Soft, harsh, drenching your pillow with Salty tears: fears. Melodies unleash a wealth, A flood of pent-up emotion.
You push on: you’re waist-high in memories Of times gone by; a life gone by. You’ve tried to separate the petals From the shards that are now sewn into Their soft fabric, but you can’t.
At first you’re just ankle-deep, Wading through your past, Picking up petals and shards, Looking them over, analyzing: Evaluating. Either storing them away In the secret cabins of your soul, Or casting them aside. Sometimes, in your haste to sift Through the baggage you’ve accumulated, You miss a few shards, sometimes even disperse Them with your unassuming feet.
Now neck-deep, you’re drowning. Your weary eyes look about Your friendly swamp, and Your mind’s eye sees the dice Thrown: you see them spin In the air before you.
You wade deeper. You’re now knee-deep In the green grass, the mire, the friendly swamp That you call the life you’ve led. You stop to rest; it’s all too much. Song lyrics, summer nights and days And all your ways Surround you: friendly bullies In the courtyard of your life. Yours to accept their humour, Yours to decline their overwhelming measure.
Memories can be tactile. Soft, harsh, drenching your pillow with Salty tears: fears. The friendly bullies surround you, In the courtyard of your life: Yours to accept their humour, And yours to decline their overwhelming measure?
Untitled Poem Should I not see the stars again, Nor hear the river’s song, Should I not walk the lanes again, Nor feel the wind and rain, Should I not wander in the woods, Nor watch beside the sea, If I should never see again, The things I love to see, Could I live with dreams? And dreaming live; or should I dreaming die? Miss Evelyn Cunes Exeter 1939 Submitted by Robert Smart
Before they plunge into the depths Of quick sand, and drag you with them; Before you’re in over your head, You have a choice to make.
Flower Reincarnation let’s just stay, you and I, stay young for now, inside; play our little roles in the lame working world and come home too tired to argue or make fuss. to the bed we would go to just lay like the leaves in a bed of green grass or a meadow of trees let us just wrap, twist, and settle like vines around the tree of love which we grew upon until we vanish back into the ever-changing earth from whence we came, until our next birth Christopher Rubey
oetry P 18
Dark Grains It was a dark present: My stomach tangled with cramps, New bans on toys “for safety reasons” Ruled out trumpets and hats and giraffes for kids at parties. La Niña returned to freeze Great Britain, its shores and Woods and streets and alleyways and benches and stables. Bribes, bribes, bribes striped the newspapers with headlines, Corruption is a new capital sin, have you not heard? It was a curious present: New music started playing And it wasn’t worse than before. It was a stormy present: The trees were uprooted from their nests, The cards were being reshuffled, and friends lost sight of each other, Economy was collapsing, hypocrisy was flowing rapidly in everybody’s veins, In the forests, the hunters were shooting game, And blonde American girls sat laughing in their living rooms. Not a care in the world, them. And I, All I could do was counting my moles and imagining What it would be like If each of them was the centre of a galaxy. Lucy Marion
Poem 2 Turn on the neon light my hair is made of tobacco stop stepping on calcified roofs You forget that beneath them someone is sleeping in withered love, in beautiful love You forget that beneath us the sun is flowing on tap and children are sucking with greed so it’s getting dark Light the match the cigarette and the soul let’s burn one more time this death within us like the kamikazes let’s laugh fadingly look how the world is disappearing from our bodies My love, we are two white nights We – the ignited Milky Way Iulia Drugas
Portrait of the Poet as a Young Frida Kahlo,
Without the Unibrow Stick figure with wired hair and a triangle body, In white stockings, pink princess dress, puffed sleeves, Hair wild with chocolate, leaves, tangled knots, Scabs on my knee crusted over with dirt, Hands browned with M&M stains, Mouth lipsticked popsicle red, Face masked with corn and mayonnaise, Gap between my jack-o-lantern teeth, Modeling around the house in oversized heels, Scribbling colorful white noise in picture books, Writing “Ana” again and again on the wall, I am that important, Giving Barbie and Skipper pixie haircuts that would never grow back, Pulling at mama’s skirt for ice cream money, Playing hide-and-seek under the Church pews, Chasing the rabbit and cleaning its ears with a Q-tip, Shrieking at the three-eyed monster in the closet, Vomiting brown soup in the baby aisle of Sav-on Drugstore, Picking up bugs and trying to open them as they curl up into tiny balls, Counting Monopoly money from a pink plastic purse, my treasure, Dressing the dog in my sister’s baby clothes, Sliding down an overturned mattress in my socks, Building a kingdom of chairs and blankets, I am the supreme ruler of the universe. Ana-Claudia Magana
Pyromania I click you burn into life with the sound of bubblewrap opening its eyes I stare as you dance with someone else who moves you in ways I cannot hope to match I want to touch I want to kiss but I stop afraid of your reaction a kiss that needs the kiss of life to save me from the burns that spread across my cheeks from the kindling of my lips you will burn me and I am not ready I remember the last trip to the hospital I pause watching you burn me and I do not care I hold the flame against my skin your touch reminds me that I used to feel
Matthew MacDonald 19
Hemingway implicated in “Foot Locker” lootings. Amy Donigan Born teeth first, spewing Russian verse. Ayesha Drury When you smile you’re really snarling. Sophie Wright Woke up naked in library, handcuffed. Algernon de Swan
Hemingway said his best work was:
SIX WORD STORY ‘For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.’
