Interned at the Food Factory – still serving!

Now that my book’s been ‘out there’ for nine months, I thought it was a good time to review how it’s been getting on ‘in the world’.  So I updated my Facebook page for ‘Interned at the Food Factory’ (Indigo Dreams Publishing, January 2019) https://www.facebook.com/InternedatTheFoodFactory/
and thought it was time for another update here on my blog.

First, to recap, the poems in this book deal with eating disorders of various kinds, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, early years abuse, bullying and neglect, body dysmorphia and appetite confusion; food production and especially factory-processed food; gourmets and gourmands; predatoriness and predation in various guises  …  and the search for healing/possibility of recovery from food-related conditions. But there’s quite a lot of humour and fun in the book too!

Thank you to Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling of Indigo Dreams Publishing for being such positive and supportive editors and publishers of a book touching on what are ‘tender’ areas for so many people.

Reception – update

There are several mini-reviews in my previous blog post (see below), and quotes from longer reviews. Now I can add a few more: including a recent review from Rosemary Muncie in South Magazine (October 2019):

“There is no evasion in these well wrought poems.”

“Only a true poet would stand apart from themselves to observe this process and report back with such intriguing detail.”

“A cool and sensitive final poem”.

Jude Cowan Montague has described the pamphlet as ‘powerful’.

Supplementing their previous comments, included in my previous blogpost, Brett Evans Deborah Harvey and Dee Russel-Thomas have added:

“A cracking collection of poems” – Brett Evans, poetry editor, Prole magazine.

“A really thoughtful and thought-provoking collection” – Deborah Harvey.

‘Anyone who has any kind of love/hate relationship with food will relate to this gem of a book. It unravels a myriad of feelings and yet manages to find humour in the depths of despair. Privilege to have read it!’ –Dee Russell-Thomas

Thanks, again, to Rosemary, Jude, Deborah, Brett and Dee for this encouraging feedback.

Readings – update

I’ve had the pleasure of giving readings from the book in a number of places including:

• The Poetry Cafe in London with IDP stablemates Brett Evans, Holly Magilll and Marie Lightman, on 25 September.

Silver St in Bristol thanks to Deborah Harvey;

• Fountain Poets in Wells thanks to Ama Bolton;

Verbatim in Welshpool thanks to Pat Edwards;

* a joint launch event with Belinda Rimmer at Suffolk Anthology in Cheltenham thanks to Helen Hewett

• Gloucester Poetry Festival on Saturday 26 October with Sarah Leavesley, David Ashbee, Roger Turner and Derek Dohren thanks to Ziggy Dicks, and

* a reading leading up to Evesham Festival of Words, thanks to Sue Johnson and Sue Ablett …

… and on Corinium Radio, Cirencester thanks to Rona Laycock. Here’s a link to the programme which was recorded for The Writer’s Room, hosted by Rona: https://www.mixcloud.com/coriniumradio/the-writers-room-12-aug-2019/

Forthcoming readings (with other poets) include:

• Writers at The Goods Shed in Tetbury next spring with Belinda Rimmer thanks to Phil Kirby and

• Buzzwords, again with Belinda Rimmer, next summer, thanks to Angela France.

I’d be thrilled to give more readings, especially at places within 90 minutes of Cheltenham, so please get in touch if you organise events within that radius. I’m very happy to do joint readings with another poet or poets. Please just ask!

I avoid including – in public readings – any of the more triggering poems, concentrating instead on the hopeful, humorous and healing aspects of the book. I’ll include more recent work in readings too … from a wide variety of other topics, which could include ecological-environmental themes, the natural world/countryside, Wales, relationships, dystopia, eschatology and more!

Thank you to everyone who has bought and read Interned at the Food Factory so far. Further copies are available from me (signed if you like, just comment below) for £6 plus p&p … or from my author’s page on the Indigo Dreams website: https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/sharon-larkin/4594486683

Photographs below are from the Indigo Dreams Showcase at The Poetry Cafe in London on 25 September with Brett Evans, Holly Magill and Marie Lightman:

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Reading at The Poetry Cafe, London

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Sharon Larkin, Marie Lightman, Holly Magill and Brett Evans at The Poetry Cafe, London

Finally, while in London, I found ‘Interned at the Food Factory’ at The Poetry Library on the South Bank … at the end of the copious shelf of Philip Larkin books (no relation!) …

 

Interned at the Food Factory

My pamphlet, Interned at the Food Factory, was published by Indigo Dreams on 7 January 2019. The poems are dedicated to anyone who might describe their relationship with food as ‘complicated’.

