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Archive for June 2017

So Long, Napoleon Solo by Patrick Chapman discussion on Writing.ie

The great Russian-American author Isaac Asimov once remarked that if he were given only six months to live, his response would be to type faster. Famously, he published hundreds of books in his lifetime, so such a prognosis could have yielded him about twenty novels, an opera, five collections of stories, and a shopping list. Not everything he wrote was rendered in glistening prose, but he was a genius whose ideas helped shape the world we live in. It is not just any writer who can say that, or be so prolific. For most of us it takes a bit longer to write a book.

My new novel, So Long, Napoleon Solo, took fifteen years, on and off. That was not intentional. I started work on it in 2001 in response to the self-deliverance of a childhood friend, who was and is utterly unlike the fictional Tom, whose suicide sets the story of the novel in motion. My first draft was laughter in the dark, written blindly in marathon sessions made possible by solitude; I needed to get everything down as fast as I could, in a fugue of energy and work, banging it out until I’d got an ending. The result looked like a novel and read like a novel but what it wasn’t quite, not yet, was a novel.

Being a poet, I came to the task of writing a long prose piece as one who didn’t realise what he didn’t know. I learned that there’s a different art to it. An agent, when I showed an early draft too soon, said that the writing was good and the dialogue amusing, but the characters and story needed work. His advice made the book better. As the process went on, I found myself detaching creatively from the cathartic origin of the book. It assumed its own surprising course. What a trip it was to hold an entire world in my head, as the characters become semi-autonomous and their journey took on a life of its own.

Words are a time machine. I’d put the text aside for long periods then take it out and the characters would still be there, as they were, waiting to tell me what they needed. In between, I wrote other things. Poetry and stories, scripts for film, and plays for Doctor Who and Dan Dare. I also worked in advertising, the profession of my protagonist Jerome, and felt his nostalgia for a world long departed. Revisiting the book, I’d make changes and polish the prose until it gleamed and I was done. Then, every time, the flaws would appear, and I’d realise it needed more work after all.

A book is done when it’s done. In 2008 a publishing company accepted So Long, Napoleon Solo, then folded when the publisher himself disappeared. That mystery remains unsolved and I often wonder what happened to him. In the grand scheme, the fact that my novel no longer had a home, was a very minor consequence of a possibly tragic story. In the years since, the book matured while I wasn’t looking, like a literary sourdough starter kept in the hot press of my mind, as I put it away again and wrote more poems.

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pickles and Jams by cris cheek Now Available!

In Pickles & Jams, cris cheek exposes the very membranes that lie between the sensed-real of the culturally dominant and the barely-sensed hyper-real of the culturally emergent. His poetics (initially spawned and tested in Briton) isn’t of an “epiphany” variety, but rather is borne of a sabre-ready constructivist process, whereby the jettisoning of American Capitalist values is at a premium. And though History’s objects (“nation”, “family”, “self-hood”, “city”, “work-world”) no longer have the capture energy they once did, they are still malignant, and push us around. It is these ghosted objects/identities that cheek takes aim at. Acutely sensible to the post-occupy dilemma of “value the crash / crash the value,” his aesthetic tactics intend on having us both view and act on the spectacle from within. cheek's ever-increasing readership will once again be delighted to take much needed cultural cues from the most significant Anglo-American poet of our time.

—Rodrigo Toscano

The flarfy titles of these lush and brazen poems belie the intensity of their love and outrage, their puns tart and savory, acidic and sweet, and the preserving properties of poesie. The minor obstructions and dilemmas of these “pickles” and “jams” contribute to the texture of life in a neoliberal (though rapidly fascistifying) world, so much so that were life easier, “were you to get just what you wanted every time you read me/ as a bolt of white lightning striking a muddy brain repeatedly/… /
I would cry out please, I can’t stand it anymore, let me go.” cris cheek is one of my poetry heroes and he should be one of yours too.

