Since lockdown began I've been organising 'A Leap in the Dark', a twice-weekly online gathering in which writers, poets, publishers, performers, academics, singers, musicians, critics, publishers, film-makers and other creatives come together to share new work and throw some light in these dark times.
What started as a 20-minute chat between the translator Frank Wynne, author Neil Griffiths and publisher Sam Mills soon developed into a 90-minute format with contributors from all over the world.
Last night's Leap was the twentieth, and hosted by Sam Jordison and Eloise Millar of Galley Beggar Press, the Norwich-based independent publishers. They introduced a brilliant line up of their writers: James Clammer, Paul Ewen, Gerry Feehily, Susanna Gendall, Sam Jordison, Vijay Khurana, Isha Karki, Toby Litt, Alex Pheby, Paul Stanbridge and Preti Taneja. Superb readings of poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction and a couple of banging tunes from Paul S on guitar.
It's all for a good cause - the events are free and audiences are invited to make donations to The Trussell Trust, which organises food banks throughout the UK, or the local equivalent elsewhere.
I've been collating the contributor's notes and to my astonishment I see there have to date been nearly 100 contributors - a superb cohort of talents, listed below. I am so grateful to them all.
Astrid Alben is a poet, editor and translator (Dutch/English). Astrid is the author of Ai! Ai! Pianissimo (Arc Publications, 2011) and Plainspeak (Prototype Publishing, 2019).
She is the editor of Findings on Ice, Findings on Elasticity and Findings on Light, all published by Lars Müller Publishers. She is a trustee of Poetry London and the Poetry Translation Centre.
Bird Radio is Mikey Kirkpatrick, a composer, improviser, and performer creating solo albums and stage shows as well as collaborating with filmmakers, poets and sound artists. His first two solo albums were released on cult label Cherry Red Records, including his Walter de la Mare song-cycle Oh, Happy England, composed on Benjamin Britten's piano while on a residency at Snape Maltings. His most recent album CROW with sound artists Pig7 is based on the book by Ted Hughes, and premiered at the Port Eliot Festival and Edinburgh Fringe in 2018. During the lockdown, Mikey is broadcasting live daily flute improvisations via digital radio, collaborating with musicians and poets around the world and developing an online version of his music-lab and mentoring project 'Alchemy' for at risk 14-18 year olds, which usually runs every weekend at Goldsmiths University.
Claire Allen grew up in Liverpool and lives in London. She teaches English literature and creative writing at City Lit. Her first two novels, The Mountain of Light (2004) and Protection (2006), were published by Headline Review. Her books have been translated into French and Greek.
Chiara Ambrosio is a visual artist working with video and animation. Her work is an exploration into ideas of memory, loss and illusion through the use of animation, photography and video installation. Her website http://www.acuriousroom.com/ENTER.html
Alba Arikha is an author of fiction and non-fiction. An opera based on her memoir Major/Minor, with music by her husband, composer Tom Smail, will be performed at the Playground Theatre in October 2020. She is also a singer/songwriter, and has performed in London and Paris, where she grew up. CBe publishes her Soon. Lockdown Piano, performed this evening for Leap in the Dark, can be heard/seen on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=outwF3ZZHYM
Kate Armstrong was born in Crewe and grew up in Yorkshire. Her first novel The Storyteller was published by Holland House Books in 2016 and was long listed for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. She is currently working on a memoir about mental collapse, recovery, and Himalayan climbing, tentatively called Beyond The Mountain.
Nina Bogin, originally from New York, has lived for over forty years in France. Her most recent poetry collection is Thousandfold (Carcanet, 2019) and her translation of Agota Kristof’s The Illiterate was published by CBe in 2014.
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
Charles Boyle runs CB editions, an independent press publishing short fiction and poetry, including work in translation. Writing as Jack Robinson, his most recent book is Good Morning, Mr Crusoe (CBe, 2019), a polemical piece marking the 300th anniversary of Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe. He collaborated with the artist Natalia Zagorska-Thomas on the monograph Blush (2018).
