Undertow

Strong paper quality often catches my attention. Curse of the printer’s daughter. Sometimes this can undermine, take over the content inside. This is designed beautifully, a real eye capture. The little ‘hello’ story introducing Issue two of Undertow magazine, quashes my fear. A strong do-it-yourself mentality has been cemented into the rib cage of Undertow’s editorial team. Most people would go to hospital to complete the second stage of a serious bone break, but hey, go figure. The back shed, your dad and a rusty saw is just as good. Subdued colours, photographs accompanying a handful of articles covering music, art and the everyday flicks in my hand all glossy and stiff.

undertowFirst, highlight is local Tassie artist Calypso Brown, her Soundcloud releases in my ears. Strong and elegant voice taking electronic steps, discovering her possibilities, and what direction she wants to take next. Her track Hunting from Calypso released in June, mellows the air with sweet beats and played for pleasure. Field Of Violets has a capella harmonies rounding throughout her exquisite range. The journalism isn’t heavy, they just let the artist take the wheel which can be dangerous if the interviewee is caught on a day when they haven’t got much to say. The key is to get them to chat, away from their speciality, what one wouldn’t expect them to talk about. Rather hear about the aphids on their morning roses, the salt on afternoon margharitas than how they write their music. There is more to Calypso Brown than the struggle, the boredom, where you traveled, the growth one experiences as a musician. I look forward to discovering more and meatier chats.

A conversation with Theia and Grace might sparkle. The mere mention of Facebook has me squirming, but the kids dig it, so the start of that chat is forgiven. Like a cold engine, the timing is all wrong, off kilter. Soon the pistons fire. Visual Bulk is a new art space in Hobart. It’s all about how people ‘navigate spaces’ and the challenge of determining “what’s the work and what’s the space”. Once the pics show themselves I get it. Overall, this sounds like a cool gallery.

Really loved Buying a Banger? Trisso know’s his stuff and give’s great advice and lip on just about any car you can think of. This issue’s banter is ‘Do Bargains Really Exist When Purchasing Cheap (Shitty) Cars? Well some are “rare as unicorn poo”and the goss is all the hipsters are getting to the bargains first! Surely down in Tas you have a better chance than on the mainland. S’pose rust would be an issue, must ask Trisso next time.

There’s a bit of collaborative art by Mish Meijers and Tricky Walsh. Their #dearministerforwoman photography packing some visual punch. It’s amazing what meaning a watermelon and makeshift wooden leg shackles can summon. Hobart Hackerspace is a community run place for ‘geek rebels’ with plenty of machinery to pull apart and share in new designs. They get loads of equipment donated to by decommissioned radio and tv stations as well. A place of big ideas and contributions to scientific research. Looks like serious secret business to me.

I love Undertow’s mission. “The rise of individualism sees more and more people trying new things to improve their life, plug a hole or gain independence. This issue, we wanted to talk about all that stuff”. This may be an old issue, even a gem of a house up for rent has probably had it’s second tenancy, but as a time capsule of winter arts in one of the most wonderful states of Australia, you can see how brilliance develops in isolation. So that’s issue 2, how does one get hold of more?

