Monday, October 31, 2022



He takes me on vacations while he’s home, transporting our state of mind from deployment life to post-deployment lets-try-hard-for-normalcy life. ‘Let’s take a picture’ rolls off his tongue with every other breath. Each trip he hopes will produce pictures that will replace every frame/every profile image/every evidence of the life I’ve led without him here.

We can live and linger forever inside a frame.




“When was this photo taken?”


“Who were you with here?”

“I wonder what country I was in then.”

Seattle poet Nicole McCarthy’s full-length debut is A SUMMONING: MEMORY EXPERIMENTS (Manhattan KS: Heavy Feather Review, 2022), a layering of memory, trauma and erasure, working to salvage what should be salvaged and leaving all else behind. As she writes, early on: “Our memory palace is disintegrating before our eyes and by our hands. By selling, we are evicting memories, leaving them to fade and be overridden by others.” Through accumulating and even overlapping and obscured fragments of image, scraps and lyric prose, McCarthy explores how experience changes both the body and memory itself; living as a military spouse, she writes of deployments that shift geography and of long absences marked across a calendar path, while existing across the silence of an unfamiliar house. “Am I a memory romantic?” she writes, early on. She writes a layering, overlapping series of prose-blocks, layered to the point of illegibility, as one memory begins to obscure another, and simultaneously; memories enough that there is nothing left but an obscured text that folds into a textual mush. She writes an obscured text, an overlapping text, and sections crossed-out, offering both the archive and the erasure, attempting to both document and set herself correct, even as she repeatedly and routinely articulates an indeterminate foundation. If she can’t trust her own memory, how does anything else get built?

I’m a ghost unwilling to leave these shared spaces after everyone else has vacated. My husband left toward his new residence without a second glance back at the house we shared for six years. I sit in front of the fireplace, in our hollow home, crying over all that’s bound to be lost.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Teo Eve

Teo Eve is a poet, writer and workshop facilitator based between Nottingham and London. Teo's debut poetry collection The Ox House is now available from Penteract Press. The image of Teo provided was drawn by publisher and artist Alban Low.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
I'm answering this a month before my debut (The Ox House, Penteract Press, 2022)'s official release date, so I'm not sure yet! But the hype online has been phenomenal and since its release was announced I've been invited onto reading teams for magazines, asked to deliver workshops and have been approached by editors and agents for other not-so-secret projects. Quite honestly sometimes I feel like I can't really keep up with all the things happening right now, but I hope this trajectory continues. Of course, there's always a chance that when the book's actually out people will think I'm a hack and lose interest...

Before The Ox House was accepted by Penteract, I had a few collections and pamphlets long- and short-listed for publication by other presses. These collections had some great poems in them but were marred by inconsistency. I think the biggest difference between The Ox House and anything I'd created before is its singular vision: The Ox House is all about the alphabet, celebrating its history, graphology and phonology. The more I write the more I'm becoming a concept-oriented, as a reader as well as a writer. A collection can have some phenomenal poems, but if it doesn't work as a whole then it won't excite me. It's like the difference between an 'album artist' and a 'singles artist', to me. A handful of catchy pop songs does not a good album make.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
 I didn't! I started writing fiction when I was in Primary School. I came to poetry much later, in Sixth Form - and even then, it wasn't something I took seriously for  years. I wouldn't say I have a preference of which form to write, but I find it much easier to fit writing poems around my job compared to the intensely sustained concentration span you need for a novel.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
I've always been a quick writer of poems. I've had a few I've been churning over and chipping away at for months/years, but a lot of the time I write a poem, edit it there and then, and re-write it again until I'm happy. I handwrite first drafts more often than not so when I type them up they go through another round of edits, but I don't really plan my poems. It's more that I get a line or an image in my head and hammer it into shape. In terms of large-scale projects, I feel I wait frustratingly long periods of times between ideas but as soon as I'm set on one, the poems themselves come relatively easily.

4 - Where does a poem or work of prose usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I find it difficult to think in terms of individual poems. Between projects, I might write stand-alone pieces (usually a line pops into my head and I'm fascinated by the rhythm or image of it, so I churn it over in my mind and write it out to see where it goes...) until I finally settle on one piece I really like the form or theme of. Writing a poem I particularly love is an uncorking: afterwards, the ideas just flow. After finishing The Ox House I was pretty frustrated because I didn't know what my next project was going to be, but then I created two visual poems in one sitting. That two-page document quickly spiraled/blossomed into I Imagine an Image, my seeking-a-home visual poetry collection. I have tried combining already-existing short pieces into a larger project before, but all attempts at publishing them so far have been unsuccessful.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I don't believe in the separation of 'page' and 'stage' poetry because I think a good poem is a good poem and a good poem should work on the page as well as the stage. Poems that are flat and lifeless on the page but come to life in performances due to affectations and emphasis are still flat and lifeless on the page. Having said that, as I lean more and more into visual poetry, just how I can perform my work is becoming increasingly challenging!

