Category Archives: Letters & Interviews

Les Animots: A Human Bestiary (in conversation with Gordon Meade)

spider's web
Taken from my window, 8a.m. So fragile, yet tenacious. The perfect writer’s emblem. Joan Barbara Simon, Luxembourg.

GORDON : Joan, a poem from my next collection, Les Animots: A Human Bestiary, out in September 2015. Hope you like it…

Spider

Spider is very seldom
seen at the centre of her web.
She is happier lurking

at the edges. It gives
her victims a larger area on which
to land. It is only after

she has felt the vibrations
that Spider rushes in. Life is lived
at the edges; the dead

centre, left for the kill.

JOAN: Hi Gordon. I love this poem; the concentrics of it; spider not at the centre, though she must start at the centre (why is she always a she, and depicted as a killer? just a thought…); vibrations (I think, too, of water, rippling away from the stone thrown into it…); dead centre (bull’s eye), still-living prey ready for the kill… struggling, thus provoking vibrations, SOS… message received… here she comes

GORDON: Glad you liked it!

JOAN: more than liked it, Gordon. Would you allow me to cite it in the critical analysis part of my Ph.D.? I can (begin to) see how it relates to themes I’m exploring; themes on structure, layered reading, hypersemia, movement, even brushing Derrida and certainly relevant to my take on Faulkner (e.g. ‘Caddy uncaught me and we crawled through’: The Sound & The Fury), even the notion of prey.

And maybe it’s just me being pervy again, but I also pick up a whiff of something vaguely sexual there, not just the spider as she-predator, but also in the structure of the web itself (getting well and truly pervy now…); could be a nipple, could be THAT orifice, sticky, waiting, dead at the centre…?

But it’s also a great metaphor for the meanings that ripple off individual words (Bakhtin), whose centre, origin (in pops Derrida) can never satisfactorily be traced…; there is a hole at the heart of (the) language (trap). That your poem brings all of this together, structured semantically (as I see it) like the very web it describes, gives me goosepimples. We’re verging off into French, so I’ll say frissons. 🙂

GORDON: By all means use it, Joan. Funny you should mention Derrida as one of the quotes that I’ll be using as a sort of introduction to the new book is from him:

The animal is a word, it is an appellation that men have instituted, a name they have given themselves the right, and the authority, to give to another creature.”

I’m very pleased by your response to the poem. The book, which will be illustrated by a Scottish artist, will consist of four “galleries” of creatures which, hopefully, will be both animal and human, or for the reader to find out for him- or herself.

JOAN: Derrida also explored the notion of hymen. And violence… Of the struggle at the borders, which I see as fitting in neatly with Bakhtin. In describing the animal as a word – as BUT a word is the echo I hear when I read the passage anew – I sense the injustice done onto the living thing by the authority of Man – by his ab/use of language. This BUT opens up realms where ideas may merrily breed and shapes may shift: Animots, anime les mots…(I think of Jacques Prévert…) man, striped of his husk, becomes which animal? Do we err on the spider’s web, eventually to be pulled toward a dead centre? Just thinking out loud. And deeply impressed by your poem, Gordon!

GORDON: I think a lot of your impressions regarding the poem are definitely there… the sexuality, the dead centre, language as a trap etc. One of the things I’m trying to do in the poems from Les Animots; A Human Bestiary, is to use a pared down sort of language to open up a lot of different interpretations.
Encouragement is good at any time, but your timing is impeccable with this poem, as I am meeting up with the illustrator tomorrow. I haven’t seen his sketches on the Spider poem, but we had talked about having the web encompassing the text with just a glimpse of the spider at the edge of the page.