Reception of the poems, prior to and following publication, has been pleasing. Observations received have so far included the following:

From Brett Evans, poet and editor of Prole magazine:

“… gets better with each read, and the initial read knocked me for six. …”
“By turns vulnerable and sassy, heartbreaking and funny, consistently insightful and readable, the food in these poems is no spread for some twee picnic.  In an age of increasingly innocuous poetry, Sharon Larkin is to be applauded for the rawness included here and for an exceptional instinct for the emotional weight and balance of her poems”.
 
 
From poet Kate Noakes:
 
“In these poems Sharon Larkin weaponises the language of food; sometimes witty, always moving. Watch out. This is a place where you must check whether ‘the knife drawer [is] closed.’

From Dawn Bauling, Indigo Dreams Publishing:

“Full of wit and cheeky humour but a nonetheless serious intent. This collection has a real glisten to it – that makes you want to read on and on…”

From Poet Deborah Harvey:

“So much that resonates … What I really like about it, though, is the exuberance that offsets the sadness; that was unexpected. I found it very funny and very earthy.”

From poet Belinda Rimmer:

“A sense of menace runs throughout the book. Food comes to fill in gaps of many shapes and sizes, to compensate for lack? There are lighter tones too – food is treated playfully and lovingly, as well as with disgust. This is a place where self-denial and overindulgence collide. Everyday language is used in surprising ways….Wonderful and painful poetry.”

From poet Dee Russell-Thomas:

“ I very much enjoyed reading this…food for plenty of thought and a most apt dedication. Well done on a perceptive collection of painful poetry.

From Anna Saunders, poet and founder-director of Cheltenham Poetry Festival:

“… an excellent collection … Vivid and sparky and original. Beautifully written”.

_____________

Thank you to all the above poets for taking time to read the poems with perception and understanding. Your kind comments are much appreciated.

______________

Food Factory on Tour

The following readings from Interned at The Food Factory are coming up this year. (Open to further invitations; please contact me to arrange).

Evesham Library – 10 May 
(thanks to Sue Johnson and Susan Ablett) 

Cirencester – 20 June 
Corinium Radio Writers’ Room programme 
(thanks to Rona Laycock) 

Wells, The Fountain – 1 July
(Thanks to Ama Bolton)

Welshpool, Verbatim – 29 July
(thanks to Pat Edwards) 

Poetry Café London – 25 September, with Brett Evans, Holly Magill and Marie Lightman. (With thanks to The Poetry Society)

Gloucester Poetry Festival with Sarah Leavesley, David Ashbee, Roger Turner and David Dohren at The Folk Museum, Gloucester – 26 October, 
(thanks to Ziggy Dicks)

Review: Sloth and the Art of Self-Deprecation – by Brett Evans

Pamphlet, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018

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Sloth: an arboreal mammal with a very low metabolism, slow and deliberate in its movements, sloth being related to the word slow. (Adapted from Wikipedia)

 

On picking up this pamphlet, the reader quickly realizes that Sloth is both animal and philosopher … and that double meanings, clever wordplay and a jazz/blues soundtrack will course through the poems.

First contact is with Sloth on the rocks, linking the hero/anti-hero to the Martini in his three-clawed paw on book’s cover; the cocktail will be a recurrent metaphor in the book. Or perhaps the rocks hint that Sloth might at times feel imperilled, stranded on a diminishing outcrop while a foaming sea rages about him. Perhaps they foreshadow Sloth’s apparent affinity with the Icarus narrative – the rise, only to risk the catastrophic fall (one of the themes of the poem Bull).

