Out today in ePub format, Let Me Tell You a Story is now a download for eReaders with additional links to sound files.
Problems with the ePub format? Try Calibre’s free converter to make a MOBI file and email it to your Kindle account.
Rapture, by Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, is dedicated to the protection of South Africa’s rhinos and is reproduced here in support of World Rhino Day.
We have to keep going as if there is a future, but it’s the end of the world,
the rapture, screaming bodies hurled to heaven. Wars everywhere and the middle
east burning: the smell of bodies lost to wonder, the callous mistake of statistics
sunburnt holes in the sky and the ritual murder of elephants and rhinos
almost industrialized, like our responses as automatic as breathing
as automatic as pressing a button as automatic as autopilot settings
as bodies kept alive by machines, and we are asked what we think
like/don’t like and there’s the debate and the edge of the world subsides
into flames of not caring. The world will end and we are nowhere near
the ones we love and the cold voice of the airport tells us to hurry to our boarding gate;
the ark is only half-built, the launch of the new strategy for the state is still waiting
for a coat of paint.
Here’s our life spread out in Eliot’s etherized surgery, facing Soyinka’s unwelcome guest
who won’t care about whether or not it’s convenient for you, will come calling when he likes
and when death comes for me I want to be busy making light. It won’t do to blame politicians for
power failures, I thank them as I write you, poem, into life.
Not dead yet, I’ve still got the whole night because I am not the one who was shot, banned or
almost beheaded, I am not the victim of some gruesome experiment with power, I simply
stand and stare at our world and write down what I see and even though it is misunderstood
at times, it stands.
The world ended just a moment ago
for another rhino lying in its lonely blood but that might not be on the news tomorrow.
Probably not. The news is hardly ever of sorrow but of egos mortally offended, naked
emperors and a child’s laugh as he paints the funfair of history. The electricity of connection
fails to resurrect our community, we’re in the dark here, so take this small hand,
this poem, this picture, spark stolen
from a power failure in Johannesburg:
may it light your way till you find your own.
First published in the 2013 anthology For Rhino in a Shrinking World (Ed Harry Owen) and subsequently with audio in the anthology Let Me Tell You a Story, 2016.
‘Are you sure you want to go through with this?’ Hannah paused, giving Lou a moment to consider, her fingertips tightly pinching the edge of the paper strip.
With eyes tightly closed her best friend nodded. ‘Do it.’ As Hannah tore the waxed paper downwards Lou let out a shriek, the piercing cry of a doomed creature caught in a snare.
‘Told you it would hurt,’ said Hannah, suppressing a smile. ‘Do you want me to carry on?’
They both appraised the runway, a rectangle of white skin trailing from kneecap to shin, bounded by the remaining forest of chestnut hairs. ‘You’ve got to do the rest – I can’t go out looking like a half-skinned bear in a dress.’
Tracy Fells was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize in 2014 and Phoenix and Marilyn won 2012 ChocLit Publishing’s Summer Short Story Prize. Read the rest of this story and others by Tracy Fells in Let me Tell You a Story and hear Tracy’s own narration by scanning a QR code on the page. Available from Lulu andAmazon.
“THE RAIN RUNS in muddy rivulets off the pile of earth beside his grave. No softening of the edges of this funeral. No fake grass discretely covers the mound, just a heap of mud, a pair of dirty spades, and two reluctant gravediggers in fluorescent jackets leaning against the neighbouring gravestone, silently willing us to move on so they can get the job done and head to the pub. Of course nothing will do the Ma but she has to wait until the last shovelful is put on. They pat down the soil with the backs of their spades as though they’re on a building site.
‘Don’t worry that it’s a bit high Missus. It’ll settle down grand in the next few weeks…’
Settle down on top of him and in time, when the wood rots and the earth seeps in, settle down until it kisses his face. I wish I’d kissed him now.
We place the wreaths on the grave as the rain buckets down,
‘Sincere condolences from all at Fahey’s.’ I tear the card off and stuff it my damp pocket before she sees it.”
Read on in ‘Let Me Tell You a Story’ where you can also hear Anne’s own narration by scanning a QR code.
@TheLiteraryPig, aka Tracy Fells, was one of the first who agreed to have her work included in Let Me Tell You a Story when it wasn’t much more than a twitch of an idea. In her blog she asks the questions neither of us could even have framed in those early days and hopefully gets some answers. It starts with people facing eviction or criminal prosecution …
Tracy has an extensive catalogue of writing ‘hits’ and read her work regularly at West Sussex Writers. Her contributions include Tantric Twister, Wood, and Phoenix and Marilyn.
The last of our anthology authors is Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, a South African poet with a personal history as extraordinary as that of her country. There’s more here.
This anthology began as a small local project, which is why I find myself both editor and contributor, and it grew. The reasons behind it are here and they have to do with literacy and privacy, and the indignity of having things read to you when you’re an adult. This book provides a model of what could be done to alleviate those problems. More.
“Sometimes I can read a poem on the page and I can’t quite make out what the author’s intention was: there’s something there, I can tell, but it’s hidden in the language-mist. When I hear the poem read aloud, (or accompanied by music, or acted out by a variety of voices: anything is possible once you start down this road) then the clouds are blown away and the poem does what it meant to say on the tin, to re-fashion an advertising slogan.” Ian McMillan.
Nguyen Phan Que Mai is fast becoming one of Vietnam’s foremost poets and seems to have been everywhere touring and performing her work, including India, America, and China just this year. I reviewed her book The Secret of Hoa Sen here earlier and in Let Me Tell You a Story, you can read some of her other work and also hear it performed. Check out her bio.
Ian McMillan is a poet, broadcaster, and presenter of BBC Radio Three’s The Verb, a programme that celebrates the spoken (and sung, and chanted, and pounded, and whispered) word. Ian’s appreciation of language; its flows and rhythms and its very many forms are what drew me to listening weekly to his programme. His way of showing language as living thing that can dance on the page if you let it out of the reverential box it sometimes gets trapped in led to me ask if he would consider writing this piece for us.
“Sometimes I can read a poem on the page and I can’t quite make out what the author’s intention was: there’s something there, I can tell, but it’s hidden in the language-mist. When I hear the poem read aloud, (or accompanied by music, or acted out by a variety of voices: anything is possible once you start down this road) then the clouds are blown away and the poem does what it meant to say on the tin, to re-fashion an advertising slogan.”
Ian is a Yorkshireman; he writes the way he speaks, and he speaks with a voice like a pint of strong dark beer in a big dimpled glass. So ease yourself into the soft-padded fireside seat of your favourite minds-eye pub, take that big glass in your hand – both hands if necessary – and give your minds-ears a treat.