Thursday, 1 October 2020

Here's an updated blog from 2013, by popular request (yeah, right).

It was Henry Carr, a minor British embassy official in Tom Stoppard's play Travesties, who complained, in an underdog outburst: 'For every thousand people there's nine hundred doing the work, ninety doing well, nine doing good, and one lucky bastard who's the artist.'

Applying the Stoppard-Carr ratio to our island's current population of 62 million, we get 55,800 artists, equivalent to the population of Macclesfield. But how many of these lucky bastards are poets? Let's say a modest 5% might at a stretch be described as poetry practitioners, that is poets who are published and read, if only by other poets. That would amount to 2,779 poets (rounded up to 3,000), equal to the population of Framlingham in Suffolk. That seems like too many.

Travesties was written in 1974 and we are in a position to do the math, as they increasingly say. I have before me the hefty Directory of Contemporary Poets, published by Macmillan in 1970. Limited to UK poets it lists around 1,100 (from Abse, Dannie to Zurndorfer, Lotte), so either the Stoppard-Carr formula is flawed or my 5% estimate overgenerous, and should hover between one and two per cent. The 1970s turned out to be the boom years and subsequent editions of the Directory give lower - 787 in 2001, rising slightly to 840 last year. So let's say that Britain sustains a population of under a thousand poets. Not that any of them can earn a living as such, but that's another matter.

Let's look at the bigger picture. How many poets, not just in Britain, are working actively in the English language today? Turning to the International Who's Who of Poetry (Routledge, 2011) we find around 4,000 practitioners, all with proper jobs to fall back on, from Aalfs, Janet ('American writer, poet and martial arts instructor') to Zyck, Adam ('Polish psychologist, gerontologist, poet and translator'). The publishers make no claims to be comprehensive and there are likely to be many omissions, but 4,000 poets in a global anglophone population of 375 million (assuming that poetry readership is likely to be confined largely to native speakers) is a vanishingly small proportion - around 0.0001%. 

And of those four thousand poets, how many are any good? Not necessarily popular, just good (and I hope you'll agree with what I mean by that). Could it be as many as a few hundred? And what of the even smaller cohort of great poets, past and (theoretically) present, whose work has lasted and will continue to circulate? Perhaps a dozen in all, writing in English in the twentieth century. Who are, or were, they? Hardy, Yeats, Pound, Eliot, Auden, Robert Lowell and . . . how many is that? Seven. I realise that the very idea of a canon is old hat, and patrician, and elitist, and barely worth considering. I recently met a bright young English graduate who had never even heard of T. S. Eliot because (as she quite reasonably pointed out) he wasn't on the syllabus and you can't be expected to read everything. Fair enough, although Eliot doesn't strike one as optional and surely a graduate in any subject who hasn't read The Waste Land is by any objective measure culturally impoverished. To her credit she wasn't at all uncomfortable with her admission and to my credit neither was I. But still.

We used to care more, or some folk did. According to Julian Symons (in his handy 1960 account The Thirties: a dream revolved) the inter-war audience for poetry took the form of a pyramid, the broad base formed by a million-strong intelligentsia. Above them a group numbering 50,000 subscribed to and read the handful of little magazines featuring the most recent work of new writers. This section of the pyramid was generally younger than the base and the social composition more complex, including working-class intellectuals, members of the lower-middle class educated at state or grammar schools and in some cases at red brick universities, and a general sampling of professional men and women (doctors, architects, lawyers, dons, economists etc). The artists themselves, around a thousand in number lived, often precariously, at the top. Not, it should hardly be necessary to point out, that they were all wealthy, or even solvent. By 'artists' Symons meant novelists, poets, painters, composers and the like, and clearly wasn't concerned with the applied arts, or with such popular media as the music hall and cinema - both of which would surely bump up the numbers. The UK population in the mid-1930s being around 46 million, that thousand-strong cohort represents a percentage too small to bother about, although it's those very painters and poets and novelists, who today stand for the age - they are what we know of the period.

Not everyone at the time agreed with the proportions of Symon's pyramid, and a jaundiced contemporary of his reckoned the population of serious poetry  readers in Britain numbered around a hundred. This was less an indicator of elitism than of exasperation. Symons admits that the image of a pyramid is over-simple and the whole set of assumptions on which his model is based seems very old-fashioned - but what interests me most are his estimated numbers. The overall population has increased since 1935 by around twenty million and let's assume that there has been a corresponding growth in the intelligentsia (not that such a label would be employed in a positive way today). But the greatest increase must surely have been in the number of artists. Post-war access to higher education, the growth of art schools, state sponsorship, lottery funding and the wide scale commodification of culture through new media - all have led to an enormous boom in practitioners to the extent that more people write poetry than read it. So what shape, metaphorically, are things in today? No longer a pyramid but perhaps a wonky sort-of oblong? 