Beverley Bie Brahic is a poet and translator based in California and France. Her most recent poetry collection is The Hotel Eden (Carcanet), CBe publishes her White Sheets and Hunting the Boar, and her translations of Francis Ponge (Unfinished Ode to Mud) and Apollinaire (The Little Auto), for which she won the Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize. www.beverleybiebrahic.com
Susanna Crossman is an award-winning Anglo-French fiction writer and essayist. She has recent/upcoming work in Trauma, Dodo Ink (2020), Neue Rundschau, (2019) S. Fischer (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/
Susan Curtis is the Founding Director of Istros Books, an independent publisher of contemporary literature from South East Europe, based in Bloomsbury, London. Istros Books was set up in 2011 to showcase the very best fiction and non-fiction from the Balkan region to a new audience of English speakers. Its authors include European prize winners, polemic journalists-turned-crime writers and social philosophers-turned-poets. Susan is also a sometime writer and translator from BCMS.
Kevin Davey is an academic and novelist, the author of Playing Possum (Aaaargh! Press) and the forthcoming Radio Joan. His non-fiction publications includes English Imaginaries.
Emma Devlin is a graduate of Queen’s University Belfast. Her work has featured in Blackbird and The Bangor Literary Journal. She can be found on Twitter: @theactualemma. Her short story Home, Sisters won the 2019 Benedict Kiely prize.
Roberta Dewa published three historical novels with Robert Hale when in her twenties. There followed a short story collection, Holding Stones (Pewter Rose Press, 2009), and, in 2013, a memoir, The Memory of Bridges, and a contemporary novel, The Esplanade (Weathervane Press, 2014). Since retiring from university teaching, she has been writing poetry and short stories again, and in 2017 won the Willesden Herald prize. Her latest story, ‘Hide’, has just appeared from Nightjar.
Declan O'Driscoll regularly reviews fiction (mostly in translation) for The Irish Times and The Dublin Review of Books and recently made his debut in the TLS. In the past, he wrote about jazz and improvised music for a number of publications, most of which no longer exist (but that's not his fault).
Kevin Duffy runs Bluemoose Books is an independent publisher based in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. Kevin and Hetha Duffy re-mortgaged their house to start Bluemoose in 2006 and are today among the leading indie publishers in Britain. http://bluemoosebooks.com
Will Eaves is a novelist and intermittent poet. Published by CBe: The Absent Therapist, The Inevitable Gift Shop, Murmur (winner of the 2019 Wellcome Prize, co-winner of the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize and (forthcoming, September 2020) Broken Consort. With Sophie Scott, he co-presents The Neuromantics – ‘a monthly podcast for writers, psychologists, neuroscientists, poets, philosophers, comedians, musicians, and anyone interested in the exchange of ideas’.
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.
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.
Gary Fisher is a sound artist and experimental composer whose work explores sound through processes of inquiry and experimentation with objects, actions, words, places and technologies. He records, composes, performs and creates installations with various sound materials and approaches including found objects, found sounds from collected tapes and records, and invented instruments.
Hugh Fulham-McQuillan is an Irish writer from Dublin. His short story collection Notes on Jackson and His Dead is published with Dalkey Archive Press in the US. His writing has appeared in The Stinging Fly, Ambit, 3:AM, Dalkey Archive's Best European Fiction anthology, gorse, and Minor Literature[s] among other places. He is currently working on a novel.
Jonathan Gibbs is a writer and critic. His first novel, Randall, was published in 2014 by Galley Beggar, and his second, The Large Door, by Boiler House Press last year. He has written on books for various places including the TLS, Brixton Review of Books and The Guardian. He curates the online short story project A Personal Anthology, in which writers, critics and others are invited to 'dream-edit' an anthology of their favourite short fiction. Spring Journal is a response to the current coronavirus pandemic taking its cue very directly from Louis MacNeice's Autumn Journal.
Paul Griffiths lives in Wales, where he was born in 1947. His novels include let me tell you (Reality Street Editions, 2008), which uses only the words Ophelia speaks in Hamlet – as does his Nightjar story, ‘so this is it’ (2019). He has also written extensively on music. His new novel, Mr. Beethoven, is published by Henningham Family Press. For further information see www.disgwylfa.com.