JOAN: and if the spider were off the page??? If we see her, we know which direction she’s coming from. This makes her less dangerous, to me. If we don’t/can’t see her, we have no idea where the danger is lying in wait. And it makes the poem, and the web, spill over the border of the page – pages are rectangular, webs are not… – into a space that only the reader may enter. Not sure if you want to go that far. I’ll definitely buy a copy of the book, so I’ll find out 🙂

My Prison Without Bars

Award-winning author Taylor Fulks, talking about My Prison Without Bars

This book and its subject matter has consumed my soul for the last three years. I’ve endured cyber bullies, AMAZON and Goodreads trolls, hate mail, and death threats, as well as a Welsh author trying to have my book banned. I’ve had to defend not only my book, but also myself as a person (child pornographer was some of the mud thrown at me).

taylor fulks tweet 1

I’m tired and weary of the fight… tired of being victimized all over again. Writing this book (my way) has lifted a weight from my shoulders. It has removed the rage I have kept bottled inside of me for 40+ years. I’m finally free. Listening to it in audio takes me “back there,” which invariably brings on the nightmares. I have to keep reminding myself while listening to my wonderful narrator, that this is giving that little girl from the trailer park a voice for the first time.

taylor fulks tweets 3

Death threats???

Yes… death threats. Some came from the UK, while others were here in the US. My biggest issue was a Welsh author who tried to have my book banned on Amazon, and rallied about fifteen other authors to join in her quest. I had nine weeks of hell, fearful of my inbox and its contents. I have the misfortune of not knowing who my friends are… all because she thought my novel was a memoir. I still fail to see the significance of the genre.

May I share this on my blog?

I don’t have a problem with you sharing my email on your blog – what an interesting concept! I do want to warn you that you may be pursued by some of my haters. They attacked any and everyone that retweeted, tweeted, or supported me in any way. They were relentless and over the top. I wouldn’t want you to suffer any ill effects. But, you’re a big girl and I don’t doubt you can handle yourself, so if you wish, be my guest.

taylor fulks tweet 2

I also support and tweet quite a few erotica authors. I find we are treated much the same. We are judged by what we write, not the person behind the avatar. Most people feel that if you’ve been sexually abused, you hate sex, you don’t have sexual urges, and God forbid, you certainly wouldn’t ever read about it!

Anyway, authors of erotica have been among the most gracious and poignant reviewers of my book. They get it. You do too.

Thank you so much for reaching out… and for reading my heart, Joan. Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. I get stronger everyday.

Taylor

2014 Global eBook Awards: Gold Medal Winner

2014 eLIT Award of Excellence: Gold Medal Winner

2013 Indie Readers Discovery Award: 1st place

2013 Readers Favourite International Book Awards: Gold Medal Winner

More about Taylor Fulks and her book, My Prison Without Bars

On style

the wall

I just hammer something half way into shape, throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks… have a look at aftermath… maybe sugar and spice.

(J. Loving, private correspondence)

Doing what the customer wants is a recipe for conservatism and the reduction of humanity to a bunch of “yes” people with no innovation and certainly no improvement.

All the best writers (and philosophers) are clear and coherent. Those who are not are shams and silly children trying to be clever clever for lack of talent.

(Oscar-nominated filmmaker Anthony Howarth, private correspondence)

poets leak internal weather
the outside has less meaning when the inside is open
I like it when words do different jobs to their usual, proper ones. I don’t want to write if I am only prepared to stay on the safe side. There is no growth on that side.

I have my fave writing tools on the table always – black Bic, blue, green Bic, orange felt-tip, also, there’s a yellow felt-tip this week, and I like using a magenta felt-tip, sometimes HB pencils… and a red pencil I keep losing, then it all depends which one is closest to hand when I need to write… so it’s almost Random, but I’d say it’s emotional and aesthetic, too. Like if I was drawing or painting. My notebooks are my best friends, constant. They go back years and are jam-packed with thoughts, ideas, drawings, rough drafts etc. going back, sporadically, to 1973.

I call it MY writing, that’s all. It is MINE. It has to be Mine. I have to make it MINE, make the words MY very own words. I wouldn’t bother doing it if I couldn’t find ways to make the words mine. Like, I’m facing a brick wall built by men, tradition etc. and I find my own ways to dissolve the grout, seep through the cracks, climb over, dig under, go around this ugly, brutish wall. Wall built by dullards. My only tool is the slippery part of me that is very me. Very me speaks my words, not theirs. Very me speaks their words in my own way. Their words – used by me – can become my words.