The poet’s deployment of words with multiple meanings, startling images, occasional shock, and layered metaphors ensures that our experience of this slim pamphlet will be so much greater than the sum of its twenty five poems. Ambivalence about fame and success, a justifiable disinclination to reach up or reach out for fear of falling, can be discerned as major themes in this pamphlet, but what is diffidence if not an honest symptom of the daily struggle ­to survive, against the odds?

Most comfortable at home in his familiar habitat, you will most likely find philosopher-Sloth in a dressing gown or shirt, stained with some body fluid or other, or still abed in skid-marked sheets towards noon, no friend of the dawn chorus or the cold caller … and certainly not a willing entertainer of knockers with evangelical intent. Sloth is often encountered revelling in his mammalian glory – a belly-hauling, ball-scratching, farting, shitting, pissing organism par excellence. He laps and guzzles, and is not good at exercising restraint. Even as a sloth-child, he experienced “excesses driven beyond volition” (Philosophies and Maladies).

Philosopher-Sloth also enjoys certain refined pleasures, such as the Martinis, but these are knocked back with a penalty his mother (“the barmaid”) failed to warn him about. The risk of falling/fear of failing – of being similarly knocked back – prove to be companionable, but quite unworthy, drinking partners. It might feel safer, and less of an ordeal, not to stray too far from one’s comfort zone, whether that is “a tree of his own” or “the second-hand wingback chair / with torn upholstery” but, with sociable Sloth, the reader also visits a series of pubs, bars, jazz and blues clubs and boozy streets, in search of other comfortable perches, epitomized by the “well-padded bar stool”.

It soon becomes clear that Sloth is no sluggard or slouch when it comes to erudition. He is well read with a stack of books at one hand, balancing the inevitable Martini at the other. He knows his James Joyce, his F Scott Fitzgerald, his Hemingway; can recognize a Hogarth … and that shipwreck-saviour, the Raft of the Medusa; and he is intimately acquainted with the two-edged xiphoi of the Spartans who cut a dash across the upholstery of his comfy seat.

The sloth-heavy themes of the book are helped along by both humour and the ever-present soundtrack: a procession of mostly American jazz and blues musicians and combos in a variety of haunts. The reader soon becomes infected by foot-tapping, while the blues supply regular infusions of humanity. Sloth’s hallmark is a compassion for the underdog … and the abused. This finds ultimate expression in the final poem: Sloth and the Snake (for the Standing Rock Sioux), telling of the colonized first-nation inhabitants of North/South Dakota, victims of so many broken treaties, whose territory has recently undergone yet another episode of exploitation, imperilling water supplies and thus their very existence. I detect in this poem fellow-feeling for fellow-sufferers.

Having reread and reread this pamphlet since it arrived through my letterbox, I have come to enjoy more and more the consummate wordplay, inspired line-breaks, startling images, rich accumulation of metaphors and calculated shocks. There are even a couple of rhymed poems, cunningly wrought (I’m in awe of any poet with the audacity to rhyme Jew’s with billet doux). I have reached the conclusion that there is a virtuoso performer playing here, and that any diffidence (certainly not sloth) may have in the past dictated more modest ‘venues’ than the ‘arenas’ to which this artist might have aspired. I am glad this work has joined his previous volume (The Devil’s Tattoo, Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2015) ­… with the same worthy publisher.

While weighty questions are raised by this slim body of poetry, the work buzzes with wit and verve, belly laughs sharing space with a rare artistic sensibility, humanity teamed with courage. Solace comes mercifully, in the shape of an odalisque, in the nuzzling of freckled skin, and in a rather special two-course meal. Predictably and unashamedly, my favourite poem in the book is Big Women and Men of Imagination, closely followed by Sloth on Fine Dining both for its absolute filth and as a decent sonnet. Positively Shit Street – Rhyl to Venus deserves a mention for its splendid last line “goggling Venusians wondering what fucking planet we were on.” Other favourite lines from this master of one-liners come from The Martini as Big as the Ritz, (“Enough ice to reassure the polar bear”) and Bull (“The house of unrising bums” ­– hat tip to Eric Burdon).

Sloth notwithstanding, there is no excuse, at all, for the poet to be self-deprecatory about this latest volume. The craft – no, the art – in this pamphlet rises up, rampant, and bursts forth, unashamed and unapologetic.