Friday 8 May 2020

A Leap in the Dark - Friday night's programme

Here's tonight's programme, released insomniacly at just after 3am. Invitees will get their unique link and password at 7:45pm and the show starts at 8pm. For reasons that will become plain The Pale Usher will be hosting the Leap from a mystery location . . .

A Leap in the Dark 11    8pm Friday 8th May 2020

The latest canto from Spring Journal by Jonathan Gibbs, read by Michael Hughes; a shocking Chinese novel introduced by its translator Nicky Harman and publisher Daniel Yang Li; a live yoga lesson from a small town in Hungary; composer/musician Bird Radio presents extracts from his project inspired by the poetry of Ted Hughes, and some thoughts on a famous photograph by Mark Gerson.

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 Welcome from the Pale Usher

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

3 Contemporary Chinese fiction: Jia Pingwa’s Broken Wings with translator Nicky Harman and 
  publisher Daniel Li.

"I’ll never forget that evening. The villagers got so drunk that three of them toppled over onto the ground, puked and then lay still. The dog went to lick up the vomit, got drunk and lay still as well. The rest of them carried on drinking until they’d finished two pitchers and opened the third. Meantime, I was inspecting the cave, plotting how I could make my getaway."

4 David Holzer’s yoga class, live from a small town in Hungary.


5 Composer and musician Mikey (aka Bird Radio) talks about CROW, a project 
  inspired by the poetry of Ted Hughes.

  Max Porter (author of Grief is the Thing with Feathers) writes:

“Crow would be thrilled, I think. Bird Radio has got the swagger, and the terrible romanticism, and the sweetness in the bleakness. It’s deeply felt and riveting. Lots of work about or inspired by Crow is scared to be beautiful. He has to be beautiful or the ugliness fails”. 

6 Five Faber Poets - some thoughts about Mark Gerson’s celebrated photograph of five Faber 
  poets, taken on 23rd June 1960

9 The Pale Usher signs off

The Company

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, 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.

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.


Please take care when practicing yoga. If any pose feels 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 you should stop practicing at once.    
        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.

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.

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.

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 currently 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. 

Daniel Yang Li works for a family-run publishers based in Surrey.

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

Tomorrow’s Leap in the Dark (Saturday 9th) includes 

- three musical pieces performed by the composer Helen Ottaway

- author and artist Sara Baume on her new book handiwork (Tramp Press)

- author Emma Devlin reading her prize-winning short story ‘Home, Sisters’

- The Settee Salon with Heidi James (author) and Kevin Duffy (Bluemoose Books)  

Please donate to The Trussell Trust. And stay well!

The Pale Usher 

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