Daniel Hahne is a writer, editor and translator, with some seventy books to his name. His work has won him the International Dublin Literary Award, the Blue Peter Book Award, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and has been shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, among others. He is a past chair of the Society of Authors, and the trustee of a number of organisations that work with literature and free expression.
Philip Hancock’s collection City Works Dept. appeared from CB editions in 2018. His debut pamphlet Hearing Ourselves Think (Smiths Knoll, 2009) was a Guardian Book of the Year. A second pamphlet Just Help Yourself (Smiths Knoll) appeared in 2016. Jelly Baby, a film-poem, screened at various short film festivals and was published by Areté.
Nicky Harman lives in the UK and translates full-time from Chinese, focussing on fiction, literary non-fiction, and occasionally poetry. When not translating, she works on Paper-Republic.org, a non-profit website promoting Chinese literature in translation, where she is also a Trustee. She organizes translation-focused events, mentors new translators, gives regular talks and workshops on translation, and judges translation competitions. She was co-Chair of the Translators Association (Society of Authors, UK) from 2014 to 2017. She blogs on Asian Books Blog, and tweets, with Helen Wang, as China Fiction Book Club @cfbcuk.
Celia Hawkesworth worked for many years as Senior Lecturer in Serbian and Croatian at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College, London. She has published numerous articles and several books on Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian literature, including the studies Ivo Andric: Bridge between East and West (Athlone Press, 1984); Voices in the Shadows: Women and Verbal Art in Serbia and Bosnia (CEU Press, 2000); and Zagreb: A Cultural History (Oxford University Press, 2007). Her translation of Belladonna by Daša Drndić was the 2018 winner of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation and in 2019 she was awarded the Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize for Literary Translation for her translation of Omer Pasha Latas by the Nobel laureate Ivo Andrić (published by New York Review Books).
David Hayden was born in Ireland and lives in England. His writing has appeared in The Stinging Fly, Granta online, Zoetrope All-Story, The Dublin Review, AGNI and PN Review, in the Faber New Irish Writing anthology Being Various, edited by Lucy Caldwell, and on BBC and RTÉ radio. His first book was Darker With the Lights On.
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.
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.
David Holzer is a dedicated yogi, author, blogger and journalist. He founded YogaWriters and has taught workshops in yoga for writers in Mallorca, where he lives. Hundreds of people have taken his Yoga for Writers course on the DailyOm platform. His writing appears regularly in Om yoga and lifestyle magazine.
David will be explaining why yoga is so beneficial for writers and taking us through a simple yoga sequence that can be done by anyone of any age in the comfort of a favourite chair.
Please take care when practicing yoga. Should a pose feel that it could be harmful to you, do not attempt it or come gently out of the pose.
Breathing is a key part of yoga. Please breathe comfortably and naturally through your nose at all times. If your breath becomes forced, slow down the speed of your practice.
If you feel any kind of sharp, sudden pain anywhere in your body stop practicing right away. Be especially aware of your joints, particularly your knees.
Michael Hughes is the author of two acclaimed 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.
Heidi James is the author of So the Doves, Wounding and The Mesmerist's Daughter. Her novel forthcoming novel, The Sound Mirror, will be published by Bluemoose Books in August 2020.
Paulette Jonguitud lives in Mexico City. She is the author of Mildew (CB editions) and Algunas margaritas y sus fantasmas. https://paulettejonguitud.com
Anna Kenyon leads a nebulous middle-class existence (she says) as a classical music PR, caterer and singer. She is a keen Nemoist.
Daniel Yang Li works as Book Marketer for Alain Charles Asia publishing.
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.
Oscar Mardell is a teacher and writer - originally from South Wales, but currently living in Auckland, New Zealand. He is a frequent contributor to 3:AM Magazine, and poet of the month at The Inquisitive Eater. He is the author of Rex Tremendae - a ghost story set in the rubble of the Blitz, and Housing Haunted Housing - a collection of poems about Brutalist architecture.
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.
