Inky Interview Special: Dr Fabrice Poussin

Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review and more than 250 other publications.

Tell us about your journey towards literature. What inspired you to write?

For some odd reason writing always come naturally to me. I was noted for the quality of my words when I was in middle school, consistently received the highest marks in every class throughout high-school as well. When I was 16 I was quite bored with school and began to write a novel. It was published then in a small press in Europe. I proceeded to write a few more. Some were slated for publications, others not. I then continued my studies in college and found myself studying literature. I wrote on and off for a while, but three years ago I had a number of poems and a friend suggested that I send them out to see. It has been great ride since, and I continue to work on my writing focusing on poetry.

Tell us about The Chimes.

The Chimes is the Arts and Literature magazine at the Shorter University where I teach. I have been working with the students in the group for four years. My role, and my heart, is in guiding them through the process, and to help them in any way I can. But I do not ultimately tell them what should or should not be published. We work together and produce a print copy here in my little office on my personal equipment. It is a blast.

You are also a photographer. Tell us more.

Photography is something I grew into at the same time as I did into writing. I have done a little but of everything, but again, ultimately it is not about a job, or making ends meet, it is about expression. Photography is another language. Barthes wrote about it beautifully in his book Camera Lucida. The medium must connect, almost grab the viewer in the stomach and bring him/her closer. I travel to photograph everything. As for poetry, it is a matter of when, not so much what? It is also a matter of how and what detail I choose, not necessarily the whole picture. I am more interested in precisionist and the vastness of any landscape, the opening of a horizon line spreading through time and space.

Can you share with us a couple of your poems and the inspiration behind them?

To the grail

It is a symphony of feet in the midst of fireworks and lights;
they come, they go, hesitate, return, turn around, and back;
insane in their indecision, shoes of sports, and pumps of circumstance,
molding unruly ankles, protecting their wiggly toes.

And what do they want these calves, unable to take a moment’s
rest. Wrapped up in silk, enveloped in cotton, even boldly plain?
A door opens, another closes, and again the silly melody;
voices contract, voices retract, while many convey.

A mad world constrained, as in an alley where elbows are at war.
He and she, past, new, with the little one often or a friend,
Maybe. Hustle, bustle, rustle, wrestle also on this hectic morn’;
joy, smiles, laughter, and the flow of plastic into the register.

The deed is done; life begins anew there, elsewhere,
with the sweet aroma teasing the noble nostrils of all lovers;
hands on the wheel of destiny, fortune is theirs,
now that they have earned and secured the holy grail.

To the Grail is a playful one. I wrote it while I was sitting at a coffee shop. I would spend every hour there on one cup of coffee, observing in the delight of others, their rush, their smiles, and the aroma. It was fun to watch their feet as they came and went, moving from one station to another, ordering, collecting, sweetening, sitting down, opening that laptop or arguing about contemporary politics.

Fluttering with your butterflies

The room is vast and empty,
with only she facing the tall glass;
standing she teases her hair once more;
peace seems to surround her.

Still then, she wonders as she dives
into her own soul, tingling inside;
her soft hand touching the womb;
a slight sigh, a smile and a memory.

In the corner, lost in this immensity
of barren walls, a window so far,
a door unattainable; in the distance
solidity fades, colours vanish into oblivion.

Tall, thin, in a light gown of stars and fairy dust,
apparition, a breeze heaves the adored breast,
her hair plays hide and seek behind her lobes,
tickles the shoulders; she tilts her head.

Another brush stroke, the lids wink in the mirror,
she knows the presence is near, tingles again,
her eyes close, the arms press against her sides;
the breath is of pleasure, it is of life, hers, simply.

Fluttering with your butterflies is a love poem, and it includes hints of Quantum Physics (the butterfly effect of course!) She is the muse, the one I want to tease, touch, and move so she will smile because she knows the universe is in love with her.

What themes keep cropping up in your writing? What do you care about?

Would you believe “love?” Aloneness, and the search for absolute Truth. I suppose the latter is very much connected to the theme of “love.” I care about the universe. Corny? cliche? Not sure! We read quite a lot of pointless literature out there. It is rather easy to line up a few words and call it writing. But what does it really mean? Is it vulnerable, accessible? Does the author let you in and claim: “I am here for the taking; hurt me if you have to, but read me, pull me apart, but most all walk away with something personal!’ That is what I need to do, what I hope many would like to do as well. DO I want to be loved through my words? No! Not at all! Known? Yes! Played with? Why not! Nurtured? By all means, so I can grow a thousand miles away in the hearts and souls of complete strangers!