Wanted: man, preferably with pants down. Kieran Zanis Woke up and dreamt of you. Ayesha Drury Autumn was uncharacteristically dry for many. Liz Ebdale
Our winner: 20
Born. Abandoned. Lonely. Vengeful. Murderous. Suicidal. Freddie Mills Yes; yes; yes; yes; yes; yes! Max Meredith For free: smiles. Pass them on. Claudia Marinaro “Flyer, mate?” I disembowel him frantically. Matt McDonald
some think they can top that.
COMPETITION have a read, decide for yourself.
Lost/stolen: half platonic creature. Reward. Ayesha Drury Divide by zero: the plane crashes. Craig Innes Greener grass, you’d thought. But no. Ste Worthington
Eyes meet. Love. Reach out. Mirror. Algernon de Swan Photograph: Sophie Wright
It’s a difficult thing to say, with any degree of certainty, what constitutes good prose. What we are able to say, and with significantly more confidence, is that we received a lot of submissions which we deem to have achieved this lofty if unspecific goal. Unfortunately, we couldn’t include all the great entries which achieved and surpassed our entry requirement (that is to say, entries which made us smile in the way only a well written piece of prose can) but we hope that the pieces we have selected resonate with you in some way as they did for us. We hope they’ll help you appreciate the simple elegance of a sombre juxtaposition, or perhaps help you to reassess the value of the little things in life. We hope they’ll irrevocably alter your perception of the not-so-humble strawberry. And finally, with significant risk of sounding trite, we do hope they’ll make you smile too.
Little Things Trees huddle around the park. ‘Tell us a story’, they whisper. ‘And make it a good one.’ An old woman sits on the swing looking up at the sky. A cat edges his way across the park. A child’s glove lies discarded in the snow. I watch the curious woman on the swings as she pulls a bag of sweets out of her pocket. She pops one into her mouth and rolls it around like a secret. She doesn’t notice that her feet are sodden and her shoes are torn. Or if she does, she doesn’t seem to care. Her world is wrapped around her, hidden in her handbag away from my prying eyes. I’m a thief. If I could, I would steal each of her thoughts and keep them in a little jar. At this moment, a man passes the park holding the hand of a little girl. She toddles upright and purposeful with the certainty of all fiveyear-olds. The man beside her looks less certain. I catch the sound of the girl’s voice, loud and inquisitive. “Why is that old woman on the swings? Did you see the cat? Dad, look at the cat!” Her mouth is held tightly in a frown as she listens to her father answer her incessant questions but he mumbles and I can’t hear his answers.
The woman on the swing doesn’t move but continues to look, as though in a trance, up at the sky. What is she looking for so expectantly? There’s no moment of epiphany. Just the image of the snow falling gently, resting on the earth’s back. This is enough for the woman who rocks gently back and forth upon the swing, smiling to herself. I look up into the sky along with her. Still nothing happens. Just
Stephen Worthington & Vicki Madden Prose Editors the snow falling lightly, then heavy. Once again I catch the loud, inquisitive child’s voice as she asks, “Is snow made of fairies? I think it is made of fairies.” Now I catch the man’s answer. “It is dreams,” he says. This perfect little lie turns the girl’s face to the sky in delight. She catches these lies on her tongue, eats them up. They turn to truths in her mind. I listen as the man exuberantly delights her in a tale of fairies. Years later she won’t remember the story or believe that the snow is made of dreams but she will recall only her father’s warm hand in hers and the snow falling lightly on her nose and the strange lady on the swings. The woman on the swing stirs slightly from wherever it is she’s been. She rises slowly, leaving the swing gently rocking behind her. She walks away, leaving small, tired footprints in the snow. I creep away through the flurry of snow. Only my story is left. There’s no one about, just me catching snowflakes on my tongue and crinkling my nose at the sky like a small child. Snow is not made of fairies or dreams. I know such things are nonsense. Yet for a moment, just a moment, the world is magical. Faint whispers of memory float down with the snow. I tap on the glass, behind which lies only silence. Footsteps disappear in the snow around corners. My feet patter like words on an empty page. The trees look disappointed, their heads bent and secretive, they part as I walk beneath them. I walk away, my story tucked tightly in my back-pocket. In front of me lies a stretch of fields covered in a blanket of snow; a white blank page, showing nothing and everything. Rebecca Brown
Moon Feet Snip. Snip. Snip. First the catch, then the yield as the blade slides through like butter until there’s no more resistance and the half moon flutters to the bathroom floor. She used to cut the slivers away like they were part of herself. The satisfying clip as each miniature nail became a tiny shell. Sometimes he’d wriggle his darling little feet as he gurgled on her lap and she’d have to hold him tighter as she sculpted. He was a part of her, a little part that had become disconnected, yet lived and grew. When Harry had clasped her and said “I do,” he’d been growing inside her, tiny, like a fleeting thought which somehow grows into obsession. When she came back from the hospital she would sit him in Harry’s lap as she clipped away. She would stroke his feet with wonder and Harry would say, “Look what we did Joe. Look what we did my love.” They were beautiful, his feet. Perfect and pink. Rounded with softness and completely new. Still not marred by the journeys that harden and dry out skin that was once so yielding. She used to dress them up in little socks and shoes and know that beneath the layers were two miniature versions of her own. Before everything. Before her life happened and the innocent, pearly whites yellowed and chipped and began growing outwards, slowing forcing and tearing manically at the circling skin. She used to cut away the yellow so meticulously, watching with satisfaction as the bad bits fell away to the floor, but she could never get it all, never again have those perfect half moons. Harry was at work a lot, but she had her baby. She had his beautiful moon feet to keep completely perfect. She would stare at them and think how her feet told a horrible story, but his? They would be a fairytale. In fairytales people fall asleep, but they never waste away. They lie in caskets among the trees of ancient forests or behind castle battlements, not beneath the clinical white sheets of a hospital bed, among wires and the birdsong of heart monitors. And, when the bird song died, no matter how many times she kissed him he wouldn’t wake up.
