Monday, December 29, 2014

End of Year Lightning Review

With just a couple of days to go its probably time to sit down and do favourite this, favourite that, this year. I've had a bad cold since Christmas day and its proving persistent so I'm not much in the mood for anything too philosophical or creative. I might expand on each of these later...or not as the case may be.


A few highlights:

Appearing in "Bare Fiction" with 3 poems earlier in the year. New magazines are often hard to judge - but this one has come on in leaps and bounds out of seemingly nowhere - with a clear aesthetic, a good (and unusual) mix of fiction, poetry and drama, and some great writers. I was particular pleased that my poem "Impressions between places" found a home.

Online can be hard, but valuable. Ink, Sweat and Tears remains a great site with new content daily. It feels by poets for poets. They published "Scott in the Burnt House" recently. 

I don't really like writing to "commission" as I'm not that good at it - but occasionally get asked, and something unexpected comes along. When Angela Topping was editing 3 pamphlets of poems inspired by the Brontes, Shakespeare, and Austen, though I tried a Shakespeare, it was Austen that I was happiest with, and it subsequently appeared in "Advice on Proposals."

I saw less poetry than usual this year, partly as I was away a lot, but regular nights like "The Other Room" and "Peter Barlow's Cigarette" as well Liverpool's "Storm and Golden Sky" (which I've yet to get to) continued. At PBC, the Saturday afternoon session with Jonty Tiplady was a bit of a highlight, as he read from various language-intense works in progress.  Good to see a healthy mix of different poets on the "next generation" list, it felt a lot more wide ranging than the one from ten years ago, highlighting the plurality of contemporary poetry scenes, and especially good to see Melissa Lee Houghton included.

In terms of books, magazines and collections I didn't read that much but had a lot of time for Bobby Parker's "Blue Movie" which somehow managed to fix this least-fixable of poets between the pages of a "conventional" first collection.


My personal music highlight was finishing another album "Meet the Relatives" which was all recorded using my newish Korg Monotribe attached to my 30 year old Juno 6.  I was also pleased to have another old track on the 90s edition of the ever excellent "Bedroom Cassette Masters" series.

In terms of other people's music I bought a lot - though mostly secondhand - and listened to a bit less. Of new albums there were a few highlights. Krautrock meets psychedelia on "The Silver Globe" by Jane Weaver, the "Bitches Brew" stylings of "You're Dead" by Flying Lotus", the surprisingly effective mining of early Simple Minds for Manic Street Preachers' best album in years "Futurology", and the surprise breakout hit "LP1" by FKA Twigs; I was surprised how listenable the Sun O}}} Scott Walker collaboration was as well.  Other albums that were more widely acclaimed all had their moments - St. Vincent, Royal Blood, Caribou, Sleaford Mods - as well as some good debuts from Young British Artists and September Girls, but I wasn't really paying as much attention as usually.  I enjoyed Sounds from the Other City where YBAs, Bernard and Edith and Pins were amongst the acts playing; also Pixies at Castlefield Bowl and Sleaford Mods at Club Academy. A strange highlight was the Thurston Moore trio at Cafe Oto back in March. Realised how much I sometimes prefer the avant garde and the improvisional over other more conventional musics.

There were some good singles of course - not least Lonelady's return with "Groove it Out". The new pop was still just about working this year, with end of year smash "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, and earlier, "Real Love" by Clean Bandit.


Only just got hold of this year's Booker list, and so not read any of them yet - I'm not even sure its a reliable arbiter of anything these days anyway. Again writers like Nicola Barker and David Mitchell seem to not get much further than the longlist  yet are clearly head and shoulders above so many others. The best novel I read all year was belated prize winner "A Girl is a Half Formed Thing".

Everywhere we're hearing its renaissance time for the short story but the plethora of awards and prizes seem to have quite a prescriptive view of short stories. (One point: the longer stories that seem to win the BBC short story award would have very little chance of being published unless by more established writers as most competitions/magazines have very low word limits.) Colin Barrett's "Young Skins" was one of several much lauded collections this year that looks promising - though wonder if it would have done so well if it had been set in smalltown England - the Irish seem to have much more confidence in their literary culture than us. I'm going to try and get to grips with a few of the collections and anthologies I've bought this year over Christmas, as I'm sure there are some gems - yet I'm wary of renaissances.

For me it was a good year - I'd really tried to concentrate on writing more fiction (even as I pulled away from poetry) and it seemed to pay off with 3 stories published this autumn. Of course, the cupboard is now bare, so I need to write a few more over the holidays to keep up the momentum. I'm also writing what may well be a novel, but we'll see how that goes.


How do you find the time? people ask. And the answer is, I don't. I've seen much less art this year than I would have liked whether new shows or old. Catching a few things in Manchester, and one or two round the country as the months have gone by. Liked an exhibition of photography curated by friends John Sears and Patricia Allmar, "Taking Shots", William Burroughs photography last January at the Photographer's Gallery, and enjoyed catching the Tove Janssen show at Helsinki's gallery in June, as well as regular shows at Castlefield Gallery and the Holden Gallery in Manchester. Note to self: more art in 2015.

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