Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Potted Heid

Here's the new film I've cooked up. Potted heid is the Scottish term for what I'd call brawn (a kind of meatloaf made from a pig's head).

I seem to have mucked up by leaving a black band on the left-hand side – no idea how or if it can be rectified in iMovie. If anyone knows, I'd be glad to find out...

Potted Heid from Tony Williams on Vimeo.

Alan Payne's Exploring the Orinoco

Pamphlets are in the ascendancy these days. If you want to read one that shows off the benefit of the form, try Alan Payne's Exploring the Orinoco, a winner in the 2009 Smith/Doorstop Book & Pamphlet Competition. Alan grew up in the Caribbean before moving to Yorkshire, and the collection is structured to reflect this movement. It begins with poems that look back at his childhood before the pivotal poem, 'Colombie', which enacts his arrival in the UK:

Fabled Plymouth.
And the journey north, by train,
to Apperley Bridge.
There, in that no-man's-land,
I tasted pickled onions.
Assumed a stranger's skin.
A worsted suit.

Thereafter the poems mainly inhabit Yorkshire, though they bring the Caribbean with them. It's rare to see a collection centred on place, but on two places, so that they reflect each other. It's a strange and interesting effect, and a coherent, likable pamphlet.

Monday, July 26, 2010

'Expertly manoeuvred' misc.

Various basically unrelated thing to, er, relate to you today...

I've just finished reading Tania Hershman's fabulous The White Road, a short story collection I bought a week or so to do my bit for Salt's JustOneBook campaign (and because I wanted to read the book too, of course...). They're billed as science-related, but I didn't really notice that - it was just a very entertaining book of stories, some longish, other very, very short.

Next from Salt I've ordered Short Circuit, a guide to writing short stories, which I hope will come in handy as I move into writing fiction. I've just had my first acceptance, in fact, from Fuselit, of a tiny 300-word story. So that's encouraging and jolly and so on.

The latest issue of The Dark Horse is out now, and causing some controversy on the internet (well, on Facebook) over John Lucas's review of Roddy Lumsden's Identity Parade anthology, which Lucas doesn't think much of. Fight! Fight! etc. The review seems misjudged to me. Much more thrillingly from my point of view, there's a substantial review of The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street by Charlotte Newman. She says stuff like:

Tony Williams shows all the signs of being an eighteenth-century Romantic, though this romanticism is infused with a postmodern twist.


Williams avoids sounding glib because his particular brand of eccentricity is not laboured but genuinely ruminative and tentatively philosophical... Williams is a purveyor of the modern pastoral. The pastoral for him is not the place for mere bucolics, but for an examination of diverse landscapes, whether that be physical urban and rural landscapes, or those emotional, intellectual, and linguistic landscapes explored by poetry.

Which is to say, Newman says lots of approving things, but what's particularly gratifying is that she says things that show her reading of the book matches my writing of it, as it were. I'm pathetically grateful!

Friday, July 23, 2010

'The art of nowhere'

David Green generously and entertainingly reviews my book on his blog, saying 'it's a great bonus to be allowed to think one is saving the poetry publishing industry single-handedly while, in fact, Salt's renewed appeal has done me a favour by prompting me to buy this engaging book.'

So you could do worse than buy the book and help save Salt as part of the JustOneBook campaign!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Antony Rowland's Birkenau

Just a quick post to tell you about Birkenau, Antony Rowland's new pamphlet from the Knives, Forks and Spoons Press (scroll down towards the bottom). You might be able to guess the subject matter from the title – almost, anyway. It's kind of about the death camps, but more about the experience of visiting the death camps, of being a Holocaust tourist:

a building is talking
in loop German über
your morbid interest in

kitchen overload

The poem is accompanied with images. It's very good - buy it. Antony's brilliant Salt collection, The Land of Green Ginger, is also still available and will bring you delight, so buy that as well.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Simultaneous swearing.... I mean blogging

Foul language alert, kids.

There's this thang called the Simultaneous Blogging Experiment, organised by Mairi Sharratt, where a bunch of poetry bloggers blog on the same topic at the same moment to, er, see what happens. If it makes the world fall off its axis, sorry (but then you wouldn't be reading this anyway). I've written a piece below which actually focuses on some poetry. But the topic is 'swear', and it occurs to me that maybe everyone will just post a big fat swear word, so here goes:
These are the other bloggers taking part. Have a look at what they wrote. Maybe it'll be like a slam, and people will vote for the best one (or more amusingly for the most foul-mouthed):