Todd McEwen was born in California and now lives in Edinburgh. His The Five Simple Machines was published by CBe in 2013. Who Sleeps with Katz (‘One of the great American novels’- Salon), first published by Granta in 2002, is reissued by CBe in June.
Wyl Menmuir was born in 1979 in Stockport. He lives on the north coast of Cornwall with his wife and two children and works as a freelance editor and literacy consultant. His first novel, The Many (Salt), was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016. His second novel, Fox Fires, is forthcoming, also from Salt. His Nightjar story, ‘Rounds’, was published in 2016.
Alison Moore’s first novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Awards, winning the McKitterick Prize. Three further novels and a collection, The Pre-War House and Other Stories, have been published by Salt as well as a series of books for children. Born in Manchester in 1971, she lives near Nottingham with her husband Dan and son Arthur. She has had four stories published by Nightjar, most recently ‘Broad Moor’ in 2019.
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
Simon Okotie is the author of three novels together making up an acclaimed trilogy: Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon? (2012), In the Absence of Absalon (2017) and After Absalon (2020). They are all published by Salt and available here: https://www.saltpublishing.com/collections/author-okotie-simon
Aisha Orazbayeva is a violinist from Kazakhstan. She also writes and has had plays broadcast on the radio. She gained notice for her performance of Salvatore Sciarrino’s caprices. Her website: aishaorazbayeva.com
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 and Esme Herbert are mother and daughter singers and musicians
Ian Patterson is a writer and poet, retired academic, translator, former second-hand bookseller, and the editor of Nemo's Almanac. He translated Proust's Finding Time Again (Le temps retrouvé) for Penguin. Guernica and Total War was published by Profile in 2007. His most recent book of poetry is Bound to Be (Equipage, 2017). Marsh Air is forthcoming. His elegy for Jenny Diski, 'The Plenty of Nothing', won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, 2017. At the moment he's writing a book about books.
Giles Perring is a musician and composer based on the Isle of Jura. http://www.soundofjura.com/about.html
Leone Ross is the author of two novels, All the Blood is Red (Angela Royal Publishing) and Orange Laughter (Anchor), and a short story collection, Come Let Us Sing Anyway (Peepal Tree Press). She works as a senior lecturer at Roehampton University. Her third novel, This One Sky Day, is forthcoming from Faber & Faber. Her website is at www.leoneross.com. Nightjar published her story, ‘The Woman Who Lived in a Restaurant’, in 2015.
Nicholas Royle is the author of three short story collections – Mortality, Ornithology, The Dummy and Other Uncanny Stories – and seven novels, from Counterparts to First Novel. He is series editor of Best British Short Stories (Salt) and a Reader in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. He founded Nightjar Press in 2019, to publish signed, limited-edition short stories in chapbook format. A new collection, London Gothic, is forthcoming from Confingo Publishing.
Anakana Schofield is an Irish-Canadian author. Born in England to an Irish mother, she lived in London and Dublin until moving to Vancouver in 1999. She won the 2012 Amazon.ca First Novel Award and the Debut-Litzer Prize for Fiction in 2013 for her debut novel Malarky. Her second novel Martin John was published in 2015 and was shortlisted for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the 2016 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize, and the 2017 ReLit Award for fiction.
She has also been a literary critic, essayist and broadcaster, contributing to the London Review of Books Blog, The Globe and Mail, CBC Radio, The Guardian, The Irish Times and the Vancouver Sun.
Julian Stannard lived and taught for many years in Genoa. His most recent poetry book – with artwork by Roma Tearne – is Average is the New Fantastico (Green Bottle Press). CBe publishes his What Were You Thinking? He co-edited a CBe book about Michael Hofmann, The Palm Beach Effect. A film of his poem ‘Sottoripa’ (about a district of Genoa) is on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/81617966
Matt Thomas was born in Wales and lives in South London. He has worked as a journalist and in museums. His short stories can be found in Foci, Ghostland and the Ink Anthology. His Nightjar story, ‘Living Together’, was published in 2018.
