incorporating writing

Issue 4 Vol 2 TRAVEL

Benedict Allen - Daljit Nagra - Robert Steinbeck

Incorporating Writing
(ISSN 1743-0380)

Editorial Travel

Editorial Team
Managing Editor Andrew Oldham Interviews Editor Sarah Hesketh Articles Editor Fiona Ferguson Reviews Editor G.P.Kennedy Columnists Dan McTiernan, Andrew O’Donnell, Dave Wood, Sharon Sadle. Contributors Janet Aspey, Katherine Blair, Claire Boot, Caroline Drennan, Ben Felsenburg, Cath Nichols, Helen Shay, Tom Spurling Cover Art Gemma Cumming Design Marsh Contact Details

Andrew Oldham discusses all things Travel and the nagging question: Are we there yet?


Interviews Benedict Allen Daljit Nagra

Sarah Hesketh meets the great explorer.

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Sarah Hesketh spends time with the critical success that is...

Articles Jo’Burg Travels

Tom Spurling tackles travel writing and the South African city.

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Here Be Monsters

Ben Felsenburg looks at the eco-crisis hitting the travel writer.

Childe Harold’s Ticket to Ride
Caroline Drennan looks at the restless nature of Byron.


Steinbeck’s Travelogue of War 44
Claire Boot looks at Steinbeck at War.

Columns Dislocation, Dislocation
have to travel to be lost.

Dan McTiernan discovers one doesn’t


Cubicle Escapee
Incorporating Writing is an imprint of The Incwriters Society (UK). The magazine is managed by an editorial team independent of The Society’s Constitution. Nothing in this magazine may be reproduced in whole or part without permission of the publishers. We cannot accept responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts, reproduction of articles, photographs or content. Incorporating Writing has endeavoured to ensure that all information inside the magazine is correct, however prices and details are subject to change. Individual contributors indemnify Incorporating Writing, The Incwriters Society (UK) against copyright claims, monetary claims, tax payments / NI contributions, or any other claims. This magazine is produced in the UK. © The Incwriters Society (UK) 2005

Sharon Sadle tries to relax.


Artwork Perfect Eye

Cover artist, Gemma Cumming, exhibits some of her work.


Reviews News and Opportunities

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Are we there yet?
Editorial by Andrew Oldham and reading equally bad literature? And felt good about it? Openly braggedabout fucking up the country you holidayed in? And we all do it, we go to gems hidden amongst the lapping waves of some undiscovered place. These solitary hideaways where we find ourselves, find peace, discover beauty and feel at one with the world. And, a fortnight after returning home, we have told all our friends, family, colleagues, lovers and any passing stranger or old school friend what a great place we’ve just holidayed in. What do they do? They go there! The cheek. The sheer bravado! What happens then? They tell all their friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances of their pets about a great place they’ve just been too. Oh, the beaches! Oh, the people! The culture, the food, the warmth! - LOOK AT OUR TANS - and what happens then? They go! And then more people go there, then actually live there. Four years later, you meet the first person you recommended the gem to and say quite calmly and in that innocent voice, “I went back on holiday there, but I wouldn’t go again - it’s so commercial, there’s no culture left. There was even a burger bar next to a temple! The people have sold out” What do you expect? You waved great fistfuls of dirty money in their faces. Sure, beauty is wonderful, empty tranquil beaches that stretch off to the blue horizon are great but you don’t live there all the time. You don’t realise how poor some of these countries are and how much the humble tourist has them over a barrel. Money or poverty? Money or starvation? The irony is though, that England too is becoming a tourist trap. It’s the fastest growing market in the UK

I abhor travel. Maybe that is a little harsh but trust me when you’ve landed sideways in an air plane at O’Hare, buffeted by one of the worst hurricanes the USA has ever seen, it tends to put you off the act of travelling. I love to go places though, so I am in a Catch 22 situation. Many of us now baulk as we face the new guru catch word - carbon footprint; a catchphrase dreamt up in some PR company, to make us all feel guilty that the planet is indeed warming up, whilst human compassion, trust and love amongst fellow men and women is distinctly dropping down the temperature scale. Let’s face it, we’re stuffed. So, how big is your carbon footprint? Is it so big that you can now actively brag to male friends about it? Is it big enough to make even China go weak at the knees? Let’s face it, this is how the whole travel problem is being pitched at us - we are being made to feel incredibly stupid and guilty but there is no real mention of the companies that are also to blame or even the governments. Yet, our lust for travel and the throwaway lifestyle is contagious. Come on, who hasn’t amongst you told friends that you went to somewhere warm and sat by the pool for a fortnight, drinking bad wine

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at the moment. Will we adapt though to being the one’s accepting the money and bending backwards over a barrel to do it? Could we, after so many decades of package holidays, shouting for food in slow and clear English in the Costa del Sol, Lyon, Delhi, Rhodes and Paris actually welcome the same back? Package holidays are coming back to roost, and I wait with baited breath for the first Spanish Man to shout slow and clear in some greasy spoon, in Spanish of course, that he wants paella.

“What do you expect? You waved great fistfuls of dirty money in their faces”
In this issue, the great and good of travel explore their own times abroad. Benedict Allen explains the need for exploration over travel, Daljit Nagra speaks of travel in the UK. We look at Byron abroad, at eco-travel and the mighty carbon footprint (it does sound like a heavyset smoker with a neverending supply of fags in his mouth), the jewel of South Africa and the hidden mess kept away from the tourists and we look at Steinbeck at War even this became a travelogue. Dan McTiernan and Sharon Sadle look at the act of dislocation and relaxation respectively. Gemma Cumming shows us the beautiful side of postcards in Perfect Eye. Bon voyage! Comprende mush?

Incorporating Writing will go quarterly in 2007. Themes for 2007 include REGIONAL REVOLUTION (July) and FOOD (October). Guidelines can be obtained from the editors below All enquiries and deadline details are available from: Andrew Oldham (Managing Editor) Fiona Ferguson (Articles Editor) G.P. Kennedy (Reviews Editor)


Andrew Oldham is the Managing Editor of Incorporating Writing. He is an award winning writer and academic. His work includes papers on Ray Bradbury, BBC Radio and TV programmes, music and literary journalism and several collections of poetry. He recently won a NW Vision award.


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Jo’burg Travels
Article by Tom Spurling

Writing about our own travels is no use to those who choose to run away. But we all write and travel for different reasons. Mark Twain travelled to pay off his debts, Paul Theroux travelled to pay off his novels, Evelyn Waugh travelled to appease his own neo-colonial guilt, but perhaps it’s more like Bruce Chatwyn once said, and most of us travel cos we can. ‘Ubuntu’ is a term used to describe African humanism. It means that we’re all connected, all the time, no matter how far we roam, no matter how spicy we like our chicken (local flavour is crucial to good travel writing). Travel writers often espouse universal ubuntu. They encourage us to see the world in miniature, to see our own lives as exotic. This is partly because travel is often dull and frustrating - lots of waiting in train

stations, lots of misread maps - and partly because it’s half-human to wonder. But who really wants to know about other people in whom they cannot recognise themselves? Who really wants to travel for a living? So what to do, us travellers, us writers? Travel and writing may be somewhat spiritual pursuits, but Travel Writing alone is strictly business. To travel alone is more lonesome than writing, but group travel is mostly pretend. Perhaps we should pack it in altogether in pursuit of peace of mind? Well, funnily enough, it’s not likely to happen in this world of cheap travel and paid writing because most of us aren’t nearly good enough at either to stop - or we still have something half decent to say, somewhere half decent to go - and many of us still stubbornly cling to a life where one can fund the other.

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The travel in this writing takes place in Johannesburg, or Jozi, the old, gold, abused boom town gone bust. Jozi hits the pits hard and rises high around the edges. She’s a daylight city, a grit-andbare-it city, and anyone’s after dark. Travel writing is not always romantic. Jozi is where this travel writer starts, in an airport hotel with no shower. He’s strung out halfway across the Indian Ocean, with a girl who was promised a holiday, and instead got me, to make two out-of-town do-gooders in transit to Limpopo, four hundred clicks north and counting. But travel writing can both guide you by book, and book you a room for the night on Seventh Street, Melville; an oasis of urban harmony in a city under permanent siege. Melvile is an ideal South Africa that nonetheless bars its doors. There, my travel partner and I eat stuffed agnolotti, and Macau salads, buy the new album from Cape Town indie darlings Rock Tock Tik (average), and wax half our legs. We watch black guys drive hot cars and kiss hot girls who walk home late alone. It’s healthy, if not safe, but promises more than big cats and big country. At least more than you’d ever read about. Travel and writing are each full of chance meetings and anecdotes that will, on occasions, reveal certain truths about the state of a nation. One afternoon in Melville I picked up a hardback copy of the Best New South African Writing, (published the year I was born), and met the black as black local comic co-star from soon-to-be-released MTV film ‘Bunnychow’. “Man, you should stay in Australia,” he laughed. “Ain’t no black people there!” Returning to my pension that evening, I bantered AIDS and Africa with Trish, the affable ex-British owner whose two blond daughters squawked into saliva-stained recorders and played

together inside. “Here it’s the Mozambicans climbing through your window,” Trish said. “In Botswana, it’s the Zimbabweans.” Travel writing will always take you away, unexpectedly. Second time round the clock we wake at noon Melbourne time, but still in Jozi, pitch black with cats and robbers. We sit idle til Ntombi the hired help comes to collect us for a tour we never booked. Accidental tourism, but we’re glad to see her. And so we waltz down tree-lined Walton with our guide at hand, our book in bag, and pile into one of eleven mini-buses for a Taste of Africa at one-sixty rand or your money in dollars. First stop, (fifth if we’re counting), is the Apartheid Museum, and I’m thinking, should I take Ntombi a cool drink while she waits outside in the sun? No, no, she can manage, she’s seen it all before. Inside it’s horrible, of course, but nonetheless important and worthwhile, but yes, we should leave soon, Ntombi will be waiting. Soweto is suddenly all the more urgent, but when you get there, the guilt in your mouth gets covered in dust, and the 20-something migrant from the Eastern Cape takes you to her baking hot tin hut beside the river of ‘pig’s food’ where not very long ago some Zulus went to town on hundreds of screaming souls and the ‘Bang Bang Club’ got famous taking pictures. Travel is nothing like writing. Anyone can write, and anyone can travel. These days you can fly to Ireland from Italy for twelve bucks fifty, and blog round the world for free. But travel writing will forever be the ‘middle-man’ of literature, for the best travelers rarely write, and the best writers rarely travel. But they both need the other to inform our own lives, to help us to stay or to help us go.


