Sunday, 18 December 2011

On Messages

What with all the novels and poetry I pour into my face, I only have time for one newspaper a week, and that newspaper is the Saturday Guardian, which I read in the bath on a Saturday night. At this point it's customary to say something like, 'the fun never stops round my way' or 'that's about as exciting as my life gets', as if to imply that reading a newspaper in a bath is somehow an unacceptable thing to do on a Saturday night and that you need to get ironically defensive about it.

Now, the letters page has always been pretty annoying, sometimes rubber-ducky-kickingly annoying. In fact, my favourite thing in the last few years was the epically sarcastic column that answered the letter writers' rhetorical questions with withering precision. It was retired after a few weeks, presumably because the letter writers didn't like it. (Everyone else - i.e. 96% of the readership - did, but we had the good grace not to write in about it, more fools us, I guess). But I can't stop reading them. If anything just to make myself feel better: I may be kind of a dickhead, but at least I don't write in to newspapers with my opinions about stuff. It still leaves me feeling kind of gross, but I read it in the same way I eat popcorn: ravenously. I once accidentally picked up and bit my wife's hand because it was in a bowl of popcorn.

To make matters worse, The Guardian have now started printing online comments as if they were letters. Say what you will about letter writers, at least they have to go to the bother of finding a stamp and trudging to the post-office (or opening their email account, looking up the paper's email address and... snore....) an exercise during which the decent human mind settles like an unplugged lava lamp and thinks, You know what? Forget it. If those five words were available in pill form, internet discourse would be a whole lot readable-r.

But the commenter has no such time to take stock. I've never met anyone in real life who comments on articles. Most people I encounter seem pretty happy with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, that kind of thing. A forum where you can share your sometimes awesome, sometimes crappy, sometimes insightful, sometimes petty, sometimes generously outward looking, sometimes pathologically self-absorbed views in a manner which isn't as annoying as a complete stranger appearing from under your newspaper and saying, 'They had it coming, you know,' after you've just read an article about some sad murders which has made you feel sad. And if you think I'm taking the lowest form of commenter as a straw-man here, let's say that the highest form of commenter is someone trying to prove that they're more reasonable and intelligent than that straw commenter. Which, if that isn't self-evident enough that you don't feel the need to point it out to millions of members of the public, is just palpably untrue. You're just as much of a dick. It's easy enough to avoid this online - just don't scroll down below articles. But I can't stop reading the letters page. I'm too weak.

Anyway, I was anticipating some classic bilious rabidity after last week's article about young "over-achievers" and was vindicated to find this, from rah90, about someone or other who had overachieved in some field and put it down to working hard. I don't know the young achiever in question or what he's like, but what had gotten rah90's dander up was over-familiar. "Tristram Hunt," they averred, "says his success is down to hard work, then goes on to describe his upbringing."

"It's the typical delusional contradictions of the privileged middle class. What's opportunity, stability, love, support, healthy role models and a sense of entitlement got to do with it?" - rah90

As I've explored elsewhere, I have a posher accent than I am posh, and this puts me in a unique position of getting frequently accosted by strangers in pubs who take great amusement in making me swear and use contemporary vernacular like "innit" and so forth. This has been going on since primary school, so I'm able to take it with the grace only available to people who were picked on at school. Furthermore, after 8 years of being the posh-voiced kid at school, I encountered people at university who found it kind of funny that they let people who'd been to state school into university at all. (NB: I also met just as many privately educated people who laboured under no such idiocy, which I guess taught me that you should judge people, if at all, based on what they're actually like and the things they think and do, which is more or less what every moral tale tells us).

My point is I've been conditioned to bristle at unexamined class bullshit whichever way it breaks, and this manages to break both ways. Why exactly I'm so upset about this, why it's taken on a kind of metonymic weight for me, is maybe 1. I'm a narcissist and 2. maybe something to do with starting a family and pre-emptively striking against comments like, "Ooh, look at that middle class dad, raising his child so middle-classly with his posh accent and his precisely nothing that I know about his life and his background apart from that." (Unfortunately the moral tale I never listened to was that Aesop's fable where we're taught not to care about others' opinions lest we drop our donkeys in the sea).

Now, I can get behind being pissed off at a sense of entitlement and opportunity, sure. The arts are positively dynastic with them. There are opportunities if you can afford to live rent-free in London for a year, and significantly fewer if you can't. I get it; that sucks, and if you benefit from it the dignified thing to do is to acknowledge that rather than pretend you've gotten where you are through hard graft.

But LOVE? Seriously?! LOVE is middle class now? Ooh, look at that middle class person treating his fellow human beings with LOVE. Feh! Makes you sick, doesn't it? Can you imagine how privileged his upbringing must have been in order to condition him to treat people with kindness and respect? What an irredeemable cunt.

Tell you what, why don't you fuck off, rah90, IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME, WHICH IT DEMONSTRABLY ISN'T. Fuck off and start a family and raise them without love just to prove a point. Criminy. And I'll be like, Ooh, there goes good ol' Rah90, treating his kids and everyone he meets like dirt. How VERY AUTHENTIC OF HIM.

Happy Christmas, all.

Lxx

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Ambassador Thumb 1

Ambassador Thumb 2

Ambassador Thumb 3

Ambassador Thumb 4

Ambassador Thumb 5



Cheap and Vulgar and Sort of Childish - EXCLUSIVE


Every year I think I'm going to do one of those virtual advent calendars where I post something new and delightful every day from the 1st to 24th of December. Had I managed to do so this year, the thing behind the first door would have been this. It is a short piece called 'Ambassador Thumb' which I wrote in between The Harbour Beyond the Movie and The Migraine Hotel. I read it at readings a few times and then submitted it to Succour, a magazine for which I was regional editor and was therefore confident, if not certain, of publication. I also talked it over with my most useful and critical friends and they felt it was a bit "trad absurdist", clearly derivative of Gogol ('The Nose'), which is true, and that I wasn't really doing much to make the style my own, an opinion with which I was inclined to agree. And seeing as I'd also brought along a radio play (derivative of Beckett), a full-length novel (derivative of Beckett) and a sinister one-act monologue (derivative of Fraggle Rock) to show-and-tell that week, I didn't have any time to make a case for it.