Rhys Trimble was born in Zambia in 1977. He is a bilingual poet, text artist, performer, drummer, editor, critic, collaborator, shaman, staff-wielder and shoutyman based in Wales. He is interested in avant-garde poetry and Welsh metrics. He has authored more than 15 books of poetry in Wales, England, India and the US since 2010, including Swansea Automatic, Anatomy Mnemonics for Caged Waves (US) and Hexerisk. Since 2008 he has edited the experimental poetry e-zine ctrl+alt-del.
Aea Varfis-van Warmelo is a trilingual actor and writer.
Dai Vaughan (1933–2012) was an editor and producer of documentary films. He wrote on film (For Documentary: Twelve Essays, 1999) and also published fiction. CBe published his Sister of the Artist in the year that he died, and – posthumously – his pamphlet Parallel Texts.
Anna Vaught is a novelist, poet, essayist, short fiction writer, reviewer and editor; she is also a secondary English teacher, tutor and mentor to young people, mental health advocate, volunteer and mum to a large brood. Anna's third novel Saving Lucia, about Violet Gibson, the Irish aristocrat who shot Mussolini, is published by Bluemoose in April 2020 and available here: https://bluemoosebooks.com/books/saving-lucia-by-anna-vaught Her first short story collection, Famished, will be published by Influx in September 2020. www.annavaughtwrites.com
Joanna Walsh is an internationally-published writer of fiction and creative nonfiction. She is also a critic (The Guardian, The New Statesman, Los Angeles Review of Books), and an editor at 3:AM Magazine and gorse editions. She was a judge on the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize and won the Arts Foundation Award for Creative Non-fiction in 2017. She founded @read_women. She is the author of Vertigo, Hotel, Fractals, Grow A Pair, Worlds From The Word’s End and the digital work Seed-story.com. Her ‘novel in essays’ Break.up was published in the UK by Tuskar Rock Press and in the US by Semiotext(e) in Spring 2018.
Emma Warnock is the editor at No Alibis Press, a small and relatively new independent publisher of fiction based in Belfast and founded by David Torrans, owner of No Alibis Bookstore. 2020 publications are Seed by Joanna Walsh and a new collection from Ian Sansom. Information about publications, episodes of podcasts and videos, and contact details are available at: www.noalibispress.com
CDN Warren is a typographic/typewriter artist and writer based in the UK. His work has been exhibited several times, in Beijing (China), Hyrynsalmi (Finland) and the UK. His work is interested in various aspects of typographic experimentation, from painstakingly rendered graphic works on a range of manual typewriters, to computer-designed and hand-drawn visual works and concrete poetry. His website is at https://cdnwarren.co.uk.
Matthew Welton was born in Nottingham, lives in Nottingham, and teaches creative writing at the University of Nottingham. His publications include The Book of Matthew (2003), 'We needed coffee but...' (2009), The Number Poems (2013) and Squid Squad: A Novel (2020), all published by Carcanet.
Conrad Williams is the author of ten novels. His short fiction is collected in Use Once Then Destroy, Born With Teeth and I Will Surround You. He has won the British Fantasy award, the International Guild award and the Littlewood Arc prize. His new novel, One Who Was With Me, will be out in October 2020. His story for Nightjar was ‘The Jungle’ (2013).
Eley Williams is a poet and author of the prize-winning short story collection Attrib. (Influx Press). Her forthcoming novel A Liar’s Dictionary will be published by William Heinemann later this year. She lectures at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Frank Wynne is a literary translator. Born in Ireland, he moved to France in 1984 where he discovered a passion for language. He worked as a bookseller in Paris and again when he moved to London in 1987. He translated and published comics and graphic novels and from 1996-2001 he worked in online media.
He began translating literature in the late 1990s, and in 2001 decided to devote himself to this full time. He has translated works by, among others, Michel Houellebecq, Frédéric Beigbeder, Ahmadou Kourouma, Boualem Sansal, Claude Lanzmann, Tómas Eloy Martínez and Almudena Grandes. His work has earned him a number of awards, including the Scott Moncrieff Prize and the Premio Valle Inclán. His translation of Vernon Subutex was shortlisted for the Man Booker International 2018 and his translation of Animalia by Jean-Baptiste de Amo won the 2020 Republic of Consciousness prize. His website is www.terribleman.com
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