Old City, New Rumours - Edited by Ian Gregson and Carol Rumens
Reviewed by Tim Roux
In Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino, or rather his character, Marco Polo, declares that a port approached from the sea is of a very different character from the same port as approached from the land.
Being brought up in Hull in the 1950s and 1960s, I remember that you could drive into Hull down the Anlaby Road and have no sense of entering anything other than yet another Northern industrial red-bricked city until you either drove onto one of the docks or were assailed across the city centre by the gut-infested cloud from the fish meal factory on days when it was about to rain.
What opened up the general concept of Hull as being a full-blown port to the casual passerby wishing to scurry to Holland or Belgium via North Sea Ferries was the creation of the Clive Sullivan Way, a testament to about the only black person ever to have lived in Hull.
To have predicted pre-1970 that Hull would become some kind of literary Mecca would have been to invite about as much derision as you would have attracted if you had said that Hull would be found riding high for a week or two at the top of the football league.
Up until then there had been three nationally respectable literary figures - Andrew Marvell, Winifred Holtby (South Riding) and Frederick E Smith (633 Squadron), topped up with a couple more who would not readily have been associated with Hull at all, but nonetheless were - Stevie Smith (as noted here by Maurice Rutherford in The Hull Poets - And Pigeons) and Dorothy L. Sayers.
The person who opened up the possibilities of Hull to literature, as Clive Sullivan's memorial opened the city up to the impression of the Humber estuary, was Philip Larkin who incidentally laid the foundations for a strong poetic movement to be nurtured inside the gates of Hull University when he became its Head Librarian.
Twenty-five years after Larkin's death, there are now closer to one hundred published authors, poets and dramatists associated with the city.
In the same way that Marco Polo described the perceptual paradox relating to how you approach the city of Venice (an urban jewel with which Hull has rarely if ever been compared), so you could say that there is a matching dichotomy between how Hull writers approach the issue of Hull.
The authors, who are mostly untouched by Hull University, have increasingly been focusing upon the unique nature and atmosphere of Hull itself as a backdrop to their novels.
The poets, on the other hand, who have mostly passed anointed through the gates of Hull University, have typically had a loftier Olympian purpose, gazing across Holderness and the estuarial mud of the River Humber towards transcendence, as Ian Gregson describes it in his introduction to Old City, New Rumours.
You don't get much transcendence down the Hessle Road that I have ever noticed. It has usually been more about survival in a Crow Town, as Margot Juby neatly coins it in one of her poems in this collection.
I know the work of some of the thirty poets here better than others, especially that of Tony Flynn, Ian Parks, T.F. Griffin and Frank Redpath, and on that basis the editorial team of Ian Gregson and Carol Rumens has done an excellent job selecting some of their tastiest morsels, such as Tony Flynn's award winning Seeing Voices , Ian Parks' Lazarus, Frank Redpath's Story Time, and three stunning poems from the generally somewhat masked and waxed T.F. Griffin - The Canal, The Climb and Winter Sun .
I obviously cannot discuss two to three poems from each of thirty poets here, even if I were competent to do so (which I am not), so I will just mention a few which particularly hit me as I read them the first time.
I was keen to get a glimpse of Christopher Reid's work which I hadn't come across before and loved both Ink and Chorale for the oblique but vivid mind pictures he paints there. I think it is very difficult to write anything about 9/11 which is in any way fitting to its subject, but Grace Nichols' A Statement from the Empire State Building has a graciousness of its own.
Douglas Dunn's The House of the Blind is startling and informative (I now know how Braille came to be invented), and both Sam Gardiner and Roger McGough have intriguing tales about a ring (A Ring and An Apology respectively).
I also nominate Tom Paulin for his use of the verb 'to squinch' and the noun 'a geg' in A Single Weather and Tony Petch for his clever ruminations on the form of the sonnet in Two Poems.
And there are even some poems about Hull, such as Grace Nichols' Outward from Hull (yes, I have certainly made that train journey a few times) and David Kennedy's The Hull Emigration Platform (I suppose it's about Hull).
However, my prize for the most apposite poem in this collection goes to Maurice Rutherford's View from Hessle Road, where he turns a Hessle Road shopping trolley around on His Eminence Pope Larkin himself to record a grim and head-scarved backstreets housewife carping 'Oozee?', although I still reckon that Larkin's Hull poems are as elegant as any, and his description of Hull folk as 'a cut-price crowd' rapier sharp.
