Thursday, 28 April 2011 Issue 1 Spring 2011 available now

The first issue of our online magazine is out now for Spring over at From the stars, databases, Kindle pingers and whales, to parrots, Italian bicycles, geese, butterflies, text sorters, chairs and dairy products, you won't be disappointed.

There is new poetry from India, England, the Netherlands, Australia, South Africa, Scotland and the United States: look out for work from

  • Andrew McCallum
  • Vivien Jones
  • Michael Pedersen
  • Jayne Bauling
  • Tom Murray
  • Vivekanand Jha
  • Tsead Bruinja (translated by David Colmer)
  • Ed Waverley
  • Bridget Khursheed
  • Susheel Kumar Sharma
  • Mark Stopforth
  • Geoff Stevens
  • Ken Pobo
  • Gabby Tyrrell

And the Alt interviewees art taxidermist David Blyth and cliff-dwelling artist/poet/publisher Peter Hughes tell us about knitting for rodents, jerkin fashion and Anatomic Anne.

Not to mention the Technical Bit.

Iraqi writers tonight 28th April, Glasgow, Scotland

Two Iraqi authors, Abbas Khider and Kusay Hussain, will read their work, with English translation of Kusay Hussain by Sue Reid-Sexton.

Abbas Khider is an Iraqi-German writer. As a 19-year-old he was arrested for political activities against the regime of Saddam Hussein and spent two years in prison, where he was tortured. Khider was released in 1996 and stayed on as a refugee in various countries until in 2000 he found asylum in Germany. In Munich and Berlin, he studied literature and philosophy. Khider initially began as a poet, then in 2008 he published his first novel, The Village Indian, in which he describes the fate of persecuted Iraqis. He lives and works in Berlin.

Iraqi refugee Kusay Hussain and Scottish PEN member Sue Reid Sexton have worked together on putting his stories about Iraq (before, during and after the US/UK invasion) into English.

Supported by the Goethe-Institut Glasgow.

From 19:00 - 20:30 at CCA CLUBROOM Sauchiehall Street Glasgow, Scotland.

More information from: Scottish Writers' Centre,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=35&cntnt01returnid=57.

Lots of other interesting events coming up:

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Etiquette of Facebook

We hear a lot about people messing around on Facebook: teenage parties that end up with 300 guests, teachers who are Friends with their pupils, and people who are not what they claim to be. But we hear very little about good Facebook behaviour. Those of us who strive to be a nicer, more conscientious Friend on Facebook than we might be in real life. Responding to each communication made on our wall quickly and with wit, scouring the internet, newspapers and sometimes even real life for the most delicate of titbits to share. Remembering birthdays for heaven sake! We are going out of our way to project an idealised version of ourself.

And it struck me that Facebook is nothing new at all, its ways are infused with the manner of the 18th century, the Enlightenment Age, when the epistolary form was king. We are all acquiring the taste and discernment of Georgians and the court of Versailles...

Facebook users are drawn to their own society and somehow this is seen as better and certainly more refined than the everyday world; in fact, sometimes furiously texting that we are outsiders or visitors to the actual world as we analyse what is occurring in it on Facebook in real time. Like a progress through a series of Robert Adam rooms, we are allowed access to greater and greater levels of intimacy with other Facebook users depending on our status. Most activity between Friends takes place as it were in the outer room where the regular visitor might be received but if we show wit in our conversations, and fitness, we can be drawn further into the house of Adam through the library, the drawing room and perhaps even to the boudoir.

But there is nothing very sexy about this Facebook society all governed by manners. In Georgian boudoirs the most you might get is the voyeur's lot (and insight) of watching another dress, the intimate self being replaced by the social one. And don't be sure of your place in it, be over-intimate, or you will tumble back down and out onto the street. Your house, or at least its wall, a ghostly mansion; while the cards you leave in the virtual hands of other hosts and hostesses are ignored (and occasionally spat back in your face).

And what has this to do with poetry? Well, in Georgian England for example it was possible to reach the very top of society by dressing well, being good with a phaeton and above all articulate. Beau Brummel being a case in point. Our bon mots on the Facebook wall are epigrams that show the range of our characters, our intellectualism, our worth; our conversations by wall mail, like the open correspondences of the epistolary form popular in the 18th century, are meant to be read and chewed over in the salon.

