Saboteur Awards 2017: Spotlight on the Best Regular Spoken Word Night Shortlist

Last but not least: the final spotlight! Enjoy these glimpses into these regular spoken word nights and the place they’ve made in people’s hearts. You have until Sunday to vote, so don’t dither!

Evidently (Salford)

We are over the moon to have been shortlisted for a third year running and blown away that people have thought of us when there are so many great nights around the country. -Ella Gainsborough

Evidently is a spoken-word night bursting with talent, encouragement and enthusiasm. Recent guests have included Dan Simpson, Scott Tyrrell and Sara Hirsch and they were commissioned by Guy Garvey to curate a special Evidently as part of last years Meltdown Festival at the Southbank Centre.

Why voters think they should win:

  • They’ve helped build the Salford/Manchester scene into the best in the country. They also pay properly and book broadly. Nights like Evidently are why spoken word can continue as a genre, why it is possible to do this as a job (I would argue it’s a bit rich to have best regular spoken word nights even be eligible for this category when they don’t pay their acts. Particularly when they charge door fee and still don’t pay their acts. Surely those nights have profited off the scene enough without getting awards for it)
  • I’ve been to loads of different nights, and the Evidently folks know how to put together a brilliant night. They are slick without being pretentious. They give a platform to so many poets. They make the night about the poetry, not about themselves…really top stuff!
  • Always fresh, lively and different. Hosts go the extra mile to make first timers feel at ease

Interrobang?! (Edinburgh)

Wait, we’re not being trolled?! -Beth Cochrane

Interrobang: noun

A non-standard punctuation mark (‽) indicating a question expressed in an exclamatory manner, as in what the fuck are you doing‽

Interrobang is an Edinburgh based storytelling, poetry and live music night with a slightly different flavour?! Think democratic spoken word and adorably edgy sensibilities. Residents at Leith’s own Biscuit Factory, Interrobang has been exploring the boundaries between spoken word and the lyrical line. Hosted and produced by your charming curators Beth Cochrane and Ricky Monahan Brown.

Why voters think they should win:

  • Ambitious, innovative, and fun.
  • A constantly entertaining evening of great variety playing to packed houses in Edinburgh venues. Well worth the journey.
  • They’re bringing a new kind of spoken word night to Edinburgh, with established voices, new talent, music, art, comedy. There is literally nothing like it in Edinburgh and I think it’s great that they’re challenging the formula.
  • Interrobang is not afraid to take risks, they put on an eclectic mix of the brilliant, the strange, and the unique. It’s a fun night with a charismatic pair of hosts.

That’s What She Said – For Books’ Sake

So excited to be nominated – That’s What She Said is a really important night and we love championing women’s writing -Jane Bradley and Paul Forster

That’s What She Said is the spoken word night ran by For Books’ Sake.  We champion women’s writing and spoken word

Why voters think they should win:

  • Overreaching. Development of community. Supporting female writers and performers.
  • Brilliantly organised event promoting female writers
  • Diverse speakers, excellent locations, fantastic support from organisers on social media and at the event.
  • Consistently high standard of performance and high quality content. Fun and inclusive.

Unity Words (Wakefield)

A Firm of Poets and Word Life are thrilled to be shorlisted for ‘Best Spoken Word Night’ with our project, Unity Words. We are representing Yorkshire and the North. We’d like to thank all the fantastic poets and audiences for getting us this far. -Ralph Dartford

We started ‘Unity Words’ in 2016 as a new adventure to bring high quality spoken word artists to Wakefield, West Yorkshire. We also had the aim develop and mentor poets new to the scene through performance workshops. Since then we have had the likes of Buddy Wakefield, Hollie McNish, Selena Godden, Luke Wright, David J and many others gracing our stage. Our  mentoring scheme has produced new and exciting artists such as Victoria Garbutt, Steve Williams and Hannah Batley. Unity Words is a wild and raucous night out. A poetry party like no other.  Join us!

Why voters think they should win:

  • Vibrant & engaging atmosphere, ambitious programming, & putting the world’s best alongside complete newcomers. Friendly but fiercely politically-charged. Everything that a spoken word night should be.
  • Unity Words is at the forefront of a new golden era which has put the phrase, “cultural quarter” into the city’s vocabulary, entirely without irony or self-deprecation. The performers are diverse, and quite a few of them have been on TV and radio. The atmosphere is lively and inclusive. This is not just a spoken word night: it is a community: an open and growing one, not a clique. For many people who attend, it is the first spoken word event they have ever been to.
  • It is incredibly innovative and supports up and coming poets with workshops that feed into the Spoken Word Experience. It also hosts poets from all over the UK – gets them to Yorkshire!

