Robert Ford

 

 

Lobster tail

Uncommon to find such a thing up here,
beyond the exhausted seaweed,
vacated mussel shells and limp
trawlermen’s gloves in bleached out
blue or yellow rubber, their fingers
often present if somewhat perished;
but there it was, cradled among the
whirled nests of exhausted marram
woven untidily through a scalp
of sutured pebbles. Time had melted
flesh away, revealing the miracle
of its engineering, in segments
and articulations, a suit of armour
still functioning in our snow-bitten,
astonished fingers, as we prowled
the empty shore, pleased to find
such a simple gift, today of all days.

 

 

 

 

Robert Ford‘s poetry has appeared in both print and online publications in the UK and US, including Antiphon, The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog and San Pedro River Review. More of his work can be found at https://wezzlehead.wordpress.com/


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Robert Ford

 

 

 

Jumper

He first appeared only in an eye corner,
the image flickering through my open window
like a lightning bolt would’ve, bold,
yet fleeting enough to seem unreal.
Any mortal would’ve failed, and glissaded
down those greasy, pangolin-scale slates,
but his striding boasted of a certainty
way too genuine for the early morning,
so I guess he must’ve been a god, or
possibly an angel clutching a ticket home.
With the cathedral summit crested,
and my unnecessary attention now all his,
he raised two arms and punched a hole
in the unexpected emptiness above him,
before laughing his heart to pieces and
letting go of that burdensome anchor,
as he flew off to the other side of the sky.

 

 

 

Robert Ford lives on the east coast of Scotland and writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction. His poems have appeared previously in Envoi, Firewords and Clear Poetry.

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Robert Harding

Idyll

I went to escape the urban solitude,
To escape the perpetual flaneurship,
the dogged ‘outsider’ mantle I was made from.
I should’ve said grow up you child, you’re a writer
What did you expect?

And the people there, in the countryside were like,
‘oh yes, no lamplight here mate. Black as the ace of spades, ay, ay?’
And they smiled a crooked smile. And there was talk of a bypass going somewhere
to somewhere,
‘but where and on whose land?’ they said.

idyll.
here and there a stately home—poor relations of the Khan’s pleasuredome, boxy stacks of bricks that still decree,
‘keep off the grass’ and ‘between 2 and 4 for tea’.
By the way folks this is a ‘no-cold calling zone.’ We’re all for the market out here but not around here geddit?

Squads of ducks patrolled the dainty lake, the Serpentine, but alas no serpent, nor monkey or macaw. Or the thrilling cries they made, proclaiming the joys of nature. The pheasant did that I suppose, with his strangled squawk. Or was he pointing out another high-pressure pipeline owned by foreign equity?

Then the silence is cracked open by the radio inside the squad car parked near the village green. The village cop is in his Escort radioing in the ‘suspicious Hyundai’ parked near the Earl’s land. Registration; foxtrot (oh really where?), Golf (to be expected), Hotel (beats my B and B) November (perpetually), Papa (died and left me) nineteen ninety-five model.

idyll.
In the afternoon Farmer Giles was suffering his piles,
for he dug up a tuffet because Little Miss Muffet,
who was atop it was a
spoilt ‘it’ kid from the city, matter of fact the west of it,
and besides moles around here could shut the ***k up cos they had no
ownership rights either. There were only ‘pests’ disrupting the economics of farming and moi land!
‘I’ve worked all me life.’ Said Giles. Moles should earn a living.

idyll.
Wherever you looked there were only the serried ranks of the dumb, the
bovine, foxes mugging homesteaders of their chickens, creeping gangster owls soundless in the velvetine darkness.
Come out from under your stones and see the same thing done but in the city where grown-ups live. Crowds of mustard flowers waved all different ways, blowing with the wind —frivolous shoppers in Oxford Street.

The animals crowded the pastures; Friesians blackened the meadows, Gothic starlings fringed the boughs, hustling the best spot.

And all dun-coloured, in the metaphysics of things at least and, worse still, none could talk.

Nor were there pussycats here, no proper country forest, no labial lawns, or chestnut thatch much less the downy patch, of the
penumbra between the feathery wood and the thigh of the meadow.

