iamhyperlexic

Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

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Doctor A

I meet them in The Head Of Steam, a pub next to the railway station in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, the stand-offish male friends whom I pursue via social media.  This was the third such.  He can’t have been all that stand-offish, because he arrived, first. 

 

We were at university together, in Liverpool, in the 1980s.  A is not the initial of any of his names.  I was studying chemistry.  He was studying Egyptology.  We were interested in what the BBC used to call, “various left wing causes”, and which would now be called – inaccurately –  “anti-globalisation”.   

I have stood outside a branch of McDonald’s with him, handing out leaflets.  

I have huddled in the back of a Transit van with no seats with him, and suffered under the rain of condensing breath in November as a group of 25 hunt saboteurs decided how best to disrupt the annual hunt ball in Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire.   And the aftermath, in the service station.  I have never felt so cold.   

I have been left behind with him by the coach from Liverpool after we got held up on an anti-fascist demo in London.  While we were pursuing, and being pursued by, the National Front, along The Embankment, he jumped up onto the plinth of a statue, and translated the hieroglyphics.  Were we afraid of the National Front?  Well, that.  

He now occupies a responsible position at a hospital in West Yorkshire.  He had to work weekends in order to finance his medical training.   

He is one of those people who is on call, waiting to save your life.   

He talked about his wife.  He talked about reading to his children.  He is delighted by his children’s love for reading.   

He mentioned my novella, ‘Escape Kit’.  He said it was too short.  Everybody says it is too short.  

We talked about work, and that metamorphosed into a conversation about politics.  It is remarkable, not just how much our priorities have changed in the intervening 30 years, but how much they have stayed the same.     

Of all the people I have known for this long, Doctor A has matured the most, has learnt the most from experience, and is most able to articulate how he has changed.   

I can imagine his and my standing outside McDonald’s, handing out more leaflets, but the leaflets would say somewhat different things.  “Provide adequate funding for Mental Health services,” would be a new one.  “Stop demonising immigrants,” would be an old one, along with, “Wake up.  Question everything.  Trust no one in power. Stop voting for people who have been to Eton.”   

We recommended books to each other: children’s books, books on neurology and medicine.   

He complained about funding for various health services, mainly mental health.  Complaints about funding for his own service were conspicuously absent.  That doesn’t mean that his service is adequately funded: it means that he uses his genius to deal with the shortcomings.  It is possible that he doesn’t realise he is doing it.  This is a man who lives in the moment. 

I live in a certain city in West Yorkshire.  If I ever enjoy the luxury of knowing in advance if I am going to undergo a life-threatening episode, I may travel to a different district of West Yorkshire,  before it happens. 

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New hope for England

It is hereby recorded that, on this day, 25 January 2017, there was agreement between William Thirsk-Gaskill and Martin Edwards.

William Thirsk-Gaskill is a doctrinaire socialist of a kind that one seldom meets, nowadays. He believes in the diversion of resources towards the most basic requirements of humanity, particularly child health, infant nutrition, female literacy, general female education, and micro-finance.

One of the human development causes that William supports is Leeds United AFC, with its world-wide presence, and extensive youth development programmes.

Martin Edwards is some bloke that I first encountered in the high street in Chiselhurst. He supports Millwall. He buys meat for Sainsbury’s (a job I would quite happily swap with him). He has some improbably beautiful daughters.

But he is mean-spirited, including in ways that are contrary to his own interest.  You might want to stand next to him at a party, in case he said something offensive.  I still cherish the hope that, inside this carapace of right-wing clichés, there may be a glittering humming bird, ready to fly away in the most unexpected direction.  The evidence for this, so far, is not encouraging.

Nevertheless, at this point, we agreed that nobody knows what is going to happen next with regard to Brexit, and we blame Cameron.

We are not just arguing about football, ladies and gentlemen: we are healing the North-South divide. Believe me: if a Northerner can consciously live peaceably on the same island as Martin Edwards, then we are getting somewhere.

None of this would have been possible (or necessary) had it not been for Valerie Anderson.

Review: A Firm Of Poets at Unity Works, Wakefield 26/11/2015

This is the first time I have paid to see A Firm Of Poets. The evening was worth every penny.

