Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Monday, 18 April 2016

I'm going to be posting two or maybe three things on here in the next couple of months because I HAVE A PRODUCT TO SELL and that product is my 5th collection of poetry, Cain, due in June from Penned in the Margins.

There is a big old launch in London on June 6th, 7pm.

There is also a pre-launch launch in the Birmingham branch of Waterstones on May 26th, 7pm.

You are invited to both.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

see the whole thing as a small cog

Feels silly having an announcement that I’m taking a long-term break from poetry as the last thing on this blog, so although there are lots of other things I could be doing (I could get on with some admin, I could borrow my Nintendo DS back from my little brother and play Chocobo Tales for a few hours, I could file my tax return, a sensible thing to do before the birth of my next child which is in about five days, probably) I am writing a blog entry about the Poetry Book Society's Next Generation Poets List which I'm childishly excited to be a part of.

And now that I come to check, the entry saying I was taking a break from poetry was almost exactly a year ago. So, what, a YEAR isn’t long enough for you? I hope I never have to go for lunch at YOUR house and wait a month and a half for you to make some cheese on toast, that’s all. It’s not like I’m Billy Corgan. And yeah, I know I said “perhaps forever”: I was tired and sad about my publisher announcing it was no longer going to publish any single-author poetry collections and just generally in a bad mood and I had to get on with finishing my novel which I still haven’t finished. And don’t you know what the word “perhaps” means? Right. So nyeh. 

I think anyone would have lots of conflicting feelings about something like this, even in terms of how your own friends react to it because you’ll have friends who are simply innocently happy for you and friends who see the whole thing as a small cog in the neo-liberal conspiracy and, like most of us who took it up around 2007 and hard-wired it into our psyches, I now basically use Facebook as a baby scrapbook anyway. I remember after the Times did a The Facebook Poets feature a few years ago (the title wasn’t run by any of us), a friend of mine was all, “Why the hell would you agree to that? What were you thinking?” And I was like, “Why not, homes?” (his surname was Homes) “I like being in magazines!” And he was all, “Yeah, well, you look like a tit in that cardigan.” And I was all, “You’re just angry because you feel attracted to me and you don’t know how to process that.” And he was like, “Shows what you know.” I blew him a kiss, he tore it up, we haven’t spoken since.

So yeah, naturally, none of us has any business entering a debate part of which may circle around whether you’re any good or not. I keep coming up with my list of, say, Deep Space Nine Poets or Voyager Poets, but even casually making a list of poets whose work I really like feels kind of divisive. I had some practice in the whole area of not entering debates (or 'eBates' as I call them) when I was shortlisted for the Forward Prize which maybe I never told you about apart from saying, “I’ll stake my Forward Prize for Best Collection shortlisting on it!” every time I’m fairly certain about something. This was early 2007 and only really, really cool people had even heard of Facebook and there was no Twitter and we had to make our own fun by rubbing two sticks together and MySpace and Bebo. Really the only means people had of lashing out was in the comments fields under newspaper articles. So after the initial glee at being shortlisted for something I went into a genuine “slough of despond” (a/c my GP) because under every article about the shortlisting there would be upwards of 450 comments of bilious rage. I know, I know, “pathologically oversensitive”, but still: imagine – you work at something for several years because you love it, you’re extremely lucky that someone else sees something worthwhile in it and then you get a big break and you have a few days feeling so overjoyed at your work potentially reaching a larger audience and then you realise that 1. It is and 2. They want to kill you. All of them. Without exception.

Anyway, this time it’s different. Not because I’m older and wiser, but because I got a posse. And maybe it’s marginally more likely that I’ll end up editing a respected journal so you’d better not say anything to offend me because so help me God, I will find out who you are behind your hilarious made up name and I will black-ball you, sir, I will black-ball you and everyone you care about.

And, as the irreplacable Groucho Marx once said, “I wouldn’t want to be part of any list that didn’t have me on it and also it’s too dark to read.”

Love love love love love,


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Unemployed In Bristol I Think

Oh, golly, has it really been SEVENTEEN YEARS since I posted anything on here? How remiss.