What advice would you give to new poets? Any tips?

Read everything you can. Write as much as you can. Don’t let anyone tell you how to write. Don’t let anyone tell you your work is bad. Don’t let rejection affect you at all. Keep writing to enjoy, to the point where you are addicted to writing (and nothing else!) You will discover so much about yourself, you will become a walking gift to all. Having read this, please do go and write a few lines. Write everywhere, all the time. Get up in the middle of the night if an idea hits you in your sleep. Don’t even let it get away.

Who inspires you and why?

Would it be silly to state that “life” inspires me? In fact it is not so much what, but when? Everything inspires me; what matters is the moment the “inspiration” comes. It could be from a feeling of slight anger, or joy, or a stick on the windshield of my car. The universe is a great question, and I explore it continually. It would be a search for absolute truth. I had this discussion a few days ago with another poet and friend. I know I have a responsibility to the world to write and I must make every effort to do so as often as possible, so readers can be connected to life at a deeper level (hopefully?). I suppose I have a muse, also. A muse need not be a “she,” but in this case, she is. The muse is a woman, or object we cannot touch, only reach out to in the hope of something making contact. Should we touch, the magic would end. I believe Baudelaire would agree.

Tell us about one of the best days of your life.

I don’t have any idea when this was. I have had many great days. But the one I can remember is based on one of self-discovery, and it goes something like this: “The day I became happy is the day I realized I knew nothing!” Things have been great since. I am a sponge to everything around me, for I know I have everything to learn, everyday. I will thus never grow up at all. I hope more people feel this way.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading the classics. My latest was Sappho. I know, it is only fragments, but it is so interesting to discover the words of a woman who lived 2,500 years ago, but tells of passions we all carry with us today, and possibly always have. Those are a constant. War or peace are not.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

More writing, more photography and helping, perhaps even inspire others to do what I do, be better, and enjoy it, not for fame or money, simply for the joy of sharing, making oneself vulnerable to the world, the universe. I enjoy reading about Quantum Physics, and I find that we are all interconnected with everything to infinity. There lies the truth, and that is why I explore what I hope may be the most mysterious realms of our so called realities.

Poetry Drawer: Jagged Little World by Fabrice Poussin

Poetry Drawer: Holding Time In Their Arms by Fabrice Poussin

Poetry Drawer: Microwave by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

I once had a friend who was a microwave oven
She heated up quickly but had a cold heart
Nothing lasted with her. She never felt anything

I went to high school with her
We kept in touch over the years
She made bad decisions at critical moments
She sabotaged herself
It had something to do with being the child of alcoholics

She married a man
because she believed that as he aged
he would grow more and more to resemble his father
whom she greatly admired

But, as he aged, he became the antithesis of his father
It made her bitter
Her glass door became greasy
You couldn’t see what was in her

Whatever seeds of goodness her husband might have had
dried up
He didn’t water them
He watered his badness
He grew cruel
He verbally abused their children
I wanted to punch him
He always called me’Sir’-as if he were still in the Military

My friend was a microwave
As she aged, the hinges on her door weakened
and she began to release dangerous radiation
It dribbled out on the sides
like gravy dribbling out the sides of a sandwich

Her children-their children-grew to hate their father
They warped, similar to the way their father was warped
but there was still hope for them

I talked to her on the phone
I was thinking about all the appliances that I’ve owned
and that have broken down
and I’ve thrown away

I once had a friend who was a microwave oven
At night, I would imagine myself spinning on her carousel
and would get excited
and couldn’t sleep
I would get up and take a shot of Irish whiskey
but that only aggravated my insomnia

I had a friend who was a vacuum cleaner
I had a friend who was a dishwasher
I had a friend who was a ceiling fan

My wife tells me that all my friends are marginal
which is the way she tells me
how marginal I am

I would be even more marginal if I didn’t live with her
I would be a jumble of broken parts
that don’t add up
to make any one machine

Inky Interview: Author Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois from Denver, Colorado

Flash In The Pantry: Serotonin Reuptake by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Mandela Warp: A Moment in History by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Cooking Shows by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Still Wet by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Loch by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Photogenic by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: An Idea Of Summer by Kevin Casey

The naked light bulb
hanging in the chicken coop
just beyond the reach

of their beaks–their sole
source of winter heat,
and a strained, brittle light

the small flock will ponder
throughout these bitter months,
like an idea of summer.