Harry had watched her and she had seen tears through her tears. He’d reached out to her, each yellowed nail clasping her own. He’d taken her home that night and she’d lain immobile as he talked of a future she could no longer grasp. Her future had been in a pair of tiny feet. And the next night she only had his words for company, and the next, and the next. Until one morning she felt him stumble into the room, alcohol saturating the air between them with a sweet absence. She rose and watched him as he slumped, tangled in the bed sheets, and then she went to the bathroom cabinet. Her scissors were there, cold with lack of use, gleaming. Sitting back on the bed, she took Harry’s feet in her hands. She set them lovingly on her lap, feeling their roughness, regretting it and, slowly, she trimmed each nail. Taking off the ragged ends, trying to see a familiar halfmoon. But they were yellow and misshapen. So she cut more. She cut and cut, trying to rid him of the imperfection, to bring him back to what he had been, to what they had been. She tried to give him a small pair of moon feet. She didn’t even hear him when he started screaming. Now they don’t give her scissors. She rocks herself to sleep in a sparse white room and when she wakes her nails have been shaped for her into gentle ovals. No, she’s not allowed anything sharp. Every morning she sits up in her new bed and sometimes people come and talk to her. They murmur to one another and scribble as she tells them about her moon feet. She feels them taking away a part of her in their notebooks, like slivers on the bathroom floor. She doesn’t know about the man in the wheelchair who sits behind an opaque window and stares at her, holding her tiny brass scissors in his clenched hands. He comes everyday and sits behind the glass to watch her and an existence past. Everyday he sits with those scissors knowing she will never let go of the babe of their sundered life. Charlotte Singleton
Goodnight, Sweet Quince Since time immemorial, the strawberry and the quince have been at war. It is difficult to say, so many millennia after the Fructan Conflicts began, just what started it all. Conventional wisdom amongst the strawberries holds that the war began when Baron Dietmar Quince made an improper pass at the Princess MayLouise Strawberry, favourite daughter of Emperor Chuck Strawberry IV. The quinces’ side of the story is lost to history. Perhaps somewhere it lies engraved on forgotten pips in the Asian desert. Cynical historians have suggested that the strawberries may have been envious of the quinces’ juice silos, or their sophisticated mastery of tang. But nobody listens to cynical historians. They lack romance. Whatever the truth, the result remains. The quince were massacred.
This was no easy victory, though, for the strawberry empire. By nature smaller and weaker, they suffered in initial skirmishes. For a while, they seemed destined to disappear from the hedgerows entirely. They were tactically moronic, and physically incapable. Their bright red hues were impossible to camouflage, and they were vastly over-reliant on imported weaponry. Blackberry arms merchants set a high price on thorns, and the empire was forced to sell off huge swathes of material assets. The low point came in the eighteenth Fructan century, when Emperor Ranulph Strawberry XXI was forced to sell the dynastic monopoly on the pigments pink through crimson. Bankruptcy was avoided, but the results were catastrophic; as raspberries, redcurrants and those tart little berries from Sweden which taste nice with cold meats flooded the market, the strawberry force looked spent. The quinces rolled forwards, effectively unopposed, almost to the gates of the empire. Their thick yellow hides bristled with thorns, but on they came. In the end, it was the quinces’ arrogance which undid them. Impatient with the sluggishness of victory, their leader Comrade Ruski Quinznikov ordered
research into biological warfare. Early experiments with pesticides met with some success, but the great breakthrough came when the quinces unveiled their ultimate smart bomb: the maggot. Initially, its effect was cataclysmic. Whole strawberry beds were simply eaten away by the fly-borne projectiles, painstakingly designed in quince laboratories. But it also inspired a young generation of strawberry scientists, frustrated with their emperor’s archaic tactics. The maggot was the proof they needed—a new age of weaponry had begun. Frustrated and confused by the fast-changing world, Ranulph XXI abdicated—to be replaced by Ranulph XXII, who poured what funds remained into weapons research. Credit for the breakthrough is usually attributed to a scientist named Johnny Strawberry. This may, however, be largely propaganda. Certainly Johnny Strawberry was the perfect poster boy for Ranulph XXII’s new regime; heart shaped, thick-stemmed and pillarbox red. His realisation was that the maggot was thinking small—the strawberries needed to up the stakes dramatically. So his team, inspired by the quinces’ early pesticides, slaved away on what was eventually revealed as the Warfare Manipulation Device. The concept was simple; rather than create entirely new biological constructs, the strawberries would manipulate those already present. The device worked through chemical sprays, which contained complex blends of pheromones and hormones designed to alter the desires of nearby animal organisms. They just needed to choose a weapon. They needed something with the agility and greed to pluck and destroy quinces by the thousand, something fruit-eating yet inherently destructive that would continue to gorge itself long after it was full. Their research threw up a presumptuous African ape called Australopithecus. The rest, of course, is history. The strawberries dripfed the apes intelligence and motivation, and quinces were consumed in staggering quantities. Slowly, provoked by chemical hints, the apes developed stone tools, to reap quinces by the dozen. Australopithecus became Homo habilis became Homo erectus became Homo sapiens sapiens. The apes spread across the globe, unconscious that the urges driving them were the military machinations of some small, plump and now incredibly smug red fruit.
