Saturday, 30 January 2010


I have spent this afternoon wrenching works of art off the wall of a gallery, cutting them up and mailing them to my friends. This wasn't an act of a callous but caring vandal, nor am I a philistine who's finally cracked under the weight of one too many Channel 4 programme telling me how wonderful contemporary art is. Rather, I was taking part in the conclusion of the HTTP gallery's project DIWO at the Dark Mountain, an open-to-all "disassembly" event where the elements of the exhibition were stuffed into envelopes and e-mailed out to whoever the participants wished - old friends, gallery contacts, their mums and so on. (DIWO by the way stands for 'Do It With Others', a nice antidote to the individuals contained within 'Do It Yourself')

The work for the exhibition was created over a month through the netbehaviour e-mail list, with various iterations of artworks being exchanged and then altered, expanded or transformed by the list's participants. These were then curated into an exhibition by HTTP. The art works were created in response to the Uncivilsation - the Dark Mountain Manifesto, a text which proposes that western civilization is tottering on the brink of collapse. Dystopianism bores me, but this has a hint of apocalypse which keeps things a little more exciting. Of course, the text was also subject to extensive critique on the mailing list - which in turn was being printed out on a dot-matrix printer within the exhibition, and was used to wrap the art works which were posted out.

Some of the works can be viewed online here. I'll leave off any direct comment on the work produced, as I'm not convinced I have much insight here - and in any case such a focus might miss the point of the project a little. Part of what I found interesting about today is how an infinitely reproducible digital/digitised work can transmuted into a physical object with its own distinct value, and a different potential. The ritual of stamping it with DIWO in red and wrapping it up in the print-out marks the work (which is after all simply a foam-back printout) marks it out as in a sense 'authentic', but this isn't a case of imbuing the work with monetary worth. Rather it creates a lineage, a series of links and connections which have their own aesthetic value, which can be carried into any work created by the mail-outs.

Hopefully some of the participants have creative mums.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Ambit 200 Competition Deadline Soon!

A quick notice from the mighty Ambit!To celebrate our 200th issue Ambit invites you to enter our 200 WORDS COMPETITION!
Judged by Ambit writers Naomi Foyle and David Gaffney.

Send us poems or prose of 200 words* for a chance to win!

1st prize: £500
2nd prize: £200
3rd prize: £75

Entries cost £4 for the first one, and £3 for subsequent entries.

(*no shorter than 196, no longer that 204. This includes the title!)

Closing date is 15 February 2010.

Good luck!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Super-quick Tilt update

Fuselit: Tilt has been delayed by the Royal Mail. Specifically, we want our 3mm hole-punching tool (the awl isn't good enough on its own) and it should have arrived at the start of last week. We've been to the sorting office and spoken to the merchants, and no one seems to know where it is. I've just used a reference number to book an online redelivery, but since the sorting office didn't know what to do with the reference number I'm not sure anyone else will either. So we might have to try to get our money back and then trudge to Hobbycraft this Saturday for a similar tool. Gah.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Popshot Popshot

Poorly designed poetry journals are fast becoming an endangered species (even if you're unimpressed with my efforts on Fuselit, we are but one). Enter editor Jacob Denno, who brings a bona fide design student's sensibility to the poetry mag, not to mention a raft of talented illustrators who are paired up with the poems and set to work on complementing the words with a range of delightful images. The result is called Popshot and it looks like this:

I ran into Denno when he was pitching his creation to an art bookshop just off Curtain Road and immediately asked to have a look at it. It really is lovely. Smooth black matt pages, bold red title lettering and crisp, clear images. Quite a nice smell too.

It comes out biannually, has been getting plenty of attention in major magazines, and is available to order from the Popshot website for a very fair £6. If you, like me, have resolved to spend at least a tenner on poetry every month (hardly a demand on the pocket), then that still leaves you with enough for a Happenstance or tall-lighthouse pamphlet before February. Perfecto.

Saturday, 23 January 2010


Tall-lighthouse, the popular London-based poetry publisher, began its Pilot scheme in April 2007 with the aim of publishing pamphlets by a number of promising poets under the age of 30. This enables young writers to hone and show off their material, for the most part prior to releasing full collections, giving readers a taster of their style and what's potentially still to come.

Roddy Lumsden, editor of the series, takes a very hands-on approach to the poetry, which makes all the difference. But then Roddy has always taken an interest in promoting new writing and helping young poets to get the best from their work, be it through critique, his regular Broadcast events or the workshops he organises through the Poetry School. The end result for the Pilot pamphlets consists of tight, quick-witted snapshots that give an excellent cross-section of emerging poetic talent.

