Thursday, June 30, 2011

"...for on top of the abolition of the Net Book Agreement, all sorts of other deleterious developments have worsened the lot of writers (at least in these islands) over the last fifteen years, among which, and in no particular order, are the following: the rise of branding; the enslavement of publishers to media endorsement by celebrity presenters; the obsession with the physical appearance of writers which in turn has meant publishers demand ever younger, ever more photogenic authors; the decline of the editor in publishing houses in order to save money; the abandonment by publishers of the idea that writers have lifelong careers and that given the right support over a lengthy period they can develop; the failure of payment for literary endeavour either to keep pace with inflation or to reflect the actual amount of labour involved in literary production; the atrophy of community (writers have never been more marginal and their enterprise more quixotic and ridiculous); and, finally, the eclipse of literary forms that once helped writers to survive, such as the short story, especially the short story broadcast on radio."

Carlo Gébler

Monday, June 27, 2011

All's Well That Ends Well

I've been meaning to see a play at The Globe for years, so I was looking forward to it, and the weather yesterday was perfect. But, to be honest, I'd been expecting a museum-type experience; interesting, but not of the here and now. It turns out I was wrong: what I saw on Sunday was a vibrant piece of theatre; with the high level of audience interaction making it seem like a participation event. I have a problem with theatre when it re-creates movies or novels; when it tries to be real in the way that a movie does. But the audience at The Globe can't ignore the fact that the actors are people like them, pretending to be someone else; and that adds a whole dimension to the experience. The audience is part of the play. It strikes me that The Globe has more in common with theatres of the last fifty years or so than it does to the proscenium-arch theatre of Victorian days and earlier. In his book "1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare", James Shapiro writes, "Shakespeare didn’t write ‘as if from another planet,’ as Coleridge put it: he wrote for the Globe; it wasn’t in his mind’s eye, or even on the page, but in the aptly named theater where his plays came to life and mattered". Seems about right to me.

...but then again, Bertram in "All' Well That Ends Well" is a self-centred young man, inconsiderate, impulsive and exasperated by the demands made on him. He's not good, but he's not especially bad; just ordinary, which is the hardest character for any dramatist to create. Whatever type of theatre - proscenium arch, in-the-round, promenade, or with contemporary or period settings and dress, Bertram is a character audiences will recognise and identify with. And that's to do with the ability of the dramatist to create, or re-create a character in the minds of his / her audience, independent of any specific staging.

Of course, it's not possible to completely recreate the Elizabethan experience. Their world was in many ways, strange and remote from ours: that Juliet, Cleopatra and Rosalind were all played by boys, seems very weird. It was a time when church attendance was compulsory, and catholicism illegal. No-one questioned the notion that it was fun to see live animals torn to pieces, or that it was right that those convicted of certain crimes be tortured to death in public. We don't know how the plays were acted, but, as the acting styles of Gielgud and Olivier already seem dated, it's possible that Elizabethan acting would have seemed very strange to a 21st century observer. But I enjoyed getting as close as I could to the experience of an Elizabethan playgoer, and I'm convinced now - if I wasn't totally before - that The Globe is much more than a museum-piece.

POSTSCRIPT: These lines from "All's Well..." -
on the transience of poltical power - really struck me. Spoken by the King of France :

"For we are old, and on our quick'st decrees
The inaudible and noiseless foot of time
Steals ere we can effect them."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lobe Scarps & Finials by Geraldine Monk

Lobe Scarps & Finials by Geraldine Monk
£8.95 / $14.50. 104 pages

Leafe Press are excited to announce the publication of the latest collection by Geraldine Monk. This new book features the controversial "A Nocturnall Upon S Lucies Day", a newly revised "Raccoon" and three new sequences: "Glow in the Darklunar Calendar", "Print & Pin" and "Poppyheads".

The book is available on Amazon, but it would help Leafe Press if you bought it directly from us via our website.

Geraldine Monk was born in Blackburn, Lancashire in 1952. Since first being published in the 1970s she has published a series of major collections of poetry and numerous chapbooks. Her writing has appeared extensively in the both the UK and the USA. As an extension to her activities in poetry she collaborates with many musicians including Martin Archer, Charlie Collins and Julie Tippetts. A collection of essays on her poetry, The Salt Companion to Geraldine Monk was brought out in 2007 by Salt Publishing.

‘Monk is more attuned to the physical heft of words than any other poet working in English today’

Simon Turner, Horizon Review

"Monk’s latest collection shows a continuing foray into the alchemy of language and a reclamation of the visceral soundscapes of loss and celebration...the poems can seem little miracles of construction."

Chris Emery, Jacket Magazine on "Noctivagations"

“Geraldine Monk’s poetry activates words, makes them events rather than hollow vessels for received understanding. They play, clash, spark and rub up against one another in unpredictable ways with unforeseen consequences.”

Julian Cowley, The Wire