Monkey Reviews The Dead Queen of Bohemia

THE DEAD QUEEN OF BOHEMIA by JENNI FAGAN

An ex-girlfriend had a tatty book that gathered dust in my old flat. It was called How Poetry Works. I flicked through it a few times but it could’ve been a computer manual from the 1980s for all the sense it made to me. I don’t know how poetry works. I don’t know how computers work either. I couldn’t care less; as long as they do. Music’s the same. Ray Davies onArenathe other week got all tetchy about documentary makers wanting to over-analyze artists when people “either like the song or they don’t”.I like Jenni Fagan’s poems. They live at the dark end of the street, across the tracks, on the outskirts of town in a world inhabited by junkies, winos, weirdoes and whores. And they’re only the harmless ones. Fagan doesn’t romanticize them but is empowered by her own experiences and wears them proudly like a rusting pin badge rescued from the rain. Out of the human wreckage come phrases like “…the schizophrenic knew fifteen different ways to bring Satan through a crack in the wall like a great vagina of doom” that instantly leave their words stamped in the brain. But there are two sides of every coin and on the flip of Jenni’s feisty confrontations are glimpses of vulnerability and tenderness.

They work for me. They should work for you too.

The Dead Queen of Bohemia by Jenni Fagan is published by Blackheath Books, priced £7.50.

Blackheath Books Website.

posted by monkey at 12:07

Urchin Belle, Dunedin Gallery

Urchin Belle, Jenni Fagan


Urchin Belle, Jenni Fagan

February 2010

Edition of 50, Hardcover, 32 pages. Woodblock cover illustration.

Published by Kilmog Press

ISBN: 978-0-9864567-7-0

Urchin Belle is a debut collection that combines a genuine poetic originality with a piercing clarity. This is a voice born out of a life lived on the edges of society. The erotic and mundane collide with the surreal and extreme to produce a voice at once beguiling, shocking and entirely unapologetic. The stories of those living within and outside the system recur alongside the kind of raw erotic base need that leaves the reader wanting more.

About the author:

Jenni Fagan is a poet, playwright and novelist. She represented Scotland as a young playwright and has had plays read at Edinburgh Festival and in Athens. Since her birth in 1977, Fagan has had three legal names, moved forty times, travelled, and played in bands.Urchin Belle is her first poetry collection to be published (available in the UK from Blackheath books). Jenni was recently awarded funding by Dewar Arts Awards to write for three years and gain a degree. She lives in London with her two cats and is completing her fiction novelThe Panopticon.

$45.00

Click Here – http://artgallery.marketeer.co.nz/product.pasp?categoryid=1&productid=138


Tideland

I have squirrels living in the roof of my building. They freak my cat out, are very bold and appear to have began tapping on the wall behind my bed, inside the old boarded up fireplace. Either that or I’m living next door to a Fritzel. Or, as Joe suggested, the guy upstairs spends a lot of time cutting out deals. This has made me consider two things. Firstly I need to get out of bed. At the moment I am finalising my collection of poetry The Dead Queen of Bohemia, writing an epic long short story, a novel, doing all end of degree essays yadda yadda. I do this from my pit and although it doesn’t look like Emins lovely boudoir it nevertheless is tuning me into shit like squirrels in the walls. Say no more. This reminded me that I hadn’t watched Tideland for a while. I wrote a poem that was inspired by it, I love a lot of the cinematography and the idea of darkness in childhood and the brutality of reality combined with an absolute ability to disappear into imagination and magic. The protagonist, a kid called Jeliza Rose, incidentally shares the names I intend to use if I ever drop girls, possibly twins; apparently its in the family. Eliza (one of my middle names) and Rose (i just like it). So I have to do Tideland tonight. I can live harmoniously with strange tapping squirrels.

