Friday, 30 November 2012

Poets Must Be Vigilant

Poetic Censorship 4th Annual Poetry Library Open Day 18 November 2012

Given the current debate over issues of self-expression amplified by the increasingly febrile atmosphere surrounding the Leveson press standards inquiry and talk of reforming The Public Order Act – legislation widely seen as encouraging a ‘creeping culture of censoriousness’ – this open day was a timely event.

Poetic Censorship highlighted a history of literary controversies arranged in chronological order with AV facilities included for the particularly adventurous visitor. Preceded by a display of New Acquisitions and a some Staff Picks, the exhibition, in St Paul’s Pavilion on Level 6 of the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, was organised into a further twelve sections. These ranged from the Imagists and Futurists to the New Narrative movement via exhibits illustrating Children’s Protests and Self-Censorship. Precise textual notes giving background information and generally useful facts accompanied each display.

The central display was devoted to English PEN; an organisation promoting the principle that Freedom of Expression, ‘the freedom to write and the freedom to read’, is a universal right. Here were displayed copies of the recent publication Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot an international poetry collection (edited by Mark Burnhope, Sarah Crewe and Sophie Mayer) published to rally support in the run up to the appeal hearing of October 2012. There were also flyers drawing attention the Syrian poet and blogger Tal Al-Mallouhi who was arrested in 2009 at the age of 19 and is, sadly, still in detention.

These contemporary cases were contextualised by displays showcasing Manifestos, Censored Magazines, the ‘Education For Leisure’ scandal of 2008, examples of children’s protest statements (both these latter under the heading Poetry On The Curriculum) and instances of censored poets who participated in the 2012 Poetry Parnassus. One of the more disturbing sections was devoted to the concept of self-censorship with examples of publications by Rosemary Tonks, Lynette Roberts and J H Prynne who rejected all, or some, of their own work either for moral, religious or aesthetic reasons. This was followed by a display covering Contemporary Polemics, with items by the New War Poets protesting against the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was also a section exploring techniques of DIY zine-making under the heading A Piece of A4; do it yourself production and distribution being the only option for controversial writers living in totalitarian states. The final display was devoted to the Henningham Family Press, who have created a special typeface for the piece ‘An Unknown Soldier’; an elegy for the First World War, here shown in various physical formats.

Unusual and historic exhibits included manifestos by Marinetti and Apollinaire, Hugo Ball’s Dada Diary, editions of Blast and the Neoist Manifestos. Books from the library collection included rarely-seen items by Mayakovsky, Bukowski and the Chinese Misty Poets group (lyrical poets whose works ran counter to ethos of the Cultural Revolution) and a further intriguing selection called Poems from Unexpected Political Sources. This display comprised volumes by Enoch Powell, Ho Chi Minh, Chairman Mao, Donald Rumsfeldt (yes, really) and Maze Prison hunger-striker Bobby Sands, among others. The Censored Magazines on display were of particular interest. These included Poetmeat Twelve, The Outsider, Intrepid (ed. Diane Di Prima) and some examples of the broadsheet-poster-flyer Guerrilla from NYC (1968) billed as the ‘Free Newspaper of The Streets’, edited by Allen Van Newkirk who became a founder of the White Panthers. Guerrilla carried inflammatory verses by Black Nationalist LeRoi Jones who was subsequently arrested and imprisoned. Also there was a rare copy of seminal 70s small press mag Curtains (ed. Paul Buck) initially rejected for financial support on the grounds that its contents were ‘too French’. Rejection or censorship, when not driven by fear of overt political subversion often revolves around xenophobia or a phobic horror of sexual content. This latter point illustrated by the inclusion of ‘salacious underground poems’ by W H Auden and the well-known quote from Kathy Acker about the label New Narrative: ‘Why can’t we just call it sex?’