And subtract from this, dun-coloured sparrows’ chirruping gossip at lights out.

No, all quiet here—only the pout of a dace, the moue of a rudd.

They sit in the dark of a bend in the river where mournful trees overhang;
Nowhere a plan, for them to jump out into the net I don’t have. Only the dark of the bend.
Nothing on offer.

Save some lads who have come from the city. On a trip with ten cold beers each, all warming, turning to soup.
They look at the pastures seen and say, ‘no birds here bruv’. Only the stench of the next door farm, barbed wire, another warning sign; private property, no trespassing, slow down. Twinned with Cologne. Well if you lose the war.

City talk cuts no ice here. The farmer’s boy casually blasts the crests of men pheasants with shot, stoves the skulls of rabbits into the landscape,
poke down the heads of little black kittens into the bucket. Surplus they bob down beneath the surface and up for the last time.
One cat can off the rats.
Drowning cute kitties here isn’t a crime.

Country people, village people anyway, are as mean and quick-sighted as birds, orderly as clerks, great tuggers of lace, sentinels of the status quo.

And so when on my couch and a pleasant host of geese I see, vree-vree,
I think take me back to the town,
And set me free.
Idyll.

Hell. I feel so very tired.

*Robert Harding says: I am an ex-teacher, lecturer and research fellow. I taught literature and writing at School, college and University and was a social researcher for The Labour Party, the think tank Demos and the University of Reading. I am now, for better or worse and in one way or another, writing full time.

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Thomas Ország-Land on Bernard Kops’ ‘Anne Frank’s Fragments from Nowhere’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bernard Kops, Poetry & Peril:
PEACE WILL COME, ANNE FRANK INSISTS, YOU WILL SEE

Bernard Kops, the doyen of Anglo-Jewish letters, has responded to a global resurgence of violent anti-Semitism by issuing a new collection of verse called Anne Frank’s Fragments from Nowhere. This is his second major work exploring the legacy of the teenage diarist. Anne was murdered in Bergen-Belsen after hiding with her family for two exhausting years in a secret annex at the back of an Amsterdam building.

She returns in Bernard’s poetry to assure worried Jews everywhere:

 

… peace will come.

                    And the tired will lie down and sleep.

                    And the dreamers will awake

                    and embrace the beauty

                    of world, of existence, of love.

                    And peace will come,

                    and love and lovers will transcend

                    the wars of earth.

                    And they will plant their love.

                    And the tree of love will grow forever.

                    And you’ll see. Peace will come. And peace will come.

                    And people will come and go and live.

                    And live again and again.

                    And peace will come. You’ll see!

                    You’ll see. And peace will come!

                    And peace will come!

                    And peace must come.

 

Bernard, a poet and playwright at last basking in world fame at the age of 89, is slightly older than Anne would be if she had been allowed to live. He is a descendant of working-class Dutch immigrants to Britain, whose entire extended family back in Europe perished during the Holocaust. He is, like all Jews alive today, a survivor acutely aware of a looming, ubiquitous presence of racist intolerance.

Seven decades after the Holocaust and a year after the horrendous Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris replicated worldwide, Jewish institutions in hundreds of population centres survive under armed guard. France, the home of Europe’s biggest Jewish community and the third biggest in the world, has declared a permanent state of emergency. It deploys troops in combat fatigues and wielding automatic weapons to control the wrath of Islamist fanatics encouraging the racist rampage of the native far-right and far-left rabble.

A wide range of xenophobic hate crimes has substantially increased throughout the West. Jewish community leaders perceive a level of existential threat that they have not experienced since the wartime deportation trains transporting the Kops and the Frank families and millions of other civilian captives across Europe to industrially organized slaughter. Jewish emigration to Israel has now also reached record levels.

 

 

Anne Frank’s Fragments from Nowhere confronts a crisis that may well intensify following the Great Powers’ dubious new nuclear power development accord with the theocracy of Baghdad. Its immediate effect will be to fuel the perilous conflagrations already engulfing the Middle East and extending to the European Union and Russia. For the compromise agreement has released an estimated $150bn in direct and indirect investment in the terrorist states of Iran and its client Syria, and also in numerous terrorist states within states like Hezbollah and Hamas.

