Thursday, 13 September 2018

Invitation to Joint Book Launch

You are cordially invited to a joint book launch on Wednesday 17 October 2018, from 6.30pm at the Exchange Bar in Leicester, LE1 1RD. Everyone is welcome, and the event is free. 

The event will celebrate the launch of two new books, both published this year by Shoestring Press, and both by lecturers at the University of Leicester - Sue Dymoke and Jonathan Taylor

What They Left Behind is Sue Dymoke’s third Shoestring Press collection after Moon at the Park and Ride (2012) and The New Girls – New and Selected Poems (2004). Sue is a Reader in Education at the University of Leicester. 

Jonathan Taylor's Cassandra Complex is a collection of poems, found poems, found translations, mis-translations, prophecies, pseudo-prophecies, apocalyptic visions and moments of retroactive clairvoyance. Jonathan directs the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester.

If you are on Facebook, you can see the Facebook event here. If you would like further details about the event, please email Jonathan at the address shown on the poster above.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Two Poems By Michael Caines

Michael Caines works for the Times Literary Supplement, and is the author of Shakespeare and the Eighteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2013). Earlier this year he founded a free literary quarterly, called the Brixton Review of Books, that focuses on the work of indie presses.

Noise pollution, 1853

The Carlyles are trying to breakfast at Ramsgate, despite the cacophony:
Female fiddlers; a bagpiping soloist; others, including
A bilious barrel-organ. And at home, back at Chelsea,

A “troop of incarnate devils” ascends to the top of the building,
Tasked with constructing an attic-long refuge – an apex of silence.
Now bricklayers bash up the staircases, laden with bawdry. A ceiling

Caves in when a whistling workman, mistaking his balance,
Decants himself into the essayist’s bedroom. Sagacity suffers
While whitewashers clatter on ladders; and, dismally, Thomas’s science,

His progress through history, Jane’s correspondence and every office
Are set on their heads, like the tables and armchairs, “their legs in the air
As if in convulsions”. (A “lost” book, however, is found to be just where it was.)

At last the great work is accomplished. Carlyle retires to his lair –
And that’s when the learner next door settles down at her pianoforte.

A macaw’s interjections augment a traditional Scottish air ....

A tangerine man, right after struggling his way through Kristen Roupenian’s momentous New Yorker short story “Cat Person”, speaks

Now is the time to virtue-signal. So:
I’ve read “Caught Person”. I just know it’s great.
I really do. I love the way that – wait,
did I just read a story?!?!?!?!? How’d it go,

exactly? HUH??!!?!? I mean, just – let me know?!?!
Because: this guy’s fantastic. Just equate
his getting-what-I-want way with his date
with how I roll. Because – it’s just ... hero-

ic. In my view. At least. (I’m rich. I’m right.)
They’re FAKING IT! They’re – “Rocket Man” – so wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Like Crooked Hillary, OK? What more
could any woman want? It’s just one night!
Romantic! Stormy!!!!!!!!!!! (Weird that, all along,

she doesn’t get why she’s the whore.) The WHORE!

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

"Werner Krauss": Extract from Novel by Gareth Watts

Gareth Watts is Head of Creative Arts at Gateway College. He has written for radio, published poetry, written short stories and reviews for Fiction Uncovered. He writes for Leftlion and has a regular football column for Forza Garibaldi. His first novel Werner Krauss (Sussex Academic) was published in 2017.

The novel is a fictional account of the life of German film and theatre actor Werner Krauss,  star of the classic silent film The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. Upon gaining worldwide recognition in this film, Krauss was co-opted into the Nazi hate campaign of the 1930s and 1940s. He featured in the vicious propaganda film Jud Suss, and he was complicit in giving anti-Semitic performances onstage, most notably as Shylock in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. The novel focuses on three distinct eras in Krauss's life: the struggling, exuberant actor of the 1920s; the philandering pragmatist of the 1930s; and the elderly, neurotic outcast of the 1940s. Despite his honourable intentions, Krauss was all-too-often undermined by his inability to say 'no' to women, alcohol and the egregious Joseph Goebbels. In this fictional re-imagining of his life, Krauss's motives and decisions are explored in an attempt to discover why he collaborated with the Nazis in the way that he did, as well as demonstrating the personal and political consequences of his actions. Krauss's story is part of the wider story of the role of the arts and media in Nazi Germany. Extensively researched, including contemporary news stories, archived film material, critical essays on Krauss and translated passages from his autobiography, Das Schauspiel Meines Lebens, this fictional reconstruction of Krauss's life and career is preceded by a substantive Introduction by the author, setting the novel in the context of the genre of Holocaust fiction, emulating and reminiscent of Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin and Thomas Keneally's Schindler's Ark

Extract from the novel, Werner Krauss


But how to communicate with the future?