But a year or so later when I gave a friend a copy of Migraine Hotel, he wrote to me a week later saying, 'Where's Ambassador Thumb?' I told him it didn't really fit with the rest of the pieces in MH and he wrote back to say, "You fucking idiot."

The only surviving version of 'Ambassador Thumb' is in Issue Six of Succour (subtitled 'The Future') and the only copy I have is one that I read from at a school in the South West. Thankfully, just before I went on stage (or "on library" as it so often actually is), I overheard one of the teachers talking about the headmaster (who was to be present) and his attitude to swearing. Apparently he had thrown a writer out by his lapels (licking him squarely in the face with his good, clean tongue all the while) for using the word "bloody" only a couple of months ago. I had a pen with me and made some hasty edits to 'Ambassador Thumb', so I present to you the expurgated version with the following notes as sometimes the crossing out is pretty thorough:

1. For "How very magnanimous of you" read "How fucking magnanimous of you"

2. For "I murmured disconsolately" read "'Fuck you,' I told him"

3. For "Git" read "Bastard" (Not really sure about this one - I think "Git" had recently been used in one of the
Harry Potter films, so I figured it was okay).

4. For "Even the soap operas" read "Even the Adult Channel"


5. For "people's backs" read "flesh against a background of groaning and saxophone music"


A narrow escape, I think you'll agree. I might post something about swearing too much in my writing if I can fit it in with my therapist next week. The manuscript I'm working on at the moment is just lousy with cussing and it sometimes makes me kind of sad. It seems cheap and vulgar and sort of childish. For most poets this is a question that never comes up. They write about soulful, meaningful lovely things, and occasionally, when they're really cross, they maybe drop in the odd light swear, and we're all like, oh boy, he/she must really mean this! But if you spend all your time playing in the gutter with little obscene plasticine figures you made, the whole swearing issue is completely different and nobody understands. For instance, my wife just came in to ask how the marking was going and has found me trying to photograph my own thumb. That would make a good title. I guess all I'm really trying to say is Happy Christmas! And I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Donnie Lighto


I haven't written anything on here for so long that I've developed Blog Fear. It's like when someone buys you a Moleskine notebook and it's so expensive and pretty, all you can think to write in it is Hemingway looked at the Chatwin. It was a damn good Chatwin. The last couple of sentences alone have taken me hours. Anyway, Donnie Darko being on after Film 2011 last night has motivated me to write a new post. I stayed up to watch the first 10 minutes as I wanted to check something that's bugged me for years. See, when I saw Donnie Darko in the cinema as a student, it began with Echo and the Bunnymen's only good song, 'Killing Moon' and I really, really liked that it did that. I think I even leant over to my ex-girlfriend and whispered, 'That's really clever because there's, like, A GIANT BUNNY MAN in the film!' And it's also a bit about killing.'

Let's back up a bit here. In the early 2000s, in what turned out to be the death throes of big department store media outlets, a lot of such shops started offering crazy deals on DVDs, like 8 for a tenner, etc. Maybe they still do, but I've never met anyone who's been into one of the (cockroach-tenacious) branches of HMV (which are mysteriously still occupying giant buildings with floorspace like car showrooms in all of our highstreets) in the last five years, and frankly I wouldn't trust anyone who had. So my household would take it in turns to take advantage of such offers, because it was actually cheaper than renting movies and if you didn't like them you could just take them to a charity shop the next day.

One phenomenon of which I am absolutely certain (although I am yet to find anyone who agrees, or who had a sufficiently advanced DVD habit in the early 2000s to say for sure) is that completely regardless of such special offers, any film which featured either Jake or Maggie Gyllenhaal retailed at £2.99. The price never went up or down from this - the price of a not especially lavish special coffee. You must have noticed, right, that everyone you know who still has a stack of DVDs in their living room ALL, whatever their taste, their age, and whatever else they like, ALL have a copy of Secretary and Donnie Darko in their collection. It's not just me who's noticed that, right? Even my gran had these movies. And the reason is that by some sinister decree, films starring Gyllenhals were to undercut the market by a minimum of a fiver. We would all go wandering through Virgin Megastore, past all of the Coldplay CDs and think, '£2.99?! Well, I didn't exactly love the film, but c'mon! It was good enough for £2.99! Even the fucking box is worth £2.99. £2.99 is cheaper than renting a movie.'

So anyway, I bought Donnie Darko, like every single other person who exists and was alive around then, some years after enjoying it in the cinema, made some microwave popcorn, put it on and was crestfallen (like, if you can imagine a crest falling off a wall) to discover that the film started with some other 80s song I didn't recognise. I was born in 81, so I'm at that awkward age where I still don't get most of the cultural referents the people 10 years older than me who actually make films and TV use. Ooh, I can't wait to do the same to people 10 years younger than me when I'm there. Sitcoms will be all Pogs and something else that happened in the 90s but I was too busy playing Pogs to notice.

So yes, back to being crestfallen: Had I just made up the whole 'Killing Moon' thing? Had I imagined it? I assumed, until last night, that I must have done. But after Film 2011 last night, after the dawn scene where Donnie Darko picks up his bike and rides back into his suburb, what should I hear but the ringing, jangly chords of Echo and the Bunnymen's 'Killing Moon'? Exactly that, is what I should and, indeed, did hear. I danced a jig with glee. Then I checked my DVD, which I hadn't prised out of the DVD holder for years and found 'DIRECTOR'S CUT' written in small, blue on slightly-darker-blue lettering under the title.

Which brings me to my point: what the fuck is with you, director of Donnie Darko? Are you some kind of film-ruining idiot? Why don't you just go to screenings of your own films and have loud mobile phone conversations over the top of them, instead of actually, genuinely ruining them for everyone forever?

Sunday, 21 August 2011

inconceivable art

Once every six months I stop using every drawer in my room for stuffing things in because none of them will open. Today, while re-arranging the third drawer down, I discovered an old notebook which contained a press clipping from 2010. I'd cut it out of a Sunday supplement article about the computer game Heavy Rain which was just about to come out. You may remember HR was being pitched as a new dawn: the first example of a once inconceivable art form in which you, as creator-audience, are given complete control over the narrative; pretty much the event horizon after which computer games take over from film, cereal packet comic strips and the novel. As proof of this, the journalist cites the following:

"The smallest action alters the narrative. Do you talk to the junkie or shoot him?"