WORD! (Leicester)

We’re so thrilled to have been nominated for a Saboteur Award, and grateful to everyone who has contributed to our development and/or wished us well in the course of our history. Regardless of the final result, this nomination is a wonderful opportunity to talk about our work and reflect on the many years we’ve been doing it.  We find ourselves on a brilliantly inspiring shortlist – so can only hope to follow in our football team’s footsteps, be fearless and ‘do a Leicester’. If we win, we’ll ask Gary Lineker to present the next WORD! in his boxer shorts…’ -Lydia Towsey

WORD! is the longest running spoken word night in the Midlands – est. circa 2001 by Apples & Snakes, and delivered independently by a voluntary committee/organisation since 2008. The night takes place at The Y Theatre, Leicester on the first Tuesday of every month, compered by Lydia Towsey (Chair/Coordinator), Tim Sayers (Treasurer) + Pam Thompson and Richard Byrt (Secretaries). Composed of two halves of open mic + one, sometimes two booked acts, recent artists have included rising stars like Toby Campion, Shruti Chauhan and Majak Pajak, and artists including Francesca Beard, Malika Booker and WORD!s Patron, Jean Binta Breeze MBE.

Why voters think they should win:

  • I’ve been performing at Word regularly for two years. It’s a really supportive room for newcomers and the workshops from top artists such as John hegley, rosie garland, salena godden and many more have taught me a lot and helped me develop as a performer.
  • People are warmly supported and encouraged, especially if they are reading for the first time.  There’s a wide variety of poetry, reflecting diverse cultural, personal and mental health experiences.  Guest performers are nationally, sometimes internationally, known and often run poetry workshops before the main event.
  • WORD! Gives voice and expression to the inner feelings of all kinds of writers whether a beginner at the craft, or professional poets of lifelong skill. Culturally diverse, inclusive of LGBT and people of all abilities, tenderly nurturing and supporting with great ‘pizazz’ and gentle humour(where it fits) the strongly apparent talent of both the  Leicester  community and any visiting poets who dare to step up ton the mic! Wonderful! I love to read my work there when I can, and always feel appreciated and respected.

 

 

Like a Fish Out of Batter by Catherine Graham

Reviewed by Charlie Baylis

Catherine Graham is a ‘proudly working class’ poet from Newcastle upon Tyne. Her pamphlet Like A Fish Out Of Batter, inspired by the paintings of L.S. Lowry, vocalises the iconic painter of the industrial north. In the pamphlet’s acknowledgements, Graham encourages the reader to seek out the paintings where each poem began (the paintings are almost all named and therefore only a mouse click away). However, for the majority of the pamphlet, Graham paints so vivid a picture with words that the post-poem image search becomes unnecessary, or an optional intrigue for the intrigued.

Most of the time in Like A Fish Out Of Batter, Catherine Graham is not so much looking at Lowry’s paintings and describing what she sees, as exploring the deeper contours and contexts of Lowry’s canvasses. It is there that Graham invents two protagonists, the factory workers Maureen and Ray, whose story she weaves through the poems like warm air from an open window. The first poem  ‘Factory Outing’ opens confidently:

Red and yellow sails like flames
out on the water; the salt-sea air

so good for factory girls like me,
girls who spend their days in overalls

and daft hats;

It is easy to see why Graham turned to Lowry’s paintings for inspiration as many of the qualities of Lowry’s paintings can be found in Graham’s poetry: attention to detail, evocative settings, very human characterisation. Later in ‘Factory Outing’ the central character, who must be the aforementioned Maureen, exclaims while staring at the sea: ‘what the hell/do I know about life beyond any horizon’ and prays that her period will come. Her frustration is palpable, it fits perfectly with the pervasive sense of futility and loneliness which haunt some of Lowry’s finest works. Graham’s poetry suits Lowry like a flat cap on a balding miner or a blue bonnet on a Sunday morning stroll, in plainer words, the two go very well together.

