My friend Azra Page has just published an ebook. Catharsis is a collection of ‘found’ poems, diary entires and a play script about mental health and the psychiatric system in the UK. It is brutally honest in its gaze over a variety of mental health issues.
The ‘found’ poems are made out of quotes from Azra’s medical notes whilst she was in the system. They are accompanied by Azra’s drawings and diary entries during the period the notes cover. The play that forms the second part of the book was written soon after she was released from hospital and looks at the ‘Flat Space’ between remission and relapse in mental illness.
It is only 77p ($0.99) for a limited amount of time, and is avaliable from amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Catharsis-Azra-Page-ebook/dp/B00MW6EPH4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408556848&sr=8-1&keywords=catharsis+art+page .
It will make an interesting read for anyone with a mental health issue; or anyone that wants to learn about the experience of madness. However it may be triggering for some people, so take care.
Publisher: The Emma Press
At first glance The Emma Press seems to produce quaint little books complete with meticulous illustrations. This is of course true, yet beneath this exterior The Emma Press Anthology of Fatherhood also contains some seriously hard-hitting and emotionally profound poems. All aspects of fatherhood are included and under an unforgiving light. In her introduction Emma Wright says that “The book has become a snapshot of our times”.
The voices of fathers, children and wives all express themselves in a variety of poetic styles. However some kind of formal poetic techniques are usually obeyed; giving the raw emotions discussed a taught, on-the-edge feeling.
The fathers in the collection watch over their children throughout their lives, in incubators, on ultrasound screens, tragically ill, going to school or on holiday… Other viewpoints are mixed in with these- the opinions of wives, children and husbands are taken into account.
I have two favourite poems in the collection- “Digitalis” by Martin Malone and “Ultrasound” by Harry Man.
“Digitalis” is a dark poems about a father returned to youth “Between his first and third heart attack”. We know from this first line that the father is going to die; but this seems to only add to the miracle of his “sudden awareness of hip-hop and rap” and other activities of “bending life-long rules”. It is a poem that has stuck with me, and compelled me to read it over and over.
Meanwhile “Ultrasound” shows a father looking at his child’s ultrasound, and describing her as if she was a magical creature. He gazes longingly at her minuite form such as “the white artery of your (her) spine”. By the end of the poem he is imagining what it will be like when his child is born. Again- a beautiful poem bursting with emotion.
This collection could be the perfect present to, or from, a father. It tirelessly explores difficult themes with elegant language and illustrations.
Title: Comfortable Knives
By: Stephen Emmerson
Publisher: Knives, Forks and Spoons Press
In this short book, Emmerson rises to the challange of writing a poetry collection entirely in sonnets. His sonnets crystallize his usually more chaotic creativity. He uses the prescribed rules to bring order to wild themes of madness, relationships and the realities of living. Yet the carefully placed line breaks also bring a stuttering voice to the poems. Thoughts are broken up part way through, giving a surreal effect that follows the logic of an almost schizophrenic brain pattern.
The poems at the beginning of the collection frequently discuss memory and false memories: “I know how memory is a/ language. It is the worst, most/ illiterate language” but by the end, Emmerson’s focus seems to have moved to the memories themselves. Many of the memories described seem to be polluted with psychosis. This makes them challanging to comprehend, for example: “Not cert/ that the phone is stinking, but the/ re-source holds debate.” It is as if the voice of the poems expects that we can easily understand his words, yet what comes out of his mouth isn’t even close to what he had meant. Emmerson practises irony by forcing this illogical voice to adhere to the rules of sonnets.
My favourite poem is on page 36 (none of the poems have titles). It includes the lines: “Sat at home with a box of/ dead skin. So dedicated, we/ eventually embrace. Trapped/ in that painting again.”
By: Kung Fu Jesus
Released: 25th August 2014
Label: Gargleblast Records
The lyrics from Kung Fu Jesus’ first single are still swimming through my head several hours after I first gave them a listen.
The second track on the single “Wander” particularily stuck with me. “Why am I not moving faster?” is a thought that must have gone through everyone’s brain at some point, and the words are sung with beautiful reluctance over a trippy-60s backing. Overall the effect is a memorable song with a meaningful side to back it up.
Clinging to childish stories, but also about adult love, “Wolf” is a track designed for impact. It has all the trappings of a new lazy-indie anthem.
I enjoyed these two tracks. I’m looking forward to more.
I have started up another blog. This one is about my experience as an autodidact (which I have previously written about for The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/feb/28/could-you-be-an-autodidact )
“The idea is that I use this blog almost as a diary, combined with creative responses to what I am reading/studying, and the way the concepts in a variety of books are connected. I’m hoping it will be an informal though intelligent space for autodidactism to be explored (SO PLEASE COMMENT ON POSTS TO START DISCUSSIONS). I will be listing and writing about the books and courses I am working through, so feel free to use this site as a source of informal reviews.”
“My education was cut short at 17 due to long term illness; something that I was devestated by at the time. My academic grades had always been pretty good, and I thought I was going to go to university when I finished school. I tried to continue my traditional studies (AS and A-Levels) from the hospital I was in for two years, but I freaked out and was only able to do some of the exams.
Since getting out I have been determined to get my education back on track; though not in any kind of traditional way. My interests are vast and unruly, and I have always wanted to learn about a wide range of subjects. Due to continuing ill health, full time education still isn’t a plausaible option; so I have decided to kill two birds with one stone by educating myself.”
Please take a look! http://diaryofanautodidact.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/hello/
Title: The White Trail
By: Fflur Dafydd
Fflur Dafydd has a unique, almost lyrical, writing style. Her interpretation of the Welsh legend “How Culhwch Won Olwen” is frequently murky in plot, but the flashes between time and place eventually build up to a terrifying climax. Cloning, Parenthood, mental illness, and the traps of small town life are all covered.
The protagonist- Cilydd’s- situation is devestating and confusing right from the beginning; and the surreality only builds as the text continues, making Cilydd’s life more bizarre and difficult. The story quickly turns from family drama to isolation, and eventually subverted conspiracy. The story goes on to become complex, with unexpected occurances and character developments around every corner.
As a result “The White Trail” is a surprising book, that furthers the Mabinogion tale with plenty of original material. This is the third of Seren’s Mabinogion stories I have read and reviewed, and I have to say that so far it is my favourite.
By: Bruno Neiva
Publisher: Knives, Forks and Spoons Press
Bruno Neiva rips, tears and glues cardboard together to form canvas and subject matter in one go. He then makes technological, yet vaguely primative markings onto the pieces. Accompanying typewritter letters are splats and crude shapes in paint. There are also mug rings and technical drawings scratched onto the collaged surfaces.
Some of the cardboard forms are obviously made from Amazon-style packages. This could be a metaphor for the creative process- taking things in, maybe the things in the packages, and then catapulting art back into the world.
Some of the pieces, such as “How to mend an averbal.3″ use indecipherable letters, collaged together. These are an interesting comment on the limit of words as a means of communication.
Neiva’s work shows that art can be made on any surface. It holds aesthetic retro qualities alongside abstract shapes and inferences
about a baffling world.