Saturday, 31 December 2016


Aside from our personal losses, 2016 was the year when everyone apparently began to socially mediate the death of beloved others - famous people known universally, or to many. No other year - not even 2001 - since the new century began, has been so reviled by those living in it. Fuck you 2016 was a common refrain.  The year almost became a running joke, coming to symbolise all that was mean, unfair, cruel and random about existence - it was the most existential year in decades. certainly, the death of so many talented, brilliant and creative persons underlined the compelling fact that WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE, SOONER OR LATER, no matter what. So we better get right with ourselves, the world, and decide how best to deal with the fate we have been thrown - stoicism advised.

Claims that no more well-known people died than usual this year are basically besides the point (THOUGH the BBC now reports 50% more celebrities died this year than in any other on record) - in the sense that it did not feel this way to us, the popular common folk, mourning our losses and grave wounds. But more accurately, those of us born in the 1960s or later, for the first time, experienced the deaths of key figures of the 60s, 70s and 80s - icons in the least-exaggerated sense of the term.

It is true that Elvis, Monroe, Dean, Kennedy, Sinatra, Lennon, Heaney, Plath, Derrida, Kubrick, Ginsberg, Warhol, Lou Reed, Michael Jackson, for example, had died previously - but never all in one year. It took decades, once, it seemed, for the truly great, pivotal, or merely loved, to die in droves - not this year.

For instance, these 99 were culturally notable losses *(some of the figures are of course controversial):

1.     AA GILL – sometimes cruel, well-respected British food and TV critic;

2.     ABE VIGODA – popular TV and film actor perhaps best known for Barney Miller;

3.     ALAN RICKMAN - versatile actor, unlikely sex symbol, and film villain in major franchises, from Die Hard to Harry Potter, he memorably "cancelled Christmas" in his bravura role in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves;

4.     ALICE ARLEN – American screenwriter best-known for Silkwood;

5.     AMBER RAYNE – American pornographic actress;

6.     ANDREW GLAZE – American poet who often appeared in Poetry;

7.     ANDRZEJ WAJDA - great Polish film director;

8.     ANITA BROOKNER - Booker-winning novelist;

9.     ANTON YELCHIN – popular young actor famous for reprising the role of Checkov in the Star Trek franchise;

10.                 ANTONIN SCALIA - notoriously conservative Supreme Court Justice;

11.                 ARNOLD PALMER - one of golf's leading players of all time;

12.                 AV CHRISTIE – American poet of note;

13.                 BARBARA TURNER – actress and screenwriter best-known for Pollock;

14.                 BARRY HINES – British novelist behind the novel that became the beloved film Kes;

15.                 BERNARD BERGONZI - important British literary critic and scholar;

16.                 BLACK – singer-songwriter famous for the ‘Wonderful Life’ song;

17.                 BRIAN BEDFORD – charismatic British stage actor who did much of his best work in Canada;

18.                 BRIGIT PEGEEN KELLY - brilliant American poet;

19.                 BUCKWHEAT ZYDECO - bandleader, accordionist, made famous by working with Paul Simon on the masterpiece Graceland;

20.                 CARRIE FISHER - the most iconic character of the most beloved American film of all time - and a leading feminist voice in Hollywood;

21.                 CD WRIGHT – major American poet;

22.                 CHARMIAN CARR - actress famed for her role in The Sound of Music;

23.                 DAME ZAHA HADID – key post-modern architect;

24.                 DARIO FO - Nobel winner for literature, major playwright;

25.                 DAVID BOWIE - the leading musician of his generation, a genius and hugely influential on all music since 1970;

26.                 DEBBIE REYNOLDS - hugely popular actress, who starred in the finest film musical of all time, Singin' In The Rain;

27.                 DG JONES – significant Canadian poet and translator;

28.                 EARL HAMNER JR. - creator of beloved and much-lampooned TV series The Waltons;

29.                 EDWARD ALBEE - arguably America's greatest absurdist playwright;

30.                 ELIE WIESEL - Nobel laureate; famed concentration camp survivor and public intellectual;

31.                 FAROUK SHOUSHA - Egyptian poet;

32.                 FIDEL CASTRO - one of the most famous revolutionary leaders of the 20th century;

33.                 FLORENCE HENDERSON - beloved TV icon from The Brady Bunch;

34.                 FRANCA SOZZANI - influential editor of Vogue (Italy) for decades;

35.                 FRANK ARMITAGE - important Disney artist;

36.                 FRANK SINATRA, JR - less-distinguished singer than his father;

37.                 GARRY SHANDLING - creator of The Larry Sanders show - and one of the most influential comedians of the past 30 years;

38.                 GARY MARSHALL - creator of hit TV shows of immense cultural clout, like Happy Days and Mork and Mindy; and force behind Pretty Woman;