(Penny Goring, private correspondence )

 

When Women Want More More

Recently, a female writer said to me:  It would take guts to hand over the power one can have as a woman. You can be any sex you like when you write. Or none at all. You can be a tree.

On the topic of feminism, she responded:  I’m not sure what it is. Maybe because I’m bisexual, I don’t feel particularly affiliated to either sex. Or, I feel affiliated to both. Or I loathe the lot of you.

A barrage of questions ensued:
i. How does your first sentence relate to the second one?
ii. When you talk about guts, are you talking about women in general or women when they write?
iii. If the former, what, according to you, does this power look like and when do you (or have to) hand it over?
iv. If you have power when you write, what is it you want to use this power for?

and I wanted to know:
v. Would you say that you succeed in leaving your gender behind you when you write and if so, wouldn’t that be giving away the power you have as a woman???

Answers pending.

I confessed:
I personally don’t feel that I have a lot of power as a woman (in general), but I know that when I write, I’m a warrior.

Hard Core: Min(e/d)

BROSNAN Forming Trust

Chains, now, there’s a topic for a prolonged conversation…

Yes, I’m into chains – more mental ones than real – and you are wrong to think that writing fiction does not enslave, does not shackle. It most certainly does, in no less a pleasurable/excruciating way. The one freedom it accords us is the liberty not to set our thoughts within the comparative contexts of other thinkers/scholars with a view to elaborating an argument. Writing fiction is my ‘self-inflicted pleasure’. You know of the risk/rupture/latent stress entailed in the move from one developmental stage to another, and echoed in the notion of growing pains. I find this risk, this danger, this pain, exhilarating, and yes, erotic, so that I must return to it again and again. It is a form of bondage…

I cannot tell you how hard it is to write the things I write. The battle as I wrench myself from my old developmental level; from received social, sexual, linguistic codes, propounding, instead, forging, instead, a new order; the move to Level 2. (…) but I shall have to ruminate further about the nature and purpose of the chains involved in both my writing activities. Right now, I’m just putting my nose to the idea. The few pages which comprise Papermate , for example, exacted as much discipline from me as any chapter in my doctoral thesis, that much is sure. My fiction is crafted, and crafts must bow to rules of harmony, stability; they should delight with a surprise, with insight, taking you further, as much as any (good) scientific paper. The melody, however, is another.
(…)
No idea of a title yet, but something will come to me. Now the fun and turmoil starts. I can already feel the clay under my nails, the spattered thoughts which must be tamed and brought into unison. I can feel this thing growing in me, compelling my thoughts back to it, and I anticipate with relish the ecstatic pain that is the price I must pay for daring to bring something beautiful to life.

 

(from my private correspondence with one of the few men who have had a brief impact on me. Illustration: Forming Trust, reproduced with the kind permission of Naomi Brosnan )

 

Deathbone by Penny Goring

This woman kinds of scares the shit out of me. For all the right reasons. Penny Goring. Rouge allure palpitante. Like it or love it. Actually, I don’t even feel up to summing her up. I’ll let her get on with it:

ART IS A SOLID ERECTION

Every word is an object I can see clearly, I could draw them ALL… the things it can say when its on its back… some are purely from the sound if you pinch it or what it does when you spin it in circles (it throws shadows, i can see them) (oops, now it’s throwing up) or take it out for a visit somewhere special and it turns purple & smells posh

TO SAY WHAT YOU MEAN IS THE GIFT-CURSE

It would take guts to hand over the power one can have, as a woman. You can be any sex you like when you write. Or none at all. You can be a tree

I WANT TO HURT YOU THEN MAKE IT WORSER

I’m facing a brick wall built by men, by tradition, and I find my own ways to dissolve the grout (…) Wall built by dullards. My only tool is the slippery part of me that is very me. Very me speaks my words, not theirs. Very me speaks their words in my own way. Their words – used by me – can become my words.

