Some recent reviews - The Ten Superstrata of Stockport J. Middleton and Forty-Four Poems and a Volta
Thanks to both reviewers for their generous and interesting reviews of these books which were published recently.
Mark Leahy reviews The Ten Superstrata of Stockport J. Middleton & Forty-Four Poems and a Volta at Stride HERE
and Steve Spence reviews Forty-Four Poems and a Volta at Litter Magazine HERE
I was the first guest on Stephen Emmerson's new Soundcloud show which asks poets to choose 6 books they'd take into a bunker. Great concept. Watch out for future shows. Listen to the show to find out my choices. https://soundcloud.com/crystalset/post-apocalyptic-poems-ep-1-james-davies
The wonderful Ma Bibliothèque have published a short story of mine entitled The Ten Superstrata of Stockport J. Middleton.
This is the blurb: In the spirit of Philip K. Dick, The Ten Superstrata of Stockport J. Middleton reworks the first page of Dick’s mind-bending novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritchinto ten alternative illusions, retaining, in each case, the fundamental syntactic code of the original text. ‘He’ becomes ‘she’, ‘she’ becomes ‘they’, ‘they’ becomes ‘robot’, ‘robot’ becomes ‘tiger’, ‘tiger’ becomes ‘it’. Such gentle mutations flip the picture yet also leave uncanny traces, generating weaves and trails similar to Eldritch itself.
There are so many great covers of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, making it difficult to choose a single one. A lot of them have a humanoid figure on them. The one pictured above is part humanoid, part outer space and part spaced-out, and therefore represents Dick’s book pretty well. The lead character in my re-write is eponymous Stockport J. Middleton, not Palmer Eldritch. Eldritch doesn’t make an actual appearance in my re-write but I’m sure he’s lurking in there somewhere.
My kids are called Middleton, their surnames. It’s a name we preferred to mine, Davies. A yarn then. Because they are called Middleton when abroad the border control think I'm not their dad; an oversight when registering their names. The security guards size me up and imply that I’m a kidnapper. They tell me I should have a letter from the mother of the children (I tell them that would be easy to fake, which doesn’t go down well at all). Stockport Middleton of course is of course inspired by that great name of our age Brooklyn Beckham. It also has the ring of the Grease actress Stockard Channing for good measure.
N.B. Neither of our children were conceived in Stockport nor are they named after the town. One may have been conceived in Bury St. Edmunds but that hasn’t got the same ring to it.
The Ten Superstrata of Stockport J. Middleton is available here, priced at £5 - https://mabibliotheque.cargo.site/James-Davies-THE-TEN-SUPERSTRATA-OF-STOCKPORT-J-MIDDLETON-2020
I'm looking forward to running this course on March 14th. Below is a description of the course and information to sign up if you're interested.
Get things in order and explore the many uses of the list form with James Davies.
The notion of the list, or the list poem, goes back to our earliest writings, in texts such as the Iliad and countless religious volumes. From poems that we might call “simple cataloguing” to the list’s appearance as a structural device in complex forms, like the sonnet, you’ll find that it’s everywhere in poetry. Indeed, if we take the word to mean that one thing follows another and that what follows is related to what’s passed, and also that most lines in poems can be placed into categories, then the list is ubiquitous to all poems…
In this day workshop you will explore the multiple possibilities of the form through close reading, writing, and some in-class collaborations to see that, in poet and critic Larry Fagin’s words, in order to write a successful list poem, you need to find ‘a poetic bump in the road’.
While exploring this simple, yet endlessly playful and inventive approach to writing poetry we will take inspiration from contemporary poets, including Caroline Bergvall, Miles Champion, and Matthew Welton, as well as a whole host of poets from the past, and by the end of the day you will have produced a diverse batch of new list poems, covering a variety of different forms and subjects, that will rivet your readers.
Saturday 14 March, 10.30am – 4.30pm.
All classes will be in our offices at 1 Dock Offices, Surrey Quays Road, Canada Water, SE16 2XU. The venue is a 2-minute walk from Canada Water Station. Take the ‘Lower Road’ exit from the station onto Surrey Quays Road, then walk straight ahead, crossing over Deal Porters Way, and the Dock Offices come up on the left. The door for the school is at the far end of the building.