39.                 GEOFFREY HILL - considered by many the major poet of the English language;

40.                 GEORGE JONAS – Canadian writer whose novel was the basis for Spielberg’s Munich;

41.                 GEORGE KENNEDY – one of the greatest of American character actors, often playing the heavy, he tough guy, cop or soldier; famous for spoofing his roles in Airplane!;

42.                 SIR GEORGE MARTIN - the "fifth Beatle" - the most influential and significant music producer since 1950;

43.                 GEORGE MICHAEL - one of the most popular and best-selling musicians of the last 30 years;

44.                 GLENN FREY - key member of the major American group The Eagles;

45.                 GREG LAKE- seminal British prog-rock figure;

46.                 GUY HAMILTON - director of the greatest Bond film, Goldfinger;

47.                 HARPER LEE - quite possibly the most beloved American author at the time of her death;

48.                 HENRY HEIMLICH - inventor of the world-famous eponymous lifesaving technique;

49.                 JACK ELROD – cartoonist and creator of Mark Trail;

50.                 JACK HAMMER – singer-songwriter best-known for co-writing the great rock and roll anthem ‘Great Balls of Fire’;

51.                 JIM CLARK – Oscar-winning British film editor;

52.                 JIM HARRISON - hard-living, popular US novelist and poet, famous for Legends of the Fall;

53.                 JOHN GLENN - iconic US astronaut and politician;

54.                 JOHN MONTAGUE - one of the greatest of all Irish poets;

55.                 JON POLITO - character actor famed for major roles in Coen Bro. films.

56.                 KEITH EMERSON - seminal British prog-rock figure;

57.                 SIR KEN ADAM - most influential film set designer of the modern era, creating the sets for Dr Stranglelove, and the James Bond villain's lairs;

58.                 KENNY BAKER - famed for playing R2-D2 in Star Wars;

59.                 LARRY DRAKE – Emmy-winning American actor;

60.                 LEONARD COHEN - a key counter-culture figure of the 60s, 70s and beyond - to many, the finest singer-songwriter never to win the Nobel for Literature;

61.                 MARGARET FORSTER – British novelist famed for Georgy Girl;

62.                 MARION PATRICK JONES – vital Trinidadian writer and activist;

63.                 MAURICE WHITE – major soul singer-songwriter, with Earth, Wind and Fire;

64.                 MEL HURTIG - progressive Canadian publisher;

65.                 MICHAEL CIMINO - major American director, famous for The Deer Hunter.

66.                 MICHEL TOURNIER – major French writer;

67.                 MUHAMMAD ALI - a moral force, and considered by many the finest athlete of modern times;

68.                 NANCY REAGAN – one of the most influential, and controversial, of modern First Ladies;

69.                 SIR NEVILLE MARRINER - leading British conductor;

70.                 PETE BURNS – infamous Dead Or Alive singer;

71.                 Péter Esterhazy - major Hungarian writer;

72.                 SIR PETER MAXWELL DAVIES - the major British composer of his generation;

73.                 SIR PETER SHAFFER - playwright and screenwriter, responsible for modern classics Amadeus and Equus;

74.                 PHIL CHESS - co-founder of the influential R and B, blues and rock label, Chess Records;

75.                 PIERRE BOULEZ - the major French avant-garde composer of his generation; a great conductor;

76.                 PJ MARA - Ireland's most famous political press secretary of the modern Haughey era;

77.                 PRINCE - the greatest and most prolific musical genius of rock and pop of his 80s generation;

78.                 PRINCE BUSTER - the seminal Ska pioneer;

79.                 RICHARD ADAMS - author of the beloved classic Watership Down, which has sold over 50 million copies;

80.                 RICK PARFITT - a great rock guitarist and key member of top UK band the Status Quo;

81.                 ROBERT BATEMAN - songwriter of rock n roll classics such as 'Please Mr Postman';

82.                 ROBERT STIGWOOD – influential musical impresario, manager, and producer of Grease and Saturday Night Fever;

83.                 ROBERT VAUGHN - priapic actor best known for his iconic TV role in The Man from UNCLE;

84.                 ROBIN HARDY - director of possibly the greatest British horror film The Wicker Man;

85.                 ROD TEMPERTON - British songwriter of genius, who composed most of the best-selling seminal Thriller album for Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson.

86.                 RONNIE CORBETT - one half of the funniest comedy duo of their time, Ronnie was also a decent and generous person in private;

87.                 SHARON JONES - beloved singer for the soul revival group The Dap-Kings;

88.                 SHIRLEY JAFFE - abstract expressionist artist;

89.                 SYLVIA ANDERSON – co-creator of Thunderbirds, and voice of Lady Penelope;

90.                 STANLEY MANN – Canadian screenwriter who wrote or co-wrote scripts for popular films such as The Mouse That Roared, Firestarter, The Omen 2, Meteor and Eye of the Needle.