Led by their unknown masters, the apes developed cookery, and their ability to consume the bitter quince multiplied enormously. Previously unpalatable, it became a delicacy for the rapidly-evolving humans. An inspired strawberry anthropologist fed them the notion of combining quinces with cane sugar, and consumption rocketed further. Others prompted the apes towards metalwork, giving them ever-more efficient quince-harvesting implements. Victory seemed complete. Strawberries were now commonplace, the quince relegated to scattered strongholds in Western Asia, along with captive examples in orchards and botanic gardens. With the invention in the 1870s of the runcible spoon, Emperor George Strawberry CXLVII declared the war over, in his famous Berrysburg address: “The evil quince dominion of the past is no more. This world is a strawberry world! These fields are strawberry fields, and will be strawberry fields…”— he paused for effect—“…forever.” And there, things would have ended, if they had only known how to tell the humans to stop. The twentieth century whirred into gear, and brought with it human alteration of the world on an unprecedented scale. Equipped with the skills they had been taught, people created concrete and metal infrastructures, engines that belched megatons of smoke into the atmosphere, flying machines and automobiles. The population soared. Billions upon billions of ugly infants were brought, squalling, into the world. Crying for something to eat. The humans, armed with evil grins and plates of cream, turned on their creators. The strawberries desperately tried to reverse the effects of their manipulation, but it was far too late. They had taught the people greed, but they had not taught them satiety. Their sweet flesh, now, is rendered asunder by simian molars. Small refugee colonies in scattered country gardens survive, where they cluster together in fear of the sharp-eyed apes which they trained to destroy. Other than this, they survive only in mass slave camps, vast synthetic tunnels of hell where they are born only to die, plucked as soon as they reach maturity, hoisted upon their own petards. Huddling, doomed, in a pavlova, the strawberries curse their ingenuity. Aran Ward Sell
Curtains Sergeant Hank Richardson sat up on his death bed, wearing his best pin striped suit. He sat in a large, impersonal room full of other dying men. All of the other beds in the room, save one, were curtained off for privacy, but Richardson, never a coy or private man, had asked for his curtains to be left open during his last day, and for a seat next to the window. He didn’t want to go out staring up at a pale white ceiling, or at curtains surrounding him, but at the proud, fluttering flag of the United States of America out of the window in the hospital carpark. It was a sign of freedom for Richardson; a sign that he could be free to live in a country without blacks, A-rabs, spicks or queers. It was a sign of the might and power of his great Lord Jesus Christ, and of His proudest work on this here planet earth, the land of the free and the home of the brave. He was staring at the flag and praying under his breath, silently knowing that he would be dead within the next few minutes In the bed next to Richardson, also without the “material constraints of curtains” lay James Byron Lafleur, a small, flamboyant individual. His unkempt (at the same time, ridiculously overkempt) pink hair being held up by various clips and bands, and his painfully skin-tight leather trousers held up by an equally unnecessary amount of belts. He had insisted on wearing his favourite pair of cowboy boots and gold-rimmed aviator sunglasses in his bed ever since it was declared that he would die within the week. He pitied the sheep around him wearing their dressing gowns, and the coroners who would have to
look at their corpses. On his bedside table was a photograph of Stalin meeting with Lenin and Kalinin in 1919, and a copy of The Communist Manifesto, which he intended to finish as he drew his final breath. He was reading it now, silently knowing that he would be dead within the next few minutes. “Good luck with that,” Byron muttered with a practiced, almost flirtatious tone, as he glanced up from his book momentarily, not wanting his beautiful coup-de-grace spoiled by listening to the disgusting mainstream religious sentiments being expressed by the man in the bed beside him, or by looking at his arrogant capitalistic, bourgeois face. Richardson glared at the young man who lay beside him, tempted to spit on the heavily made-up facade. The bigoted old man growled quietly, physically repulsed by the poison being read by the red student punk, but decided to cast his gaze back towards the flag of his forefathers, not wishing to have his glorious last minutes before meeting with his saviour spoiled by unnecessary argument with a queer. Byron, obviously unsatisfied with this lack of response, went to repeat himself. “I’m awfully sorry, sir, did you not quite hear what I said?” he loudly began, sarcastically, drawing out each syllable. “You’d be wise not to insult me, boy. If you want any chance of forgiveness,“ growled the sergeant with a degree of restraint unfamiliar even to himself. Byron looked back down at his book. Playing this game of musical chairs with death was unwise. His death was to be perfect, beautiful, not tainted by this ignorant homophobe sitting beside him. Realising that he was not taking in a word he was reading, Byron continued staring at the words. He knew he wouldn’t exist in any form after his brain shut down, but told himself that this was for the best. He reasoned to himself that no intelligent creator he would like to meet would have allowed this ridiculous fascist pig of a man to exist.