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“But who really wants to know about other people in whom they cannot recognise themselves? Who really wants to travel for a living?”

Tom Spurling is a freelance travel writer from Melbourne, Australia. He has recently returned from India on assignment for Lonely Planet, and is now a writer-in-residence at Amazwi Media Arts School in rural South Africa. ‘Amazwi’, meaning ‘voices’ in Zulu, trains local women to tell their own stories and to produce a community newspaper. The program also produces a. magazine - Africa’s first literary journal - which specialises in creative non-fiction inspired by the continent.

incorporating writing Here Be Monsters: Article by Ben Felsenburg


Travel Writing In The Eco-Age

Travel writing may be as old as words. Cuneiform must still have been a novelty when someone sent a clay tablet stating ‘Wish you were here.’ Even the Old Testament doubles up nicely as a guide book to the Middle East, from Mounts Ararat and Sinai to the river Jordan, albeit a little heavy on the historical and bloody local colour. Travellers’ tales largely fall into two categories. Some describe places the reader probably will never see: Renaissance Italians would likely know the Silk Road only from Marco Polo, just as, bar the colonising few, the Victorian Englishman turns to the pages of Sir Richard Burton to discover Africa. Then there are journeys the reader may well have made already or even, perhaps, shall be inspired to take by the book in or an in-between state of affairs. Paul Theroux in China and the incomparable

Bruce Chatwin in Patagonia spelled a challenge in the seventies and eighties. Transport, politics and expense set these destinations aside for only the more determined tourist of these decades, but they were reachable. Now, when globalisation and cheap air travel have rendered India’s beaches into the Costa Del Sol de nos jours and the Himalayan peaks are all but thronged with tour parties, these distinctions have worn thin. Bookseller employees place Marco Polo in the same section as In Search Of Elvis, and VS Naipaul, Theroux and Chatwin are set just a few shelves away from the pleasantly quotidian wit of Bill Bryson. Can their notions of travel all be said to be in accord with Francis Bacon’s definition: ‘part education, part experience’? It’s a question of some urgency for our


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eco-aware times. Where once ‘here be monsters’ marked those parts of the globe we did not know, now that we have stained the entire planet with our works, the monsters are us. As Ian Jack notes in Granta’s most recent travel collection (Granta 94, ‘On The Road Again: Where Travel Writing Went Next’), ‘Travel no longer seems so innocent or beneficent (“travel broadens the mind”), unless one journeys in some pre-industrial carbonneutral way, like Thomas Coryat walking all the way from Somerset to India in the early seventeenth century, or R. L. Stevenson on his donkey in the Cévennes, or Queen Victoria getting up Pilatus on her mule.’

spent in its research?’ And there was I thinking entertainment beat moral purpose hands down every time a book is opened. Still there’s no doubt such thoughts threaten to consign vast sheaves of writing to that damned realm reserved for the immediately dated recent past. But perhaps that’s no bad thing: look at the blurb of the 2006 Lonely Planet anthology ‘Tales From Nowhere’. ‘We’ve all been to Nowhere,’ it assumes, no doubt to appeal to the suited professionals wistfully nostalgic for their grungy backpacking twenties identified by the marketing demographics. ‘It might have been in the middle of Borneo or Beijing.’ Yes, you teeming millions count for nothing against my vague sense of alienated disorientation having just come off the plane. ‘Nowhere is a setting, a situation and a state of mind.’ Just in case you were wondering. The tales within are perfectly serviceable as a series of effectively racy extended anecdotes, but that blurb stands for the whole hoary notion of travelling to discover ourselves. The game is up for that particular jig, if we accept the body of evidence that says our wanton travel is at least partially responsible for climate change, and if we decline the hell-in-a-handcart-so-what’sthe-use option. So where now? Travel literature could be reinvigorated by the eco-crisis. You want to know about another continent? You can’t go there just for the hell of it — but you can read all about it. We’ll have come full circle, back to those medieval reports and rumours from exotic far-off places. Let’s not forget our globalisation offers

“You want to know about another continent? You can’t go there just for the hell of it — but you can read all about it”
You could take issue with Jack. There is no such thing as carbon-neutral travel: even if we all journeyed only on mule and by foot, there’d still be the eco-cost of the fossil-fuel-based mass fertilisers that are needed for the food to feed such energy expenditure. Journeys are not in themselves deleterious. The problem is the sheer numbers in which we live and move. In any event, Jack outlines the future way for writers and their journeys: ‘ seems to me that if travel writing is to be more than a persuasive literary entertainment — if it’s to have some genuinely illuminating and perhaps even, these times being what they are, some moral purpose — then the information it contains needs to be trustworthy. How else do you justify the carbon emissions

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Dislocation, Dislocation
Column by Dan McTiernan

arse out of that!”, “for f%!*$ sake!” and “Why, God, why?” The lack of a cooker means a whole new world of ready meals has opened up to us. We saunter round supermarkets like gastro-tourists cherry picking the finest film-wrapped slurry from around the globe. Ooh, prawn toast, ooh chicken dopiaza. We’ve started to accumulate complimentary crockery as a result of the vast volumes of “have a night in” ranges we purchase. Even though I’m almost one hundred percent convinced there was not one utterance of it on the estate agent’s details, it appears we’ve bought a house in Mordor. Since we bought it in December, ceaseless horizontal torrents of Pennineiced rain have pitted away at the crumbling stonework of the building and at our morale. The dark slough of moorland opposite – something that appealed at the time of purchase – looks so saturated that it might slide towards us at any moment, taking out the council estate further up the hill and depositing its Jeremy Kyle-watching inhabitants onto the railway tracks just the other side of our apocalyptic garden. For the past several months now my weekend residence has been the cellar - jovially described as a kitchen by Sauron Property Inc. – as my endlessly patient friend Jay and I tackle the damp, the drunken angles of the walls and ceiling and our own glaring lack of Extreme Makeover experience. Our favourite grunted Orkish phrases include such gems as: “We’ve made a right cod’s

“My fervent reading of the Escape section of the weekend paper would suggest that, I for one, am riddled with the virus”
Then there’s the party wall that separates us from them next door and the discovery that it’s apparently made of rice paper. At weekends the waft of their SuperKings seeps through into our bathroom and living room, their consumptive hacking acts as our 8am alarm, their little girl’s daily teatime hour of skipping sends enough violent judders along our floorboards to cause Vibration Whitefinger. Oh, and my wife is due to give birth to our first child two weeks yesterday… I need a holiday. You know the type; the one where you sell the house and run away to Southern India forever to set up an eco-backpackers lodge. I can see in Johanna’s face as she wades through the piles of dust and half unpacked possessions in her wellies – we

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wear them indoors rather than out at the moment for hygiene reasons - that it wouldn’t take much to get her to agree to my little sojourn. To be honest that’s our usual modus operandi anyway. Build our careers up, start to settle in somewhere and meet people, begin to feel calm, then dump everything and bugger off somewhere new because we’re restless. It’s a habit that I both love and loathe about our existences because it simultaneously means adventure and dislocation. I often wonder whether it’s because of us as people; the fact that we mainly work as freelancers, the fact that we’re from different countries and are constantly torn between Britain and Finland, the fact that shambolicism is our mantra? Or is this lack of rootedness simply a manifestation of a wider phenomenon? Is it, in fact, a generational disease to which our immunity periodically dips, like Malaria or cold sores? Are we carriers of some sort of existential travel bug? My fervent reading of the Escape section of the weekend paper would suggest that, I for one, am riddled with the virus. It’s terrible really because I have most of the things a man’s supposed to want and have. I have a supposedly meaningful job working for an environmental charity, I’m about to be a father, I have a car with a mock walnut dashboard, I have a pebbledashed garage in which to store my tools for the infinite DIY projects that line the rickety path of my future. What more could there be? And yet time after time I want to run off with Johanna to tropical escapism land and bum around. I want to shirk responsibility, to say bollocks to my newly acquired mortgage, to live in an A-frame hut on the beach and read about

Buddhism. I want a really good sun tan. I want to wear flip flops not wellies! But even if I don’t get to my tropical paradise this week I know that at least we are moving forwards. There is no such thing as stagnation in our lives because impatience breeds dynamism. That’s the part I love; the fresh change that sweeps through every six months or so taking us in kaleidoscopic directions. As much as I might moan about kitchen fitting, I actually enjoy it really and, as we’re planning to build our own house in a couple of moves’ time anyway, it’s pretty essential practice. And we’re having a baby! Talk about travelling to somewhere completely new! I’m incredibly excited about it all and I can console myself with the thought that existential angst will most probably be subsumed by liquid poo, for the time being at least. I wonder if they do wellies in size 03 months?