Lifting the collar of his overcoat, Werner Krauss ducked his head and walked quickly. Each step seemed to mimic the pace of his heart. Why was he doing this? He was a free man, after all.

On waking that morning, he’d ambled into the kitchen of his Stuttgart residence and taken a bottle of Asbach Uralt from the cupboard. Grabbing a dirty wine glass from the draining-board, he poured carelessly, overflowing the stemmed glass. Preparing himself for a shock, he gulped it down. Tears rolled from his eyes, but he resisted the urge to vomit. He took a cigarette from the box which had been to bed with him, and, with an unsteady hand, placed it in his mouth. Sinking to his knees, he lit it using the gas flame of the oven hob, which had been burning all night. He stole an hour of sleep, there on the kitchen floor, with the cigarette butt still in his mouth. Waking with a start, he dressed thoughtlessly, and, realising he was too late to arrange a ride, headed for the court on foot.

For months he had been preparing for this day – memorising anecdotes about a compassionate, sensitive man. But these monologues now seemed to be slipping away, and all he could think of was his sore ankle.

As the State Court building came into view, so too did the sizeable and angry crowd.

‘There he is – traitor, TRAITOR!’

The noise grew, and individual insults rang out.

‘Fascist …’

‘Hitler’s friend, he was Hitler’s friend!’ – a Jew, unmistakably.


That last one echoed in his ear. His cheeks burned. As the crowd got closer, Werner noticed there was no sign of the special security that he had requested. His name obviously didn’t carry the same weight in Stuttgart as it had before. He swallowed hard, and started to run, or rather, limp, at the crowd, head-on. He fought his way through, almost reaching the court door, and relative safety. Then, a placard bearing the words NAZI COWARD crashed down on his forehead. He fell to the ground amid kicks, punches and insults.

Sat now in the corridor outside the courtroom, he gazed at a grey wall for some time, trying to piece together the speech in his mind, and forget the morning’s unexpected nightmare. He reached into his jacket for a notebook and pen. Wanting to commit words to the page, he would remind himself of his humanity:

Somewhere, there is salvation. A place to feel alive even when they line the streets, calling for your death …

Werner knew he was exaggerating, but for a moment at least he enjoyed the melodrama and continued to dwell on the ‘tragedy’ of his situation:

… I am not a murderer and yet they try me like one. They want me dead as an example to all. In the pages of the pauper-press I am demonised for doing my duty, performing my tasks, being true and being artistic. Hath a Jew not eyes?

He smiled as he scrawled that last question mark. For a moment he considered incorporating these notes in his memoirs. ‘It could be included in the prologue,’ he thought.

He tore the page from his notebook and put it into his pocket. He must be careful not to allow his sense of humour to be used against him. Fear started to grip the face of the man who had worn so  many masks. Being nervous was natural though, he decided, and the court must not suspect a performance – they must see a human - a man, not an actor. He should talk only of circumstance, of coincidence. He could talk about Maria. He could talk about his son.

With those thoughts in mind, Werner was led into the courtroom and asked to confirm his name. The presiding officer was a young, slither of a man who hid behind a pair of spectacles. This infuriated Werner. ‘Where were you in the Weimar years?’ he wanted to shout. He fantasised about smashing this man’s spectacles into his face, using a nearby chair. At least then, he thought, he could have a reason for remorse, a reason to be tried. 

Werner let out a quiet, though not inaudible, belch. The brandy was rising from his stomach and he felt sick. But he could not leave the courtroom and attract more attention. He swallowed hard, and tried to concentrate on the question the presiding officer had begun to ask: 'Herr Krauss, how would you define your role in Hitler’s Reich?'