Well, having failed to make fourteen friends and succeeded in making sixteen enemies, I think I'll stop on the note that this collection is of a very high standard indeed, and a huge improvement on the original Rumoured City which I once described as a 'chorus of Eeyores' but, sorry, for all that it is rarefied and varied in individual voice and structure, it just isn't as plain explosive as The Slab series collections, alchemised by another Hull-based poet Peter Knaggs, which has long rocketed itself into the lyrical heavens, tragically not even leaving a vapour trail visible behind it.
No matter, to come a close second in the face of competition as tough and gritty as that is nonetheless a fine achievement and well worth the savouring.
I shall be dipping back into this collection for ever on, and I will be alternating such dips buttie-like between two slices of The Slab.
Reviews, Arts - They F*** You Up - Spoken Word Workshop at Hull Truck By Julie Corbett
A steady stream of people went in to Hull Truck and climbed the stairs or took the lift to the first floor. We were all heading for Inter@ct - the space and the first Write to Speak Poetry workshop. A few Hello's but it was mainly a community of strangers.
Joe Hakim began by introducing himself, Mike Watts and Cilla (the editor of www.thisisUll.com . And gosh we the audience were all quiet and attentive.
Reviews, Films - Avatar - iMax Cinema, London By Michelle Dee
I'd seen the clips and a brief 'making of' documentary on Film 2010 but nothing prepared me for the complete immersion into James Cameron's spectacular vision. I wasn't sure how I'd get on with the whole 3D thing, I worried it wouldn't work for me; how wrong was I.
London's iMax cinema on the south bank is huge and was apparently sold out that day although there were a number of
Reviews, Books - Missio by Tim Roux Reviewed by Clive Ashman
Thirty-six years ago, at the height of the West's Cold War with the then Soviet Union, a Hull fishing trawler called The Gaul and its thirty-six crew suddenly disappeared in the freezing waters of the Barents Sea, off the cost of Norway. Hundreds of miles from home, and hundreds of feet down, the fate of the missing vessel and its lost crew continued to haunt their grieving relatives and the whole City of Hull for the next thirty years (and Stevie Francis).
Reviews, Books - Triple Trawler Fiction - Clinging to the Wreckage Reviewed by Tim Roux
By the 1960s, there was still a significant deep sea trawler fleet fishing out of Hull but only three literary figures had as yet been associated with the city: Andrew Marvell, a seventeenth century politician and poet, Winifred Holtby, author of South Riding, and Stevie Smith, a poet and novelist whose most famous line is 'not waving but drowning'.
Reviews, Arts - Contents May Vary at Red Gallery in Hull Contemporary Art Continues Despite the Big Freeze By Michelle Dee. Photographs courtesy Andrew Quinn
While the city of Hull struggled against the adverse weather conditions on Friday 8th January and people tried in vain to get home after many businesses were closed earlier than usual, a group of dedicated contemporary artists were preparing for the opening night of Contents May Vary at Red Gallery in the city.
Battling against all odds, the show opened on time just minutes
Reviews, Books - Seers by Karen Wolfe Reviewed by Tim Roux
Ever since the publication of The Philosopher's Stone, I have been troubled by a niggling concern. It doesn't keep me awake at night but I do regularly accost strangers and ask them, 'Whatever happened to Harry Potter's grandparents?'
Harry Potter was a baby when his parents were killed. His parents look like they were in their twenties, max. thirties.
Reviews, Books - Broken Dreams by Nick Quantrill Reviewed by Tim Roux
Over the last couple of years, Nick Quantrill has made an enviable reputation for himself as a highly accomplished true-to-the-gospels (of St. Elmore Leonard and St. Raymond Chandler) crime fiction writer who reliably delivers precisely crafted plots, authentic hardboiled dialogue and classic PI fisticuffs action.
His tales are suffused with an atmosphere of compounding tension
Reviews, Books - The Unitary Authority Of Ersatz by Rich Sutherland Reviewed by Tim Roux
You know when you are sitting there typing away at your new book and suddenly a million tons of waterfall cascade all over you and sweep you away, and there is nothing you can do to resist as you tumble mid-air among all those words and ideas, but you know that when you hit the pool at the bottom, and should you survive, you will be handed a tick-box questionnaire by the publisher
Reviews, Books - Breaking Faith by Stuart Aken Reviewed by Tim Roux
One of the great pleasures of reading indie authors is that they are often literary Luddites, exuberantly smashing the commercial frameworks imposed on their more industrially-produced cousins, replacing them with a more zestful, fresh, individual and, might I say, compelling approach to their work.