Facebook gives us the illusion of time and discernment, a better society that we must strive to be accepted into. No wonder it is so seductive. With a little polish, we can all be Swift, Dryden or Pope; with a little luck,  maybe even Shelley, Scott or Byron.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Poetic texture

Digital dirt. For a long time, it has been a kind of holy grail. I remember a trip with other friends from the university research group to Toy Story in 1995. Not to revel in its tight storyline and jolly characters or to regress to childhood but to look at the on-screen dirt. As the first ever feature film to be made with CGI entirely, we had been led to believe that the programmers had mastered dirt, or at least attempted to do so, and we wanted to see it. Hairy arms, textured floors, gunk, smears, stains. In the event, the film was fun but the dirt was minimal, you know the bit in the bad boy's room, but we went away thoughtful.

Dirt is what accrues with use and as such must be akin to provenance (and that stained cover to Zolar's Astrological Murder Mysteries which I dropped in a puddle while moving house). Poetic dirt or texture to give it a nicer sounding name is something a little bit different.

You might think about Tennyson's flowerpots in Mariana (based on the character from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure):

With blackest moss the flower-pots 
     Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
     That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds looked sad and strange:
     Unlifted was the clinking latch;
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
     Upon the lonely moated grange.

But onomatoepoeia, of which the above is a borderline example that you can almost chew, isn't quite what I am after either. I am really think of the crud that we have to wade through when dealing with poetic form. How it is almost impossible to approach writing a sonnet say without encountering the dirt left by all the fingerprints of writers (yes, Shakespeare again, for example) who have gone before us. It is a bit scary to tackle it. What if we don't get it right? We'll look a fool. What if there were a new kind of form? One that we could invent ourselves. Free verse seems the obvious option...of course.

But does this mean that to rebel and do our own things, we will have to keep churning it out: like the animators with their endless squeaky clean cartoon characters; must there be a never-ending streams of form-free verse. To be honest, it is hardly rebellion. Shakespeare himself arguably wrote free verse. He plays with form and spoofed it in Much ado about nothing for example. And in that play he even teases us with his portrayal of Claudio's slavish adherence to style advocated by George Puttenham's The Arte of English Poesie (1589). A kind of style guide of its time and much consulted.

So break free properly, and think texture. Think what we could do if we could find the form with a little bit of work and experiment, maybe a little bit of technology, a little bit of globalization, that suits us? And stop feeling that fear of form. Sometimes you have to get your hands mucky.

Form is not a search for chains, in fact the opposite, it can set a poem free; the search for perfect dirt. Paydirt.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Adélia Prado tweet poetry 
Sometimes I get up at daybreak thirsty Flecks of dreams stuck to my nighclothes And go look at the children in their beds 
Right then what I am most sure of is we die

"Adélia Prado follows no trends, mostly stays at home, and is read all over Brazil". Adélia Luzia Prado Freitas (born December 13, 1935), is a Brazilian poet and writer.

These are Not Sweet Girls: v.7: Poetry by Latin American Women: Vol 7 (Secret Weavers Series)

The full poem quoted from above is called Murmur and is available translated in These are not sweet girls: poetry by Latin American women. Edited by Marjorie Agosin from White Pine Press 1994/ 2001.

Read more about Adélia Prado here in an interview with Bomb magazine

And more of Adélia Prado's poems translated into English can be found here:

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Prague Microfestival 14-18 May 2011, Czech Republic

VLAK magazine and Psí Víno, in co-operation with Versal Magazine and VEER Books,are keen to invite you to the 3rd Prague Microfestival, 14-18 May, 2011. Poetry and Prague. Break from work. Sounds good and wait until you see the programme: it includes the likes of Sylva Fischerová and Alistair Noon who we are familiar with and much, deliciously, that we are not.

Magazíny VLAK ( a Psí Víno (, ve spolupráci s Versal Magazine ( a VEER Books (, si vás dovolují pozvat na Třetí Pražský Mikrofestival, 14-18 května 2011.

Venue / Místo konání: Krásný Ztráty, Náprstkova 10, Praha 1, Staré Město (

More information here:

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Watching tadpoles

I've been living in the wood the past few days. Can't say exactly where for obvious reasons. Emerged slightly smelly, coat now lined with that fine dust you get off drying fir branches and cones; I'd employed them in my camp to beef up my bedding arrangement.

Close to my camp is a pond surrounded by larch. Oddly although the camp is high up, it is sheltered by this belt of trees and warm. And also I am unlikely to run into any of the other foresters. I know these guys and they might think it a bit surprising to see me there.