Art Book Review Reviews Zines & Journals

The Glue Ponys by Chris Wilson

Chris Wilson strikes me as an observer, someone you can sit with in a room and hardly know he’s there. There is a comfort that some individuals just have. A story sponge that find themselves right in the thick of life. Excess, this and that, booze blood and needles but still have the faculties to recall and the imagination to retell the stories on their road. Looks like Chris’ path was a hard one at times, but I also get a feeling it is one that he would never change. How could you when you have a collection of tales like this under your belt. The Glue Ponys travels various timezones and hangs out with the wasted, troubled lifers, loners and drug dealers that join him in the bliss of being somewhere else but here. Amalgams and just plain scary real, these dangerous journeys can take their toll. Early death is a usual outcome, but to give it all away for a more serene existence is freaking hard. One where you ain’t stealing or becoming a living, breathing mind waster. Where personal drama is the only thing you have to make you feel alive cause you are so dead inside. For Chris Wilson, long prison stints broke the habit. Inside he found philosophy and a myriad of stories. It’s the combination of this that makes this collection of short stories so tantalising. gle-ponyA real understanding of the characters motivations. The Glue Ponys sums up addiction, the seedy side. There is a desperation and defiance with many of his characters, a kind of I’ve had enough, save me scenario. Not in a finding god way, just peace away from the inner torture. A different direction is a brave move. Chris found better ways to waste his time that has benefits for us all. The sheer beauty and raw style that is his voice inside these pages. Chris has an extraordinary talent to be the voice of those he writes about. Part ‘it was told to me and this is what they saw’ and part ‘I was there and this is what I saw’. Characters like The Lieutenant who makes himself a god in his own lil kingdom of depravity and abuse, a Kurtz-like druglord on a bed of his own apocalypse. The Pugilist, when a spades partner doesn’t want to play the life game anymore, the carrion swarm in quick. Trying to disassociate yourself from your actions, where a timespan of events leads to freaky scenes and tragic outcomes is a constant in these short stories. Searching for “holes in the links”, thinking about his own great escape. The prose moves easy, stark and in it’s own way very poetic. Sex and age is no barrier to pain, these are stories of the lost and desperate. This book, like his art, are figures that transform into a blurry mash of ghosts that intrigue in their solitude, disturbed auras and beauty. This artist has captured me this month. I look forward to exploring more. You can purchase The Glue Ponys here and can contact Chris via Tangerine Press’ website or via twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review Chris Wilson Tangerine Press

Ford Dagenham

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Yet another uniquely bound beauty from Blackheath Books. Their posse of authors I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year has been such a literary highlight.  Excellent writers that have unknowingly kept me sane throughout the bombardment of mainstream pap that cold drips into ones life.

Ford Dagenham has been standing out in my brain since I glimpsed him via the pages of PUSH and Paper & Ink .  A little search reveals publishing houses taking risks, and getting these writers on paper. It was through their zines that I stumbled upon Hatchbacks On Fire – a poem or pic a day until i die or don’t. My notifications always let’s me know that he is alive. I actually search out his daily fixes, straight to the source, a guaranteed mind ponder with my cuppa. Some writers become your morning newspaper, Ford is one of those. Admiring his prolificacy each post is one thing, but when one keeps delivering eye catchers day after day, that hold your attention, it just maddens and delights. Dagenham’s voice has a unique ache.

So onto his collection of poems.  I took Adelle Stripe‘s foreword advice, read it in inside a wrinkly hour in my bath.  A Canvey Island Of The Mind published back in 2013, presses on your chest. ‘Canvey’ is a play on ‘Coney’ and baby, this is this sort of poetry I dig. Irregular outbursts, misshaped and random tackling life, death and love with a tantalising melancholy. He spends a lot of the lines through time spent at work. A job at the NHS is not for the weak hearted and you would quickly accumulate a backlog of stories. Where people are “slowly dying of hospital”. Ford takes the time to remember, to ponder and to get the facts and feelings all down. He has a way of taking you on a path where he will either present you flowers on bended knee or knife you in the gut with grief. I feel his pen frantically reminiscing his view on the day to day, his moments he shares of his working life are breathtaking. Often sinking back into what he is escaping from “I read the black abyss in the liquid ballroom” A Canvey Island Of The Mind  takes you behind doors, physical and mental. Honest and brutal, Ford is a poet to follow. You can purchase this and many other unheard voices via Blackheath Books.

Book Review Ford Dagenham Poetry

Billy And The Devil – Dean Lilleyman

There are lots of chapters in Billy’s life. They come alive in fragments. Stories by siblings, friends, lovers and abusers. They are his memories and they are others memories. Everyone getting a turn to pop a piece of the jigsaw that may make us all understand why Billy is Billy.  A trouble magnet with a penchant for mucking about. He narrates without knowing, but knows enough to tell all. His voice changing with the years. Like a twisted Adrian Mole. There are blackouts and there are times where he wished he was. We watch him grow up, innocent, and very much loved except Billy doesn’t know it. Typical lad, he can be thick as two planks at times. But memory is a funny thing and one man’s food is another man’s poison. For Billy, alcohol is the hemlock, the key to kill his soul.