You hear that? THE SMALLEST ACTION.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Bodle


For the last three summers I've set myself a single, achievable project which, given minimal discipline, ought to be finished before the academic year trundles into gear again. Then I take on a side-project, usually by invitation, something shorter and sufficiently different from project A that it will not only not distract me from project A but provide a valuable contrast. Things not going so well on the novel? Maybe work on the new pamphlet-length sequence for a couple of hours!

The process by which this branch and sub-branch of a project multiplies over the course of the summer is insidious and is entirely the fault of Bodle: the longest serving and jolliest evil spirit inhabiting my soul.

Bodle will say, 'That new pamphlet-length sequence you're working on: don't you think that needs a pamphlet-length-sequence within a pamphlet-length sequence, in case people think you're getting too unself-referential?'

'Well sure, Bodle,' I'll say, closing and saving my document.

'Maybe it should be in the form of song, then you could have a live show with your friend on piano! You can rent a General's uniform! This can be project B(ii)!'

'By Jove, Bodle, I think you're onto something,' I'll say, spending the rest of the day trying to write a jazz standard which rhymes "Rasputin" with "stick the boot in".

'And by the way,' Bodle will say, sensing I'm already weak, 'I just had a vision of the future in which you are a celebrated playwright.'

'Get out!' I say. 'Not as in, the power of Christ compels you, you understand, Bodle. I mean "get out!" as in "get out of town!" - a chirpy Americanism which expresses surprise by feigning incredulity through the threat of exile. And am I also a radio playwright?'

'What a horrendously laboured gag!' exclaims Bodle, knowing damn well that this makes me an ideal candidate for radio. 'That's actually what makes your reputation before you turn to the stage.'

'So that's project C and C(ii),' I say, opening two further documents. 'But what about a sub-project for A?'

'The French anti-novel isn't getting any staler,' says Bodle. 'Why not get in contact with an enterprising small press and sign a contract for a 50,000 word experimental piece narrated by a holographic dolphin sticker in a Japanese girl's schoolbook?'

'Why, I can see the cover already!' I cry.

'And what could make for better relief from writing a novel than an anti-novel?'

'You speak the truth, Bodle,' I say, opening the novel again, and opening another document which I save as "ANTI NOVEL".

'And while we're on the subject,' says Bodle, 'Children's picture book. And grown up book in the style of a children's picture book.'

'Check; check,' I say, getting out some sheets of A3.

'And weren't you planning on revitalising traditional form even though countless half-baked "movements" have already disintegrated in a puff of reader apathy trying to do just that?'

'I already have a deadline.'

'And I'd just like to drop into the mix: science fiction.'

'Yeah!'

'Remember how much you love science fiction?'

'Do I?'

'Isn't it really your ultimate dream to write a great science fiction novel?'

'It's a fair cop, Bodle.'

'And what about your blog? You haven't posted anything on there for two months if you don't count a bitchy riposte to an Amazon review which you had second thoughts about and took down.'

'If there's one thing that matters in this world,' I tell Bodle, 'it's being seen to be able to take criticism.'

'Also screenplays,' says Bodle. 'Screenplays are very important.'

'That all starts tonight,' I say, heading to the shops to buy a new notebook. Halfway through doing up one of my shoes, I freeze. 'But Bodle,' I say, 'what if all of these projects become totally overwhelming and maroon me in a sea of indecision. What if, in reality, these "ideas" are just excuses not to get on with the project I know I have to finish?'

'Remind me,' says Bodle. 'Was that C or F(iii)?'

'As you know very well, Bodle,' I tell him, 'It is B(ii).'

'The only solution,' begins Bodle, after a pause, 'as I see it, is to start a website where writers share 5,000 word essays about distraction as an integral part of the creative process. How do you remain focused on one creative project? How do you keep your creative profligacy in check?'

'This sounds promising.'

'Let's talk logos,' says Bodle.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

It's been a little while. How are you? I've been at a lovely wedding and was involved in a minor car accident in my rental car which still rendered the whole trip cheaper than going from Birmingham to Taunton by train, even before the insurance money comes back. How about you? What? You spent how long reading the 'Comment is Free' stream appended to a Guardian article you only had a passing interest in anyway? And you got how angry with their anonymised bullshit? Enough that it made having an opinion about anything at all feel overrated, eh? And then you felt so sorry for yourself you watched eight episodes of Muppet Babies on YouTube? Well, I can get behind the latter. This is a brief post just to say that Planet-Shaped Horse continues to sell like cold cakes and I've just got hold of another tranche of them. Do get in touch if you'd like to paypal me a fiver for one, there's a collective dear. Lxxx

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

1980s Text Adventure

You know that thing on MSN when you pretend to be a 1980s text adventure and the person you're "chatting" with pretends that they're the player? Well, I know it too. In fact a few years ago I used to pretend to be 1980s text adventure every night, whether I was on MSN or talking to someone in real life. Rather than making me insufferable, I received strong positive feedback from friends - who found me "less banal" and "more himself" when I was pretending to be a text adventure - and even barstaff. 'You hand me my change and I say thank you,' I'd say to them, when they handed me my change. 'INVENTORY,' they'd say. 'You have in your pockets: some string, a Daysaver bus ticket and some Pogs,' I'd say. 'You give the Pogs to me.' This usually didn't work - everyone was very attached to their Pogs back then. Anyway, this is one of those MSN text adventures and it struck me as better than anything else I've written in the last couple of days. (Half credit to M. H. Johnson, who is the player).



THE PONY OF EV'RYTHING

A Text Adventure by L. N. Kennard


Matthew says:

Run PonyOfEv'rything.

Luke says:

You wake up in a big pink room. A ladder leads up to a hole in the ceiling. There is a grand, golden door to the West and a shabby wooden door to the East. On the floor, a satchel.

Matthew says:

pick up satchel.

Luke says:

Ok. You are now holding the satchel. It feels unpleasantly warm.

Matthew says:

lick satchel.

Luke says:

The satchel tastes of Coors Light Beer - The Silver Bullet!

Matthew says:

then 'drink satchel'

Luke says:

You suck beer out of the satchel fabric. It is not a pleasant experience.

Luke says:

The golden door opens and a prince wearing a big ruby-studded crown enters the room. He is muttering something.