The publicity for Poetic Censorship features a photo of Osip Mandelstam taken by the NKVD after his arrest in 1938. Previously apprehended for his satirical poem ‘Stalin Epigram’, which poked savage humour at the Stalinist terror machine and Stalin himself, Mandelstam wryly noted that ‘Only in Russia is poetry respected, it gets people killed.’ It is intrinsic to the doublethink of censorship that freedom of expression can so easily be defined as ‘counter-revolutionary’. Here, in the UK, writers are lucky, compared to the situation of authors elsewhere, as can be seen by the case of Tal Al-Mallouhi. But this Poetry Library open day exhibition served as a reminder that, in certain circumstances, the idea of destroying poems which contradict the official line can quickly re-surface; a tactic recommended in 2008 by the AQA when it removed Carol Ann Duffy’s poem ‘Education For Leisure’ from the syllabus. Opponents of Section 5 of the Public Order Act, 1986 have warned against the ‘outrage industry’ that has become a depressing fact of public life over the last two decades; poets must be vigilant.

The Saison Poetry Library is situated at Level 5, Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX Visit the Poetry Library online at To find out more about English PEN and membership details visit Poetic Censorship was supported by Arts Council England.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Neon Highway 23 Autumn 2012

Sometimes we can see that realty is often surreal in itself.

If there is a guiding – but tenuous – idea informing this ‘Surreality of Now’ issue of Neon Highway, it might well be that somewhat incongruous slant on life as we know it or, rather, as we should know it: realty is often surreal in itself.

It is all a matter of sensibility; from the Place Pigalle, haunted by the presence of George Melly, to the far Northwest shores of Seattle, Washington, via Jumbo Records in Leeds, or the geological enigmas of the quasi-industrial Sierra Minera, the contents on this issue disclose a ‘topography of the imagination’ infused by diverse states of mind; some cool and impersonal, others angry or experimental, dissonant or melodic, sensual or abrasive: guerrilla prose, compressed anti-poetry, shamanistic or hermetic mysteries of self and other, Beat-pop vignettes, verbal snapshots of the fleeting, wayside phenomena of the everyday.

These are the preoccupations of a unique selection of contributors, whose images and texts we are delighted to present to our readers for this special Autumn 2012 edition: Andrew Darlington, Fiona Pitt-Kethley, Michael Woods, Rupert M Loydell, Marie Zorn, Wednesday Kennedy, Aad de Gids, Lorraine Mariner, Roy Sutirtha, MJ Foster, Alicia Winski.

Neon Highway is edited by Jane Marsh and Alice Lenkiewicz. Neon Highway was set up in 2002 as a non-profit making little poetry/arts magazine

Dear readers,
I have begun a new series of Neon Highway issues that are to be edited by guest poets. I thought this would be an interesting idea to celebrate the variety of editors and their interests and poets of choice. Our first guest editor is A C Evans. I pass you over to AC to introduce this issue.

