Tuesday, 7 August 2018

BA Studies in Literature and Film: William Burroughs' Naked Lunch / David Cronenberg (Portfolio Essay Submission)

I submitted this essay as part of a portfolio for the module 'Studies in Literature and Film'. This essay was self-led and students were encouraged to choose any piece of literature and write about an adaptation of this onscreen. For this essay, I received a first (71).


Pairing a piece of fiction and its film adaptation, analyse and compare their handling of character psychology; and/or plot; and/or narration.            

William S. Burroughs’ 1959 work Naked Lunch evades a chronological narrative and employs the “cut-up method” to fragment psychological states. Burroughs’s radical treatment of character and narrative contributes to an abstracted reality which lends to the work’s satirical underpinnings. Narrative bricolage articulates the textual themes of psychological disunity and repression which are explored by Cronenberg in his adaptation. Writing in a letter to Irvin Rosenthal in 1960, Burroughs wrote “THIS IS NOT A NOVEL. And should not appear like one […] the book should flow from beginning to end without spatial interruption.”[1] This demonstrates an aversion to narrative convention, as well as underscoring Burroughs’ fluid treatment of time and space. Burroughs’ non-linear narrative complicates the practise of cinematic adaptation, undertaken by David Cronenberg in 1991. Writing on the process of adaptation, Boris Eikhenbaum states, “to translate a literary work into the language of film means to find in film language analogues for the stylistic principles of that literary work.”[2] In an interview following the release of the film, Cronenberg confessed that “It is impossible to make a movie out of Naked Lunch. A literal translation just wouldn’t work.”[3]. Cronenberg’s translation to the “language of film” draws on the text’s “analogues” of narrative vignettes and the thematic attention to psychological disunity and repression. Ultimately this adaptation necessitates an application of plot to the written work to effectively make this transition. Whilst this may not be an exact reproduction, Cronenberg fulfils what J. Dudley Andrews cites as the “the task of adaptation”, being “the reproduction in cinema of something essential about an original text”[4].

Character psychology within Burroughs’ Naked Lunch is explored through an unstable narrative which demonstrates psychological disunity. The stylistic use of repeated words and images alludes to the paranoid state of the protagonist, William Lee. Burroughs further explores psychological disunity through the narrative execution of editorial parentheses which intersect the stream-of-consciousness narrative, such as in the opening passage. This indicates a retrospective revision, perhaps from an altered state of perception. This creates a sense of narrative disunity, where the editorial parentheses relay a stern, declarative tone which offsets the fluid ramblings of Lee. Ultimately, these narrative effects underpin the psychological instability of the text’s protagonist. The use of heavy repetition and the ‘cut-up’ method, disrupts the reader’s ability to rationalise the text’s meaning, producing an effect similar to the disorientation of narcotics.
These repeated phrases therefore hold symbolic weighting and reveals paranoid preoccupations. Repetition of ‘vultures’ across “vultures pecking through the mud streets”[5],” vultures over the swamp and Cyprus stumps”[6] “vultures; little wheeling specks”[7] spans three consecutive pages and elucidates Bill’s feelings of entrapment and enclosing enemies. A paranoid narrative style pervades the discourse of medicine, as Burroughs writes “the finance company is repossessing your wife’s artificial kidney… they are evicting your grandmother from her iron lung”[8]. This satirical hyperbole emphasises the collective loss of empathy which late capitalism can be held accountable for. As Robin Lyndenberg writes, “[the text] disrupts structures of binary opposition and hierarchy; exposes the “parasitic economy” of discourse; “extend and dissolves” the boundaries of the body and uses the concrete metonymy of the “bodily functions of digestion and procreation” to dissolve metaphoric abstractions”[9].
Narrative repetition visualises the protagonists’ attempts to conceal sexual desire, which conversely erupts through obsessive repetition. ‘Baboons’ are repeated throughout the text as we read, “purple-assed baboons”[10],“baboonsasshole”[11], “my baboon assistant”[12] and “baboons always attack the weakest party”[13].  This operates as a crude metaphor for sexual over-indulgence and sodomy. This thematic focus on the anus and/or red bottoms is perhaps indicative of Freud’s concept of ‘anally-expulsive’ behaviour. This is defined by Freud as a character who is “generally messy, disorganized, reckless, careless, and defiant”[14]. An anal-expulsive individual draws pleasure from disarray and anal-expulsions. Lyndenberg also argues that “the aesthetic mode pursues the “pleasures of the text”[15] and in this way, we can deduce that the text’s protagonist gains pleasure from the radical unpacking of the narrative form.  References to “The Man” allude to paranoia, oppression and distrust as we read, “The Man is never on time”[16] “there is The Man on a cane seat throwing bread to the swans”[17] “waiting on The Man”[18]. This differentiates between the common, lower-case man as well as communicating a sense of systematic oppression, surveillance and entrapment as ‘The Man’ is synonymous with authoritative forces. Conversely, whilst one can consider these repeated phrases or images to hold symbolic value, Robin Lyndenberg argues that the narrative disruption and heavy repetition triggers the eruption of textual materiality, “reducing language to isolated phrases and signifiers”[19]. Furthermore, when asked whether the passages of repetition in the text were intentional, “Burroughs replied they were all by mistake, caused by the rush to get the text to Girodias”[20]. Nevertheless, the stylistic narrative devices still stands as it recreates the disturbed psychology of an individual on narcotic drugs.