The music was provided by a band whose name I didn’t catch. Their line-up was: electric piano, guitar, and violin. The violin playing and backing vocals were provided by Matt Abbott’s girlfriend, Lucy Relins.

The format was the same one that A Firm Of Poets always use. They line up five chairs. They line up five poets. Each poet does a single poem and then it moves on to the next one. Sometimes there is a preamble or banter about the previous piece, but it is always kept to a merciful minimum. They all recite from memory. I don’t know how they do it.

The compere was Geneviève Walsh. Her performance was the best I have seen. A Firm Of Poets are accessible and alternative at the same time. Geneviève is the embodiment of this. I heard her poetic voice more clearly than I have in any previous performance. She is maturing in her presentation, and staying crazy and uncategorisable at the same time. If Geneviève Walsh ever enters the same room as Alan Bennett, there will probably be a thermonuclear explosion.

Matt Abbott is only 26 years old. Like Geneviève, in this performance he spoke with the clearest voice I have ever heard him use. Part of his patter was the comparison and contrast between audiences that expect rhymed pieces (music crowds) and those that expect unrhymed (lit crowds). Matt has mastered both. He also does pieces that leave the listener wondering if they were rhymed or unrhymed. His last three pieces were political. He can do political poetry that has a mixed-aged, mixed-gender audience stamping their feet, clapping, and shouting. I have lost count of the number of failed attempts at political poetry I have heard.

John Darwin’s work has a depth and breadth that defies description. The man himself is quitely-spoken, philosophical, and introspective. His work is inventive and profound. His performances are crafted, to the extent of being like those of an old-time music hall performer. He reminds me faintly of Eric Morecambe. It is impossible to tell whether everything is rehearsed to the nth degree, or if is improvised. I guess that the truth is somewhere in between. He is also a Manc, which helps to diversify what might otherwise have become the contemporary poetry equivalent of Last Of The Summer Wine.

If A Firm Of Poets were a set of spice jars, then Victoria Garbutt would be the chilli powder. Apart from the three years I spent at Liverpool University, I do not get Toria’s drug references, but I do get her anger and the stylishness of her delivery. I heard five poets this evening. I preferred some of them to others. The fact that there was a range of voices is something I would never change. Toria keeps the preamble down to virtually zero, which is greatly to be applauded. She also met most of the evening’s quota of swearing, which is also a thing to be encouraged. This was commendably augmented by the representatives from A Republic Of Poetry, particularly with regard to the word, “wanker” by a gentleman from Featherstone.

Ralph Dartford’s voice also came through more clearly in this performance. He added touches of comedy and pathos, as well as delivering his blockbuster, ‘Safe Home’, with topical variation.

Jacqui Wicks produced the performance. As a production, it could not have been bettered.

If I had to think of one word to describe the whole event, it would be: Shakespearian. We had everything: characters, voices, stories, love, sex, death, substance abuse, childhood, old age, madness, familiarity, strangeness.

The auditorium of Floor 4 at Unity Works was packed. Everybody in that auditorium apart from the performers had paid ten quid to get in. This is A Firm Of Poets. This is the People’s Republic Of Poetry. The next performance is at the Barnsley Civic on Saturday 28 November. I won free tickets.

Review by A Firm Of Poets

I am delighted to have received the following review from my friends at A Firm Of Poets:

http://www.afirmofpoets.com/#!William-ThirskGaskill-Throwing-Mother-in-the-Skip/c183f/55f5b5c90cf23d0ff002cfb0

The Firm is about to embark on a nationwide tour. The dates are here:

http://www.afirmofpoets.com/

I have just bought tickets for their performance at Unity Works in Wakefield. I would be going to others, but some of the local ones clash with performances I am giving.

I think The Firm is really starting to get somewhere. I wish them every success with the tour.

Debut poetry collection: Throwing Mother In The Skip

After an amazingly efficient, professional, and low-stress publication process from Stairwell Books in York, my debut poetry collection is now in print. It costs GBP 7.00, plus postage. You can buy it directly from the publisher:

http://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/index.html

I thank Alan Gillott and Rose Drew, who are not only independent publishers, but performance poets as well.

I will post details of the launch event as soon as it has been organised.