I ummed a lot about writing this because it felt like a kind of 'The Seamus Heaney I Knew' thing, but I've decided that if I can make a great loss in some small way about me, I'm okay with that. In 2005, at the beginning of my PhD thesis, I wrote to Seamus Heaney c/o Faber & Faber asking him some questions about Stations, a pamphlet of prose poems from 1971 published by Honest Ulsterman. (Six of them were later anthologised in the Selected, but they're better taken together - it's a beautifully crafted sequence). I also asked about his opinion of the prose poem form in general, adopted a tone somewhere between toady and impertinent and failed to address him as Professor. I wasn't really expecting to hear back, and neither should I have done, especially since I barely answer emails from my own family. But I received a six page letter from him a week later with exceptionally detailed answers and some recommendations for Continental prose poets I hadn't read or even heard of at that point, all of which was extremely helpful for the chapter I was working on, not to mention the thesis as a whole. Given that he probably got hundreds of letters, questions and requests from students a week (and, I can only infer, answered the whole damn lot of them with the same generosity), I was really touched by that.


I'm reading Timothy Donnelly's The Cloud Corporation, which I like a lot. If there were two of me I'd like to put a module together on 21st century American poetry. There are [is] not two of me.


I was looking through the files I salvaged from an old PC and came across my first attempt at a prose poem, written in the Autumn of 2003 when I was unemployed in Bristol. I think it was the week I tried to get a job in Orange's call-centre and in the interview they asked me what I would say if someone threatened to leave Orange and I said I'd tell them to take a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror and ask their reflection if they were really even worthy of Orange. My first draft manuscript of The Solex Brothers contained a whole bunch of trad-length prose poems in between the chaptered ones, but they were cut on grounds of being kind of weak. Check it out for my cutesy definite article posturing, faux-naif / menacing / slightly irritating tone and all the other leitmotifs which have defined my career 2005-2013. I'm taking a break from poetry for a while, PERHAPS FOREVER, so it felt like an appropriate last thing for a bit.


I found nothing disagreeable in my memory, but wrote to request a history of my recent actions and received terrible news. The postman punched me right in the mouth.

‘I was raised in a pit of snakes,’ I spat.

‘When I found you, I threw in more snakes,’ he replied.

At dinner I have to sit at the table with a woman who killed both her sisters. I keep saying, ‘I don’t want to sit with this woman.’ But nobody listens.

Amber light from the cartographer’s shack. She clips the padlock to the door and sets off after the spies.

‘I love your maps!’ I shout – she looks back and smiles, letting her hair fall over her face like a tree full of crows disturbed into sudden flight by a passing taxi bearing me to the station later that week. Her style reminds me very much of yours – and her manner of thinking is identical.

I follow the cartographer, but the camera lingers on my cigarette, smouldering in the wet grass of the cemetery. A single raindrop extinguishes the cigarette and night falls. The camera remains on the cigarette for the rest of the film.

Monday, 1 April 2013

mercurial sphynx-like unknowable

I think I'm going to do NaPoWriMo again. I'm in a bit of a cul de sac (or maybe even a whole tranche of culs de sac) after finishing a few projects and it'll probably sort me out. If I manage to I'll post the first later.

In the mean time, FOR THIS WEEK ONLY, my novella Holophin is FREE! on the Kindle.  Get it by clicking here!  If you don't have a Kindle, why don't you download it anyway and then one day maybe you will have a Kindle - because God knows what else we're supposed to get you for your birthday, you mercurial, sphynx-like unknowable! - and you'll have Holophin waiting for you for free? I know, I know, because you "don't want to", etc. Gee whiz, I was only trying to help.