The first German feature film based on the teenager’s Holocaust testimony is titled Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank (The Diary of Anne Frank), released at the 66th Berlin Film Festival during February. A Hollywood adaptation in 1959 won three Oscars.

Bernard’s collection addresses the future by insisting on recording the past. In the poem For the Record, he recalls:

 

                    They came for him in Amsterdam, my grandfather David,

                    and with minimum force removed him from his home.

 

                    He surrendered to the entire German army,

                    and that was that.

 

                    It is of little consequence now;

                    so many die alone in foreign lands.

                    But for the record I must say

                    they gave him a number, helped him

                    aboard an eastbound train.

 

                    It was a little overcrowded,

                    but then they had so many to dispatch…

 

The poet grew up in deep poverty in the East End of London “as a committed witness for the lost community of Amsterdam,” he recounts, “including my family and Anne’s. Her fate could so easily have been mine…”

He all but met her. He explains: “My first play, The Hamlet of Stepney Green” first performed at the Oxford Playhouse in 1957, “was translated into Dutch by Rosie Pool, an author who joined the Dutch Resistance during the war.  She had escaped from the Nazi transit camp at Westbork,” a collection point from which the Jews were being dispatched to mass murder, “and her first task was to smuggle herself back and organize others.

“There she met and tutored Anne. Rosie talked to me endlessly about Anne’s character, personality, dreams and nightmares. All this has fed my imagination, and Anne became my close relative.”

The experience eventually led to Bernard’s play, the Dreams of Anne Frank, which opened in the Polka Theatre, London, in 1992. The play (Methuen Drama, England, 1997) has been touring the world ever since. The Hungarian version performed in 1998 at the Mahatma Gandhi School, Pécs, employed a cast of teenage Romany actors, perhaps a quarter million of whose people had been murdered during the Holocaust. The atmosphere was electric.

In Act One, Anne holds up a star on an empty stage as she turns to the audience. (The following text of her song is not included in the new collection.)

 

Fate gave me a yellow star.

                    A badge to tell them who I am.

                    I’m Anne from Amsterdam.

                    I’m Anne Frank and I’m a Jew.

                    And I’m the same as you and you.

                    Or you and you and you.

                    But fate gave me a yellow star.

                    Yellow star.

                    The star to put me in my place,

                    To wear it as a badge of shame,

                    But I’m Anne from Amsterdam.

                    I’m proud of who I am.

                    We have to hide away from light

                    Because they come for us at night.

                    And pack us off to God knows where,

                    And all we have is where we are.

                    But fate gave me a yellow star.

                    Yellow star.

 

Like Bernard, the real-life Anne had consciously prepared for a writing career, and she spectacularly succeeded. Her diary describing the fears as well as the tensions, loves, dreams and irritations of people hiding away from death in a terrorized city was published posthumously in1947 as Het Achterhuis (The Annex). Subsequent editions were titled The Diary of Anne Frank and Diary of a Young Girl. The book has been sold in more than 30m copies.

A fierce controversy is now raging over an extension of its copyright protection that would normally expire 70 years after the death of its author. Another book of the same period controversially just reissued on entering the public domain is Mein Kampf (My Struggle) by Adolf Hitler, a screed campaigning for the annihilation of the Jewish people.

Bernard is one of the best known writers of our time. All his writing is steeped in poetry. He is extraordinarily creative, prolific, fearless and compassionate, the author of some nine collections of verse, more than 40 plays for stage and television, 11 novels and two autobiographies.

Many of his books are constantly in print and his plays in production. His range of concerns is enormous, embracing Jewish identity, the many shades of love, family relationships, aging, fear, passion and mental illness. The Hamlet of Stepney Green, whose roots reach back to the tradition of Yiddish theatre, is widely recognized as an originator of Britain’s revolutionary, new wave, “kitchen-sink” theatre.

A seminal, book-length critical analysis of his growing corpus (Bernard Kops: Fantasist, London Jew, Apocalyptic Humorist, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2014, 168pp.) has been issued by Professor William Baker of Northern Illinois University and Prof. Jeanette Roberts Shumaker at San Diego State University. The monograph describes him as an influential innovator of British drama, an important social critic and a careful chronicler of the Anglo-Jewish society as well as the London Bohemian subculture of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, of which he was a part.

