Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Paulette Jonguitud's Letter from Mexico City

From last week's Leap in the Dark, Paulette Jonguitud's second Letter from Mexico City, reproduced with the author's kind permission. Paulette read the following straight to camera, to a captivated audience. Our thanks to her. She'll join the Company again on 13th June for a night of . . . but that would be telling.

A Letter from Mexico City

by Paulette Jonguitud


Ciudad de México, like many large cities, is a construct: one chooses which neighbourhoods to include in one’s personal map of the city, and one can go years without abandoning that construct, pretending the rest of the city doesn’t exist. 
I’ve never been a fan of this city, I must confess. I’ve left many times, but still find myself here. I’ve fought it like I used to fight anxiety, then I realized that I needed to ride it out. Write it out. 

What’s your favourite place in the city, Mamá?, asks my daughter. The airport. 

Coyotes. I focus on that. The Coyotes Roundabout. We circle it every day to take the kids to school. Or used to, anyway, when there was such a thing as taking the kids to school. The Coyotes Roundabout is a chaotic crossing of two main roads, Universidad and Miguel Angel de Quevedo. It has two statues and a tree; the statues are two black coyotes. In my mind, I see them sniffing each other’s ass. In the middle of the roundabout there’s a dying tree from which politicians hang their ugly faces as electoral propaganda, faces which are never taken down.  

It’s a famous tree planted by someone who once did something other than planting trees. In my memory, the tree is without leaves but covered in colorful rags, leftover traces of elections past. Siri Hustvedt writes that every time we retrieve a memory we add to it, so I’ve just added obscenity and further defaced an already grisly reminiscence. I’m doing it wrong. I’ve painted an appalling picture of the place where I want to begin teaching my children to love this city. Their city. 
Then: it disappeared. 

I’m standing in Miguel Angel de Quevedo, one of two eight-lane streets that lead to a roundabout. All I see is cables. Kilometers’ worth of black cable hanging from light-posts, telephone poles, billboards and tree branches. This city wouldn’t be the chasm that it is if it weren’t for the cables that form a net trough through which we all try to look up at the sky, captivated. 

My gaze comes to rest on the cables for the trolleybuses that at least once every three hours end up stranded in the middle of the road because they’ve lost contact with the parallel overhead lines. I’ve always liked them, so archaic they’ve become modern once again: zero-emissions transport. I’m fond of their green and white carcasses and of the two bulbous plugs from where their antennae sprout. The city moves on, the buses change colors when the Alcalde in turn wants to pretend they’ve updated public transport, but the trolleybuses remain slow and inconvenient, inching their way up Miguel Angel de Quevedo, while cars get smaller around them, trucks convert to electric, girls turn into mothers with miss-behaving daughters.  Beached trolebúses part traffic like pebbles in a shallow stream. They look sad, disconnected from their power source, unable to move, and shaking their antennae like beetles on their backs. 

From where I’m standing I can see more cables than sky, they go in every direction, they’re a highway of their own, they don’t just stretch in- between posts, there’s seven loops of extra cord neatly rolled hanging idle, just in case one needs an extra eighty meters of black, ugly wire. The loops make me angry. Why leave all that extra cord hanging there, just to annoy us citizens? Too many things here seem intentionally foul. I think of cities where one can see an effort to make the place look jolly, clean, livable. Which cities? Other cities. All of them, in my eyes.  There’s probably a good explanation for the hanging loops,  I could look it up in my phone. I rather hate them, uneducated. Why did I choose this specific place to begin my love-thy-city project?

Olive’s school is a block from here, that’s what’s brought me to this location today. She’s misbehaved at school, again. She came back home with the worse possible memento: A White Card. Her school sends color-coded cards to let parents know how their parenting skills are lacking. As if I needed reminding. I wear my own bad-parenting card on my chest everywhere I go, it’s called anxiety. We got the White Card for bad conduct and it loomed over our every activity this weekend. We. She did. I put it on my desk and studied that piece of cardboard that signified my daughter’s humiliation and my failing, or so we are expected to believe. It’s just ink and paper but it pulsed in our house for two and a half days, until it returned to school, signed by a parent. She got it Friday, on her last period, and she almost made it home unscathed. The way she tells it is: she was in Rhythm class and a girl was pulling on her friend’s arm to make her sit away from Olive, so Olive took the maracas and shook them in front of the girls face, twice, in frustration. Or so she says. We’ll see what the teacher conveys once I’m properly committed to my chair in the Principal’s office. I thought we were through with this shit, Olive. I thought you’d matured. I thought six years in this planet was enough for you to understand that we don’t shake maracas in front of people’s noses, even if we think we have a good reason to do it. That’s the problem. Her reasoning. She always has a reason to push boundaries. And for the longest time I let her do it for I was afraid to lose her love. 

