Matthew Welton

Matthew Welton We Needed Coffee but...

Matthew Welton’s poetry first appeared in magazines, and alongside a number of Faber poets in their shortlived Faber Firsts. These poems and more formed his first collection,
“The Book of Matthew” from Carcanet. Well-known within the Manchester poetry scene, the collection only told half the story, as his mesmerising live performances, with all poems read from memory, and frequently including games, cover versions and, more recently, live sampling, have always taken the “poetry reading” in a different direction. Though not a prolific poet, his second collection, “We needed coffee…” (an abbreviation of it’s typically long title) collected not just new poems but collaborations and commissions. Another Manchester poet included in “Identity Parade” his best work defies description, always a good sign for a poet, even if the influences of Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams nod in a classically modernist direction. More recently, he’s been collaborating with photographers and artists, yet everything he does has both a seriousness and a playfulness, which I’ve always responded to with enjoyment.

Matthew Welton on Carcanet’s Website
Review of “We needed coffee but…” by James Davies

David Mitchell

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

It must have been a review of David Mitchell’s debut novel “Ghostwritten” that made me go straight out and buy it. I read it in one stretch, marvelling at his ingenuity, the quality of his writing and that here was a novelist, a contemporary of mine, who was seamlessly mixing a highly readable story with some of the tricks and experiments of writers like Calvino and Borges. In his works since that debut, his willingness to experiment has equal to obvious talent. At times, Mitchell seems capable of writing anything. Since then he has also become a bestselling author with the immense “Cloud Atlas”, a Russian doll of a novel; and the coming-of-age novel “Black Swan Green.” Add in Murakami influenced “Number 9 Dream” and the recent Japan-located historical novel “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” and he’s clearly one of our leading writers, with five powerful novels in less than a dozen years. For all those in publishing who insist on writers writing the same book again and again, Mitchell is an obvious answer – he doesn’t even write the same book within the same book, and “Cloud Atlas” was not only a tour de force and Booker shortlistee, but Richard and Judy’s book of the year. What is so pleasing, other than the sheer pleasure of reading his multi-layered books, is that seem so without compromise. Though primarily a novelist, the structures of “Ghostwritten”, “Cloud Atlas” and even “Black Swan Green” cleverly hide what could easily have been a series of novellas or short stories. Post-modernism and metafiction are absorbed in his work to the extent that the reader doesn’t even notice they are there. I recognised the 80s upbringing in “Black Swan Green” (essentially a novel about divorce and adolescence), whilst also applauding a writer who clearly grew up reading everything from fairy tales to SF. In the often hermetically sealed world of British fiction he remains a touchstone.

Wikipedia on David Mitchell
My review of “Black Swan Green”
My review of “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet”

Gwendoline Riley

Cold Water
Gwendoline Riley came to attention with her slim first novel “Cold Water” in 2002. Immediately acclaimed, it caused particular interest in Manchester, where she lived, where it was set, and where she’d studied creative writing a couple of years after me. As a young writer, she appeared fully-formed, with a fluid, expressive prose style that brought alive the somewhat mundane adventures in a Manchester dive bar, of Carmel, her protagonist. That bar, a barely disguised Night and Day Cafe on Oldham Street was, and is, one of Manchester’s little musical meccas – a first stop for any band in the city, and Riley’s debut was that rare success, a novel that accurately portrayed a still contemporary millieu, where young bands, writers and artists waited for success in appalling bedsits, and with minimum wage jobs. But whereas most novels of Northern verite, are grim in the extreme, Carmel was a dreamer, and Riley’s prose had some of the luminosity of literary hero Fitzgerald. Second novel “Sick Notes” came quickly after the first, and was almost a “part 2″ to the debut, whilst her third novel, “Joshua Spassky”, saw her relocate her vision to the United States. On the few occasions I met her or heard her read, I was always struck, not my her precocity, but her serious intent, and genuine admiration for good literature. The books remain far more lasting than their specific time and place might suggest, if only because of her fully-formed style. In 2012, after moving from Manchester to London, via Edinburgh, Riley’s 4th novel “Opposed Positions” was published, a recognisable continuation of her style that shows a maturing of her concerns.

Review of Opposed Positions

Wikipedia entry for Gwendoline Riley

Review of Gwendoline Riley reading from “Opposed Positions”

 

C.D. Wright

One Big Self - photo by Deborah Luster

One Big Self - photo by Deborah Luster


I first read C.D. Wright in Poetry, extracts from her “One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana”, a fascinating work, with poems by Wright and photographs by Deborah Luster, and from this ordered her recent selected, “Steal Away.” At the time it was only available in the U.S. but since then has been reissued by Bloodaxe. This is a poet who is appears always to be in flux, different projects requiring different methods, but at the heart of her work there’s often a profound lyricism that is anything but accidental. “Discovered poets” mean more to me than those thrust upon me, and Wright, though highly regarded and widely published is one of those. A poem such as the beautiful Lake Echo, Dear has both a surface calm and hidden depths.

Interview with C.D. Wright (2001, Jacket Magazine)
Wikipedia entry for C.D. Wright
Selected Poems (UK) (US)
Read her poems at the Poetry Foundation

Welcome to My New Website

Adrian in Aldeburgh, June 2010

Adrian in Aldeburgh, June 2010

Welcome to my new website. I am a writer, based in Manchester, who writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction, as well as working with music and digital formats. This website has been redesigned so as to promote my latest work, particularly a forthcoming poetry collection, “Playing Solitaire for Money” which is out shortly from Salt Publishing. In addition to my own writing, there is a new section on writers that I know and like, giving a little more information than what I have previously linked to. My literary blog, the Art of Fiction, will continue, and over time I hope to develop this site for more permanent pieces, reviews etc.