It is not that they do not recognise as well as anyone the existence of the rules
Reviews, Books - A Book at Christmas Reviewed by Tim Roux
About eighteen months ago I decided to look around and see who else was writing books in the Hull and
East Riding region, much encouraged by discovering the work of Hull crime fiction and gangster authors
Nick Quantrill and Danny Birch.
I thought that there would only be a few of us knocking about, veritable prophets on our own shifting
mud banks, but Nick Quantrill and Rich Sutherland (then at Waterstones) Read more...
Reviews, Theatre - Tuesday 27th October 09 - Write To Speak Featuring Kate Tempest and Matt Panesh at Hull Truck By Dick Spring
The consistency in stunning quality of acts brought to perform at this night (which is Yorkshire's only theatre based spoken word / poetry night) by Hull poet Joe Hakim is simply phenomenal.
With another fantastic and packed house, it was a thoroughly enjoyable event.
Opened as usual by Hull's flag bearing poet in residence Joe Hakim and his stage partner Mike Watts, their competence and stagecraft is second to one, with lots of good interaction
Reviews, Theatre - Tuesday 27th October 09 - Write To Speak Featuring Kate Tempest and Matt Panesh at Hull Truck By Michelle Dee
Just had to write something about Tuesday's Write To Speak at Hull Truck Theatre. The regular event showcases the best poetry and spoken word from around the country.
Tonight we have the incredible vocal dexterity of Kate Tempest (London) and the poems, ponderings
and profane humour of Matt Panesh (Manchester) on his Welcome to the U.K. tour.
Reviews, Theatre - Write to Speak featuring Kate Fox and Scarlet Lights at Hull Truck - Wednesday 16th September 09 By Mark Walmsley
The first performance of the new season of Write to Speak came round pretty quickly and most definitely replicated the first gig a year ago with regards to support and talent.
On a personal level, I fully understood what was on offer and although the event didn't seem very well advertised, I was notified by thisisUll the day before and without a hesitation changed my appointments for the big day in order that I made sure I was there for the kick off, in fact I was
Reviews, Theatre - Wednesday 16th September 2009 - Scarlet lights Theatre Company Performs Retail is Detail at Write to Speak at Hull Truck Theatre By Danielle Rhodes
Retail Is Detail is undoubtedly a 'maverick' production of contemporary comedy, embodying a highly versatile and compatible cast as rare as rocking horse shit. From start to finish the audience is inflamed by the radiance from the performer's energy and fast pace scenes.
The play displays a young educated girl facing unemployment, regrettably a conventional product of the current recession. In her despairing attempt to find employment
Reviews, Theatre - Write to Speak featuring Tony Walsh and Dennis Just Dennis at Hull Truck - Wednesday 15th June 09 By Mark Walmsley
The third and final Write to Speak event of this season at the Hull Truck Theatre on Wednesday 15th July, was headlined by two nationally acclaimed performance poets, Dennis Just Dennis and Tony Walsh, who both hail from Manchester.
The nights entertainment was introduced by local poet Joe Hakim who was, in effect 'on the subs bench' as far as performing on these occasions go.
Joe has a bigger challenge and I dare say a bigger audience to present himself to at the fourth
Latitude Festival in Suffolk where he is performing in the poetry arena on Sat 18th and
Sun 19th July.Read more...
Reviews, Theatre - Write to Speak featuring Luke Wright at Hull Truck - Monday 29th June 09 By Mark Walmsley
After attending the first Write to Speak session back in May featuring Mike Watts, Joe Hakim and Mandi Lowe, I certainly wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to attend the second instalment with Luke Wright on Monday night.
I arrived at pretty much the same time as the last Write to Speak performance at about 7.20 pm for an 8.00
Reviews, Films - Emma Rugg's Directions Tour By Steve Rudd
It's fair to say that it has been relatively quiet on the Emma Rugg front over the past couple of years. I, for one, thought she'd relocated to the United States in the wake of the Directions Tour she undertook there with Henry Doss in 2007. Having first made contact through the BBC radio show Raw Talent in 2003, Emma had visited Henry in the states on a couple of occasions prior to heading over to hit the Read more...
Reviews, Arts - Adrian Johnson: All Wound Up - Red Gallery exhibition, March-April 2009 By Philip Wincolmlee-Barnes
I am currently re-reading John Carey's The Intellectuals and The Masses, a fascinating (and sometimes troubling) survey of how the former regarded the latter from the late 19th Century until the 1930's.
He charts a course via Nietzsche's theories of 'the Superman vs. the common people' (guess his preference