Writer, magazine editor, film maker and film lecturer, Dan McTiernan schizophrenically wanders through his well travelled working life safe in the knowledge that underneath the media façade, he’s really an eco-builder and smallholder.


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solutions to every problem, even the ones it’s made itself.

“Now, when globalisation and cheap air travel have rendered India’s beaches into the Costa Del Sol”
James Attlee’s book ‘Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey’, is an account of the city’s rich diversity, where the recent and most visible arrival of a host of nationalities has transformed community – witness ‘Jamaican, Bangladeshi, Indian, Polish, Kurdish, Chinese, French, Italian, Thai, Japanese and African restaurants’ – Attlee asks, ‘Why make a journey to the other side of the world when the world come to you?’ Curious about the foreign and far-away? Read a book. Or just look next door. 19 Abercromby Square Liverpool, L69 7ZG Website includes news, events, shop, blog, podcasts. First published in 1997, The Reader has always been a platform for passionate responses to literature. If you love reading, you’ll be delighted to find The Reader, the literary magazine written with you in mind. The Reader organisation also delivers a variety of innovative literary events and community projects in the North West. Subscription: (1 year/4 issues)£24

Were it not for his fear of flying and neurotic addiction to cycling, London writer and congenital stay-at-homer Ben Felsenburg would be doing his damnedest to drag down the planet along with the rest of the crowd. He very much loves his partner but still doesn’t understand why she bewails his tendency to leave the tap running when brushing his teeth, but it’s okay for her to fly off for a three-week tour of China leaving a carbon footprint the size of dinosaur claws.

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Benedict Allen: Explorer Not Traveller
Interview by Sarah Hesketh Photios by portraitsiberuttrek


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I get a little travel sick on the tube, and not being a Londoner my knowledge of the capital is based entirely on multimap. So I feel a little fraudulent turning up to interview Benedict Allen, a man who has walked the 1000 mile Gobi desert alone, undergone a brutal initiation ceremony with the Niowra ‘crocodile people’ in New Guinea, crossed the Amazon basin at its widest point (the expedition there hit a few hitches and he was forced to eat his own dog), trekked Siberia nearly killing himself and his dedicated team of huskies, hung out with shamans and witchdoctors and once found time to be the first man to walk the length of the Skeleton Coast in Namibia. The most remarkable figure in modern exploration, it’s a little incongruous to find him in Shepherd’s Bush on a street lined with white picket fences. Allen has always laid great emphasis on the fact that he is an explorer, not a traveller. Immersing himself in indigenous communities, learning from them the skills needed to survive in some of the world’s harshest environments, his TV programmes have usually involved just him and a hand-held camera. His first expedition at the age of twenty-four was crossing the Amazon Basin, a trip which ended in near disaster, but it seems to have provided the impetus for all his subsequent trips. It also seems to have been this which gave rise to a distinctly reflective side to this man of action, a ‘professional adventurer’ as he terms himself. Each of his trips has produced a book, and this notion of reporting back on what he has seen and done appears central to his conception of both himself and his journeys. “I just did this one-off trip, as it was going to be.” He slips readily into the role of storyteller. “I wanted to be an explorer; off I went and towards the end

of the journey it all went wrong. I had to survive in the jungle by myself and I think that gave me a drive. Having survived it I think I needed to understand it. I’ve never really talked about it with a psychiatrist but this forest had almost wiped me out and I think I needed to understand how that had happened. I was there for weeks and fighting every day. So I think that explains why I then did another expedition, and it was a very rash thing, of going through an initiation ceremony in New Guinea. Maybe just to relive this trauma. I don’t really know, but that seems to be where I got that drive from. It has scared me that I had a tendency just to be an adrenaline junkie. It’s certainly what used to worry my mum and dad. That I was wanting to do something more dangerous in order to get attention.”

“I get a little travel sick on the tube, and not being a Londoner my knowledge of the capital is based entirely on multi-map. So I feel a little fraudulent turning up to interview Benedict Allen”
Yet he’s quick to disagree with Robin Hanbury Tension’s self-aggrandising assertion that, ‘a traveller reports back, but an explorer changes the world.’ “I felt that on my expeditions I should be the one who’s changed. The place should have an effect on me and that would be a sign of a successful expedition. And settling down to write the book was crucial. It kept me sane in a way. It was only when I had written the book that I was able to move on. Each experience had to be sort of answered by a book, or closed by a book.”

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Interview by Alexander Laurence


Many of Allen’s books have been dedicated to local residents who have helped him on his travels. And the structure of his journeys: a spell with indigenous people, followed by a period of solitary trekking, seems to reflect this dichotomy of action and reflection in his character. “It is a sort of mixed thing. I do like being with people but in the end I sort of feel I have to test myself. And I’ve never understood why. I rode for three and a half months with the Mongols before I even got to the Gobi and the challenge bit. But I could never really tell what I’d learnt from the locals until I was alone. I thought, I’ll only know if I’m any good if I’m exposed to the place. So I do have that sort of personal challenge aspect and it does excite me I have to say. There is that side of me. Though I don’t think I always particularly like it.” His fascination with remote peoples led to his series on medicine men and his trips

as the first westerner to make contact with tribes in New Guinea. Some of his critics saw this as an ethically dubious move. But he’s happy to defend the expeditions, “Both times I thought about it a bit. It was way back in my career,” and he speaks with an obvious sadness at seeing whole belief systems collapsing and cultures destroyed. “We were in Papua New Guinea with the Yaifo, and that was tragic. Gold miners were moving into the area and I was only one step ahead of them. And the Yaifo were making little nests in the trees for helicopters. It was difficult to know what they were really thinking. But they had heard that these helicopters would come down and bring wealth to them so they were trying to encourage them.” It must have been a terrifying experience for these people?

portraitsiberuttrek 17

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“I do like being with people but in the end I sort of feel I have to test myself. And I’ve never understood why”

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“Well, the yaifo were looking forward to it. Wow, wealth at last. It fitted in with a lot of their belief system. The white man bringing heavenly wealth. So they were bewildered though excited. I’d like to know what happened.”

“The problem with travel is on a mass scale. We’re now living in an age of mass tourism and that is doing an enormous amount of environmental damage. But societies and humans as a whole have had to investigate their surroundings and the key is reporting back”
He was especially struck by a young boy of about twelve. “He was so keen and excited by the world. I wonder what happened to him for example. Was he going to become a gold miner? Was he going to retreat further into the forest? I don’t know.” So has he developed a favourite tribe? He smiles reluctantly. “I’ve tried not to. It’s terrible, like having favourite nephews and nieces. But I can’t help but particularly like the Mentawai in Sumatra. They are heavily tattooed from head to foot and they seem like hippies. Their whole philosophy is to do with harmony and balance. We would go out hunting with them and they would talk to the trees and say look, ‘we’re really, really sorry for any harm as I run through the forest trying to hunt’. They wanted to keep the tree spirits happy. Then they’d

apologise to the monkeys who they were going to hunt and say, ‘sorry, if I kill you. Don’t worry, we’ll take your head and decorate it beautifully and your soul can live on in our house. Ok, you’ll lose your flesh but don’t worry about it’. I make it sound very silly, but there is this word bajou, which means harmony. You have to respect everything’s bajou, which is a sort of radiating force. It was a lovely philosophy and I found the people very generous to me. But then that could be said right across the board, and I’ve found people aren’t very different. So-called head hunters in New Guinea are just as nice as everyone else. They might be more aggressive to an outsider. But deep down you find the same range of the meek, the mild, the horrible, the mean.” With Green Taxes high on the current political agenda, we’re perhaps more aware than ever of how irresponsible our travel can be. Has he ever felt the need to justify his journeys as scientific missions? “No, not really. The problem with travel is on a mass scale. We’re now living in an age of mass tourism and that is doing an enormous amount of environmental damage. But societies and humans as a whole have had to investigate their surroundings and the key is reporting back. I’m writing an account, I’m making TV programmes and so on. But the world is no longer a place that we can just view as a playground. I think we have to justify our travels now. People have said to me oh, that is very mean. Why shouldn’t we go on holidays, and I don’t know quite what the answer is. I’ve just come back a few days ago from France, on holiday and I think it’s
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“And the world has got smaller. The journeys I wanted to do when I was little have sort of been done. Or it’s getting to the point where it’s silly to hire a camel”


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For further information email:


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those journeys that are going to have to be questioned in the future. But if we stop going out to investigate the world then I think we’re finished as a species because part of the human condition is to explore.” So what of his own future plans then? At the end of Into the Abyss, his most recent book, he wrote that he felt “a circle had been closed”. Does this bode badly for fans of his work? “I don’t know what it actually means but I just felt it was right to write that. I thought, I don’t want to say that it’s the end to my travels. But I felt that I had less need to go away. I think I will still go away but I don’t think I will risk my life so much. I’ve done a lot of risking and it suddenly didn’t seem so necessary anymore. It would be terrible if I didn’t go anywhere because that would be the end of my career. But that original drive I was talking about, I think that has gone. I love the idea of getting some camels, going across a desert and just walking. But I think that’s a feeling that we all have, rather than this extra thing which was almost manic. This desire to throw myself against a place. And the world has got smaller. The journeys I wanted to do when I was little have sort of been done. Or it’s getting to the point where it’s silly to hire a camel. Maybe when I said the circle had been closed it might be that I’ve sorted a lot of the things out inside myself. It might be that I’ve just grown older at last, or grown up.” I gesture at the small collection of engagement cards on a table. “Yes, that’s a whole new thing to explore. But I do hope I’m not going to be tired and boring and just sort of sit around. There is this side to me that is the writer side, the observer side, and there has always been

a kind of friction between that and the man of action. So I imagine I will do something. I can’t imagine just sitting. Maybe that means fiction. But that will mean going off to the Congo or wherever, to get the material.” He couldn’t just sit there and make his own imaginative journey? “I like to think I have the skills now as a writer to do imaginative leaps. More to the point I suppose there is a restlessness in me, still, I want to experience these things. But I’m fascinated by Steff Penney who just won the Costa. It rather horrifies me that someone could win a prize without having been to the place they’re writing about. In a way it’s sort of trickery isn’t it? I know she’s not trying to trick anyone and I don’t mean she’s a fraud at all. But it worries me how we can all accept that truth that isn’t a first hand truth. It worries me about the human condition. We can’t discern the difference.” There’s a very long pause while he drinks his tea, and I notice directly above his head there is photograph of himself and David Attenborough, with a desert landscape in the background. “Maybe I could do all of what I’ve done simply from my armchair. What an interesting thought. And what an encouraging thought, really. Let me show you these warrior shields I saved from gold miners in Papua New Guinea.” It seems unlikely he’ll be taking a total trade on the camel for the pen, anytime in the near future.

