Remembering Brutalism

Beulah Devaney has written a retrospective of The Brutalists in Vice Magazine

“Adelle Stripe, Ben Myers and Tony O’Neill; three Myspace-centric Northern writers who wrote poems called things like “Piss Town” and opened their January 2007 manifesto with: “We are the brutalists – fuck you”. Brutalism rejected what its founders considered the homogenisation of mainstream publishing, calling for “raw”, “honest” fiction and declaring that; “[The] only maxim we adhere to is an old punk belief, which we have bastardised for our own means: Here’s a laptop. Here’s a spell-check. Now write a novel…”

Beyond the Silver Pit: A Poem for Hessle Road

In late spring I started researching a new poetry project, inspired by a framed family tree in my grandmother’s hallway. She had spent 20 years of her life researching our family history in records offices, historical archives and libraries across East Yorkshire. I remember spending long afternoons with her, back in the 1980s, and often accompanied her as she flicked through reels of microfilm on big screens in darkened rooms. I was a bored child, whose task was to write down dates of birth and causes of death as she squinted at blurred newspaper articles.

My grandmother’s great grandfather, Matthew Gains Mudd, lost his life at sea in 1894. His name stands out on the framed family tree, and I started to wonder what the story was behind his death. He was from a long line of mariners who lived and worked in the Hessle Road area, where my grandmother was born and grew up.

In her back room, buried beneath piles of old magazines, was a series of boxes that contained clippings about his death. She pulled out folders of documents, including the List of Lost Trawlermen, fragile baptism certificates from the Seaman’s Bethel, and faded photocopies from the Hull Daily Mail. Her handwriting drew maps from name to name, with cross references to other files in the box. Over the course of an afternoon we started to piece together the story of one of Hull’s biggest maritime tragedies in the nineteenth century.

The story we uncovered formed the roots of my new poem, Beyond the Silver Pit, which makes its debut at Enlighten Festival in December, at Manchester Central Library. I have spent the past four months researching and writing the poem based on the life of Matthew Gains Mudd, and his final, fatal voyage on to the Dogger Bank on 22nd December 1894.  Matthew lost his life with 107 other men, in a violent storm that destroyed eight smack boats and five steam trawlers from the Great Northern Fleet. They were hauling the catch before heading home to Hull to see their families for Christmas.

This tragic event began on the winter solstice, around the Silver Pit fishing area, approximately seventy miles north-east from Spurn Point. This region is known for its lucrative fishing grounds but also suffers from hazardous conditions in its shallow waters. It was once known as ‘The Cemetery’ due to the amount of wrecks on the sea bed. In the pre-Ice Age era Dogger was the piece of land that joined Britain to mainland Europe. Fishermen have been known to pull up oak trees, mammoth skeletons and peat soil in their nets when fishing in the area.

The narrative poem tells the story of Matthew and his battle against the tempestuous nature and savage beauty of the North Sea. Drawing on local folklore and superstitions, oral histories, hydrographic maps and archive material from Hull History Centre, Beyond the Silver Pit captures the atmosphere of Hessle Road in the nineteenth century, and the harsh realities of working-class life in the area.

At almost 11 minutes long, this is the longest poem I have ever written, and it has recently been recorded as a spoken word piece by the Hull author Russ Litten, who originates from Liverpool Street, just one street along from where Matthew lived. His accent is distinctive and hearing him read the poem has really brought the subject to life.

I’ve also collaborated with Curated Place, Factory Records’ typographer Trevor Johnson and lighting designer Nick Malbon to create the piece. You can hear the poem as part of a captivating audio/projection installation at Manchester Central Library from 10-12 December 2015, tickets are free, but you’ll need to book. The festival runs from 5-8pm each evening.

For more information on the Enlighten Festival visit:

Listen to the poem here:

This project is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.


Akiko Yosano: Sweet is the Taste of Tears

During the summer of 2014 I worked with publisher Michael Curran (Tangerine Press) on a new selection of tanka poems by one of the most famous and controversial poets in Japanese literature, Akiko Yosano.

Aged nineteen, Akiko Yosano (1878-1942) fled to Tokyo from her sleepy hometown of Sakai to join her lover Tekkan, poet and editor of the journal Myojo. Akiko wrote him adoring letters and poems, even threatening suicide if he didn’t divorce his wife. This formed the basis of Akiko’s debut collection Midaregami (Tangled Hair) which became a literary landmark and is one of the central works in Japanese Romanticism.

Sweet is the Taste of Tears is a new selection from Midaregami created and handsewn by Michael at his Sick Tangerine workshop. Akiko is one of my favourite female writers of all time and exerts a large influence on my writing. It was so difficult to make a decision on what not to include. I could have written a novel on Akiko’s life, but could only manage an afterword for this edition. I hope it provides a good introduction to her work.

The chapbook is work of art. 6″/150mm wide x 300mm/12″ tall. Recycled 350gsm Cairn Almond stiff card covers; front cover design hot foil stamped in black ink. 100gsm Heritage Book White text paper; 60gsm Katazome-Shi endpapers, with a base colour of Fuchsia with symmetrical patternation in various colours: all hand printed in Japan (one side only). 16 pages and only 23 in existence.

It’s also worth mentioning that it’s part of the Sick Fly Chapbook Series 2014. Other titles include William Wantling’s Heroin Haikus, Mick Guffan’s Twenty Six Letters Scattered Sorted Loved & Unleashed, Stanley Cooperman’s Cappelbaum’s Lament, and Weldon Kees’ 1926 & other poems.

Visit Tangerine Press for further details.

3:AM Awards: Poetry Book of the Year 2012

Dark Corners of the Land was named ‘Poetry Book of the Year’ in the 3:AM Awards 2012. Thanks to all at 3:AM for voting. It joins winners Keith Ridgway’s Hawthorn & Child (Granta), Christine Schutt’s Prosperous Friends (Grove/Atlantic), Simon Sellars & Dan O’Hara’s Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with J.G. Ballard (4th Estate), Chris Ware’s Building Stories (Jonathan Cape), David Byrne & St. Vincent’s Love This Giant (4AD/Todo Mundo), The Turin Horse dir. Béla Tarr, The New Inquiry, Sylph Editions, and Los Angeles Review of Books.

There are only a couple of copies left of Dark Corners it will be going into a second edition shortly. Blackheath Books’ Manufactory will be creating something special, look out for the new design on their website…