There are workshops and festivals and readings and signings and book clubs and many little magazines and anthologies and reviews. There's a radio presence, online activity and a band of public poets who scrape a living through the practice of poetry and associated 'poetic' activities. Not much of this is very good, of course, but then not much of anything is very good. Poetry is, we are constantly reassured, 'for everyone' - the nine hundred doing the work, the ninety doing well and the nine doing good. This is nonsense, of course. Poetry, like all other art forms, is self-evidently not for everyone. It's for anyone.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

One last Leap for Mankind

A Leap in the Dark 50 8pm Saturday 19th September 2020 That’s your lot (This evening’s programme will be recorded) Planning this last Leap I looked back to the first, held on 29th February in a dilapidated former Conservative Club in Paddington, before the lockdown began. I’m absolutely delighted that most of the original company who gathered that evening is with us again tonight. My heartfelt thanks to all of them for taking part, and to all the marvellous talents who have contributed to this series of Leaps over the past six months. My thanks also to our loyal and tolerant audience for their support, engagement, enthusiasm and good faith. And my particular thanks to Laura for the regular use of her laptop. She has been a model of patience, tolerance and kindly forbearance. I have my lucky stars to thank, and thank them. There’s no charge for taking part in A Leap in the Dark, but please do make a donation, no matter how modest, to The Trussell Trust. And please, please continue to do so! The Programme 1 The Pale Usher welcomes you 2 Out with the old - Helen Ottaway 3 Tony White 4 Natalia Zagorska-Thomas takes us on a tour of her Studio Expurgamento 5 Michael Hughes 6 Amy McCauley 7 Melanie Pappenheim and Giles Perring Interval 8 In with the new - Helen Ottaway 9 Tim Etchells 10 The settee salon with the Pale Usher and surprise guests 11 Henningham Family Press sing two choruses from An Unknown Soldier ‘Thee Must Habeas n Corpus’ ‘Able Damnèd Est’ (a.k.a. ‘The Grand Eagle’) 12 Aea Varfis-van Warmelo 13 The Pale Usher plugs the forthcoming carthorse orchestra and signs off The Company Tim Etchells is an artist, writer and performance maker, author of Endland (published by And Other Stories) and a founder member and artistic director of the performance ensemble Forced Entertainment. David and Ping Henningham are co-founders of Henningham Family Press, a microbrewery for books since 2006. They publish fiction and poetry. Their handmade editions can be found in the V&A, Tate, National Galleries Scotland and Stanford University. Their Performance Publishing shows compress the creation of printed matter into hectic live events. Michael Hughes is the author of two novels: Countenance Divine (2016) and Country (2018) both published by John Murray, the latter winning the 2018 Hellenic Prize. Under his stage name Michael Colgan he recently appeared in the acclaimed HBO television drama Chernobyl. Amy McCauley is a poet and freelance writer. She is the author of OEDIPA (Guillemot Press, 2018) and 24/7 Brexitland (No Matter Press, 2020). Amy’s first full-length collection of poetry will be published by Henningham Family Press in 2021. Helen Ottaway is a composer and sound artist. She is lead artist with Artmusic, creating and producing collaborative, site-specific art work. She has written for many forces from string quartet to choir and orchestra and recently has started to include found sound in her work. Her writing for hand-punched and hand-wound musical box began during an artist’s residency in Sri Lanka in 2017. Back in the UK she continues to compose for and perform on the instrument. www.artmusic.org.uk https://helenottaway.bandcamp.com/ Melanie Pappenheim is a singer, composer and performer. Giles Perring is a musician, record producer and artist who has been working professionally in diverse areas of music and the Arts since 1980. He lives and works on the Scottish island of Jura. http://www.soundofjura.com/about.html Aea Varfis-van Warmelo is a trilingual actor and writer. Tony White’s latest novel The Fountain in the Forest is published by Faber and Faber. He is the author of five previous novels including Foxy-T and Shackleton’s Man Goes South, the non-fiction title Another Fool in the Balkans and numerous short stories. He is editor and publisher of the artists’ book series Piece of Paper Press, founded in 1994. Tony White would like to acknowledge the support of Arts Council England through the Arts Council Emergency Response Fund: for individuals. Natalia Zagorska-Thomas is a visual artist, art conservator and curator. She runs the studio and exhibition space Studio Expurgamento in Camden town. Co-originator of Blush (CBe, 2018). www.studioexpurgamento.com The Pale Usher is David Collard, who organised these gatherings. The pale Usher—threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see him now. He was ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars, with a queer handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all the known nations of the world. He loved to dust his old grammars; it somehow mildly reminded him of his mortality. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville That’s it. That’s your lot. Thank you all fr your support and for your generous donations to The Trussell Trust. Please don’t stop giving! We’ll be back at 7:30pm on Saturday 24th October, the night the clocks turn back, for the first in a new series of weekly online gatherings called carthorse orchestra Love to you all, and do stay well. The Pale Usher Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits, and Are melted into air, into thin air: And like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on; and our little life Is rounded with . . . a leap.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

