Friday, 21 August 2020

Intermittent Photos no. 6: Poetry Special

 Taken in 2015, the poets are my former colleague Rosie Miles and Liz Berry. Rosie is sporting a bespoke book-themed shirt made for her by a friend. Liz Berry is an award-winning poet who single-handedly made the Black Country accent chic. You can't talk to anyone from the London Review of Books without enduring their attempt to address yow as 'bab'. 

(The bald head is a member of the audience. I just liked it). 

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Intermittent photos 4: British Youth Championships 2015

 I think this one was in London, at UEL's Sportsdock, though all sports halls look the same after a while. I vaguely remember the standard not being as high as usual, and having a conversation with a coach about appropriate vocabulary when criticising an actual child's performance. 

Apparently fencing is now legal again, but close-quarters action is still banned. As I'm quite short, my entire approach is close-quarters, so yet again the Lanky Mafia conspire to keep me out of the national rankings. Bah. 

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Intermittent authors no. 3: Eimear McBride

I'm still in the mood for author photos, so here are some of Eimear McBride. I made her novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing a set text for the first-years' introductory module, 'Literature and Identity', a year after it was published, certain that it would amaze, delight, horrify and endure for years to come (I think I've been vindicated). We invited Eimear to talk to the students and give a public reading and interview in the evening. She was amazing with the students: drawing them out, explaining her artistic practice, telling them the reality of being a writer with a vision despite the setbacks, and filling in the cultural gaps between them and her. She was also very very funny (in my heavily annotated copy of the novel, she wrote 'all your theories about my book are wrong': I think she was joking), despite the grim subject matter of her novel. The public lecture was similar: I asked a very bright colleague to do the 'in conversation' bit, and the talk flowed beautifully. It turned out that Eimear is also a huge fan of melancholic 90s indie, so we paid her in money but also in Asphalt Ribbons bootlegs. 

Monday, 10 August 2020

Intermittent Photos No. 2: Author!

 I had home internet installed today. I hate it. I liked having a home space demarcated from work space by the absence of a technology that's sold as freedom but actually serves to ensure that work pervades domestic space and time in less ergonomic comfort…and at my own expense. 

However, it means I can resume the Intermittent Photos series without sitting on the pavement outside my actual office. Today's is very timely: it's from Niall Griffiths' professorial inaugural lecture here. He was for a too-short time our Prof of Creative Writing, and a very good one he was: generous, learned, encouraging and thoroughly disreputable, but also a prime example of an actually working author, with all the economic woes that entails these days. Niall was my suggestion: I think he's a genuinely great author, a deep thinker, and also a reminder that being creative means not conforming to the deadening ethos of professionalism and politeness. 

Niall's inaugural lecture horrified the puritanical, unintelligent Dean imposed on us in that dark time: he was scruffy, regional, unapologetic and didn't pretend to be humble when it came to talking about his art, which is exactly how a creative reader should be. His lecture was on Basil Bunting's poetry, and was a dazzling exposition of that semi-forgotten poet's genius. The only thing the Dean remembered from it was Niall's one swear-word. 

Niall's early work was pigeon-holed as Welsh Welsh: tales of the Welsh underclass in untranslated dialect: all true, but there's more going on there, at the political, artistic and structural levels. His work mostly deals with the legacies of border identities and generations of social damage: while Sheepshagger and Runt are shocking versions of naturalism, Wreckage is my favourite, a tale of two Welsh-Irish Liverpudlians on a crime spree across North Wales, interleaved with accounts of the immediate and historic atrocities that produced them. Niall thinks it's his worst novel but he's wrong. 

One of the books he wrote while our colleague was Broken Ghost, which won the Wales Book of the Year last week: there's a scene set in this fair city and I, and the department, are in the acknowledgements! It's a kind of transcendental bottom-dog Brexit novel, and yet far more moving and profound than that summary could communicate. 

Monday, 3 August 2020

Intermittent photos no 1: a nice cold beach

Seeing as I'm sitting outside my office to pick up wi-fi to do extra work (chiz chiz), some photos of where I'd rather be, i.e in the rain on Rossbeigh or buying horses at Puck Fair. But not on that fairground ride. Ugh.