I need people to love me, especially my children. I need people to love my children as well, to recognize my parenting as average. I don’t like to stand out. I want to live in ninja-mode. I dread these situations where it’s clear to everyone that I’ve no idea how to be a mother. The women around me seem to have it all figured out, I spy on them during school pickup: they look so put together, pretty, blown-out hair, polished nails, laser-sharp eyeliner, and children that don’t shake maracas on people’s faces. I want to be them and I do my hair and buy the right handbag and wear earrings but to me it’s a costume and I know that they all know it.  I thought we were  through with all this, Olive, but I’m standing here, looking at this pollution of wire wondering why the hell I thought this was a good place to launch my we-live-in-wonderland project. 

I have time so I stroll up the road, to the corner of Miguel Angel and Paseo del Río, and I see myself walking with my children two years ago, Leo asleep in my arms, Olive complaining about knee pain. It was September 19th, the day of the Earthquake, and I parked the car on the other end of Paseo del Río, near Ciudad Universitaria, almost two kilometers away, because the streets were so crowded we could drive no more. I don’t know why but that day I walked down cobbled Paseo del Río rather than taking the easier route down Insurgentes Avenue. I figured if any buildings had collapsed, the mayhem would be apparent in Insurgentes, not in calm, bourgeoisie, Paseo del Río. I was right, it was empty. We walked under it’s stone bridges, Olive picked dandelions and blew them at Leo’s sleeping face, I walked to this corner, a long and solitary walk away from other people’s pain. For the duration of our journey together down that trail, there was no Earthquake, no danger of gas tanks exploding, no children trapped under their school’s debris, just me with Leo sleeping, my arms numb, and Olive begging me to sit and rest under a stone arch. 

It’s not until I stand here that I realize there are five bookstores around the Coyotes. Five. One of them is right in the corner where I stand. My favorite one. The one I feel most at home in. This is where I walked to the day of the Earthquake. I walked to my past. To a safe place. To a bookstore. That day Claudio asked why I had taken such a long detour to get home. I had no answer. I do now.  I spent most my childhood buying books from these five bookstores, I ate lunch with my father across the street, we’d look for records and books in English and he’d meet friends in one of the cafeterias while I read Frank Herbert’s Dune. In prepa, me and my classmates came here looking for Huxley, Orwell and Sontag, thinking we had the world figured out; in University, when I fancied myself a photographer I’d come here to look at Cindy Sherman and Ana Mendieta books I could never afford to buy. There was a man who sold pirated DVD’s of art films you couldn’t get inside the stores and if he didn’t have what you were looking for, he’d find it and bring it over in a week. This was before the internet, so he sold pure gold, in my eyes.  I wonder if he still comes here every night, probably not. Do people still buy DVD’s? Do people still watch movies? A few of my friends have launched their books in one of these five bookstores. I’ve sat and applauded and waited in line for them to sign a copy of themselves dedicated to me. I’ve drunk coffee and wine, here. This is where I took my children on the day of the Earthquake. I took them home.

 Ok, then. I’m beginning to get why I chose this place to start. 