Matthew says:

give unpleasant beer -tasting satchel to prince.

Luke says:

The prince waves his hand as if trying to discourage a persistent cloud of mosquitoes. He wanders to the other side of the room, still muttering.

Matthew says:

speak to prince

Luke says:

The prince is saying, "...It's hardly a prize if I have to pay for the plane-flight, is it?" He notices you, as if for the first time and says, "Yes? You seemed as if you were about to say something."

Matthew says:

say to price [something inaudible]

Luke says:

"I'm sorry?" says the prince. "I didn't catch that. You'll have to speak up."

Matthew says:

Say to prince "I just called you 'price' accidentally. Do you know why? No? It is because you think you're a prince but you're nothing more than a money lender in a ghastly pink gazebo."

Luke says:

The prince looks baffled.

Matthew says:

Say to prince "Baffled are you? I don't suppose you're used to being talked to like that - by your serfs!" [emphaize serfs]

Luke says:

The prince says, "Father, whatever are you talking about?" He removes the crown from his head and says, "I just picked up your crown from the polishers - I thought I'd transport it home on my head." He hands you the crown.

Matthew says:

say "Dear son, tell me...have I won this game yet? How much gold do I have?"

Luke says:

Au: $7.3 Billion

Matthew says:

Say "Hurrah!" and kiss son.

Luke says:

The prince seems pleased by this uncharacteristic display of affection. "It's odd that you're in such a good mood even though mother's been kidnapped and Melchior has overthrown half the kingdom," he says.

Matthew says:

"What? I hadn't bloody heard about that. I only found out I was king three exchanges ago! What will I do?”

Luke says:

The prince says, "Well, you might start by exploring your castle and opening your satchel." He wanders off, shaking his head and saying, "Fabulous prizes indeed."

Matthew says:

open satchel

Luke says:

The satchel contains one punctured can of Coors Light Beer - The Silver Bullet! The can is empty.

Luke says:

There is also a secret pocket in the satchel.

Matthew says:

hide secret pocket

Luke says:

The secret pocket is now secreted about your person.

Matthew says:

go through shabby wooden door to the east

Luke says:

You open the shabby wooden door. It creaks “phenomenally.” You are now in a room made of shabby wood. There is a typewriter on a desk and a lovely office chair. Exits lead West through the shabby wooden door and up a difficult flight of stairs to the North. There is an unopened letter on the desk inscribed: "To the King".

Matthew says:

open closed letter inscribed "To the King"

Luke says:

The letter reads: Dear King, thank you for submitting your poems, "The Work-a-Day Field Marshall Tries to Make a Proposal" and "Blizzard Wanderings". I read them with surprise and irritation. Unfortunately, they do not suit our magazine's present needs. No doubt you will have me put to death. Yours, &c."

Matthew says:

exhale in a faint disapointment

Luke says:

As you exhale, the dangerous looking staircase trembles and collapses in a cloud of dust and splinters. It is just as well you had not elected to climb it.

Matthew says:

say save game under Matt1.sav

Luke says:

Saved.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

uncharacteristic rant

A friend reminded me last night that the wonderful Kate Bush's 'Wuthering Heights' came on at a party a while ago and that it had provoked me into an uncharacteristic rant, mostly against a former English teacher who thought that playing the song to the class on one of those old 3x3-cube school cassette players was any kind of substitute for teaching us to appreciate the novel. I averred, with no disrespect to Bush, that the formula could be expressed thus:

"Bad dreams in the night,
They told me I was going to lose the fight,
Leave behind my [Half of title], [Half of title], [Full title]!
[Male lead]! It's me! [Female lead]! Come home!"
I'm so [typical attribute of female lead]! let me in-a your [relevant location]!"

And that it could be about absolutely any novel ever written, e.g.:

1.

"Bad dreams in the night,
They told me I was going to lose the fight,
Leave behind my great (the), great (the), great (the) Gatsby.
Gatsby! It's me, Daisy! Come home!
I'm so anxious! Let me in-a your mansion!"

2.

"Leave behind my portrait of a, portrait of a, portrait of a lady!
Oswald! It's me, Isabel! Come home.
I'm so conscientious! Let me in-a your maisonette!"

3.

"Leave behind my Copperfield, Copperfield, David Copperfield.
David Copperfield! It's me, Pegotty! Your former housekeeper!
I'm not actually the female lead, but I scan better."

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

I Sought a Meme and Sought for it in Vain

The Word Fest reading was lovely. Here is a photo by Tyla Arabas.

Also, here is a project I'm clearly never going to finish. One night a friend and I decided to write 8 anti-novels. We managed two each. Here is my second one.

I AM MARGINS

An Apolitical Thriller

* * *

I. YOU THINK YOU’RE ANY DIFFERENT

“Thank you for the best day ever!”

That’s what’s currently written on my arm. There’s absolutely no point when anything can happen; no place to get a toe-hold. We are eating grilled robots up on the hill above town and writing

“Aw! Honey! You’re so great!”

on one another’s arms with fineline pens. Insufferable and insipid. I am filling in a little heart on top of the “i” in “especially” in my sentence

“Everyone loves you, honey! Especially me!”

on Suzannah’s downy left forearm when Christopher Mills announces that he has invited a Realist to join us.

“Just like Christopher Mills.”

I write on Suzannah’s arm.

“Always vying for Suzannah’s attention. Realist! Feh!”

Suzzanah, who cannot handle anything but obsequious compliments (especially when they’re being written on her arm) hates the way me and Christopher Mills fight over her and wears nothing but cut-off wedding dresses. She withdraws her arm with a scowl.

When the Realist arrives we play Mock the Realist. The number 14 appears on the horizon in bricks (this took months of planning). A man with a gun shows us his animal slippers. Embattled Lingerie, a theatre troupe, bring caged buzzards. You press a switch on their cages which prods them into calling. We abuse solvents with Embattled Lingerie for a couple of hours (drafting a manifesto towards a new kind of cabaret) and point-blank refuse to go anywhere, assuming new names in the style of Puritans and heroes, Absolution Batman, etc. The council asks for our terms. ‘I don’t know,’ we say, ‘A quarter of a mouse? Also, you’re not allowed to use asterisks anymore.’ The council responds in the tradition of the French anti-novel. We get very warm temples.