I get really nervous during readings, which is strange given that I'm a teacher by profession so I'm essentially performing all of the time. I suppose it's something about the immediacy of reaction you're experiencing your audience experience: I think I'd be nervous watching someone read my books, too. Having said that, nerves are really something I need to practise out of:  I'm always aware that I should be doing more readings.

On that note, I'm performing a collaboration alongside Anthony Etherin of Penteract Press as part of the European Poetry Festival, at 7:30pm Saturday the 25th of June [2022] in Rich Mix in Bethnal Green, London. It's completely free and we'd love people to come along.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I'm aware of how post-modernist and metatextual this will sound, but I really do feel like my poems are all about the possibility of language. I'm not much interested in poetry that feels like someone's diary, and language seems to be a universal topic almost all readers of poetry have an interest in. Even if I start writing a poem about a distinct theme, it often ends up becoming a poem about how the poem is writing 'about' that theme. I Imagine an Image is ostensibly a collection of love poetry - so many of its pieces are about togetherness and separation, romantically and politically - but really it's a collection exploring how we can express emotions, conflict and the rupturing of society in language. Would it be more striking to respond to these questions and themes with images alone? Is there a universal language, or a universal image, for love and thought, or are these bound by and can only be channeled through semantics?

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I think it's such an exciting time to be a writer! Language change has always been constant, but I do wonder if we are witnessing an acceleration of this in the internet age, both thanks to an increased exposure to global languages and the way that digital forms allow for a speedy and cheap dissemination of innovative texts that would have been near-impossible to distribute using traditional printing technologies. Moreover, we are seeing a greater social awareness, including in terms of how language is used to describe and prescribe gender.

I don't believe writers have roles as such, but we do have a responsibility to be attentive to language change and use language with sensitivity. Writers can write whatever they want, sure, but we must be aware to the fact that our writing will impact the world, in however a minor way. Writers should consider what type of world they want to live in, and how their writing can reinforce this.

Lately we've witnessed a bastardisation of language in mass media and politics, with simplistic and reductionist sloganeering fanning the flames of division. I very much believe in the Geoffrey Hill school of making language 'difficult' to resist against such tyrannical simplication. Part of the motivation behind The Ox House was considering what letters can do, rather than what they do do and have done. Looking around at a world marked or marred by increasing nationalism and far-right movements, I feel like it is my duty to interrogate the language that has allowed this.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I'm lucky I suppose to never have had a difficult experience with an editor. I like to think I'm open enough that if an editor suggests vast changes to my work, I'd respect their impartiality, professionalism and vision and take these into account. One of the benefits of studying Creative Writing at uni is you learn to let you guard down - you need to be receptive to constructive feedback, however critical.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
When I was studying my MA in English Studies at the University of Nottingham, I enrolled on several Creative Writing modules. One of the set texts for our Fiction Writing Workshop was Ron Carlson's Ron Carlson Writes a Story, which essentially revolves around two pieces of advice: (1) when you're stuck, revert to physicality; and (2) don't. stop. writing. until. you've. finished. the. thing.

I remember some of my peers being frustrated with the book ('don't stop until you've finished writing? that's awful advice! tell me how to actually write!'), but I've found it incredibly useful. I love writing, yes, but it is discipline and it is work. Sit down, turn off your phone, and when the going gets tough carry on. It doesn't matter how messy or how skeletal the first draft is; as long as you've erected scaffolding, you've got something to work on or off afterwards.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction to non-fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?
I feel like I alternate between having a 'fiction brain' on and a 'poetry brain' on, and I rarely pursue a prose and poetry project at the same time. I think it's because I like being immersed in a project: I always have one dominant work-in-progress at a time and I might occasionally start sketches for future ideas but I've historically struggled juggling ideas. Every time I switch back from poetry to prose or vice-versa the first few weeks tend to be a process of re-learning, getting back into the swing of the genre. Having said that, I do feel like there's quite a lot of overlap between my poetry and prose, even if they're quite obviously different on the surface. My novel, currently titled What Will We Build From The Ruins? (for which I'm seeking an agent or publisher) contains some of the best 'poetry' I've ever written! I think sometimes I need to cleanse myself in one genre before I can re-approach another: I write more poetry than prose, but cleansing myself in fiction can help me approach my poetry with a refreshed pair of eyes.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I wish I had a routine! I work 9-5 so my life pretty much revolves around that. When I've got a big writing project on during the winter I usually find it easy to dedicate a couple of hours in the evening to it, but when it's summer and I just want to be outside after work, my writing admittedly takes a back seat. I steal snatches of time here and there and do what I can, but at the minute I'm enjoying putting life and pleasure over pen and paper. Having said that, these aren't mutually exclusive, and as soon as I properly start on my second novel I'm going to do my best to do a Ron Carlson and just sit at the desk til the thing is done.  