He is also a stubborn optimist convinced that well chosen words are mightier even than fleets of nuclear warheads. With a comradely wink towards Anna, Bernard includes in the new collection one of his best loved, old poems, Shalom Bomb. Here is one timely passage:

 

I want a one-man-band-bomb. My own bomb!

                    My live long and die happy bomb.

                    My die peacefully of old age bomb;

                    in my own bed bomb.

                    My Om Mane Padme Aum Bomb.

                    My Tiddly Om Pom Bomb.

                    My goodnight bomb, my sleeptight bomb,

                    my see you in the morning bomb.

                    I want my bomb. My own private bomb.

                    My Shalom bomb.

 

 

Thomas Ország-Land is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent who writes from London and his native Budapest. His last book was Survivors: Hungarian Jewish Poets of the Holocaust (Smokestack/England, 2014). His work also appears in the new anthologies Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves) and Random Red Candles grouping the best of Candelabrum Poetry Magazine, 1970-2010 (Spinnaker), both in England in 2015.

 

 

 

 

Anne Frank’s Fragments from Nowhere by Bernard Kops is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing and is available here: http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/bernard-kops/4589983997

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Director of Salt Publishing, Chris Hamilton-Emery answers Ten Questions for IS&T


This is the first in a new series called Ten Questions in which IS&T will be talking to small presses.  Here, Director of Salt Publishing  Chris Hamilton-Emery supplies the answers.





Ten Questions

 

 

Name: Salt

DOB: 2000

Hometown: Perth, Australia

 

1. Who is Salt?

 

Salt’s board consists of Linda Bennett, Chris
Hamilton-Emery, Jen Hamilton-Emery and John Skelton. In the Cambridge sales
office there are Sarah-Jayne Johnson and Lee Smith as well as a range of
interns from Anglia Ruskin University, currently James Miller and Alexandra
Thurman. Overseas we have Janet McAdams and her Earthworks team of editors,
that includes Katherine Hedeen, Gordon Henry Jr and Víctor Rodríguez-Núñez. In
Australia we have John Kinsella — who began Salt. In Wales we have editor Ian
Gregson and in England we have Jane Holland who edits Horizon Review. We’re just about to open our Scottish office in
Glasgow, too; Elspeth Hamilton will be running Salt Scotland.

 

 

2. What are your
goals as a publisher?

 

By and large to survive and thrive, to create and protect
jobs and achieve financial security. Though beyond these rather opaque
ambitions there are many long and short term goals, some editorial, some
commercial. For example, we need to take the turnover of the business up to
around half a million to make it stable, the maths to make that happen is easy,
but turning the maths into profitable book sales is a daily concern.
Editorially, we have always wanted to build an independent platform for some
difficult genres, notably poetry and short stories, but we have ambitions to
gradually turn the press into a general trade publisher. This year we launch
our new children’s list. We’re also developing and eBook and audio book
programme.

 

 

3. What first brought
you to publishing?

 

It’s a different story for each of the directors, Linda
Bennett, John Skelton and I come from a publishing and bookselling background —
John ran the Open University Press, Linda was a business development director
in Waterstone’s and I worked for the best part of a decade for Cambridge
University Press, latterly as the Press Production Director. Jen was a senior
manager in the health service. All of the editors are writers and came into the
business through that route.

 

 

4. What do you
consider the role and responsibilities, if any, of small publishing?

 

That’s a highly emotive and sometimes politicized question.
In my case, I’m in business and have to pay salaries and mortgages. It’s how I
earn my living. So in one very significant sense, the business has to work on a
commercial level and generate everyone’s income. I’ve no interest in being
small, I’ve had to start somewhere, but I’ll grow my business as long as it
employs me. We’ll just keep bringing people in, keep expanding the list and
push the business in to new directions. To be frank my list is as big as some I
left at Cambridge University Press — we publish several hundred ISBNs a year
now. I’ve no interest in constraining the business — if there’s a demand for
our books, we’ll keep publishing them. The market might constrain what we do of
course. I think culturally and strategically, being independent is more
important than being small. I think a big change comes when a small press
publisher says “I’m going to live off this business.” A whole raft of issues
hits you at that point. There are very many people who publish who don’t have
to survive off their profits. In some senses, everyone is a publisher now: we
live in an age of small presses.