Let's have a peep at the pamphlets themselves. Striking and more than a little corporal in red, white and black, they're quite minimalist too. The format is the same for each - a clean snowy background, a splash of red and a small b/w image on red that is unique to that pamphlet. Abi Curtis's 'humbug' sports a patterned snail's shell, while Ben Wilkinson's 'the sparks' features lightning striking the ground beside a ragged tree. It's definitely an interesting approach to maintaining a coherent and recognisable look to the series without sacrificing the individuality of the content in each case. I do, however, wish that you could see the full cover of each on the t-l site, instead of just the unique image for that collection - it's a good look for the site, but you lose that exciting something about buying a book when you can imagine how it looks as a whole and practically feel it in your hand.

The Pilot pamphlets have come in for high praise: Jay Bernard and Kate Potts have been awarded Poetry Book Society Recommendations for 'your sign is cuckoo, girl' and 'whichever music', respectively, and Potts was also shortlisted for the inaugral Michael Marks Award. Sadly, thsi excellent scheme can't survive on praise alone, even with some support from the Arts Council, so do investigate the site and stop by the shop. At £4 a pop, getting into the Pilot pamphlets is a pretty pocket-friendly venture.

The full chronological list of the Pilot pamphlets is as follows:

Abi Curtis - humbug
Adam O'Riordan - queen of the cotton cities
Camellia Stafford - another pretty colour, another break for air
Gareth Jones - weekend millionnaires
Jay Bernard - your sign is cuckoo, girl
Miriam Gamble - this man's town
John McCullough - the lives of ghosts
Retta Bowen - the ornamental world
Kate Potts - whichever music
Vidyan Ravinthiran - at home or nowhere
Ben Wilkinson - the sparks
Emily Berry - stingray fevers
Amy Key - instead of stars
Sarah Howe - a certain chinese encyclopedia
Charlotte Runcie - seventeen horse skeletons
Richard O'Brien - your own devices
NEW Ailbhe Darcy - a fictional dress
NEW Simon Pomery - the stream

Treat yourself!


Tall-lighthouse calls home.
Our review of Charlotte Runcie's 'Seventeen Horse Skeletons' can be found here.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Photo Shoot with Liam Davenport

Liam Davenport contacted Jon a few months back. He was creating a set of images of London poets, and had recently shot tall-lighthouse poet Amy Key (in the *click*, rather than the *pow* sense). Amy had subsequently suggested to Liam that Jon model at some point, and maybe me too. We were definitely up for it. Find me a poet that wouldn't want their photo taken by a proper photographer - flattering and quite exciting.

A writer himself, Davenport works entirely in film and uses his fiction skills to construct narratives through his visual work. He specialises in fashion, portraiture, bands and gigs, theatre, urban scenes, and landscapes.

The idea for this project was that each poet should choose their favourite spot in London as their setting. Some people went for their own homes, or pubs. Jon snagged the prime photographic real estate of Regent's Park, a place we visited often during the year we lived in Maida Vale, and the most beautiful park I've seen in London. He really enjoyed his shoot, reporting back that he lost track of time because he found himself just chatting as Liam took the photos.

Today I went for my session. It was tough to choose a place. I don't actually love that many places in London besides my own bed. All the beautiful spots are overrun or expensive and I didn't want to copy Jon and pick a park. I thought of ZSL London Zoo, but that would be tricky both in terms of cost and clearance. So Jon suggested Gray's Inn.

To the uninitiated, Gray's Inn is one of the four inns of court. Basically, you have to belong to one to qualify as a barrister in England and Wales. I worked full-time at the Inn library for a year and can remember showing up for the interview and being really impressed by the architecture. Here's the library (that's Francis Bacon in the middle there):

Unfortunately, the Walks were locked. That's the beautiful gardens area where lawyers lie on the grass in summer and forget all their arbitrations. Well here, here's a picture:

Nevertheless, we found plenty of spots around the Inn that would work for this purpose, with a lot of reliance on Liam's photographic eye (in the future I will actually invent a photographic eye Copyright Kirsten Irving 2010 patent pending 4eva). Nooks of the buildings, in front of the accursed locked gates to the Walks, in the squares. There were a lot of options.

Overall, I really enjoyed meeting Liam and the whole surreal experience of modelling. I wish I'd been a bit more relaxed, is all. The general look he was after was relaxed and natural, after all - you just suddenly freeze up when the lens points at you. Unless you're Tyra Banks, in which case when the camera's on you, you morph into a drunk, apoplectic French drag queen. Still, hopefully there's some pictures in there where I'm not gurning too much.

