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Why o why?

7:18am. I’ve been sat at the pc since half 6 – checking mails & tweaking publications. Publications, did you say? Yes publications, plural. Next Saturday we launch Dark Matter 5, the latest in our series of lovely a6 chapbooks (see one of my previous posts for photos). This latest one has Steve Urwin & Catherine Ayres – 2 great poets from the North East. Having said they’re great poets, Steve’s stuff is all prose! and has been a bit of a bugger to format – the good thing is that he’s been on board all the time, emailing amendments – and apologising for being so finicky! I have actually got it done a full week before the launch, which is nice.

There was a recent post on FB by Reuben Woolley which dealt with the problem some poets seem to have with selling. Someone had called him out along the lines of “Salesmen sell not poets”, which, unless it was meant to be ironic, was a stupid thing to say. If the poets aren’t out there pimping their work how are people going to hear about it? As a Small Press its very important that the poets we publish push their product – I’m a long, long way from making any money with BLERooom, but I still need to try. All this snobbery over making a bit of cash stinks of 19th C. foppism – they were all rich, so didn’t need to worry about grubby old money. The good thing with Steve & Catherine is they’ll both perform well & they’ll both take copies to sell on at future events. Which is all to the good. There’s no point in my publishing people if no one knows I have. Which brings me to the plurality of publications I’m working on…

Halloween will see the launch of the first in our Incidental chapbooks series with the amazing “transitions” by Robert Francis. This has been an almighty chew on, and one that is very far from finished. On top of the usual formatting nightmare – I set it all as a4 & the printer shrinks it down to a5, same as he does for the Dark Matter series. But. You have to get the font size right, which means I have to get a proof printed out, and then resize. I had it all sorted, until I decided the wide a5 format wasn’t what I was after…so I’ve changed the size of the chapbook, which has involved me cutting & pasting, then resizing the poems. The series – yes, series! – will all have a similar look – matt card covers, simple illustration, and flaps! Flaps? Yes, flaps…I was inspired in this by seeing a Smith/Doorstep book – and I have a few books with flaps on & they look cool…Robert’s travelling up from the Midlands to perform at his launch, which is also my wedding anniversary! Yes, I know, she’s a lucky girl – married to me and attending a poetry event!!!

We’re gearing up for a bit of a Publishing Blitz in the early part of next year, with not one, not two, but five, yes FIVE chapbooks due out in Jan/Feb. I’ve not started on the newer chapbooks yet, a pleasure I’m putting off for as long as posible. WHO are we publishing? you scream. Well…getta holda yr pants, because…

“Our Lady of the Iguanas” by Pippa Little. “Prodigals” by Martin Malone. “Tongues of Fire” by Jane Burn. “Chasing the Sunset” by Harry Gallagher. And last, but by no means least, I’ll be reissuing my “River Songs” chapbook, which Ek Zuban published in 2010. Its gonna be mental like…

Issue 14 of BLERoom mag will be out at the end of November – we have a few great poets – Angela France, Jim Burns, Tom Kelly – so far, but on top of that we will be publishing snippets from the above chapbooks…

Where are we now?

So…I’ve been in email contact with the poet Jim Burns for the last couple of months (google Jim Burns poet). He’s a poet I’d ‘discovered’ in an old book from 1974 and had always liked. The internet enabled me to track down some of his books and discover that the poems I’d read weren’t a fluke and that he was a great poet. At the launch of my chapbook “Gorged On Light” (available from Red Squirrel) I got chatting to Tom Kelly, another good poet, about poets we thought deserved to be better known. I mentioned Charles Tomlinson, who is a consistently great poet – go check him out too – and Tom said Jim Burns, which got me in a tizz cos no one in my immediate circle had heard of him – well, I used a poem of his:

Easter In Stockport

I am sitting in a comfortable high-rise flat
overlooking the industrial wasteland of Stockport
(Wasteland! This is going to be very poetic!)
and the past comes quietly creeping in on me
like a smooth grey smog from the factories.
Easter in New York, April in Paris,
why do they bring this Spring feeling
when I know I don’t want to be anywhere else?
Irene is in the kitchen, cooking breakfast.
Isn’t it romantic? And last night we made love
for the second time! You would be surprised
at what happens in those high-rise flats.
But here they come again. Old poems, old songs,
memories flooding in as the lock-gates open.
I see her face before me, half-hidden behind
a boiled egg and the morning paper. My mood
is swimming in a coffee cup. The radio is
pumping out another old song, but I can’t place it,
and some lines from a poem slip through my mind
like shadowy ships sliding into the ‘Frisco fog
in a flickering Forties mystery movie.
We ought to be high on a windy hill, the sky
is up above the roof. The smoke from a cigarette
curls between us. A photograph of a French poet,
ash-heavy cigarette dangling from his lips
snaps up on the screen. Easter in New York.
“The girl with paper roses on her straw hat.
They sing through eternity who sing like that.”
The Belle of New York? Old films, old poems,
old songs, memories. Irene rustles the paper,
clinks a tea-spoon against the sugar-bowl.
The weak sun starts to climb high into a sky
of shifting clouds. Notes drift up from the street.
Easter eases in like a slowly-melting chocolate egg.