Richardson, still staring over the room to the next bed, unable to concentrate on his prayer any longer, knew that he would be granted everlasting life when his soul passed from his body. He reasoned to himself that this boy would not be joining him in the racially, sexually pure paradise which had been prepared for him.
ing Lance in nonexistence. “Bet you believe he’s up in your dreamland.” He added, his hopefulness and fear drowning amongst the forced sarcasm dripping from his lips.
It was only a matter of seconds before Byron gave up on reading his book, accepting that it was impossible to concentrate with the heat of this obnoxious man’s gaze upon his delicate profile. He threw down the book purposefully to the floor with his best imitation of righteousness.
“What do you think’s going to happen?” he asked, suddenly staring nakedly and directly into the eyes of the young man lying beside him, his voice breaking in terror. Byron, dropping all of the pretence he had spent his life painting around himself, whispered shakily that he did not know. Hank, trying his hardest to regain his lost composure, extended his hand out to the young man lying beside him. The tightness of James’s grip surprised both of them. The men slipped away into the unknown, each staring - the terror and helplessness evident in the eyes of the other.
“He’s dead.” Muttered Byron, trying with all his might to not think of how soon he would be join-
Monsters When I was younger, my father had a furious temper. He’d often hit me and my mother. But once I got old enough, I learnt how to use that fury. ‘Dad! There’s a monster under the bed!’ He came in and roared. ‘Any monsters in here are gonna get a kickin’ if there keep my boy awake!’ Then a monster came out from under the bed and ate him. ‘Thanks Frank.’ ‘No problem Neil.’ Neil Colquhoun
“Missing your girlfriend then, boy? He didn’t bother turning up?” questioned the old sergeant, trying to hide genuine sympathy with his gruff demeanor; thinking of his wife’s passing the year before.
“Nope”, replied Richardson. A silence dropped between them.
Time’s Well It is said that the font of time lies just beyond the well traversed roads; a place where the world’s history and tales are woven into the waters. Over the spring, there sits a man, whose face is enshrined with memories. In his hand he holds a rod; its line reaches into the limitless waters. Some say that he is fishing for days long lost, yet I believe he is waiting for days yet to come. Kai Holmstom
S oa p b ox e x t r ao r d i n a i r e ro s i e b row n t e l l s
Clang. The stage lights go up; you’re faced
with the silence of an audience waiting for the first words of what they hope will be a winning poem. The silence unfolds like a wave around you, filing the surroundings with tension. Till that first sound comes clashing out of the poet’s mouth. And like a lightning bolt struck, you are hooked to their words for the next two minutes as they attempt to perform a wining piece. This is competition poetry, this is not performance poetry. It isn’t a reading or a piece of performance art. It’s the two entwined in a competitive grill. It is the art of poetry as something to move, to emote, to inspire and to create desire deep in the heart of those listening, to transform the spoken word into something altogether more powerful. It is the counter-culture revolution of our generation. A movement that has spread from its first light in the depths of the Get Me High Lounge in windy Chicago to as many cities as you can think of. It is not a performance of art but a revolution in itself; the spoken word revolution. It is powerful and persuasive, it is mesmerising and alluring. Filled with indignance, irreverence, hope or humour, poets from across the world take to the stage. Think about it like this: if Barack Obama, the Hulk and Hemingway got together and had a brainchild, it would be Slam Poetry. The oration of a leader, the power of a comic book character and the sheer dripping sentiment of an author and poet, combined in a two-minute slot. How can you not feel caught up in a movement like this?
Slam poetry comes in a very constricted format. It begins with an even number of poets, usually about eight. Each is given two minutes to astound, impact and provoke. Five members of the audience are selected before the poets take the stage to act as judge and jury. There are three elements upon which they judge; the poem, the performance and the audience reaction. Taking all of these into consideration a number from 1 to 10 is given to each poet. The highest and lowest scores are always thrown out. And each poet leaves the stage with a mark somewhere between 3 and 30. Four poets usually progress to the next stage where the time limit moves to two and a half minutes. The final round consists of two
poets usually within a three-minute time limit. I recently went to a slam poetry workshop with the late great Young Dawkins. (He’s not dead, he just moved to London.) Downstairs at the Cuckoo’s Nest in Tollcross, we sat, a cluster of around nine young poets all wide-eyed and clutching our notebooks to our knees, sipping our drinks with a kind of a delicious hesitation with the fear of showing our work to the national Scottish slam poet. He talked about Bukowski, about Whitman and the wonderful poets who litter the stages of spoken word nights up and down the country. Mainly, he spoke about the words and the power of the competition to draw out something incredible from the poet who takes the stage. ‘Compete!’ he cried and ‘For god’s sake learn the poem’ he called as we listened to him speak. We were invited to read our work - to take the spotlight and be poets. One by one, we opened up our notebooks, our hearts and our souls to reveal the
If barack obama, the hulk and hemingway got together and had a brainchild, it would be slam poetry
tiny portion of our inner workings that held our poetry. It was brilliant. Each poet gave something beautiful in that tiny little downstairs of a tiny little bar in Tollcross. We were hooked. After that all I wanted to do was perform again, and again and again. Till my words were spilling over with anticipation for the next stage, the next spotlight, the next poem.
