Coming on Tuesday, 25th August 7.30 pm, British zoom time

You are cordially invited to join us on Tuesday 25th August at 7.30pm for a poetry reading like no other: Kelvin Corcoran with The Republic of Song (Parlor Press, 2020), Aidan Semmens with There Will Be Singing (Shearsman, 2020), Maria Stadnicka with Somnia (Knives, Forks and Spoons, 2020).


There Will Be Singing: Aidan Semmens’s fifth collection of poems moves from the range of the world to the deeply personal, always placing the detail in historical context. Employing a variety of poetic techniques, he moves from the moral ambiguities of empire to the run-in to Brexit; from a reworking, forty years on, of the poem for which he was awarded the Cambridge University Chancellor’s Medal, to the breakdown of language suffered by his mother after an ultimately fatal stroke.

“There’s an exuberance of the poet in full stride. Typically, the phrasing and imagery are seductive and of the physical world being lived. Learning is carried lightly, erudition not pushed at the reader but drawn into the lyricism.” —Kelvin Corcoran


Somnia: included among the best books to read during pandemic by The Telegraph Arts critics, Somnia is a series of dark, surreal fables, often set in war-torn state – (Tristam Fane Saunders, The Telegraph). ‘Stadnicka’s poetics is one of craftmanship, wherein she carefully walks the tightrope of surreal poetic metaphor and the gritty realism of investigative journalism and broadcasting’ (Bryony Hughes, Stride)Somnia is accomplished and timely, built on acute observation and drawn without judgement. The poems focus on the darker sides of humanity, the intrusion on every day lives by the political forces and show solidarity with those simply trying to protect family and survive’ (Emma Lee, The Journal).


The reading will take place on the Zoom platform and it is free. Email mariastadnicka@yahoo.co.uk for the link and password.

Look forward to seeing you there!



Books available here:

Aidan Semmens, There Will be Singing is available at Shearsman BooksPoetry Book Society.

Kelvin Corcoran, The Republic of Song is available at Parlor Press.

Maria Stadnicka, Somnia is available at KFS PressAmazon, Poetry Book Society.


August 2020

 

Somnia | Four Movements in F Minor

Billed as ‘Four Movements in F Minor’, Somnia is split into parts, ‘Allegro’, ‘Largo’, ‘Scherzo’ and ‘Finale’. The poems explore living through terrorism and fear, although these themes could be metaphorical or literal since the poems’ concerns focus on the effects on people living through these times. From ‘Allegro’, ‘Witness’ takes place a supermarket where ropes are on sale and shoppers talk about the pending hurricane,

Across the isle, a women looks out.

Trains deliver milk and morning newspapers;

at the end of his shift, a night watchman

lights a cigarette watching umbrellas running

to shelter. He has nowhere else. His children

sent him a blank telegram. Monochrome winds,

he thinks. Time to repair, to build.

The house he was born in no longer exists.

The punch of the last line carries a heft in contrast to the seemingly mundane routine of everyday lives. As others are hurrying home to shelter from adverse weather, the watchman has no one else to be concerned about him. In ‘Defence Mechanism’ from ‘Largo’, a questions throws a person,

I move

rubble pieces

across the chess table

unsure of what bishops,

rooks, pawns are for

in this game.

 

Would you kill a bird?

the angel asks.

A stone grows

in my mouth.

Between my flesh

and my heart,

                    rust.’

The poet is Romanian and lived through a political regime of a dictator, secret police and general paranoia where neighbour reported neighbour to save themselves form arrest. The question isn’t necessarily about a bird, but could you kill to save yourself? Can you do what it takes to survive?

Somnia is accomplished and timely, built on acute observation and drawn without judgement. The poems focus on the darker sides of humanity, the intrusion on every day lives by the political forces and show solidarity with those simply trying to protect family and survive.