Following his final two shoots, Liam is planning to host an exhibition of the photos; other subjects include Heather Phillipson and Chris McCabe. It's going to be fantastic and really interesting to see how familiar people and strangers alike translate onto film. Will keep you posted!


To sample Liam's photographic and literary work, have a peek at

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Days of Roses - Tuesday 26th January

Next week is the first Days of Roses of the decade. The night, run by Declan Ryan, takes place this month at the 3 Blind Mice, a cosy downstairs venue at 5 Ravey St, EC2A 4QW, and starts at 7.00. Here's the facebook link.

Readings include Rowyda Amin, one of the poets featured in our Coin Opera micro-anthology and a writer of quietly atmospheric and visceral faery tale-inspired poetry, and Sophie Mayer, who has the kind of writing CV that leads you to think she must be at least four or five clones all working together, like Michael Keaton in that movie where there's four of him. I've never met Sophie, but I did publish an article of hers back when I was the poetry editor of the roundtable review, and since then I keep seeing her name cropping up. She's written articles for my two favourite film magazines, Little White Lies and Sight & Sound, is an editor on two other high profile magazines and has just pubished a book on the films of Sally Potter. Oh, and she writes poetry too, with two books under her belt and another coming out from Salt this year.

Then there's Andre Naffis, music from Rich Tow, and me.

I'm planning to read some translations of dirty Russian folk-poems, a piece about Stanley Spencer's mistress and at least one 'canto' of my (fictional) epic poem about the life and songs of Belinda Carlisle. Straight up.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

February at the Poetry Cafe - K rambles!

Hello! If you're in the reach of Covent Garden/Leicester Square on Thursday 4 February at, oh, say 8pm, stop by the Rock 'n' Sole Plaice (for triple - possibly more! - pun action, as well as the fish and chips).

But THEN, bloated and waddly from your tea, stumble over to the Poetry Cafe for a February bonanza of excellent poetry by Wayne Holloway-Smith, whose poem about the Nue featured in the Sidekick Books anthology Obakarama, Camellia Stafford, whose debut pamphlet "another pretty colour, another break for air" was released as part of tall-lightouse's Pilot scheme, and Tim Wells, whose latest collection, Rougher Yet, was released by Donut Press last year. Oh yes, and me. Most likely my set will involve the Amiga 600 game Lemmings (by way of preview for Coin Opera 2), Twin Peaks, some Faulknerish type milling round the kitchen trying to resurrect a man they knew and a degree of filth.

Click here to view the event! Then click Attend! It is the one that does not say Not Attending or Maybe Attending!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Why, Cut Out & Keep - is that a new haircut?

I said I'd give the old girl a lick of paint in the new year. Feast your eyes on my efforts. I feel like a clueless DIY mechanic emerging from under the bonnet of a vehicle with oil on my hands. I can proudly demonstrate that the engine starts OK and the doors shut nice and tight, but any professional looking into the engine will immediately spot the paperclips holding the wires together and conclude that I've constructed an unroadworthy death trap.

Still, it was an enjoyable diversion. Not coincidentally, tinkering is also the part of writing poetry that I enjoy the most. As a machine, a poem isn't a factory conveyor belt for moving plot or developing character, like a novel or a film; it's more like a watch. You have to make sure all the little cogs fit together properly to make it work. Unlike a watch though, you can't be sure of its exact function, so it's more like shifting the cogs around inside a small alien device, not knowing exactly what will happen when they all line up. It's very involving, slightly secretive, a little anxiety-inducing, and something that has to be pored over while in a particular state of mind. And as is the case with other small objects I pore over - including origami and my Nintendo DS - it can get incredibly frustrating as well.

I'm not a watchmaker. I don't know anything about cars or heavy factory equipment. I apologise for the crapness of these metaphors.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

I'm not the revolution. I'm just your boyfriend!

Or, "Will you slap me with your bitch's glove?"

I want to talk about Electric Six, you see. I was assured that this journal had mutated from purely Fuselit, craft and poetry-related things to more of a mountain from which we are given carte blanche to yodel about things that interest us in a broader sense. And Electric Six interest me.

Unlike nigh-on every review of the band's work since 2002, I don't want to linger on the Song-That-Dare-Not-Speak-Its-Name. Instead, I want to talk about lyrics, and take as my text a cluster of tracks from the supremely titled album I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me from Being the Master.