Sarah Hesketh is Deputy Editor (SE)/Interviews for Incorporating Writing. Originally from East Lancs she is now enduring the flat lands of Norfolk and studying for an MA in creative writing at UEA.

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Cubicle Escapee
Column by Sharon Sadle a dollar and as unique as the messages I wrote on the back) and on-the-go food and the accompanying stomach aches. My attempts were abridged, aborted, slightly censored and absolutely lessened the moments in which they occurred. Vacation travel is about cramming a whole lot of experience into a small space of time. Every moment is precious and each day must be filled to its utmost capacity. This kind of travel is compressed, frantic and the end result must match expectations lest the whole effort be remembered as a waste.

I used to have a most unhealthy relationship with travel. Being away from home was something extraordinary because it rarely happened. In preparing for travel, I chose to be a passive participant. I browsed guidebooks written by those who’d cleared a well worn out path before me. In order to get the most out of my experience, I looked for advice about what attraction would be worth a precious slice of my tiny time allotment known as a vacation. I reread descriptions, checked the weather and calculated my odds: Would I feel fulfilled? Would the effort to visit a particular place be worth my time? A very unhealthy relationship indeed. While traveling, I tried to capture and preserve the fleeting moments as they ticked and flowed most uncapturably together. By-products of this preservation effort included: photographs of very often photographed locations including my head as proof of my effort and presence, postcards sold where vacationers might be inclined to visit (35 cents each or 4 for

“The feeling is not so much the wonder of seeing what I’ve never seen before as the forming of a series of strong impressions”
I propose a more relaxed approach. Lots more presence in all the little moments and lots less effort attempting to capture them. I love to gaze around and soak up the smallest details: the mysteriously dim lair behind an open restaurant door, local yard decorating customs, the odd colors of official vehicles. I like to smell these things if I can, lie in the grass (yes, right in the grass) in the sun and think about them, fall asleep and wake up to strange sounds. I invite the surroundings to permeate me, carry me off to somewhere I might need directions to get back from. And it is then that I’m visited by that most elusive feeling I now associated with travel. The feeling is not so much the wonder of seeing what I’ve never seen before as the forming of a series of strong impressions. Waking up in a


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foreign landscape, the silhouettes and shadows of which I’ve driven a good part of the night through is as pleasantly unfamiliar as it gets. No matter what my time allotment, I’m infinitely more enriched when I allow the time to pass and get lost in the making of the moment. My strongest recollections aren’t jogged by photographs, but sometimes reignite themselves, sparked by a smell, a sound or a color. I’ve healed my relationship with travel and think of it now as a constant companion, whether I’m on the move or not.

Pat Borthwick Milner Place Ian Parks
with foreword by Esther Morgan The Sea £9 with free P&P “All three poets are expert readers, the audience so entranced they hardly make a sound. It’s a pleasure that Incwriters, through their imaginative sponsoring of this recording, has allowed us to join with them, gathered around the firelight of their voices” - Esther Morgan The Sea CD brings together several live events from an eight month tour that took in Liverpool, Penrith, Manchester, Bradford Book Festival, and Whitby. The Sea captures the voices of and work of Pat Borthwick, Ian Parks and Milner Place before a live audience. The Sea CD is approximately 50 minutes long. Taken from The Sea Tour 2006.

Sharon Sadle escaped her cubicle on september 22, 2005. she’s been traveling away from her hometown in florida by car, north and west, ever since. From the road, Sharon writes about coffee with strikers, darts with bartenders, forays into abandoned factories and contemplative discomposure along the byways of the United States. Her stash of socks totals 44 pairs.

Available at:

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Childe Harold’s Ticket to Ride
Article by Caroline Drennan

“Even more than many restless young men, Byron found potential dangers exciting rather than daunting”


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Friends may have our best interests at heart. Yet when John Cam Hobhouse encouraged Lord Byron to burn his early journals and ensured that later memoirs were destroyed after the poet’s unexpected death, apart from invaluable insight into Byron himself, Hobhouse deprived the world of a wealth of acute observations by a man much travelled for his time. Fortunately, letters (and there are many of them) that Byron wrote on his travels to his mother and selected friends remain as vivid, entertaining records. And many of his poems give an intense flavour of early nineteenth century Europe, or an exotic near East, enhanced by Byron’s personal reflections on what he saw and experienced. Even more than many restless young men, Byron found potential dangers exciting rather than daunting. If the direct route across Europe were barred in 1809, as a consequence of the war with France, then the boat to Constantinople would do. And if the voyager missed the boat, as Byron did, a change in the itinerary was no great hardship. Boarding a ship to Lisbon, for the best part of two years he directed his Grand Tour through Portugal and Spain to Gibraltar, sailing from there to Malta and then on to Greece and Turkey. En route, Byron’s travelling ‘musts’ were often suggested by his extensive reading. If the classical hero, Leander, could swim the Hellespont, then so could Byron, at least out if not back as well, a 70 minute achievement of which he had a right to be proud. Alongside his journals, Byron set out to produce an ambitious work. The poem he began on his travels was a lengthy romance, two full cantos of Spenserian stanzas peppered with archaisms, charting the adventures across Europe of one disaffected ‘Childe Harold’. From a twenty first century perspective, the work seems an unlikely best seller but it

proved an unprecedented success.

“Byron was anything but a passive observer; his views on war providing one of the many interruptions to Harolde’s adventures”
‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ was not designed to be a travelogue but it has many of the qualities of intriguing travel writing. The well off and educated, their travels curtailed by revolution and war, delighted not just in Harold’s brooding nature, but also in Byron’s engaging descriptions, the dramatic portrayal of Portuguese Cintra as a ‘glorious Eden’: The tender azure of the unruffled deep, The orange tints that gild the greenest bough, The torrents that from cliff to valley leap, The vine on high,the willow branch below, Mix’d in one mighty scene, with varied beauty glow. Or a more gentle note on moonlight, ‘How softly on the Spanish shore she plays/ Disclosing rock, and slope, and forest brown.’ Readers enjoyed the taste of unfamiliar cultures, ‘the glittering minarets of Tepalen’, ‘the wild Albanian’s ‘shawl-girt head and ornamented gun’ or extracts from Albanese songs. A brief reminder of English Sunday pleasures is followed by a breathtaking account of Spanish bullfighting from stirring start to gory conclusion: ‘Foil’d, bleeding, breathless, furious to the last, Full in the centre stands the bull at bay, ………………………………………

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And now the Matadores around him play, Shake the red cloak, and poise the ready brand: Once more through all he bursts his thundering way – Vain rage! The mantle quits the conynge hand, Wraps his fierce eye – ’tis past – he sinks upon the sand!’ Although, he had chosen a ‘safe’ passage for the time, Byron did not escape the impact of war. Like any modern commentator, he draws our attention to its effect on the landscape, citing a Spanish rustic’s fear that his vineyard will be ‘blasted’ and presenting the fortified Sierra Morena, ‘…far as mortal eye can compass sight, The mountain-howitzer, the broken road, The bristling palisade, the fosse o’erflow’d, The stationed bands, the never vacant watch…’ Byron was anything but a passive observer; his views on war providing one of the many interruptions to Harolde’s adventures. And where the structure of the poem might have been compromised, he contributes further information, explanation or comment in the form of appended notes. One memorable example is his frank discussion of the ‘dastardly devastation’ caused by Lord Elgin and others through the removal of relics from Greece. Skills Byron honed on this first excursion abroad were well polished by the time he came to write the third canto of ‘Childe Harold’ in 1816. Europe may have been more peaceful, but Byron was in a state of turmoil, taking on the role of exile, driven away by the troubles and rumours surrounding his divorce, and by serious

financial considerations. Byron’s identification with his eponymous hero is more obvious now and most of the poem is written in the first person, travel writing as confession; the itinerary is closely bound up with Byron’s emotional state, and philosophical digressions outweigh his description of the sights. It is fitting that Harolde’s travels begin on ‘this place of skulls/the grave of France, the deadly Waterloo,’ a year after the crucial battle took place. Later Byron is in fine frame of mind to be soothed by ‘Clear, placid’ Lake Geneva or to revel in the sublime drama of a sudden alpine storm, ‘How the lit lake shines, a phosphoric sea, And the big rain comes dancing to the earth! And now again ‘tis black, - and now, the glee Of the loud hills shakes with its mountain-mirth…’ The publication of the third canto of ‘Childe Harold’ began a relatively settled period in Italy. Here Byron produced ‘Beppo’, a poem very different in tone and scope from ‘Childe Harold’, comic, much more domestic, and direct. Byron clearly delighted in the differences he found between Italian and English food, language, women and, inevitably, weather. Tips to travellers from England include instructions to carry a good supply of sauces, ‘Ketchup, Soy, Chilivinegar and Harvey/Or by the lord! A Lent will well nigh starve ye.’ If the Italian language ‘…melts like kisses from a female mouth/And sounds as if it should be writ on satin,’ it is not surprising that the women also appeal: ‘From the rich peasant-cheek of ruddy bronze,


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And large black eyes that flash on you a volley Of rays that say a thousand things at once, To the high dama’s brow, more melancholy, But clear, and with a wild and liquid glance, Heart on her lips, and soul within her eyes, Soft as her clime, and sunny as her skies’ England’s ‘chilly women’ with their ‘northern whistling, grunting, guttural’ could not possibly compete.

unfinished, Byron set out to fight for the Greek nationalist cause, although a mortal fever prevented his engaging in any serious action. Despite his dying request that his remains should be kept in Greece, they were returned to England. In that sense, and in that sense only, this ‘citizen of the world’ came home.

