Four independent presses have made the shortlist for the Polari First Book Prize, with the winner receiving a £1,000 prize for the first time.
Indie presses Salt, Wandering Star Press, Limehouse Books and Flap are on the shortlist and Transworld has also secured a nomination.
The prize, now in its fifth year, is worth £1,000 for the first time, courtesy of Square Peg Media. The shortlist comprises: The Frost Fairs by John McCullogh (Salt); Ey Up and Away by Vicky Ryder (Wandering Star Press); Becoming Nancy by Terry Ronald (Transworld); Exit Through The Wound by North Morgan (Limehouse Books); and Modern Love by Max Wallis (Flap)
Paul Burston, chair of the judges, said: “This is a really strong short list which reflects the diversity of LGBT literary voices … The judges would like to congratulate the five shortlisted writers and would also like to thank Linda Riley of Square Peg Media for her generous support in celebrating the inventiveness, distinctiveness and excellence of the very
best of queer writing”.
The winner will be announced on 26th November.
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I can’t go anywhere without breaking something he owns.
Last month it was only small things, the Polaroid camera
dropped mid-flash. The gaudy lamp in two pieces
like a melon lopped in half. Last week it was his suitcase
on the Underground at Old Street. Clunked down an escalator,
handle snapped clean off as I flustered down the metal steps,
weaving Sorry, Sorry, past vacant commuters.
I carried the insides home, presented them like a dejected cat
with a vole, said Sorry (again). I wonder if I dare
have something of him close at all times, something
I don’t want to break, or have topple down a lift shaft,
when I’m not looking.
As in those slow moments before sunrise
when the world is at consummate pitch.
The tone of the sky a deep blue.
Soaked denim in a water fight.
Sure, there are loud times. But let’s focus
on the calm of lying beneath a rising sun
taking everything in, holding onto
that last dew on the grass as though
we will never experience it again.
This poem was commissioned by Anthony Adler for a new anthology based on the Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year. Basically we chose one of the odd titles from this list and tried to write poems based on them. It’s an interesting process because it makes you work backwards as a poet.
I’m back again, but with a different approach. My life’s more packed these days than in 2010 when I first set out to focus on writing every day. Now I’ve got a dissertation of poems to polish up for my masters degree; castings to go to for modelling purposes; shoots to attend for money and projects to apply for with the Arts Council. So here are some rules, I’m to abide by, in simple bullet form:
- I have to upload something every weekday. The weekend is a grey-area. Most of the time there won’t be posts then.
- ‘something’ includes videos, images and the like. For the most part it will be poetry.
- Most of the work that I upload will be in draft-form. They aren’t final.
- And, well, that’s it. Simples.
It’s the Olympics. The stadium is behind our flat, quite a while a way. The other night we were woken up with what sounded like artillery fire.
Thanks again, Tumblr.
I – Present
I slip into your life as easy as I fit your clothes. Day one, you pretend to use a company credit card to pay for my drinks when really you are eating into more debt. I smash a wineglass as we wake your flatmate (later, my friend) with our loud shouts and conversation. Day two, you wake me with stem-ginger chocolates and a kiss that means I love you backwards through time. We eat wagyu steak for brunch. Day three, you ask me to move in with you and blinking, silent, I nod (three times) and kiss you with every dream I have ever bothered to dream.
II – Past
A messy bedroom, unwashed plates, a mound of unread books and a city in which I did not feel at home. Long hours spent in Café Nero as I waited for my ex to walk by. I traced names on dusty surfaces. Planted greasy hands on car bonnets thick with snow at Christmas and tried to find another’s to call my own in the slow grope in clubs and student bedrooms. At night, when the sky turned that shade of dark, I smoked cigarettes at my desk and wanked to men, hunched over, and tried to imagine which one might resemble you. My other half, the hammer inside a ringing bell.
III – Future
It might be hard. There is no reason to lie or think otherwise when deciphering the future in cum stains and the stubble that clogs the sink on a Monday morning. There will be times when we wake up, see each other asleep and instead of smiling at the way we twitch our nose, mouth, whatever, will want to turn our backs and fall asleep to dream of other lives. Fantasy is the main delight of comfort. Of course, there will be other days. When the wind shakes the flat and the cold rain reminds us of our anniversary. When you call in sick, ignore your chirping inbox and instead, we read trashy novels to each other. Eat an endless amount of courgette cake. Do not think about our waistlines. When we enjoy one another’s company as though it is our first hour together, that night in Covent Garden, and ask each other hundreds of questions and answer them all.
Through logged skies and airports
we are completely apart
except for the same digits on our clocks,
that shared time.