This Friday's Leap in the Dark

A Leap in the Dark 49 8pm Friday 18th September 2020 Auden & Company (This evening’s programme will be recorded) An evening in the company of W. H. Auden. The programme will feature some of his most celebrated poems and more off-trail writing that demonstrates his tremendous range as a poet, essayist, critic, journalist and all-round literary hack. We’ll have readings from regular Leapers Kevin Boniface, Georgia Boniface? Marie-Elsa Bragg, Susanna Crossman, Kevin Davey, Emma Devlin, Will Eaves, Rónán Hession, Frank Hopkins, Amy McCauley, J O Morgan, Noah, Dan O’Brien and Aea Varfis van-Warmelo. Stephan Bookas and Tristan Daws will introduce their short film Refugee Blues; a documentary poem and David Collard will refelct on two life-changing moments in Auden’s life. There's no charge for taking part in A Leap in the Dark, but please make a donation, no matter how large, to The Trussell Trust. The Programme The Pale Usher welcomes you 1 Early Auden ‘Woods in Rain’(from Public School Verse, 1924) read by Frank Hopkins ‘The sprinkler on the lawn’ (from the privately-published Poems, 1928) read by David Collard ‘Who stands, the crux left of the watershed’ (from Poems, 1930) read by Kevin Boniface ‘Control of the passes was, he saw, the key’ (Poems, 1930) read by Kevin Davey ‘“O where are you going?” said reader to rider’ (October 1931) read by Emma Devlin Chorus from The Dog Beneath the Skin or Where is Francis? (1935) by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood read by J O Morgan 2 The Vision of Agape The Pale Usher on Auden’s life-changing experience with readings by Marie-Elsa Bragg ‘Out on the lawn I lie in bed’ (from Look, Stranger!, 1936) read by Marie-Elsa Bragg 3 Vin Audenaire ‘Look, stranger, on this island now’ (from Look, Stranger!, 1936) read by Aea Varfis-van Warmelo ‘Now the leaves are falling fast’ (1936) read by Rónán Hession ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’ (1938) read by Amy McCauley Interval   4 American Auden ‘September 1, 1939’ read by Dan O’Brien The Pale Usher on Auden’s second life-changing vision ‘Hell’ (1939) read by Marie-Elsa Bragg ‘Refugee Blues’ (1939) read by Noah, a refugee, in Refugee Blues - A Documentary Poem by Stephan Bookas and Tristan Daws. Introduced by Stephan and Tristan. ‘If I could tell you’ (December 1940) sung by Will Eaves ‘The Massacre of the Innocents’ (from For the Time Being, 1945) read by J O Morgan ‘The Fall of Rome’ (written 1947, from Nones, 1951) read by Susanna Crossman (pre-recorded) 5 Later Auden From the BBC archive: WHA and Stevie Smith in an Edinburgh pub (1965) Auden’s Eden (from ‘On Reading’ in The Dyer’s Hand, 1963) read by Kevin and Georgia Boniface ‘August 1968’ read by Dan O’Brien ‘Moon Landing’ (1969) read by W H Auden 6 Late Auden ‘A Lullaby’(1973) read by David Collard A recording of Auden's last reading, for the Österrieschische Gesellschaft für Literatur at Palais Palffy, Vienna on 28 September 1973. The Pale Usher signs off The Company Stephan Bookas is a London-based writer/director, producer and cinematographer. He has shot and directed award winning documentaries and short films across much of the globe including India, Siberia, Turkey, Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Cuba, China and North Korea and is currently working on multiple international fiction, animation and documentary projects. His short film Refugee Blues (2016) premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and has gone on to win numerous awards all over the world. Marie-Elsa Bragg is an author, priest, therapist and Duty Chaplain of Westminster Abbey. Her first novel, Towards Mellbreak, was about four generations of a quiet hill farming family on the North Western fells of Cumbria. Her second book, Sleeping Letters (2019) is the description of the the ritual of the Eucharist alongside a compilation of poetry, memoir and fragments of un-sent letters. Marie-Elsa has contributed articles and interviews for papers such as the Telegraph and the Church Times; Radio pieces for BBC Radio 4 and interviews for literary festivals and Story Vault