Whether you reside on Downing Street or Dead End Street, social class is an inescapable part of life on the British Isles. Graham’s telling depiction of working class lives share an inverted relationship with the poetry of John Betjeman, who satirically tickled the upper-middle classes with a shade of boredom in famous poems like ‘How To Get On In Society’:

Phone for the fish knives, Norman
As cook is a little unnerved;
You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
And I must have things daintily served

The crucial difference between the poets is that Graham does not satirise but celebrate her subjects. The reader sympathises with Maureen and Ray, particularly in two poems towards the end of the pamphlet: ‘A Letter from London’ and ‘Head of a Young Man in a Cap’, in which Maureen is caught, once again, yearning for life beyond the horizon. Like Betjeman, Graham also has a strong sense of humour, ‘it must be hard having one foot/longer than the other’ she dead-pans in ‘Ray, Upstairs On the No. 8, Waiting For It to Pull Away’  based on the famous Lowry painting Man Lying on a Wall (if you don’t know this painting – it is exactly as the title suggests).

Another quality of Graham’s poetry is her eye for detail, in ‘Putting Aunt Adeline On the Train’ Graham picks out pleasant colours and aromas:

I’d never tried cheese and pineapple
Until I’d met Aunt Adeline

never seen a real feather in a hat.
I though perfume smelled of violets

The importance to Graham of finer points and particulars reminds me of another proudly working class poet, Helen Mort, although Mort often uses these small details to hint at bigger things. In Mort’s brilliantly visceral poem ‘Scab’ she contrasts the miner’s strike with her ‘opportunity to leave’, an offer to study at the University of Cambridge. Mort’s matter of fact descriptions of Sheffield amid the violence of the strikes hint at a more personal, deeper subject: her guilt at betraying her working class roots, her fear that by leaving to study at Cambridge she herself is the titular ‘scab’.

The few poems that don’t work in Like A Fish Out Of Batter are those where Graham leans too heavily on the paintings. ‘The Funeral Party’ is a well put together piece:

The strawberry blonde chap looks pasty,
like a solicitor, tormented by his client’s ghost.

But what was the bloke far right thinking of,
to turn up late in boots and red tie?

The descriptions alone however, are not enough, and for a rare moment I feel the need to see the painting behind the poem, craving more of Graham’s inventive flourishes. Fortunately, these moments are very much in the minority, I greatly enjoyed reading Like A Fish Out Of Batter and hope it attracts as wide a readership as possible.

Saboteur Awards 2017: Spotlight on the Best Wildcard Shortlist

We are nearing the end of the spotlights, one more to go after this! This Wildcard category was too wild to be corralled earlier, but I hope you agree that it’s quite an extraordinary shortlist! This category was first launched last year to celebrate works that didn’t neatly fit into the other categories. The Best Wildcard Award is supported by Literature Wales, as part of International Dylan Thomas Day. Don’t forget to vote before the end of April here.

I am not a silent poet

I’m absolutely delighted that the work of ‘I am not a silent poet’ has been recognised by so many as to reach the shortlist of the Saboteur Awards. The magazine and the Facebook page work hard publishing poetry against abuse of all kinds and making it available internationally. -Reuben Woolley

Reuben Woolley, editor of I am not a silent poet

‘I am not a silent poet’ welcomes quality poems of protest. I have been seeing such increasing evidence of abuse recently that I felt it was time to do something. I am not a silent poet looks for poems (and other creative work) about abuse or protesting against abuse in any of its forms, colour, gender, disability, the dismantlement of the care services, the privatisation of the NHS, the rape culture are just the examples that come to mind at the moment. I just felt it was time for me to get off my arse and try to do something.

Why voters think it should win:

  • Excellent forum of meaningful and engaged poetry.
  • If I have to pick, I am picking the political one – given the last couple of years, it’s damned well needed is I Am Not a Silent Poet…
  • Started by one man it now attracts high quality poetry on current issues of many kinds of abuse. It needs to be more wildly known.