The key to slam poetry, something Young said to us that night and something which every great poet knows; is not the audience, nor is it necessarily the performance. The poem is the key to slam poetry. The most important thing you can do is be honest, be true to yourself and be true to the poem. Write what you believe and the performance will come naturally. Write something true and the audience will be struck regardless of how you say it.
us why the voice is mightier than the pen Now don’t get me wrong here, not all spoken word has to be three feet deep. Some of the best spoken word can be the kind which makes you laugh so hard it hurts, makes you breathless. This can inspire as much as an indignant piece on the wrongs of this world.
to hide behind their notebooks when they take to the microphone. Slam is not for the meek or timid. It removes the outer coating of a poet to reveal the inner guts to the audience who may not always be the kindest of ears a-listening. For these poets there are scenes springing up all over in which sharing is the most important experience. As a person who runs a poetry night I have to agree that it is the sharing of the poetry which comes first and that Slam is a whole different ball game.
However, spoken word is not just something to be given over to the competitive side of the scene. There is a marked opposition among some poets to the idea of competitive poetry. The idea of comparing poems against each other, comparing poets against each other is seen as a callous degradation of a pure form. Often these are the sorts of poets who prefer
Slam is not for the meek or timid
Photograph: The Spoken Word in action, captured by Claudia Marinaro
So, in the true spirit of all that is great about being an artist, I am shamelessly using this article to tell you, Inkwell reader, about a night happening here in Edinburgh. Soap Box.
Soap Box is a night of music and (mainly) poetry held every two weeks in the upstairs of the Meadow Bar. It’s a gathering of artists, poets, interested people and enquiring minds. It began this September and is still a grassroots movement in the Edinburgh poetry scene. If you’ve ever written a few scraps on a piece of paper and thought, I like that, then Soap Box is the platform on which to share that little piece of inspiration with a few others. It’s a contingent of first time poets and those who’ve been doing it for a while.A collection of wordsmiths of different forms with different voices all coming together in a cacophony of an evening. It’s not just a night of poetry. It’s a continuation on the theme of what spoken word is; a revolution. Soap Box is the forum to discuss that revolution. Come gather round and listen to the words or, even better, share some of your own. So to all you aspiring pen nibs out there, all you inspired poets, slammers and passionate indecisive people; I say write, I say share and I say speak. Just don’t and I really mean it, DON’T use props! For more information about Soap Box, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Drama section we tried to select pieces that give an idea of the true diversity of dramatic writing, emphasising the quality of the words and ideas you can see on stage. Andrew Edwards’ Bath Time is a film script, which requires a different technical skill when writing and is a refreshing blend of intelligent and absurd humour. Dissidents was recently on at Bedlam Theatre (a good enough seal of approval, surely?), and our extract demonstrates the complexity of having multiple voices on paper, but somehow works so well when put on the stage – which at the end of the day is the beauty of drama. But that is simply our opinion. Read on and find out (and enjoy!) for yourself.
Extract from Dissidents
Kieran Johnson & Sarah Thegeby Drama Editors
(A moment passes, then quite suddenly GERARD enters from stage door right. For duration of this exchange, BARTENDER keeps confusedly switching to look at the speaker) GERARD (Slightly irritated and quite agitated; speaks as he is emerging and addresses stage door right) Look, this place seems(CLARA enters from stage door left) CLARA (Similarly irritated and agitated; addresses stage door left) -as good as any. We’ve been walking aroundGERARD (To stage door right) -for long enough now. It’s not going to make(GERARD and CLARA notice each other, stare at one another, and simultaneously speak) GERARD/CLARA (A bit bemused) …any difference. (CLARA hurriedly exits stage door left. GERARD shakes his head and takes a seat at the table stage right. ROY and ROWAN enter from stage door right) ROY I don’t like this. We don’t know what sort of pub this is ROWAN It looks clean enough to me. ROY I mean whether it’sROWAN I know what you mean. But it doesn’t look like you’re going to be jumped by anyone in here. Not unless they’re hiding under the table. GERARD Just sit down. We’ll find out what’s going on soon enough. (ROWAN sits immediately. ROY glances to the radio and sneaks a look under the table before sitting.) ROY Fine. (JOSEPH stumbles in from stage door left as if pushed and examines his surroundings. ALEXIS and CLARA follow.)
JOSEPH Oh god.