Burroughs parallels the disintegrating body and psychology of the addict with the thriving state of late capitalism which benefits from exploitation. As the addict and their psychological state deteriorates, so do perceptions of reality along with conventional form, chronology and narration. This underscores the absurdity of modernity and Burroughs further satirises the farce of Western democracy and tradition through “the President is required by custom to crawl across the garbage on his stomach”[21]. Whilst the text is presented as a series of vignettes with equal narrative weighting, the order of the text as it was conceived was crucially important for Burroughs, writing “the form can not be altered without loss of life”[22]. This illustrates the extended metaphor of the text’s form as holding “life”, mirroring the body of the addict. The opening sequence ‘and start west’ foregrounds the abject consequences of addiction and plunges the reader into a community of users, all victims of their settings. The contextual scares of the 1950s lose their significance in the face of junk, as Burroughs writes “but what does she care for the atom bomb, the bedbugs, the cancer rent, Friendly Finance waiting to repossess her delinquent flesh”[23]. One must not take Burroughs’ writing literally, and the satirical tone of Burroughs’ style alludes to his distrust of aggressive capitalism which conditions “the presiding powers of our world- the media conglomerates, the vast political and commercial bureaucracies, and profit-driven medical science”[24].

Cronenberg draws on the literary “cut-up” method through his cinematic style of piecing together fragments of the book and meshing them with biographical aspects of Burroughs’s own life. In this way, one can consider that both author and director have a similar creative process through their use of bricolage. Tom Graham writes on Cronenberg’s adaptation and he claims that, “rather than attempting to adapt the book in a literal sense, Cronenberg treats Burroughs’ schizoid prose as a secondary source. He gave it structure”[25]. Whilst Cronenberg engages with Burroughs’s narrative fragmentation, the film relies on structure not found in the text. Cronenberg’s engagement with the cut-up method is not exclusive to Burroughs’s text, and Cronenberg refers to widely known figures of the cinematic canon through stylising Bill Lee with a striking resemblance to Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946)[26]. Bill’s hat, tie and trench coat are coordinated through a colour palate of muted browns. This draws on the organic colour palate of the novel’s tapestry, drawing on blues, greens, and primarily the colour grey. The visual echo of Bogart alludes to a righteous, hyper-masculine protagonist as well as one who “gets the girl”. Conversely, the champion of Naked Lunch is an anti-hero who is addicted to narcotics and delusional sexual fantasies.

Cronenberg foregrounds the text’s themes of psychological repression and homosexuality, warning of the dangers of the creative process which may liberate the ‘true’ self and their organic desires. A liberated creative process is signposted in the opening credits of the film which replicating the novel’s editorial interludes. with the inclusion of a free jazz soundtrack, composed by Ornette Coleman, and the visual abstraction of colours and shapes, rotating and intersecting. It is interesting to consider Freud’s writing on his psychological notion of repression here. In his book The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud writes, “We shrink back [from the primeval wishes of our childhood] with the whole force of the repression by which those wishes have since that time held down within us”[27]. Looking to the opening scene of Cronenberg’s film at the exchange between Bill, Hank and Martin; Martin suggests “Why don’t you try your hand at writing pornography?”[28]. To this, Bill responds “I gave up writing when I was ten”. This conversation illustrates Bill’s learned control of repressed desires in his adult life which is moderated by his unwillingness to engage with creative processes. Bill’s response to whether rewriting is an act of censorship is simply “Exterminate all rational thought, that is the conclusion I have come to”. Cronenberg’s Bill at this early stage in the film is therefore psychologically repressed as a character.