In my very first workshop, so at least a few more people know who he is now. Well, Tom had his address, which he mailed me. I then sent a short letter Jim, which I hope wasn’t too star-struck, along with a copy of The Black Light Engine Room. I was hoping the delish cover (by my delish Other Half – see earlier post) & excellent writing inside, would win him over & he’d send me some poems. Which he did. That I published in issue 12. Which made me very happy indeed.

Yeah, yeah, you’re thinking? And? Well, as well as being a poet Jim also has out a number of books of essays, which – truth to tell – I was a bit dubious about – Poets and essays, especially about poetry – see Bloodaxe’s ‘Angry Words’ – rarely work for me. Now this book Radicals, Beats & Beboppers (http://www.pennilesspress.co.uk/books/radicals.htm) was, as the title no doubt gives away, mostly about Americans. The Beats don’t interest me that much, and I really just don’t like Jazz etc. So I put it in the bathroom & read a bit each time I went to sit on the pot. Brilliant! Each article – and I read them all – was written for a magazine, so there’s no long meandering passages, or pointless ephemera. True, so of the subjects were a trifle obscure, but that’s the beauty of these, and his other books of essays – which I’m reading now. He’s a bit of an expert on the Beats, as well as a lifelong Jazz etc, and that’s where his heart, mostly, lies. I wrote again, and asked – without wanting to sound cheeky – if he hoped someone would write something similar about him, and in his reply he made out a small list of things he’d done and been involved, including this:  http://bluefredpress.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/classic-books-revisited-children-of.html, which I’d had on my shelf for over a decade & not realised he was in it! It was then that I realised how little I knew about poetry in this country, the history of small magazines in particular. Which is something I’m remedying at the moment.

Being in touch with someone so knowledgeable is great, as on top of getting more of his essays – I’m reading his 1st collection on my trips to the loo – he’s mentioned a few books to check out, the first of which was Cusp by Geraldine Monk (http://www.shearsman.com/ws-shop/category/1108-monk-geraldine/product/4087-geraldine-monk-cusp-recollections-of-poetry-in-transition) which has an interview with Jim, and a whole load of people I’d never heard of, talking about running small poetry mags/presses. There was quite a well respected magazine based in Hartlepool of all places! Its been very interesting, reading about their struggles – the old days before email and mobile phones! But more than anything its given me a boost personally, as I totally struggle with the whole what’s the point? thing when it comes to the mag/press. Well, I struggle with the whole what’s the point? with a lot of things I do, but the mag especially. That crisis of confidence is over now, which is nice. When I mentioned how ignorant I was Jim pointed me towards “British Poetry 1964-1984” by Martin Booth, which I’ve just started reading. I’ve also been jotting down some questions to ask Jim, which – hopefully – won’t make me sound like a total idiot, and we can feature in a future iss of the mag. Anyhoo…thanks for reading…

O wot a luvvery Summa

It’s bloody wet out! But…we’ve just had two cracking events as part of the Crossing The Tees Festival – one in Stockton & one in Boro. Some great performers at both events, which was nice. And issue 13 of the mag! The cover of this, which is by the multi-talented Sherrie Theriault,  is the polar opposite to Jane’s cover for 12. The writing inside though…well, that’s as cracking as ever – and features quite a few poets who were new to our pages. Which is great. As per usual I had a brief attack of Oh fuck off! when I was putting the finishing touches to it, as well as not getting it actually finished til the Wednesday before the Saturday launch. Hey ho! I’ve got a very ambivalent attitude to a lot of things I do, and I can’t see it changing anytime soon…which is both a blessing and a curse.