This is a picture of my potato brush. It was supposed to be a nail brush, but I use it for scrubbing potatoes. It also looks sort of like a Holophin being born in some kind of primordial blue ooze.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

This is Not a Book Blog

You okay? You're okay, aren't you? I hate thinking of you not being okay. Here's a new post about some poetry. And an announcement that I have two readings in London coming up, largely to read from the new poetry collection. One is for Broadcast in the Betsey Trotwood, details HERE! The other is for Goldsmiths, details NOWHERE! I think it's probably just for Goldsmiths students. In the latter I'll read a bit from Holophin too. We're down to the last seven copies of Holophin, I have three of them and my mum is threatening to buy the last four in order to improve the eBay resale value.


Nobody with a pulse needs me to tell them to read Matthew Welton. I know this because whenever anyone asks me which poetry I've been enjoying recently and I say, among other names, "Matthew Welton," they say, "Well, obviously Matthew Welton," and roll their eyes like I just retweeted a major news story. What you may need telling is that Welton has a ltd edition chapbook out with F.U.N.E.X., a subsidiary of Eggbox Publishing. And also that it is one of my favourite things he has ever done. It is called Waffles.

You want me to tell you WHY I like it so much? What is this, a fucking A-level English exam?

Ok, first off Welton's sense of rhythm is so strong it's like Art Blakey is using your head as a bongo. This is the first time I have ever encountered an ear-worm in poetry: I read it once and its lines were already swirling around in my head for the rest of the day. It is the funniest, wisest, saddest portrayal of psychological dissonance this side of 19th century Russia. As with a lot of Welton's work, the process is telegraphed pretty clearly, but where most of us are happy to attempt a process, make ironic reference to that process and shove thre resulting pile of matchsticks to our editors with a desultory sneer, Welton builds a fleet of goddamn schooners. (Process in this case being a looping, reincorporating pattern of words and themes, the waffles acting as a grid, a licence to ruminate, a two-way symbol for meaning and meaninglessness). So basically it's like art, but GOOD.

It can be acquired from Eggbox TOTALLY JUST HERE YOU CLICK HERE AND YOU GO THERE OH WHAT A WORLD! I have no. 160 of 300, so hurry the hell up, y'hear?

And now a collection by a poet whose work you may not be familiar with yet (maybe I'll make this into another regular feature I do once and never return to again), but whose work I've been enjoying just as much these last few weeks, Neil Fraser Addison's Stealth. Exile. Inventory. This is another beautifully produced boutique publication, this time from OWT Press and you can try to acquire it FROM THIS PLACE! I think I'll just cite three bits I love from this substantial collection so as not to just type out the whole thing:

"Time is a thunderstorm of dunce caps, one season long."


"There is always somebody
appalled by death alone,
insisting on the clutter of damnation

as if it represented
full-employment for God..."


"Of course, what the world
                        needs now
is another pantheon of immortal hicks
slaying their every escape-route."


Okay, must go. There are piles of paper to file from the whole of this year and it's already drinking hot alcohol in public season again.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Everyone Gets Bupkiss

0.1 So I was visiting my folks and a good friend of the family dropped by, got given a copy of Holophin by my mum, admired the book and said, ‘So how much money did you have to pay to get that done then?’ I could have been (and would have been if I didn’t love this guy) mildly insulted at the implication that I had self-published a work through a vanity press, like an old man with his war memoir in the early 90s who loses his savings on the endeavor and has to keep 6,000 unedited, unsellable copies in his attic like a literalisation of unprocessed trauma in, oh, for goodness’ sake drop the extended metaphor. But: I’m a hypocrite who wants recognition from everyone but who doesn’t go on and on about his achievements absolutely all the time, more’s the pity as if I did  people would have a more accurate idea of what I am. Fact is, if you’re shifting a few hundred to a couple of thousand poetry books why would you expect a lovely friend of your family to be aware of your prior literary endeavours? You wouldn’t, is what. Now, I could also have felt hurt by the implication that I’d somehow magicked a private income which lasted beyond paying rent, bills and groceries to afford to have my own books printed to such a high standard as PitM achieves, thus making me a killer cocktail of delusional, entitled and privileged. But what can I say? I’m magnanimous enough only to whinge on a blog about it.