Once Bill enters Interzone he is encouraged to write and can reconnect with his repressed homosexual impulses. The metaphor of the creative process as purging unconscious desires is also visualised through the animated typewriter which encourages Bill to consciously embrace his homosexuality as a ‘cover’, as he advises; “Homosexuality is the best all around cover an agent ever had […] These are words to live by Bill”[29]. In Burroughs’s text there is an overt discussion of homosexuality within society in the exchange “”A functioning police state needs no police. Homosexuality does not occur to anyone as conceivable behaviour.””[30]. This metaphor alludes to the power of heteronormativity which does not require people to enforce it due to it being conditioned as the normative sexuality. The character of Yves Cloquet introduced by Cronenberg into the text’s narrative is visually depicted as Bill’s antithesis. Cloquet is softly spoken with an English accent, dressed in a white suit, a white shirt and a white tie with an angelic face, juxtaposing Bill’s bleakly coloured hat and hung head. “I’ve seen you around but I’d no idea you were Queer”[31] positively frames Bill’s homosexuality within the context of their breakfast table discussion. Lee’s articulation of his Queerness is hyperbolically pessimistic (“Queer. A curse, it’s been in our family for generations […] I shall never forget the unspeakable horror that froze the lymph in my glands when the baneful words seared my reeling brain- I was a homosexual.”[32]) Due to Cronenberg’s directorial tradition of body horror films, the metaphor of repressed sexuality is crudely and brutally executed. This culminates in the scene where we see a man mutilated by a large insect whilst simultaneously having sex with it, blurring the distinctions of pleasure and pain[33]. This physical torture illustrates the psychological torture of repressed homosexual desires. Bill finally acknowledges his true self as a writer where he announces “I write reports. I’m a writer, I tend to write reports on life”[34]. When the officials ask for confirmation of this, Cronenberg recreates a scene from Burroughs’s own life in which he allegedly accidentally shot his wife whilst enacting a ‘William Tell’ act. Burroughs has been often cited as saying that this incident was the “genesis of his becoming a writer”[35] and so we may consider that the film charts Bill’s own journey in liberating his true self and becoming a writer. Cronenberg’s use of narrative bricolage here contributes towards the film’s resolution and illustrates a character arc which is not present within the original text.
Cronenberg’s film draws on the text’s narrative confusion and themes of deception and distrust of authority through opening the film with a quote by Hassan I Sabbah. This reads; “Nothing is true; everything is permitted”[36]. The inclusion of this quote by the Nizari missionary highlights theological and spiritual ideas, as well as casting doubt on perceptions of reality and governance. Furthermore, the second quote used in the film’s introduction is taken from Burroughs’s text and emphasises notions of deception and concealed identities. This quote reads, “Hustlers of the world, there is one Mark you cannot beat: The Mark inside…”[37]. The ‘Mark’ is typically the victim of a con job and thus, Burroughs’s notion of the “the Mark inside” would be the act of lying to oneself. Deception and illusion are explored through discussions of conscious and unconscious actions and telekinesis in the film.[38] The film’s climax is centred around the deceptive presentation of the character of Doctor Benway, who reveals himself to have been disguised as the female servant Fadela in 1:40:30. This name is aurally and etymologically similar to the Latin ‘fidelis’, meaning truthful and loyal, which is ironic given the use of this character as a disguise. Benway’s dramatic removal of Fadela’s prosthetic exterior in this scene is sexually charged and Benway primarily exposes his artificial breasts to Bill before tearing the costume apart. This is ironic given Bill’s lack of sexual attraction to female bodies and Bill actively substitues the female body for male bodies whilst indulging in sexual fantasies. The pervading deception of Cronenberg’s film indulges in fulfilling the protagonist’s most paranoid fears. This is further explored through his casting of the police officers as the border control officers; bracketing the film’s distrust of authority figures.  We are reminded once more of the opening quote “Nothing is as it seems, everything is permitted.”

Therefore, Burroughs and Cronenberg share a similar approach to their creative processes. As Tom Graham writes, “They share a flair for the grotesque met with perfect nonchalance and bone-dry wit.”[39] Cronenberg rejects Burroughs’s pornographic leanings and favours the disquieting exercise of body horror to communicate Bill’s repressed desires, rather than revelling in the pleasures of sex. For Burroughs, there is a pervading anxiety of language and expression of meaning which cannot ever incorporate the psychological essence of existence or a lived narrative. This is encapsulated as he writes, You were not there for the beginning. You will not be there for the end. Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative”[40]. Burroughs strives for a narrative which incorporates the fragmented psychology of an individual under the influence of narcotic drugs and repressed thoughts which textually erupts through the repetition of Freudian slips. Both text and film share a united creative vision in their representations of psychological disunity, repression and abstracted realities, manifesting through literary and cinematic employment of the cut-up method. Whilst Cronenberg’s adaptation has structural and narrative alterations, these alterations are what Eikhenbaum names ‘stylistic principles’ which facilitate the text’s filmic translation and creates a character arc in Cronenberg’s Bill which is necessitated by the filmic medium.