—Maria Damon

Creative mishearings, extemporized speech, pattern/algorithm/procedure, typos (“Your typos / leak wisdom”), phonemic salad, technological fuckery… this is the stuff that cris’ work seems made of to me. Often he retains a certain syntax—a syntax of official “English,” and of past (official) English poets—deterritorializing it by bringing the arbitrariness of the phrase to a saturation point—and by this means breaking into “englishes.” Yet, when these poems stop playing they become deadly serious, arresting us with their melancholic romance and/or rants against racial capital and/or precise indictments of the (white male cis) liberal subject. Pickles & Jams offers a sustained and multi-modal demonstration of an anti-authoritarian language practice where the poet seeks “not a plain language but / a poetry advocating on behalf of resistance to external authority.” It extends cris’ ongoing investigation into and manifestation of a late-Antinomian tradition.

—Thom Donovan

How to taste impasse. Sniff (out) conundrum. Here is a myriad—cris cheek’s marble-mouthed, sardonic, homages to and parodies of pop and literary cultures. Pickles & Jams offers itself as a cornucopia of whimsy, satire, mimicry and, sandwiched between, moments of lyrical tenderness. Here then is a book of poems that track a human thinking more than planning, feeling more than plotting. Here are bursts of tactics (not strategies), wobbly selves running roughshod over British and American niceties (aesthetic, cultural, social, etc.), brandishing aphoristic wit (““As in framers of wonder but/ farmers of convention.”) and a Joycean delight in linguistic fidelity to experience (coat-tails flapping at the grubby hands of convention). In brief, no wrong notes need app here.

—Tyrone Williams

A Londoner in southwestern Ohio, poet, musician, performance artist cris cheek surveys 21st century life in the wake of Fukushima and Occupy. Channeling the buzz in the air, he stages a shimmering sequence of linguistic action. Pickles, as in difficulties. Jams likewise, but also music, a dense, sensual, wild-ass, shredding music. Burlesque humor of the dysfunctional body politic. Quick verbal combinations demonstrating subtle substitutions with a flick of the writ. Torque, twist, spin, mickey, body English. An antidote to normalization, colonialism, authority, exclusion, boredom. Check out these vibrant works and find out what’s really really real.

—Kit Robinson

The pickles are formal, riddles and riffs, the jams maybe cultural and political. Originally out of London cheek is now in his second decade in Ohio, but I hear his title as English. It refers to homegrown stanzas inventively shaped and occasionally rhymed, as if those clever origins had been run into the “designer chickens” of William Carlos Williams while Lewis Carroll caught the bus trying to escape the scene. cheek has always worked with the demotic and the found, with the surround sound of the everyday, so it’s no surprise that his new poems are more American than earlier work in their frames of reference. Indeed one poem wonders about the difference between framers and farmers, “at the convention.” Another appears to make passing reference to Descartes and then Bo Diddley in just a few lines. Dispersed subjectivities include those critical of what’s at hand and many others more tender or playful. The kind of memorable turns of phrase that experimental poetry too often avoids pass by pretty frequently: "beautiful lounge of the damned / in which i got the good peppermint.” I thought I had a handle on cheek’s practice as a performance writer and documentary poet given to expansive poems and sequences, but these little poems have left me upside down beside the fountain of post-post-objectivist lyric.

—Keith Tuma

cris cheek is a postpunk transatlantis maker and framer of playful marks with alphabetic language, with sound, with voice, with light and with the body

growing up in London is hard-wired through his circuitry:

early influences were with the Consortium of London Presses, working alongside Bob Cobbing and Bill Griffiths in the COLP printshop, and performing multi-voice pieces with PC Fencott, Lawrence Upton, and sometimes Jeremy Adler with jgjgjgjgjgjgjgjgjg (. . . as long as you can say it that’s our name)

with Marshall Reese, Kirby Malone, Patty Karl, Nora Ligorano, Chris Mason and others for the festival of disappearings arts in Baltimore

with Mary Prestidge, Kirstie Simson, Sue MacLennan, Philip Jeck, Jacky Lansley and Fergus Early at Chisenhale Dance Space in London’s east end, with book-maker poets Allen Fisher and Ulli Freer

with poet-theareticians Carla Harryman and Steve Benson

with soundart as John and Mary Outchan on Balsam Flex, with Philip Jeck and Sianed Jones, Ansuman Biswas, and Samia Malik as Slant, with Kirsten Lavers as tnwk (things not worth keeping)

with cloven

for the past dozen years cris has lived and worked in south-west ohio at miami (myaamia) university and lives in cincinnati

Book Information:

· Paperback: 114 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-273-0



Pickles & Jams by cris cheek Book Preview  

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The Hole in the Den by Michael Martrich Now Available!