* * *

II. Sometimes I can see paint-spattered dogs lilting towards the aquaduct

An anti-novel by your local council

We waited for the votes to come in, but secretly we were thinking of other things. I was thinking of making love in the catacombs of afternoon sunlight and some stupid advert for yellow paint which had been going on in my head for days. The others were thinking about their castles, back on the Saskatchewan Hills – too small to really stand up in, but handsome from a distance, backlit like pumpkins the way they liked to keep them.

I was drafting my weekly newspaper column which, that summer, had been my only source of income:


A big banging sound and the leatherette goons are weeing up my living room window, bike chains in their pudgy hands, chewing other bits of bike. I have no statement for their cross-wired dictaphones, so I just let them get on with it. I’d clearly like to be somewhere else, though – look at those sparkly tears in my eyes! Look at those real teeth! {LATER} What a lovely bus – it goes dub-de-dub-de-dub-de all through the town, the raindrops running down its windows like big weeping mourners. I have no patience with mourners. ‘What’s the matter?’ I always want to say to them. ‘It can’t be that bad! At least you’ve been born in the first place! So come on, mourners! Don’t be so fucking negative! This is Saxony!’ that hopeless, noiseless tradition of mashed bananas and a lot of talk about the New Art before bedtime. Dad always said I was going to re-structure the whole world in everyone’s head and he wasn’t far wrong. The best wars are fought in heads. I’m so hungry I could join the mourners, which is really saying something for me.


Some people get paid a thousand pounds a week for their sordid little opinions and/or totally inconsequential anecdotes about family life, but I have to make do with the admiration of my editor and the occasional transport allocation.

‘I really am quite hungry,’ I say out loud.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Aw Man It's At Like

Massive and scary honour to be reading a support slot for Christian Bok at the London Word Fest tomorrow (Tuesday May 3rd, VIBE, London:here is where you click if you want to see more details.) It's at 7:30pm. Why not check out the superlative Eunoia right here?

On Saturday I'm reading at the St Ives Lit Festival with my NEMESIS-- oh, no, sorry I mean MENTOR and FORMER TUTOR, Andy Brown. Andy is amazing. His forthcoming collection is his best work yet. Aw MAN, it's at like 8 O CLOCK AT NIGHT! It's going to be 5am by the time I get home. Sigh.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Completely Concealed by a Sheet

There follows a sequence of four things which I read a year or two ago at the Lemon Monkey in Stoke Newington. It was for a lovely reading series run by Katy Evans-Bush. The Lemon Monkey was a sort of delicatessen cafe with girls in pencil skirts and blouses darting up ladders to fetch potted cheeses and oils which cost more than the things you're going to cook in them, but maybe that's the point or something.

I had intended to read one or two of the 'Self Promotional Strategies' and then some trusty old pieces from my books for the rest of the set but, for the first time ever, I had left my books in a pile by my front door, completely concealed by a sheet of paper with DO NOT FORGET THESE, CLOTHEARS! written on it. So I had to read the whole sequence instead and left feeling that I hadn't given a terribly good account of myself. Anyway, the other day someone mentioned to me that they kind of liked the 'Self Promotional Strategies' sequence and whatever happened to that and was I planning to finish it? So, given that it's such a beautiful day, I thought I'd dig it out and post it below and maybe even finish it next week before DISSERTATIONAGEDDON hits and I can only communicate in numbers between 55 and 78.

A Cruel, Unnecessary and Assumptive Thing

SELF-PROMOTION STRATEGY #1

When I made figurines of myself out of Foam Rubber XVI – a malleable material that returns to its original shape when pummelled or squeezed – I marketed them as the World’s First Poetry Doll. I was able to use the publicity I had already garnered from prize nominations and newspaper articles as a foundation from which to build a rudimentary ‘media-gurney’, from which I hung a ‘media-cauldron’ from which a small ‘media-slew’ of further articles about my publicity stunt poured forth. I was photographed in the factory where the dolls were produced. I had to pose with a quill pen by a Foam Rubber XVI Implicator Machine with a thoughtful expression on my face. And then I had to pose side by side with one of the poetry dolls – which was a simplified version of me, rendered in Foam Rubber XVI. Journalists asked me questions such as: ‘Where did you get the idea to make the World’s First Poetry Doll?’ and ‘Were your parents upset when you decided to make the World’s First Poetry Doll?’ and ‘What, for you, makes the perfect poetry doll?’

I answered the questions by squeezing the World’s First Poetry Doll’s tummy, activating a tiny voice synthesiser within, similar to the voice synthesisers you find in talking greeting cards. The doll answered the questions: ‘I have a really itchy patch of psoriasis on my shin,’; ‘In the future maybe museums will look around us!’ and ‘Trepanation,’ respectively.

Then poet and blogger Jonathan Rail heard about what I had done and wrote about it on his blog. Jonathan Rail said on his blog that it was tragic to see I had turned myself into a commodity.

And I was like, ‘Oh, really, Jonathan? Is that what I did? I had no idea that was what I did when I LITERALLY COMMODIFIED MYSELF was to turn myself into a commodity. Heavens to fucking betsy, Jonathan, is that what I did? Made myself into a commodity when I commodified myself? Because if it is I feel really silly now. I feel like the man who went through three years of police training and emerged, to his dismay, as a policeman, Jonathan, is what I feel like. Jonathan. Jonathan. Jonathan. Your name has lost all meaning.’

A small magazine asked me to retaliate to Jonathan Rail’s “accusation” and I said it just showed what a credulous fucking moron Jonathan Rail was.

*

SELF PROMOTION STRATEGY #2

This was great as I was totally able to use the small magazine interview to wage war on Jonathan Rail who responded with what he hoped might be perceived by his readers as honour and restraint, drawing attention to my use of swearing and capital letters and deducing that I must therefore be unhinged. ‘Which would be all very well if Jonathan Rail HAD any motherfucking readers!’ I wrote on my blog which I had recently set up. There followed a lengthy exchange containing many passive-aggressive phrases such as ‘I find it interesting…’ from Rail and out-and-out aggressive phrases such as ‘buttock risotto’ from me. ‘Because that’s all you are, Rail,’ I concluded. ‘Buttock risotto.’