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Two Poems by Roy Marshall

Roy Marshall
After writing poems and songs as a child and teenager, Roy began writing poems again in his late thirties. A pamphlet, Gopagilla,  was published in 2012 and received favourable reviews in the TLS and elsewhere. His first full collection The Sun Bathers (Shoestring Press, 2013) was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy award, and a second collection The Great Animator appeared in 2017. Previously a nurse, Roy lives in Leicestershire where he works in adult education. He sometimes blogs at     

Michael Phelps Versus the Great White  

It is hard to get a shark to swim straight, 
so the crew speed off with a baited line. 
Michael waits his turn, a spring-loaded fin 
strapped to his back. He watches the monitors 
where his opponent shimmies after the lure. 

How beautiful, he thinks, remembering 
a Beijing menu that listed shark fin soup. 
At school, he too became prey, with his jug ears 
and an easily mimicked lisp. One report card read 
‘can’t sit still, can't be quiet, can’t concentrate.’

Michael pulls on huge flippers; this is one race 
he knows he can never win. He regulates 
his breathing, thinks of the money, of how 
if a shark stops swimming it dies.   

First published in Strix, summer 2018 

The Shapeshifter’s Courtship  

When he was fish, she became otter. 
She changed into oak, he, woodpecker. 
He shifted to wheat, she cleaved into furrow. 
She thinned into leaf, he thrilled as a breeze. 
He fell as blood, she received him as sand. 
She flitted into songbird, he soared as hawk. 
He rolled into rock, she clung as moss. 
She rose as full moon, he became the drawn tide. 
He changed into a mirror, she, a stone in flight.

First published in Coast to Coast to Coast, summer 2018  

Friday, 24 August 2018

"Coplowdale": Poem by Lauren Foster


It’s warm in there. Sometimes it steams.
I’ve heard it said, on occasion they
spontaneously combust, but for now 
it hosts a family of hares: a central-
heated, albeit pungent, winter abode. 
I don’t see them in there, but in the stony 
fields, fit otherwise only for sheep 
and sometimes the horses, free to wander 
as far as Twigg’s land. Then, we have to go 
fetch them, trudge through muddied gateways,
past buckled walls, down and up Intake 
Dale to where the cowslips grow in Spring. 
Lorries trundle from and to the quarry. 
Once, I heard of a tailback. Glynn, on a
downwards swing lay across the lane, a sign 
by his side read: Please run me over. Isabel 
gave up after decades, left for an old folk’s 
bungalow down in Bradwell, by the brook. 
Can’t have made much, the farm full of cars 
rather than cows. One day, someone’ll be 
overjoyed to find a nineteen fifties 
Hillman, rusted chassis half buried 
by a derelict barn. It’s a harsh life, but on a
full moon you’d hear Glynn’s luxuriant 
baritone resonate against the stars.

About the author
Lauren Foster is a student on the MA in Creative Writing. 'Coplowdale' received an honourable mention in the GS Fraser Prize 2018. Photograph by By Roger May.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

"Sparrow": Short Story by Nora Nadjarian

Nora Nadjarian is an award-winning Cypriot poet and writer. She has been cited or published in the Guardian, the Irish Times and the Telegraph and has also won prizes and commendations in international competitions, including the Commonwealth Short Story Competition, the Féile Filíochta International Poetry Competition, the Binnacle International Ultra-Short Competition and the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Prize. Her work deals with the themes of women, refugees, identity, exile, love and loss, as well as the political situation in Cyprus. Best known in Cyprus for her book of short stories Ledra Street (2006), she has had poetry and short fiction published internationally. Her work was included in A River of Stories, an anthology of tales and poems from across the Commonwealth, illustrated by Jan Pieńkowski, Best European Fiction 2011 (Dalkey Archive Press), Being Human (Bloodaxe Books, 2011) and Capitals (Bloomsbury, 2017). Her latest books are the collections of short stories Selfie (Roman Books, 2017) and Girl, Wolf, Bones (Armida, 2017). The author Anjali Joseph has said of her work:  ‘Nora Nadjarian’s distilled short stories are abrupt and intense, as invigorating and aromatic as a double shot of literary espresso.’ Selfie and Other Stories is published by Roman Books, as part of the Stretto Fiction Series. 


My sister said she was carrying a bird inside her, a bird which would soon be drinking water out of her navel. I wasn’t supposed to say anything about it. To anyone. 

“I am a cage,” said my sister. “Inside me I keep secrets, inside me I keep a bird.” And she laughed and I laughed, too. We laughed until we no longer remembered what we were laughing about.

