Old bars and pubs have a strange dignity. Inside and out they are stained with the past and a comforting stability. They have no expectations and they don’t judge. The people change, politics pass, music often locked in a time warp, a kind of sound museum of my good years so never any complaints there. If libraries served booze, I’d be there instead but they don’t and there is so much pleasure finding a sunny spot to read and watch the dust particles cling to backs of people passing through.
With the homogenisation of alcoholic establishments, it’s getting harder and harder to find that quintessential dodgy bar these days. So after reading that ‘Liz sucks mad clits’ behind the toilet door, I knew I had found the one. The solace I needed and a lovely warm nook to read and absorb the latest issue of Martin Appleby’s Paper & Ink, an issue just like the twelve before this one, bursting with stories from dive bars, shitty pubs and back alley boozers from around the world. Our little churches, where stories congregate, lost souls lament where the good the bad and often ugly times are had.
These guys in front of me have managed to get it all down here. There are stories on the process of getting to boozers, that magnet pull and cycle that happily runs its course and you see the madness of it. Arthur J Willhelm’s words drag all the sorry asses home in his opening poem The Saddest Place On Earth, he has some new work through Iron Lung Press that is worth a sticky. Writer Mather Schneider tells great stories. Two choices to whet the whistle are Steve & his second piece Traci. Here Mather becomes the chronicler of the near dead and knowing. There is the sad, heart stirs inside DS Maolalai’s The Old Woman I’d See Sometimes that somehow justifies a heavy thirst.
Think I’ve stared out from the canons into this old silted river before. In Nr The Rother, Rikki Weir comes out swinging with a swagger of chat perfectly suited to spirits ingrained in the wood around the Cinque Ports.”Where’s the toilet? I’ll piss on your face. Let me go first” Ah the beauty of dialogue. This exchange a mere flash for bigger chapters.
Red Wine by Alice Furse is a straight out easy read. It’s more about the booze than the boozer, though the boozie see’s the light and how they get there is a great story. Her novel Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere is one on my list. Masquerade by Janice Leagra is heady with the spirit of space. That old smoky, loud detachment of the pick up bar, those places we all too sadly ventured, or were pulled into kicking and screaming. Janice shows class and wonderful knowing that life inside those walls is not her, she manages to cleverly get you to ask why, the answers the reader can only surmise.
If I was deep in the ponder, Elizabeth Harper would quickly have me regaining my wits. Stranger In A Bar is such a smash-bang-wollop of a piece, her business card of wild and a reminder to look up her other work. Fee Johnstone has me in dark giggles in Fifty Shades Of Shite. It is strangely cruel and satisfying revealing an even darker world of hobbies. Charlie And I Once Watched by Mark Brüseke has a real nonchalance of witness when it comes to alcohol fueled antics, no inhibitions on these sidelines while Wasps Nest Soup by Aysar Ghassan gives us an ode to the lovelies that serve us.
The order in which these are placed works so well, Martin knows good rhythm, where we need to be spiked and when we need respite. The Colour We Bleed by Megan McCorquodale, stopped me in my tracks. Those great poems you read four times over then live inside until the mood is torn out of you. Her book What I Told Frank is available here. John Grochalski sounds like a very cool dude and has an infectious dry wit and made me feel a whole lot better with his prose The Bartender At The Lamb. Having been the brunt of the same kind of treatment being an Aussie, I’ve seen that aggressive sarcasm in action, the kind that doesn’t let up, pounds your mood but you hold it all in, his pen releases great chunks of bitter back.
