Essay | The Moving Finger: Edward FitzGerald and the consolation of...

It is bad practice to search for a single moment in the life of an artist for explanation of their greatest work, but for Edward FitzGerald such a moment calls out for itself. In 1856 Edward Byles Cowell, FitzGerald’s companion and close friend, decided to leave for India following his graduation from Oxford to pursue a professorship in Calcutta. Up until this point in his life FitzGerald had been listless, finding little to enthuse him [...]

Review | Wasted at the Southwark Playhouse

A grungy rock musical about the Brontës and their challenging lives, battling against addiction, disease and poverty, promises to be an exhilarating take on this famous family. Bleak, poverty-stricken Yorkshire becomes a stark, wooden platform that stages a series of powerful rock ballads. With music by Christopher Ash and book and lyrics by Carl Miller, Wasted’s undeniably talented cast have the potential to create something really exciting, but sadly, the production’s [...]

Fiction | Tunnel by Will Ashon

We began the tunnel behind the bunk bed in the back bedroom. We chose the back bedroom because the guards went in there less often. They were lazy and also had to queue outside the supermarket for an hour or more, which made them lazier still. Some of them were eating cat food straight from the squeezy pouches. It dribbled down their chins and made their eyes go funny. I wonder sometimes if they even knew what they were guarding [...]

Essay | An argument for theatres by Amber Massie-Blomfield

The last show I saw before lockdown was Love Love Love at the Lyric Hammersmith. 500 of us were in that room; all gathered together to do what, in my pre-quarantine life, I used to do two or three times a week. I didn’t hug my friend when I met him at the start of the evening. It was the beginning of March and what constituted acceptable public behaviour seemed to shift on an hourly basis. We touched elbows. ‘This is probably the last theatre show we’ll ever see,’ [...]

Interview | Lara Williams on Supper Club, Feasting and Taking Up...

Roberta takes up cooking to avoid succumbing to loneliness at university; the start passion that later develops into her co-hosting secret dinner parties filled with food, alcohol, drugs, sex, and petty crimes with a group of defiant young women, known as the Supper Club. Hungry women gather to gorge themselves, to free themselves. And as their bodies expand, so do their desires. Winner of The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2019 and best books of the year in Vogue [...]

Interview | Rick Gekoski on Darke Matter, scepticism and reading for...

Rick Gekoski awoke one morning from uneasy dreams and inexplicably found himself metamorphosed into a writer of fiction. He was seventy-three years old, a retired academic, former Booker prize judge and Chair, broadcaster, bibliographer, private press publisher, journalist and rare book dealer. He had never published a word of fiction. His novel, Darke (2017) was prompted by an insistent inward voice, and its author was called “a late-flowering genius of a novelist” in The Times [...]

Essay | How to Run a Queer Reading Series at a...

Queers Read This is an ongoing reading series started independently by artist Richard Porter and myself at the Horse Hospital in London in 2017, and co-run with the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) since. Quarterly events feature readings of texts which work across intersectional systems of oppression, and challenge formal distinctions between prose and poetry or critical and creative writing. Themes range from pansies and twink mysticism [...]

News | Southbank’s Everyday Heroes art and poetry project to celebrate...

The Southbank Centre has announced a new public art and poetry project celebrating the invaluable contributions of key workers who have kept the country running during the COVID-19 crisis. Everyday Heroes will comprise original portraits - whether in the form of paintings, drawings, photographs and texts - reproduced as large scale posters for a dynamic display across the Southbank Centre from mid August to November 2020. The portraits are to be shown [...]

Review | Emma Rice’s Wise Children at Bristol Old Vic, 9...

Emma Rice’s stage adaptation of Wise Children, Angela Carter’s final novel, is raunchy, colourful and garish. We have come to expect nothing less from the acclaimed director, whose bold approach proved too much for theatrical conservatives during her spell as Artistic Director at Shakespeare's Globe. In this first production from her new theatre company – also named ‘Wise Children’ - Rice’s talent explodes into an all-singing, all-dancing drama, with high kicks, sex and scandal galore [...]

Poetry | The Older Touches by Bibhu Padhi

There are times when I remember / all of them fondly enough for them / to be here once more, all around / this house, which is far away from / where they were around, and at this hour, / far away again from my childhood fears. / Now I can just think of them. And / what is thinking except the mind’s / imaginings, the heart speaking to itself / in the darkness of default, fearing alien / ears, the world’s participation in the shame / of being touched in front of others? [...]

Interview | David Constantine on Writing Lived Experience, Fiction as Felt...

David Constantine counts himself lucky to be having a relatively peaceful lockdown at home with his wife, Helen, in Oxford. He spends his time going for long walks and, of course, writing in his shed at the bottom of the garden amidst the birdsong. The paperback edition of Constantine’s fifth short story collection, The Dressing-Up Box, will be released later this month by Comma Press [...]

Essay | Am fit. Always thinking of you. Love. by Sam...

Before he settled on The Plague for his title, Camus considered The Separated and The Exiles. Exile comes suddenly to the inhabitants of Oran, a ‘clean-cut deprivation’ of contact with their lives beyond the city. The roads are sealed overnight. Not even letters can escape for fear of infection. Phone calls are restricted to ‘urgent cases.’ Lovers parted by quarantine must ‘hunt for tokens of their past communion within the compass of a ten-word telegram’ [...]