Doncaster Mapfest and Wakefield Litfest

I am doing a spoken word performance as part of Mapfest 2014 in Doncaster. This is from 4:00 – 4:30pm on Friday 29 August at the Marketplace Ale House and Deli (21 Market Place, DN1 1ND). This will feature poetry and short pieces of comedy.

On Saturday 30 August, I am appearing at a reading at Wakefield Library, which starts at 2pm (Wakefield One, Burton Street, WF1 2DD). This is the launch of a new poetry pamphlet containing the winning entries from the 2014 Red Shed Open Poetry Competition, in which I won the Wakefield Post Code Prize. Copies of the pamphlet will be on sale.

On Wednesday 24 September, I am appearing at Wakefield Writers’ Fair, at the Orangery, near Westgate station. All being well, I should have copies of ‘Escape Kit’ for sale. The doors open at 5:00pm, and the writers’ short presentations about their work begin at 6:30pm. There is usually a licensed bar at events at the Orangery.

I am at the Orangery again at 7:30pm on Tuesday 30 September at the Poetry Wrap Party, which closes the festival. Details and ticket information here: http://www.wakefieldlitfest.org.uk/events/109-poetry-wrap-party

28 May 2014: a short statement by William Thirsk-Gaskill

I fight on.

‘Escape Kit’ free of charge until 25 May 2014

To encourage people to vote for ‘Escape Kit’ in the 2014 Saboteur Awards,  I am giving it away for nothing until voting closes on 25 May.  Fill in the form below, and I will send you the story in Kindle format as an email attachment.   This is a discount of £1.99.

The link to the voting page is here:

http://sabotagereviews.com/saboteur-awards/saboteur-awards-2014/

All the categories are optional: you can vote for as many or as few of them as you like.  There is no registration, or anything complicated about it.  It only takes a few seconds.  Your support is greatly appreciated.

The printed version is of course still available, but I am told there are only about 200 copies left.  The likelihood with the printed version, which is an extremely well-produced and handsome book, is that once it is gone, it is gone. 

http://www.inpressbooks.co.uk/escape-kit/

Once again, I would like to thank the Grist editing team at the University of Huddersfield for enabling the book to get this far.  They are: Michael Stewart, Jayne Edge, Sarah Milne, Kate Pearson, and James Whitely. 

 

 

‘Escape Kit’ is nominated for a Saboteur award

‘Escape Kit’ has been short listed in the “best novella” category in the 2014 Saboteur awards.

I need votes.    Please follow this link, and vote for ‘Escape Kit’:

http://sabotagereviews.com/2014/05/01/saboteur-awards-2014-the-shortlist/

Voting closes on 25 May.

I will be attending the ceremony in Oxford on 31 May.  The results are not being revealed before the ceremony. 

If you want to go to all the trouble of reading it before voting for it, then you can obtain the printed version here:

http://www.inpressbooks.co.uk/escape-kit/

and the Kindle version here:

Escape Kit – http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00JLKBWZM/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=B00JLKBWZM&linkCode=as2&tag=sproutnet-21

(If you use this link, rather than a generic search, the publisher gets a better deal from Amazon.)

Your support is greatly appreciated.

New publication: Escape Kit

Grist Books 2014

37 pages

ISBN: 978 0 956309945

GBP 5.99

My new publication is the first printed book in which all the writing is by me, rather than being a contribution to a collection.   It is a novella, and is also by far the longest piece I have so far had published.

This is one of three works selected for publication from the entrants to the recent Grist chapbook competition.  The other two are ‘Cowboy Genes’ by Wes Lee, and ‘A Call In The Night’ by Gabrielle Leimon, both collections of short stories.  You can read a review of the three works by Jim Greenhalf of the Bradford Telegraph & Argus here:

http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/leisure/taleisurebook/booksreviews/11064455.Short_stories__big_impression/?ref=arc

You can order ‘Escape Kit’ from here:

http://www.inpressbooks.co.uk/escape-kit

The launch party was held at Queenie’s Coffee Shop in Huddersfield, near the Lawrence Batley Theatre.  It was hosted by Rebecca Legg, and was a resounding success.  Gabrielle Leimon and I read extracts, and Michael Stewart read on behalf of Wes Lee. 

I thank the editorial team for their speed and professionalism: Michael Stewart, Jayne Edge, Sarah Milne, Kate Pearson, and James Whitely.