Mairi Sharratt - A lump in the Throat http://www.alumpinthethroat.wordpress.com

Caroline Mary Crew - Flotsam

Colin Will - Sunny Dunny

Andrew Philip - Tonguefire

Sally Evans - desktopsallye

Kevin Cadwallender - Cadwallender

Claire Askew - One Nights Stanzas

Russell Jones - Russell Jones

Alastair Cook - Written in my hand

Martaerre Sobrecueva - de la poesia y otras disciplinas en palabras

And here's what I actually have to say on the topic – in fact just a brief appreciation of a coupe of lines in a single poem:

John Stammers has a well-known poem called 'On Love', which is well known not only because it is a good poem but because it uses the word 'cunt'. It's notable because Stammers' use of the word isn't significantly ironic or dramatic. We have to speak conventionally of the poem's speaker, so in that sense it is a monologue. But the rest of the poem doesn't give us much reason to suppose the voice is substantially ironic: it's couched in the same sophisticated, bleak, smart lyrical voice that Stammers uses elsewhere. (Maybe that pile of adjectives wasn't quite right, but you get the idea.)

When he comes to use the word 'cunt', it isn't used as an insult, just as a word. The lovers slowly give in to their situation, until 'what we uncovered was all our love/opened  up like a beautiful cunt before us.'
It's striking how Stammers uses 'all our love' and 'beautiful' alongside the swear word. Of course there is a contrast involved. But those other bits of language also serve to underwrite the sincerity of 'cunt' by insisting that it's being used in all lyrical seriousness. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Waste Books

Years ago I had a selection of Lichtenberg's aphorisms in the toilet of a shared house. There was also a massive pile of newspapers in there (yes, Liam used to...) and when they were cleared up it must have gone with them. I mourned it. It was some years before I got hold of another copy – this time with the title by which it is better known, The Waste Books (rather apt, in retrospect). Here's a few of the entries, from notebook F:

They sneezed, wheezed, coughed and made two other kinds of sound for which we have no words in German.

The frogs were much happier under King Log than they were under King Stork.

A book is a mirror: if an ape looks into it an apostle is unlikely to look out.

Whenever he spoke every mousetrap in the neighborhood snapped shut. [what does that even mean? But it's good]

A bound book of blank paper has a charm all of its own. Paper that has not yet lost its virginity and is still decked in the color of innocence is always preferable to paper that has been used.

The publisher has had him hanged in effigy in front of his work.

In Goettingen there is no formal theatre, to be sure, but that only makes it all the easier to put together a comedy for oneself: a scene here, a scene there.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Poems with Fred

Today Fred and I wrote some poems. Here are two of them:

I am a pig and I'm in a poem
in Dolgol Dolgol
I like to eat pasta shells
and straw, and pasta shells

In Dolgol Dolgol there are
so many pigs
I've got a lentil
and it tastes nice

I am a brown pig
and I live in Dolgol Dolgol
but the other pigs
really eat just straw


A sheep
I mean a fox
I mean a monkey
lived in the jungle
(I mean just the monkey)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


There's an interesting post here about the production of cover artwork for Faber's reissues of famous poetry collections. Interesting mainly because Faber's covers have come in for some criticism in recent years (some people love the minimalist tendency, others loathe it) – but these are just fabulous. I covet the books even though I already own other editions.

*Worst post title I have ever produced

Monday, July 05, 2010

'Derbyshire at the centre of a universe'

Sean O'Brien reviews my book in the latest issue of Poetry Review:

'The Marvellian title poem is stunning. To read Williams’s work with the best of the others here [in Identity Parade and Voice Recognition] is to be convinced afresh that this is an exciting time for poetry.'

Earn Your Milk and win your salt

Chris at Salt Publishing asks what Salt books people would recommend and why. Well, I'd recommend Tom Raworth's Earn Your Milk: Collected Prose, for no other reason (and is there a better one?) than I'm reading it at the moment and really enjoying it. The bulk of the book is a piece called A Serial Biography. It's a series of ambiguously linked paragraphs telling a bunch of narratives and apparently mixing fiction and non-fiction... Pretty much any way I describe it undersells the reality, which is funny and gripping and provocative and clever.

And now you have an extra reason to go and buy it because Salt are running a summer raffle - every time you buy a book from their online shop before the end of August you'll be entered for a chance to win the next 20 books they publish. Hurray! If you don't fancy the Raworth there's always a billion others to choose from. The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street is still available!

It was the best of times

Time for a post-holiday round-up post. So, just back from Somerset and Cornwall, stopping off on the way to read at the Poetry Cafe in Reading hosted by the ebullient AF Harrold. I had a good time and enjoyed the open mic readers, and was benevolently heckled by my own cousin.

Holiday reading was AF Harrold's Wodehouseish, Pratchetty comic novel The Education of Epitome Quirkstandard, Coetzee's amazing short novel Foe, the first three chapters of A Tale of Two Cities (may try again another time), and Mark Kurlansky's surprisingly good history of Cod.