Inky Interview Special: Kevin Casey

Poetry Drawer: Quotidian by Kevin Casey

Poetry Drawer: Dinner at the Kitchen Island by Kevin Casey

Poetry Drawer: Allowance by Kevin Casey

Books From The Pantry: Ghosting for Beginners by Anna Saunders: reviewed by Claire Faulkner

Ghosting for Beginners by Anna Saunders is a wonderful collection of poems centred around the themes of haunting and loss. The poems expertly weave in and out of each other using characteristics of mystery, folklore and tradition. It left me with an overall sense of ancient fairy tales and contemporary ghost stories. A concept which worked incredibly well as a collection.

Saunders is haunted by many things. Grief, politics, environmental issues, humanity and religion all feature throughout this collection. She writes with strength and clarity, in a style I find extremely effective.

In ‘A Murmuration is Seen Above the City’ instead of starlings, Saunders invites us to see the ghosts or souls of Cabinet Ministers. Describing them as:

Black spots, iron filings, broken particles..

and a

fluid mass with one mind

Circling in the sky Saunders tell us that they are:

wishing that in life
they had acted differently
but airborne, and dead, it is too late.

We look up from Food Banks
to watch the sky teem

The poem finishes with a reminder that the Cabinet Ministers are “fat from stolen fruit”, but the reader is left watching:

…them wheel and turn,
our bones almost through our skin

Powerful words indeed.

There are some beautiful lines and poems in this collection. One of these, focusing on memory, is ‘Ghost Horses’. It starts with:

Do not think that after death
the Mind dismounts.

Do not think that once the race is run
the Mind puts down the reins

I’ll admit that this poem stayed with me for a long time after I’d first read it.

I loved the idea of humanity and missed recognition which appears in the ‘The Prophet is Mistaken for a Fare dodging Hipster on the London Overground’, and the humour of a confused angel over wind chimes and scented candles in ‘The Angel of Revelation visits a New Age Centre.’

Dressed only in a cloud, he can bear the temperature
of the central heating turned up high,
but the scented candles are noxious
with their chemical rendering of Heaven

As you read further into the collection, the poems seem a little darker and a lot more personal. Saunders’ Father is mentioned throughout, and her grief is evident in ‘The Ghost Room’ and ‘The Ventriloquist Dolls of the Dead’.

I enjoyed reading this collection, and I’m sure it’s one I will return too and look at again. I found the concept original and creative, the poems individual and thought provoking. The collection is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Anna’s Website

Twitter

Poetry Drawer: Merrie City by Laura Potts

Here in the home of smoke and smog, my hometown grey,
heirloom of mines, the steam and the fog, where evening plays
on the moorland spine to colliers’ paces
and the northern wind that weathered their faces

still gnarls in the teeth of the two a.m. frost;
here where tomorrow is always lost
in the death of the streetlamps hung in their hats,
their spluttering, fizzling, last-rite laughs

like the dark psalms stammered in the vestry’s dusk;
here where communion no longer tolls, where cathedral musk
is a godless ghost beneath ten dead bells,
and the cold throat belfry is an old-shack-shell

for the alleyway hobo in his passing breath,
and his cat which brims on the edge of death;
here where the fieldlamp’s first candled flame
is its last, and the quarry’s trace, a stain

over skin, casts the shadow of a grieving face,
(the memento mori of this town), this dead grey place
where the factory black is the cradle we sing to,
the sack where we sleep is the home that we cling to,

only here come here to the city’s dark heart,
only here come here to the tubes in its arms,
the industrial crack, these towers of ash,
where we think of the poverty coffins we’ll have.

Poetry Drawer: Love in the Time of Cold by Laura Potts

The Poetry Society’s Young Poets Network

Poetry Drawer: Allowance by Kevin Casey

Grow what your garden will allow, my mémère
used to say, but another summer’s gone
and the chartreuse faces of tomatoes,

plump and unripe, line the kitchen windowsill,
frowning outside at the season’s first frost
like sulking children kept in from the cold.