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I'm pretty vampiric so whenever I get stuck I pick up a book, flick through it and usually find myself inspired to write something. Much of my poetry is a response to something I've seen or read so I've never found myself bereft of inspiration. The bigger challenge is finding the time to write...

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Burning wood! My mother is from rural Italy and we tend to spend summers on the farm. Occasionally the early morning breeze will bring with it the scent of wood on a fire. Everytime I smell a bonfire or am at a fireworks show, I'm transported to that small village in Italy.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

After graduating from my BA in English, I was sick of books. I was sick of reading and I was sick of writing. I got really into visiting art museums and took up painting, but never developed the technical skills to match my vision.

I was a bad poet at university and hardly any of the poems I wrote between my BA and MA had any value, but when I took up writing again during my MA I was keen to integrate the aesthetic sensibilities I had started to learn from painting into my poetry. Around the same time I was getting into Imagism and pursued a portrayal of the concrete, but discovering visual poetry really was a game changer. After turning in a concrete poem I'd made as part of my MA Creative Writing course, a peer told me that she could 'see it in a gallery'. That became a new ideal for me: poems that had a visual, as well as a literary, sensibility. After all, is there anything uglier than a poorly-lineated poem!?

I think this is the reason why my debut poetry collection The Ox House (Penteract Press, 2022) became a book of two halves. It's a poetry book, yes, but each poem is titled after a large capital letter form that act as both homage to Medieval manuscripts' illuminated letters and as visual art works in and of themselves; and the lineation, graphology and typesetting of the individual poems became as or more important as/than any 'meaning' they conveyed.

I stretched my visual experimentation even further when creating I Imagine an Image. Assembling this collection, I set a test pieces would have to pass to be included. Each poem had to work as both a poem and a piece of visual art, or they wouldn't get a spot in the collection. Their forms and content often communicate, but even the more text-heavy pieces had to look pretty. Almost all of the poems in this collection are contained within a black ink border, designed to replicate the frames around paintings you get on gallery walls.

I really want my poetry to break out the boundaries of books and be everywhere. I want my poetry on mugs, on walls, on t-shirts, in galleries, on album covers and in magazines. To achieve that, it has to look nice. Visual immediacy of the form increasingly takes centre stage for me: if a poem looks like a mess and is uninviting to the eye, why should I bother reading it?  

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Oh, so many! I'll always be indebted to Nikki Dudley - she's a brilliant poet and a huge inspiration for my work, and as editor of streetcake magazine has always been a champion of my poetry.

Ali Smith is probably my favourite fiction writer, but the word play and sharp attention to the playful fluidity of language has really informed my poetry in particular.

It was the honour of my life to have The Ox House accepted by Penteract Press - not only has Penteract put out some incredible books, but Anthony Etherin has achieved, I think, the closest thing to formal perfection we'll see in 21st century poetry. Penteract have really attracted a whole host of interesting and innovative writers: listening to The Penteract Podcast while working a pretty monotonous admin job, and learning all about the practices of fantastic poets such as Christian Bök really expanded my idea of what poetry could be.

I've had some great exchanges with Sascha Engel (Breaking the Alphabet, Little Black Cart 2022) about the alphabet, Ancient Egypt and experimental writing, and I'm lucky enough to have made so many poetry people through Twitter and my MA who provide invaluable feedback on my work and are great friends besides.

I'll always be thankful to Vicky Sparrow, Lila Matsumoto, Matthew Welton, Spencer Jordan, and Thomas Legendre, my Creative Writing lecturers at the University of Nottingham for all of their guidance and support.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

I'd love to write a children's book! I've already got a poetry book out, a non-fiction book coming out and a novel waiting for a home, but really I'd like to write at least one of each literary form. I guess I should probably have a go at a play, too, but there's something about writing solely dialogue that's so intimidating to me.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I'm fascinated by urban design and when I was younger I vaguely dreamt of becoming an architect, but I never had the mathematical skills to pursue that as a career. But how different is urban design and architecture from creating poetry, anyway? I imagine there's a similar attentiveness to form and structure. Some poems I've written that are more traditionally-lineated than my visual work explicitly reference or are influenced by architecture in their form and content, and I had great fun trying to evoke Nottingham's urban landscape in the poems I contributed to Writing Notts 2021: An Anthology of Nottinghamshire Poetry.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I think I'm a frustrated would-be rock'n'roll star. I love doing karaoke and the over-the-top performance of singing and acting theatrically larger-than-life on a stage. Ironically I'm quite timid during poetry readings, but I think the compulsory pre-karaoke beers help with the nerves! Unfortunately I don't have the rhythm or voice for it. I actually started off by writing lyrics, which gradually morphed into poetry when I realised no-one would want to hear me sing them!