“Tips to travellers from England include instructions to carry a good supply of sauces”
Byron’s best known and greatest work, ‘Don Juan’, is a mature and complex fusion of observations Byron made on his travels, creative echoes of his experiences, his reading and his wide ranging thoughts. Like many travellers, he has moved beyond the stage of wonder at new environments and landscapes to a cynical response to peoples and nations. The scope of the poem is huge, the hero wandering through Europe like Byron in his youth but also taking in Russia, which Byron did not visit, and finally reaching England to which Byron himself never returned, although he followed the fortunes of the country with considerable interest. In this work, comic satire evident in ‘Beppo’ is given full force, demonstrating Byron’s desire ‘to show the different ridicules of the society’ in many countries, and to fight for ‘the good of mankind.’ In the final year of his life, ‘Don Juan’ still

Caroline Drennan is a writer and a teacher. Runner up in the Orange Short Story competition in 2005, she has recently gained an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia

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28 Perfect Eye: Gemma Cumming


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Lisha Aquino Rooney

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Lisha Aquino Rooney


incorporating writing Gemma Cumming graduated in 2006 from Loughborough University School of Art and Design with a BA in Fine Art. She has since been in numerous exhibitions and sold work to public collections. Her work deals with notions of anticipation and tourism, utilising tourist images to create giant painted postcards with an ominous twist.

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Interview by Sarah Hesketh

Daljit Nagra

© Sarah Lee

“So our tube stopped in the tunnel because the police were investigating some sort of incident, and there’s this guy who’s been cutting up pieces of plaster with a pair of scissors and sticking them all over himself, and suddenly he starts kicking off in the carriage. I mean, you don’t mind the odd weirdo on the tube but when he’s waving a pair of scissors around…” Daljit Nagra is an incredibly nice man. Exuberant, chatty, full of energy about his writing, his job as a teacher in a Jewish School and how helpful and enthusiastic everyone has been about his first collection. Perhaps I should’ve known what to expect from the book. Look We Have Coming to Dover! is a lively volume, full of energetic and often colliding languages which seek to give an impression of the Indian experience of Britain.

So how does a first time writer get Faber, arguably Britain’s most prestigious poetry publisher, to publish a first collection? He grins, “Well, it’s quite simple really. You submit a manuscript and then you sweat it out for a year and a half waiting to get some sort of response. It was just this incredible, wonderful surprise.” All the publicity surrounding the book gives the impression that Nagra has just exploded onto the scene. In fact, he was already a bit of a regular on the reading circuit following the publication of a pamphlet with Smith/Doorstop in 2003, and the title poem of this book won the Forward Prize in 2004. So why the delay in getting a collection out? “Well, I’d more or less finished up but it still wasn’t right. Even after Faber took it I was still working on pieces that needed it and they were really supportive. One of the first things I said to Paul Keegan (Faber’s editor) was, you’re not expecting Lisha Aquino Rooney


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me to change any of the ways I write or the stupidities of the style or the jokes and he said no, it’s fine. I’m very happy with it the way it is. I think I had this kind of inner fear that if you go to a big publishing house they’re going to try and dilute your style into a house style. But I think that the good thing about Faber’s poetry is that there isn’t really a house style.”

“After a few abortive attempts at writing in his first year of university, he gave up. ‘I just didn’t have the confidence. I thought you’d have to be really clever, really knowledgeable and even when I started writing it was just to fulfil a need’”
Nagra was born in West London, “Just off the terminal runways really”, to parents who had left India, spurred on by British advertising to Sikhs-Punjabis to come and fill the post-war demand for labour: “Because Sikhs had been pretty good in the mutiny. They were seen as fighters and sturdy, steadfast people so they’d be good in factories on these 24 hour production lines.” His father arrived with a relatively good grasp of English. In fact, his dad was a champion wrestler, “and he could’ve gone to the olympics and stuff but he never did, and I think because of the wrestling he got into college. He got a scholarship. But I don’t know how much work he did. He was probably one of these macho types just lording it.”

But his mum was completely illiterate. “She went to school for half a day when she was about five or six. Then their fields flooded and she never went to school again. She came from a real point of poverty, but my dad had a bit more money, so they could’ve stayed in India and had quite a comfortable lifestyle. But like other people my dad was quite tempted by the idea of earning a lot more money in England and then taking it back home.” Many of the poems in the collection deal with individuals who are struggling to find a place in British society, whilst also clashing with the older, Indian immigrant community. But his own experience of growing up in white, West London doesn’t appear to have been too traumatic. “It was a proper white, working class area. And at the time we were one of two Asian families in the area. But I did enjoy it. It was quite rough and ready and you had to watch yourself but it was ok. Then when I was sixteen my parents bought a shop in Sheffield and that was a difficult time because I really missed my friends and it was hard settling in to a new culture. In Sheffield people were so resentful of southerners. I went to a very nice middle class school and it was terrifying. These kids were supereducated and I just had a handful of CSE’s. It was frightening the way these kids were talking. It was like watching the nine o’clock news. We did Roald Dahl’s tales of the unexpected for our CSE English Literature. I didn’t know anything about Shakespeare.” After a few abortive attempts at writing in his first year of university, he gave up. “I just didn’t have the confidence. I thought you’d have to be really clever, really knowledgeable and even when I started writing it was just to fulfil a

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need.” It took a late discovery of contemporary poetry to spur him back into writing. “I think traditional lyric poetry just didn’t suit writing about the Indian in Britain. I think dramatic monologues suit my characters better. I thought, if I’m going to put Indians into this kind of priestly form of poetry, I might as well just let them speak for themselves. So there’s a lot of playfulness and I wanted the characters to come through and sound excited about their lives. Even when they’re in conflict with family, it’s an energised conflict. And that’s the way I see my background. They don’t talk quietly in my family. They’re loud and I wanted to capture some of that hustle and bustle house mania. These people needed to externalise in order to deal with their new surroundings.” So finding himself the new voice of the Indian community in Britain, has he visited India often? He laughs. “I went when I was about five and nearly died of it. I got really ill there and had loads of hospital treatment. Then I went again about fifteen years ago and I was fine. Me and my partner are going over Easter. And that’ll be nice because it’s the first time I’ve been a tourist in India.” He grins. “I’m like everyone else really. I just want to see the Taj Mahal.”

Red Ink 2 Summer 2007 (ISSN 1751-1496) £2.50
Eds. Peter Lewin & Andrew Oldham Cover Art: Lisha Aquino Rooney. Poetry: Jadwiga Kindermann, Ashley Chantler, Naomi Bagel, Jacqui Dunne, Matthew Griffiths, Chishimba Chisala, Matthew Friday, F.J. Milne, Peter de Ville. Story: Gemma Caunce. PDF PUBLICATION, SENT TO YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS BY INCWRITERS.

Sarah Hesketh is Deputy Editor (SE)/Interviews for Incorporating Writing. Originally from East Lancs she is now enduring the flat lands of Norfolk and studying for an MA in creative writing at UEA.


incorporating writing

Recommended Read Small Island Andrea Levy Review Books, 2004 £7.99 ISBN 0 7553 2565 6 531pp
rare thing, an award winner that gave me joy and not a general sense of reluctant displeasure. Told from the perspectives of four very different and equally flawed characters, Levy’s narrative unfolds around the aftermath of the Second World War in 1948, and the personally significant years leading up to it for each of her principal characters. Coming over to Britain on the SS Windrush, Small Island’s most likeable character, Gilbert Joseph, arrives in Britain with the misguided hope that the “Mother Country”, for whom he fought with pride in the RAF during the War, will give him the opportunities to study law and live the life he was promised upon his demob - everything that the Small Island of the title, Jamaica, cannot give him. Throughout the narrative we follow the undiluted racism that Gilbert has to endure as he strives to make a life for himself, with great dignity, often making the prose very uncomfortable and challenging to read, not least because such attitudes are still prevalent in today’s society. When Gilbert reaches a low, his inherent optimism faltering, Levy drives home this point succinctly. “What a forlorn desire to seek indifference.” We see that Gilbert has only left one small island for another. And yet Levy never lets the story purely become a story about racism, never lets the narrative be dictated by issues or

“This is a small island. Man, we just clinging so we don’t fall off.”
Levy won several awards for this novel, principally the Whitbread Book of the Year and the Orange Prize for Fiction, and so I approached the book with general suspicion. Many books that win such glittering literary prizes, more often than not, imbue a reaction of disappointment in me, mainly because one goes to the book with too many expectations of its greatness. However, Levy deserves the praise that has been generously metered out, for this truly is a sublime work of fiction. Andrea Levy is a

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destroyed with worthiness. Her primary interest, thankfully, is the characters and how events have shaped and changed them, making this a story principally about humanity in all its warped and glorious forms, and this is where her skill as a writer truly lies. She vividly recreates a world for her characters to inhabit and writes with unreserved honesty, holding a mirror up to each part of the societies she describes, illustrating the inherent snobbery and suspicion that is sadly a part of humanity, no matter what colour our skin is. Hortense, the most unlikeable character in the novel is also the best example of this. With her golden hued skin, she believes herself better than her fellow darker-skinned Jamaican’s, and her snobbery and self importance over everyone she meets is just as hard to read in its ignorance, as the insults thrown out to Gilbert by the Londoners and, particularly, the Americans he encounters. Not only has Levy given each of the characters a distinctive first person narrative style but she has also, with great success, injected life into the historical fiction genre. One never feels they are reading transcripts of fusty lessons once delivered by corduroy suits patched with leather at the elbows, but rather reading real life accounts by people who were there, living and breathing each unsavoury moment of the Second World War. This is, in a large part, due to Levy’s strong ear for dialogue, and her ability to recreate the rhythms of dialectical speech with such aplomb. Humanity is upon every page. It is in the disappointment felt by each of the characters as their hopes are steadily quashed in the aftermath of war. It is in each character’s sense of identity, largely shaped by the communities in which they

live, and the attitudes prevalent inside them. It is in their insecurities and in their need to belong. Each are afraid there is no role for them, that they will simply fall into oblivion if they don’t cling on to something, be it the past or the belief in change.