August found the corn grown to half the size
of a chiding finger before the raccoons
came again for their yearly moonlight feast,

threading their way through naked stakes
to leave stalks splayed across the rows like the spokes
of a broken wheel revealed once the sun rose.

Soil sweetened, hoop houses and fences built,
I’ve grow weary of arguing with this plot,
of sowing far more than I’ve harvested.

And as I stand among the weeds grasping
scant handfuls of leeks and bitter greens,
I see her–Grow what your garden will allow–

the bottom corners of her plain-sewn apron
raised to hold more than her portion of what
the long decades were willing to provide.

Inky Interview Special: Kevin Casey

Poetry Drawer: Quotidian by Kevin Casey

Poetry Drawer: Dinner at the Kitchen Island by Kevin Casey

Books From The Pantry: Did You Put the Weasels Out? by Niall Bourke: reviewed by Giles Turnbull

Niall Bourke’s poetry novel Did You Put The Weasels Out? was a hard one to review … because there were so many lines that I wanted to quote that I nearly ended up quoting the whole darn thing! I confess that I love novels in verse. The first poetry I ever owned was a copy of Sir Walter Scott’s verse novel The Lord of the Isles which I bought aged 8 from a school jumble sale for the princely sum of 2p — its poetic images captured my imagination.

Available from Eyewear Publishing, Did You Put The Weasels Out? is Niall Bourke’s début poetry collection and it is a novel in verse. Even the numerous footnotes are in verse. It is an impressive undertaking and is written with aplomb.

it is worth getting the following out in the open:
his oaty breakfast resolve has broken.
That is: he usually eats porridge but, and without warning,
has decided to have toast this morning…
…But there is no bread!

The protagonist of the poem is Mark.

I chose my words, whetting them
so they came out edged. I chose them
so they slotted out flat and cornered,
like the tray under the toaster that collects the crumbs,
And I delivered them
in between your fourth and fifth ribs
like I was sliding in that rusty fucking crumb-tray
to collect the little croutons of your heart.

This is a story infected by science:

(Seconds dictated by the rate
Caesium atoms dissipate )
[…]
Elsewhere in the cosmos, perhaps,
Electron death is not so sure;
Jobs and work-days would collapse,
9 to 5’s could not endure,
Dependent on what weird speedings
Atoms release their quantum seedlings.
Death to Chronos, whose scything hands
Control our lives!’ Mark demands.
But, on arriving late for working,
He sees that here on earth the clock
Still roars a tyrannical TOCK
And mechanic tick, as, irking,
Red of face and unimpressed,
His boss stands waiting, by his desk.

Sometimes the difficulty with end of line rhyming is that the words can seem a little contrived in order to create the rhyme. Here at the start of section VIII of Part The First is one that I felt a little forced:

‘Why did you leave old Dublin city?
Was it to choke on swallowed bile,
And wallow in your own self-pity,
You left behind the Emerald Isle?’

But just 5 lines later we get this fantastic slant rhyme

He works hard, earns good wages
Has good friends and pays his tax

If you read that on the page it can be easy to miss the subtle rhyme between ‘wages’ and ‘pays his’ which is why this story deserves your time to absorb the full flavour by hearing the words as you read them.

It’s very Dylan Thomasesque in the characters and tales, evoking Under Milk Wood. This section, which first introduces the title of this book, being a perfect case in point:

the lad with the ferret on the sparkly lead who always
buys four Carling and a six-pack of rashers,
that degenerate Toes who drank himself legless the night
he fell asleep in his own bonfire and the shins only burnt
claane offa him, his total spunksprout of a father who
turfed Toes out on the street after the sixth time he’d
pissed the stairs while trying to crawl to the jacks, your
wan who lived only on cider and porridge for a whole
year and contracted the first case of scurvy since 1837, that
chap with the wife who looks a bit like a curtain, the poor
auld Sniper’s Nightmare who got polio when he was little
and now zig-zags up the street, that quarehawk who sits
on the wicker chair in the sweet shop muttering did you put
the weasels out?

Maybe not so politically correct these days to describe a man who had polio as a child as a sniper’s nightmare, but in the same vein as Thomas’s Evans the Death (the village undertaker), Organ Morgan (the church organist), Mrs. Organ Morgan (his wife), Ocky Milkman and Butcher Beynon.