J.R. Carpenter’s “The Gathering Cloud”

I couldn’t be happier or more surprised to find my odd-ball web-based digital poetry collage zine thing in here with all these awesome print books, magazines, pamphlets, and live performance events. My most humble thanks to the editors for inviting The Gathering Cloud into this heady mix. -J.R. Carpenter

The Gathering Cloud was commissioned by NEoN Digital Arts Festival, Dundee, UK, 9-13 November 2016. The Gathering Cloud is a hybrid print and web-based work which aims to address the environmental impact of so-called ‘cloud’ computing by calling attention to the materiality of the clouds in the sky. Both are commonly perceived to be infinite resources, at once vast and immaterial; both, decidedly, are not. Fragments of text from Luke Howard’s classic Essay on the Modifications of Clouds (1803) and other more recent online articles and books on media and the environment are pared down into hyptertextual hendecasyllabic verses. These are situated within surreal animated gif collages composed of images materially appropriated from publicly accessible cloud storage services. The cognitive dissonance between the cultural fantasy of cloud storage and the hard facts of its environmental impact is bridged, in part, through the constant evocation of animals: A cumulus cloud weighs one hundred elephants. A USB fish swims through a cloud of cables. Four million cute cat pics are shared each day. A small print iteration of The Gathering Cloud shared through gift, trade, mail art, and small press economies further confuses boundaries between physical and digital, scarcity and waste. This print iteration was re-printed as a two-page spread in Hack Circus #12 in February 2017. A larger print book based on this work – with a foreword by Jussi Parikka and an afterword by Lisa Robertson – is forthcoming from Uniformbooks in May 2017. Portions of the text were first performed during the South West Poetry Tour, 1-8 August 2016. The Gathering Cloud has been presented as a live performance in Dundee, Bournemouth, Bristol, and Plymouth, with further performances scheduled for Porto and Incheon, South Korea, later this year.

Why voters think it should win:

  • Great to see digital art/writing in the mix here. Love this work. Simple and elegant, delivering an important message on climate change. Looking forward to the book based on this work coming out soon.
  • Great to see digital writing here! Love the low-fi animation mixed with the hendecasyllabic verses.
  • For pushing the boundaries of what poetry can do, into the realms of digital art and performance, whilst making an important creative critique on the impact of the internet on the climate.

Lunar Poetry Podcast

Lunar Poetry Podcasts is an audio series of interviews, discussions and live recordings with poets and writers in the UK and abroad. The LPP series was established in October 2014 as an audio accompaniment to Lunar Poetry Magazine. The podcast has run as an independent project since the summer of 2015 while keeping the Lunar name.

In July 2016, David Turner was awarded an Arts Council England, Grant For The Arts in order to further develop the series. This has seen the series move over to Soundcloud and iTunes making it more accessible and easier to download, with the grant also ensuring that all content remains free to download until, at least, September 2017.

David’s main aim for the LPP series was to provide a platform for writers often ignored by established publishing outlets. The grant money has also allowed LPP to take a large step toward offering representation for writers rather than merely diversity in its guest-list. The money is now being used to pay other writers to programme individual episodes (once a month) covering topics that affect them personally. This has so far included discussions about artist’s finances, accessibility in the arts and creative writing as a therapeutic tool. It has always been fundamental to the project that those often marginalised are given the opportunity to talk while having control over the direction of the conversation.

The grant money now also provides the opportunity for LPP to travel around the UK and speak with writers about local poetry scenes. The series also includes interviews recorded in Cuba, Nigeria, Norway, Sweden and Turkey.

A big thank you to guest hosts; Lizzy Palmer, The Repeat Beat Poet, Michelle Madsen, Jacob Sam-La Rose, Paula Varjack, Harry Giles, Emily Harrison and Melissa Lee-Houghton. Without the help of these people the series would just be David yakking endlessly.

Why voters think it should win:

  • Extensive archive of podcasts, brilliant interviews, wealth of information for poets by transcript for those who can’t access audio, and audio, all professionally presented and the best podcast series around – also one of the most valuable contributions to poetry in general in recent years, and they deserve this for all these reasons and more. They promote the work and careers of so many poets and from all scenes and backgrounds, and have no bias towards any style, publisher – gender aware and a force of positivity in the poetry world.
  • Not enough excellent live poetry journalism around, and they do it right.
  • So impressed by the quality of this podcast. I’ve become a regular listener. A wonderful way to meet poets.

Poetry as F*ck

It is hard to maintain our aloof and distant personas in the wake of such good news, but somehow we will manage. -Andrew Blair

Poetry as F*ck is a podcast that puts out different shows every fortnight, mixing poetry with comedy and ambient music.

It provides a platform for new work with ‘Lies, Dreaming’ (a theme-driven online open mic), discusses poets and their influences on ‘Eight Poems…’ (like Desert Island Discs but with poems and existential terror), and takes the piss with ‘Poets Against Humanity’ (a Creative Commons remix of Cards Against Humanity).