Andrew, James Dudley. Concepts in Film Theory (Oxford: Oxford UP 1984)

Bleu, Christopher. “The Novel Enfleshed: "Naked Lunch" and the Literature of Materiality”, Twentieth Century Literature, Vol 57, No. 2 (Summer 2011) pp.119-223

Burroughs, William S. Naked Lunch: The Restored Text (London: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005)

Cronenberg, David (director). Naked Lunch, Universal Pictures (1991) DVD

Eikhenbaum Boris. in Kamila Elliott, Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate. (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003)

Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams, (London: Courier Dover, 2015)

Ginelle, Leela. “Great Artist Kills His Wife: Not it’s Just a Quirky Footnote in his History”, Bitch Media, 27 Mar 2014. [accessed: 12/02/18] https://www.bitchmedia.org/post/a-great-artist-kills-his-wife%E2%80%94now-its-just-a-quirky-footnote-in-his-history

Lydenberg, Robin. “Word Cultures: Radical Theory and Practise in William S. Burroughs’ Fiction”, American Literature, Vol. 60, No. 3 (October 1988) pp.498-500

Pulver,. Andrew “Interzone Revisited: David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (1991)” The Guardian, 31 July 2004. [accessed: 03/02/18] https://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/jul/31/featuresreviews.guardianreview14
Schwartz, David. “A Pinewood Dialogue with David Cronenberg”, History of the Moving Image. January 11 and 12, 1992 http://www.movingimagesource.us/files/dialogues/2/57500_programs_transcript_pdf_204.pdf [accessed: 02/02/18]

Smith-Jones, Elsie. Theories of Counselling and Psychotherapy: An Integrative Approach, (London: Sage, 2014)  

Hawks. Howard (director). The Big Sleep. Warner Bros, 1946. DVD.

[1] William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch: The Restored Text (London: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005) p.236
[2] Boris Eikhenbaum in, Kamila Elliott, Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate. (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003) p.184
[3] Burroughs, p.236
[4] J. Dudley Andrew, Concepts in Film Theory (Oxford: Oxford UP 1984) p.100
[5] Burroughs, p.12
[6] Burroughs, p.13
[7] Burroughs, p.14
[8] Burroughs, p.154
[9] Robin Lyndenberg, “Word Cultures: Radical Theory and Practise in William S. Burroughs’ Film”, American Literature, Vol. 60, No.3 (October 1988) p.205
[10] Burroughs, p.37
[11] Ibid., p.34
[12] Ibid., p.27
[13] Ibid., p.26
[14] Sigmund Freud, in Theories of Counselling and Psychotherapy: An Integrative Approach, Elsie Smith-Jones. (London: Sage, 20p.324
[15] Lyndenberg, p.205
[16] Burroughs, p.26
[17]Ibid., p.27
[18] Ibid., p.35
[19] Lyndenberg, p.204
[20] Burroughs, p.245
[21] Ibid., p.153
[22] Ibid., p.341
[23] Ibid., p.120
[24] J.G. Ballard, “Introduction”, Naked Lunch: The Restored Text (London: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005)
[25] “In praise of Naked Lunch- the weirdest studio film ever made” Little White Lies, Tom Graham, 15 June 2016 [accessed: 28/01/18] http://lwlies.com/articles/naked-lunch-david-cronenberg-william-burroughs/
[28] David Cronenberg, Naked Lunch, Universal Pictures (1991) (01:12:34)
[29] Cronenberg, (00:05:15)
[30] Burroughs, p.31
[31] David Cronenberg, Naked Lunch, Universal Pictures (1991) 46:02
[32] Cronenberg, (00:46:40)
[33] Ibid., (01:30:35)
[34] Ibid., (01:44:40)
[35] Leela Ginelle, “Great Artist Kills His Wife: Not it’s Just a Quirky Footnote in his History”, Bitch Media, 27 Mar 2014. [accessed: 12/02/18] https://www.bitchmedia.org/post/a-great-artist-kills-his-wife%E2%80%94now-its-just-a-quirky-footnote-in-his-history
[36] Cronenberg, (00:02:09)
[37] Ibid., (00:02:15)
[38] Ibid., (00:43:30)
[39] Tom Graham, “In praise of Naked Lunch- the weirdest studio film ever made” Little White Lies, 15 June 2016 [accessed: 28/01/18] http://lwlies.com/articles/naked-lunch-david-cronenberg-william-burroughs/
[40] Burroughs, p.168