91.                 TAMMY GRIMES - award-winning US stage actress;

92.                 THORNTON DIAL – African-American artist of note;

93.                 UMBERTO ECCO - one of the leading European post-modern novelists of the age;

94.                 VERA RUBIN – major scientist who discovered dark matter;

95.                 VILMOS SZIGMOND – cinematographer of classics like Easy Rider and Close Encounters of The Third Kind, pioneer of sunburst effect;

96.                 WILLIAM TREVOR - one of the best Irish prose writers of the 20th century.

97.                 WP KINSELLA - leading Canadian prose writer;

98.                 YVES BONNEFOY - major French poet;

99.                 ZSA ZSA GABOR - TV and film actress, glamorous wit, comedienne, and world-famous divorcee.

* every death is equally tragic - the end of a world, as Derrida famously put it. These are just a few of the millions who died this year, a small but pertinent focusing on some lives that touched many others.

Friday, 30 December 2016


The Beverly Prize announces its winner for 2016 next week!

This prize (named after an Irish-Canadian writer and book-lover) may be unique in the publishing world (you tell me) in that it is likely the most inclusive and open:
Any nationality can enter; any age 18 or older; and you can enter (so long as it is mostly unpublished and original) ANY FORM OR GENRE of writing for consideration - from non-fiction to a novella, a short story collection, a novel, a play, a screenplay, a memoir, a biography, or a pamphlet or full collection of poetry. The only caveat, is it must be written in English.
This year, we received a good number of entries - and after a good deal of hemming and hawing, re-reading and debating, the three editorial team judges (Oliver Jones, Rosanna Hildyard, and Todd Swift) were able to cleave to a decision not to have a shortlist verging on the rather long, but still keep a wonderful range of voices, emphatically new and old, more and less established.
So, we have 14, a baker's dozen plus one for good luck - and, overall, it is a pleasingly fascinating, international list for our final judge to read through over the hols.  Ms K. Davio will announce the winner in early 2017, and they will be published within 12 months.  Not bad, eh? Here they are in no order particularly, to emphasize the eclectic nature of the prize - do spread the word on social media. They're all talented.

Urvashi Bahuguna's poems have been published or are forthcoming in Barely South Review, Jaggery Lit, Kitaab, Cadaverine, The Four Quarters Magazine and elsewhere. She is a journalist and poet from India, who has studied on the MA in Creative Writing at the UEA.

J. A. Bernstein’s novel, Rachel's Tomb, won the 2016 Hackney Literary Prize and 2015 Knut House Novel Contest. His essay collection, In Josephat's Valley, was runner-up for the 2015 Red Hen Press Nonfiction Book Award. His stories and essays have appeared in Boston Review, Kenyon Review Online, Shenandoah, World Literature Today, Tampa Review, and other journals, and garnered the Gunyon Prize from Crab Orchard Review. He has also published academic articles on Joseph Conrad. A Chicago-native, he is an assistant professor of English at the University of Minnesota Duluth and the fiction editor of Tikkun.
Andrew D. Miller was born in Fresno, California. He did his Masters of Fine Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University, and then went on to complete an academic PhD in the Institute of English, German and Romantic Studies at Copenhagen University in 2010. His poetry has appeared in many magazines, such as River Review, Prairie Schooner, New Orleans Review, Nimrod, and Hunger Mountain. Miller is the author of Poetry, Photograph, Ekphrasis, Lyrical Representations of Photography from the 19th Century to the Present and the co-editor of The Gazer Within, the Selected Prose of Larry Levis, a volume of Michigan Press’ Poets on Poetry Series. He lives in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Ian Harrow was born in 1945. He was educated at a grammar school in Newcastle upon Tyne and at Leeds University. From 1983-1990 he was Head of the School of Art at Lancashire Polytechnic (now University of Central Lancashire). He has published four collections, the most recent being Words Take Me (Lapwing, 2013). He is of Scots-Irish extraction and lives in York. His work has appeared since 1975 in many publications, including the Times Literary Supplement, Stand, Poetry Wales, Poetry Ireland Review, London Magazine, Rialto, Oxford Magazine, and The Spectator. Bernard O'Donoghue called Words Take Me 'an utterly absorbing book that stays hauntingly in the memory. It is a major achievement.'

Sohini Basak has poems and short stories in the 3:AM Magazine, Aainanagar, Missing Slate, Ambit, Lighthouse, as well as in anthologies of Emma Press and Poetrywala. She won second prize at the 2013 RædLeaf India Poetry Prize; was shortlisted for the Melita Hume and the Jane Martin poetry prizes in 2014; and was a 2015-16 fellow of the (Great) Indian Poetry Collective. She studied literature and creative writing at the universities of Delhi, Warwick, and East Anglia, where she received the Malcolm Bradbury continuation grant for poetry. She is a social media manager for Asymptote journal and lives and works in Delhi.

