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Join the search for Erik the Red this November!

November 2017 will see us launch our second caper!
In Looking for Erik  Alexandra Fitzsimmons follows tenth century Viking, Erik the Red, from Norway to Greenland via Iceland and the odd unexpected dip in a fjord.Outlaw, settler of new lands, and – perhaps literally – legend, Erik is not an easy man to catch up with. Join Alexandra to discover whether he existed, if she found him, and what she learnt about herself along the way.

Read an extract below. And watch this space for details of the launch!

There’s a shriek. I turn towards it and catch a twisting flash of white before I duck – a bird is diving straight for my face. Pulling up my hood, I turn and run. I dodge round tussocks, curse my heavy boots, and stumble. Now I have no more breath. I slow, then stop.

Right here, they threw Erik out of the country.

I sit down on a stone and breathe. Then I look up, and try, as I’ve tried so many times today, to imagine myself back a thousand years. The same hills, rising in the distance. The same colours – dull greens, mossy browns. The same sound of water lapping at the edge of the fjord.

I’m still nervous about that bird. It’s the story of this trip – each time I get close to Erik, something chases me off.  I push down my hood and listen.

Just wind, and water, and a sheep, far off.

And now there are longboats in the fjord, ponies grazing, people gathering in judgement. Politicians. Poets. Farmers. Priests. An angry discussion. A judgement. The creation of an outlaw.

And a thousand years later, me – looking for that outlaw, looking, for reasons I still haven’t completely understood, for Erik.

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Lift Off! 24 November 2016

caperpress_header

We are excited to announce that the Caper Press will be launching itself on the world on November 24th. Come and join us to celebrate from 7pm upstairs at Canal 125, 125 Caledonian Road.

There will be readings by our three founder authors, Drew CarrAlexandra Fitzsimmons and Sophie Smith (aka me), the chance to buy a copy of the Caper Press’s very first book, Not all, but most, music from DJ Mr Dan Savage, dancing and more. It would be great to see you there!

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On ‘History and Futures – Greek Poetry and Writing in a Crisis’

FullSizeRender-1 (1)The Caper Press was at the Poetry Library yesterday for History and Futures – Greek Poetry And Writing A Crisis, organised by Penned in the Margins. You can check out some of our live tweeting here.

The event demonstrated the power of poems, poets and poetry  to respond to our times. The chair (Tom Chivers) and the poets (George Ttoouli, Theodoros Chiotis, Natalie Katsou) came equipped with thoughtful questions and nuanced reflections on tradition and continuity in Greek poetry, life in Greece today and the meaning of the word ‘crisis’. There were also some wonderful poems. The whole made for a meaningful, considered and sometimes surprising exploration of where we are right now.

Unpacking the word ‘crisis’ really resonated for me. ‘Crisis’ has become a constant over the past few years and I realised that it is a long time since I reflected on what it means. As Natalie Katsous said, ‘crisis’ suggests the short term and holds the promise, or at least the hope, of resolution. She believes the economic situation in Greece can no longer be called a crisis; it has become the ‘environment’ that the Greeks inhabit. And what of the refugee crisis or consequences of Brexit, or terrorism? When does a crisis become normality?

Crisis also suggests, or causes, interruptions. The poets discussed how the economic crisis in Greece brought new interruptions into people’s daily lives. Someone might be on the way to work on an ordinary day before being thwarted by a riot or demonstration. George Ttoouli described island roads carpeted with rotting fruit when the EU stopped subsidies for oranges. It seemed that such interruptions have now become part of the day-to-day.

When will Brexit and its political repercussions go the same way, becoming a permanent interruption to the status quo? We are surely still in the first throes of the interruption phase. The poets drew parallels between the impact of Brexit and the Greek economic crisis. Natalie Katsous likened the question ‘How are things there, after Brexit?’ to the questions she was asked in the immediate aftermath of the Greek economic crisis. And she observed that the answer is the same: it is still far too early to tell.

We’ve heard about the racist comments and vandalism that followed the referendum. But I haven’t noticed any political graffiti of the kind the poets described seeing in Athens, which was characterised by Natalie as a ‘live Facebook page that people can’t scroll down’. We do not have the same graffiti culture, ‘street art’ is apparently a new thing in Greece, their graffiti is of a different sort.

As the poets said however, the poetic responses to the Greek crisis have taken longer to formulate than the political reactions scrawled on walls.  It made me wonder what poetry is being written here to capture the uncertain state we’re in. Maybe we will see poems emerge in the coming months and years. I imagine Tom Chivers and Penned in the Margins will know when they do.

The audience questions too were thoughtful, and evidenced the importance of cross-cultural / cross-border evenings and publications like these to help us all see past doom-laden headlines. Though the poets weren’t particularly optimistic about Greece’s ‘futures’ even when one audience member asked ‘what are the positive aspects of this new normal?’