CUuNIIkUcAAHmz8Billy grew up in a time of unplanned pregnancies, stigma and a sanctimonious, unforgiving religion. Admission is the first step to absolution, but everyone is too afraid to admit their sins, their crimes, for fear of being made an outcast. A madness of guilt, decades of remorse. Billy is surrounded by strong women. They and a cruel society shape him. In England, the pub is Billy’s church. Blame and a chain of silence, of not knowing what to say, to destroy demons before they take over is what Billy lacks. His psalms are made flesh. The drink oils his demons, it latches onto that part of himself that doesn’t give a fuck, that cannot see consequence. Unbroken cycles, a run of bad luck or simply surviving. He was showing tell tale signs of  chronic alcoholism at school. Hiding the evidence, lying, loss of control, a trail of hurt. Busy with his cocktails at a young age, he was given a choice, and Billy chose the one that was easy. The one that gave him instant relief. From what? That is what Billy needs to find out, and sometimes one just cant find the answer. Deep down everyone could see the best Billy, the questioning billy, the inquisitive, he wanted answers, but in doing so that opens a whole new nest of unbelievable behaviour. Nurture, nature, or both. A life of sorry is a traumatic existence.

Billy has a taste for music, as the pages pass, my compassion grows in paper leaves. The writing and story just gets more intense. I cried and winced, smiled in the undertow. Billy has a wonderful humour to squirm in. An extreme cathartic pleasure. He is the ultimate underdog, I so want Billy to win. The reader is spared no secrets, it is all laid out for us to make our own judgement. His life forever a dichotomy of extremes and as bitter as his pint. Chapters move back and forth, words tick the clock of memories that weave in and out. Billy’s fate is in his hands. Regrets and luck is in the eye of the beholder.

 

Billy And The Devil is my pick of the year.

visit Dean Lilleyman’s brilliant website for links to purchase

published by Urbane Publications

 

 

 

Book Review Dean Lilleyman

Joseph Ridgwell – Burrito Deluxe

There is no better way to escape, than with characters who want to escape. By the time I’d snorted through the pages here I’d almost booked the tickets. Mexico!  Magarita’s salty rim beckoned, daquiris extra icy and enough Dos Equis to kill a donkey.

Easing us through the drug hazed bacchanalia of Joseph Ridgwell’s Burrito Deluxe is a simple back story which anchors all his motives. There’s Stupid the talking cat, crazy friends, love to end and his even crazier partner in all things dodgy, Ronnie. Life for him and Joe has reached that point of no return. Fed up with the fucked up and monotonous trap of life in the city, they need out and will do all they can to achieve it. Though what answers lie in the “thin embroidery of foam cascading across our feet as we walked across dark sand”. Will they find the ‘Lost Elation’, that feeling better than any drug on the planet.

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cover art by Jose Arroyo

The lines blur between reality and fiction. As a writer, this is what Joseph Ridgwell does so well. Exaggeration, so far fetched it becomes real. Like a twisted autobiography, Joe narrates the best bits of his adventures and tells them with truth, lies and style. The humour in the face of drama is pure delight. No bodily function is left ignored. It’s also filled with enough shags and rhyming slang to keep you satiated, to keep it real, to keep it London. Exotic to me but old grass is greener and wins every time and an iguana awaits.

I made so many expressions reading this book that I could’ve won a gurning competition. Strangers wanted to know what I was reading  “Burrito Deluxe of course” Joseph Ridgwell is the new beat in this beaten generation. Ronnie and Joe my favourite freaks. I read some of the funniest breakups, stuff ups and heartfelt conversations. The craziest with the man with the Bowiesque eyes. His banter, questionable morals and energy is infectious. Ronnie is a gangster super hero, 007 with a joint. Joe, his grasshopper. Whenever Ronnie turns up, it’s white knuckle time, adrenalin inking through every chapter. Their adventures beat faster than a paranoid heart.

This is what travel books should be like. These are the adventures we all should seek, maybe not exactly like Joe’s cause at times the word ‘nasty’ would flash in bright lights as I swung smirking in my imaginary hammock. As an adventure dream guide it is perfect. Super smart dialogue, effortless and mucho romantic. Lord Byron’s gentle winds, climes and skies loom close by the sun kissed bare and salty skin of the people Joe meets. This story made me smile large through the sheer cockiness of it’s protagonist, and his infectious lust for life. Joseph is an enigma, his novel’s soundtrack a beautiful timeless cheesy groove with perfect balance. How well do you really know your friends? How far do you follow? Is the grass really greener? Their Carlos Casteneda brush with psychedelics reveals almost a supernatural allure, an awakening. Their altered states on the beach of the dead is brilliant, with it’s rolling horses, the force of nature, the shifting sands, questioning the minuscule part in existence we play.