 

 

5. What do you see
your press doing that no one else is?

 

Nothing, really. I don’t think Salt is exceptional. We’re in
a crowded market and have to compete to survive. The question is really one for
my customers, I imagine. I try to introduce new talent whenever I can afford
to. I have a very deep passion for great books and great writers.

 

 

6. What do you see as
the most effective way to get new publications out into the world?

 

Goodness me, what a question! There’s a thesis in that! It
really depends on what you’re asking. Do you mean in terms of producing books —
as in the media debate around eBooks, wood and sound? Or do you mean how one
publicises works and develops reception? The market for books is in may sectors
shrinking, but the changes in media are creating more route for writers to find
readers, especially through the internet and the World Wide Web. The Web is the
central concern of the age, and how businesses are migrating to the Web,
monetising it, exploiting it in commercial terms makes for a very interesting
set of business risks. Who publishes and what constitutes publishing is
changing daily. We live in an age of abundance, and yet many crave to have this
abundance edited for them, for others to construct meaningful, socially
meaningful, choices. In fact our sense of ourselves is highly informed by the
landscapes of choices we elect to live amongst. It’s hard to pick apart things
like  “effective”, “new” and
“world” in this context. The world is highly fragmented.

 

 

7. Do you take
submissions? If so, what are you looking for?

 

Yes, we do. I’m looking for something I can effectively
sell. I’m looking for things which meet discrete markets we’ve come to know and
sometimes for things I think I can create a market for. I’m looking for the best
work in any given form of writing. It’s not about my taste but about this
balance of knowing customers and sectors and having an insight into what makes
a book work in commercial terms.

 

 

8. How hands-on are
you as editors?

 

It varies enormously, I’m not a desk editor myself, I’m a
businessman, I do structurally edit from time to time, but I’ve a publishing
business to run and I often leave editorial matters to my editors and don’t
interfere unless it’s at the level of making acquisitions. Some writers I work
with quite extensively, in many cases we’re not taking on books that need
extensive editing — we’re not that kind of business. Most manuscripts arrive
heavily edited, often having been passed around colleagues over the years. They
do often need cutting. If somebody’s manuscript isn’t ready, we would probably
tell them that and let them come back to us after they’ve worked on it, often
with their peers, sometimes with an agent, a mentor or workshop leader.

 

9. Tell us what you
have published this year, and what you are going to publish.

 

That’s far too long a list! I published 209 ISBNs in 2009.
We’re going to be doing over 300 ISBNs this year, split across the UK, USA and
Australia & New Zealand. We’re launching a new children’s list, which I’m
very excited about. We might move, cautiously, into crime in 2010. We’ll do
more classics. We’ve developed a trade fiction list, and will be rolling that
out from October 2010. In the past week or so we’ve published David Briggs’
debut collection The Method Men,
Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s latest book of “Drafts” called Pitch: Drafts 77–95, Aaron Fagan’s second Salt collection Echo Train, Rosie Garner’s debut The Rain Diaries, Mark Granier’s Fade Street, Brian Henry’s latest Salt
collection Wings Without Birds, Agnieszka
Studzinska’s debut Snow Calling and
Robert Sullivan’s Shout Ha! To the Sky.  We issued five first time paperbacks,
too. I’m very excited about Matthew
Sweeney’s new selection of poems that we’re publishing in October, it’s
masterful, magisterial even.

 

10. And how do you
see the press evolving?

 

We’re at a crossroads. The recession hit us exceptionally
hard and we nearly went under a year ago. In some respects it’s tougher now and
we’ve had to think strategically over the past few months. Some might find
their instincts were to contract and consolidate. We’ve taken a different view,
to stratify and expand the business into several different models, different
business streams, and we intend to grow, quite considerably, in 2010. This
coming year provides three real challenges: trade fiction, the children’s list,
and expanding our US business. That’s more than enough to give me sleepless
nights for the rest of this year.


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