This pond has been a kind of consolation to me.

Firstly, it is full of life so I always have company.

Secondly, it is in an incline, a fairy dell very lush and easy for the deer to get into early morning. The bracken is beaten down and it has barely been boggy. This would be normal but the pond is on the top of a hill. One of those places that you cannot believe exist and then you hold your breath. How is the water held there? On another hill over the other side of the Tweed there are several of these pools high up on a walk to three cairns. The water stays right through the summer and is deep in places. Almost every pool holds newts, their orange speckles and crests like a small dragon under water, seemingly impervious to your presence but a hand inserted into water immediately disperses them.

Thirdly, the tadpoles. The pond by my camp holds frogspawn amongst its thick weed. And I have been watching it each day in the early afternoon at the end of my lunch break to see how they are progressing. The spawn is on one shallow end of the pool and it has been my pleasure to oversee it. But the recent warm weather has been upsetting. Temperatures so warm for April and absurd in my sheltered part of the hill. The shelf of spawn has heated up and in a day or two the tadpole’s food supply of albumen had broken into a rank bubbled jelly. The tadpoles themselves had developed with a Frankenstein-like speed. This is when the urge to play god irresistibly inserted itself. Here I was living gently in the landscape but I couldn't tame the urge to scoop a handful of the liquid mucus and relocate the tadpoles.

This is how my problems started. The tadpoles in their slippery web sank to the bottom of their new deeper home at the other end of the pond. With luck the spawn ball fell onto a clear rock and I was able to grab it. But the over-heated albumen had lost all its elasticity and strained through my fingers into soup. The tadpoles sank like pebbles onto the whitish cast.

Now gods don't feel guilty. But I did. The tadpoles didn't move. They looked like leaf debris on the stone. I watched them over three days and they lay in the deep cold water. I assumed breaking down and dead.

But somehow tadpoles have a past more complex than me. Today I stared into the pool and amongst what I had almost forgotten to be life, there was movement. Tails wriggling, bodies stretching. From a cold grave, dormant life returns.

Brownsbank Cottage and the Biggar Poetry Garden

Brownsbank Cottage is the traditional farm labourer's cottage at Candy Mill in South Lanarkshire, Scotland where Christopher Murray Grieve ('Hugh MacDiarmid') lived from 1951 until his death in 1978. MacDiarmid's legacy remains spectacular, often controversial and challenging; some critics say his early lyrics are his finest work, while his epic poem ‘A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle’ (1926) is one of the great poems of Modernist literature. Many including Allen Ginsberg made a pilgrimage to the cottage to visit the poet and his wife but it needs your help.

The cottage continues to be a centre of literary activity but need support from the international Scottish diaspora and poets.

A writing residency – the Brownsbank Fellowship – in association with the Scottish Arts Council and South Lanarkshire Council, has been held by poetsJames Robertson, Matthew Fitt, Gerry Cambridge, Aonghas MacNeacail, Linda Cracknell, Tom Bryan and Carl MacDougall.  The residency came to an end in December 2010 following local government support cuts.  However, in partnership with Creative Scotland (the successor organisation to the Scottish Arts Council), it is intended to offer the Cottage during the summer months as a funded writers retreat, with a view to it becoming part of the network of artist retreats/residencies envisaged under the Scottish Government's Creative Futures programme. 

If you can help make this happen or offer support in any way, get in touch with the poet Andrew McCallum who is Secretary of the Brownsbank Committee.


You can find out more about Hugh MacDiarmid and Brownsbank Cottage here

Visit the Biggar Poetry Garden virtually here or if you happen to be in Biggar, you'll find the Poetry Garden at the top end of Biggar High Street. The garden has an open submissions policy for poets and artists. Full contact details are on the website.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Zanzibar Swahili poetry resource site

Zanzibar's name comes from the Arabic for rusty coast. The archipelago is a meeting place of many cultures. It lies in the Indian Ocean 25–50 kms (16–31 miles) off the coast of Africa, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones. The writer Abdulrazak S Gurnah (author of Paradise, a perfect novel, and Desertion) and singer Freddie Mercury were both born here.

Zanzinet is a resource site of Zanzibar poetry in Swahili. I would be interested to hear from any translators or potential translators.