ALEXIS Stop moaning. JOSEPH But it’s a fucking hole! BARTENDER (Looking up from cleaning) Oi, do you mind? JOSEPH (Insincere) Sorry. (Turning back to companions) I’m sure there’s something better up the streetALEXIS Shut up! I’ll shove you to your seat too if I have to. JOSEPH But-! CLARA (Agitatedly) We don’t want somewhere classy! We just want a bit of quiet. We’ve only got to be here for a few hours, then you’re free to go wherever the hell you like. The radio will tell us. Now stop making a scene. (The three of them sit at the table stage left. There is an awkward silence where GERARD and CLARA noticeably fidget out of the six seated, tapping their fingers/feet, rubbing their faces etc. The radio broadcasts play over this) RADIO ANNOUNCER A Welcome back if you’ve just joined us. We’veRADIO ANNOUNCER C -got a cracking show lined up for you today if you’reRADIO ANNOUNCER D -slogging through the last few hours of the day with a pain on the brain? You needRADIO ANNOUNCER F -to just sit back and relax and let time take its course. You might not understand it, butRADIO ANNOUNCER E -most people don’t at first. It’s to be expected. Now perhaps it’sRADIO ANNOUNCER B -time to return to the action. Johnny, what’s the feeling before kick-off? (The next conversations are only to their respective tables, but overlap with one another.) GERARD Do you think we should check? ROY No. CLARA You did put it in the right one? ALEXIS Of course. I am not stupid. GERARD Just to make sure everything’s goodROWAN He said no. CLARA There weren’t two of the same colour maybe? JOSEPH He only had one bag. (more over the page)
Laura Tomlinson 31
GERARD PerhapsROY For fuck’s sake, NO! (Slams the table and earns himself a look from BARTENDER. There is a pause. Both GERARD and CLARA run their hands through their hair, before announcing simultaneously) GERARD/CLARA I need a drink. (The two get up from their seats and silently order their drinks from opposite sides of the bar with the BARTENDER, who pours them whilst the others speak.) ROWAN Roy, your brother’s going to freak out on us unless he calms the fuck down. ALEXIS Clara is…how do you say it? Weeing herself? ROWAN He’ll bring them all down on us. JOSEPH She’ll be fine. ROY He’ll get over it. JOSEPH She just needs time to adjust. ROY A bit of a first-time jitters, that’s all. JOSEPH The drink will do her a world of good. Calm the nerves and whatnot. ROY Let him get a bit pissed. It’ll take his mind off things. ALEXIS I hope that will do it. ROWAN Ha. He’ll have to be sleeping in his drink before he forgets this. (BARTENDER has handed both GERARD and CLARA their respective drinks and they start to drink them at the bar. CLARA immediately downs her drink, much to the surprise of the other two) GERARD (Raises glass to her from opposite side of the bar) Cheers. CLARA (Ignores and places glass on the counter) Another. BARTENDER Aye. Same again? CLARA Don’t care. BARTENDER (Pause whilst pouring drink) So…erm…tough day at the office? CLARA (Clearly not in the mood for inane conversation) Something like that. BARTENDER Ah, right. (Nervous laugh) All that pressure from the boss, am I right?
CLARA (Awkwardly) Yeah…
BARTENDER (Eagerly) Because you know, if you’ve got stressed workmates too, then you could bring them all here for a night out! I’ve got this function room, you see andGERARD Hey mate, I need another drink. BARTENDER (Interrupted in mid-flow; off-balance) What? GERARD A drink. I need another one. BARTENDER You’ve still got half your first left. GERARD And? BARTENDER …oh, right. Uh, what can I get you then? GERARD Got anymore of these? BARTENDER Gimme a sec. They’re a tad fiddly. (Nervous laugh and ducks down to rummage beneath the counter) GERARD (Confused) But it’s just a beer. CLARA Thanks for that. GERARD Hmm? CLARA Getting rid of him? GERARD Oh. Right. CLARA …You weren’t actually…you know…trying to distract … (Gestures to BARTENDER)? GERARD (Uneasy) Well, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a bit of self-interest involved. CLARA (A bit put out) Right. Of course. GERARD (Realises he’s being a twat) Bu-but of course, you’re welcome anyway. I’m Gerard, by the way CLARA Clara. GERARD Oh, no kidding! That’s my grandmother’s name. (ROY snorts with laughter at the table) CLARA (Relatively underwhelmed) …um, wow? GERARD (Dawns on him that that’s not quite as amazing as it sounded in his head) Yeah…wow. (Awkward silence between the two. Radios begin again.) James Beagon 33
Extract from ‘Bathtime’ MAN is running his bath. We see him in front of the mirror he takes off his clothes. The bath fills up slowly. He puts his clothes back on. Goes out. Comes back with his phone and some reading that has to be done. He sits on the toilet. The bath fills up slowly. He looks from his work- to the bath and back again. He puts his work down emphatically. Takes off his clothes and sits in the shallow water. MAN looks around. He smiles to himself. Reaches for the bubbles. TIME PASSES MAN is sitting in a bath full of water and bubbles. He sits back. His phone rings. MAN looks to the heavens in frustration. Reaches down and picks up his phone. He answers it. MAN: Hey. Yeah…I’m busy right now can I call you back…is it urgent?... Right. Hold on I think the file is on my PC. I’ll email it to you now. MAN stands up, wraps a towel round himself awkwardly whilst talking on the phone. MAN:
Yeah don’t worry about it…ok…it’s on its’ way to you….yep…bye.
