Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Let's meet new poets - Rebecka M. reviews the Faber & Faber night at the Curzon

Post-election, the arts world is left pondering the impending, but certainly promised, funding cuts by the new government. Should such cuts affect Faber & Faber’s brilliant New Poets Programme – a programme of ‘bursaries, mentorship and encouragement’ for emerging poets funded by the Arts Council – the loss would leave the heart of many a poetry lover rather sore, judging from the attendance at last night’s readings at the Curzon Cinema in Soho. In spite of the sticky Soho heat, the dark cinema salon corner was the best place to be, with readings by Tom Warner, Sam Riviere, Annie Katchinska and Joe Dunthorne.

With their words speedily spinning the minds of the audience from one image to the next, we are left wondering why poetry is so often depicted as po-faced? There was more laughter than earnest “poetic” solemnity among the audience, as Tom Warner read about schoolgirls with violins trapped under their chins, and the incompetence of Microsoft’s spell-check when it comes to the study of crayfish (‘astacology’). Sam Riviere finished his set with a nicely rambling 'Galaxie 500'-style insight into the mind of a man who may have lost his opinions, but is certainly sorted when it comes to chic sunglasses. Annie Katchinska pondered the sum of vodka + Russian family + gherkins + carpet and came up with the answer of Toni Braxton’s chest exploding. Joe Dunthorne took Lego from the nursery to (adult) bedroom acrobatics in the space of one poem. Possibly bordering stand-up comedy at times, but still a heavyweight poetic mix of well-worded incongruity, sincerity and humour. Had I had more money in my starving purse, I would have left with all of the Easter-egg pastel coloured poetry pamphlets on sale. As today’s papers howl that the Arts Council will have to save £19m in their budget, lets hope they can still fund poetry mentorship programmes like Faber & Faber’s – there’s no doubt that they breed brilliant writing.

For info on Faber & Faber’s New Poets Scheme and upcoming dates for readings, have a peek here:

'Galaxie 500'-style? I meant their song, Fourth of July:

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Baring bar codes

Do you remember the 1990s, when the epitome of alternative sci-fi chic was having a bar code tattooed on an uncovered body part? We do, and we are mighty proud to have taken sci-fi chic to a new, literary level by having a bar code tattooed on our back (-cover). But with the bar code comes a price tag and our decision to go from freebie to three-quid-something warrants an explanation.

The creation story of a small literary magazine often starts as a dim thought in someone’s head at dawn, expands in conversation over numerous coffee mugs and doodled pieces of paper and eventually comes alive in the birthing hands of some small printing company. But apart from all the fun stuff – the juggling of ideas, the arguments over full stops, commas, and paper quality – comes the squiggly jerk of the pound sign. Although we planned to be a quarterly publication, Nutshell #2 took 365 days to come to life. We spent hours inking our pens, not only editing poems and stories, but filling forms and writing business plans, juggling equations rather than words.
Don’t get us wrong: fundraising can be fun. We nearly became a sweatshop as we printed our own Nutshell T-shirts adorned with Siobhan Maguire’s fab illustration. We dove into Wonderland and spent a mystically miraculous evening in the company of gender bending Alices, fluorescent fairy cakes and jigging legs. We well nigh fell over with joy at the generosity of our donors and supporters, and at the end of it all, the kitty was full enough to get a new Nutshell printed.
But when you hold down full-time jobs the time available for cake baking and rabbit holes is, sadly, limited. And judging from the positive response to our self-funded first issue, it was clear we weren’t alone in wanting the magazine to have a quicker turnover, more pages (we have already upgraded from 64 to 80), and perhaps colour illustrations and ... there you have it, the radical idea of a price tag was born.
Still, that is not, strictly, it. There is a very important principle behind this decision. We started wondering if the balance of “free” stuff and “paid for” stuff hasn't become somewhat skewed lately? Perhaps the things we now pay for (bank accounts, our MP’s new conservatory, dentists) we shouldn’t – and things we don’t pay for (newspapers, online artwork, films, poems, music) perhaps we should. We all know it’s difficult to stoke our brains to spark up ideas if our stomachs intervene with purrs. It's a crude analogy, perhaps, but our contributors are so talented and we really want to be able to pay them soon. This is what we hope the genie of the price tag will ultimately bring.
We finally stopped tinkering and left Nutshell #2 at the printers. After it comes back – with its perfect cover by Irene Fuga and full of frogspawn, Benny Hill, immortality, Wood Green, Don Paterson and Simonetta Agnello Hornby – we will have a lazy Sunday launch with music, readings and maybe a levitating bookshelf ... consider yourself invited!