Zanzibar door

The site is available here:

Monday, 11 April 2011

John Clare tweet poetry 
A WEEDLING wild on lonely lea My evening rambles chanc’d to see And much the weedling tempted me To crop its tender flower

These are the opening lines of a poem from The Village Minstrel John Clare’s second volume. It was published in 1821. 
Read it to the end.


A WEEDLING wild, on lonely lea,
My evening rambles chanc’d to see;
And much the weedling tempted me
              To crop its tender flower:

Expos’d to wind and heavy rain,
Its head bow’d lowly on the plain;
And silently it seem’d in pain
             Of life’s endanger’d hour.

“And wilt thou bid my bloom decay,
And crop my flower, and me betray?
And cast my injur’d sweets away,”—
             Its silence seemly sigh’d—

“A moment’s idol of thy mind?
And is a stranger so unkind,
To leave a shameful root behind,
             Bereft of all its pride?”

And so it seemly did complain;
And beating fell the heavy rain;
And low it droop’d upon the plain,
             To fate resign’d to fall:

My heart did melt at its decline,
And “Come,” said I, “thou gem divine,
My fate shall stand the storm with thine;”
             So took the root and all.

A link to all of John Clare's poems online at this site And more information here on John Clare's cottage

Friday, 8 April 2011

Call for poetry, reviews and essays...Issue 2 Autumn 2011

Call for poetry (4 poems or less), images and reviews (literary and technical) for Issue 2 Autumn 2011 of online magazine. Deadline for copy is July 30th 2011.

You can view Issue 1 at

Essays, by prior discussion with the Editor only, send an outline of your ideas on poetry, place and/or informatics marked FAO Bridget Khursheed. Please note that editorial policy values the experimental, fresh and thoughtful in language and form; don't send us an ode to your i-pod. Having said that we love poets who surprise us with their use of traditional form and welcome dialect poems and translations.

Contact for submissions and all other enquiries is poetandgeek at

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Icon Poet the writing toy

There is nothing I like more than a little writing gadget and here is an interesting one. Steve Tiffany's Icon Poet. Even without downloading the full whammy (which I haven't done as it is a .exe file and I just cannot stand the stress).

You can find its predecessor here This is a random poetry generator inspired by Arthur Rimbaud and written for the Amiga in 1988. Yup! That is a long time ago but it has a certain charm. Anyone who writes a program for that combines poetry and the Amiga gets my respect. 

Here is my small effort for improvised poetry. Remember that what you get out of these machines is like an exercise. You are unlikely to use it verbatim so be ready...

The singer is magic.  The dimple is sharp  The dust is hopeful.

Singer the short is anxiety.  Ceremony.  Leaf.  Individual. 

Not great but the hopeful dust will stick in my mind for a little bit.

More from Steve Tiffany here:

International Istanbul Poetry Festival, Turkey, May 2011

Usually an excellent global line up at this event and if you are lucky you might run into Orhan Pamuk's museum.

International Istanbul Poetry Festival (IIPF) will officially take place on Tuesday, 10th May - Saturday, 14th May 2011 with the participation of 40 poets from 17 countries, and is considered as the biggest international literary event in Turkey. There may still be time left to volunteer -

Poets participating previously (and whose work is celebrated) include • Adonis (Syria) • Ahmet Telli • Alan Jude Moore (Ireland) • Alex Susanna (Catalonia) • Ali Günvar (Turkey) • Anzhelina Polonskaya (Russia) • Arif Ay (Turkey) • Arif Damar • Arjen Duinker (Netherlands) • Astrid Lampe (Hollanda) • Ataol Behramoğlu (Turkey) • Ayşe Sevim (Turkey) • Baki Ayhan T. • Bayırcan Karabeyov • Betül Tarıman (Turkey) • Breyten Breytenbach (South Africa) • Cahit Koytak • Caj Westerberg (Finland) •  Joumana Haddad (Lebanon) • Kemal Eşfak Berki (Turkey) • Kemal Özer • Kerry Shawn Keys (USA) • Kim Haeng-sook (South Korea) • Lasse Söderberg (Sweden) • Leopoldo Castilla (Argentina) • Leyla Şahin • Luis Alberto de Cuenca (Spain) • Luis Garcia Montero (Spain) • Māra Zālīte (Latvia) • Can Bahadır Yüce • Carles Torner (Spain) • Celal Fedai (Turkey) • Egito Gonçalves (Portugal) • Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin (Ireland) • Emilio Coco (Italy) • Enver Ercan • Eray Canberk (Turkey) • Eyvaz Borçallı (Azerbaijan) • Fadhil Al-Azzawi (Iraq) • Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca • Ferida Duraković (Bosnia-Herzegovina) • Francisca Aguirre (Spain) • Frans de Haes (Belgium) • Jean Pierre Balpe (France) • Joachim Sartorius (Germany) • Joan Margarit (Catalonia) • Johannes Poethen (Germany) • Jordi Virallonga (Spain) •

