News Monday

Pip pip! It’s Monday, and that can be semantically-parsed in only one manner – it’s time for another filler-post in the form of News Monday!

I took part in the RAP Party at the Southbank on Saturday night. Oh my stars it was good. Obviously it was a lovely, slightly guilty pleasure for me to be able to legitimately talk about hip-hop on stage for a bit, but I was totally blown away by the other performers that night. It’s so rare to see powerful pieces that aren’t wanky or manipulative. They avoided easy answers while telling stories with humour and emotion. Each artist gets to pick two tracks that get played after they perform their poems, so as you can imagine, the night was heavy.

Want to know what I picked? Oh, go on then. This and this. People were up in their seats, dancing. One of my favourite gigs of the year.

I have gigs in Oxfordshire this week.

I’m going to be appearing at Wilderness festival on Saturday 10th Aug. It’s just outside Oxford. Other poets of note performing at the festival include Molly Naylor, Byron Vincent, Nathan Filer and Ross Sutherland. So if you’re going, come and see us as opposed to some other thing.

The thrilling saga of editing my novel continues. August is set aside for one last* round of making my prose less crappy. The process seems to be working. The suck quotient is dropping. I am not a credible advocate for my own work, so I will not make claims about its final quality, but I am optimistic. People always say, of their latest project, ‘I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done’. Of course you think that. You’re too close to it to make an objective assessment.

Instead, I’ll say that this is the novel I’ve wanted to write for years. It has all the cool things I want to see in a book. If you like my live work, or what I write on this blog, I’m confident you’ll get a kick out of it.

It’s for these reasons that I think it deserves editing well. You read my editing blog, Death Of 1000 Cuts, every Thursday, right? I practise what I preach, yo.

This Week, I Have Been Mostly Reading

Death In The Afternoon, by Ernest Hemmingway. I’m not super-familiar with the life of Hemmingway but I get the impression he might have been a bit of a swaggering shithead.

Which is fine. In Death In The Afternoon, he seems aware of that, to a limited extent. The book is an account of Spanish bullfighting as it exists in the early 1930s, the culture surrounding it, the traditions, the characters, and the tragic theatre of death. Hemmingway is very aware that many – even most – readers may find the spectacle cruel, and dismisses them as prejudiced milksops.

It’s a fascinating book, with some great stylistic flourishes. About seven chapters in, Hemmingway acknowledges that you can’t capture something entirely in a book, and that you have to go out and experience it. He instructs the reader to put the book down, and not come back to the rest of it until you’ve seen a bullfight. I’m like, come on, Ernie. I just got back from Spain. I’m not travelling all the way back to watch a bullfight. Plus I heard them shits is cruel, dawg.

Which I actually still think, after reading this beautifully-crafted, compelling book. I think Hemmingway is a voyeur and dilettante and exoticises the suffering of others while lounging in a nest of flocculent self-justifications. Bullfighting is transparently horrible, but he gets off on it, so he musters all his literary powers to try to rationalise away the cognitive dissonance. The result is well-worth reading.

And, re: actually seeing a bullfight – well, the spectacle Hemmingway describes no longer exists, at least, not in the milieu he describes. You probably wouldn’t want to pump money into bloodsports just to please the old thug anyway, but you could always watch a clip on youtube or something? Maybe comfort yourself with the knowledge that it’s the sort of compromise that would’ve really pissed him off.

*almost certainly not the last, in fact. But the last before I show it to people!