Sunday, 31 October 2010

Long Day's Journey Into Print

It's been a brief but rollercoaster ride since I set up eight cuts gallery press to publish some of the best underground writing on the planet. But this week it all came to fruition when I received my copies of Cody James' The Dead Beat and Oli Johns' Charcoal.

These two amazing books (which you can buy for just 6 pounds by clicking the covers) both seem to deal with the dark downside of life, but both celebrate the glorious uncertainty, the unexpected moments of light in the adventure of being human.

Cody James' The Dead Beat follows the lives of Adam and his neurotic, addicted friends through 1997 San Francisco as theywait for Hale-Bopp comet to come and change lives they are incapable of changing on their own. Oli Johns' Charcoal is the story of an anxierty-ridden man obsessed with the suicide of the model Daul Kim, desperately wrestling with the question if there was anything he could have done to save her, anything he could still do.

If there is a single message to these two tour de forces, it is simply this: there is very little that we can change in life. But that's not the point. The point is that we try, and never give up hope. And that what meaning life has is forged in that struggle and the moments of horror, humour, and humanity it brings.

You can also click

here to buy the ebook of The Dead Beat for $2.99

here to buy the ebook of Charcoal for $2.99

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Poetry Competition

Oxford International Women's Festival Poetry Competition

I am delighted to be involved with this fundraising event for Oxford International Women’s Festival:

Visit for more details about the festival, or find them on Facebook.

POEM THEME: Women and Wellbeing.

CLOSING DATE: Friday 5th November.

CATEGORIES: Open Category (all ages can apply), 3 prizes; Under 18s, 1 prize.

PRIZES: Perform your work at a local poetry event; win a creative writing tutorial, books by local authors and other great prizes. NB if you prefer not to perform your work in front of an audience on 17th November, you can nominate someone to do this on your behalf. The best 12 entries, in the opinion of the judges, will be published in an anthology, and will receive a copy. The 4 main prize winners will receive 5 copies each, and will have their work featured here on the eight cuts gallery website. Other featured poets will each get one copy.

ENTRY CRITERIA: The poem must be your own original work, and must be your interpretation of Women and Wellbeing (this can any interpretation as you wish). People may enter as many times as they wish, provided each entry is accompanied by the correct fee. Maximum length: 50 lines. Please do not write your personal details on the poem itself: provide a separate cover letter with your name, age (if entering the Under 18s category), and your preferred contact details. Entries cost £1.

Post your entries to Oxford International Women’s Festival, 25 East Street, Oxford OX2 0AU with payment by cheque or postal order. Cheques payable to Oxford International Women’s Festival, please. Alternatively, you can hand in your poem, cover letter and entry fee at the Albion Beatnik bookshop, Walton Street, Oxford.

Entries will be judged by local writers. Winners will be announced Monday 8th November.

Main event:

Poetry Performances and Prize-giving: Wednesday 17th November, 7pm- 10pm, East Oxford Community Centre. Winners from both categories can perform their poems as part of the event which will showcase poetry based on the theme, Women and Wellbeing.

Special performances from, amongst others,

Joan Barbara Simon, author of Mut@tus

Charlotte Geater

Ellie Tranter of Yak Shack

Christi Warner


TICKETS: £4 per ticket for the event; competition winners get in free.

To sign up as a reader for the main event, please contact Anna Hobson (ticket price will still apply, sorry!). Performances should not last more than 10 minutes and must be your own original work. NB please note that due to the under 18s category, all poems performed prior to 9pm must be suitable for this age group. If you require a later slot, please inform Anna.

Judges: Anna Hobson

Dan Holloway, founder, Year Zero Writers; owner, eight cuts gallery press

Ellie Tranter, poet in residence, YakShack

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Not an Anthology: Into the Desert

I have just finished putting together Into the Desert, the first ever collection at my new project, eight cuts gallery. It features work from 19 amazing writers, and I'm incredibly proud of it. But that is, in a way, by the by. Why I'm writing something about it is I think this is a new way of curating and showcasing literature, and I would love to know whether you think it works.
To return to the beginning. The very first point in the eight cuts gallery manifesto states:

■Culture has no boundaries. It has no preconceptions as to what is literature.
So to showcase literature to its best effect, an anthology won't suffice. A website works rather well - I have been able to include not just amazing poetry and prose, but pictures, visual poetry, music, and even a stunning full-length documentary film.
The second thing that holding the exhibition online has been able to do is let me curate it mercilessly. The remit was simply to send in something that responded to the title, Into the Desert. The results were wonderfully diverse, literal, metaphorical, spiritual, and all taking a slightly different slant on what "the desert" might be and what a journey into it, and out of - where? - somewhere else might entail. It would be impossible to do anything with an anthology that wasn't really rather crude.
What I've been able to do online is to create a series of hyperlinks between pages that lead the reader through the exhibition in numerous different ways, placing different works together each time, making them question the meaning of each as they go, as well as giving them pictures of the overall theme that are as shifting as the desert sands themselves. And because the hyperlinks are anchored on words and images, I've been able to play with the audiene's expectations - to give them preconceptions about what comes next - preconceptions I can then either reinforce or upset.
In short, this format has been able to give me two exhibitions - that comprised of the pieces themselves, and that made up of the relations between them. Which, I think, is what good curation should always do. BUT, and here is the second question, does that kind oif curation have a place in literature?
There will also be a tie-in live show at Oxford's O3 gallery featuring readings, music and film, on November 18th. And I hope there will be both other live shows, and dedicated screenings of Cody James' full-length film, a documentary about the Columbine students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold that forms a segment of the exhibition (along with Oli Johns' The Things They Let Into the Classroom and Sarah E Melville's French Lesson) that could be called something like "school is hell".