Soon Masters MacAndrew felt it necessary to weigh-in on her own blog – but instead of taking sides she chose to come on all worthy and use it as a metonym for ‘The problem with the spectacle of machismo in contemporary poetry’ in a post entitled, ‘The Problem With Contemporary Poetry’, beginning, “The problem with contemporary poetry is that high-octane rows and disputes (such as the current testosterone-fuelled spat between Luke Kennard and Jonathan Rail) tend to obscure – by dint of they are more interesting – the work itself. It is akin to the spectacle of peacocks fighting.”

I didn’t like the heavy-handed attempt at implication in MacAndrew’s ‘opinion piece’, but by this point I was warming to my role as the “Bad Boy” of English letters, so I wrote to MacAndrew: ‘You even know what a fucking metonym is, Masters MacAndrew, you fucking idiot? Because from here it looks like you don’t. And what kind of name is Masters anyway? You name yourself after your postgraduate degree or something? It seems unlikely that you have one as you capitalise the with in titles and write clauses like “by dint of they are more interesting”. What exactly is the subject of that sentence, Masters MacAndrew? The OF or the ARE? Rest assured that when ambulances pass you, their sirens are saying to you MOR-ON, MOR-ON.’

Masters MacAndrew ignored my statements as she was still going for some kind of “saintly forbearance” thing in front of all six of her blog readers. ‘Wake up, Masters,’ I wrote in her comments field. ‘The only reason anyone reads blogs is to see people wailing on each other with three-foot word clubs.’

Next I changed my name by deed-poll from Luke Kennard to Like Kennard. ‘What do you think about that, Masters?’ I said. ‘My name is a fucking simile.’

*

SELF PROMOTION STRATEGY #3

The Luke Kennard Poetry Doll was selling steadily, but it wasn’t going to provide any lasting awareness of me as an artist – I was under no illusion about that, whatever Jonathan Rail and Masters MacAndrew thought about it. (They thought I was under an illusion about it).

In order to continue to be recognised as relevant I would require some form of movement – a movement which would become synonymous with pulling crazy shit like the World’s First Poetry Doll. I began to survey the territory of contemporary poetry, but found it largely boring. I couldn’t shake anything up by recruiting from the very pool the surface of which I was trying to disturb. I mean I couldn’t, could I?

So then I just called a couple of my friends, Rob and Joe – and said, ‘Guys, I’ve always liked your work, and recently I’ve noticed that we share certain unignorable aesthetic parallels.’

‘What work?’ said Rob. ‘I haven’t done anything since we were sixteen.’

‘But you could do some more, Rob,’ I said. ‘That stuff you did when you were sixteen on your Chemistry folder – that had real energy.’

‘You know,’ said Rob, ‘I probably still have that Chemistry folder somewhere.’

And so a new movement was born. (Joe would play his guitar). We called ourselves the New Threat and quickly set up a magazine and a reading series in the basement of a pub and a blog.

Anne Neithers pointed out on her blog that T. S. Eliot had sold a limited edition series of T. S. Eliot rag-dolls to his closest admirers so my doll wasn’t really the world’s first poetry doll after all.

‘You wait, Neithers,’ I said to her in her comments field. ‘That doll is old news now. The New Threat are where it’s at.’

‘”Where it’s at”?’ said Neithers. ‘Like the Beck song from the nineties?’

‘I like the cut of your gib, Neithers,’ I said. ‘You’re in!’

And so the first female member of The New Threat was inducted. This was important because otherwise we would have looked sexist.

*

SELF-PROMOTION STRATEGY #4

I hadn’t expected the blogosphere to react well to the New Threat – our very purpose was to shake people up and if there’s one thing people don’t like, it’s being shaken up. You can tell because if you translate the metaphor literally and go up behind a complete stranger and grab them by the shoulders and shake them, they don’t like it.

Sometimes it struck me that shaking people up was therefore a cruel, unnecessary and assumptive thing to do, but these feelings soon passed. It was a mean, impolite world now, and that was what the New Threat stood for – that and being new and threatening.

The first people we had to shake up were old guard ‘wannabe mainstream’ poets like Jonathan Rail and Masters MacAndrew – both bourgeois appeasers of the highest order.

Like a Standard, Cylindrical

When I haven't posted anything to this blog for a while, it may be tempting to assume that my life has fallen appart. Failing to maintain your internet presence, like failing to maintain an adequate skin-care regime, is the first sign that all is not right on the inside, in your brain, is the kind of opinion I imagine you holding.

I was eating a Major Cheddar (you know, those giant Mini Cheddars which come packaged like a standard, cylindrical packet of biscuits - what japes!) and suddenly bit down on something hard and marble-like, which turned out to be a piece of tooth and a large lead-like filling which I'd had installed around 15 years ago when they still made tooth fillings out of crushed thermometers, moon dust and cyanide.

The resulting pain was something I can only describe as "whistly". So I registered with a charming dentist who discovered another filling that needed replacing in a tooth which wasn't even hurting yet!

'Bit of a sweet tooth, sir?' he said.

'Ung,' I said, trying not to rustle the qtr. of Kola Kubes against the qtr. of Coughing Candy in my jacket pocket. I am always on the back foot at the doctors, etc., as a result of just having lied about my weekly alcohol intake (especially as 1 unit = standing near a quiz machine, 5 units = receiving communion, 10 units = a small serving of trifle).

'It's quite deep cavity. It's probably fruit,' he said. 'You eat your six a day, right?'

[Thinks: SIX?!]

'Oh yeth,' I said, noticing, as I formed the words, that there was sherbert on one of my shoes.

'Do me a favour then,' he said, 'just zush them all up in a blender and drink it all down in one go. It's much better for your teeth.'

Joke's on him, of course, as I'm lucky if I eat six pieces of fruit a week and most of the things I drink describe themselves - with charming self-deprecation - as a "juice drink". It's a shame that even the things that are good for us are actually bad for us as well, eh?

In other news, there's a stunningly lovely review of Planet-Shaped Horse by Alex Campbell right here. It is the kind of review which more or less makes up for all the crappy reviews I've ever received in that it shows that another human being who doesn't know me completely gets something I've written, thereby proving that all the stupid critics who've written stupid bad reviews in the past were just doing it because they were stupid! That was why! Because they were stupid! I almost feel silly for not having seen it before. Why lose sleep over the opinion of someone who is stupid? Ooh, I hope I get that job at Stupid Land! I wonder what the stupid interviewers thought of me? I hope I answered their stupid questions properly! WHO DOES THAT?! WHO WOULD EVER WORRY ABOUT THAT?!