When Tory Spry’s hallucinations become more frequent - what start out as a “pinpoint,” extend into an “arc,” and eventually become the blunted but flashing “Fingerprint” - he reluctantly but necessarily retreats inward into the well of himself. Swimming through the blackholed remnants of his outside world - high school, church, diners, home, in the car with his friends - Spry can only find comfort in sleep, the cold, the woods, and in his best friend John, who has a deep internal secret himself. And within our haunting and untouchable loneliness, we are separate but not alone.


Vision is all radiance and irritation for a sentimental educator and teenagers alike in a depressed Pennsylvania suburb. Tory is an apt (and entangled) observer of phenomena related to conservancies, pools, schools; he thrives in twilight, traversing a topography of headaches, "flows and hang-ups." Friends and environments are obscured by smoke, so texture is most reliable, here rendered as "the Eternal Fingerprint," or "the wrapping touch.” Floating between the arcs and pinpoints of a migrainous ocean floor, briars and chain-linked fences are an analogue to the helplessness of relationships, the transparency of leftovers through which John, Min, Lucas, and others only fade. "The secrets between us are not so dissimilar.” More than that: they're bonded.

—J. Gordon Faylor, Gauss PDF

The Hole in the Den brings us directly into the tender, shifting stream of adolescence and childhood, and under the water too, with prose that is precise and haunting and like a map leading in circles, drawing us into the indistinguishable place between emotion and intellect, the soft and membranous divisions between self and other, and the halfway majesty of the woods just off the highway.

—Emily Kiernan, author of Great Divide

"All-American alchemy! With The Hole in the Den, Michael Martrich manages the miraculous transfiguration of youthful suburban memories into something far more mysterious and wise. Incantatory sentences swirl and spin, piling on secrets, smells, glances, rocks and cigarettes, names carved in bark and flashes of jarring erudition. Loss and longing, caught in the gravity well of time and language, cast a spell that imbues hard truths with uncertainty and dreams with the lucid texture of the real."

—Jürgen Fauth, author of Kino and Head Cases

Michael Martrich is a writer and musician from Eastern Pennsylvania. He released A Night I Could Have Sworn Was an Ocean Floor (2016) with his band, Sports for Kin, and is the author of “Like a Sewn-up Skin with Salt” Near-Recognizing the Sea: An Idiot Body Without Organs Threatened and Tempted by Becoming (Listening, Whispering) Sea-Ghost (2014). The Hole in the Den is his first novel. He lives in Dakar, Senegal.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 238 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-277-8



The Hole in the Den by Michael Martrich Book Preview 

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So Long, Napoleon Solo by Patrick Chapman Now Available!

Dublin, 1999. Jerome Williams is a man in denial. When his childhood friend Tom shoots himself dead, Jerome enters a world shaped by the spy games of their youth, as their secret identities re-emerge in unexpected ways. He encounters Tom’s pregnant girlfriend Ro, who might just carry out the death pact she had with her lover—but should Jerome even try to save her? And can he convince Clea, his new oldest friend, to leave her potentially dangerous partner? As he navigates a city where violence and betrayal are personal, he learns that the real damage from suicide is collateral. Jerome begins to see his life and his past with a new clarity, as he faces a future he never imagined.

So Long, Napoleon Solo is a sophisticated comedy about suicide, relationships, and Irish society at the turn of the century. It’s not a Man from U.N.C.L.E. story, it’s the legend of two boys the show inspired, in all sorts of twisted ways.

Patrick Chapman is an Irish-born writer. His books include seven poetry collections and two volumes of fiction. He has written an award-winning short film, audio plays for Doctor Who and Dan Dare, and many animated television shows for children. So Long, Napoleon Solo is his first novel.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 242 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-287-7



So Long, Napoleon Solo by Patrick Chapman Book Preview 

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Photos on flickr