The enduring positive I will take away is the will of poets, publishers and readers to grasp for a deeper understanding of what we’re living through. As Theodoros Chiotis said ‘Poetry is always in crisis, that is the idea!’

Venue: The Poetry Library, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London

Poets: George Ttoouli, Theodoros Chiotis, Natalie Katsou

Chair: Tom Chivers, Penned in the Margins

 

 

 

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On The Caper Press

My longstanding project to self-publish a collection of my poems rumbles on. Progress has been made, in the form of buying ISBN numbers.  And since you can only buy them ten at a time, I thought why not aim higher than only publishing my poems.

capers2

I’m not taking it all too seriously though, hence the name. But do watch this space for news of upcoming publications all the same. Caper: ‘playful skip or leap2. high-spirited escapade 3. See cut a caper‘  (www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/caper

Also a delicious addition to pasta sauces and fish dishes. What’s not to love?

capers2

 

 

 

 

 

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On meeting someone with the same signature 

Sally Smith

I stared at the register in consternation. Can this be?  Seriously? That someone has the same — the very same! — signature as me. (Save for her flourish over the ‘i’ to my squiggle through the ‘t’.) It’s uncanny. Three months on and I’m off to meet her at the railway station. Hmmm. I wonder: should I have taken a precaution, and hidden my banking information?

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On internet dating

Soulmatch

We’ve turned the romance down a fraction.
Is there much anticipation? Hardly —
online love’s a bit of a transaction.

He asks me to dinner, I choose coffee.
His messages aren’t dim, I might like him.
Still, I’ll turn the romance down a fraction —

it’s quite likely that, in person, we’ll see
that our written rapport is far too slim.
Luckily online love’s a transaction

and I can later block him, or he me;
we’ll move on with a smile, and wit and vim,
redirecting the romance a fraction.

Since we each have to pay that monthly fee
like veg box subscriptions or the gym,
online love is basically a transaction.

Could this be real attraction? Surely that’s free.
Oh damn those six months I bought on a whim.
It’s time to turn the romance down a fraction,
for the sake of those future transactions.

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On life being confusing as a child

Glimpses

I see her
being stung by the bumble bee
on the windowsill she
was told not to play with.
Then chicken pox, being sick.
Drinking warm water to fix her tummy –
really mummy?

Shutting the door to her room
to keep the monsters out.
Waking up in the night to find
her parents not about
and the lady next door there instead.
That little boy at nursery
slapping play-dough
over one eye: I’m a pirate!

Scrambling over the wall towards
the field at the bottom of the garden.
In her red shorts,  J’ai pas d’culotte
Led back into the house,
getting dressed not quite mastered yet.

The swings at bluebell time:
a neighbour with long curly hair
and armfuls full of them. Was it legal then?

Louise and her red wellies.
Being allowed in the tractor.
Winnie the Pooh on the radio, sat
at the table near the window
site of that bee attack.

Mousey the pony trotting off
with a shrieking cousin on his back.
First school day, at lunch,
assigned to an older girl:
    Would you like seconds?
I remember
my confused look at the clock.

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Revisiting ‘Switching off the news’

Thank you to BBC News Magazine for a fascinating piece on the volunteer doctors currently saving lives in Greece. See it here.

It reminded me of this, which I wrote in early 2012, in response to the endless news reports about the Greek economy that I kept waking up to (more fool me for my choice of alarm clock radio station).

To be clear (dangerous and difficult where poems are concerned), I am not belittling the situation of those suffering the consequences of austerity in Greece, rather I am raising an eyebrow at the system that makes it so.

So:

Switching off the news*

I don’t know what they’re thinking
when they say that Greece is sinking.
All those commentators complaining
about people who are marching
would do better to check the satellite imaging
to see if it’s still there.

So I don’t know what they’re thinking
when they say that Greece is sinking:
take a flight over Athens at night
and you’ll see its lights a-twinkling.
It is definitely still there.

No I don’t know what they’re thinking
when they say that Greece is sinking;
yes the economy is bleeding
and those on gardening leave, weeding.
But ask any geologist & they’ll tell you
its landmass isn’t going anywhere
fast.

*The title is inspired by a Wendy Cope poem called ‘Unbearable or Things that make me switch the radio off’.

And yes, I have now switched station to wake up to.

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Barbourimp

Twitter chat between @textworkshop and @Event_Comm reminded me of this poem I submitted to English PEN’s made up words competition last year.

Barbourimp

Barboured and booted against another wet day,
chatty and helpful he led us away.
He pointed to a landmark we’d already seen
on a part of the walk where we’d only just been.
A mile or so darker our footsteps (re)traced
the consequences of good sense, sadly misplaced.
All because we couldn’t quite make ourselves say
how we weren’t quite sure this was quite the right way.

 

Suggested definitions of Barbourimp welcome!