More PSH bonus content to follow. I've sold the last fifty copies and have just received a new bundle today, so keep those orders trickling in to L.N.Kennard@bham.ac.uk. I'm off to the post office. As Harold from Neighbours once appeared to say when I was watching it with the sound down, "We are two great seabirds."

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Sealing Wax, Staring at the Unfunny

Good news! I overcame my fear of standing in front of a closed door holding way too many pies! Also, I have my own personal stash of copies of Planet-Shaped Horse and you can buy one directly from me if you like: I will send it to you postage free for the cover price of £5. Not only is it postage free, but you can take pleasure in the fact that the transaction will also involve me copying your address onto a scrap of paper, searching the house for envelopes and swearing, walking two miles to the post office in the rain, queuing for forty minutes because post offices have basically become weird banks/govt. offices for confused elderly people which only happen to operate a low-profit sideline in delivering mail, and there are eighteen people who want to exchange their passport and collection of coins with holes in the middle for food stamps and sealing wax, staring at the unfunny greeting cards and reflecting that they remind me of the drawing style in Family Guy and that that's why I could never quite "commit" to Family Guy, playing video poker on my phone and losing everything on three jacks, then getting to the counter, paying for the envelope and realising that I left the scrap of paper with your address on it at home.

The £5 can be wired to me using PayPal, which is a mysterious means of exchanging money just by knowing someone's email address (mine is L.N.Kennard@bham.ac.uk). I have absolutely no idea how it works, but drop me a line if you'd like a copy.

Alternatively, if you love pamphlets of poetry but hate Kennard, I'd recommend the recently published Brumaire and Later by Alasdair Paterson, which is the most delightful thing I've read in a while. Available from Flarestack Poets or, if you live in Birmingham, the IKON gallery shop.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

PSH Bonus Content #5

is the PSH poem 'Pilgrimage' translated from the English by Claire Trevien

This is the poem about a detective trying to find a missing bead and searching every carpet show-room in the world. I prefer it in French.




Pèlerinage


Le cerveau est comme un stylo sans capuchon
laissé sur le duvet de quelqu’un d’autre.

Pendant que j’essaye de comprendre le projet d’art
je me souvient d’un polar :

un détective était embauché pour trouver une petite perle.
Et en gros, c’est ça l’histoire.

Il à dédié toute sa vie à cette recherche,
bousillant son dos et sa vue.

Après presque vingt ans, le détective,
un vieil homme à ce stade de l’histoire,

trouve la perle dans un magasin de moquette.
Il la cueille d’une main tremblante,

l’emmène au client qui l’à embauché
et découvre qu’il est mort depuis huit ans.

Les treillis de poule gâchent les pèlerinages :
il n’y à rien de moins transfiguré.

C’est comme essayer d’écrire avec quelqu’un
qui regarde par-dessus ton épaule:

la seule chose que tu veuilles écrire est :
arrêtes de regarder par-dessus mon épaule!



('Pilgrimage' by Luke Kennard translated by Claire Trevien, 2011)

Mirror Stage

PSH Bonus Content #4:

The final poem of PSH translated into French by Claire Trevien.

In the words of Wallace Stevens, "French and English combine to make one language" and, given that after decades of trying (not very hard) I am almost completley unable to speak French, I must conclude that I only speak half a language. Mercifully, I also know Claire Trevien, who is a superlative poet and translator. Claire also edits Sabotage (subtitled 'Reviews of the Ephemeral') which is important in at least 11 different ways, not least being that it calls editors and writers to account on journals and mags which usually escape any such close attention and can carry on doing the same 'We're only unpopular because society rejects our radical ideals' shtick without anyone going 'Hee hee hee!'

Claire has translated two poems from Planet-Shaped Horse. The first is the last one, 'Fin', about a cat (pictured) fighting its own reflection. The second will be posted when I can work out how to correct the formatting. Grr.


FIN

Un chaton joue avec son reflet
Mais s’arrête brusquement autour de son premier anniversaire.
Jusqu’à présent, je croyais que c’était parce que le chat
Avait compris ce qu’était qu’un miroir,
Mais maintenant, je trouve cette idée absurde.
Les chats ne comprennent pas plus les miroirs
Que la loi de la gravitation. Donc, ça doit plutôt être
Que le chat sait qu’il à intérêt à ne pas chercher
Ce chat en verre qui sait mystérieusement
Parer chacune de ses attaques.


('Fin' by Luke Kennard, Translated by Claire Trevien, 2011).

Sunday, 6 February 2011

PSH Bonus Content #3

Childhood friend and dronecore musician (it's like core, but more dronesome), Restful Sleep, has written a new piece inspired by poem no. 6 from Planet-Shaped Horse, 'More Sad News From Your Stupid Planet'. That's him up a cliff in the picture. This is particularly relevant as 'MSNFYSP' has a kind of mountain-climbing theme. In his own words, “It was recorded on my bedroom floor using a bad old yamaha keyboard, a loop pedal and three distortion pedals.” Click here to play it:

http://soundcloud.com/restful-sleep/more-sad-news-from-your-stupid

It makes me think of dropping televisions into old caves which turn out to be mine-shafts while a singer struggles to be heard over the gale. I particularly love the way, about 2/3 of the way through, the electrical noises, the buzzes and hums which surround us, get woven into the melody until the absolute certainty that the pattern you were teasing yourself by pretending to see is actually something present which you were trying to ignore and which probably isn't in your control anyway, whether you acknowledge it or not, and the loop you get stuck in becomes kind of unavoidable / unbearable. This is one of the seven subtexts of Planet-Shaped Horse. It is when I'm tired, anyway. Also, the piece has a gorgeous sinking-in-and-out of consciousness feel, which mirrors the poem perfectly.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Brio Vs. Elan

Sometimes a picture of an excellent person wearing an all-in-one cow suit reading a copy of Planet-Shaped Horse speaks louder than words. [Thanks to Kirsty Victoria Taylor, pictured, and Rosie Reynolds, photo]. My heartiest gratitude to everyone who made it out to the launch last night on such a Thursday of a Thursday. Also big thank yous to Jane Commane and Matt Nunn for putting on the event with customary brio and elan. There were heart-rending scenes of the book selling out and at least three people being turned away empty handed / full walleted. UPDATE: It is so blustery today that ALL COPIES OF PLANET-SHAPED HORSE have blown away.