Films. https://marie-elsabragg.com Kevin Boniface is an artist, writer and postman based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Over the years his work has taken the form of zines, exhibitions, artists’ books, short films and live performances. He is the author of Round About Town, published by Uniformbooks. kevinboniface.co.uk Tristan Daws trained as a theatre director at London’s Drama Centre and worked in the theatre in London and Vienna, before going on to study film at the National Film and Television School. His work has been screened, and won awards, at several international film festivals including Berlinale, Full Frame, Visions du Reel, HotDocs, DocumentaMadrid and Sheffield DocFest. His films explore the borders between factual and narrative storytelling, seeking out a sense of the poetic in reality. https://tristandawscom.wordpress.com Rónán Hession is a writer, musician and civil servant from Dublin. His debut novel Leonard and Hungry Paul (published by Bluemoose Books) has been nominated for the Irish Book Awards, British Book Awards, the BAMB awards, and long listed for the Republic of Consciousness prize. His third album Dictionary Crimes was nominated for the Choice Music Prize for Irish Album of the Year. He is currently completing work on his second novel Panenka, which will be published by Bluemoose in 2021.A third novel, Ghost Mountain, will appear in 2023. Michael Hughes is the author of two novels: Countenance Divine (2016) and Country (2018) both published by John Murray, the latter winning the 2018 Hellenic Prize. Under his stage name Michael Colgan he recently appeared in the acclaimed HBO television drama Chernobyl. Amy McCauley is a poet and freelance writer. She is the author of OEDIPA (Guillemot Press, 2018) and 24/7 Brexitland (No Matter Press, 2020). Amy’s first full-length collection of poetry will be published by Henningham Family Press in 2021. J O Morgan lives on a small farm in the Scottish Borders. His first book, Natural Mechanical (CB Editions, 2009), won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and was shortlisted for the Forward First Collection Prize; its sequel, Long Cuts (CB Editions, 2011), was shortlisted for a Scottish Book Award. His third book, At Maldon (CB Editions, 2013), takes its bearings from the Old English poem ‘The Battle of Maldon’. It re-imagines the short-lived battle that took place on the Essex coast in 991AD, when a ragtag army of Anglo-Saxons was mustered to defend their land from Viking raiders. In 2015, Morgan published In Casting Off (HappenStance Press), a poem-novella that tells a love story that is set within a remote fishing community. Interference Pattern, shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize, appeared from Cape Poetry in 2016, and Assurances in 2018. Morgan's most recent work, The Martian's Regress (published by Cape in 2020) is set in the far future. Noah narrates Refugee Blues: a documentary poem by Stephan Bookas and Tristan Daws. A former child soldier in Uganda, he was living in the so-called ‘Jungle’ Sangatte, Calais. Dan O’Brien is an award-winning playwright and poet based in Los Angeles. CBe publishes his War Reporter, New Life and Scarsdale; essays forthcoming in 2021. www.danobrien.org Aea Varfis-van Warmelo is a trilingual actor and writer. The Pale Usher is David Collard, who organises these gatherings. The pale Usher—threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see him now. He was ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars, with a queer handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all the known nations of the world. He loved to dust his old grammars; it somehow mildly reminded him of his mortality. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville The final Leap in the Dark(Saturday 19th September) re-unites the original Company who took part in the very first Leap on 29th February this year: Tim Etchells, David Henningham, Ping Henningham, Michael Hughes, Amy McCauley, Helen Ottaway, Melanie Pappenheim, Paul Stanbridge, Aea Varfis-van Warmelo, Tony White and Natalia Zagorska-Thomas. Stay well! The Pale Usher