A new poetry pamphlet has been published by the marvellous Red Ceilings Press. The book contains 45 couplet poems. I have written 178 poems to date using this structure. This is what Scott Thurston has to say about the collection:
In Davies’ multiverse, everything is alive and unpredictable. In a perpetual motion search for a
container, tubs, pots, boxes, lids, even a bucket, offer their services: ‘what am i now but someone
standing next to a lids’ (sic). Channelling Wittgenstein, Lao Tzu and Robert Grenier, Davies’ double-
line form acts as a strange attractor, drawing in quotidian minutiae alongside visionary
apprehension. This small book is both heavy and light: ‘notice how good i look in this fire engine’,
‘when the final explosions happened’, and to read it is to walk a fine line between comedy and
tragedy: ‘let’s go into those woods / (no)’.
The Red Ceilings website is HERE
Written over roughly the space of a year The Wood Pigeons began as a 365 word story. The 261 chapters here represent the removal of words at a rate of roughly one per day. Part Droste effect the result is a narrative that is highly recursive yet just as varied too, leading finally and inevitably to nothing.
What this means is, if you can stand it, you can read from start to finish with some weird deja vu going on. Or dip in at different places for some major shifts in narrative.
Here's what David Berridge has to say about it - Is this an obsessive rumination upon a vanished bit of everyday? Do a writer’s revisions push a book to the edge of disappearing? Viewed as a whole its chapters reduce from prolixity to a single word, but from one chapter to the next what gets lost is concealed by narrative’s ability to patch up gaps, plus the typesetter’s arts, at work upon a fiction of C and D, sleep, a glass of wine, a pullover, on repeat. Does a novel decay to develop? Does each micro-adjustment of a novel's code re-figure protagonists, intoxicant on new terms? It spells the “hoo-hooing of the wood pigeons” as well as literature ever could.
You can buy it from Dostoyevsky Wannabe here - https://www.dostoyevskywannabe.com/originals/the_wood_pigeons
If you've bought When Two Are In Love or As I Came To Behind Frank's Transporter you might find these notes about people and things that appear in the text useful. If you've not got a copy then they give you a flavour of the book, which is available here - http://www.lulu.com/shop/philip-terry-and-james-davies/when-two-are-in-love-or-as-i-came-to-behind-franks-transporter/paperback/product-24097682.html
Chapter 1: Nissen hut – A cylindrical tin hut used predominantly on military bases
Chapter 2: Tom Otter – A murderer from Saxilby - http://www.orpheusweb.co.uk/ynnad/tomo.htm, Captain Jack Sparrow – A fictional pirate film character played by Jonny Depp
Chapter 3: Sting – A contemporary pop musician famous for songs like Roxanne, Mike Oldfield – A contemporary pop musician famous for his album Tubular Bells
Chapter 4: The Doors – A 1960s rock band famously fronted by Jim Morrison, The Band – A 1960s rock band fronted by Robbie Robertson
Chapter 5: Bjorn Borg – A champion tennis player (rival of Ilie Nastase), Ilie Nastase – A champion tennis player (rival of Bjorn Borg), Andy Murray – A champion tennis player, Chantecaille – A manufacturer of lip screen
Chapter 6: Buffalo Bill – A nineteenth century American showman
Chapter 7: Zmist – A metamorphic computer virus created by the Russian virus writer known as Z0mbie
Chapter 9: Liam Gallagher – Lead singer with 1990s rock band Oasis, Ursonate – Epic sound poem by Kurt Schwitters
Chapter 10: Beryl Cook – Twentieth Century British painter, Botticelli – Fifteenth Century Italian painter, Captain Cook – British Eighteenth Century explorer, Captain Scarlet – Eponymous character from the 1960s puppet TV series Captain Scarlet, Dr Watson – The sidekick of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes
Chapter 11: Tristram Shandy or The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman – Eighteenth Century novel by Laurence Sterne recounting the life of its eponymous hero, Other Side of Love – Song by contemporary pop singer Sean Paul
Chapter 12: John Boy – Principle character in the TV show The Waltons, Jon Pertwee – British TV actor most famous for his role as scarecrow Worzel Gummidge
Chapter 15: Neoprene – specialist material used in the manufacture of wetsuits
Chapter 18: Queen – 1980s rock band famous for their song We are the Champions, Crazy Frog – 2000s chipmunk style pop act, We are the World – Charity song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, Who wants the World? – Song by the punk group The Stranglers , ‘We want the World’ – Lyric from The Doors song When the Music’s Over, Petmix – A manufacturer of pet food, Belinda Carlisle – 1980s US pop singer