Occasionally the producers will put out their own work, such as the recent ‘Big Love Remixes’, where they took a poem by Loud Poets and produced new versions using cut-up techniques.

Why voters think it should win:

  • Why the F*ck not?
  • The Poetry as F*ck platform is doing a lot of different stuff in Scottish spoken word. It supports artists, and encourages them to stretch themselves (e.g. with nights like poets against humanity and challenging podcast themes like with Lies, Dreaming) as well as building community (e.g. ensuring diverse lineups for PAH, speaking to artists about their influences in the ‘8 poems…’ podcast). They’re interested in supporting the scene develop and grow, and are always up for trying out new ideas.
  • Andrew and Ross work incredibly hard on Poetry as Fuck, and do so many great projects under that umbrella – Poets Against Humanity, their twist on Desert Island Discs podcast, their Lies, Dreaming podcast – all of which serve (in whimsical and thought-provoking fashion) to inspire and support the Edinburgh spoken word scene. They’re two lovely guys who have done so much to keep this scene energised without ever asking for recognition – I’d love to see them win some!

Women Aloud NI

We’re so excited about making the #Saboteur17 shortlist. We love the fact that these awards recognise publications, writers, performers, events and important creative work that often get overlooked. Congratulations to all the longlisters and shortlisters! -Jane Talbot

Women Aloud NI is a volunteer-run organisation working to raise the profile of the women’s writing scene in Northern Ireland. Women Aloud NI 2017 was a series of literary events that took place between 7 and 11 March 2017. 150+ women writers took part in 20 events over the course of 3 days: literary flashmobs, readings and workshops took place in libraries, town halls, bookshops and even a moving train! Events were held in each of Northern Ireland’s 6 counties and in Dublin, ROI. Video of our Belfast flashmob http://bit.ly/2oQ6EJR

Why voters think they should win:

  • Superb inclusive and forward thinking group
  • This allows female writers in Northern Ireland to connect and share their creativity. It has highlighted the positive energy and creativity in Northern Ireland
  • Great collaboration, inspiring writers, showcasing work, building links across borders, challenging sexism breaking down barriers

 

Saboteur Awards: Spotlight on the Most Innovative Publisher

Only a few more spotlights to go before voting closes at the end of the month. Next up is the shortlist for most innovative publisher, which includes previous winners in this category (Burning Eye Books, Penned in the Margins), veterans of the shortlist (Unthank Books, Indigo Dreams Publishing) and the new dark horse on the block (zimZalla). Investigate their wares and vote for your favourite before 30th April!

Burning Eye Books

Wow! Again? That’s five in a row. Huzzah! We must be getting something right. -Clive Birnie

We are always proud to be recognised in the Saboteurs. This is a big deal in our end of the lit universe. We started out 5 years ago putting stage on the page and showing that it could sell. We have a 50:50 gender policy in managing our list, and have a strong LGBQT presence in an ethnically diverse stable of writers. Our model is primarily geared to help writers make some extra bucks from their books. Later in 2017 we will publish our 100th title.

Why voters think they should win:

  • Have you seen their list? :) In the past couple of years, they’ve become a must-go-to space for spoken word poets and writers who are series about getting their work in print.
  • Fantastic people! I’ve got to see so many great performance poets have their works published here.
  • They publish a wide range of beautiful and intriguing titles. The work shimmers on the edge of the page and you can almost hear the authors talking to you.

Indigo Dreams Publishing

We made the shortlist again – how pleased are we! Thank you ALL for voting to get us here. We publish poets we enjoy, use our own money to back our judgement and are  limited just by our own financial / time restrictions. To see our poets recognised like this is fantastic. Buy into our ethos of ‘pleasure, not pressure’ and vote for us – please! It’s like voting in Strictly but without the sequins (probably).

The Indigo Dreams Dream Team

Indigo Dreams Publishing an independent, award-winning publisher run by us – Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling. We publish 3 magazines, about 35 publications (collections/pamphlets) annually and one of the won a category in Saboteur Awards 2016. We like that. We also run 2 competitions where 4 poets have collections published.

We received The Ted Slade Award for Services to Poetry for giving new writers encouragement and publication also for keeping poetry high on the writing agenda. Our maxim is ‘pleasure, not pressure’ and we are known for our friendly approach and easy working relationship with our wonderful poets (honestly!)