“Humanity is upon every page. It is in the disappointment felt by each of the characters as their hopes are steadily quashed in the aftermath of war”
Andrea Levy’s Small Island is both an enchanting and disturbing read. It challenges you, not only as a reader but also as a human being, because Levy makes us care for her well-drawn characters and for each of their fates. She takes us with her on an important and informative journey in rediscovering our collective past. Not only is this a successful and intelligently written book, but it is also a compassionate and humorous one. Janet Aspey


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After Jane Hirshfield Bloodaxe, 2006 £8.95 ISBN 978-0060779160 95pp
leaving the upturned pot in the dish rack after the moon has wandered out of the window. This poem (After Long Silence) contains a line that seems to be the poet’s instruction to herself, ‘The untranslatable thought must be the most precise.’ She is saying ‘what cannot be said I will put into words, and I must do so with absolute accuracy and care.’

After is deceptive: some poems you might skim as easy narrative, but later poems trip you up; when you go back and read the ‘simple’ poems over again you realize that they weren’t so simple after all. I feel that I could talk about each of the poems in here endlessly, as there’s nothing that’s slack or ‘filler’. Hirshfield is astute, profound, and yet accessible. After suggests after someone is gone, and there is a tone of loss, but Hirshfield is not a confessional poet. It is as though the loss has left a space around her through which she sees with remarkable clarity: A small anchovy gleam

“It seems a stark place to be, but also quite wonderful”
This is a form of contemplation, and indeed she has various translation credits of a spiritual nature in her Acknowledgements. Some of her poems, particularly a group she calls ‘pebbles’ have the resonance of haiku or tanka: The lake scarlets the same instant as the maple. Let others try to say this is not passion. (Maple) In a darker humour she writes ‘Ecstasy’: Czechoslovakia, 1933 The actress was only seventeen,
continued page 39...


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...continued from page 37

and so the director arranged to have her pricked lightly with pins at the needed moments. Her poem ‘Theology’ tells the story of a friend, whose rescue dog is ill with distemper and ‘crawled under the porch to die’. Hirshfield’s friend crawled after, ‘pulled her out, said, ‘No!’ As if it were just a simple matter of training. The coy-dog, startled, obeyed. Now trots out to greet my car when I come to visit. The poem could end here, but Hirschfield returns to its beginning where she has observed that ‘If flies did not hurry themselves to the window/ they’d still die somewhere.’ Now, after the dog story, she says ‘Only a firefly’s evening blinking outside the window,/ this miraculous story, but everyone hurries to believe it.’ It’s a shock for the reader that she might be ‘telling stories’, but the neatness of the conclusion is even darker: re-using the flies, the window and the choice of verb from the opening of the poem leave an echo that we all die sometime. Hirshfield also presents a type of poem she calls an ‘assay’; in chemistry you assay a substance to find out what it is made of. Some of her ‘assays’ are on tangible subjects – sky, tears, termites – but others are not – hope, ‘of’, hesitation. An early assay on ‘judgement’ plays with these variations: You are not an artichoke, not a piano, or cat – not objectively present at all – and what of you a cat possesses is essential but narrow:

to know if the distance between two things can be leapt. The reader has to stay focused here on the word ‘judgement’ (which is the ‘you’) or you might miss that Hirshfield is talking about the cat’s sense of judgment. Later she writes of the severity of judgement, ‘weighing without pity your own worth’, and its tenderness, ‘I have seen you carry a fate to its end as softly as a retriever/ carries the quail.’ She concludes with a meditation on aesthetic judgement, a stripping away of the need to turn things (the dawn) into reflections of humanity. when I have erased you from me entirely, disrobed of your measuring adjectives…. When the word is horsefly, coal barge, and the dawn the colour of winter butter – not beautiful, not cold, only the colour of butter – then perhaps I will love you. It seems a stark place to be, but also quite wonderful. Cath Nichols

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Moral Disorder Margaret Atwood Bloomsbury £15.99 257pp
novels. Gibson, a writer and naturalist is also Atwood’s husband. This very personal borrowing seems to add even more weight to the body of work, which explores relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, sisters, as well as humanity’s relationship with narrative.

Margaret Atwood proves once again, that she is still well and truly on top of her game with this collection of stories, which we are told, is ‘almost a novel … or a novel broken up into eleven stories.’ The award-winning Canadian writer, whose career has spanned the decades, has more than thirty works to her name including a Booker Prize for her 2000 novel, The Blind Assassin. She has certainly not rested on her laurels with this, her latest in a long list of intensely insightful books. The title, Atwood acknowledges in her notes at the end of the book, was borrowed from Graeme Gibson who, in 1996 was working on a book of the same title when he decided to stop writing

“Atwood’s ability to draw out the insecurities and fears of childhood from her characters’ reminiscences brings the reader utterly and totally into another world”
Atwood has the ability to draw you into a situation and see it perfectly from the narrator’s viewpoint. She mixes the deeply emotional with the realistic actuality of the here-and-now. Spanning the decades we dip into the 30s, the 50s, 60s, 70s and the present-day. The first story, ‘The Bad News’ hones in on an aging couple, who live in fear of the outside world, and then switches rather inexplicably to an ancient world. This, I felt was an unsettling start, but with the second story, ‘The Art of Cooking and Serving’ we are into the acute writing and rich storytelling of which Atwood excels. Atwood’s ability to draw out the insecurities and fears of childhood from


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her characters’ reminiscences brings the reader utterly and totally into another world. The main character’s relationship with her sister is unsentimentally drawn, and very visual. In fact, Atwood’s ability to engage with all our senses means the shift to her world is utterly controlled and all-encompassing. In ‘The Last Duchess’, the reader is brought back into perhaps his or her own fond memories of a favourite, pivotal teacher, and we are reminded about those familiar surroundings that surely form strong points of references for most of us. “The classroom was too hot; it was filled with a vibration, the vibration of its newness – the blond wood of its curved, modern metal-framed desks, the greenness of its blackboards, the faint humming of its fluorescent lights, which seemed to hum even when they were turned off.” She describes acutely the trepidation of a student, wondering if she will be called on in class; “At such times my mouth would fill with words, too many of them, a glutinous pudding of syllables I would have to mould into speech while Miss Bessie’s ironic narrowed eyes beamed their message at me: You can do better than that.” Clearly, though, Atwood is doing a lot of thinking about the ageing process. There is a sense of the aching loss of old age both for those experiencing it, and for loved ones watching it happen. Several of her stories incorporate this theme. In ‘The Boys at the Lab’, it is daughter dealing with her dying mother who finds it is her ‘function’ to relate back the stories of her mother’s life. “The stories she most wants to hear are about herself, herself when younger; herself when much younger. She smiles at those; on occasion she might

even join in. She’s no longer voluble, she can’t carry a plot, not all by herself…” A further example lies in ‘The Labrador Fiasco’ wherein the daughter bears witness to her father’s demise; “I’ve tried recordings of bird songs, but he doesn’t like them: they remind him that there’s something he once knew, but can’t remember. Stories are no good, not even short ones, because by the time you get to the second page he’s forgotten the beginning. Where are we without our plots?” Where indeed? Atwood draws a very clear correlation between the necessity for stories, for beginnings, middles and endings, for memories, as much as for the more commonly agreed necessities of life; water, oxygen etc. So here, her stories – which seem so personal, one can’t help suspecting – partly autobiographical, include not only memories, not only dwellings of the pain of life, but also on our reliance as a species, on narrative. This is a book that is easy to pick up and become engrossed in, but very difficult to put down. Even when you do, the characters stay with you, almost like memories from your own life. Atwood has the ability to move around the genres of writing with the skill of a chameleon, but what she retains utterly is her ability to access her characters’ deeply held emotions, and complete understanding of what makes them unique. A witty, intelligent, often beautiful and lyrical read, Moral Disorder is a book for Atwood lovers, and those new to her writing alike. Katherine Blair

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Thorndike Press 2003, hardback ISBN 0-78625132-8 £14.15 176pp BBC Audiobooks 2006 Read by Jack Davenport ISBN 1 40567153X £34.95 4 hours 43 mins
each other.