Technology fatigue is a real syndrome, we should do more sitting back in a breeze and read books like these then stare into screens distracted by facebook notifications. Get your copy here and read more about Joseph Ridgwell via his blog

Book Review Joseph Ridgwell

Paper And Ink Zine #6

The child inside you is older than yourself, so who better to get advice regarding where you are going, where you have fucked up and where you are headed than you. Conversations With The Children We Once Were by Agnes Chew, sings out this little reminder as we trundle off to work with our ‘countenances so overtly pained’. We lose ourselves daily, falling for the lies of how we should live, following a mindset of misery, our rebellion is dead. It is an encouraging start to this special ‘Childhood’ issue of Paper And Ink Zine – that tap on the shoulder to ‘snap out of it’ that we all so desperately need.  Kate Tattersfield‘s Fiction sits like a crayon tattooed truth, four lines each time you read has a new meaning.

How We Made The Weird Thing sucks me back to great times when we were outdoor kids. Delving into the evolution of our imaginations, covering up our instincts, Jason Jackson slips us into a melancholy of humour, setting the scene, perfectly immersed in the mud of smiles betwixt new secrets. Writer and daily blogger extraordinaire Ford Dagenham  ponders on three days of English Literature, where you get the feeling something has been swept aside as the class is given something to distract them. Understanding by Jared A Carnie is beautifully smirk filled with his Ralph Wiggin-esque student that just melts your heart. Ksenia Anske‘s piece is folkloric sewn. She speaks of childhood with breath and blood that twists life lessons, knowledge jewels passed down to us for generations. We change scenarios, the heroes remain the same. Ilka is beautifully written. Page sharers Tom Buron and Lance Nizami excellent thoughts connect with the same drive, same insecurities. This is truly an International Zine. Editor Martin Appleby seems to be covering every longitude and latitude on the planet. Inevitably we fly back to England. Newcastle in fact with regular Ian Cusack. Out come the smelling salts as he whaps us with his noteable realism CSIuDbJUwAAyHwtand panache for violence, grit, scuffs and great storytelling. In Milk Teeth To Dust we meet the adorable wise little head of a young Gwil James Thomas, (who still seems to be writing that elusive novella and poetry collection) and John Dorsey’s Rodney Got A Robot, who’s sad tale of domestic violence skims the hurt and legacy it leaves behind. Murder Slim Press head honcho Steve Hussy wins the ‘least romanticised childhood retrospective’ prize with Dickless. Actually admitting ‘what a little cunt’ he was. Manipulative and cruel, this is more confession and forgiveness, an amazing piece of story telling. Murder Slim Press has a few of my personal ‘most wanted’ like U.V Ray and Mark SaFranko  , they are writers you should look into. A couple of short and sharp ones join forces. Kurt Nimmo and Kevin Ridgeway seek revenge with words, their pens healing wounds. Thomas McColl‘s taste and dredgery of working in a job you hate, using his frustration for good, planting seeds for his future writing. Zohar Teshartok hides in Tamara’s imagination, you experience a seamless entrance to her safe place and I just wanted to stay inside there with her. Low Aesthetic Standards Yay by Carl Bettis almost wins best title, he and his sister become what they see, Lee Marvin branded their brains. I adore the silence and night search that Annette C Boehm conjured in Shortwave Sleeper, so gentle and familiar. Awake In Southall by Paul Hawkins moved me so much. Savour every line of this and you become the boy, entering his “edge of a world too big for my head“. The warning song of Susan Lelliott’s The Wolf was another favourite, with it’s dark fairy tale lilt. Princeless by TJ Heffers made me cheer. A father teaching his daughter about the strength inside her, choosing your heroes and knowledge on how to ‘rescue yourself’. No title made me smile more than Adventures of #Chongobunny, Hairstylist. Now, that’s what I call an interview. I’ve not read any of Jose Arroyo’s books, if he has any, but from what I get exposed to of his secret life via zines and such, he is turning into one of my favourite storytellers. His talent with woodcut is now synonymous with another bloody brilliant writer, cult author and master of cosmic realism Joseph Ridgwell. His latest, Burrito Deluxe, is a call-in-to-work-sick addictive read, (don’t tell me a book’s never done that to you) that I just couldn’t put down. He also makes a guest appearance with his piece A Skateboard Keyring. Again, Joe Ridgwell just tells it as he sees it, no preaching, no mind editing, no consequences for telling all our twisted truths. If you haven’t discovered the delightful Holly Watson yet you are in for a treat. I smile even when I just think of her piece A Visit From Grandad, and like her other posts on her wonderful site it is told with humour and originality. Her shades on life are just the right colour and I hope she spends more time writing these great vignettes. As always Dean Lilleyman‘s penwork leaves me gobsmacked and breathless. Realistic strokes of letters paint a gritty panorama, as I’ve said before his novel Billy And The Devil is extraordinary work. It’s Sydney’s turn in this international ink party. Brenton Booth‘s thought filled ride Prelude has a powerful ending and Trevor Crowe‘s Postman Pat takes a fruitloopian look at kids television. There are all the usual great illustrations, the irony and harsh darkness of Janne Karlsson‘s Poem For Mom, Maggie Negrete‘s vision of Ilka. I actually have a pristine print of this issue’s cover art by Marie Enger to frame and you’ll find me on the back cover, well, broken parts of me. This picture I took on one of my urban safaris, with my time travel lens… never stop imagining *smiles*. So the bookend is in place when MT Duggan shares his Notes On Meeting His Younger Self,

