Jazz By Numbers

Jazz is
Searching for the means
To be free.

It is unexpected.
Doing the opposite
Of what they try to teach

Jazz is
Discarded as rubbish
By those who know better
Only to be retrieved
And studied by those same
Once the fire has cooled

Jazz is
It is now.

Jazz is
It is emotion and sound
Leaping off the precipice of
l'instant present
Into the unknowable chasm
Of the l'instant prochain

Cannot be tied down
It is not
What you want it to be.

Jazz isn't
And not the ossified
Pronouncements of excess study

Jazz can't be caught

Jazz is quicksilver;

Jazz is
The dancer
Not the photograph of the dancer

Jazz is
An expression of existential humanity

Jazz was heard
in the inner ear of
of Sartre
of Kant

Jazz is
and will always
Slip the binds
You create for it.

Jazz is
Which has found a way
To be free.

Peter Johnson

Festival Square By Night

I dance under lampshades
Order doubles, speak in riddles
I escaped the rabbit hole;
Turned out to be void
Of any surreality.

Words of nonsense -
Profound wisdom
I scribble as I hustle through time
Escaping the glass houses near by
In favour of white tents
In a blur of lights again.

Ropes like vine entangle
People mesmerised, they climb
Everyone’s head in this jungle
Chasing some old high.

Old local mythology, plays out nostalgia
It’s not for you and I
Neither of us are from here
But dancing becomes us
So I script us two small parts
As extras in Manchester’s 90s music scene.

Neither of us are from here
But dancing becomes us
Arms outreached to the paper planetarium above
Open to the idea of each other.

Elspeth Vischer

James Giddings

James Giddings, graduate of the Sheffield Hallam MA Writing programme and recent recipient of a Northern Writers’ Award, had a nomadic childhood, growing up in South Africa, the US and Lincolnshire. Al McClimens tracked him down to the suitably bohemian confines of Nether Edge's Café #9, where they talked poetry and performance before James had to go and shoot some hoops.

When did you first start to take writing seriously?

Probably not until the last year of my Creative Writing degree. I think I chose the course as a bit of a punt really. I didn't read much when I was younger, so in some sense, it was a strange choice for me.

So a relatively late start in literature then?

Yes, I was never interested in books. I played a lot of Mega Drive and PlayStation and hung out with friends, causing very mild trouble in Lincolnshire. But I enjoyed English at school, or the writing elements anyway. There was freedom in being creative and imaginative. I never enjoyed school or learning so much, not sure why. By the time I got to Hallam, maybe I grew up. I understood the value of knowledge more and the benefits it brings. 

Any other interests that preceded this?

Before that I had started a Sports and Exercise Science degree in Leeds, but I dropped out, went home for a bit to work and find out what I wanted to do with myself. Then I applied to a few other places. I wanted to go to Nottingham, but didn't get in, and Sheffield was my backup. I'm glad Nottingham rejected me though, because it's all worked out.

The degree was useful then?

Possibly more valuable than the degree itself was getting involved with The Writing Squad. They’re a good bunch of people. Steve Dearden and Danny Broderick who run it both helped with the professional aspect of writing. Without them I wouldn’t have got the experience I have now. As a development programme for young writers aged 16-21, it came at the right time. I’m pretty sure I just sneaked in.

Remember John Keats died aged 25.

Thanks. I'm 25 this year.

And who were the early poetic influences?

Simon Armitage's collection, Kid. He was the gateway poet. It was funny and interesting, with a lot of musicality, so it was easy to begin there. And on some level I must’ve thought, 'Yeah, I’ll give that a go’.

The only other poetry I was exposed to was in music. Mainly rap music - Tupac, Eminem, Kanye West. They were great. And as a kid with no street cred I may have listened to Shania Twain and, dare I say, Britney Spears. I regret nothing.

And what are you into now?

I'm into whatever. Mainly contemporary stuff. I’ve just ordered Adam O'Roirdan’s In the Flesh, and recently finished Andrew McMillan's collection,Physical. It’s both exquisite and unapologetic, like making love at a black tie dinner on the freshly lain cutlery. I can’t get enough of Emily Berry and Liz Berry either. The poetry world should be full of Berrys. I’m also very much looking forward to reading Jack Underwood's Happiness. These are the sort of poets who make me want to write and give up all at once.

And you recently won a Northern Writers Award. What difference will that make?

Hopefully lots. It was lovely. It made me feel more like I was a poet. I’d been getting professional work, doing workshops or events and that makes you feel valued, and then this came along and again it's validation, proof that maybe you're not so bad and maybe people will want to read your work at some point. I guess it's a start. They're saying, 'You're a new poet, let's do something’. And if nothing else, it will keep me in poet mode. I’d get too comfy otherwise. Staying close to writing and other writers, it rubs off, and I get the itch to keep producing work.

So what next?

I'm just writing poems, hoping there’s a collection in there somewhere. I think I’ve got enough good poems to put a pamphlet together, but I'm in no rush. I want to get more stuff in magazines and then maybe a book later. Buy hey, if publishers want to wine and dine me and seduce me into a book deal, I won’t fight too hard.

Other than that, I'm always looking to get involved with things. So if anybody out there has any offers, I'll listen. It’s not always easy to make a living off being a poet, but it’s often much more fun.


Al Mclimens

Our Love Shares

dropped three points in the market, nosedived
into the negatives and tried to bounce back
by trading small commodities like breakfast in bed
or doing the hoovering. We had to sell while stock
was low because who knows when love
will come good again; it could peak around Christmas
with the angels and tinsel, but go bust by New Year’s,
plummet in disco-ball-sadness when the lights
are turned out and all that’s reflected is darkness.

Your love went to a turnip farmer with sturdy
ankles, the back of a bullock; he could pull a plough
the whole length of a field and never break a sweat.
His love gets subsidised by the government. My love
went into crafts, built a life size model of your love
out of matchsticks, pipe cleaners and PVA glue. My love
went bankrupt selling conceptual self-portraits at car boots.
My love moved to Scotland to live with hippies, created
an annual festival celebrating your burning effigy.

James Giddings
Previously published in The Interpreter’s House #59