0.2 So I mumbled about how it was a London-based indie press (I may have said small, in italics) and that I didn’t have to pay anything. I could have gone on to say that the London-based press had also organised and paid for a launch event which was by far the most well-run, thoughtful, thoroughly promoted and advertised lit event I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with. And that, no, I didn’t pay for it out of my imaginary trust fund. PitM paid for it because they’re a business and they’re very good at what they do. Instead I muttered something further about acknowledging my mother as a distributor.

1.0 But it got me thinking about the implications of our current models of cultural distribution again, the fact that there are a whole lot of good writers, with small and large presses, and also plenty who are self-producing work of real quality but where, nevertheless, supply outstrips demand by several orders of magnitude. Ways of not being assholes to one another, is I guess what I’m interested in.

1.1. The very worst present you could ever give to anyone is a copy of your own book. I think I’ve even done this on two occasions in the last 15 years and would hereby like to offer the people I did this to a replacement present of some wine or a record they might like.

1.2 C.f. paragraph 2, that I mean to say I didn’t have to pay anything unless you count occasionally buying copies of the book myself to sell at readings, aside from the stack of complimentary copies PitM give to their authors. But I’m pretty sure even Maya Angelou has to buy copies of her own book if she wants to give a bunch of them away to friends and family. I’m assuming when she reads in public there’s a bookseller on hand to provide books to the audience because this even happens to me sometimes, including at the aforementioned launch. (NOTE: Sub, please check with Maya Angelou).  But the former is really just another way of getting the book out there, circumnavigating the internet. Once you’ve bought ten, you sell ten and then use the money to buy ten more and, perhaps, some beer and a pie. I guess one upshot of the wonderful increase in small-print-run technology is that there are plenty of publishing models which rely solely on the author buying their own books and foisting them on friends and family or some imaginary “community”. We can call this the Utopian Bullshit model of publishing [See 1.8].

1.3 That there is a kind of low-level “artist shaming” which even genuinely nice people like to indulge in, and that it has to do with pre-emptively keeping anyone who thinks of themselves as an artist or writer’s “feet on the ground” just in case they were going to swan around the place thinking they’re special.

1.4 Is “artist shaming” a peculiarly British thing? At least under Stalin you got to swan around thinking you were special for a year or two before they reinterpreted your work and called in the firing squad.

1.5 That I feel so uncomfortable with the whole thing that I even cringed to write “artist” (in inverted commas) in 1.3 as it feels like I’m making grandiose claims for myself. Which is my attempt to pre-emptively strike (via self-deprecation, in this case internal) against the well-meaning poltroon in 1.3. Why would you want to shame me? I already think I’m a charlatan! [lies on back to expose belly and whimpers.]

1.6 Treatment for a movie in which a war is fought using pre-emptive self-deprecation as the weapon.

1.7. There is no right of reply, a review is a review and you take it on the chin, even if you have kind of a weak chin, but there was a fairly trouncing review of Migraine Hotel in one of the major poetry reviews by a reasonably well-known poet a couple of years ago which has stuck with me. The reviewer quoted at length from my About the Author page. It was a silly About the Author page, which had actually been cribbed (in, I swear, a proofing error) from my first collection, the 2004 version of The Solex Brothers, without my realising it. It was a mistake: I hadn’t provided a new AtA, an old one was put in as a place-holder and we forgot to change it. Meaning that it was 5 years out of date in terms of content as well as register; in fact it didn’t even mention my previous collection being shortlisted for the Forward Prize, which, all dissembling aside, was clearly the foundation of my career, an accolade I was very fortunate to receive, and not something I’m falsely modest about. I’m not going to reprint it here because the whole thing is too irritating to me to this day; I’ll leave it at stating the AtA in the first run of Migraine Hotel was excessively self-deprecating and overly wordy in a manner I thought to be funny (a register I have come to call “fucking dickhead”). It’s hard to explain why I thought this was okay, especially if you’re younger than me and you’ve grown up in a country and a culture where literally everybody, from the fake Big Issue seller with his “last copy” to the local radio DJ, to your mum, to the member of parliament, to the meter reader, to the teacher, to the singer songwriter thinks they’re an edgy stand-up comedian. Post- Innocent Smoothies, jocular product descriptions and About the Author sections are the orthodoxy, are ubiquitous and are about as funny as a root canal. So it’s rare to open a book without finding:

