Looking forward to it!

andyhopkins

Hal-an-tow…

As the Carlisle Poetry Symposium approaches, it’s a good time to remind the poets about the pop-up bookshop and to reissue the guidelines regarding how the pop-up bookshop works. Anyone (that’s ANYONE) can put their work into the pop-up bookshop and each writer gets 100% (that’s 100%) of the money raised by their work. For all that to work smoothly there’s a protocol, that you can find here: https://andyhopkinspoet.wordpress.com/poetry-symposium/. Neither the bookshop nor the event itself would be running without the support of Mike Smith – we’re very lucky to have him on board. At present, there should be two completely new pamphlets on sale at the Symposium, as well as one completely new mini-pamphlet and we may even get a date-jump (sorry, I just learned this term…) on a new collection. And, if I’ve done my counting correctly, there should be two small presses and two magazines in…

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Catch this if you can!

andyhopkins

Here is the running order for the Poetry Symposium on May 18th. Thank you so much to all the poets for coming to read. And to you, of course, for coming, too!

May 18th Symposium Order

This should be another fantastic event – following on from two very successful occasions. I’m hoping that there will be a number of publishers (both small presses and magazines, too), also. Also, watch this space for details of the next Symposium in November – we will be able to already unveil some impressive names very soon!

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The need to write is a curious thing. Phenomena might be a better word, or then again, it might not.

It isn’t success that drives the need, nor even to be seen to be writing. It’s the process, the activity, which demands compliance. The fear of loss of identity is what haunts the failing writer, fearing to give up, finding him, or herself unable to do so.

It’s about the use of language, and the usefulness of language, and the fact that language, as I was once told many decades ago by a visiting professor whose name has long faded from memory, ‘language is the nearest that you can get to the centre of your own consciousness’. I understood it to be true – and memorable – even before I had the vaguest understanding of what it meant. Now I think that language is as much a sense with which we experience the world we live in as are any of the other five senses. Perhaps language is the sixth sense that we all speculate about.

Pick apart what I’ve written here, and you might find yourself thinking, for you, perhaps, but not for me, and that’s what I mean, and what he meant, I think, about words being what we use to create the world we think in.

And that’s why being good or otherwise at using them is really not the point, any more than whether or not we are good at breathing might be, though, like breathing, if we have difficulty with using words, it will be reflected in how easily, or otherwise, we live in the real language.

Just a thought, as I like to add sometimes.

andyhopkins

As you will already know from these pages, Annie Foster’s pamphlet Solway Songs will be published by Caldew Press and launched at the Poetry Symposium on May 18th. Below is an interview with Susan and Phil, the editors at Caldew Press – as it is very much our local small press, you will want to know more about them and what they do. You can come along and meet them at the Poetry Symposium, too.

What made you take up the reins of Caldew Press?

Susan: The reins were left sadly flapping. The ‘Freiraum’ event needed a publication to accompany it and I took on the task. The impetus to continue the publication of the Speakeasy anthology which had been started was the next task and as I had experience of the process I assisted with that. I like collating the work of the talented people I’m lucky to know and am…

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Now we have Brindley Hallam Dennis’s story published in Lit Sphere: https://strandspublishers.weebly.com/lit-sphere/ex

Here’s a link to the second and third place winning stories in the Strands International Flash Fiction competition, Spring 2019:

https://strandspublishers.weebly.com/lit-sphere/lightning

https://strandspublishers.weebly.com/lit-sphere/the-library

BHD’s winning story posted tomorrow (21st April, coincidentally!)

BHD’s little story, Ex ended up on the shortlist in the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition: a six horse finish, with three prizes! At 499 words, excluding the title, it only just squeezes into the competition’s max word count.

I wrote it as a sample piece while teaching a Ghost Story course for Darren Harper’s Phil & Lit Society in Carlisle (England, just). It wasn’t a course I expected to teach, and wouldn’t have thought of doing, but when I looked into the back catalogue I did find I had written several in the genre, some of which had been published.

