A note on : The end of the Other Room

The Other Room has come to an end. Ten years of remarkable events that have led the way in a resurgence of decidedly contemporary forward thinking poetry in the North West have wrapped themselves up as of April 2018. The trio of curators, all markedly influential poets, publishers and educators themselves – Scott Thurston, James Davies, Tom Jenks – have worked together in putting on dozens of poets in dozens of events, publishing 10 anthologies and posting hundreds of updates online for events and publications across the UK. They have done the kind of work that acts as an invisible inspiration to generations that come up behind them, that create concrete connections between writers and happenings that influence the future of poetry in the UK, especially outside of London, and I for one have often made it known their very specific way of working events has been a massive influence upon me. https://otherroom.org/

I would say my experience reading at The Other Room in 2011 was the singular influence on the nascent Enemies Project then and has concentrated my focus ever since. What I discovered was that there isn’t a contradiction between a warm, welcoming, hospitable, funny, unpretentious atmosphere and poetry that is challenging, complex, oblique, idiosyncratic and strange. In fact, these two things are complimentary. This discovery made me realise the often experienced distance, coolness and hierarchy of many readings was a deliberate imposition fashioned in order to create for themselves a sense of exclusivity. The Other Room showed this to me, this vital realisation and in so doing eliminated any instinct I might’ve had for utopian projects in poetry, allowing me to focus on each night at a time, to be present with the poets on those nights, enjoy their company, listen concentratedly to their work and then have a laugh whenever possible. This is very likely the reason my events are still going, 8 years after they began. 

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The Other Room also showed me that the superstition some poets have as a legacy from the last century, that organising too successfully blots out appreciation of your own poetry, a spectre of conflicting interests somewhere in the poetry ether (being a poet and editor is fine though apparently, and anthologising, and teaching) is also a myth. Scott, James and Tom are some of the most interesting poets writing in the UK, each with their own markedly original oeuvre and intellectual concerns, rendered in a multitude of forms and spaces, each with their own influence over many of their peers. Scott was one of the very first poets I met, and I listened to him carefully then, as I do now - his work offered me great possibility. James has done as much as anyone to make conceptual poetry in the UK its own separate exploration with its own decidedly British concerns, separate from the humourless aggrandisement that can be indicative of people’s understanding of that area of poetry. And Tom’s prolific invention, insight and deep erudition worn lightly has been a huge influence on my use of satire, humour and the balance between lyricism and found language. Tom, like Scott and James too, is such a clear thinker about poetry, has such a mind for the art, but carries this knowledge with great humility, always in a mode of learning, always open to new ideas.

The end of The Other Room is a loss for the UK poetry scene. I had always hoped similarly organic homes for interesting poetry would pop up in cities across the country, that it would procreate into more rooms of otherness, so that we could build a circuit that would be exponential, that would serve as a link for new poets coming through everywhere, doing what they have done for a decade, leading a way, lighting a path, providing a space. Yet, after this time, after such selfless labour, one can’t help but understand why it should end, so neatly, so that it doesn’t just dissolve as often the best things in poetry do, into something lesser, to disappear unnoticed. For my part, I’m grateful to them, they’ve run something powerful for longer than I’ve been involved in writing at all, and I hope as the next years pass The Other Room is remembered as a real moment in 21st British poetry.
 

EPF2018 #11: Hitting Manchester with the European Poetry Festival

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The International Anthony Burgess Centre in Manchester is one of the best literary venues in the UK I think, I’ve only ever had grand events and performances there, audience and enthusiasm wise. It seems to distil the cities energy for more innovative work into concentrated form. This is in no small part to the staff there, and to the work of poets like Scott Thurston and Tom Jenks, and many others, who have led the decade long resurgence of avant-garde poetry in the city. I brought the European Poetry Festival north in the second to last event, after running 8 events in 8 days, nearly all of which involving over 10 performances 20 poets and sell out audiences. No one was flagging. Poets from Norway, Lithuania, Germany, Italy, France, Latvia and elsewhere in European travelled with us and were mostly paired with locally based poets. Everyone was kind, generous, full of life for the project of the festival. The positive feedback from both poets, supporters and audiences has been the most consistent of any project I’ve ever done. As ever the atmosphere in Manchester was friendly, unpretentious, and the performances were varied in tone, the collaborations ranged from the conceptual and satirical to the intense and reflective. Robert Sheppard’s The European Union of Imaginary Authors was celebrated alongside 10 brand new performances for the night. As has been the case for every event of the festival, the poets were buoyant afterwards and stayed out into the night. There has been a palpable sense the festival, beyond my control or intention, has created a community of sorts, transitory but concrete. Friendships have begun, and I’ve had the chance, through the poets and the audience, to meet so many new people I'd like to work with again.

3 new works from Tim Allen (not the comedian)

Tim Allen, once a vital part of the South West enclave of avant garde poets, based in and around Plymouth with the likes of Philip Kuhn and Hannah Silva, and now based in the North West, is a fantastic and I'd venture deeply underappreciated poet. He's been produced works of high quality for decades, and now has published three significant works in quick succession with the brilliant presses with make the Manchester area scene so unique and productive, and all of whom have been kind enough to support my work. 

Tattered by Magnets is published by Knives forks and spoons http://knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk/tatteredbymagnet.html
Copyright is published by Dept press http://department3.tumblr.com/post/76865623925/copyright-by-tim-allen
& the carousing duck is published by Zimzalla http://zimzalla.co.uk/

EVP Manchester

Maybe the most involving performance, maybe. The Burgess foundation was an intense environment, inspiring for me http://www.anthonyburgess.org/ His spirit was about, I waited between sets in his library, filled with first editions, signed copies, weird books that must've been his. I sprinkled his ashes on stage. 1985. I felt quite warmed by the presence of friends in the audience, Holly Pester (who I beared, hoovered, retched and flicked), Tom Jenks, Scott Thurston - poets I respect, fun to show the stuff before them, and it was packed, and dark, and I felt stranglely nerveless beforehand, and so it did flow, lots of heavy pukkke. Exhaustion can relax, can afford funny rifts in a character. I returned the morning after, to buy some books, and I had a open, meditative afternoon waiting before, in central Manchester, confused and enlightened by its bleak newness and unfinishedness, like my performance and my piece. I worried I was a little too ebullient after, too loud and sharp in conversing etc...but our hotel was bizzarre, like the overlook, shining-esque, and that returned me to ground. 

EVP eats the Anthony Burgesssss centre in Manchester soon.

http://www.creativetourist.com/articles/art/manchester/sound-art-art-meets-the-afterlife-in-electric-voice-phenomena/ ...h a “subliminal” message, purportedly concealed within the band’s recordings, exhorted two young American teenagers to “do it” and end their lives. The case proceeded, regardless of conclusive evidence for either the efficacy of subliminal communication, or – indeed – the alleged message itself. More tangentially, the evening is rounded out by S.J. Fowler channelling Dada’s metaphorical ghost, and Ross Sutherland, who combines “reclaimed” video footage with the spoken word; his looped clips of The Crystal Maze will doubtless summon some unpredictable manifestations. All in all, it promises to be a strange, unnerving and probably fairly noisy affair, though if you listen close, you might hear the voice of the now-deceased Raudive, vindicated at last.... http://www.anthonyburgess.org/