It starts somewhere near my throat. It’s about the size of a coin. A cold coin. A palpitating coin. It pulses inside my neck and sends waves down to my stomach. I feel that I need to run away, I need to escape this body. To crawl out of the way. I’m trapped. My breath grows short and my eyes widen. I might faint. My vision grows narrow and I fall down the long cylinder of a kaleidoscope that keeps rotating. The ever-shifting lights and colors make it hard to walk. So, I stay put, clawing myself out of myself. Scratching my inner walls with bleeding nails. My body turns mineral, there’s no escaping it. I hit it, from the inside, with my fists. It won’t move. It’s dense and about to faint. Strong and shaking. Let me out. I know this and I fear it. I can feel it coming. It likes transition. It spreads its stench from 6 am to 6:07, when its dark and everyone is asleep, when I make coffee or sit on the toilet. I’m hardly awake and that’s when it hits. It likes having me defenseless, lying down, half asleep, tired. Sometimes it launches into me in the middle of the night, when a car backfires outside and wakes me up, it spreads from my pillow and makes me wet. I’m here. You’re mine. I surrender because there is no point in combat. Now that I’m over forty I understand that I need to ride it out. I learnt that in child labor. It feeds on fear and fighting. It feeds on strength and movement. If I stay still it twitters away. It’s like a contraction. I know it’s coming, I know it’ll hurt beyond comprehension, I know I can ride it out because I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again. It hits when I’m distracted. When I feel trapped. In the theatre when it’s hot and the play somewhat boring. I need to get out of this seat.I can’t breathe. My skin bubbles. Cold runs down my hands. I need to get out of this seat. One, two, three, more than twenty people between me and the aisle. Why did I sit in the middle? The play keeps going, everything continues undisturbed and I’m gonna die in this seat. I won’t but in a very real way I’m dying. And now it’s gone. I don’t know how. I’m not sure if it recedes slowly, like the day, or if it just vanishes when I stop monitoring it. I like to dissect it, when it happens. I like to see if it has moving parts. It sometimes returns with a rage and takes over again, for a second. It takes me by surprise and my legs shake. I loathe myself when I’m in its grasp. It makes me feel dirty and weak and it was the one thing I didn’t want to pass on to Olive. Tough luck. She has it. It’s there in her rages. I can see it waving out at me from behind those gigantic eyes. It’s dark and it knows me. Hey, there. I want to scream. I want to rip it out of her, I want to stick my hand down her throat and pull it out. It’s only a glimpse, a haze in her eyes, just brief enough that I can’t name it. As if I would. 

Hey, there. 
My hands freeze. 

When I was pregnant with Olive my hands froze every night. It was hard to sleep, she was such a big baby, her body was so heavy there was no getting comfortable. So, I looked at the ceiling in our blue house, a beautiful ceiling, wood panelled, thick beams. We designed that house from scratch. And then we left it.  My hands were cold and heavy. I felt them turn to ice. Sometimes it made me smile, it felt like a super power. I was some kind of X-man. Pregnant X with hands of ice. I knew what it was. Fear is cold and it makes you sweat. But I also found it funny, this new manifestation, almost childish. Except I couldn’t move my hands. It strikes when I’m tired and I can’t defend myself. I’m always tired, now. Fear is a cannibal. It feeds on fear and I have plenty of it. My mother made sure. And somehow, I made sure Olive has plenty as well. I used to hold her to my chest as a baby and I gave her fear by the mouthful, I was so proud to have so much breastmilk and it was thick, liquid, golden fear. I froze bags full of it. I pumped it out of my tits two times a day and she got fat on it. Her face round like the moon. Leo wouldn’t have it. He preferred formula. He only suckled on fear for six months, if that. Smart boy. My worst time is night. I sit in my study and write in a notebook until I’m calm. I know it’ll hit again. It’s stronger when it hits Olive. That’s when I fear it the most. When it’s finally out of me and into the world. Contagion. I feel poisonous. It’s out there and it’s inside Olive’s tiny body. Oh, forgive me, little one! I’ve no idea how this happened to you. It was the one thing that I tried to keep from you and now we must fight it together. 

Hey there. 
She has her father’s eyes and my anxiety. Isn’t it cute? Isn’t she lovely? 


I miss the city. Go figure. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Spring Journal Canto XI by Jonathan Gibbs

The latest canto of Jonathan Gibbs' Spring Journal, which was read as usual by Michael Hughes on last 
week's Leap in the Dark. As we approach the mid-way point (assuming that the poem will run to 24 
cantos, as did Macneice's Autumn Journal). 