There was a rub. All of them had turned, irretrievably, and seemingly of their own accords, into comic pieces. Liars League took two: First Foot, which was rather Gothly dark, but not Grand Guignol by any means, and The Hotel Entrance, the heavy emphasis to underline the joke on the last syllable. That title came out of the weak joke, that on the basis of signage, Hotel Entrance is the most popular hotel name in the country! Insubstantiality (with a long sub-title), is just plain silly, and all three pop-up, or materialise perhaps, in the 2016 collection, Other Stories & Rosie Wreay.

49 stories,flash fictions and monologues by BHD

A comic ghost story, though, isn’t to my mind, really a ghost story. It’s a comic story. So I thought I ought to have a go at one that didn’t go the way of the others. I’d been reading Kipling (as you may have gathered from recent posts on this blog), and one story that I particularly liked was ‘They’. The speech marks are his. Whether or not it had any influence I’ll leave others to decide, but one of the elements about that story which I rather liked, was the ghostliness of the children, and in particular, the way that they haunted, rather than actually appeared in the story. There was also something about the back-story. It too was ghostly, and even more so than the children. So much so, that I’ve devoted a couple of thousand words to it elsewhere.

Another Ghost story that I’d been reading, and in fact read to the workshop group, was Matt Plass’s Next to Godliness, which appeared in The Fiction Desk New Ghost Stories II. If you get the chance to read it, do! I’ll not do a spoiler here, but it carries a surprise, and builds to a powerfully poignant ending on the back of it. I’ve written about that story too, in The Silent Life Within.

In my little ghost story, Ex, the intention was to get some of that Kiplingesque ghostliness into it: to make what is never explicitly stated the core of the story, with only two or three words to hint at the back-story, the hints, if taken, giving the explanation to what is actually going on. Of course, authorial intent, as I’ve often pointed out, has only a tenuous connection to the actual reading of a piece.

Curiously, perhaps, it seems that the stories of mine that get anywhere, are often the ones that have been written to find out if I can do something specific in the writing, rather than the ones that are centred on actually trying to say something….which might seem to undermine my generally held belief that what readers are interested in is what stories are about, rather than how they are written. (of course, competitions are usually judged by writers, rather than readers….)

BHD’s little story, Ex ended up on the shortlist in the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition: a six horse finish, with three prizes! At 499 words, excluding the title, it only just squeezes into the competition’s max word count.

I wrote it as a sample piece while teaching a Ghost Story course for Darren Harper’s Phil & Lit Society in Carlisle (England, just). It wasn’t a course I expected to teach, and wouldn’t have thought of doing, but when I looked into the back catalogue I did find I had written several in the genre, some of which had been published.

There was a rub. All of them had turned, irretrievably, and seemingly of their own accords, into comic pieces. Liars League took two: First Foot, which was rather Gothly dark, but not Grand Guignol by any means, and The Hotel Entrance, the heavy emphasis to underline the joke on the last syllable. That title came out of the weak joke, that on the basis of signage, Hotel Entrance is the most popular hotel name in the country! Insubstantiality (with a long sub-title), is just plain silly, and all three pop-up, or materialise perhaps, in the 2016 collection, Other Stories & Rosie Wreay.

A comic ghost story, though, isn’t to my mind, really a ghost story. It’s a comic story. So I thought I ought to have a go at one that didn’t go the way of the others. I’d been reading Kipling (as you may have gathered from recent posts on this blog), and one story that I particularly liked was ‘They’. The speech marks are his. Whether or not it had any influence I’ll leave others to decide, but one of the elements about that story which I rather liked, was the ghostliness of the children, and in particular, the way that they haunted, rather than actually appeared in the story. There was also something about the back-story. It too was ghostly, and even more so than the children. So much so, that I’ve devoted a couple of thousand words to it elsewhere.