Why voters think they should win:

  • Hard work, leading by example with top of the range writing by the editors, and creating a close and happy family of contributors
  • They should win because they totally 100% give their all to publishing poetry and they give complete support to their poets. They are generous and supportive and they listen to their poets and try to meet all their needs. They publish stunning books and that support is long lasting after the book is published. They also produce three fabulous poetry magazines, no publishers offer this many publishing opportunities to both known and unknown poets.
  • An excellent, ever-evolving, supportive and non-elitist publishing house.

Penned in the Margins

We are overwhelmed to be recognised again on the Saboteur Awards’ Most Innovative Publisher shortlist. It’s been a remarkable year for our authors and this represents something of a cherry on top. That it’s been voted for by our peers and supporters of independent publishing makes it all the more special. -James Trevalyan

Penned in the Margins creates publications and performances for people who are not afraid to take risks. We believe in the power of language to challenge how we think, test new ideas and explore alternative stories. We operate across the arts, collaborating with writers, artists and creative partners using new platforms and technologies. In the past year we have won a British Book Design Award and our authors have appeared on major literary prize shortlists such as the Dylan Thomas Prize and Costa Poetry Award.

Why voters think they should win:

  • Quality, experimental and has a brilliant overlap with staged performance of its works.
  • Still hard to see past this pioneering house, making real lovely books out of real writing by the least visible and least marketable sensibilities.
  • Innovative without losing quality. And that innovation throughout – the books but also the advertising approach and the performance aspect. 

Unthank Books

To be shortlisted again as Most Innovative Publisher is humbling and invigorating

Unthank Books is an independent publisher founded in 2010. Historically, the Unthank is the unclaimed land at the edge of town, and that’s where we reside, nurturing distinct and vibrant literature, both in the novel and short form.

Why voters think they should win:

  • Unthank Books frequently steps out of their comfort zone, taking risks with new writers and in writing that stretches beyond the format of the short story, experiments with prose and subject matter.
  • Seven years in and still burning a trail, Unthank is managing to create a world all of its own. It’s great to see such a commitment to the short story and collaborative work.
  • Dedication to the consistent production and promotion of work which lies outside the commercial mainstream.

zimZalla

I’m delighted that zimZalla has been nominated for this award. As a small publisher producing weird things on an imaginary budget, it’s fantastic to be recognised. -Tom Jenks

zimZalla is interested in doing different things in different ways. As well as pamphlets and books, zimZalla has published a poetry board game, badges, coasters, tea bags, betting slips and a takeaway poem in a styrofoam box, with a complimentary sauce sachet. zimZalla is a home for the unusual, the improbable and the practically impossible.

Why voters think they should win:

  • Genuinely innovative, in form and content, quietly producing some of the most exciting publications for many years now. Deserves far more recognition.
  • Tom Jenks is an inspiring and talented poet whose contribution to underground and experimental work is invaluable.
  • A publisher of genuinely innovative poetry, constantly pushing boundaries and perception of what poetry is and where it can be found,be it pamphlets,badges,games or teabags.

 

La Errante #1

-Reviewed by Jenna Clake-

La Errante, a new multi-lingual zine of poetry and illustration, unfolds like album artwork to reveal a poster sized collaboration of art and poetry. The editors explain that ‘words and pictures are on equal footing’ in the journal. Everything is cohesively blue and white with touches of black. Word and image sit side-by-side, but also intersect: Fiona Sampson and Rikardo Arregi’s poems are placed over a large, thick, sweeping brushstroke. ‘Errante’ translates to ‘wandering’ in English, and these large brushstrokes and artworks lead the reader’s eye across the page.

