Want a story fast?

An interesting vending machine has made its debut at London’s Canary Wharf according to the company. Called the Short Story Dispenser it prints out free short stories on eco-friendly paper at the touch of a button. All you need to do is choose the length of your story, one, three or five minutes, and the dispenser will select a story for you from classic and new writers from genres such as suspense, crime, science fiction, romance, humour, fiction and children’s stories. Invented by the French company Short Édition, it was first debuted in Paris and has sites in the USA, Hong Kong and Canada.

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London Book Fair Poetry Corner

This really is a corner at LBF and sadly rather a noisy one, principally because of its proximity to coffee shops! However, this didn’t distract from the hardcore poetry lovers from perching on backless blocks or escape-proof bean bags, to enjoy a range of poetic offerings.

The first one I attended in full – I usually miss the opening because I have to dash the length of the Grand Hall to reach the event – was featuring two excellent poets, Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire reading from their new collection London Undercurrents.  Their work, which I have to say I found captivating, was inspired by the hidden histories of unsung heroines from their contrasting parts of London. 

North London based Joolz Sparkes (left) and South London based Hilaire (right) took turns reading extracts from their collection. The poems form a rich tapestry full of local colour throughout the ages combining lives north and south of the river.

Some of the poems are free verse, others have a rhyme scheme or a playful layout to emphasize a point and both poets have written contributions to each of the twelve sections of the book. Both poets have established themselves through a range of awards and published poetry.

London Undercurrents is published (March 2019) by Holland Park Press and is well worth buying for an interesting historical perspective and to hear the two distinct poetic voices.

The second event I managed to reach was Poet of the Fair Raymond Antrobus a deaf spoken-word poet. London born Raymond is the author of ‘Shapes & Disfigurements’, ‘To Sweeten Bitter’ and ‘The Perseverance’ (PBS Winter Choice, A Sunday Times & The Guardian Poetry Book Of The Year 2018). The latter is his debut book about ‘loss, contested language and praise’ a tremendous mix of humour, pathos and thought-provoking monologues.

He has an outstanding pedigree when it comes to poetry performances and published works. Hearing him speak about his early years’ experiences of being deaf and nobody realising it – a fact which comes out in his poem Echo – seems unbelievable given his creative output. He is one of the world’s first recipients of an MA in Spoken Word education from Goldsmiths University. In March he won the £5000 Ted Hughes Award for The Perseverance which ironically includes a redacted poem by Hughes, Deaf School. In this he describes how the children were ‘alert and ‘simple/ like little animals’. Antrobus deleted Hughes’s poem with thick black lines and introduced his own poem to counter the negative description.

His readings at Poetry Corner were stimulating, moving, humorous and captivating – a pleasure to listen to and talk with. Had the audience not been aware of his twin hearing aids (removed because of feedback with the handheld mic.) nobody would have been aware of his deafness. He considers ‘hard of hearing’, ‘hearing impaired’ and other attachments as negative assumptions. He is deaf but an outstanding force in poetry.

The Perseverance published by Penned in the Margins


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March & London Book Fair

The last month was a busy one in the book world and one I’m still trying to catch up with. Early in March we had World Book Day followed by the London Book Fair and a number of literary awards. From personal observation World Book Day certainly has high aims, but seems to have been hijacked, yet again, by the dressing-up brigade. The emphasis appears to be let’s find lots of costumes for the kids (swooped on retailers keen to sell them rather than books) while relegating the real aim of WBD – reading – to a lesser level. Delighted to see the school that banned fancy dress and instead encourage wearing of pyjamas to emphasise bedtime stories. Maybe next year there’ll be more books.

The London Book Fair 2019, on the other hand, certainly restored faith in the physical book. Despite all the comment about the imminent death of the printed word and the demise of the bookshop, which has now gone on for several years, it’s certainly wasn’t evident at Kensington Olympia. In fact it’s wonderful to see so many publishers from across the globe busy taking orders and discussing titles. Market Focus this year was Indonesia bringing not just its diverse publishing reputation, but a hint of its heritage and culture. This selection of a different market each year adds another fascinating dimension to the Fair.

The dates are already out for 2020. No time to waste!

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