Another Ghost story that I’d been reading, and in fact read to the workshop group, was Matt Plass’s Next to Godliness, which appeared in The Fiction Desk New Ghost Stories II. If you get the chance to read it, do! I’ll not do a spoiler here, but it carries a surprise, and builds to a powerfully poignant ending on the back of it. I’ve written about that story too, in The Silent Life Within.

In my little ghost story, Ex, the intention was to get some of that Kiplingesque ghostliness into it: to make what is never explicitly stated the core of the story, with only two or three words to hint at the back-story, the hints, if taken, giving the explanation to what is actually going on. Of course, authorial intent, as I’ve often pointed out, has only a tenuous connection to the actual reading of a piece.

Curiously, perhaps, it seems that the stories of mine that get anywhere, are often the ones that have been written to find out if I can do something specific in the writing, rather than the ones that are centred on actually trying to say something….which might seem to undermine my generally held belief that what readers are interested in is what stories are about, rather than how they are written. (of course, competitions are usually judged by writers, rather than readers….)

Oh, btw, Ex won the first prize and will be published by Strands in the not-too-distant future.

I recently watched the last few episodes of the 1980s Granada TV series, Brideshead Revisiuted. The locations are superb, and so is the acting; the music, sensational, the costumes convincing. I can’t imagine anybody making such a slow and luxurious piece of storytelling in these fractious days. Yet once again, I found myself thinking that I what I liked most about it was the voice overs by Jeremy Irons. I confess I haven’t read the novel from which it was adapted, though it’s on my list, but I suspect that verbal storytelling is lifted closely from the original text. Even if it isn’t, it works as well, and perhaps better than the shown story.

Yet the telling is a performance in its own right. Another reading, in a different voice by another person would have been a different telling.

Voice overs, I’ve read, are thought to ‘kill’ the audio-visual movie, but perhaps it’s more that they overwhelm it, when the telling is done so beautifully. I’m sure I’ve blooged before about this adaptation, and I think I was concentrating on the sea-crossing episode, in which the whole thing is largely a voice over affair, but what this viewing reminded me was that the voice over, though intermittent, is continual throughout the piece, and without it, though the action and location and dialogue would still show us a story, much of the pointing would be absent. The tone of voice in which a story is told acts like the so-called ‘incidental’ music, which of course, rather than being incidental is central to nudging our responses in the intended direction.

I got to thinking in the half hour of contemplation that followed my viewing, about what Waugh’s story was actually trying to communicate. Rightly or wrongly, it seemed to me, that in this adaptation at least, that message was bound up with Marchmain’s death-bed conversion. Even more so than the consequences that follow from it, that making of the cross in extremis seemed to the point of the whole story, and if it had been a short story, I suspect it might have ended there, with Julia’s decision not to marry Ryder being implied and with reaction, both at the time and retrospectively being left to our speculation.

As it was the adaptation ran on, as novels often do, beyond the crisis of the story. Short stories, of course, run on after the crisis of the action, but usually to a scene, our understanding of which is, at least in part, contextualised by that crisis. The crisis or turning point is not in itself what the story is about, so much as is the reaction to, or consequence of it. But here, in the adaptation of Brideshead, for me at any rate, that was not the case. Waugh’s story was being taken to show, I think, the validity of the death bed reversion.

Perhaps the book will leave a different impression….

I’m one of a group walking the Ullswater Way on June 8th in aid of the Mental Health charity MIND. (The Ullswater Way isn’t a style of walking, but a route around the lake, covering about 22 miles of fell path and farmland track). If you’d like to support this venture here’s a link to the group’s Just Giving page.

Apparently about one in four of us will suffer from mental health problems during our lives (and who knows how many before and after?), and my guess is that writers will score well above the average, so if you possibly can, however little, do please help us out here. A poem of Mine on this subject recently appeared on the Guest list at Acumen, which might throw some light on why I’m involved in this!