You are a chicken on a pole, slowly roasted.
I am clouds. Dazed. Mostly mist
as I float around London
without anything to stabilise me.
So I look at eel shops. Try to decide whether it’s worth
two-hundred-quid to rent for your birthday.
You eat basil ice cream in a restaurant; overlook children
playing in dust and sand. Make friends with strange people
from Essex who do not believe you come from Stoke
your accent so posh, your job: important. “A Writer?”
Tonight I sit in England and scry your name in leaves,
branches. It’s urban palmistry. Headlights are your eyes.
In Portugal your mother asks about your girlfriend.
In London, our friends order drugs for the weekend
and I start to wash the walls, paint white over magnolia.
London is all brick and hidden lives. The call at night
of late buses blaring at kids who smoke, hack coughs,
puke up on their feet while eying each other up
always in pursuit of their next, nearest, fuck.
I wonder if we will grow up. Forget
the satisfaction gained from the chase, the dizziness
of booze-filled lives. If we’ll ever lie back on a stone wall
watch a satellite disintegrate in the atmosphere
and think okay, yes, that’s enough.
Modern love is not told in paper
but the pixels in a face trapped
and peering out, bound in comments,
tagged with us. Click, see friendship,
it is you and I, December, ‘in a relationship’,
flicking between pictures
from when we first met.
Forty-three people have liked
our solid-state love. Kiss kiss.
Heart heart. Smiley face.
Facebook is like a photo album
for the mind and more forgetful.
It collects what we do not.
In March we shift to, ‘it’s complicated’.
(Acquaintances, not friends,
the people there to bolster numbers
and educate in networking, click
It always ends.
we are ‘single’.
Facebook has updated but we are still
in this state;
you find three messages from a boy
that has been in my head for two months.
Spend our days stalking
clicking through the photos of each other
that now hold alien men where once
we were two halves of mussel shells.
as salt dough to sweet.
We send niceties. Discuss politics. Say hello.
Someone finds an old disposable camera
from a trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach,
they upload it and tag us,
kissing with rock between our mouths
like lady and the tramp, but trampier.
You can trace the history
of real life, of us, of ourness
through MySQL databases,
notes, see friendship, click,
like, click, love,
click, love. Click, account.
An unwashed plate; we break two glasses half-emptied with wine and our Rioja stained mouths; time washes us in seconds that turn to days. Sunday, night; I sleep with my back turned to breath-sounds and the noise of silence. A hand curls around my hipbone; I shift away, a visitor in my quilts and the guilt of not-knowing-why. Head drums a beat of no, no, no. We do not make love. You try, and I insist. My mind is a curled up rosebud retreating. “There is nothing to be stressed about.” Instead say: Why are you stressed? What’s wrong? I’m sorry. It’s okay. I love you.
A power cut, two half-baked smiles and the knowing silence of regret. Dark, dark as the grime soaked tray in your hands, charred peppers and too-fried onions. You are in the kitchen. Outside the world is a lacquered painting and running away. Water drips the pine tree across the pane and road. Drum. Drum. Drum-beats the glass. Inside the kettle stops its boiling midway and his face is covered in dropping tears. You are failing to make words form through a twisted out-of-batteries tongue. He closes his eyes and tries to hide his pain with what you have done. Wring your hands but still no verbs leap to lips. All you can presume is that there are no words left to say.
Leave the kitchen and slip into his bed fully clothed. Pretend to sleep. In the morning the rains and tears stop and dry you lie in bed broken by before. When the world shudders back to life and a sharp light switches on, your eyes turn with purple outlines of a haze. Groan. A few moments pass and in the kitchen hear the kettle begin again. He does not say a word. Relieve him of the silence. Creak. Leave before it boils.
A final glance. Sigh as the door slams a wooden tongue. Do not look back as dawn carries her torch across the sky; he will stay. Tarmac claps footsteps toward day and then, within, something out loud to the world that he will never hear; ‘I am sorry, you know.’
Wake in the morning and weigh your heart
against hangover scales and remnant palms.
Do not wash to hold him against your skin
sigh and feel the weight of everything …
As another comes with blue-eyed guilt, bed
dressed in morning grubbery in your mind,
hear his nonsense sounds and taste, smell,
feel the reek of his five a.m. breath. Kiss
let the image shift, ripple, flex, awash again
with dew-dawn, on a cliff looking out at sea
as two bodies bring in the sun and sink
inside, retreat your hands behind your ribcage
with fear and text, text your other-love
with furious hands as though he can tell
through satellites and instant-time
what you have done. Give him extra kisses.
When he replies with just one,
give him none.