Monday, 6 August 2018

Selected Verse: Interview with Poetry Anthology Founders- Edward and Elinor

An interview in [smiths] magazine with Dora Hemming, discussing our first volume of poetry and plans for our future second volume and open call, with co-founding Editor, Edward Green.

  • www.smithsmagazine.co.uk/2018/08/04/selected-verse-interview-with-poetry-anthology-founders-edward-and-elinor/

Dora Hemming talks 'bravery, cabbage, fish cakes and a sound rejection of nostalgia' with founding editors of poetry anthology Away With Words Selected Verse, Edward and Elinor


‘You’ll hear people say ‘Poetry is Dead.’ You’ll hear people say ‘Millennials don’t have direction’ or ‘Youth culture is all spectacle, no substance,’ you’ll hear people bemoan the younger generation as ‘out of touch,’ ‘self-obsessed,’ ‘sensitive snowflakes,’ who are ‘cut off from the real world,’ too busy with their ‘social media,’ their ‘avocado toast,’ their ‘kneejerk Corbynism’ and their ‘athlesisure fashions,’ to really care about, confront, or change, the true realities of the world around them. This anthology proves those poisonous statements, and all like them, violently, dizzyingly wrong. In this collection you’ll see student writers demonstrating deft understandings of the complications of gender, representation, politics, family, class, identity, wealth, art and community that we all face. These young people, in their diversity and multiplicity, are taking on the issues that matter without didacticism: sensitive to feeling and instinct, and at the same time unafraid of the visceral reality of lived experience.’
– Rebecca Tamás, 2018
What made you want to set up a new poetry anthology, is there space in the market?
Our desire to create Away With Words Selected Verse was birthed out of our respective experiences in the arts and publishing, a love for poetry and the creative spirit of Goldsmiths and those around us. Our collection attempts to compile and celebrate a small percentage of these voices, irrespective of the ‘marketplace’. If we were more market-oriented, we might not offer our contributors monetary prizes for their contributions. We’re a self-funded publication and this money quite literally comes out of our pockets, but it’s an important gesture which underscores the value of artistic products and our appreciation of excellence.
Do you think your last publication succeeded in reflecting South East London?
No, because we didn’t set out to ‘reflect’ South East London in the last publication. Even our initial working title of ‘Selected South London Verse’ was not done out of a motivation to showcase or highlight a South London-centric selection of authors. We both just happen to live here, study here, get pissed here and make most of our friends here. So although the first volume was primarily put together with work from (pseudo-)South Londoners, that was only the case because the majority of authors and writers we knew were from that area.
In our second volume, however, we have very much fled our nest, crossed the pond, bucked the trend, etc. and expanded the open call pretty much nation wide. We’ve been distributing our posters (tentatively) to universities around the country through post, and internationally via instagram and other phantom social media. We think the primary focus of our first volume was to piece together an interesting and original selection of responses to our first theme; liberation. In this, we hope we succeeded.
Talk to me about your last event. It must be different hearing the poems spoken to an audience compared to on the page…
The launch event for the first volume was a terrific night, it definitely exceeded both of our expectations. Out of the Brew arts café in New Cross hosted it, which has a capacity of 40 people or so, as well as a tight, white box-room underneath it where we held the readings. A selection of our successful contributors, as well as our mystery-guest, Faber poet, Lord and Saviour; Jack Underwood, were invited to read pieces from the publication and their own private annals. There ended up being over 100-odd people trying to get in! People were taking shifts at coming down to catch some of the readings, and then running up for air and a quick cocktail because it was so packed downstairs! We also sold copies of the first volume upstairs, which didn’t actually arrive until literally an hour before the event started. This motivated Edward, one half of AWW, to scribble down and read out a quick new piece berating the inadequacies of the British postal service.
It truly was a bloody delight to meet the people we’d been corresponding with, and especially those who we didn’t know already and had discovered through a random online submission. For our next launch event (mid to late-October) we plan to book a bigger venue, as well as invite down some more special guest readers to speak, some of which we have already been in talks with…