 

Penny Goring Deathbonevag bone connected to the heart bone
heart bone connected to the hate bone
hate bone connected to the love bone
love bone connected to the death bone
death bone connected to the birth bone
birth bone connected to the lonely bone
lonely bone connected to the fuck bone
i love the skyy i fuck with
i fuck death with my love bone
i fuck love with my lost bone
i have never been unfaithful to the skyy

“Love this so much. The last line, “i have never been unfaithful to the skyy” left me with my mouth wide open. Awesome sauce.” (Frausto)

 

Get back to her blog if you know what’s good for you.

The next big thing

Each Wednesday, invited authors answer a set of questions about their writing-in-progress, then go on to invite further authors to continue the discussion the following week. Thank you, Mike Horwood (of http://mikehorwood.blogspot.fr/) for tagging me. I in turn, propose a number of exciting authors for you to discover at the end of this post.

 

1. What is the working title of your next book?

Verses Nature. There’s a deliberate word-play in there; verses/versus, as I will explain later in answer to Question 3.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

I’ve had this really ‘big’ novel in me for a long time. The thought – fear – of not being able to rise to the occasion made sure it remained just a dream for more years than I care to remember. I’d say for well over a decade, actually. It was supposed to be some kind of all-encompassing cosmic/philosophical/theological/erotic opus, but I hadn’t a clue where to start. And with hindsight I think I was far too young.

I suppose the idea, to put it succinctly, came from the close observation of my social environment; the tensions I witnessed everywhere in human dealings with one another, the extent to which assumptions may cripple understanding. So I guess I could say I took a good look at myself, at my world, and thought: what does any of this mean?

As a plurilingual person, writer and researcher, I have long had a bone to pick with language, with the way it enslaves us. Two words to be handled with extreme care: ‘science’, ‘is’…Thinking about all of this, sucking words clean and finding them tasteless, meaningless, has led me to question the whole business of naming and defining (up pops the verses/versus word-play again).

3. What genre does your book fall under?

My answer to this question is a continuation of the question above. I don’t want Verses Nature to be immediately identifiable as belonging to any specific genre, since these, too, are part of the naming process I take issue with.

If you think about any word for long enough, try to track it back to some starting point – and fail – the word loses its meaning. In its own right, what is a word but mere noise? We have to look backward and forward, to culturally situate it, for it to yield any sense whatsoever. And this sense may always be contested. I’ve often heard: that’s not a novel/poem/add-any-other-name-to this-list. And I then think: why not? And so we come back to our assumptions about what is (not) permissible, do-able, and I don’t like that. If you stay within such endorsed frames, you’ll never break them down. What I try to do is to put such terms to the test.

One thing Verses Nature is not: chick lit.

4. Which actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie version?

Funny you should ask that question. Various people have flashed across my mind. I need a white male, late-middle-aged, overweight, overbearing, greasy-yet-seductive. Jack Nicholson? Robert de Niro? I need a smart, beautiful black woman, late forties. Halle Berry? Maybe a singer who can also act? Lauren Hill, perhaps? I don’t even know if she can act, but I like her aura. I need an equally smart German (looking) female, same age. No idea who’d play that role for now. One of my favourite actresses: Glenn Close, Meryl Streep?  Kate Winslet, perhaps? Maybe it would be better to have an entire cast of newcomers. Could be their big break. And mine!