Black Dogs Ian McEwan Vintage 1998 paperback ISBN 0-9780099277088 £6.99 176pp

“The book excels at describing defining moments”
Although a relatively short work, ‘Black Dogs’ covers wide issues and themes as universal than McEwan’s more celebrated longer novels, such as ‘Enduring Love’ and ‘Atonement’. It is no surprise that it has previously been shortlisted for the Booker, despite its brevity. The narrative is, on the face of it, very simple – the story of a marriage, centring on an incident in France in 1947. However, the book manages to encompass Western sentiment towards the Marxist movement since the Second World War, leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Flashback alternates with recent times, as if the past and present are constantly trying to make sense of McEwan’s narrator, Jeremy, is unusual and endearing. Orphaned early in life (though in circumstances never fully explained), he has a pathetic fondness for the parents of friends and contemporaries, eventually finding his true surrogates in his in-laws, Bernard and June Tremaine. Through these two contrasting characters, McEwan juxtaposes the life of the spirit (espoused by June) with the life of the intellect (to which Bernard clings) - mysticism versus logic. In the end, it seems that neither character fully succeeds on their chosen path and what matters more is the exploration en route. Their daughter, Jenny, comes close to representing a


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compromise, but is under-developed as a character, being one of the few disappointments of the book. Central to all this, is the symbolism of the black dogs of the title. On one level, these are the Gestapo dogs of the story. McEwan maintains the intrigue over these animals until almost the end. The denouement is given but it is left to the reader to elect to believe the exact details or not (yet another choice between the fantastical and the logical). Mythological associations are also evoked, from Cerberus onwards and down the long line of hellhounds, Baskervalian and otherwise. However, the real black dog at the centre of the story is the more colloquial one. Churchill famously referred to depression as his ‘black dog’, a phrase still present in many localities. In the novel, June also sees it as such and goes on to equate two black dogs with a more general malaise in society i.e. the human condition. However, she goes further in her own personal encounter with such animals and paradoxically finds them to be a proof of evil, leading to proof of God. The book excels at describing defining moments, one of the most effective being the confrontation between skinheadmentality German youths and a die-hard communist waving a red flag (though his dark skin and immigrant origins seem the real catalyst for the violence that ensues). Drawing on time spent in Germany as a child, McEwan evokes the Berlin of the late 80s as vividly as he did that of the post-war era in his earlier work, ‘The Innocent’. One constant theme is how to come to terms with history, which is emphasised through the description of a visit to a Nazi death camp. As Bernard is forced at one point to postulate, ‘…what possible good could

come of a Europe covered in this dust, these spores, when forgetting would be inhuman and dangerous, and remembering a constant torture?’ However, ultimately it is the image of the black dogs and how each character (not to mention each reader) views them, which dominates the novel. The writer’s sympathies remain with June’s conclusion that ‘the work we have to do is with ourselves, if we’re ever going to be at peace’. All in all, this is a fascinating novel, despite being superficially narrow in scope. Its simplicity and depth are testimony to how, in fiction, less can so often be more. Helen Shay


Janet Aspey is a recent MA Creative Writing graduate with a drama background.  She is particularly interested in feminist history and literature, and is currently working on her second novel. Katherine Blair, originally from Canada is a former CBC television reporter, ITV television producer, and now a university lecturer in York, UK. She is also an unpublished novelist. Cath Nichols’ publications include Tales of Boy Nancy (Driftwood, 2005) and the forth-coming My Glamorous Assistant (Headland, 2007). She has been the recipient of several Arts Council of England awards. Helen Shay writes in various forms and performs poetry, with drama staged at the Fringe/small theatres. She recently completed a fantasy novel for a creative writing MA, gaining a distinction.

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Steinbeck’s Travelogue of War

Article by Claire Boot Photographs by Andrew Oldham

It’s a reflection on the state of the world that any poetry you stumble across in the course of a day is most likely to be contained in a pop song. Similarly, the most common source of travel writing if you’re not specifically looking for it is in war journalism. In one respect, it’s little surprise. The word ‘travel’ arrives in English from the Old French ‘travailler’, which is familiar to us from school French lessons as the verb ‘to work’. It seems that the often-scoffed complaint of holiday show presenters, that it really is hard work, may actually have something in it. In June 1943 – between Of Mice and Men (1937) and East of Eden (1952) – John Steinbeck went to war. Not in an ElvisPresley-one-of-the-boys way, but to do what he knew best, to write. He packed up his ability to pay attention and to get

it down in words and fell in step with the American troops in Britain, North Africa and Italy. One can’t quite imagine Zadie Smith volunteering for a tour of duty in Afghanistan or Iain Banks signing up for Iraq, but Steinbeck wished to serve his country in a conflict that, while no less global than today’s, was at least more defined in the terms, let alone the purpose, of engagement. The result, a series of dispatches for the New York Herald Tribune, is collected in Once There Was a War, published in 1958. It’s a curious cross of literature meets travel writing meets war reportage. Steinbeck’s spare and humane prose features sunny islands and sandy beaches, candlelit churches and historic cities, English castles and Italian bars. He reflects on the souvenir-hunting instinct of his fellow countrymen abroad; he makes wry observations about getting on with the locals.


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But this is war. Normality, along with the travel writing genre, is inverted. It’s like looking at a negative, where the shapes are recognisable but the colours are all wrong. The collection begins with ‘Troopship’, an account of the transportation of American soldiers across the Atlantic. It reads like an inverted cruise ship narrative, like a cheerful song heard in a minor key. The passengers, with military numbers rather than names, are loaded into every available space, to sleep in ballrooms and dining rooms and out on deck. The journey, far from a pleasurable cruise, is shot through with the fear of what enemy submarine might lurk beneath the waves. The anticipation of arrival, normally a source of excitement, is marked with an underlying tension about what happens next. And, just like on a cruise ship, there’s organised entertainment. An acrobat struggles to complete her act as the ship pitches and rolls; a blues singer tries to perform despite the lack of a microphone. Unlike on a cruise ship, the audience is willing to overlook the shortcomings: “In all the acts the illusion does not quite come off. The audience helps all it can because it wants the show to be good. And out of the little acts, which are not quite convincing, and the big audience which wants literally to be convinced, something whole and good comes, so that when it is over there has been a show.” The travel writing inversion continues, for Steinbeck finds himself at locations that should be envied holiday destinations yet, in 1943, are places that no-one would choose to be. In ‘Over the Hill’, two soldiers wade into the waters of a North African beach on a warm night: “Pretty nice, eh, kid?” said Sligo. “There’s guys used to pay heavy dough for stuff

just like this and we get it for nothing.” “I’d rather be home on Tenth Avnoo,” said the kid. “I’d rather be there than any place.”

“One can’t quite imagine Zadie Smith volunteering for a tour of duty in Afghanistan or Iain Banks signing up for Iraq”
Another curious consequence of travel writing and war reporting is that Steinbeck can rarely be specific about where he is. ‘Somewhere in the Mediterranean War Theater’ would hardly satisfy the editor of a weekend newspaper travel section but, as Steinbeck explains in his Introduction, any more detail could jeopardise the entire Allied war effort. It was selfcensorship on the part of the war correspondent; “I was so secret,” he writes, “that I don’t remember where they happened.” Steinbeck does allow himself some specifics of place, however, and offers the occasional distinctly war-time travelogue. He describes the tedium of destruction in Dover where, “with its castle on the hill and its little crooked streets [and] its big, ugly hotels”, the people are “incorrigibly, incorruptibly unimpressed” by the German firepower that blows in their windows and breaks the bud off a man’s prize rosebush. In another continent, the exoticism of Algiers reaches fever pitch. “Always a place of strange mixtures,” decides Steinbeck, “it has been brought to a nightmarish mess by the influx of British and American troops.” The streets declare the clash of cultures, where “jeeps and staff cars nudge their way

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among camels and horse-drawn cars” and “[r]arely is one whole conversation carried out in just one language.” Steinbeck completes his collection with ‘Ventotene’. He obliges with a description of this small island off the coast of Naples straight from a guidebook: “The main harbor of Ventotene is a narrow inlet that ends against a cliff like an amphitheater, and on this semicircular cliff the town stands high above the water.” Ventotene housed a key German radar station and, with this picturesque setting, Steinbeck relates the tale of its astonishingly nonviolent liberation. Landing at the harbour at night, the American paratroopers, by a mixture of luck and bluff, convinced the 87-strong German radar crew to surrender to a force less than half that number. Paradoxically, there’s something heartening about Steinbeck’s Once There Was a War. Once there was a war in Dover and Algiers and Ventotene; yet only half a century on, Europe is at peace. These places are more likely to feature in a travel book than a conflict report. War turns life upside down but peace turns it the right way up again – who fifteen years ago would have contemplated a trip to Croatia? According to the UN World Tourism Organization, Croatia is now in the top twenty of tourist destinations, with 8.5 million visitors in 2005 alone. That’s the hope – that Basra and Baghdad and Kabul will be purely travel, and not travel plus war, destinations, featuring more frequently in literary travel writing than in war journalism. War reportage reminds us, with pain, of what we’ve lost in these places. Travel writing reminds us, with celebration, of what we have.

Claire Boot grew up by the sea in Cardiff before leaving to study in Birmingham. In need of the sea again, she lived on a ship in Africa while writing for the medical charity Mercy Ships. Now back in Cardiff, she’s mostly writing scripts, designing websites and reading Asterix books.