Only four weeks to go now and my degree is done. This summer I will finish The Panopticon. I will also read some stuff that I actually want to read or re-read, like Tesla’s Ghost by Darran Anderson or Cigarettes in Bed by Adelle Stripe, John Dorsey’s book, Joe Ridgwell’s Burrito Deluxe and Lost Elation again to name but a few. Incidentally – in writing people are always going on about not being ‘incestuous’ even though all scenes: just are! I am inspired by a lot of people and interested by a lot of writers work: who are not necessarily well-known (neither am I) why is it so bad to write about that or turn people onto great shit still languishing in relative obscurity? In music, which I did for ages, it was all good to find other music you liked that existed in a maelstrom of undergrounds .. an tell all the other musicians you knew about it. Writing is too self conscious about itself. Everyone seems to be trying to be clever or create a really cool persona and be taken seriously by not fawning. Well fawning is yawnworthy right enough but writers are not cool, we’re dull as fuck and are probably best avoided.

I am not a critic. I like what I like and if I don’t like it I’m not wasting words writing about it. I don’t like critics. They lack imagination. I don’t personally feel the need to elevate myself by pulling someone else’s work apart for no reason, (critics quite often seem to be doing this to appear – credible or because they think they are the gods of good taste or maybe just to make themselves seem important to somebody?) I don’t need to appear credible, my credibility is ingrained, I have no persona to create, I am not a performer, I am a writer and poet and for me the words come first, that’s all. Sometimes critics just like a good witch-hunt. For an example of this take a look at the response to the playwright Sarah Kane’s plays. She often wrote some stunning stuff and used lyrics to great effect in her work as well. Maybe a lot of critics represent a social place in society that they feel needs to tell everyone else – they are right, and what is good and not good. That must be the other reason I don’t like them. I have never liked being told what to do and even less so, what to think.

Personas are not there are some people I adore to watch read or on stage, I could  have listened to Burroughs all day, Gertrude Stein although I don’t like all her work I would love to have seen, Henry Rollins live is great, I can watch Nick Cave do bits of his novels or poems quite happily, I adore in writers what I like in older comfortable musicians like the Patti Smith group or Can or when I saw Odetta sing at 80 years old a few years ago, a really natural sense of ease and I’d like to get to that state of ease some day. Interestingly a lot of the best writers seem to be the least socially smooth and a lot of the wankers seem so confident it gives me the creeps. I get told I’m prickly at readings and I don’t want to be I just suffer from acute social anxiety, am not too strong on the comedic crowd pleasers and what seems prickly to a lot of people .. where I come from, was just a necessary and normal way to be. Doesn’t anyone like to be scared by anything anymore? Iggy Pop was great at antagonising and weirding out audiences who came to the early Stooges years. And also – to be fair, readings are full of tossers. Every-time I go to one I cringe at how self indulgent they can often be. Show me something honest and you’ve got me. It doesn’t need to be shiny. Shiny has its place though, I guess it is different things that catch me but that raw bit that is a real writer not being a persona or even if they are; not acting, I guess I just get that the most.

Anyway. Critics. That’s for academics or theorists, I’m not one of those. I’m a writer, so if asked for honest feedback I will give it and most writers hate that. I don’t know why. Every single time I have got better as a writer it has been because someone, usually a better writer, has been able to give me good solid criticism. Words can’t kill you and they rarely pay the rent; grow a leather hide if you want to be open to genuine honesty and improve, it’s necessary!

Anyway. This summer I plan to do a load more of J.G. Ballard, also some scientific ones I’ve been wanting to read for a while, James Kelman’s new novel and perhaps some of his old stuff. I may do Mervyn Peaks trilogy, Wallace Stevens and Celine. I will read The Faraway Tree.

I did a reading last night. I got drunk before I read which helped with the palpitations. I cannot seem to get to the point of loving the sound of my own voice on a stage on my own with staring people. I would like to though. I owe the words it, I spend enough time on them. Perhaps I might read for the squirrels. Maybe they can help me relax into just telling stories or poems, and to lose my acute sense of awareness on how it is to be.

Anyway, here is my film poem from the original Urchin Belle, sayonara Jx.