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Now-now-you-just-heard-what-I-said-about-labeling-I-guess-the-title-says-it-all-VERSES-NATURE-(new/ly-ordered-being)-it’s-unlike-anything-(could-say-intellectual-erotic-maelstrom?)-so-just-keep-a-track-of-it-here-and-on-my-site-(I’ll-be-tweeting-bits-too)-and-buy-it-when-it’s-out. (There’s only one full stop so that makes one sentence…)

6. Will your book be published or represented by an agent?

It will definitely be published.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

A draft assumes there is, was, a cutting-off point. There is no first draft of Verses Nature. I keep a logbook of every idea I have that is related to the work. The first draft, if you will, was the inspirational moment the idea for the book was born. I had a pre-linguistic flash/insight, which then had to be tamed (should I have said ‘elaborated’?) via language. This flash contained everything and it was perfect, to my eyes. The tricky task is now to make it reality. The minute you start, it’s no longer the same. Language, as art and like art, sequential to the original, insightful moment, is always too late…

8. Which other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Which genre??? My book is promiscuous as far as genre is concerned, and in such promiscuity lies a deeper message; an appeal for tolerance as we acknowledge multiplicity. I like to combine the intellectual, the social and the erotic and to do so via a mixed-genre approach. I don’t want to be ‘bookish’, and I don’t want to write a ‘dirty book’. I honestly don’t know whom I would compare myself to (we all believe we’re writing something original, right?). There are authors I admire, and who have no doubt influenced me; people who dare to do it differently. It is not important for you to know who these people are. The reader will establish her/his own intertextual references and probably compare me to authors I may never have read. It’s your book, at the end of the day. Not mine.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Excuse me, isn’t this Question 2 in a new frock?

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Verses Nature is all about questioning assumptions, about questioning our relation to reality. I have a male protagonist mouthing off all the time: ‘Some people think I’m stuck up. Think I think I’m something special. Well, I am. I’ll leave the rest of you to be ordinary’. He was supposed to be despicable, but guess what? He grows on you. I was shocked to discover how much I enjoyed developing him. I kept thinking: you can’t do that; the women in this world could lapidate you for that! Then I thought; what was that about not bowing to cultural expectations? I’m not letting the ‘side down’. To have a side is to have a boundary, a wall. I’m climbing that wall. Then I’m going to take a hammer to it. So I’ve got this man that any self-respecting woman would claim not to (want to) have anything to do with, but are you so sure you’ll be able to, or even have to, resist?

So, enough about me. Now I’d like to draw to your attention a number of authors definitely worth following.

 

Jessica Patient:
Short story writer, novelist and reviewer, Jessica’s self-written biography is so delightful, there’s no need for me to try to pen something better (see link below):

In 2008 she won the WorldSkills Gold Award for her short story, Jasper’s Betrayal. Extracts were exhibited at the IMAX in London.

I love her website:
http://www.writerslittlehelper.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Anthony Howarth:
Writer, poet, reader, speaker, photographer, Oscar and Golden Globe nominated filmmaker… the list goes on. Anthony has published several books. His writing can be refreshingly honest, hard, angry, indignant, as it can be erotic, tender, and emotional. For your delight and reflection, Peace:

Peace

Absolute peace


Is lunch on your own

Tinned tuna

Stolen canteen bread

Alone in your cell

Sitting on your bed

The day before your release

Sentence is complete

The end of strife

Everything is done

With tomorrow will come

The complexities of life

This is the moment

To savour and retain

Tonight is another lifetime

Then

I may never be

So peaceful again

(Copyright © Anthony Howarth 1997, 2012)

for more:  anthonyhowarth.com

 

Federica Bianco:
Of Italian nationality and temperament.

Wishing that the sea were nearer than its own distant memory, that its freshness were closer to her feet so that one eager step would suffice to overcome muteness, knowing that indecisions are loaded but time is not, thus driven to ‘distrust flawlessly’, Federica has published an amazing volume of poetry, A Night in Gale, available at amazon (why, pray, shouldn’t the Next Big Thing be a poet??). Here’s an appetizer:

S.tear
whose warmth of solace
with
those arms of shelter…

when longed memories of skin
are caught under the spell of slumber
awoken by waterfalls of sorrow
emotions trigger the silly shiver
in the heart of night, when slowly
fallen deep down loathed sadness
the crawling, choking sounds of silence
remind one of that love, rusted and stoned

For more: http://federicabianco.weebly.com/

 

That makes four, not five, I know, but as you also know; it’s the quality that counts.  Take the time to revisit these sites.  I’ll say goodbye and good read!