It will shortly be available from the Nine Arches Press website, but the paper it's printed on is so lovely it has to be sliced up by hand with a tako hiki. Can't rush these things.

Once I've eaten enough grapefruits to quash my hangover [8], I'm off to help the good students of the University of Birmingham pick a team for their next Slam. That's right: a Slam! Because whatever you've heard about me (or inferred from my accent & snappy dress-sense), I'm not an elitist. I'm going away for the weekend, so bonus-subscriber-only-exclusive-DVD-extra-content for Planet-Shaped Horse will resume on Monday. This is better than me pretending my dehydrated old heart is really in it this morning.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

PSH Exclusive Bonus Content #2


In the prologue of Planet-Shaped Horse there is a reference to Client 1764's first collection of short stories, published by Charlie Horse Books. The question everybody [would be asking were the book available yet and they bought it and read it] is 'What kind of stories are they? What if this were an alternative universe where Client 1764 had written the pamphlet about you? How about you imagine that's the case, and you write one of them and then post it, having spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to format it so that it looks like a pamphlet and then photographing it? It would be delightfully whimsical and not a waste of time!' To which I respond: 'I'm actually quite busy.' And then everybody says, 'Oh, go on.' And I say, 'Okay then. I'll start with a made-up publisher's statement.' And then everybody says, 'HA! We tricked you! We don't care about your pamphlet, let alone an imaginary one you just made up.' And I say, 'Well, it's too late now,' and feed it to the vortex of your unintererst.


PUBLISHER'S STATEMENT:

When the MS for TL/DR arrived, I realised I had found a rare and disciplined talent in ____ ________. These short-stories-in-verse or "poem proses" represent a slap in the face to anyone who believes that poetry needn't adhere to strict form. What ________ demands is not only that poetry shrug off the lacklustre dullness of vers-libre, but that prose also adopts the ten syllable line. And if it doesn't we'll both be REALLY UPSET.

For the first time outside of its limited print run, I present the opening 'story-in-verse' from TL/DR, 'The Drunken Navigator'. This is the last time I do this and the other Exclusive Bonus Content will be much more fun. That's a promise.









































Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Exclusive Bonus Content #1

So, I cut myself shaving, my hair resembles a sort of jellied bird's nest, and I have three large, very red pimples on my forehead, nose and chin, respectively. All of which can only mean that I am appearing in public tomorrow to launch a new pamphlet! Yaaaaay!

On your left you will see a scary barn. It is near my friend's house and looks uncannily like the shed I had in mind for the Hermit who may or may not live on the time-based sculpture I Faked My Own Life which my narrator wanders into. Look how the upper panels are sort rotting out like plates of ice or slices of apple or, I don't know, a pornographer's soul or something. Therefore it is the first official piece of exclusive bonus content to accompany the chapbook. Don't say I never do anything for my 22 fans AND COUNTING.

In other news, my main publisher Salt are having a wonderful 3-day sale wherein you can get 75% off my 3rd collection, The Migraine Hotel. If you were thinking of getting it, but only wanted to pay a quarter of the price, the next three days would be the time to do it. It also makes a perfect 'Oh... Contemporary poetry... Thanks.' kind of a birthday / Christmas / Valentine's Day present (if you've already got said loved one an ant farm and a deerstalker hat in the last two years). Click below while marvelling at my foolish pride which bids me never to ask someone how to properly present hyperlinks within blogger:

http://blog.saltpublishing.com/2011/02/02/3daysupersavers-—-75-off-kennard-pidoux-pow-rees-offer-expires-5th-feb/

What you should probably do, though, is buy Eleanor Rees's extraordinary follow up to Andraste's Hair, Eliza and the Bear; Tom Pow's Dear Alice; or Andrew Pidoux's Year of the Lion which are part of the same offer.

In the interests of full disclosure: I'm not planning to include the poems of Planet-Shaped Horse in the next full-length manuscript I submit to Salt in whenever-I've-written-anything-worthwhile-year's-time. Ain't gonna lie: it's tempting to just bosh it in there and act like half the manuscript is already finished and get double 'research points' for exactly the same thing twice, it's not as if anybody ever actually bloody reads it anyway, grumble grumble grumble. But I'd also feel like kind of a jerk if I did that and, as in all things, my pathological desire to be thought well of wins out. So PSH is going to be exclusive and ephemeral like the panels at the top of that barn.

More exclusive bonus content to follow. You can read along with it in your book once you get it.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Thanks Anyway

Don't you love it when all of your friends and acquaintances are writers or musicians or artists of one kind or another and the only time they ever contact you is to try to sell you their latest product? Oh, hey there - sorry I haven't been in touch for 18 months! What's that? Your aunt died? That's too bad. You know what would cheer you up, though? I've just had a new sequence of poems published and it's a delightful mandarin colour.

There's a launch event if you're not too grief stricken. What's that? Your aunt left you her filofax and her SatNav? Well they would both be ideal for recording the following information and helping you find the venue, respectively:

This Thursday, February 3rd, 7pm at The Priory Rooms, 40 Bull Street, Birmingham, B4 6AF

So I'll see you there, right? What's that? Your new band's EP is laucnhing later that very same night? I'm afraid I'll be mourning your aunt. Thanks anyway, though.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Glockenspiel Kennard


This is Loch Kennard, which I was named after (sub: please check) when my fore-fathers acquired eighteen bolts of material from a Scottish cloth merchant and failed to pay the bill, way back in the 17th century. The deal was that in three hundred years time, their descendants would have to name their first born something which sounded like Loch Kennard, their favourite fishing retreat. Had I been a girl, I might have been named Glockenspiel Kennard or Callista Flockhart Kennard. In the event it was more simple and Luke Kennard, me, was born. Thus, while I am not Scottish enough to wear a kilt at a wedding, I am Scottish-by-association enough to enjoy haggis and single malt. Happy Burns Night, all.