© Emma Lee for The Journal, 29 June 2020


Somnia (published on 6th April 2020 by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press) was included among ‘the best books to read during lockdown’ by The Telegraph Arts (May 2020). The book is available at Knives, Forks and SpoonsThe Poetry Book Society, WaterstonesAmazon and the following independent shops:

Banner Books (Ennistymon)
http://bannerbooks.ie

Book Corner (Saltburn-by-the-Sea)
bookcornershop.co.uk

The Bookshop (East Grinstead)
eastgrinsteadbookshop.co.uk

Brendon Books (Taunton)
brendonbooks.co.uk

Bridge Bookshop (Isle of Man)
bridge-bookshop.com

Browsers Bookshop (Porthmadog)
browsersbookshop.com

Gullivers Bookshop (Wimborne)
booksandvinyl.co.uk/gullivers

Gnash Comics
gnashcomics.co.uk

Gwisgo Bookworm (Aberearon)
gwisgobookworm.co.uk

Haslemere Bookshop (Haslemere)
haslemerebookshop.co.uk

Hungerford Bookshop (West Berkshire)
hungerfordbookshop.co.uk

Lindum Books (Lincoln)
facebook.com/lindumbooks

Mostly Books (Abingdon)
mostly-books.co.uk

Niche Comics and Bookshop (Cambridgeshire)
nichecomics.co.uk

Red Lion Books (Colchester)
redlionbooks.co.uk

Sam Read Bookseller (Grasmere)
samreadbooks.co.uk

Wivenhoe Bookshop (Essex)
wivenhoebooks.com

The Woodstock Bookshop
woodstockbookshop.co.uk

16 June, 7.30pm (UK time). Free event online!

 

An opportunity to hear new work as well as fragments from Somnia.

Event organised by Gloucester Poetry Festival!

Registration and further information: here.

Thank you!

Note:
Latest book Somnia published this year by the Knives, Forks and Spoons Press was released on 6th April and can be ordered from the following independent bookshops:

Banner Books (Ennistymon)
http://bannerbooks.ie

Book Corner (Saltburn-by-the-Sea)
bookcornershop.co.uk

The Bookshop (East Grinstead)
eastgrinsteadbookshop.co.uk

Brendon Books (Taunton)
brendonbooks.co.uk

Bridge Bookshop (Isle of Man)
bridge-bookshop.com

Browsers Bookshop (Porthmadog)
browsersbookshop.com

Gullivers Bookshop (Wimborne)
booksandvinyl.co.uk/gullivers

Gnash Comics
gnashcomics.co.uk

Gwisgo Bookworm (Aberearon)
gwisgobookworm.co.uk

Haslemere Bookshop (Haslemere)
haslemerebookshop.co.uk

Hungerford Bookshop (West Berkshire)
hungerfordbookshop.co.uk

Lindum Books (Lincoln)
facebook.com/lindumbooks

Mostly Books (Abingdon)
mostly-books.co.uk

Niche Comics and Bookshop (Cambridgeshire)
nichecomics.co.uk

Red Lion Books (Colchester)
redlionbooks.co.uk

Sam Read Bookseller (Grasmere)
samreadbooks.co.uk

Wivenhoe Bookshop (Essex)
wivenhoebooks.com

The Woodstock Bookshop
woodstockbookshop.co.uk

Further information about her work, collaborations and reviews at http://www.mariastadnicka.com.

Join us on Zoom (you will need to register for a ticket in order to receive the pass-code):-

https://zoom.us/j/93290445542

Dial in to join by phone if you wish:-

+44 330 088 5830
+44 131 460 1196
+44 203 481 5237
+44 203 481 5240
+44 208 080 6591
+44 208 080 6592

Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/aeg9xXpiad


June 2020

Water Sequence

‘Water Sequence’ poem © Maria Stadnicka, 2020

The poem ‘Water Sequence’ features in the latest collection ‘Somnia’ published by the Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, United Kingdom and it is officially released today.

‘Somnia’ is now available here and here.

Cover art work © Mark Mawer, 2019

Photography: © John Stadnicki, 2020

Original music ‘Vide Cor Meum’ © Patrick Cassidy and Hans Zimmer for ‘Hannibal’ (2001).