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I recently (reluctantly) re-read The Great Gatsby, which was my favourite novel(la) as a 17-18 year old and which I hadn't revisited in years. I was afraid to read it in case the magic had worn off for me, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I appreciated it arguably more this time around than when I was a kid. There's just something about its leanness, how nothing is extraneous and every word has been placed with the precision of a poet. It's amazing, too, how much emotion the whole thing has while not coming across as cliched or sickly-sweet. I maintain that The Great Gatsby is an ideal of the novel (novella?) form, and I'd love to aspire to its focus. I'm admittedly not very film literate, but Her (2013, Spike Jonze) broke me.

20 - What are you currently working on?
I just finished(!?) writing my visual poetry collection, I Imagine an Image, and I've recently been asked to write a book on the history of visual poetry so I'm slowly building myself up to researching and planning that. However ideas for my second novel have been brewing in the back of my mind lately and I'm very keen to make a proper start on that (really, a restart) while continuing looking for a home for my first novel, What Will We Build From The Ruins? At the minute I'm enjoying a much-needed pause between projects - I really did just finish I Imagine an Image less than a week before writing this - but I'm sure I'm going to feel the itch to write again soon. Besides from this, I'm currently in the stage of making final edits to my debut work of autofiction, On Shaving, which is set to be released by Beir Bua Press in March 2023...

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Chus Pato, The Face of the Quartzes, trans. Erín Moure


Galicia is a promontory of stone sitting on the Iberian peninsula above Portugal. Its language, Galician, derived from Latin, is the root language of modern Portuguese and stubbornly survives to the north of Portugal. Through long parts of Spain, Galicia, with its Celtic substrate and different history and language, has never become simply Spanish. The Face of the Quartzes is rooted in Ourense, the Galician interior city bisected by the Miño River, where the poet was born and raised during the long 20th-century Spanish dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Ourense was long ago the Roman city of gold (ouro) and of dawn’s golden light (aurora); Galicia may have been at the fringe of the Roman Empire but it was a country of philosophy, and of international travel and influence. Its mountainous rocky interior was mined for gold and iron, metals key to ornament and armament. Its ports were cosmopolitan. Its fishermen were known from the Baltic to Africa to the shores of Newfoundland and Maine. It was a place peripheral and central at the same time. Though today Galicia is even more peripheral in world politics, Chus Pato’s poetry recenters it. (“Passages and the Unrequitable Gift: The Face of the Quartzes by Chus Pato, A translator’s introduction”)

Sorting books in a corner of my office, I realized I hadn’t yet gone through Galician poet Chus Pato’s latest work translated into English, The Face of the Quartzes, translated by Montreal poet, translator and critic Erín Moure (El Paso TX: Veliz Books, 2019). A prolific translator, above and beyond her own extensive catalogue of writing (working through French, English, Spanish and Galician), Moure has been translating the work of Chus Pato for a number of years now, through five prior collections in English translation produced through BuschekBooks, Shearsman Books and Book*hug. Set with the English translation on the right and original Galician on the left, Pato’s The Face of the Quartzes offers a lyric suite of observational thought that scrape against the boundaries of perception, offering a light touch across a sequence of gestures, deep and dark and considered. “We redden the rose / using blood,” they (I say such, given the collaborative nature of translation) write, to close one particular lyric. One could describe each poem as untitled, at least in the more traditional manner, with either the opening word or opening phrase set in bold type, offered as title directly incorporated into the body of the text; reminiscent, slightly, of the late Vancouver poet Gerry Gilbert, who would offer, most notably through his infamous Moby Jane (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1987; Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2004) [see my note on the reissue here], the beginning of the book-length poem on the front cover, ending finally on the back. The body of the book was too big to contain him, after all; the titling and outside still existing within the body of the text. “Winter gave way to rain,” they write, mid-way through the collection, “and the rain gave in to itself / we await a truth of language / I was born to hear the bark of dogs [.]” There aren’t too many poets working their titling in such a manner, opening the poem immediately, and the structure is curious, offering more of an ongoingness and interconnectedness to the larger, book-length structure of this particular suite. In certain ways, one could see The Face of the Quartzes as a singular poem, simply portioned into a sequence of moments, one thought directly set against and furthering another; one that moves through concerns around language, culture, ecology, and how we both move through and interact with the world, both immediate and further beyond. There is something very large about the way Pato encompasses the minutae of her world, something captured, fortunately, for those of us who exist only in English.

The hand assembles words
my hand
that misjudges the size of the letters and width of the wall

Up above
a bullet cuts through the cry

separates the letters
the syllables

bodies tumble from the peak
The hand returns beside the others

they’re archaic
red black ochre

they agitate
like a handkerchief waving goodbye

They sleep underfoot
upside down

like bats