MAN exits. Time passes MAN returns looking flustered, he looks at the water and smiles. He removes his dressing gown and puts his foot into the bath. The water is cold. He kicks the side of the bath. Turns the hot tap on and sits down on the toilet whilst he waits for the bath to fill. Time passes MAN lowers himself into the full bath. Smiles. Turns off the tap. He lies back and his phone rings. He sits up and hurls it across the bathroom. It hits the upstanding toilet lid, then falls into the toilet. The sound of its ringing is nullified. The man lies back staring at the ceiling, his eyes speak volumes. The MAN is lying in the bath. He is unable to settle. His fingers drum against the side of the tub as he stares at the heap of folders on the floor. CUT to a shot of the folders being thrown into the toilet. Time passes MAN has his eyes closed. He opens them. THERAPIST is now sat on the toilet, watching him. MAN:
You shouldn’t be here.
THERAPIST: You should be relaxing. MAN:
It was much easier to relax when you weren’t in the room.
THERAPIST: I wouldn’t need to be here if you were relaxed. MAN: I just can’t stop thinking about things, it’s like a full on war up here. So many different things to do all at the same time. I don’t have the time to waste doing this. I’ve got work to do, I can’t just sit here. MAN gets out the bath. THERAPIST does not move. MAN:
Sorry. But I just can’t do this. It’s too hard.
MAN leaves. The door slams. Time passes. MAN returns. THERAPIST is still sat on the toilet MAN:
You’re still here.
THERAPIST: You came back MAN climbs back into the bath. He runs his hands across his face and through his hair and lies back. MAN:
Help me. I need to slow down. I can’t live like this.
THERAPIST Doesn’t move. MAN:
Help me. Please. I’m trying to RELAX!
MAN starts to cry uncontrollably. He pushes his palms into the side of his head. THERAPIST Stands up and climbs into the bath fully clothed. She sits opposite MAN. They do not speak. THERAPIST: Close your eyes. MAN Closes his eyes… EXT:…. opens them. The Bath is in a field. It is a sunny day. THERAPIST has gone. MAN looks around him smiling. He stands up. Puts his arms to the sky and shouts joyfully. He climbs out the bath. He is ecstatic. He hears music, he sees beauty, he stops thinking about things. INT: Bathroom. MAN is lying in the bath. His eyes are closed but there is a huge smile on his face. He is relaxed, and THERAPIST is nowhere to be seen.
‘Ersatz’ The Capgras Delusion: in which a person believes that an acquaintance has been replaced by an identical-looking impostor.
When I awoke this morning, I knew as soon as I had risen. When I lifted the blankets from my torso and slipped my feet to the wooden floor, I was not in my home. The slats each were three feet long, one foot wide spread and splintered across the ground just as my own, thick like hearty loaves of bread. The mirror met my eyes as always, weary as morning, stained with the same splash of toothpaste that had decorated its face for a week now, but this was not my mirror. The door as I stepped out, also identical but surely not the same, and the sidewalk, the steering wheel of my car, every tree, blazing with autumn, the spitfire glare of highway, each co-worker, apathy caught in their throats, they were all such brilliant imposters. In the evening, the mirage of my daughter wept and called me mad, but I was not fooled by so wily a devil. The creature had stolen the color of her hair with such accuracy that before I left, I tied the demon to the copy of my bed and chopped off each strand, gold like sunlight. This monster did not deserve a beauty like my daughter’s hair. A burning against my skin revealed the lies in every button on my dress, the runs in what should have been my stockings— I removed them piece-by-piece and burned them in a fire that was not half as honest as such a cleansing required. Now, they say that in the deepest hours of the night all kinds of specters rise, and sorcerers have the tendency to frolic through the minds of men-until today, I had not been inclined to believe such mysticism.
Congratulations to the winner of our Gothic Halloween competition for sending chills down the spines of the editorial team at PublishED. But an anathema has been cast upon me; I assure you, it is with no gentle breath that I make this claim. For I am sure of this as I am sure of the purpose of my own tongue, strong to speak truths, and let me promise you, there is no falsehood in this, save the very nature of the witches crime. I know like I know my own bones that every piece of this world down to the smallest mite of dust has been replaced by a copy, an evil with an ersatz quality, so vividly identical to make one shudder. Though I fled from my home I could not get far; escape was no useâ€” not an inch of this world had remained as its original, and there was nothing left to do but plead to the empty mirror of sky and hope for the witching hour to reverse the monsters of the day. An hour before the darkest time of night, I felt an itch. It began at my wrists, slowly slithering up my arms, twisting around my waist, until I writhed with it. When I examined my flesh to find the culprit of such discomfort, an anger like none I have known filled my chest. They had taken my skin. God, every freckle, every scar was copied with perfectionâ€”the witches, they had stolen my very flesh and replaced it with their own wickedness. I would not let them have my body. It must be remedied, my blood would not touch the skin of an imposter. I set about removing it, bit by bit as at last, that sinister darkness fell.
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Published on Nov 21, 2011
Published on Nov 21, 2011
Includes an interview with A L Kennedy and a spotlight feature on Soap Box, a new spoken word event in the city. Plus more prose, poetry and...