I found a section about a ‘symphony that has been written by a foot / when its sock has fallen down below its heel’ and performed by household appliances — an open beeping fridge, microwave, ‘the dishwasher pipes up with its falsetto’ with a tumble dryer completing the quartet — as fascinating as Hungarian composer György Ligeti’s Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes; sometimes it’s the new perspective on everyday domestic scenes that can make you see things differently.

If we pan up along the stairs
We can now watch them, unawares,
Snuggling down under cotton seams.
Around the house, cooling lightbulbs clink
As outside orange streetlights wink
Against the night. Jen turns in her dreams.
‘Did you put the weasels out?’
‘I did,’ says Mark, ‘without a doubt.’

There is a continual sense of humour bubbling through the story, such as when the character Lushy pops into a bar for a pint

‘Ah, sure, one’ll be grand.’ And sure, just one
woulda been grand. Maybe even a couple
But it was the twelve that got him buckled.
[…]
but enough sense
still to realise that vengeful recompense
would surely be paid if he dared return
to Bernie empty-handed and so, taciturn
with woe, but not ready to admit
defeat (meaning her going pure ape-shit)
he concocted an ingenious plan of attack:
a large sausage supper from Wonder Macs

which all goes wrong after he stops to take a drunken piss, placing the chips on the ground whilst he does.

that some quick relief
would help him avoid the aperitifs
of Bernie’s anger as then he could billow
in, leaving the supper on her pillow
as a deft anniversary surprise,
before sneaking down and inside
the sheets like he’d never been out on the tear.
[…]
But wasn’t Lushy forgetting something?
Sure he lived on a hill. And pumping
down the slope was a yellow and steaming
river of piss, one that was now streaming
all over the chips. And what was worse?
Hadn’t the mangled strains of his cursed
singing only woken up Bernie, now leaning
out the doorway in the nightgown, her keening
eyes like murderous floodlights, as she watched
the sorry excuse for a poorly botched
shambles that was unfolding before her.
But Lush was not one to be deterred.
Over he staggered, picked up the chips
and offered them out to Bernie – the thick
trickles of warmth running over his cursory
gift.
‘Shere,’ said he, ‘Shappyshannyvershary.’

This story in verse is totally engaging, very refreshing and an absolute delight to read.

Niall’s website

Twitter

Inky Interview Exclusive: Matt Abbott from Nymphs and Thugs: with Claire Faulkner

For people not familiar with the label, how would you describe it?

At the very base of things, we’re a spoken word record label that produces albums and associated merchandise; which has so far included t-shirts, zines, tote bags, prints and pin badges. However, we much prefer to only release one or two albums per year, and to work closely with our artists on an ongoing basis – helping them to promote their work, producing videos, producing events and tours, etc.

We also look to promote and support the spoken word scene in general. Our Twitter  account acts as a spoken word news feed – every day we’re sharing UK spoken word events as well as global spoken word articles and content. If we can act as a gateway for people becoming committed poetry fans, or if we can introduce existing fans to new poets, events etc. then we’ll have done our job. We’re passionate about the growth of spoken word as an anti-establishment and grassroots movement, and we want to champion renegade and dynamic poets. Our Instagram account is also like an ongoing “online open mic”, and we welcome submissions of poetry excerpts, which we feature on our feed.

Since late 2016, we’ve been running ‘LIVEwire’ events. This has so far extended to a quarterly night in Leeds, as well as regular festival slots and fairly regular events in London. These events predominantly promote female poets as well as poets of colour and poets from the LGBTQ+ community. Overall, we’re about accessible and engaging poetry which might be seen as “alternative” by the run-of-the-mill poetry elite.

How did it start?

I used to front a musical act called Skint & Demoralised, and from 2011-2013 we were signed to an indie label called Heist Or Hit Records. I asked them if they’d be up for releasing a spoken word album of mine to support a short run at Edinburgh Fringe in 2015, and from the initial meeting, we agreed that I’d create a new spoken word record label as an imprint on Heist Or Hit. I sat on it for a couple of months, until I saw a Facebook post from Louise Fazackerley, stating that she had two recorded albums and didn’t know what to do with them. After a quick phone call, Nymphs & Thugs was properly born.