Benjamin Something pokes honey badgers with spoons and when he is not doing this he can be found oscillating gently in a blanket of crepuscular mouthfaces. Prendergast! Prendergast! He works as a Cornetto for eleven burly Manchurians and is married to the fucking sea. Lick his knee and taste a whirlwind!

off the top of my head, but I want you to think back to 2004, when I was in my early twenties and there was no Twitter or Facebook and none of us had realised how mindlessly unfunny we were. Jocular About the Author sections, especially in the dangerously unselfconscious field of poetry, still seemed kind of edgy. (They weren’t, of course; I’m just asking you to accept that they seemed that way to me). So the critic quoted at length from my AtA and came to the conclusion that I was an evasive hypocrite who wanted admiration for my accolades which I didn’t even have the guts to mention at the same time as posing as someone who is above that kind of thing. Not content with spending 200 words of a 300 word review talking about the front papers, the critic also went in for a little am-psych: “Kennard clearly cares very deeply about his achievements [the AtA did mention the Eric Gregory Award and some other stuff], as well he might, but read between the lines: He wants us to think he doesn’t care about it.” (paraphrase – it’s not to hand), inviting the reader to come to their own conclusions about what an intolerable wanker I must be. Which, well, fair enough, but to this day, to this hour, my feeling is still: well, perhaps I do feel genuinely conflicted about the whole thing. Don’t you? Perhaps anyone halfway CROSSOUTnarcisisitc personality disorderCROSSOUT thoughtful would and ought to feel conflicted about it. And maybe what you’re responding to is your own disproportionate esteem for awards, etc.

1.8 Oh, yeah, so on the Utopian Bullshit model and why I’m being dismissive of it… What it is, see, is that it’s presented to us as  the ultimate democratisation of culture. Suddenly all of us can publish, and the books can look either equally lovely (courtesy of aforementioned small print-run tech) or equally neutral/crap (courtesy of eBooks). I want to argue the exact opposite for a couple of paragraphs, i.e. that the “studio” model we’re supposed to be celebrating the dissolution of in the name of egalitarianism, where a big publisher gives you some money and gets behind your book in terms of production, promotion and distribution, is actually a buttload more egalitarian. (Granted, this involves accepting that 75% of embittered whinging about trad publishing being a closed circle is what I just described it as, which it is.) And it is more equal. Because, showman or agoraphobic, you’d benefit from the same robust system of distribution and promotion. The really small-press model, you could argue, has its own negative equality – everyone gets bupkiss – but let’s return to our false dichotomy: two poets who don’t exist publish a collection with the same small press.

Subject A is a well-connected garrulous millionaire who lives in London; he buys 100,000 copies of his book and organises a tour in a hundred provincial theatres where he not only gives copies of the  book away for free, but gives people free booze too. National treasures write blurbs.

Subject B is a low-income socially awkward malcontent who lives in rural Wales miles from the nearest train station. He isn’t Welsh, which only adds to his problems. He can barely afford to buy a couple of copies of his own book, has no connections to organise readings or launches and/so although his work is exceptionally powerful and beautiful and formally interesting, nobody ever gets to hear about it.

I’m not even sure what I’m arguing here. Just that it would be nice if Subject B was able to exist as a writer too, and I’m not sure he is under the Utopian Bullshit model.

1.9 Oh, and please don’t contact me to discuss this: I’m absolutely not trying to start a dialogue and I genuinely have no interest whatsoever in your opinion.

2.0 Please buy my new collection of poetry A Lost Expression from Salt, available this week.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Monday, 3 September 2012

Free Holophin!

UPDATE: [To small dog in the doorway.] "The position has been filled."

This mercifully brief post will contain details of how you can win ONE FREE COPY of Holophin if you respond - through a single Tweet - to my request by 5pm today. Rules: if you already have Holophin, it is mean to enter this competition. If nobody responds I will burn one free copy of Holophin, making it a limited edition of 299 and thereby increasing its resale value.

