2020 has proved to be a strange and traumatic year for all of us, and we have all found different ways of coping. Something that has kept me going has been my creative work. Here’s a month-by-month breakdown of the highlights.
In mid January Sampson Low published a chapbook of nocturnal poems and artwork entitled Self Portrait by Night. Most of the poems were written as a pithy, controlled counterbalance to my previous noisy, messy book, Void Voices. Alban at Sampson Low did a terrific job with Self Portrait, transforming my little poems and pictures into a beautiful artefact.
From 20 January to 22 February four visual poems from my cycle (dis/re)membered were included in Temporary Spaces, a superb exhibition at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden, London. The pieces were also included in a gorgeous catalogue published by Pamenar Press.
Another visual poem from the cycle was published by ReVerse Butcher in the January edition of Burning House Press. Meanwhile, a visual poem from a different series (Monster) was published on the cover of Petrichor.
Visual poems from (dis/re)membered and Monster appeared in Burning House Press and Fake, a chapbook that would have accompanied a Corrupted Poetry exhibition, had it not been for the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown. Meanwhile, I turned by attention to film poems and posted one called “Dark Matter” on this website. Two others (featuring the Bird King) followed: “Deeper Birth” and one of my personal favourites, “Disappearances”.
I also issued my long visual poem Grey Matter as a free PDF.
Two visual poems from a sequence called The Sea as a Metaphor for Death were published by RIC Journal.
Another three visual poems (this time from Chimera) were published by talking about strawberries all of the time.
A very small sideline of mine is translation. I had posted some translations of poems by Belgian surrealist poets to Twitter off and on over a couple of months. At the invitation of Bill Herbert, my translation of a short prose poem by Paul Colinet was posted at New Boots and Pantisocracies. The piece resonated strangely with lockdown, so I was glad to be given the opportunity to share it.
I also had the honour of providing cover art for D C Wojciech’s poetry collection, The Longest Breath, a book characterised by dreamlike imagery and expressive range. Highly recommended!
Finally, I issued my illustrated short story In the Dark Room as a free PDF.
Looking back, almost everything I wrote and published in late March and April was suffused with the disconnectedness and quiet panic of lockdown.
I was thrilled to have a visual poem and accompanying film poem featured in the first Mellom Press online exhibition, Translations.
On the 28th I took part in Volta, a Zoom reading organised by Sophie Essex and Andrew Hook of Salò Press, sharing poems from Self Portrait by Night and Cosmic Horror.
Towards the end of the month, Penteract Press published Chimera, a cycle of visual poems exploring evolutionary biology, language and the monstrous. The online launch was accompanied by a podcast interview. So far the book has been well received, and was given a mention in Steven J Fowler’s blog piece on contemporary British poetry. I am immensely grateful to Anthony Etherin and Clara Daneri of Penteract Press for taking on Chimera, turning it into such a beautiful book, and providing such fabulous support for me and my vispo monster.
I made a film poem called “era / error” to accompany Chimera. Meanwhile, a poem from Cosmic Horror appeared at RIC Journal, and the new edition of Open Polyversity featured several of my poems and visual poems. I was particularly pleased to have a visual poem inspired by the novels of Alain Robbe-Grillet in the Mellom Press exhibition, Home.
I also had the honour of contributing three visual poems (two from Chimera and one from Cosmic Horror) to Future Facing, an online exhibition in celebration of the publication of the revised, expanded version of Astra Papachristodoulou’s extraordinary Astropolis.
My enthusiasm for visual poetry, combined with a feeling that the form could be edgier, semantically richer and more diverse in content, led me to set up my own little publishing venture entitled steel incisors. I put out a call for submissions to an anthology of apocalyptic visual poetry, and was delighted when vispos started rolling in! I initially intended to publish the anthology in January 2021, but it’s now looking more like late February or March.
As if all that excitement wan’t enough, my longish polyphonic visual poem Machine was released by fledgling indie publisher Trickhouse Press. They did a cracking job with it. If you’re not familiar with their growing catalogue, check it out!
As a sort of light relief from my other projects, I revived the blackly humorous style I used years ago when first writing about the Bird King, composing some prose poems about the deranged avian monarch. Three were published by the Babel Tower Notice Board. A poem from Cosmic Horror appeared at RIC Journal.
Hesterglock Press published Sealed by Andrew Wells, featuring my artwork on the cover. If you haven’t read Andrew’s lithe, sleek, playful poetry, I urge you to buy a copy!
I wrote an essay in nine fragments for the Action Books blog, “In Praise of the Monstrous”. The piece gave me an opportunity to rave about some of my favourite contemporary poets and artists, including Aase Berg, Alex Stevens, Paul Cunningham, ReVerse Butcher and Matthew Haigh.
A triptych of visual poems inspired by the story of the Minotaur was published in Penteract Press’s beautiful new anthology, Myth & Metamorphosis.
One of the more ambitious poems from Cosmic Horror, “an organism is an event”, was published in the new edition of The Interpreter’s House.
November was another important month for me. Six poems from Cosmic Horror made up the Sublunary Editions monthly mail-out. Another five from the series appeared at Selffuck. Meanwhile, poet Tom Bland posted an interview with me at Spontaneous Poetics, together with a poem from Cosmic Horror and two visual poems from (dis/re)membered.
In an act of utter self-indulgence, I published (dis/re)membered through steel incisors in late November, making it available in three editions: free PDF, paperback and deluxe paperback. Visual poet Richard Biddle supplied a fabulous afterword, and Astra Papachristodoulou wrote a lovely blurb.
I took part in another Volta poetry reading via Zoom, reading three of the Cosmic Horror poems that Sublunary Editions had published the previous month and a tiny snippet of Machine.
A new project called Rites & Passages (in which I mash up the choose-your-own adventure game book genre with first-person shooters and the fiction of Alain Robbe-Grillet) is out with one of my favourite indie publishers early in 2021. I’m also quite excited about my contribution to the forthcoming Broken Sleep video game poetry anthology, a maimed sonnet about the classic FPS Doom. I have a couple of collaborations on the go too, and plan to devote more of my energies to them in the new year. Meanwhile, I’ll be searching for a publisher for the complete Cosmic Horror series. And through steel incisors I will publish three titles in 2021: the apocalyptic anthology The Mouth of a Lion, and two very cool projects which will have to remain a mystery for now…