SOMNIA Knives, Forks, Spoons Press / Sep. 2019


 

Review ‘Somnia’ / Alan Baker for ‘Litter Magazine’

SOMNIA Knives, Forks, Spoons Press / Sep. 2019

“Somnia” by Maria Stadnicka, pub. KFS. 74pp. £10.00

Maria Stadnicka was an established poet in Romania before moving to the UK and gaining a reputation as an English-language poet. This collection is therefore resonant with European and modernist echoes; the text references Camus, Symborska and Emil Cioran, among others, and the influence of surrealism is evident throughout the collection. The poems are written in the plainest language, without much rhetorical embellishment; and yet, as in the best poetry, the meanings are hard to pin down and the poems have a depth of field which stays with the reader after the book has been put down. The poems address war and dislocation in an unnamed land which could be many places, but reminds the reader of the Balkans conflict of the 1990s. The encounter between everyday life and shock of conflict is presented in a dead-pan tone:

On both sides of the frontline,

orchards bloom.

People buy and sell goods,

occupy central squares…

Business as usual.

Gunshots, grenades, mortars.

(from “Landscape with Buses”)

Everyday scenes have a sinister air, enhanced by surreal imagery:

I went to town and took pictures

of people in queue at the shopping mall…

The sun kept in its corner and watched

the autumn busking indoors

when a beggar stopped, asking everyone

for directions to the nearest abattoir.

(from “Particulars”)

The poems are clearly ‘about’ something; the encounter between warfare and everyday, often banal scenes from normal life, and the trauma of flight and dislocation. But this is not plain reportage, and whatever political message it carries is delivered with a lightness of touch that doesn’t propagandise or browbeat the reader. On the contrary, these poems are understated and retain an air of mystery; they give us insights into lives and experiences that couldn’t be delivered in any other way except in poetry. They also encompass the guilt and powerlessness of those viewing events from a distance:

…to become responsible

for a bullet wound, though we have

no memory of ever using a gun,

in the name of each person wishing to be free.

(from “The Gift’s Legacy”)

Many contemporary poetry books have a ‘theme’ – maybe it’s something suggested in creative writing classes – and so often the theme becomes more important than the poetry, leading to predictable and programmatic writing. That’s not the case with “Somnia”. The poetry remains poetry, its light lyricism and pleasure in words defeating attempts at literal interpretation. Here’s the complete poem “Mundane Evil”:

There was a wake going on

in a floor crack. So much old wood

talked back in mother’s tongue

through the opening that I thought

to wait longer for the right moment

and then a close friend pointed out

the rupture took shape, got wider.

My womb coughed out pieces of rubble.

This is a strange poem. The last line could be seen as a metaphor for the perpetuation of violence from one generation to the next, but that’s only one interpretation, and in fact the line, and the whole poem, is elusive and mysterious and strangely compelling. The remarkable thing about this collection is that it tackles the very specific issues of violence, dislocation and trauma in language that is as elusive as that in the poem above. It is poetry rather than documentary.

Stadnicka is not a native English speaker, and it’s interesting to speculate on the properties of poetry written in a second language. In an email to the reviewer, Stadnicka had the following to say in this subject:

“I suppose … my poetry is ‘other than British.’ The metaphoric range is different, the feel might be different, even though I use the English language when I shape my poems.”

What might “other than British” mean? One thing already mentioned is the influence of European modernism and of surrealism, that latter being a movement that never really took firm hold in British culture (the poetry of David Gascoyne notwithstanding). Another feature might be the quality of the language. The flat tone and plain expression make the description of the subject matter that much more powerful and lacking in any sensationalism. There are no poeticisms, and that may be one of the benefits of coming to the language afresh, from a different linguistic basis. It’s hard to imagine someone raised in the UK having written poetry like this. In the same email, Stadnicka says:

“It is impossible to discuss my writing without considering the impact oppression and dictatorship had on me as an individual. Once you experienced life in an orphanage with children dying of AIDS, or you are woken up at midnight to take part in a practice drill for an eventual nuclear attack, once you experienced dictatorship, there is no turning back when writing.”

