bottle rockets #36
The very first thing I saw this morning was a notification on my phone for a rejection email that had arrived overnight. I've been trying to take a more positive approach to rejection emails recently (after reading this article by Kim Liao), but it was still a boost to come home from work and see this envelope from Windsor, CT on the doormat.
I've got a haiku published in this forthcoming issue of bottle rockets, available to pre-order now from bottlerocketspress.com (though this issue is on a limited print run, so get in quick if you want one). Thanks to bottle rockets editor Stanford M. Forrester for accepting it!
The Haiku Calendar 2016
In April last year, I revealed that one of my haiku would be included in The Haiku Calendar 2016, published by Snapshot Press. Since 1999, Snapshot – an independent publisher specialising in English-language haiku, tanka and other short poetry – have run an annual competition to find 52 haiku to publish in their Haiku Calendar. Of course, by now the 2016 version has been printed and sent out.
Edited by John Barlow, each calendar features haiku poets from around the world, and intends to explore and celebrate the relevance of kigo (a word or phrase associated with a particular season) in English-language haiku. As far as I'm aware there are no readily-available photographs of the actual calendar on the internet, so I thought I'd take some and share them with you.
In my experience, there are very few opportunities for haiku poets to see their work in print (most magazines dedicated to form seem to be completely digital, with a few notable exceptions). The 2016 calendar is the 17th published by Snapshot Press, and for that – along with their consistent output of high-quality collections and anthologies (Lynne Rees's Forgiving the Rain is my favourite) – they should be commended and celebrated.
Copies of the 2016 calendar are still available, priced £7.99 (UK), €14.00 (Europe) or £12.00/US$20 (Rest of the World). To order one, go here: snapshotpress.co.uk/calendars/the_haiku_calendar/2016.htm
The Lonely Crowd is an exciting new magazine that celebrates the short story, and they've just been kind enough to publish one of mine – 'Give a Dog a Bone' – on their website. Here's an extract:
I wanted the sun to come out, to dry up all the rain so I could go out and play on the hillside, instead of being stuck indoors. That side of the hill was always green and welcoming. Familiar. This side is cold and black, burnt by a forest fire that marched its way to the top before the firefighters smothered it. The sun is disappearing behind it now, turning late afternoon into evening. The drizzle has turned heavy.
Read the rest of the story here:
Image © Jo Mazelis 2016
Usually, if I'm writing a blog post about having something published in a magazine, I would open with a sentence along the lines of "a poem of mine was recently featured in...". But, even though my name appears above it on the back cover of the latest issue of Lighthouse, 'Magnetic' isn't my poem – at least not in the traditional sense.
Found poetry is a form where poets take existing text and repurpose or reframe it as a new piece of writing. The existing text might come from a newspaper article, a political speech, a piece of graffiti or even another poem, with the resulting found poem being defined as either 'treated' or 'untreated'. As an art form, there are obvious comparisons with the controversial objets trouvés of the visual arts – and, as you might expect, found poets are sometimes also accused of hiding behind the ready-made. Though I disagree that found poetry is intellectual theft on the same level as the recent Laventille fiasco, it is hard to argue against the fact that it occasionally enters the grey area that exists between appropriation and plagiarism.
When I first submitted this poem to Lighthouse for their 'writing with constraints' issue, it came with a disclaimer: Five poems found on my fridge, created by friends and friends of friends using magnetic words. Written in size 10 font just below the title, this was my attempt to give a source (and, I suppose, to distance myself from accusations of stealing), but it was sliced away – along with a small number of other flabby words and phrases – following some welcome suggestions from Lighthouse editors Julia Webb and Anna de Vaul.
For me, the joy of this particular form is finding poetry in unlikely places. Elsewhere in this issue of Lighthouse, for example, is a found poem formed from a medieval act of parliament. Like 'Magnetic', this poem – 'An Acte for the Preservation of Grayne, 1566' by Matt Howard – is untreated (as far as I can tell), but it’s also taken from an existing text that was never intended to be a poem. This is where the two poems differ, and where mine enters that aforementioned grey area.
Searching your own name on the internet is a risky move – you never know what might turn up. Maybe you'll unearth that MySpace blog you lovingly curated as an angst-ridden 15-year-old, or discover that the video of you singing karaoke at last year's office Christmas party made its way onto YouTube after all (despite the promises of your co-workers).
Before we continue, I must stress that neither of these things can be found by searching my name. The top results when you search 'Rhys Owain Williams' are pretty much all linked to either this website or to my various social media profiles (hopefully that video of me singing Breakfast at Tiffany's will never see the light of day).
So it was a nice surprise when, out of vain curiosity, I put my name into the Twitter search engine and saw this tweet from 4 days ago:
Had some pretty great news late last night – an email came through just as I was going to bed to say that one of my haiku will be included in The Haiku Calendar 2016, published by Snapshot Press.
Since 1999, Snapshot – an independent publisher specialising in English-language haiku, tanka and other short poetry – have run an annual competition to find 52 haiku to publish in their Haiku Calendar. Edited by John Barlow, each calender features haiku poets from around the world, and intends to explore and celebrate the relevance of kigo (a word or phrase associated with a particular season) in English-language haiku.