“His name is Sparrow,” she said one day.  “He’s only little now, as tiny as a seed – but he’ll grow and grow, you’ll see. And then I’ll set him free.” She placed her hand on her stomach and her mouth curved upwards, as if she were smiling at another world in the mirror.

I couldn’t wait. Time was too still, it was taking too long. I squinted into the future. “When?” I kept asking. “When, when, when?” My sister looked luminous as she replied: “Soon, soon, soon.” She said he was practising a song for us. “He’ll sing it so well that he will astonish us all.”

Time passed. I rode my bike and I skipped and whistled and played and waited. Sparrow was going to be my small gift for keeping my sister’s secret. The air grew heady and my sister soft and heavy, like ripening fruit. When she fluttered her eyelids, I thought she was dreaming with her eyes open. 

It was the longest summer. My sister turned sixteen. She wore a long, flowery dress, put her hair up in a ponytail. There were sixteen pink and red balloons bobbing around her head that hot, sticky afternoon of cake, cellophane and candles. My mother spoke loudly and happily about nothing and everything, my stepfather handed my sister the knife, helped her cut the cake. Then she said: I have an announcement to make. 

And the world stops there, a sharp intake of breath.

I squint into the past now for details, terrified of what I might remember. The sky is a dazzling blue, the earth hot, sweaty. I am pregnant, says my sister. She wears a necklace of grapes with which she will feed Sparrow. She performs her own birthday song beautifully, she sings her heart out – until her throat is chalk dry and her ribcage breaks. There are feathers everywhere. I run to pick them up as the balloons pop one after the other, leaving sixteen pieces of rubbery flesh on the floor, things torn and shapeless, parts of my sister which will never again be whole.  

I sit beside her and ask if it hurts. She whispers: “Truth always hurts.” Then there is a sudden, white silence which reminds me, years later, that she is no longer here. 

Sunday, 29 July 2018

A Day at Lowdham Book Festival, by Rosalind Rustom

The Lowdham Book Festival is a yearly event that takes place in the village of Lowdham just outside Nottingham, and as of 2018 has been running for nineteen years. This year, the event took place from Tuesday 19th to Saturday 30th June, and I travelled to Lowdham to attend the last day of the festival.

The locations for the talks were spread around Lowdham, the main hub of the festival being in the village hall. Here, there was the opportunity to buy books at a collection of stalls which showcased the work of authors talking at the festival, as well as tables to sit and enjoy food from the café. In the gardens outside the hall, there were marquees for the talks as well as areas for further book stalls.

I started my day by attending a talk titled ‘New Irish Writing’, which was given by Deirdre O’Bryne, a lecturer at Loughborough University and an expert in Irish literature. She discussed the new voices in Irish writing and the use of experimentation in terms of form and content. O’Byrne focused on the work of authors such as Louise O’Neill, Sara Baume, Sally Rooney and Eimear McBride, and led an entertaining and stimulating discussion concerning the topic of identity in Irish literature. 

Next, I attended 'The Shoestring Poetry Hour,' which was led by poetry publisher John Lucas and showcased the work of Roy Marshall and Jonathan Taylor. Roy Marshall gave a reading of a selection of his new and older poems, and explained that some were inspired from his work within hospitals in Leicester. Thus, many contained themes of illness and mortality, and Marshall’s readings gave the poems an enhanced harrowing undertone. Following this, Jonathan Taylor read a selection of poems from his new collection Cassandra Complex. Jonathan read a mixture of amusing as well as darker poems, which the audience enjoyed and resonated with them.

Lastly, I attended a talk titled ‘Crime fiction,’ which was led by Roz Watkins following the publication of her debut crime novel Devil’s Dice. Watkins briefly spoke about the novel and the inspiration of the Peak District in the setting for the novel, but more focused her talk on her personal struggles and obsessions with writing what she saw as a ‘publishable book,’ detailing her journey into the publishing world. She discussed her insecurities in her writing,  tackling negative reviews, and the life of writing as a job. This made for a very interesting and personal talk, and resonated with the audience, leading to many further questions that were posed during the Q&A section of the event. 

I had a lovely day at Lowdham Book Festival and thoroughly enjoyed the variety of talks that took place over the day. The event was well organised and a friendly atmosphere was clear across the festival, due to the passionate and engaged audience members as well as the many authors who took time to give talks or showcase their work. 

About the author
Rosalind Rustom is a recent graduate from the University of Leicester with a degree in English and American Studies, with a particular interest in fantasy fiction.