The Africa In My House

by Andrea MbarushimanaDGhAon3U0AAEFl0

This was a surprise addition to my order from the generous publishers at Silhouette Press. A deep red sunset boomed from the package, tribal masks and shields protecting its contents. I could hear the voices inside. The Africa In My House is a book of poetry, stories and events, touching through the troubled country of Rwanda, picking at time and looking at events that author Andrea Mbarushimana experienced there, the echoes of genocide and trying to fathom why, hoping that it will never occur again.

Andrea manages to beautifully mingle legend, mythology and her experiences to help herself and those who want to know, understand and cope with a country she now has a better understanding of.  Her words and illustrations are totally mesmerising.  Visitations that permeate dreams, her psyche deciphers it with ink and words. The original purpose of her stay there is not really established. I get the feeling that some humanitarian work, maybe teaching drew her there, where she fell in love, where her experiences have permanently connected her to the place. Her daughter a special link to keeping the threads of heritage in their hearts.

Rwanda became the country where horror stories overtook the rich tapestry of fable. Its displacement after colonial rulers abandoned, chose a side and said sort it out amongst yourselves was never going to be a pleasant start. Here, Andrea never glosses, these are hundreds of minds flowing through her, continuing lessons, making us aware of the complexities of tribe and the flow of the modern.

The imagery Andrea describes directly transports you to the village life and painful memories. One of the strongest to encounter and first to bite is Hyena pointing out the  dichotomy and dilemmas faced when the wrangled lost and desperate follow orders. When one’s own survival could be at the hand of another’s compassion. This story unfolds with high tension. When it is just your job and the consequence of not following orders is a moral conundrum that one can only know the answer to if put in that situation. When the realisation that ‘we are two people” overides the political.

Murambi Genocide Site, passes over the extreme “It’s hard to find your way sometimes, Past death’s mask“. The horrors that have been witnessed, memory’s ghost imagined, thoughts shared to help the healing. Rabbit is another squirmish, told with an exquisite meticulous pace, the process a recipe that is merely survival.

There are loads of survivors that Andrea has met and not met. You get the feeling that Andrea needed to be the storyteller here, this is her healing and we as readers are one the richer. There is no glossy sentimentality but there is true beauty here. Andrea slips in and out effortlessly of styles and intensity. The beautiful haiku of Kigeme, the questioning of when it is right to go back in Healing and the sublime Folk Tale Resurrection. In Power Cuts 2001 a time when the country is trying to return to some semblance of sanity. “Ce nest pas le guerre!” humour is such a rich healer. When the power goes out in, the difference between the same occurrence in Rwanda and in the U.K is an interesting one. There is a constant back and forth of place and contrasts throughout that become dreamlike. There are longer stories like God Of Shadows that are such an odd mixture of cult, west meets witch doctor revealing a fear so potent that one can’t believe the trauma it inflicts.

Dipped between chapters are Andreas prints. As Andrea is a masterful story teller, you can understand why her prints also contain enough drama and information to sink you. The plight of people in Refugee Art Group, the mere suggestion of the day’s painting topic of favourite food from home has me crying and when love became something certain in Gatyazo Bar, I was humbled. More stories, more poetry. I adore the strength, beauty and eccentricities of the people she met and the people whose lives she chose to speak of here now, forever remembered. You can purchase The Africa In My House via Silhouette Press. You can connect with Andrea via twitter.

Andrea Mbarushimana Book Review Poetry Silhouette Press

Remembering Hiroshima

Sadako And The Thousand Paper Cranes

by Eleanor Coerr

When I visited Pearl Harbor Memorial it coincided with a naturalisation ceremony on top of the de-commisioned battleship USS Missouri – its upper deck the venue where Japan formally surrendered on September 2 1945 in Tokyo Bay ending World War II. You can see photographs, original paperwork and a plaque that marks the spot – atomic muscle proving to be a persuasive solution and as we know, leaving an aftermath of death and illness when Enola Gay dropped the ‘little boy’ on Hiroshima on Aug 6 1945.