Saturday, 12 September 2020

A Leap of Faith

A Leap in the Dark 48 8pm Saturday 12th September 2020 A LEAP OF FAITH An evening curated by Marie-Elsa Bragg. Her guests are the distinguished theologian Professor Paul Fiddes, author Gary Lachman, writer, psychotherapist and writer Mark Vernon and the poet Amali Rodrigo. There will be music by Melanie Pappenheim. There's no charge for taking part in A Leap in the Dark, but please make a donation, no matter how large, to The Trussell Trust. And please continue to do so! The Programme 1 The Pale Usher welcomes you 2 Marie-Elsa Bragg on ‘Process Theology’ 3 A conversation with Paul Fiddes 4 Poetry from Amali Rodrigo Interval 5 Melanie Pappenheim sings ’O Virtus Sapientiae’ by Hildegard von Bingen 6 The Settee Salon: Marie-Elsa Bragg, Gary Lachman and Paul Vernon 7 Paul and Amali join the settee 8 The Pale Usher signs off The Company Marie-Elsa Roche Bragg is half French, half Cumbrian and was brought up in London. Her first novel Towards Mellbreak (2017) is about four generations of a Cumbrian hill farming family and her second, Sleeping Letters (2019) is the description of the ritual of the Eucharist alongside a compilation of poetry, memoir and fragments of un-sent letters. Both are published by Chatto & Windus. She writes for Radio 4, Church Times, Tablet and other papers. She is a Priest in the diocese of London. https://marie-elsabragg.com Paul S. Fiddes is a British Baptist theologian and novelist. He is Professor of Systematic Theology in the University of Oxford and was formerly Principal of Regent's Park College, Oxford and Chairman of the Theology Faculty. Professor Fiddes has been described as "one of the leading scholars of theology and literature writing today" and "one of the foremost theological thinkers of the modern age". Among 25 authored or edited books, his book The Creative Suffering of God is "considered to be one of the major contributions to theology in the last decades of the 20th century". His first novel, A Unicorn Dies. A Novel of Mystery and Ideas, was published in 2018. Garry Lachman is the author of many books on consciousness, culture, and the Western esoteric tradition, including Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Work, A Secret History of Consciousness, and Politics and the Occult. He writes for several journals in the US and UK and lectures on his work in the US and Europe. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he has appeared in several radio and television documentaries. A founding member of the rock group Blondie, Lachman was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. https://garylachman.co.uk Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. She wrote theological, botanical, and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs for women choirs to sing and poems. She is one of the best-known composers of sacred monophony, as well as the most-recorded in modern history. She is the patron saint of creativity. Melanie Pappenheim is a singer, composer and performer. Amali Rodrigo was born and grew up in Sri Lanka. She has lived in Mozambique, Kenya and India, and is now based in London, researching a PhD while working as an associate lecturer at Lancaster University. She won the Magma judge's prize and second prize in the Poetry London poetry competition, both in 2012, and has been highly commended in numerous others including the Bridport, Ballymalore International and Wasafiri poetry prizes. Her first collection, Lotus Gatherers, was published by Bloodaxe in 2016. https://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/category/amali-rodrigo Mark Vernon is a writer, broadcaster and journalist. He writes for The Guardian, The Philosophers' Magazine, Financial Times and New Statesman. He has appeared on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time. Vernon was formerly a Church of England priest, but has since become an agnostic Christian, a position about which he now writes and speaks. He has a degree in theology from the University of Oxford and another theology degree and a physics degree from Durham University. He also has a PhD in philosophy from University of Warwick and is an Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. https://www.markvernon.com The Pale Usher is David Collard, who organises these gatherings. The pale Usher—threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see him now. He was ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars, with a queer handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all the known nations of the world. He loved to dust his old grammars; it somehow mildly reminded him of his mortality. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville Next Friday’s Leap is dedicated to W. H. Auden and we’ll be reading some of his most celebrated verses as well as some off-trail writing that reflects his tremendous range as a critic, essayist, critic, journalist and all-round literary hack. We’ll have readings from seasoned Leapers Kevin Boniface, Marie-Elsa Bragg, Susanna Crossman, Kevin Davey, Amy McCauley, J O Morgan, Dan O’Brien, Aea Varfis van-Warmelo and others. David Collard will introduce a rare screening of the remarkable and rarely-seen Britten/Auden collaboration The Way to the Sea (1936), and the poet himself will join us in some archive recordings. Stay well! The Pale Usher