This is outside the experience of most UK-raised poets; it inevitably affects the poetry, and therefore adds something new to British poetry in addition to the cultural influences mentioned above.

The poems are short and have individual titles, but the collection has a broader architecture; it’s divided into four ‘movements in F minor’ and has an epilogue and a prologue. The overall book is dedicated “to Cain and Abel, and all their neighbours”. The prologue is in the form a witness testimony, and the epilogue is also addressed to “your Honour”. So the book – to put it grandly – is putting humanity on trial. The four movements have distinctive features. The first movement, allegro, introduces us to world of dislocation and conflict, in which “the bullet hits the edge of my book / then sinks into earth like a poem”. The second movement, largo, slows the pace down and shows us a more personal side to these experiences: “When I collected my father’s ashes… I thought to keep them hidden in a pencil case”. The third movement, scherzo, addresses the ways in which art confronts the experience of war; there is a poem called “Kafka”, and another, “Lieder for Two Pianos” in which “half-swallowed lullabies found you / growing hazel-eyed whispers inside my body”. The last section is called “finale” and deals with consequences:

         Orphans but free, the cloth says

then keeps talking to me

about the people I once loved,

who vanished during a blast

as if they had never existed.

If the description of the four movements above makes the collection seem formulaic, this is certainly not the case. This poetry is mysterious, and individual poems can have an almost spiritual effect, like  Zen koans or proverbs. In the last movement, the title poem “Somnia” gives us an executioner falling asleep “with his back against a sharp blade”. In this poem, the violence comes from sleep and dream, and therefore from the human sub-conscious. The poems throughout the collection have a dream-like quality, and despite their directness and plain-speaking – or maybe because of it – offer a sense of mystery, and psychological insight.

© Alan Baker 2020, ‘Litter Magazine’ 1st March 2020.

Somnia is available at Knives, Forks and Spoons Press and pre-order here.

 

Shooting Position

 

We queue at the airport,

pretending to watch

a lunar eclipse.

 

We fear sharp objects.

Passengers hold boarding passes up,

flags in a moving crusade.

 

All windows are half-open,

but nobody looks out.

Heat seals glossy layers

of mist over my homeland.

 

We have outgrown the raincoat

tripping over someone’s thoughts

in the two-minute stop between stations.

 

At odd times, the planes take off.

Letters drop from above

on neighbouring gardens,

 

seeds growing tall in silent parks.

We remove luggage tags, barely notice

the music of a mid-air explosion.

 

Blades of grass stand ready to shoot.

 

© Maria Stadnicka 2020


‘Shooting Position’ is published in Somnia, out now at Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, UK.

‘Shooting Position’ was initially published in Meniscus, The Journal of Australasian Association of Writing Programmes, Canberra, Australia.

‘Somnia’ launched in Stroud

 

‘Somnia’ was launched last night at the Museum in the Park, the Pavilion Garden Room. Beautiful photography from Nikoletta Monyok and it has been a joy to  share the evening with the gifted writers Caroline Shaw, David Clarke, Adam Horovitz and Philip Rush. Thank you Uta Baldauf for a memorable performance, and to Caroline Rush, Philip Rush and Fred Chance for making the launch possible. Thank you for the generosity of our host, The Museum in the Park, to painter Mark Mawer for his artwork, Alec Newman and The Knives Forks and Spoons Press. It felt so special because there were so many people who attended, despite the bleak and windy weather on a Thursday evening. ‘Somnia’ THANKS YOU!📖

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Photography: © Nikoletta Monyok 2019

Cover art: © Mark Mawer 2019

Publisher: Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, UK

Editor: Alec Newman

Further details, on the ‘reviews’ and ‘books’ pages.

‘Somnia’ is available here and here.