I jokingly observed of an earlier canto that Gibbs was likely to be hampered by his happy marriage -
Macneice's was breaking up and his anger and frustration inform the more private cantos of the original 
poem. 'Happiness writes white' someone said (was it de Montherlant?) but Gibbs finds a way. 

Plans are in hand for an online performance of the entire poem to date . . .


Midway upon the journey of our life together 
We found ourselves in a wide bright clearing.
There was no way of knowing which way to turn,
The path kept appearing then disappearing,
First on this side, then on the other.
The sun beat down; the space seemed to extend
Forever; there was no way onward, we thought,
No route by which to descend
Safely to civilisation. The hike was not aborted,
But on hold,
We sat on our cagoules and opened our rucksacks,
We’d supplies enough, and at least it wasn’t cold
Or raining, as on other hikes, or hailing,
Or blowing a gale: 
This spring is that clearing; we must sit tight
And wait till better conditions prevail.
And while MacNeice heard the sound of his lost love’s voice
As if through a wall
Of indifference and abstraction, 
I hear yours through the door down the hall.
And it’s true we know each other’s voices
In all their moods and modes.
Your voice on the phone, to the children, the cat,
Our voices when we speak in code,
Exploring new entries into a quarrel,
Taking turns at who goes first:
‘I’m not your student!’ ‘Well, I’m not your patient!’
Our lines are very well rehearsed,
For any married couple worth their salt can disagree
On anything at all
If they put their minds to it; love loves nothing like 
The grimly paradoxical.
But listen, Louis: a tempestuous two-year affair will make a very different poem
Than a marriage of twenty-odd years,
The joy and anguish even out, leaving behind something beyond
Either kisses or tears.
But here, in this bright clearing, it’s getting hard to tell apart
The world and us.
We are and are not a mirror the one of the other;
We cannot simply frame it thus
And say: the world is gone awry, but we are all right;
Perhaps we aren’t.
Perhaps the sickness of the world only shows, and amplifies,
The sickness in our heart.
And we were out in the world today; it has become a faded image,
Picnic spots turned to meadow,
Shops boarded up, the great prairie-size advertising
Hoardings tattered and yellow.
Soon they will be renewed and refreshed, when people
Are sure we’ll buy
Whatever trinkets they have to sell us; throw open the doors!
Unleash the supply
Of bread and circuses – put your togas back on.
For this is Roman weather once again,
Though in this circus of death the bloodied victims are
Nowhere to be seen,
They are away in make-shift morgues in hangars and factories,
Neatly out of sight,
When they should pile up in our every thought, their shadows should
Block out the light.
And war had its photographers, skilled at framing evil
For the weekly magazines;
There are no such remembrancers for our tens of thousand dead.
Instead on our screens
We see a familiar menagerie of liars and dissemblers
Blocking the path ahead.
First of these is a leopard: we know this beast well; he’s always changing his spots,
He weaves in place and bobs his head.
Then, behind him, his boss, a cowardly lion,
Though for all that
Ravenous indeed, careless in his appetites, rotten in his thinking,
Contemptuous of caveat.
The last, a male she-wolf, gaunt and wayward and depraved,
And the most dangerous of the three,
He hungers for destruction, with a hunger that goes unsated,
The wolf he scares me, Louis.
He makes me long for a guide, as Dante had a guide,
Who will lead us up the hill
To truth, though in truth his route to Heaven
Began by going down to Hell.
And Louis, if he appeared before me now, would say, ‘Jonathan
There is no Heaven, you know this,
And if there were I could not guide you. I was no good husband or lover, 
As I’m sure you noticed.
Noticing, not guiding, is what I did. That she-wolf,
Who has poisoned your already poisoned spring,
That’s good. Keep doing that.’ And he goes, and we sit, the two of us,
And look at each other, in this wide bright clearing. 

Monday, 1 June 2020

Daša Drndić’s EEG

Last Friday night the distinguished translator Celia Hawkesworth made a second appearance on A Leap in the Dark, the day after it was announced in New York that she had won the 2020 Best Translated Book Award. 