Charles Wilkinson’s publications include The Pain Tree and Other Stories (London Magazine Editions, 2000), Ag & Au (Flarestack Poets, 2013) and A Twist in the Eye (Egaeus Press, 2016). His poems have appeared in many magazines, including Tears in the Fence, Poetry Wales,The Raintown Review and Poetry Salzburg. He has had short stories in Best English Short Stories 2 (W.W. Norton, USA),  Best British Short Stories 2015 (Salt) and Best Weird Fiction 2015 (Undertow Books, Canada).  He lives in Powys, Wales.

Les Bohem was a small part of the great Los Angeles music scare of the 1980s, with his own band, Gleaming Spires, and as a member of the band, Sparks.  Somehow that evolved into a career writing for the movies and television.  Les wrote Twenty Bucks, Daylight, Dante’s Peak, The Alamo and the mini-series, Taken, for which he won an Emmy award.  He’s had songs recorded by Emmylou Harris, Randy Travis, Freddy Fender, Steve Gillette, Johnette Napolitano (of Concrete Blonde), and Alvin (of the Chipmunks.)  His first novel, Flight 505, was published last year by UpperRubberBoot.  He created the series, Shut Eye, now streaming on Hulu.  His new album, Moved to Duarte, has just been released on Jack Rabbit Day Records.

Rich Murphy has taught writing and literature at colleges and universities for thirty years. Murphy’s book-length collection Body Politic will be published by Prolific Press early in 2017. His credits also include three books: Americana, Prize Americana 2013 winner; Voyeur 2008 Gival Press Poetry Award; and The Apple in the Monkey Tree, Codhill Press; chapbooks, Great Grandfather, Family SecretHunting and Pecking, Rescue LinesPhoems for Mobile Vices, and Paideia. He also publishes essays on poetics in journals. Derek Walcott has remarked, “Mr. Murphy is a very careful craftsman in his work, a patient and testing intelligence . . . .”

Winner of Able Muse and Fiction International ’s 2015 Fiction Prizes, Andrea Witzke Slot is author of the poetry collection To find a new beauty (Gold Wake Press) and a recently-finished novel manuscript titled The Cartography of Flesh: in the silence of Ella Mendelssohn. Publications include Mid-American Review, Ambit, Southeast Review, Under the Radar, Meridian, American Literary Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and books by SUNY Press and Palgrave Macmillan, which include her essays on poetry and social change. An American expat and permanent resident of the UK, Andrea lives in London but visits Chicago regularly.
Joseph Harrington is the author of Things Come On (an amneoir) (Wesleyan UP, 2011) and the critical work Poetry and the Public (Wesleyan UP, 2002). His creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in BAX: The Best American Experimental Writing 2016, Bombay Gin, Hotel Amerika, Colorado Review, The Rumpus, 1913: a journal of forms, and Fact-Simile, among others. Harrington is the recipient of a Millay Colony residency and a Fulbright Distinguished Chair. He teaches at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
Chris Preddle’s second collection is Cattle Console Him (Waywiser, 2010).  His work has appeared in Irish Pages, Little Star, PN Review, The Poetry Review, Scintilla, The Shop, Stand, The Yellow Nib and other magazines.  In 2012 he came second in the Strokestown competition and was shortlisted for the Manchester Poetry Prize.  He has won first prizes in the Scintilla and Poetry on the Lake competitions.  He is working on translations of Sappho’s songs.  He lived until recently in Holme on a shoulder of the Yorkshire Pennines.
C.P. Mangel was counsel for a pharmaceutical company for over twenty years, and then received her MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, four children, and two rescue mixed-breed muses.
Robert D. Kirvel is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net 2016 nominee for fiction, 2016 winner of the Fulton Prize for the Short Story, and a 2015 ArtPrize winner for creative nonfiction. He has published stories or essays in the UK, New Zealand, and Germany; in translation and anthologies; and in a score of U.S. literary journals, such as Columbia College Literary Review and Arts & Letters.
Stuart Ross is a writer whose work has appeared in The Awl, DIAGRAM, Eclectica Magazine, Funhouse Magazine, HTML Giant, Pioneertown, The Stockholm Review of Literature, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and other places. He is co-author of the novella Markson’s Pier, published by Essays & Fictions. He was awarded first place, non-fiction in the Summer Literary Seminars 2013 contest. He has been a resident of the Ragdale Foundation and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Stuart is a graduate of Queens College, City University of New York and the Creative Writing program at the University of Notre Dame.



A WORK IN PROGRESS... I am writing this first part on the eve of New Year's Eve day - and as new remembrances come to me, I may well...