This is my big push at being positive and making myself Blog, if for no other reason than to tell you that we’re accepting submissions for issue 14, which will be out in November! theblacklightenginedriver@hotmail.co.uk

Front Cover issue 13

Oh no, another bloody mag, another bloody blog…

Actually I’m very happy with the mag! I am even very happy I’m working on this Press. It won’t last, obvs. My jubilant mood. The Press is going from strength to strength. This is due in no small way to the great poets who have been working tirelessly to raise its profile. And the cover to issue 12, which is fucking Enormous! So…I’m looking forward to issuing that difficult 13th issue in the summer. And…well Robert Francis’s debut chapbook TRANSITIONS, which is full of trangressive and life affirming stuff.

The Black Light Engine Room – Info!!!

A few people have asked about a BLERoom website recently. hahaha is my usual reply. I have neither the time nor the money to sort one, so am posting some details here…

1stly, The Black Light Engine Room magazine. This comes out 3 times a year and features artists and poets from around the globe, but always has a strong North East content, seeing as how we’re based in Middlesbrough and there are a hell of a lot of good poets round here. Its a real labour of love and a whiles away from recouping the money I’ve poured into it. Each contributor gets a free copy, and p&p is £1.20, which adds up if more than 10 of those owed copies are outside of the area. Its onto its 12th issue – March 2015 – and has featured some decent names in the past, as well as some 1st timers and a hell of a lot of poets who should be more known, but aren’t yet. Its an A4 printed thing of great beauty & as stressful as it is getting money together for the initial print-run I love holding it in my hands at the Printers…

The Black Light Engine Room night. This is a, mostly, monthly live event held in Middlesbrough. They’re fun, serious, and generally fun and serious. We have a good number of non-poets in the audience, which is nice & they’re not shy of putting their hands in their pockets when we have a magazine or chapbook for sale.

Dark Matter. These are the chapbooks, featuring 2 poets previously published in the mag, that we started last year. A6 with a bright yellow cover, their aim is to present a fuller selection of the poets…which is nice.

Below are the subscription details…

3 issues of The Black Light Engine Room mag per year.
£18 – UK
£20 – Europe
£30 – rest of the world
2 issues of Dark Matter chapbook per year
£12 – UK
£16 – Europe
£20 – rest of the world
BOTH
£30 – UK
£40 – Europe
£50 – rest of the world

BLER T Junction Special Cover

and here’s the cover of the last issue…

Things…

…last night for of us travelled up to Jibba Jabba in Newcastle, to promote the Dark Matter chapbooks. It was a good night, and fun was had by all. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. No. As many of you will know – true, there are only 3 people, apart from me who read this blog – that I’m interested in Local History. This means I’m constantly getting excited by seeing old signs on buildings, or that said building is part of a row that was built in three parts, all of which are slightly different. It makes me happy, even if it doesn’t keep me off the streets. Whenever I’m out I’m constantly looking around with the aim of spotting something I’ve hitherto missed. In this past week and a half I have noticed 2 signs denoting the old name of blocks I have passed regularly for years. I got very excited, let me tell you! I don’t expect people to understand, but this latest phase is surely more worrying, especially since I am not worried by it in the least. Drain coverings. Metal coverings for electricity cables. Tv cables. It all began, though began would suggest it was sudden, and it was not…when I noticed the date 1947 on one of them. I’d seen one with Middlesbeough on it, but a lot seemed to have been made in Dudley. Or so I thought. James Dudley on some of them, which meant…I don’t know! Stanton plc. There’s some made in Stockport. Glynwd. And I find myself wondering if anyone’s actually made a List of them, detailed their provenance etc. And how maybe, just maybe, I’m the man for the job?

AGHHHHHHHHHHHHH…..

….though I am actually coming at the Blog with positive intent.

It may have been 3 years ago I started a short story with Victor Brauner (my favourite painter -https://www.facebook.com/groups/150935285017089/) in a rather impressionistic style. It may have been 4 years, I don’t know without checking my journals. It’s been a long time is all. I kept getting stuck for months at a time trying to get a little detail right, and the last bit – the denouement  as it were – boxed my head in royally…at the end of May I set myself the task of finishing it. Which I did. On July the 1st. I was very happy! I also decided, after a brief peruse, to carry on a short story I’d begun in 2007, but stopped due some emotional trauma. This was a rewrite of the story I’d begun two years earlier, which was itself a reworking of a novel I’d started in 2001. All had ground to halt due to unforeseen emotional trauma, all involving women. BFH. I decided the 2007 short wasn’t good enough, so I’ve decided to start it again. From scratch. And I am happy! I’ve not even written a full page yet, but I can feel all the strands that were doing my head in before surfacing – and I know what to do with them now! Love, Death, Poetry, Gnosticism, Industrial Music and Middlesbrough! So blah to blogs about hating blogs…It won’t last though….