Next a nest of performance memories, not quite the chicken wire antics of some redneck dens but Brooke Nicole Plummer blasts “B” “into the continuum. Another phase of behaving irreparably” with her baleful life affirmation. Which leads into the hard beats from Joseph Ridgwell‘s pen. A Brutal Night Of Poetry gets stuck into the kaleidoscope of performers that are wrangled into poetry nights, where cliques rule and his own talent doesn’t need to be proved, the Poet shakes up the room with more than his own words. Plenty of releases to be explored, most recently a great batch through Ternary Editions. Kerry Trautman ‘s Nodding At A Table At A Bar Poetry Reading is spectacular, moods that seem at odds with each other swirl around the room. Loads more of her work need to be explored. The delightfully titled The Spackler At Gunther’s Tavern sits perfectly within the theme here. New York subterranean inkmeister Rob Plath reflects on a perfect evening when accolades come from the most unexpected places. Rob’s work can be found on his website
More perfect confrontation we find in the words of Scott Wozniak and his poem about an english lit tosser and his rules on becoming a great poet. In Happy To Be A Feral Creature, Wozniak gives it to him straight! John D Robinson’s fantastic catalogue of work keeps slipping under an endless mound of paper I need to follow up, but one that will not be far from my clutches soon. The KO Bar, is a sweet foolish tale for young players and a tightly crafted bite from a fine writer. I’ve been transported and had the world dissolve around me before reading the magic words of Andrea Mbarushimana. This story entices, her observations a wheel that she turns and everything is connected, her book The Africa In My House I had the pleasure of reviewing last year and which I still hold dear, Colette’s Bar rekindling my experience. Her wonderful blog where she stows away things made and written can be found here.
Mood changes again, Dave Matthes The End Of The World Will Begin In A Crowded Parking Lot is a Jazz infused lament, with sweet weary notes, something that Coltrane could play to. If you get a chance check out his Bathtime Reads on Youtube. As a big fan of bubble time, I can see a whole series of guests in the bath, a high risk encounter I’m sure. His blog will get you hooked into all his escapades on dry land. Rebecca H Wang‘s Seven Drinks is a powerful sipper, fed up with sugar syrup, foot long tongs and dehydrated peel, she has an ephipany via the tinkle of ice and peat. Jessie Milne’s hands get busy with ink and jots down a fresh recipe and tale so when the pun strikes there’s no way you can hold back.
No stranger to the bar is Hosho McCreesh. Behind The Fat Chance holds you with this exquisite pace.. Patrick is the perfect host, great taste in music, literature, tidy and a heart of gold. But his latest act of kindness has him lost dreaming. Loved this short story and can’t wait to grab others from his website. Got a little thrill to see that Ford Dagenham is in this issue. Been a regular round the zine scene but I seem to have lost touch with loads of his dailies and need to rectify that. This time two quickies Wooden Pubs “old as the river ceilings ornate as art” and hiding from the dawn in Nottingham Night.
Matt Amott’s nostalgic pen is very comfortable in his local office where the “floors stained with peanut shells, beer and some nights, blood” in Sometimes They Write Themselves. Touching on the fact in The Long Walk Home that soon there will be no bars left that the likes of us will feel comfortable in and after paying Eighteen bucks for a gin recently, I’ll be joining him and the brown paper bag brigade soon. Matt’s poetry series can be discovered here. Enjoyed a good two pager The Hook by George Steer, man of mystery, not to be confused with long dead war correspondent, his bar tale deserves a shout! Gwil James Thomas’s Like An Old Drunk Lamenting On The Glory Years From The Bottom Of Their Booze Drenched Soul hasn’t lost his touch with monumental poetry titles. These glory days seem gone what with their “wi-fi code’s” or punters now asking if they have “any almond milk“, you get the picture.
Every town in OZ has a ‘Commercial’ or a ‘Railway’ Pub, Sydney writer Trevor Crowe has probably opened the tinted doors of many. He keeps loads of bar stools warm across this great city. Sure they are being demolished around him but with his ‘never surrender’ spirit, you will find Trev keeping up with tradition, the riff raff in and scaring away as many hipsters as he can. Trev laments about his home away from home and his penchant for Derro Pub‘s. And in Preposterous reminds us that for many the local pub is their extended home and without it they have no one. This Pub Will Shut Down by Dwane Reads has a different take when the jackals swarm and “the entertainment committee long gone” the demise is swift and lonely. Maybe is the ice cold water thrown in our faces, a great piece when the booze overtakes us, writer Wayne F Burke’s work can be discovered via Alien Buddha Press. New Jersey is home to many of the writers in this issue of Paper & Ink and it is fitting to end this issue with a Joe Albanese‘s Bar Fight. “Kill these beers to kill your fear, or hide the proof you’re lying” Joe’s novel is ready to rumble sometime this year.
Unlucky for some, Issue thirteen of Paper & Ink has been one of my favourites to date. This zine just seems to get better and better, attracting writers that have great wads of literature to share. Buy ’em a drink sometime, explore and support at your leisure. You can purchase Tales From The Bar Side here. You can connect with publisher Martin Appleby and check out some of his own releases.