Yes, thank you Jane! And, without further delay we can meet our contributors to this ‘surreality of now’ edition of Neon Highway…. Unidentified flying poet Andrew Darlington is author of Euroshima Mon Amour (2001), a collection of SF poems enthusiastically reviewed as ‘poetry from a twisted mind’ by NME. A visionary novel Beast of The Coming Darkness is currently hunting a publisher; then there are reviews, interviews and fiction sales to hosts of UK and international anthologies and magazines. A live performance video (Five Leaves Left) and records (as part of the U.V. Pop Electronic group) have also appeared, and probably been deleted! Andy’s spoken about how any vague potential for academic success ‘got terminally wrecked by teenage addictions to loud Rock ‘n’ Roll and cheap Science Fiction’. Aad de Gids has a straight twin brother Bas, while he himself is gay. We’re from the ‘anti-generation’, Aad tells Neon Highway, ‘a bit punkish’. Bas is the imagist; the sharp eye for imagist distortions of a distorted society. Our aesthetics have always been anti-theatre, anti-poetry, anti-cinema = experimental, neomusic, nonmusic, muzak, the ‘die-collector-scum’ aesthetics, dada, postneodada. All that is new, strange, decoding all codes, societal, sexual, natural, literal, philosophical, transdimensional; this, we try to do. ‘We have thousand personalities now and, it shows’. M J Foster is a writer, poet and the founding editor of Inclement Poetry Magazine (est. 2000). Her work has been published in Still, Iota, Exile, First Impressions, Poetic Licence, Breathe, Candelabrum and Amber Silhouettes. Her short story, 'The Willow' was shortlisted for the Myslexia Women's Short Story Prize 2012. She graduated with a first class BA (Hons.) in Writing from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. She is often mistaken for BeyoncĂ© by absolutely no-one and has a long-running battle with a squirrel with a grudge. Wednesday Kennedy has lived and worked internationally as a writer and performer in theatre, cabaret, television, radio and print media. ‘Always experimenting, working with sound artists, musicians, dancers, film makers, actors, honing her craft and creating her body of work… surfing into every scene like a gate-crasher’. Post Romantic, her 1999 CD, prefigured performances at The Edinburgh Fringe, and beyond. She has also written One Woman Shows for other performers, including Intimate and Deadly for Christine Anu and recently released her magical realist memoir 21st Century Showgirl, ‘an all-girls adventure epic about being a One Woman Show in a Brave New World’. Rupert M Loydell is Snr Lecturer in English with Creative Writing at University College Falmouth, and editor of Stride and With magazines. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including the recent Wildlife and A Music Box of Snakes, co-authored with Peter Gillies. He edited From Hepworth's Garden Out poems about painters and St. Ives and Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh, an anthology of manifestos and unmanifestos. He lives in a creek-side village with his family and far too many CDs and books. Lorraine Mariner was born in 1974, grew up in Upminster and attended Huddersfield University arinerwhere she read English, and then University College London, where she read Library and Information Studies. Her pamphlet Bye For Now was published in 2005. In the same year she also received an Arts Council Writer's Award and in 2007 her poem ‘Thursday’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best individual poem. ‘Her gift is to reveal how much of the everyday is purely surreal and to articulate the strange and fleeting thoughts we often have, but rarely have the nerve or quick-wittedness to voice’. Lorraine Mariner’s Furniture was published in 2009 and shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Fiona Pitt-Kethley studied at the Chelsea School of Art where she obtained a BA (Hons.) before going on to become a full-time writer. As a student she ushered at the Old Vic and National Theatre and while writing sometimes worked as a film extra. Now living in Cartagena, Spain, Fiona has acquired new hobbies and has adopted seven feral cats. She goes rock-hunting and hill-walking in the Sierra Minera and is currently writing a book on its history. Her Selected Poems was published in 2008 and includes work from her notorious 1986 collection, Sky Ray Lolly. Alicia Winski was born in Los Angeles and has been hailed as ‘a fierce poetic voice, spreading her wings across the West Coast’. With an impressive following in both LA & Seattle, she is ‘a provocative figure on page, online and on stage’. She is author of Running on Fumes and works at Edgar and Lenore's Publishing House (Editor, Seattle division). Alicia possesses a craft that is ‘melodic, brutally honest and oftentimes, quite sultry’. Her words encompass strength, courage and a passionate perspective on life and love as seen through the eyes of a poet. She is currently working on her next collection, Naughty Girls Dream in Color, which is anticipated to be released in 2012. Michael Woods is a surrealist consultant, writer and experimental filmmaker. Expert in special photography and effects in all media he is experienced in publicity, poster design, digital work, prop photography and vintage prints. Also, he is joint author with George Melly of Paris and The Surrealists (1990). Work in progress includes: constructing and editing a film version of the stage play Ajax, (2011) with Jack Shepherd, and The Distorted Self – Schizophrenia, an experimental film with Eliot Albers. Soho and Elsewhere: an exhibition of photographs 1979-90 (2012) and Portobello Eye (with Michael Horovitz) explore the ‘topography of the imagination.’ And, finally, Marie Zorn is our ‘eternal wanderer questioning the ambiguities of desire, the wonders and the mysteries of the Self and the Other, the thinking body… the body that we both are and have’. When asked about her work Marie says: there is a Paul Klee painting entitled ‘Beginning of a Poem’, in which the painter offers these words as a riddle... ‘so fang es heimlich an’ (caught it on secretly.) ‘Should there exist’ she asks, ‘other reasons to write than to steal and hide, to chase elusiveness of emotions and conceal them in beauty, crafting amulets to protect ourselves from their tearing power?’