Interview | Dima Alzayat on Alligator: stories of displacement, cultural myth...

Human beings are naturally drawn to a good story and that’s regardless of the medium, whether that’s writing or film or something else. I think fiction can help readers see ways of living and thinking that differ from how they live and think, and, at the very least, this can make them more open to or understanding of difference. For me, a good story puts the reader in someone else’s shoes and taps into a reader’s own experiences and emotions in order to connect them [...]

Poetry | Almost-Heartwood by Suzannah V. Evans

The rosy almost-heartwood of larch, / which sounds like lark, which sounds like singing, / which sounds like the wood could open its rosy throat / and pour forth the song of boats / sighing in the harbour, / swimming onto slipways, knocking against pontoons / The grainy planks of teak, / which sounds like talk, which sounds like the boatbuilders / as they ease about the wooded space, handling compass planes, / talking of cleats and chines and carvels, making tea [...]

Review | A Monster Calls at The Old Vic, 5-11 June...

This stunning Old Vic production, devised from the best-selling YA novel by Patrick Ness, hits so many emotional notes; it left me in bits. In its honest depiction of illness and grief, A Monster Calls is a timely production to stream. Conor, while coming to terms with his mum’s cancer, must struggle with school bullies, falling out with his best friend, and his dad moving to America with his new family. It is a lot to tackle in under two hours, but the play is well-paced and [...]

Essay | Wholly Communion by Scarlett Sabet

On June 11th 1965, over 7,000 people filled the Royal Albert Hall for four hours, smoking, applauding and listening to men that would soon become myth: Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Adrian Mitchell, and Gregory Corso were just some of the poets that performed that night at the International Poetry Incarnation. It was a counter-culture ‘happening’ in one of London's most affluent boroughs, the Royal Albert Hall itself a testament to the power and wealth of the old British Empire [...]

Interview | Leland Cheuk on the comic novel, stereotype and optimism

Leland Cheuk is the award-winning author of The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong (2015) and a short story collection, Letters from Dinosaurs (2016). He is the founder of the indie press 7.13 Books and teaches at the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute. I spoke to Leland about his newest novel No Good Very Bad Asian (2019) and his experience of belonging to the so-called 'model minority' in COVID-19 America. A cross between Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and [...]

Essay | Layli and Majnun: Romeo and Juliet of the East...

When it comes to love stories, none are as well known in the English language as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In Iran and elsewhere in the Persian-speaking world, however, another pair of star-crossed lovers reigns supreme. Lord Byron, who enthused over ancient Iran in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, called Nezami Ganjavi’s Layli and Majnun ‘the Romeo and Juliet of the East’. Though given to exaggeration, this was no exaggeration on Byron’s part [...]

Interview | Scarlett Sabet in conversation with Gerard Malanga

You ask how my week has been? I've been in lockdown now for 3 weeks or so, though I might've lost count. I have plenty to keep me busy in the house here, plus I have responsibility towards my 3 cats. And then there's dreamtime, between 4 & 6 in the morning. But suddenly I felt days back this ennui coming on, like, did the poetry suddenly disappear? Sometimes I'm concerned—but just for a moment mind you—whether I can match or even better the last one? There's no way [...]

Interview | Artist Nancy Cadogan on Keats, Gusto and the Keats-Shelley...

Nancy Cadogan is a British figurative painter. She was named as one of the ‘Top 20 New British Art Talents’ by Tatler magazine, describing her as ‘the new Paula Rego’ in 2008. Since then, she has been featured as one of 93 women artists to exhibit at The Ned, London, for its permanent Vault 100 exhibition. Her solo shows, Mind Zero and Footnotes (for the British Art Fair), were presented at the Saatchi Gallery in London. [...]

Review | This House, National Theatre at Home

Undeniably, the UK has experienced a turbulent political era in the last five years, but it certainly meets its match in the five running from 1974 to 1979. From fistfights in parliament, to faked deaths, to MPs brought in to vote from their hospital beds, this period saw it all. In the critically acclaimed This House, playwright James Graham and director Jeremy Herrin masterfully capitalise on parliament’s real-life melodramas, creating an accessible political drama exploding with tension and laughter [...]

Essay | Reflections on Orwell’s Coming Up for Air by Patrick...

"Call it peace, if you like. But when I say peace I don’t mean absence of war, I mean peace, a feeling in your guts. And it’s gone for ever if the rubber-truncheon boys get hold of us." What moves us about this passage? It is not particularly difficult to know which literary world we are in, which part of history we are being exposed to, and even which author is speaking [...]

Review | A Luminous Republic & Such Small Hands by Andrés...

Andrés Barba’s ghostly novella Such Small Hands met with resounding critical success in its native Spain, as well as in the UK and US with English translations by Lisa Dillman, in 2017. Darkly compelling, it was lauded for its unsettling plot and baroque descriptions, blending conventions from Greek tragedy and Gothic literature [...]

Fiction | Negative Capability by Michèle Roberts

Yesterday ended in disaster. Very late at night, I decided to write down everything that had happened, the only way I could think of coping. So here goes. Yesterday I woke up at seven thirty in my white-painted wrought-iron bed, felt lazy, decided to have a lie-in. Almost immediately, above me, the neighbours’ bed began creaking. [...]

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