47 “The

travel writing inversion continues, for Steinbeck finds himself at locations that should be envied holiday destinations yet”

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SAY IT LOUD: POEMS ABOUT JAMES BROWN Reply to: , and Deadline: December 31, 2007 Edited by: Mary E. Weems, and Thomas Sayers Ellis. We grew up on James Brown’s hit me! When he danced every young Black man wanted to move, groove and look like him. Mr. Brown wasn’t called the hardest workingman in show business because he wasn’t. Experiencing a James Brown show was like getting your favorite soul food twice, plus desert. His songs, like black power fists you could be proud of and move to at the same time. When Mr. Brown sang make it funky we sweated even in the wintertime. Losing him was like losing somebody in our family. This is a shout out for poems about the impact James Brown had on our lives. Poems that will help people remember, honor, and celebrate his legacy. Don’t be left in a cold sweat, send us your old and new James Brown poems today. Submission Guidelines: 3-5 Unpublished and/or published poems with acknowledgement included. No longer than 73 lines Deadline: December 31, 2007 (Receipt not postmark) Send hard copies along with a Word Document and short bio on a CD to: Dr. Mary E. Weems English Department John Carroll University 20700 North Park Blvd. University Hts., Ohio 44118 Send via e-mail attachment (Word Documents Only) to: , and WHEREVER WE BURY OUR BONES: AN ANTHOLOGY OF DEATH AND DIASPORA Deadline: June 1, 2007 Reply to: CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS As the migrant travels from one home to another, and then maybe another, she realizes home is complicated, tentative, fragile, multiple. Yet, from birth she has been searching for rootedness, a portion of earth to belong to completely. She thinks about where she was born; she thinks about where she now lives. While the buried navel

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string has arguably been the strongest symbol for ‘rootedness’, I would like to suggest, however morbidly, that our buried bones is another one to consider. The question of death, and the where of it, often brings into focus that other old traumatic question: where de hell is home? So Grace Nichols’ Fat Black Woman ”wants a brilliant tropical death/ not a cold sojourn/ in some North Europe far/forlorn”. And Evan Jones’ Banana Man laments, “Gyal, I’m tellin’ you, I’m tired for true/ Tired of Englan’, tired o’ you/ I can’t go back to Jamaica now/ But I want to die there anyhow.” This new anthology, ‘Wherever We Bury Our Bones’, is seeking work by writers working at the very top of their craft. We are interested in fiction, personal essays, and poems that navigate close to or fully inhabit the broad question of: how does the migrant face death? Writers and stories included in the final anthology will hopefully represent the widest range of peoples and diasporas. Prose submissions should be no more than 6000 words. Poetry can be of any length. Submissions should be emailed before the deadline of June 1, 2007 to the editor Kei Miller at . Emails should have ‘Anthology Submission’ in the subject and include a brief bio. Kei Miller is editor of the anthology, New Caribbean Poetry. He is also the author of the Fear of Stones, shortlisted for the 2007 Commonwealth First Book Prize, and the poetry collection Kingdom of Empty Bellies. Cartwright Hall Art Gallery , Lister Park , Bradford BD9 4NS The Agony and the Ecstasy 3 February – 6 May 2007 This is our fabulous Spring exhibition devoted to the history of shoes; from ancient sandals to the latest Manolo Blahnik’s and Jimmy Choos, via amazing artist designed pieces and impossible heels. Short Shoe Story; a writing competition on the theme of shoes will encourage writers to explore in the most creative way their thoughts, feelings and fantasies about shoes – the prize is the ultimate treat; an exquisitely fashioned, lifesize shoe made entirely of chocolate by the artist Prudence Emma Staite; the partner to the shoe in the exhibition.


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Stories must be no more than 200 words and must have shoes either particular or general as their starting point. We hope to post a selection of entries on the website for the Agony and the Ecstasy exhibition which is a link to Cartwright Hall’s own website at Visit the show for inspiration Competition rules: Entries must be original and not previously published, self published, published on any website or broadcast. Entries must not show the name and address of the entrant – these must be included on a separate piece of paper, or email attachment. Worldwide copyright remains with the author, but Cartwright Hall Art Gallery will have the unrestricted right to publish a selection of entries on the Bradford Museums website. Entries should be submitted by 9am. Monday 23 April. Entrants must be over the age of 18. Judge: Joolz Denby. Joolz has been a professional writer, spoken word artist, photographer and illustrative artist for over twenty-six years. Submissions by email or hard copy to: Suzanne Rennie at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery or NEW BBC SITE CELEBRATES LITERATURE, CINEMA AND OTHER ARTS IN AFRICA AND THE DIASPORA London, UK, 6 March 2007 - the BBC launches the new website Africa Beyond africabeyond celebrating African arts in the UK. Africa Beyond casts its net right across the African continent to illustrate the diverse and complex cultures of the 54 African nations and the Diaspora - in cinema, television, photography, literature, music, architecture, visual art, history, craft, design, performing arts, workshops and debate. The website will be a hub for information, discussion and exploration of African arts, beyond the geographical borders of the continent, and beyond any preconceptions about Africa and its culture. The new site brings under its wing the BBC’s existing music website Africa on your Street, with its interviews, features and CD reviews covering everything from Afrobeat to Hiplife to Mbalax, plus gig listings from across the UK. Coinciding with Ghana’s 50th year of independence there will be a special focus on Ghana’s impact on the UK arts scene over the

past 50 years. DJ and music promoter Rita Ray kicks off the new website with her preview of Ghana-related events this year. There’s an interview with playwright Ama Ata Aidoo whose classic play Dilemma of a Ghost will be revived in London later in the year. You can browse a photo gallery of Max Milligan’s extraordinary images of Ghana and read about innovative Ghanaian company Theatre for Change. Coming soon will be features on Ghana’s up-and-coming new writers, and more Ghanaian music from oldstyle highlife to reggae to hiplife. Tessa Watt, programme director, Africa Beyond says: “Our aim is to keep a high profile for African arts through the website and other media, and through lively public events. We are working with as many partners as possible to maintain the links between mainstream and grassroots organisations, to build a network of support for African arts in the UK and to keep African culture in a central position within the modern cultural landscape in the UK.” Africa Beyond carries on the BBC’s African web coverage where the Africa 05 festival left off. Africa 05 left its mark with many high profile events such as Africa Remix at the South Bank, Back to Black at the Whitechapel Gallery and Africa Live at the British Museum, and even incorporating commercial partners such as Time Out, Starbucks and Borders and Books Etc. David Lammy, minister for Art and Culture says: “As a legacy, the Africa Beyond programme could, and should, form a strong platform for maintaining and supporting these art forms in the UK, and encouraging a broad range of audiences to recognise the global impact of African cultural expression.” The Africa Beyond programme will also include live events, including the Word from Africa festival, a week long celebration of African languages which launches on 2 June with an event at the British Museum featuring musicians, poets and storytellers in the galleries and theatre halls. Further events will be happening in African restaurants around London. Africa Beyond is supported by the BBC and Arts Council with other core partners including inIVA (Institute for International Visual Arts), the British Museum and South Bank Centre. africabeyond. For more information please contact Ilka Schlockermann on 079 3206 6624 or email

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Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2007/8 Submissions are invited from publishers or individual poets for The Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection prize, 2007/8. This annual prize is awarded to the author of what in the opinion of the judges is the best first full collection of poetry published in Great Britain and Eire in the preceding year. This year the judges will be Gillian Allnutt, Vicki Feaver and Michael Laskey (Chair). The winner will be announced at the 19th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, which takes place 2 – 4 November 2007. S/he will receive a cheque for £3,000, a week of paid ‘protected’ writing time and a fee-paying invitation to read at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2008. Any first collection of at least 40 pages published in Great Britain , Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland between 1st August 2006 and 31st July 2007 is eligible. To enter send three bound or proof copies with a note of the date of publication by 31st July 2007 to: Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, The Cut, 9 New Cut, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 8BY. The Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize is organised by The Poetry Trust with funding from the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. The prize was established in 1989. Recent previous winners include Collette Bryce, Nick Laird and Henry Shukman. Helen Mitchell Development and Communication The Poetry Trust t. 01886 835950 / 01603 454016 e. GOING DOWN SWINGING #25: CALL FOR POETS Reply to: Going Down Swinging #25: a spoken word extravaganza. Going Down Swinging (GDS) is an Australian literary magazine featuring fiction, poetry, comics and spoken word. It’s been publishing since 1980 to widespread acclaim and is seeking previously unreleased material for it’s 25th issue—a double CD of spoken word from Australia and around the world. WE WANT YOUR SUBMISSIONS! … We love all sorts of spoken word, be it live recordings, home recordings, with music, without, sound poetry … whatever it is you do. Ideally we are seeking to publish previously unreleased material, but if your

recording has had a very limited release we will consider it. For more info visit: http:// submissions.htm. You may email MP3s or questions to Submissions close on April 1 2007. We can pay international performers a small fee for every work published (AUS$50– $100), in addition to two free copies of the magazine. Contributors must fill in a submission cover sheet, which you can download from the website. New free content has just been added to Skin - Editor Crista Ermiya A mixture of fiction and non-fiction stories are to be found in this new byteback book edited by Crista Ermiya on the theme of skin. In her introduction Crista describes skin as ‘a border frontier, the porous barrier between what’s on the outside and the inside; appearance and reality.’ New Gallery To complement the skin collection, we have also posted a photo gallery generated by Melanie Ashby; twenty-seven startling portraits that intimately captures the body’s surface. CAMBRIDGE SEMINAR ON CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE Reply to: 7 - 13 July 2007 The British Council’s Cambridge Seminar on contemporary literature has influenced discussion, performance and debate of literature for 30 years. The Seminar brings together an impressive group of contemporary British writers and critics – including well-known names and the new generation - and offers delegates an unrivalled and unforgettable literary experience consisting of a lively mix of talks, panel discussions. The event is fully residential and is organised by British Council Seminars and the Literature Department. The 2007 programme is at present under development and will feature many well known, as well as innovatory new names among prose writers, poets and critics. For further details, including fee information please go to Or e-mail

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