Thursday, 10 September 2020

This Friday's Leap in the Dark

A Leap in the Dark 47 8pm Friday 11th September 2020 [Snappy heading needed here*] We’ll have readings by the poet Sasha Dugdale from her brilliant new collection Deformations; Laura Waddell will join us to mark the launch of her sparkling non-fiction debut exit; Susanna Crossman will deliver a Letter from Dinan; Linda Mannheim will make a close reading of ‘Locksmiths’, a superbly unsettling short story by Wendy Erskine (who will also be with us). The author Kevin Davey will introduce his forthcoming novel Radio Joan and there will be some Very New Poems from Christodoulos Makris. There's no charge for taking part in A Leap in the Dark, so please make a donation, no matter how large, to The Trussell Trust. * This is a deliberate metatextual gesture. The Programme 1 The Pale Usher welcomes you 2 Poems from Deformations read by Sasha Dugdale (published by Carcanet) Deformations includes two large-scale works related in their preoccupation with biographical and mythical narrative. 'Welfare Handbook' explores the life and art of Eric Gill, the well-known English letter cutter, sculptor and cultural figure, who is known to have sexually abused his daughters. The poem draws on material from Gill's letters, diaries, notes and essays as part of a lyrical exploration of the conjunction between aesthetics, subjectivity and violence. 'Pitysad' is a series of simultaneously occurring fragments composed around themes and characters from Homer's Odyssey. It considers how trauma is disguised and deformed through myth and art. Acting as a bridge between these two works is a series of individual poems on the creation and destruction of cultural and mythical conventions. Deformations is published by Carcanet www.carcanet.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?product=9781784108984 3 Laura Waddell on her new book exit Exits are all around us. They are the difference between travelling and arriving, being on the inside or outside. Whether signposted or subversive, personal or political, choices or holes we've fallen through, exits determine how we move around our lives, cities, and the world. What does it really mean to 'exit'? In these meditations on exits in architecture, transport, ancestry, language, garbage, death, Sesame Street and Brexit, Laura Waddell follows the neon and the pictograms of exit signs to see what's on the other side. exit is published by Bloomsbury www.bloomsbury.com/uk/exit-9781501358159/ 4 A Letter from Dinan by Susanna Crossman 5 Linda Mannheim undertakes a close reading of ‘Locksmiths’, a short story by Wendy Erskine When we got back to the house all was quiet. She said, ‘So there’s no party?’ She would not have been surprised by a surprise party. ‘No there’s no party,’ I said. 6 Wendy responds to Linda’s close reading. ‘Locksmiths’ appears in Wendy’s debut collection Sweet Home (published by Picador) www.panmacmillan.com/authors/wendy-erskine/sweet-home/9781529017069 Interval 7 Kevin Davey on Radio Joan (published by Aaaargh! Press) www.aaaarghpress.com/books-pamphlets/radio-joan/ 8 Christadoulos Makris: Very New Poems 9 A second reading by Sasha Dugdale 10 The Pale Usher signs off The Company Susanna Crossman is an award-winning Anglo-French fiction writer and essayist. She has recent/upcoming work in Trauma (Dodo Ink, 2020), Neue Rundschau, (S. Fischer, 2019), (translated into German), We’ll Never Have Paris, (Repeater Books, 2019), The Creative Review, 3:AM Journal, The Lonely Crowd, Berfrois and more. Co-author of the French book, L'Hôpital Le Dessous des Cartes (LEH, 2015), she regularly collaborates on international hybrid arts projects. Her debut novel Dark Island will be published in 2021. For more: @crossmansusanna http://susanna-crossman.squarespace.com/ Kevin Davey is the author of Playing Possum and the forthcoming Radio Joan, both published by Aaaargh! Press. His non-fiction work includes the essay collection English Imaginaries (1999). Sasha Dugdale is a British poet, playwright and translator of Russian literature. She has published five poetry collections with Carcanet Press: Notebook (2003), The Estate (2007), Red House (2011), Joy (2017) and Deformations (2020). She won the Forward Poetry Prize for Best Single Poem, Joy in 2016 and a Cholmondeley Award in 2017. Dugdale specialises in translating contemporary Russian women poets and post-Soviet new writing for theatre. She has worked both in the United Kingdom and the United States on a number of productions, translating modern Russian plays. In 2020, she won an English PEN Translate Award for her translation of a collection of poetry by the Russian poet Maria Stepanova. Wendy Erskine works full-time as a secondary school teacher in Belfast. Her debut short story collection, Sweet Home, was published in 2018 by Stinging Fly and in 2019 by Picador. Her work has been published in The Stinging Fly, Stinging Fly Stories and Female Lines: New Writing by Women from Northern Ireland. She also features in Being Various: New Irish Short Stories (Faber and Faber), Winter Papers and on BBC Radio 4 Buy Sweet Home here: https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/wendy-erskine/sweet-home/9781529017069 Christadoulos Makris, described by the RTÉ Poetry Programme as “one of Ireland’s leading contemporary explorers of experimental poetics”, has published three books of poetry, most recently this is no longer entertainment (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2019), as well as several pamphlets, artists’ books and other poetry objects. Recent commissions and residencies include the Irish Museum of Modern Art and Maynooth University. He is the poetry editor at gorse journal. Linda Mannheim is the author of three books of fiction: Risk, Above Sugar Hill, and This Way to Departures. Her short stories have appeared in magazines in the US, UK, South Africa, and Canada. Her broadcast work has appeared on BBC Witness and KCRW Berlin. She is also the cohost of Why Why Why: The Books Podcast. https://www.lindamannheim.com Laura Waddell is a writer of fiction and narrative non-fiction published in 3:AM Magazine, McSweeneys, and Kinfolk and contributor to several books including Nasty Women, Know Your Place, The Digital Critic, We’ll Never Have Paris, We Were Always Here, and others. She writes a weekly column for the Scotsman newspaper, and her debut non-fiction book, Exit, was published this week by Bloomsbury. The Pale Usher is David Collard, who organises these gatherings. The pale Usher—threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see him now. He was ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars, with a queer handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all the known nations of the world. He loved to dust his old grammars; it somehow mildly reminded him of his mortality. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville Tomorrow’s Leap in the Dark is curated by Marie-Elsa Bragg, and, for one night only, we’ve renamed it A Leap of Faith for reasons that will become clear. Marie-Elsa’s guests include: - theologian Professor Paul Fiddes - author Gary Lachman - psychotherapist and writer Mark Vernon - poet Amali Rodrigo - soprano Melanie Pappenheim Please note that this unique gathering will be recorded. Stay well! The Pale Usher

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Advance notice: A Leap in the Dark this Saturday