The genius of Electric Six is partly in their knack for catchy tunes - it's almost ludicrous that at least as many people as listen to Scissor Sisters aren't putting on E6 lps on a daily basis, then immediately springing up and dancing till their feet bleed - but it's the lyrics that nail me. See, ideally, I like my music to be either touching and honest or big and fun and camp. I like Fox In The Snow and I like Party Hard.

Electric Six manage both. You'd assume the big, camp side from That Song, and indeed, songs on I Shall Exterminate... grab you with openers like "She was the queen of an evil galaxy" and "angels and demons holding hands and whistling dixie", barked without apology by the magnificently weird cad-a-like Dick Valentine. Totally shallow, throwaway stuff, fun for a short spell and then ultimately meaningless...right?

Carry on listening. Suddenly the angels and demons give way to a sort of weary Americana, as Valentine sings about waiting "in longer lines than the Russians ever did." Suddenly the comedy shagathons become hopeless relationships in which the singer is not so much a cartoonish lothario as a maltreated boyfriend (see Kukuxumushu, from which the title of this post is also taken) staring confusedly at a complete mess of a romance. The comic, yet legally wise misspelling in Down At McDonnelzzz, and the daft, infectious rap chorus about being "down with Ronnell McDonell (sic)" frame a pretty miserable scenario - a lone fast food joint worker getting ready for closing time ("the gift to the night shift"), before being jumped by a gang and forced to keep the joint open just so they have somewhere to hang out. It's a fist in the air for the blue-collared and bullied. And so what if Dick Valentine is a slightly ropey centaur in the video? Some things you don't question - you just enjoy.

Then there's the paranoia of Broken Machine, and one simple image - your girlfriend's robot (of course) slowly observing, mimicking and adapting to your behaviour in order to ultimately outthink and replace you. The arrangement of the song is both cute (blippy synthesisers and robotic sounds) and pretty sinister, softly creeping along behind lines like "It wants to know everything that turns me on./And what turns me on is you/so now that's what turns it on too." The kick-in of the chorus, in which guitars roar and the tormented boyfriend wails "It should be thrown away!" before conceding that "Broken Machine is here to stay" is pretty damned passionate for a song about a robot. While I'm never going to say the lyrics to this song can stand as poetry on their own, it's a great metaphor for fear, inadequacy and the threat of losing something you care about.

And that's what I love about Electric Six. Husky, wry concerns over politics ("Every problem can be solved by burning books") and resigned admissions, such as "I'm just a fuck solution/until the world ends" are invested with exactly the same gravity and thrust as the maddening satire of being "stuck in corner listening to some guy TALK about his screenplay" and the spat-out disgust of "Fabulous people/making all their money from the dirty little people". And of course, the million-dollar questions: "Did I make a mistake/when I sang this song?/Were my vox too sexy?/Were my vox too strong?"

There's no snobbery. It's what pop should be - unafraid to muck about with tone, silly and serious all at once, do press-ups on stage, criticise anybody, act utterly inappropriately in order to honestly discuss loss and pain. In one breath we get mutiny and nuclear war, in the next, Satan's fictional airline.

A lot more than just flashing crotches and Abraham Lincoln in a rubber thong, then. That said, Electric Six do sometimes just purely indulge the Andrew WK in all of us, and you know what? That's OK too. I'll leave you with these lines, from the song Lenny Kravitz:

"And girl, what do you say?
You can dress me up like JFK,
hide in the grassy knoll
and blow me away!"

Electric Six Official Site
My favourite Dick Valentine group on fb

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Your free, semi-portable Tilt update

We said we've have Tilt out in January and we may still yet. The flat is now littered with prototypes because we're trying a radical new binding method that looks fresh and exciting and also solves a problem we've been having for a while with uneven borders (due to the trimming you have to do on saddle-stitched booklets).

Things I can tell you about this revolutionary new process for producing Fuselits:
1) The word 'stab' is involved.
2) The stabbing motion is actually performed multiple times on each issue.
3) I have bought a sewing awl from the chandlers on Shaftesbury Avenue.
4) I have also bought an 'Extra Heavy Duty Leather Punch'. This hasn't arrived yet.
5) Ribbon will replace thread, all being well.
6) Bright orange ribbon!
7) It all began when I watched a Youtube video in two parts.

Bear with us because we've also been having some printer trouble. Not to mention the devil of a time I've had with Tilt's cover - cutting out umpteen circular holes and getting them to line up with letters on another sheet below it.

But by gum, it is on its way!