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The uses of wood

The heart is warmed by a good list; at an elemental level, the ability to index gives us control. Look at Adam and Eve's naming or Robinson Crusoe's inventory of stores. A while back we added an index to the blog and that got us thinking about why lists were so enjoyable in a poem; handled right (that goes without saying).

A list that I enjoy is one in Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene; it is in Canto One of the poem scene-setting and it is a list of tree wood and its various uses. Wow! This part of the poem was written in 1590. Its audience the leisured of Elizabeth 1st's court in England, a time when people had hours to read poetry, and Spenser, a friend of Sir Walter Raleigh had a place at that court - but even so, a list of wood. Spenser was thinking of Virgil no doubt and the Eclogues, the mediaeval shepherd's calendars which explain what agricultural jobs need to be done and when.

But the list is fantastic, it is a detailed list and begins "Much can they praise the trees so straight and high!" and so we discovers elms can be used to prop up vines, the yew springy and pliable is "obedient to the bender's will" and at this time it was used to make long-bows (still a vital part of the English arsenal). And the sallow or willow wood for the mill perhaps to make the turnery, tool handles or to lie underwater as it was also used as plaited basket-work in fish-traps.

And then it is over, 14 lines, a sonnet's length of information in this vast poem. Take a look and do some research and I defy you not to want to write a poem about one of the details that you discover.

 Much can they prayse the trees so straight and hy,
    The sayling Pine, the Cedar proud and tall,
    The vine-prop Elme, the Poplar neuer dry,
    The builder Oake, sole king of forrests all,
The Aspine good for staues, the Cypresse funerall.

The Laurell, meed of mightie Conquerours
    And Poets sage, the Firre that weepeth still,
    The Willow worne of forlorne Paramours,
    The Eugh obedient to the benders will,
    The Birch for shaftes, the Sallow for the mill,
    The Mirrhe sweete bleeding in the bitter wound,
    The warlike Beech, the Ash for nothing ill,
    The fruitfull Oliue, and the Platane round,
The caruer Holme, the Maple seeldom inward sound.

Led with delight, they thus beguile the way,
    Vntill the blustring storme is ouerblowne;

And of course, Spenser was a bit of a geek himself. He invented the Spenserian stanza which he uses in The Faerie Queene. The stanza's main rhythm is iambic pentameter with a final line in iambic hexameter. This latter has six feet or stresses,and can be known as an Alexandrine. The rhyme scheme is ababbcbcc.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Kamala Das Suraiyya tweet poetry 
Don’t write in English they said English is Not your mothertongue Why not leave Me alone Everyone of you let me speak in Any language I like

Kamala Das later Kamala Suraiyya 1934 until 2009. Please let us read more of this poets' work: an edition of her work in English Only the Soul Knows How to Sing available in the UK, Australia and USA would be a great start.

Friday, 1 April 2011

E-Poetry [ 2011 ] : International Digital Language | Media | Arts Festival

E-Poetry runs from May 18-21, 2011 at State University of New York at Buffalo, United States. The event claims to be the "longest-running and definitive digital literature festival in the world"; previous events have been all over the western world including West Virginia, London, Paris, and Barcelona. 

There is still time for proposals for presentations that are truly exceptional in nature.

The festival promises 4 days of:

  • festival performances
  • exhibitions
  • artistic presentations of poetics statements
  • scholarly papers
  • talks
  • and celebration of creative, visionary, and imaginative poeisis at the cutting edge of the triumphant spirit of the arts in the digital age.
The festival presents world class e-poetry, digital and media arts, multilingual poetics, dance, music, and other forms of avant-garde artistic language, media and scholarly practice.

Find out more about the E-Poetry festival at: take a look at the Electronic Poetry Centre at Buffalo which is interesting. And here is a definition of poiesis which I had never heard of before but probably you like me kind of guessed right both what it means and what it implies.