LeftLion 47

It’s Jubilee weekend so what better way to celebrate than with Issue 47 of LeftLion which is rammed to the hilt with literature. The WriteLion page features nine book reviews, three celebrating the third anniversary of Angry Robot Books (Zoo City Lauren Beukes, Embedded Dan Abnett, Empire State Adam Christopher) and the six shortlisted books for this year’s East Midlands Book Award (The Whispers of Nemesis Anne Zouroudi, The Truth about Celia Frost Paula Rawsthorne, The Misadventures of Winnie the Witch Laura Owen, Pao Kerry Young, An Ordinary Dog Gregory Woods, Ours are the Streets Sunjeev Sahota) As per last year, there are interviews with all of the authors online.

I reviewed three of the books which went against my policy of trying to get a different reviewer for each title. The reason for this was simple. Some publishers were so late sending stuff out that it was too late to get them to reviewers and so I had to lock myself away for a couple of days and read until my eyes started to bleed. This meant I got to read and interview the winner of the East Midlands Book Award, Anne Zouroudi. Her publisher, Bloomsbury, are forgiven for sending the book so late as it came with all of her previous titles in the Greek Detective series. So, a holiday in Greece is called for so that they can be read in their natural habitat.

With PRIDE soon upon us I interviewed Jim Read, the author of a new biography on Justin Fashanu. Fashanu is one of the most fascinating players to grace the game and quite remarkably, the only openly gay football player in the history of the British game. Fashanu was a complex and contradictory character; Christian, rampant fantasist, charismatic playboy, scorer of that goal, victim of homophobic bullying from that manager, adopted, and perhaps most bizarrely, Bet Lynch’s ex – if we are to take his word. His story – which ended tragically in suicide – has been handled superbly by Jim Read and has a good chance of making it on to the Whitbread Sports Book of the Year and hopefully will go some way in encouraging gay players out there to come out.

But the big celebration in this issue was the two page interview with Derrick Buttress who was the first commissioned writer on the Sillitoe: Then and Now project I’m doing for The Space. Nothing has given me more pleasure in all of the articles I’ve written for LeftLion over the last six years than featuring an eighty-year-old writer. Derrick is Nottingham born and bred and had his first short story collection published this year. I can think of no better inspiration to writers out there than sharing his story.

And to cap it all off my partner on the Sillitoe project, Paul Fillingham designed the front cover. Paul is an absolute wizard on the computer and has produced some stunning visuals for the project, blending old and new photographs together to perfectly capture the essence of the project. Now, time for a well deserved drink.

National Poetry Day 2011

It’s a little surprising to learn that National Poetry Day has only been with us since 1994. Given that verse can be traced back centuries you’d have thought someone would have come up with a reason to celebrate it well before then. But perhaps even more surprising is that the novel has only been officially celebrated since 1999 and typical of the bias towards fiction, this gets a full thirty one days of celebration each July in the form of National Novel Writing Month (which has the worst acronym of all time – NaNoWriMo). This internet-based creative writing project challenges scribes to pen 50,000 words, so I guess you could legitimately argue that the extra allotted time is more of a necessity than a bias.

On the other hand, the position of Poet Laureate has been afforded far more prestige and can be traced back to King James 1st when he created the position (as we know it today) for Ben Jonson in 1617. However, as is often the case with British history, there’s some ambiguity about specifics with evidence suggesting that Geoffrey Chaucer (1340 – 1400) was actually the first to receive the accolade when he was given ten shillings and an annual allowance of wine in 1389 to entertain King Henry 1st. Yet there is no such thing as a Novelist Laureate so this could be seen as another rare victory for poetry over fiction.

It’s also been a good year for poetry with regards to awards, with Mark Goodwin taking the inaugural East Midlands Book Award. It’s not often you see a poet usurp a novelist when it comes to prizes although having Ian McMillan on the judging panel would have helped.

So if you’d like to celebrate National Poetry Day this year, the theme set by Jo Bell – the NPD Director – is ‘Games.’ No big surprise here given that London (not Britain) is soon to benefit a massive cash injection from the Olympics. But forget sport and interpret this more widely, think of all the games politicians have been playing with our lives, that bankers have been playing with our money. Think of the games you have to play on the phone when you try to ring up someone at the bank and get held up in queues or sent from department to department. These are the kind of games I’d like to hear about so if you’re interested, then get down to Speakers’ Corner in Nottingham City Centre between 3-5pm. LeftLion have hooked up with The Nottingham Writers’ Studio to drag along as many poets as possible to have a poetical rant. Remember, we’re the only city outside of the Big Smoke to have this unique place dedicated to free speech so please join us.

Two other events going on locally include, ‘Breaking the Silence Open Mic’ at Central Library (11am 3pm). This is hosted by Mouthy Poets so expect something out of the ordinary. Rumour has it that they’ll be combining their poems with a DJ and if past performances are anything to go by, they’ll be expecting full audience participation. Alternatively, Mathew Welton has requested people bring six copies of their favourite poems to Trent Building, Room A46, University of Nottingham (68pm) to continue the celebration into the evening.

If you’ve read this blog early in the morning, then tune into BBC Radio Nottingham at 8.50am and you’ll hear Aly Stoneman roaring for LeftLion and explaining more about the Speakers’ Corner event.