It Should Be Dark,

So You Can See

There is always a scene

you didn’t see last time.

A horse wearing a dress,

a fold in the curtain

that wasn’t there

an’ a line

you never heard,

delivered as she adusts

a stocking you swear

she didn’t wear

before breakfast.

The grey skies of the first time

blink to orange glass.

That celluloid breathes,

re-coats the dream

in a silent whirr

whilst you sleep.

The barley fields

sway in waves,

an’ his submarine

is a burnt out car,

the bombs he lobs

are apples whose stalks

he pulls out with his teeth.

Bee lady of murk marches

with her square face,

an’ her widow scarf

an’ that one

creamy red engorged

eye un-blinks; your fear perceptible.

The room should

be dark, so you can see.

So you can hear the score,

as shadows leap an pirouette

along the walls

and kiss through all the adverts.

And you too

are in the silent shadow film,

wigged in smoke curls

lifting a cup of tea that points in disbelief

as horns grow out your ears

and your nose falls off.

You are different;

each time you watch.

Same jeans but sore heart

chipped nails, patting the cat

glasses on, after she died

eating popcorn, snow

an’ rain an’ hail outside

an’ that scene you didn’t notice

the last seventeen times

materialises.

And the same scenes,

they too are different.

We All Thought We Were Forever Once – Urchin Belle on Kilmog Press

Urchin Belle is out now in New Zealand. It can be purchased from Kilmog Press for $45.00 plus $10.00 for international postage. It is an extremely limited edition and is currently on sale in bookshops and galleries in Auckland.

Urchin Belle has began to have its own life that is nothing to do with me in a way and I like that. I think about how some French philosopher wrote that the breakers of automatons would be people who exist on a periphery that no authority can subjugate. I don’t know about me personally now, but I know the people in Urchin Belle fitted that description to extremes. A few people I love who are in there were some of the best friends I have known and most of us didn’t make it. We all thought we were forever once. I was lucky to know them when I did. For me personally, that is part of what makes this collection the antithesis of commodity. It’s too personal to parade. It is a collection I have at times found difficult to read from, especially later, when drunk, thinking about why it is I am standing doing poems that are a bit absent in the old, crowd pleasing, heart warming, funny funny vein that a lot of poets go for? I guess this book was just never about that, it’s for those who never were, for the dreamers, for the closet poetry readers of this world, it is for all the Urchin Belles of ever, and it is for anyone who ever got the ugly beauty,  stood outside and looked in.

I have always abhorred style over content in words and music and stuff. Thanks to Dean at Kilmog Press and Geraint at Blackheath who first published it in the UK, Urchin Belle has style to match its content. I salute it on its way. I like that it is going places I have never been, long may it continue to do so.

Thanks to anyone who bought the sold out UK print on Blackheath books. To purchase a copy from Kilmog please contact Dean on kilmogpress@hotmail.com

Kilmog Press

Urchin Belle on Kilmog Press

Urchin Belle debuts in New Zealand this month. After selling out in the UK on Blackheath, a new hardback edition of Urchin Belle is to be released by Kilmog Press in NZ. They will be selling it in bookshops, galleries etc over there. To order a copy e-mail kilmogpress@hotmail.com each book is $45.00 plus a further $10 for international postage.

Urchin Belle on Blackheath Books

My first published collection Urchin Belle came out last summer on BlackheathBooks. The run had three editions in red, grey and gold which sold out in a few months. I got some really nice responses to it, a favourite being a guy who bought it and carries it around to dip into whenever, kind of like a poetry Ipod he reckons. I liked that. I did some readings over the summer with it including Edinburgh Festival at Wordpower Booskhop. I read alongside two great writers, Kevin Williamson and Darran Anderson. Darran’s collection Tesla’s Ghost came out recently on Blackheath and is a great read, one I highly recommend. I will be doing another collection with Blackheath books this summer  for my new collection The Dead Queen of Bohemia.