My haiku, inspired by the abandoned churchyard at Llandeilo Tal Y Bont (pictured), will appear in the month of September, which by a pleasing coincidence is the month of my birthday. Although there's still 8 months of 2015 to get through, you can pre-order your copy of the 2016 calendar now (with free delivery) for just £7.99 (UK), €14.00 (Europe) or £12.00/US$20 (Rest of the World).
Read the full competition results and adjudicator's report here: http://www.snapshotpress.co.uk/contests/thcc/results/thcc2015results.pdf
The Lampeter Review #11
A poem of mine – 'Ghazal' – has been published in Issue 11 of The Lampeter Review, the online journal of the Lampeter Creative Writing Centre (part of the University of Wales, Trinity St David).
You can read the entire issue for free by going here: lampeter-review.com/issue-11
A 'ghazal' (roughly pronounced like the English word 'guzzle') is an ancient poetic form with origins in 6th century Arabic verse. It made its way to South Asia by the 12th century, and is now most commonly found in the poetry of the Indian sub-continent. Ghazals are composed of (at least) five thematically and emotionally autonomous couplets, with the link between couplets derived from a strict rhyme and rhythm pattern, rather than a development of subject. However, my poem is a loose, Westernised (or, bastardised) version, and does not follow the strict pattern of the traditional form. Instead, I have focused solely on the poetic style of a traditional ghazal where, as the American poet Len Anderson states, "each couplet should be a poem in itself, like a pearl in a necklace."
Elesewhere in this issue of The Lampeter Review, there is a thematic focus on magic realism and the writers of Latin America, which has made for very interesting reading so far. All 10 back issues of the journal, which "promotes the best in new writing from published and unpublished authors", can also be read on The Lampeter Review's website: lampeter-review.com
Wales Book of the Month
Towards the end of last year, one of my short stories was included in A Flock of Shadows, a contemporary gothic fiction anthology from Parthian Books. The anthology was well-received at a special Halloween preview event back in October and has now, following its official release, been named as the English-language Wales Book of the Month for February 2015.
Each month, the Welsh Books Council chooses two books (English-language and Welsh-language) to be promoted in independent bookshops and Waterstones stores across Wales. The books are also available to buy directly from the Council's online bookshop (alongside many other great titles from Welsh publishers) at gwales.com
There will be a selection of readings from A Flock of Shadows at Cardiff's Chapter Arts Centre this Friday as part of a gothic variety evening ('The Wyrd Wonder Presents...an Evening of Ghastly Delight'). Unfortunately I won't be able to attend, but I definitely recommend going along if you're spending the evening in the capital, as there's also readings from the new issue of The Ghastling, which is quickly becoming one of my favourite magazines. You can find out more at the Facebook event page.
Edit: I have since found out that 'The Wyrd Wonder Presents...an Evening of Ghastly Delight' is due to take place at Chapter Arts Centre on Friday 13th March, NOT Friday 13th February as stated in the post above. Sorry for any confusion caused. The upside of this on a personal level is that I am now more likely to be able to attend.
My short story 'The Office Block' was recently selected as one of thirteen stories for Parthian's new contemporary gothic anthology A Flock of Shadows. Last week, I read an extract at a special Halloween preview event for the anthology, held at Mozart's Bar in Swansea. The event featured readings from eight of the thirteen contributors to the anthology, seven of which are pictured above (along with Rebecca Parfitt, co-editor of the anthology). Don't ask me why I look so pissed off – I was really pleased to be there!
Halloween is by far my favourite time of year (Christmas runs it close, but you can't beat a bit of pumpkin carving and a Vincent Price marathon). I've kept up the Halloween spirit this past week by regularly dipping into the anthology, and it's already been the cause of at least one restless night. A Flock of Shadows won't be available in bookshops until February next year, but it's available for pre-order directly from Parthian now: http://www.parthianbooks.com/content/flock-shadows
Photos taken by Paula R. C. Readman and Laura Piper
My short story 'The Office Block' has been selected as one of thirteen stories for Parthian's new contemporary gothic anthology A Flock of Shadows.
Returning home the next evening, Mr. Owen paused at his front gate. The office block, stained by rainwater, loomed through the mist. It interrogated him, posing questions without words. On his way to work that morning he had not been able to shake the image of it from his mind, its silent laughter echoing through his skull like footsteps on wrought iron. Something had to be done.
Edited by Claire Houguez and Rebecca Parfitt, in partnership with The Ghastling magazine, A Flock of Shadows is a response to "the namby-pampy vampires and hipster witches [of] mainstream fiction." It includes new stories from Howard Ingham, Carly Holmes, Mark Blayney, Bethany W. Pope, Laura Wilkinson, Jo Mazelis, Morgan Downie, Shirley Golden, Amanda Mason and myself.
"Between these pages, blurring the lines of good and evil, the monstrous reality and the monstrous imagine, are gothic stories for modern times. Here, buildings pursue their own malevolent intents; a grieving father and daughter receive an unexpected and grisly visitor; a man is unravelled by strange symbolism in a twilit park; and a botanist will stop at nothing to safeguard her borders."
Though the anthology won't be available in bookshops until February next year, I will be reading alongside other contributors at a special Halloween preview event at Mozart's Bar, Swansea, on Thursday 30th October (7pm), where advance copies of the book will be available to buy. Hope to see you there!