A Leap in the Dark 48 8pm Saturday 12th September 2020 A LEAP OF FAITH An evening curated by Marie-Elsa Bragg. Her guests are the distinguished theologian Professor Paul Fiddes, author Gary Lachman, writer, broadcaster and journalist Paul Vernon and the poet Amali Rodrigo. There will be music by Melanie Pappenheim. There's no charge for taking part in A Leap in the Dark, but please make a donation, no matter how large, to The Trussell Trust. And please continue to do so! The Programme The Pale Usher welcomes you 1 Melanie Pappenheim sings 2 Marie-Elsa Bragg on ‘Process Theology’ 3 A conversation with Paul Fiddes 4 Poetry from Amali Rodrigo Interval 5 Another song from Melanie 6 The Settee Salon: Marie-Elsa Bragg, Gary Lachman and Paul Vernon 7 Paul and Amali join the settee 8 A final song from Melanie The Pale Usher signs off The Company Marie-Elsa Roche Bragg is half French, half Cumbrian and was brought up in London. Her first novel Towards Mellbreak (2017) is about four generations of a Cumbrian hill farming family and her second, Sleeping Letters (2019) is the description of the ritual of the Eucharist alongside a compilation of poetry, memoir and fragments of un-sent letters. Both are published by Chatto & Windus. She writes for Radio 4, Church Times, Tablet and other papers. She is a Priest in the diocese of London. https://marie-elsabragg.com Paul S. Fiddes is a British Baptist theologian and novelist. He is Professor of Systematic Theology in the University of Oxford and was formerly Principal of Regent's Park College, Oxford and Chairman of the Theology Faculty. He has been described as "one of the leading scholars of theology and literature writing today" and "one of the foremost theological thinkers of the modern age". Among 25 authored or edited books, his book The Creative Suffering of God is "considered to be one of the major contributions to theology in the last decades of the 20th century". His first novel, A Unicorn Dies. A Novel of Mystery and Ideas, was published in 2018. Garry Lachman is the author of many books on consciousness, culture, and the Western esoteric tradition, including Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Work, A Secret History of Consciousness, and Politics and the Occult. He writes for several journals in the US and UK and lectures on his work in the US and Europe. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he has appeared in several radio and television documentaries. A founding member of the rock group Blondie, Lachman was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. https://garylachman.co.uk Melanie Pappenheim is a singer, composer and performer. Amali Rodrigo was born and grew up in Sri Lanka. She has lived in Mozambique, Kenya and India, and is now based in London, researching a PhD while working as an associate lecturer at Lancaster University. She won the Magma judge's prize and second prize in the Poetry London poetry competition, both in 2012, and has been highly commended in numerous others including the Bridport, Ballymalore International and Wasafiri poetry prizes. Her first collection, Lotus Gatherers, was published by Bloodaxe in 2016. https://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/category/amali-rodrigo Mark Vernon is a writer, broadcaster and journalist. He writes for The Guardian, The Philosophers' Magazine, Financial Times and New Statesman. He has appeared on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time. Vernon was formerly a Church of England priest, but has since become an agnostic Christian, a position about which he now writes and speaks. He has a degree in theology from the University of Oxford and another theology degree and a physics degree from Durham University. He also has a PhD in philosophy from University of Warwick and is an Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. https://www.markvernon.com The Pale Usher is David Collard, who organises these gatherings. The pale Usher—threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see him now. He was ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars, with a queer handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all the known nations of the world. He loved to dust his old grammars; it somehow mildly reminded him of his mortality. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville Next Friday’s Leap is dedicated to W. H. Auden and we’ll be reading some of his most celebrated verses as well as some off-trail writing that reflects his tremendous range as a critic, essayist, critic, journalist and all-round literary hack. We’ll have readings from seasoned Leapers Kevin Boniface, Season Butler (TBC), Marie-Elsa Bragg, Susanna Crossman, Kevin Davey, Amy McCauley, J O Morgan, Dan O’Brien, Aea Varfis van-Warmelo and others. David Collard will introduce a rare screening of the remarkable and rarely-seen Britten/Auden collaboration The Way to the Sea (1936), and the poet himself will join us in some archive recordings. Stay well! The Pale Usher

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Advance notice: A Leap in the Dark 47