Neon Highway Avant-garde Literary journal PUBLISHES: POETRY and ART

Neon Highway Poetry Magazine ISSN: 1476-9867

Neon Highway is available bi-annually, with 2 issues costing £5.50, or a single Issue available at £3.00. Order your next issue by sending a cheque made out to Alice Lenkiewicz at 37, Grinshill Close, Liverpool, L8 8LD

Submissions to be sent to the editor:

Alice Lenkiewicz: 37, Grinshill Close, Liverpool, L8 8LD

Email submissions can be sent to:

Or send via snail-mail to address above. Please always supply a sae for any returned material. Please put your name and address on your poems.

Please be patient on replies.

If you do not hear about your work within eight weeks, do feel free to contact the editor.

If you would like to write a review for this magazine or if you would be interested in being interviewed by assistant editor, Jane Marsh, please contact us on the email above.

We do encourage you to subscribe.

We are grateful to all the subscribers who have kept Neon Highway in print over the years.

Illustration: Untitled photo [detail] by Michael Woods (c) MichaelWoods

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

From Outside

From Outside: a selection of poems from 2006-2011… a few blank stanzas and a handful of quasi open-field ‘verses’ or texts; some quite short, some even longer… a subliminal, tabloid-impressionist, post-surreal, eye-popping 3D parody…a pastiche in cut-up fold-around psychic collage style; hard-edged minimal or sentimental snapshots of cinematic moments on Bling Street, scratched images from films we have never seen. A poetic of the Absurd: the anomalous elements are ‘found phrases’ and chance occurrences. The magic ingredient is peripheral vision. On the upper deck of the last bus home, Des and Shona find that just sometimes poetry can be too much like real life, as when on some far away planet the uniforms from Starfleet Command take all the best tables like its some boogie lounge send-up of Casablanca, set in a glitzy stopping-off place en route to the Boo Galaxy. True enough, you think, thought can be deadly here, and news just in echoes our unconscious desires, our pain and loss, or our nostalgia for unrequited love as Shona murmured ‘forever is a word I hated’. They glide through a shadowy dystopian landscape of misty, crepuscular parks, burnt out buildings, a distant tree-line, empty streets, ancient deserts, ‘zones’, wrought iron, old houses, misty overgrown gardens, vacant rooms, and virtual spaces, where ruins embody the scrambled mind of my caricature madness, where a mirror windows-out onto a dizzy gulf of intimate recollection; of cosmic genesis, of an evaporating universe, of a hyper-cultural eschatology. Today, demons and angels sing from the same hymn sheet. From Outside takes place at ‘the borders of the future’, where a solitary cyborg with metal arms stands sadly waiting for another client; where distracted mannequins communing with ‘emissaries from another dimension’ stare from shattered shop windows. Where the ghost of a slinky jazz singer in a silver dress still haunts a deserted dancehall forever lost in a dream-loop of the Nineteen Forties. Where the Skylon towers over utopian pleasure gardens in 1951, where electronic supergroup Neutrino Subway belts out metal classics in a scene of mirror-ball madness from Miami Vice, and where a cabaret fan dancer dances for herself alone in front of an invisible audience. All those awesome fashionistas! They look just like aliens with big eyes and skinny arms – but this is also a time when the dictator rules through television and flickering screens reveal an alternative world or labyrinth of worlds. The final destination is a non-event horizon: pixels splatter the wall. Here is poetry for the Muses of Aldebaran, and those other disquieting Muses who escaped the Secret Mountain to ‘stalk the world in human form’. From Outside is for the existential outsider ‘the thinker’ who calmly observes the goings-on out here on The Western Fringes, or in the extremely mysterious Selhurst Triangle. The dramatis personae is a cast of mad performers, misfits, hick comediennes, mutants, celebs, ghosts, undercover agents, hot singles and the Eternal Bride from the Large Glass where dust breeds in a cold light. The tutelary deity is pale-faced Hypnos, guardian of desperate poets and ‘you’ (the invisible companion) or, perhaps, ‘you’ (the reader) relaxing on an old park bench, watched over by hunched black birds. Watch your body glow in the dark while dreaming.

From Outside is available as an e-book at The Argotist Online (ed Jeffrey Side)