When you’re working with a performer, how do you decide which poems will be recorded?

In general I like to leave it entirely to the performer, because it’s their work and I know how important it is to have creative control. Usually we’ll discuss the general approach – so for example it might be entirely new material, or a mixture, or a combination of live and studio recordings. So I’ll help them to steer it in the right direction and seal an “identity” for the release. But when it comes to the finer details, unless they ask me for my opinion, I like to leave them to it.

What sort of feedback have you had?

Most people are generally amazed that a spoken word record label actually exists! There’s nobody doing what we do on the UK scene and maybe not even elsewhere. I think the fact that we clearly put so much time and effort to promote what other people are doing and support the scene overall is recognised and respected by people, and because we only have a small number of releases and we take time on them, I like to think that they look strong and have more of an impact.

The release of  Salena Godden‘s ‘LIVEwire’ certainly increased our reputation; initially due to the fact that Salena is an iconic figure on the spoken word scene, and then also because it was shortlisted for The Poetry Society’s prestigious Ted Hughes Award. I’ve always been very humbled by praise that we’ve received by poets who I greatly admire, and I like to think that we have our own little corner on the UK scene at least. We’re small and we’re pretty limited, but we’re DIY and we really care, and I think people respond well to that.

Are the artists pleased with the results?

I hope so! I know how incredible it feels to hold something physical in your hand that has your poetry on it, and I hope that all of the artists feel the same. As well as the physical releases, it’s just as much about the continued support when it comes to promotion and events as well – I’d hate to just produce physical merchandise and then leave the artists to sell it on their own. We have an ongoing relationship, and I hope that they enjoy being on the label as much as I enjoy having them.

Who are the artists on the label?

I mentioned Louise Fazackerley earlier. She’s an incredible writer and performer from Wigan, and her ‘Love Is A Battlefield’ album was the result of a New Voices commission through BBC Radio 3’s The Verb. I’d seen Louise perform before forming N&T and was blown away by her, so when the opportunity came to effectively launch N&T with Louise’s releases, I was over the moon.

I’d been friends with Toria Garbutt for a year or so before forming the label, and always knew that we’d work on something at some stage. Shortly after we released ‘Hot Plastic Moon’, Toria was invited to support her poetry idol Dr John Cooper Clarke on tour – which she’s still doing – so it’s been a fantastic journey so far. Toria is such a rare voice on the UK scene and a breathtaking performer, and the more people that discover her work, the better.

After being on a bill with Salena Godden in December 2015, I knew that I really wanted to work with her. I’ve always been in awe of Salena – it’s no mistake that she was described as a “tour de force” by Lemm Sissay – and to be honest I felt nervous about approaching her to do an album with N&T. But as soon as we met to discuss it (in a pub in Camden), we knew that it was going to work. ‘LIVEwire’ took the label from regional recognition in the North to national and even to some extent international recognition.

Earlier this year, we co-released an album from Kevin P. Gilday & The Glasgow Cross. I’d admired Kevin for a while, so when he approached me about the album, it was a no-brainer. One of the things that I want to do with N&T is bridge geographical divides, and whilst London/the North is obvious, there’s also a significant divide between the thriving Edinburgh/Glasgow scenes and England. So I’m thrilled to be working with one of my favourite Glaswegian poets, and on an album which doesn’t sound like anything else on the label.

I have also released my own material through N&T, and like to think that I bring something to the table from an outsider’s perspective, but I can’t really speak about myself in that sense…!

One reason I love to attend spoken word events, is that I enjoy seeing and hearing poets perform their own work. I like hearing accents in poetry. Do you think its important to record pieces of work which were primarily written to be performed instead of printing them?

I don’t necessarily want to add fuel to the “page versus stage” fire, because I think that creating a polarised divide between the two is really counter-productive. But I certainly know that I was listening to poets (as well as lyricists) for many years before I’d started reading poetry, and even now I’m much more likely to buy someone’s book once I’ve heard or seen them perform. The way I see it is, an audio release will never compete with a book or be seen as a replacement; I just want it to be an option, and I think there’s a gap in the market. Too many YouTube videos are poor quality (i.e. recorded on a phone at a gig), and uploads don’t necessarily represent an artist’s best work (they’re often years old), so by producing a high-quality audio release, you’re directing people to an aural entry point into your poetry.