Celia and her publisher Katharina Bielenberg at MacLehose Press spoke about EEG by the great Croatian writer Daša Drndić, who died in June 2018. They were joined by Susan Curtis of Istros Books and the three women shared memories of the writer as a friend. Look up photographs of Drndić online and you'll see an extraordinarily dynamic and charismatic person - you can pratcially hear her. What I've read so far impresses me hugely - she is not a writer offering easy consolation, or any consolation in fact, and her characters are not, in that dread word, 'relatable'. Her writing is 'difficult'. rebarbative, spiky - and essential.

You can find EEG and other books by the author on the MacLehose website here. And her superb novel Doppelgänger published by Istros Books here.

Celia has kindly shared the citation for her award:

The 2020 Best Translated Book Awards—announced in a livestreaming event earlier this evening—were given to Daša Drndić’s EEG and Etel Adnan’s Time.

EEG, translated from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth and published by New Directions, won for fiction. Lebanese-American Adnan’s Time, translated from the French by Sarah Riggs and published by Nightboat, took the poetry prize.

EEG was Drndić’s last novel, and the fourth translated by Hawkesworth, who has translated nearly 40 books in an accomplished career. Drndić is the first female author to win the fiction category since Can Xue in 2015, though as translators, men and woman are equally represented throughout the years. It is the third time New Directions has taken home this award.

Of EEG, the jury says:

Dasa Drndic in her encyclopedic, panoramic novel, superbly translated by Celia Hawkesworth, calls forth the ghosts of Europe’s 20th century in a biting indictment against complacency and the comfort and convenience of forgetting. A frenzy of observations and deeply researched facts, seething with rage and urgency, it is a haunting and masterful final work. A final work that continues on like a river. It rushes, rages through time, collecting detritus and eroding the landscape, shifting and changing at every bend. It smothers and subsumes, with palpable anger as it attempts to drown the reader again and again before granting them air at the last possible moment. There may be no better descriptor for Hawkesworth’s translation of Drndić’s prose than torrential. You may struggle and try to resist, but at a certain point, you will let yourself be swept away by it. You will give in and trust that it knows which way to go. Once in that place, EEG holds and envelops like few books in memory have.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

May index

Here are links to my daily blogs in May. These offer a paper trail of A Leap in the Dark, the gatherings I organise on Fridays and Saturdays. These are not recorded (deliberately, as I want them to be ephemeral) but I'm happy to share texts (with the contributor's permission) and the odd commentary or reflection.

May 1st  Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! - A Leap in the Dark 9, promoted

May 2nd A Leap in the Dark with CB editions - the 10th Leap. Charles Boyle curates a special night

May 3rd A Letter from Dinan - by Susanna Crossman

May 4th Mind your hats goan in - Finneganight revisited

May 5th 'Dross' by Julian Stannard - a poem that featured in A Leap in the Dark on 10th May

May 6th April index - links to all of last month's daily blogs

May 7th Bluebeard by Guy Wetmore Carryl - this blog's equivalent to a testcard

May 8th A Leap in the Dark 11 - the latest Leap

May 9th A Leap in the Dark 12 - another Saturday night . . .

May 10th Home, Sisters -  a prize-winning short story by Emma Devlin

May 11th The Pale Usher's Unusual Literary Quiz - the answers

May 12th Jacko, Prince and me - from the unpublished 'All Along the Watchtower'

May 13th Spring Journal Canto VIII - by Jonathan Gibbs

May 14th On the Hogarth Roundabout - an attempt at psychogeography

May 15th A Leap in the Dark 13 - all the regular features, plus six blazing poets

May 16th A Leap in the Dark 14 - Nicholas Royle curates an evening with Nightjar Press

May 17th About last night - afterthoughts on this week's Leaps

May 18th A Zoom with a View - some thoughts on cyber security and the 'threatscape'

May 19th Some thoughts on experimental fiction - in response to Naomi Frisby

May 20th A Verlaine translation - keeping my hand in

May 21st On Joanna Walsh and Vertigo - a flimsy pretext to publish an unpublished blog

May 22nd A Leap in the Dark 15 - focus on Northern Ireland

May 23rd A Leap in the Dark 16 - translation slam with Frank Wynne and Daniel Hahne