For this volume you have decided on the theme ‘legacy’, whereas the last publication asked contributors to respond to a theme of ‘liberation’. What is your reasoning behind being insistent on submissions relating, albeit loosely, to a specific theme?
Having both come into this project relatively clueless as to how to piece together a succinct collection of poetry, we both agreed that by implementing a loose theme we could ensure that whatever the outcome, the publication would offer some coherence as a body of work. As Rebecca Tamas expressed so deftly in her foreword to our collection, “If poetry has the potential to be liberatory, it is not because it convinces us of certain political arguments or tells us specific things to believe, but because its utterances enact and express liberation in themselves.” Politically, the word ‘liberation’ seems to have gone out of fashion (lest at least for some notable figures), so we thought that it would be an apt starting point for inviting authors to submit.
What do you look for in a poem?
Bravery, cabbage, fish cakes and a sound rejection of nostalgia. More than anything, we want Away With Words to be a poetry anthology that’s not only ambitious and forward-thinking, but also readable and enjoyable to anyone silly enough to pick it up.
We have absolutely no requirements for who can submit, and approach the editing process in a similarly inclusive way. The majority of our pieces tend to reject some sort of poetic tradition (rhythm, metre, subject, format), though not in a particularly conscious or brash way, but more naturally; through the author’s genuine inventiveness.
Can a shitty person write a good poem?
Without attempting to define ‘shitty’, in what could easily be a Partridge-esque few sentences, we think that this question boils down to that whole argument of whether we should separate the artist from their art. In our opinion, the two are intrinsically linked due to the presence of capital and the system of late capitalism in which art is produced. Through investing in, consuming, appreciating and sharing the art of a ‘shitty’ person, we put money in their pockets and indicate we’re still happy to support and encourage their continued, collective ‘shittiness’ (objectifying views). A shitty person has the freedom to do whatever they like but it doesn’t mean that we’re going to buy it. Thankfully, to our knowledge, we have not published any poems written by credibly ‘shitty people’. But we hope that in a sense, our readers will recognise within the stanzas of the poems we select a sound rebuttal of shitty people in everyday life.
Are male, big dick energy poets a problem in the arts?
Surprise, surprise, patriarchy and misogyny pervades all sectors of society, including the arts and as we all know, there is a great deal of privilege afforded to cisgendered white men. We’re not convinced that we are clued-up enough to comment on the wider systemic problem of big-dick energy in the arts in a brief capacity, but within our own publication we actively encourage submissions from people from all walks of life to ensure we aren’t just masturbating the fantasises of the big dick-ers. Whilst we haven’t implemented measures to promote diversity and inclusivity, this is something we are considering for the next edition. We’re hot on striking an equal male/female balance in our submissions and readings and luckily our successful contributors have been close-to 50/50. This considered, we assess our submissions on the basis of quality, so it’s difficult as a small-scale publication to implement inclusivity measures/a quota of LGBTQ+/POC voices when we don’t receive the same number of submissions as a larger publication such as Granta or the LRB. Nevertheless, it’s something we’d like to work towards as it’s close to our hearts.
Tell us a bit about your publisher, Toothgrinder
Toothgrinder Publishers was created by one half of Away With Words, Edward, and his brother William. The publishing house, founded in late 2017, specialises in poetic and photographic releases, and draws on both of brothers’ varying skills in writing, designing and promotion. Each publication is meticulously reviewed before publication to ensure, above all, that it has a genuine, meaningful idea to express.
If you had to recommend an anthology/poetic works to a poetry “first timer” what would it be?
Perhaps something like The Mersey Sound by Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten. As a poetry ‘anthology’ it seems to work on all the right levels. Each poet, though primarily different in their choice of subject, has a readable, likeable approach to writing. There is a wonderful balance between levity and brevity throughout, where one feels inclined to succumb to that age-old cliché of crying and laughing at the same time.
Pam Ayers and Wendy Cope are also great for younger readers due to the accessibility of the language and the self-deprecating humour. Emily Berry’s Stranger, Baby (2013), Rebecca Tamás’ Savage (2017) and Jack Underwood’s Happiness (2015, all Faber), are also excellent choices which tread the lines of more experimental poetry. Goldsmiths-alumni-creations clinic and Stop Sharpening Your Knives certainly aren’t bad places to start either.
Submissions for Away With Words, Volume 2 close on August 31st 2018
To submit, or for any information, email daotherside@hotmail.com
Away With Words Selected Verse is co-edited by Edward Green and Elinor Potts

Words, Dora Hemming- @dora.ac.uk