“I saw smudged swans drift in a river

with familiar figures I’d almost forgot

wanting to question them before time withers

and this faded memory of youth stops”.

 

Paper & Ink Zine can be purchased here, I connect with Editor Martin Appleby via twitter or his website

Issue #7 ‘HANGOVERS’ is coming soon. Submissions are now underway.

Book Review Zines & Journals

The Migrant – UV Ray

First line in and I feel the murmurings of an anxiety attack. This is a compliment in my book. Door opens, I’m dragged in, Smack! Sean Styne is up late and fueled, hepped up on a delicious coke and whisky cocktail.  His mind ticks over with a barrage of truth from his 37th floor apartment. The millions of lives that have been and gone as a city changes, its life sucked vampiric. I don’t take a breath as my eyes dart through the chapters from this modern outsider. UV Ray’s CPqa7vVUsAASjVAnovella, The Migrant wasn’t written to make us feel all warm and fuzzy, this is off the scale uncomfortable and from deep in the gut, the best kind of writing always is. You won’t be lulled into a false sense of security either, you will know one page in whether this book is for you, the razor is sharp and the window is open. You have control of the leaves. The weight of the early fog lifts quick and those beautiful nihilistic sensibilities take a brief back seat. Taking our position, the reader sees the world the way Styne does, distant. I quickly fell in love with his dark truths and empty empathy “The sky may be black as a velvet shawl and the stars glittering bright and some might consider these beautiful images with abandon but to me it’s nothing but an empty vacuous expanse

His wasted friends get rich quick schemes are a great distraction from his beautifully bleak, substance gorging and emotionally flaccid characters that we are introduced to throughout. It’s not until he meets Gloria in all her Natassja Kinskiesque beauty, that you really get a feel for his inner pain. This dead doll fills him and each other with something comforting, red lips, pain and fists distract from the hurt of knowing too much. Their liaisons squeeze your lungs tight in between hair brain schemes that have you reaching for the ventolin. Thank goodness there are exquisite poetical respites to catch your breath from laughing at the antics of these strangely real and  hopeless people, the tales that skim his life. That is how Sean is. His poetry and thoughts fly into the night, the search for human connection, he knows his place within the stars and time, believes in nothing, embracing his foibles, his anger and vision of the world. This is great writing, I wasn’t expecting to snort it all in a few hours but I did. Unstoppable.

You can find out more about the UV Ray and his writing here and via Murder Slim Press

Book Review Murder Slim Press uvray