May 24th Seed by Joanna Walsh - a preview

May 25th Spring Journal Canto X - by Jonathan Gibbs

May 26th Last Week in Marienbad - a Robbe-Grillet translation slam

May 27th On dvandas - a recycled blog from 2014

May 28th A discovery an unpublished letter from T S Eliot

May 29th A Leap in the Dark 17 - the Binding Problem

May 30th A Leap in the Dark 18 - Henningham Family Press and others

May 31st May index - no link, because it might create a black hole or something

Saturday, 30 May 2020

A Leap in the Dark: Saturday 30th May

A Leap in the Dark 18    8pm Saturday 30th May 2020

A focus on fiction this evening, with book talk and readings from Claire Allen, whose debut novel The Blackbird is published by Henningham Family Press. We’ll hear from Kevin Boniface, Heidi James and Kevin Duffy. There will be some fine poetry from Phil Hancock, reading from his debut collection City Works Dept. And David Henningham will sing two songs from An Unknown Soldier, the Henninghams’ ambitious collaborative artwork commemorating the dead of the Great War. 

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

1 The Pale Usher welcomes you

2 Claire Allen on her new novel ‘The Blackbird’ with the Henninghams

3 Letter from Huddersfield with Kevin Boniface 

4 Poetry from Philip Hancock


5 David Henningham on ‘An Unknown Soldier’, with two songs: ‘Hymn for the 
  Two Boat Service’ and ‘At Roneo Works’

6 The Settee Salon with Heidi James and Kevin Duffy

7 Philip Hancock reads again

9 The Pale Usher signs off with news of an 'open mic' night

The Company

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Pale Usher is David Collard, who organises these gigs.

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

Our next Leap in the Dark on Friday 5th June features 

- Canto XII of Spring Journal by Jonathan Gibbs, read by Michael Hughes

- Letter from Dinan by Susanna Crossman

- Dust off your chakras for a Yoga session with David 'Guru Dave' Holzer

- Dirty martinis with the Pale Usher

Please remember to make a donation to The Trussell Trust (or your local equivalent)

Stay well!

The Pale Usher

Friday, 29 May 2020

A Leap in the Dark Friday 29th May

A Leap in the Dark 17    8pm Friday 29th May 2020

After the latest canto of Spring Journal and Guru Dave’s weekly yoga class the novelist Paulette Jonguitud delivers her second Letter from Mexico City (and you can read the first here.). After the interval the Settee Salon returns with psychologist and author Hugh Fulham-McQuillan in conversation with the novelists Eley Williams and Kevin Davey, and they’ll be looking into the so-called Binding Problem, a fascinating aspect of neuro-psychology and the science of the mind that addresses a fundamental question: how do we make sense of the world? Poet Amy McCauley offers a commentary from her collection OEDIPA (Guillemot Press).

Eley and Kevin will read from their forthcoming novels The Liar’s Dictionary (William Heinemann) and Radio Joan (Aaargh! Press).

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

1 The Pale usher welcomes you

2 Spring Journal canto XI by Jonathan Gibbs, read by Michael Hughes

3 Yoga with David Holzer

4 Paulette Jonguitud’s Letter from Mexico City


5 Settee Salon: the Binding Problem with Hugh Fulham-McQuillan, Kevin 
  Davey, Eley Williams and Amy McCauley

Kevin Davey reads from Radio Joan

7 Eley Williams reads from A Liar’s Dictionary

8 The Pale Usher signs off

The Company

Kevin Davey is the author of Playing Possum, shortlisted for Goldsmiths Prize 2017, and Radio Joan (forthcoming, June 2020). Both are published by Aaaargh! Press.

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.

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.

Each Friday David will take 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.

Paulette Jonguitud lives in Mexico City. She is the author of Mildew (CB editions) and Algunas margaritas y sus fantasmas. 

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.

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.

The Pale Usher is David Collard, who organises these gigs.

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

Our next Leap in the Dark tomorrow night features:

- author Claire Allen on her fine new novel The Blackbird

- two songs by David Henningham

- poetry by Philip Hancock

- a Letter from Huddersfield by Kevin Boniface

- the Settee Salon with author Heidi James and publisher Kevin Duffy of 
  Bluemoose Books

Please remember to make a donation to The Trussell Trust (or your local equivalent)

Stay well!

The Pale Usher