A Leap in the Dark 47 8pm Friday 11th September 2020 [Snappy heading needed here] We’ll have readings by the poet Sasha Dugdale from her brilliant new collection Deformations; Laura Waddell will join us to mark the launch of her sparkling non-fiction debut exit; Susanna Crossman will deliver a Letter from Dinan; Linda Mannheim will make a close reading of ‘Locksmiths’, a superbly unsettling short story by Wendy Erskine (who will also be with us). The author Kevin Davey will introduce his forthcoming novel Radio Joan and there will be new work from poet Christodoulos Makris. There's no charge for taking part in A Leap in the Dark, so please make a donation, no matter how large, to The Trussell Trust. The Programme 1 The Pale Usher welcomes you 2 Poems from Deformations read by Sasha Dugdale (published by Carcanet) Deformations includes two large-scale works related in their preoccupation with biographical and mythical narrative. 'Welfare Handbook' explores the life and art of Eric Gill, the well-known English letter cutter, sculptor and cultural figure, who is known to have sexually abused his daughters. The poem draws on material from Gill's letters, diaries, notes and essays as part of a lyrical exploration of the conjunction between aesthetics, subjectivity and violence. 'Pitysad' is a series of simultaneously occurring fragments composed around themes and characters from Homer's Odyssey. It considers how trauma is disguised and deformed through myth and art. Acting as a bridge between these two works is a series of individual poems on the creation and destruction of cultural and mythical conventions. 3 Laura Waddell on her new book exit (published by Bloomsbury) Exits are all around us. They are the difference between travelling and arriving, being on the inside or outside. Whether signposted or subversive, personal or political, choices or holes we've fallen through, exits determine how we move around our lives, cities, and the world. What does it really mean to 'exit'? In these meditations on exits in architecture, transport, ancestry, language, garbage, death, Sesame Street and Brexit, Laura Waddell follows the neon and the pictograms of exit signs to see what's on the other side. 4 A Letter from Dinan by Susanna Crossman 5 Linda Mannheim undertakes a close reading of ‘Locksmiths’, a short story by Wendy Erskine When we got back to the house all was quiet. She said, ‘So there’s no party?’ She would not have been surprised by a surprise party. ‘No there’s no party,’ I said 6 Wendy responds to Linda’s close reading. ‘Locksmiths’ appears in Wendy’s debut collection Sweet Home (published by Picador) Interval 7 Kevin Davey on Radio Joan (published by Aaargh! Press) 8 Christadoulos Makris: new work 9 A second reading by Sasha Dugdale 10 The Pale Usher signs off The Company Susanna Crossman is an award-winning Anglo-French fiction writer and essayist. She has recent/upcoming work in Trauma (Dodo Ink, 2020), Neue Rundschau, (S. Fischer, 2019), (translated into German), We’ll Never Have Paris, (Repeater Books, 2019), The Creative Review, 3:AM Journal, The Lonely Crowd, Berfrois and more. Co-author of the French book, L'Hôpital Le Dessous des Cartes (LEH, 2015), she regularly collaborates on international hybrid arts projects. Her debut novel Dark Island will be published in 2021. For more: @crossmansusanna http://susanna-crossman.squarespace.com/ Kevin Davey is the author of Playing Possum and the forthcoming Radio Joan, both published by Aaargh! Press. His non-fiction work includes English Imaginaries (1999). Sasha Dugdale is a British poet, playwright and translator of Russian literature. She has published five poetry collections with Carcanet Press: Notebook (2003), The Estate (2007), Red House (2011), Joy (2017) and Deformations (2020). She won the Forward Poetry Prize for Best Single Poem, Joy in 2016 and a Cholmondeley Award in 2017. [2] Dugdale specialises in translating contemporary Russian women poets and post-Soviet new writing for theatre. She has worked both in the United Kingdom and the United States on a number of productions, translating modern Russian plays. In 2020, she won an English PEN Translate Award for her translation of a collection of poetry by the Russian poet Maria Stepanova. Wendy Erskine works full-time as a secondary school teacher in Belfast. Her debut short story collection, Sweet Home, was published in 2018 by Stinging Fly and in 2019 by Picador. Her work has been published in The Stinging Fly, Stinging Fly Stories and Female Lines: New Writing by Women from Northern Ireland. She also features in Being Various: New Irish Short Stories (Faber and Faber), Winter Papers and on BBC Radio 4 Buy Sweet Home here: https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/wendy-erskine/sweet-home/9781529017069 Christadoulos Makris described by the RTÉ Poetry Programme as “one of Ireland’s leading contemporary explorers of experimental poetics”, has published three books of poetry, most recently this is no longer entertainment (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2019), as well as several pamphlets, artists’ books and other poetry objects. Recent commissions and residencies include the Irish Museum of Modern Art and Maynooth University. He is the poetry editor at gorse journal. Linda Mannheim is the author of three books of fiction: Risk, Above Sugar Hill, and This Way to Departures. Her short stories have appeared in magazines in the US, UK, South Africa, and Canada. Her broadcast work has appeared on BBC Witness and KCRW Berlin. She is also the cohost of Why Why Why: The Books Podcast. https://www.lindamannheim.com Laura Waddell is a writer of fiction and narrative non-fiction published in 3:AM Magazine, McSweeneys, and Kinfolk and contributor to several books including Nasty Women, Know Your Place, The Digital Critic, We’ll Never Have Paris, We Were Always Here, and others. She writes a weekly column for the Scotsman newspaper, and her debut non-fiction book, Exit, will be published by Bloomsbury later this year. The Pale Usher is David Collard, who organises these gatherings. The pale Usher—threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see him now. He was ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars, with a queer handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all the known nations of the world. He loved to dust his old grammars; it somehow mildly reminded him of his mortality. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville Tomorrow’s Leap in the Dark is curated by Marie-Elsa Bragg, and, for one night only, we’ve renamed it A Leap of Faith for reasons that will become clear. Marie-Elsa’s guests include: - theologian Professor Paul Fiddes - author Gary Lachman - writer, broadcaster and journalist Paul Vernon - poetry from Asmali Rodrigo - music by Melanie Pappenheim Stay well! The Pale Usher