Chapter 19: Joe Pesci – US film actor famous for his role as Tommy in Goodfellas
Chapter 20: Danilo Dolci – Italian historian and documenter of Sicilian life, Enoch Powell – Tory Politician, Merz – One-man art movement invented by Kurt Schwitters, Justin Vitiello – Translator of Danilo Dolci
Chapter 21: Boundary Road – Road that passes through Essex University, Ted Berrigan – 1950s New York School poet who taught at Essex University, Liquid – Nightclub in Colchester, Essex
Chapter 24: KFC – A fashionable chain of fried chicken takeaways, Jim Morrison – Lead singer with The Doors, Quasimodo – Protagonist from Victor Hugo’s Nineteenth Century novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Chapter 27: Fredrikson mobile – Imaginary mobile as if designed by Patrick Fredrikson and Ian Stallard (contemporary designers), New Road and Paul Church – Two locations in Land’s End, A Hard Rain’s A-gonna Fall – Song by US folk singer Bob Dylan
Chapter 28: Sandbourne – Thomas Hardy’s fictional name for Bournemouth, Plantarium – A tank for growing plants and animal life - http://www.theartofscience.eu/en/plantarium.htm, PIL (Pubic Image Limited) – 1980s post-punk band fronted by John Lydon, FSOL (Future Sound of London) – Contemporary electronic musicians
Chapter 29: Michael Gove – A fashionable piece of chicken, Grantley Dee – 1960s rockabilly musician, Kevin Lin – Contemporary ultra-marathon runner and star of Running the Sahara
Chapter 30: IED – Improvised explosive device, Chuck Berry – 1950s rock and roll musician, Abba – 1970s pop group, Ultimate Abba – UK-based Abba cover band, Ozzy Osbourne – Lead singer with heavy metal band Black Sabbath
Chapter 31: Camels – A famous brand of cigarettes
Chapter 32: Captain Sensible – bass player and later lead guitarist with 1970s punk group The Damned, Captain Beefheart – Twentieth Century rock musician, Help – Album by the rock group The Beatles, TLC – 1990s R and B pop group
Crater Press have published a novel written in collaboration with Philip Terry. This is how they describe it: With purity of playfulness and razor-edge wit, this novel tells a story of true romance, and also the quest to find a decent place to get a drink. Anarchic, ridiculous, considered and capricious, When Two Are In Love or As I Came to Behind Frank’s Transporter is a unique vision of the peculiarity of attachment – of young sweethearts, passionate lovers and sticking it out until the very end. And just as love dissolves all in its path, here, as you read, the story starts to fall apart in your hands and turns into something else altogether. A kind of 21st century Metamorphoses.
Richard Makin has this to say about it: “Mentalist reiteration, a hallucinogenic interbreed with jokes in working order, each skew of the preceding paragraph a flawed echolalia, near-tautologies that nudge romantic love and the reader further into a reassuring pit of absurdity. I wanted to start chanting along out very loud, clapping my hands and stamping my hoofs to the arhythmia. This is literature as stroboscopic minimalism – total surface, no core – antinarrative narratives to collapse to, gently.”
And here's Lily Robert-Foley: “When Two is a weird and sexy romp through hijacked romance narrative strands, that completely ruined romance novels for me in the best way possible. The effect is a series of strange renewing loops of story beginnings, that gently erode expectations, lulling the reader into a rhythmic fever dream that feels like watching a Nora Ephron film on acid. One travels in bits and pieces between two rampantly different, inter-contaminating worlds, the oddness of the transformation revealing the oddness of the original. I lolled.”
It's available at the Lulu Crater page HERE
New video poem work with Stephen Emmerson - and offshoot of our Think Pieces. This time a Listen Piece. The title Listening in the Abyss refers to the concept of mise en abyme; the technique of placing a copy of an image within itself. Davies and Emmerson listen to Emma Bennett's works Slideshow Birdshow and Robin, whilst birds sing live on location. In these works Bennett listens and responds to recordings of birdsong; and in her words ends up ‘Talking like a bird talking about a bird’. (The recording Davies and Emmerson are listening to can be found here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Upf7...). Camera - Lucy Harvest Clarke.
This is out now while stocks last at Sam Riviere's If A Leaf Falls Press. Great to be part of such a fantastic project. This is the link - https://samriviere.com/index.php?/together/if-a-leaf-falls-press/