The ship was a buzz of proud families, clicking candid moments as one hundred new citizens originally from places like Brazil, Benin, Germany, Kuwait, Russia, South Korea, Jamaica, Switzerland made the United States of America their new homeland. I heard a woman being interviewed, ecstatic, waving her flag and bursting with emotion. She said how happy she is to belong to the country that gave her all her opportunities. She now looks forward to elections, when she always felt like an outsider because she couldn’t vote – where she was born, people died for that right.

imagesPearl Harbor turned out to be a very reflective place for me but not for the most obvious reasons. Sure, include the bottom line – for those that died and all affected by that day. I can only imagine the fear and suffering of such an event and I am in a constant state of pained nausea if I let my mind wander to all the atrocities of war past and present.

The memorial itself run by the National parks trust is done with solemnity and respect. If you’re into the strategies of battle you will be satiated. You can take photos in front of missiles, straddle torpedoes, view planes and walk through an impressive museum that tells both sides of the story.

On my visit, I was taken on a different journey of war. In the visitors centre was a display highlighting a book for International Peace Day. Sadako And The Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. Sadako, an original Hiroshima survivor was diagnosed with leukemia at age 12. To help gain courage, Sadako’s friend gave her a folded paper crane and reminded her of the Japanese legend – if a person is ill they will have their wish granted if they fold a 1000 paper cranes. Besides wishing for her own health, Sadako wished for world peace with every crane she folded.rainbow

So I purchased a copy and began reading the slim tome whilst exploring the grounds. Every spare moment between exhibits I read a few pages. This precious flower folded these cranes using whatever paper she could find, from medicine labels, newspaper and paper donated by friends, the distraction of it keeping Sadako strong as she faced her mortality – a heart wrenching realisation when someone so young and innocent is caught up in the mess of others. I read bits of the book on the park bench, in front of fat sparrows, I read more sitting on the grass as red faced finches hopped and feasted on some micro seed heads. More pages are turned sitting on a boat on the way to the water memorial, my concentration stolen by the most magnificent fully formed double rainbow as it framed the grey.

oil slickWhen you walk on the memorial itself, a silence takes over and you stare up at the black embossed names of those lost and interned in the ships grave. Over the edge the oil still seeps after seventy or more years, it’s old life’s blood forming an amazing colour spectrum on the surface of the water. Looking at the rusted bones itself nature has taken over. A new beautiful reef of coral, weed and fish shimmy distracting and easing the pain and enormous weight of grief of the Dec 7 1941 attack.

Tears streamed down my face as I finished her story. Sadako died October 25 1955 – she didn’t get to finish her cranes. This book caressed and stirred me more than any of the steely strength of ships and weaponry, code breaking, tactics and casualties could. You can’t sugar coat the realities of war, but now Sadako’s life story, however short, has become a beautiful symbol of peace and I am one the richer for discovering her message in such an unexpected place.

Book Review Eleanor Coerr Uncategorized

Joseph Ridgwell – Mexico

Ridgwell and Pig Ear Press join forces again and produce hand-stitched beauty.

Time to check in on authors who regularly get radared here at Urban F HQ. I’ve had this little burgundy book for a while now. After six weeks off work it’s amazing what you find in your notes and hidden journals around the place. A sketch of a volcano, lists of strange encounters, overheard conversations, personal dreams and a short paragraph on Joseph Ridgwell’s, Mexico.

Having been familiar with Ridgwell’s classic road novel Burrito Deluxe, also set within a Mexican backdrop, I couldn’t resist this little gem on offer from Pig Ear Press. A kind of mini Burrito… with less chili. Shaped like a British passport, its gold embossing tells of hearts belonging – at this particular moment – somewhere else, somewhere exotic, somewhere away from the fuzz. Back on the Beach Of The Dead, our favourite miscreant Ronnie is waxing astronomical with wads of philosophy between sips, snorts and swings. “It’s like everything’s dead, even the stars are stillborn“. Back on the prowl, the boys begin looking for more fun before Armageddon, in which, Ronnie & Joe experience some tender and unlawful moments.

Mexico is another taste of the writing style and stories you’ll get from a Ridgwell release. The difference between this and other snippets and short stories is the sexdefying splendor of the print job. All this artisan book binding, handmade paper, embossing and personal touches has this printer’s daughter weak at the knees. It ain’t long, but its quality counts for more. If you are a supporter of the small press revolution, then seek out similar gems from this publisher, if you are new to this rebel lit fiend caper, than this would be a great start to your collection and the many adventures of Joseph Ridgwell.

Book Review Joseph Ridgwell Reviews

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