The journal is a collaborative project between a group of writers, editors, artists and booksellers working between Madrid and London, but the contributors also have Singaporean, Italian and Chilean heritage. Where the work appears in its original language, a translation is placed alongside. In some cases, the poems are bilingual. Livia Franchini’s untitled poem is written in both Italian and English. In the poem, both languages are integral to the speaker’s identity:

Cari cari I miei cari,
o dear me, il caro vita,
non c’è lavoro, she still lives at home,
I tick the box for ‘visiting family’
Dear mother, I worry the time is coming
when I’ll no longer see you shouting at the telly –

[…]

Cara, cara, daughter dearest,
tutto quell che è buono si scolora in bianco
white dots in oil, I slot this fish back
into its chilly bed, 10 degrees colder
Dear father I am sorry I made you carry
another tired bag into this empty flat

We see that the Italian language, Franchini’s mother tongue, is central to the speaker’s sense of belonging with her family. Though leaving home is necessary ‘she still lives at home’ seems to be imbued with a sense of shame. However, there is a deep sadness and homesickness too, as though the new home is lonely and not what the speaker expected:

Caro diario, I write to you
From this welcoming land today
All I ate was cold beans

This introduces a theme that recurs in the journal: isolation. The artwork does not always immediately seem to relate to the poems (this is not an ekphrastic journal, after all), but across the page Amanda Baeza’s artwork depicts a simian-like woman alone in the departures lounge of an airport. Baeza’s work complements Franchini’s poem subtly.

Isolation returns in Ella Webb’s artwork. Three figures are lost in a sea of indistinct shapes, perhaps lost on the side of a mountain. In Andres Lozano’s illustration, a man prostrate on the sofa is surrounded by paintings, records, a keyboard, notebooks and pens. There is a sense of contentment in this solitariness: a cat happily sleeps by the man. Toby de las Rivas’s poem sits adjacent to the illustration. The speaker of Martinez de las Rivas’s poem is alone with his thoughts:

One day, I shall have to give an account
of my self with my knees couched
in dirt & the great cities tumbling like stars.
If not to hím then to that portion of my
self that holds the rod & sits in judgement.

Reflections on identity and culpability are apparent in the poem: the emphases on ‘my’ stress the speaker’s need to find meaning, to understand the world. The speaker struggles throughout the poem, and addresses himself in exasperation: ‘This is so fucking point-/less, Tobe.’ Ultimately, there is a sense of self, even if it is only indistinct, that ‘you are not theirs’. The speaker of Fiona Sampson’s ‘Saw’ is encompassed by her isolation:

trespasser with a chainsaw
going into the arena
blindfold not seeing how
its space opens round you tier
after tier how could you not feel
darkness watching from between
the trees willing them to fall
toward you no visitor

is welcome unannounced their home
is not your home

Isolation takes on a nightmarish presence in this poem, but we are told that ‘we cannot dream it’. The poem, then, enacts a sort of trap, drawing us into this disturbing world and refusing to allow us an escape. The speaker’s isolation is all-consuming and terrifying.

Patricia Esteban’s ‘Readers’ is a prose poem that ironically explores the idea of being a famous poet:

Two of my friends stopped talking to one another because one of them was sure that ‘the branches swayed by the wind’ in one of my poems were those of the poplar in her garden, whereas the other insisted on the exclusive inspiration of her willow. And after reading my fourth book my hairdresser, one of my sharpest readers, refused, very politely, to carry on cutting my hair.

Esteban’s poem is full of irony, ridiculing the idea of fame by locating it in the close confines of her own neighbourhood. It is Absurdist in its humorous and exaggerated interactions, especially when the speaker’s neighbours and friends are extremely petty. The speaker notes that ‘they would strike strange poses or else every now and then blow cigarette smoke into my face’. For this speaker, fame – however specious – is isolating.

Layla Benitez-James’ ‘Fire Hazard Barbie’ is idiosyncratic and delightfully dark:

Fire hazard Barbie leaves a tortilla in the toaster-oven until it puffs up so high it touches
the red heating coils and bursts into flames.

Fire hazard Barbie lights her life with old bare bulbs and flocks of candles. She loves
the frayed wires, marvelous mimosa blossoms, loves her lava-colored country, loves
the lullaby of its promised apocalypse.

Fire hazard Barbie is wonderfully reckless and unrecognisable in the poem. Her name is repeated frequently to highlight this dichotomy between the well-established image of the toy and this new incarnation. The repetition also builds to Ken’s frustration:

Fire hazard Barbie knows that Ken will try, and that his tiny plastic ax will not make a dent
in any door,

again and again, it will not make a dent,

it will not make a dent, again and again,

forever

The repetition here mimics the futility of Ken’s attempts to reach Barbie, and this is utterly pleasing: we are left with an image of Fire hazard Barbie enjoying or destroying her life in the exact manner she wants to.

In such limited space, La Errante triumphs in presenting cohesive artwork, translation, bilingual poetry and writing that intertwines and complements each other so well.