I’ve decided to do a giveaway once a month. It will be a book of some description, written by someone I have been to see read. I’ll write a little review and there will be a chance to win said book all of your own to put on your own bookshelf. I’m also going to showcase an artist that I’ve come across at the same time. I like art. I wanted to be an artist once upon a time and art is so closely related to poetry in so many ways; in that creative thinking, making a connection way. They both rely on a relationship with the reader/viewer, all art forms do at the end of the day.
And so, without further ado, let me introduce Kate Garrett‘s book of poetry and short fiction: Bewitched and Other Stories, published by Pankhearst. I mentioned in an earlier post that I’d met Kate in person at the launch of Bewitched. I’d not read the book at that time. I can see why it’s been so successful on Amazon. I can see how it appeals to people. Bewitched is a collection of short stories and poems that form a narrative involving young people (why do I sound so old when I say ‘young people’?)falling in lust, love, fucking things up and searching, searching, searching for meaning; meaning in music, in witchcraft, in anything other than the life they have. It’s put together in such a way that the mix of flash and short fiction, prose poetry and poetry gives it a fragmented feel. But not in a bad way, it’s like a scrap book where conversations, memories, images are pasted, or a memory box in which the past is kept, in the attic, re-explored from some other point in time.
I found that despite the English and Welsh colloquialisms and place names, the collection feels like it is rooted in small town, mid west America. I realised afterwards when I read Kate’s profile at the back of the book that this is, indeed, where Kate hails from. I’m reminded of the sort of American films that I love: the huge western skye, small desperate towns where nothing happens and ‘kids’ are drowned in the heartbeat-thrum of factories, their lives becoming nothing more than repetition; getting pissed, getting laid, getting high, waiting for that midnight train.
If there’s anything to criticise then it’s that I think the characters might have been expanded. The style that Kate’s used, this fragmented, short post it notes and postcards effect doesn’t allow for that and we build the characters inside our own heads. But the collection works. It works well. There is a musicality to it that roots it in a particular generation, music flows through it; the stories are peppered with song titles, band names and the characters sing and play guitar and use finger symbols and fall in harmony with music, as if music might be a form of escape too. In fact, some of the poems feel like they are song lyrics, intentionally, I think. In ‘I’m still Here’ there’s a distinct country twang to the words:
You waited for me to change my mind
think things through and decide on you
These poems fit in with the tradition of cheating’ hearts and broken dreams, and it really, really works. It keeps the narrative up, bouncing, you can’t become bored reading it because the style switches so often. I said earlier that there is a movie quality about the collection and I think that comes from the switching perspectives, the camera angles. Sometimes in sultry, 50’s black and white detective style, sometimes 60’s road trip style, sometimes filtered naughties focus, where the characters are on the edge of the scene.
After the bewitched collection, there is the ‘and other poems’ some of which reflect the same themes, sex, alleyways, waif like girls and grunge, but there’s a few that really jump out because of their fluidity, their movement and freedom. One is ‘Leah’ and the other is ‘Changing Seasons’ both are different in style to the overall voice of the collection and pleasingly so.
Kate has a good eye for striking lines and for turning situations round and looking for different points of view. She is growing as a writer and I think, without wanting to sound like a patronising cow, that she is going to go far. I’ve watched her work from that first interview I did with her for the Emma Press anthology and love the work on Three drops from a Cauldron, I think she’s found a real niche in that webzine and it’s something that she’s obviously passionate about.
So, now, if you’d like the chance to win a SIGNED copy of Kate’s brilliant book, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered into a draw. Please do tag and share on Facebook and twitter to people who might be interested, it would make a smashing Christmas/Halloween gift.
And now onto my showcased artist, Karen Little. I met Karen through Facebook. I’ve never met her in real life. And I can’t remember the circumstances in which we friended each other, possibly a friend of a friend, or a thread or…who knows. these are the vagaries of social media. I have to admit, until a week or so ago I didn’t really know much about her except from her Facebook posts. I do feel I know her dogs Chicken and noodles quite well! Then she started to post pictures of the paintings she was working on and I could see so clearly her energy in them, they are funny, electric with movement and joy and colour, colour, colour and I love them. She made me a canvas with bunnies on it in exchange for a couple of books and I found it just the kindest thing. Here is someone who gives their art, and their heart away because they want you to enjoy it. The more I read about her, the more I admire her. She writes poetry too, which will have been how I came across her. So often poets are visual artists as well, which is why I think there is a closeness to the two art forms.
Here’s Karen’s biog, she can tell you about her herself much better than I can:
Karen Little trained as a dancer at London Contemporary Dance School, and as a sculptor at Camberwell School of Art, London. She has performed and exhibited her artwork internationally.
She moved to Manchester in 2009, and finding a lively poetry scene, started writing. She regularly reads her work at events and has recently been published in over thirty magazines and anthologies, including Best of Manchester Poets, Deep water Literary Journal, and Southern Pacific Review, and has won competitions for poetry and flash fiction.
I started writing when I was dragged back to England by my family six years ago after going through several months of psychotic episodes. I had to leave everything behind, including thirty large artworks in a solo exhibition in Cadiz, and a whole lot more in my art studio in Serrato, Andalucia. I still haven’t been back because I can’t afford to. Leaving all that work behind (as well as all my possessions, photos, every damn thing) made it seem pretty pointless making more, and moving from a studio producing large scale work to a tiny flat was just urghhh. I was in deepest depression for a year, and had zero concentration, but after going to some Survivor’s writing workshops and realizing only pen and paper required, I started writing.
As I explain in the Haus of Phag interview link, after a dream I wanted to paint again. Small figurative pieces, that I just enjoy making. I alternate between writing and painting. They require a different kind of concentration/absorption. At the moment I am asking writer friends for prompts, something they would like as a painting, and after I have painted it the small canvas it is theirs to keep.
I love her honesty, I love her no holds barred attitude and I respect her so much for just doing something because she enjoys it. It’s wonderful.
Here’s the interview she refers to. It’s fascinating and there is a few of her paintings displayed on the page too. This is Karen’s artists page on Facebook, which has links to where you can buy her pictures. You can buy them as postcards too, which is a great idea as they are exactly the sort of thing you want to send people: Facebook page.
So there we are. Two new talents showcased. I’ll be back sooner rather than later with reviews of Reforging the Sampo which I went to recently and had a wee guest slot in. It was phenominal, also The Quiet Compare tour which I had a slot at and thoroughly enjoyed. I’ll also be moaning a fair bit and doing some bloggish whinging about stuff. Stay tuned.