Do you have a favourite piece of performance from Nymphs and Thugs, which you can recommend to our readers? (Mine is Bird St by Louise Fazackerley.)

Ah, I couldn’t possibly choose I’m afraid! I love them all in different ways…

Where can we buy the albums from?

They’re all available from nymphsandthugs.bandcamp.com. If you purchase a CD, you automatically receive a free high-quality download (WAV as opposed to compressed MP3), or you can choose to do a straight download purchase. Most of the releases are also available from major providers, but it’s much much better to buy direct with indie publishers, so I beg you to buy from our Bandcamp if you are looking to purchase something from the N&T catalogue!

What’s next for Nymphs and Thugs? How can we find out more?

Well, I don’t want to give too much away. But I’m happy to say that we’re doing a Salena Godden live EP pretty soon, plus a studio recording of my ‘Two Little Ducks’ show which will be available to purchase as a digital download in a special bundle with the accompanying collection. In terms of next year, we have two major releases up our sleeves – one of which is Transatlantic – but I’m afraid that I can’t reveal specific details at this stage!

If you want to stay up-to-date, the best bet is to follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook. We also have a YouTube channel which you can subscribe to, and regularly update the news page on our official website.

Books From The Pantry: Fealty by Ricky Ray: Reviewed by Claire Faulkner

Ricky Ray’s collection Fealty took me completely by surprise. It’s a magical mix of surreal, dream-like verse with reoccurring themes including the environment, politics, overcoming difficulties, and survivorship. Ray is skilled in storytelling, and his work has that rare mythic quality which leaves the reader contemplating the past, present and future all at the same time. It’s an impressive first collection which took my breath away.
I found that many of Ray’s poems have a beautiful meditative quality to them. ‘Listening’ and ‘They Used to be Things’ help the reader to escape, if not briefly into the past to understand where they are now, from ‘Listening’:

He puts his head
to the table and listens.

It speaks through his skin, his skull, his mind, tells him all he can
remember of tables – of wood, trees, seeds and growth, of splinters
termites, rotting and soil

From ‘They Used to be Things’:

In the book were pages
and on the pages was ink
and in the ink were words

that were once ideas
we made of things

I find poetry like this takes you to another level before you’ve even realised it.

I also enjoyed how this collection made me question human nature and our belief systems. One of my favourite lines in the book comes from ‘Way of The Bear’:

Have the ghosts lost touch or have we lost the art of how to hear them?

The way of the bear stays in the bear, though we wear its head
and coat as we chant and pray to the forces for guidance

Every time I feel I’d found a favourite poem in this collection, I’d turn the page and see another. ‘A Neighbourhood of Vertebrae’ stood out to me for the way it described continuous pain and the effect this has. Not an easy to subject to tackle, but Ray does it with sensitivity and compassion:

…what would you think of
me if I admitted to hearing the spine speak in ten different
tongues?…

The other poem which stood out for me was ‘The Seven Hundred Sights in a Horse’, which reminded me of old legends and superstitions we carry around with us:

A wild horse ran through town.
It was always running.
Gospel was: something had
to be wrong with you to see it.
Everyone had seen it.

If you like reading poetry which makes you question everything and can stay with you for days after you’ve first read it, then this is the collection for you.

Ricky Ray is an outstanding poet and definitely one to watch for the future.

Ricky’s website

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Poetry Drawer: Jagged Little World by Fabrice Poussin

Aloneness explores expanses of red silence
Taking a deep chance with every ventured step
Attacked by the threatening stillness of the rocks.

In the long coat of the forgotten cattle rancher
The apparition seeks an encounter with brethren
Gazing at the crest of a menacing granite sword.

He tastes the wind engulfing the numbed soul
Feet gliding on the sides of decaying mountains
Sole conqueror of land forgotten by adventure.

There is no need to see eyes shut to the common scene
Every atom penetrates through every pore
Giving life anew to the man as he crosses the bright realm.

His pockets are empty of any sustenance for
His entrails smile with the energy of the creation
On the deathly edges as on a tightrope he floats.

Slim upon the infinite abyss, the wanderer screams
With delight as he is captured by the storm of ages
He understands the amazing grace of his past sufferings.

Poetry Drawer: Holding Time In Their Arms by Fabrice Poussin