I hate it when one side of my collar folds out over the collar of my jacket and simply won't tuck back in, like it thinks it's a tuft of hair on a 19th century schoolboy. I really, really hate it. Yeah, I know: starch. Thanks for caring. I'll let you know when I get back from the apothecary.

Holophin is officially available now from Penned in the Margins and I am avidly putting together a mix-tape for the launch party on Saturday (Sept 8th), which genuinely is in the place where they film Dragon's Den. Frankly I'm surprised you don't want to come along just to see the space. And Franklin, I'm surprised at your trying to make daily prayer constitutional - this is 1787, sir!

It is also the launch of Ross Sutherland's sophomore poetry collection Emergency Window, which I have and it's wonderful. Don't we both look windswept?

Oh, so, yeah, the giveaway. It relates to the mix-tape I'm making. So far I have selected songs which have some resonance with behaviour/sensory modification (Deerhoof's 'The Perfect Me', XTC's 'Senses Working Overtime'); dolphins (The Byrd's 'Dolphin's Smile'); parentage (The Dirty Projector's 'Offspring Are Blank') and some stuff to do with folk-tales and scary technology. So what I'm looking for is a suggestion of ONE SONG, via Tweet, which I can include on my Holophin mix-tape to be played on the night. And my favourite one will receive a pristine (or only very slightly damaged) copy of Holophin with FULL POSTAGE AND PACKING AND LUKE WALKING ALL THE WAY TO THE FUCKING POST-OFFICE absolutely gratis. I Tweet as @Lukekennard because I didn't notice you were supposed to come up with a swell pretend name.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Ha ha oh

At school everyone used to say, "Purple is the colour of sexual frustration. You are wearing purple, therefore you are sexually frustrated. Let us all laugh at a plight we will only ever come to understand twenty years into a chaste, joyless marriage we are keeping together for the sake of our kids. Ha ha oh."

My weird prose-poem-science-fiction novella, Holophin, is being published by Penned in the Margins on September 1st in a delightful hardback ltd edition. This isn't like those Kinder Surprise Teeny Terrapins ltd editions, which were limited to 1.6 billion per continent. This is a ltd edition of 300. And the 2nd edition will be GREY instead of purple, so everyone will know you are a slacker who couldn't get out of bed in time to catch the first edition, even though it took over a decade to sell out. But some time later it will be available as an E-Book, for those of you who enjoy dropping electronic devices on your upturned faces at night. Here is the catalogue blurb:

It is 2031 and the must-have gadget is the Holophin: a tiny, dolphin-shaped microprocessor which cures your worst impulses and phobias, comforts you in your grief or boredom and makes everything look much, much prettier.

Hatsuka and Max are students at the Takin International School, a learning institute so magnificent it produces Holophins as a by-product of its own projects. The billionth device has just been sold, but when Takin’s best students are stalked by a shady rival manufacturer, Holophin’s monopoly, and the narrative itself, begins to unravel – with unexpected consequences.

This hallucinatory and darkly funny sci-fi mystery is the debut novella by acclaimed poet Luke Kennard, a refracted meditation on identity, technology and the imagination.

So there. I always threatened to write a sci-fi story and now I have. There will be a big trendy London launch party where people have METAL HAIR and PHILANTHROPIC IDEAS directly proportional to their PRIVATE INCOMES and I highly recommend you attend. This will be on September 8th in the place where they film Dragons' Den - that great show about dragons who have a party but none of the other dragons turn up so they have to build a pirate ship and fire moonbeams in the dragons' eyes to make them bewitched and then they come to the party and the first dragons say aha! and breathe fire on them and make them into burnt dragons. I'll confirm.

In other news The Necropolis Boat was selected by the Poetry Book Society as their Autumn (I think - maybe Summer) Pamphlet Choice. This is an extraordinary turn of events and has caused me to rethink its position in my oeuvre, i.e. it is now the best thing I have ever written.