No One has Any Intention of Building a Wall by Ruth Brandt is a collection of stories and it was exactly my cup of tea. The characters are people that are, in a way, outsiders, and that difference is used in each story as a hook. No One has Any Intention of Building a Wall is one of those books where once you have closed it, you feel as if you are shutting the door on realistic characters that you are able to feel for. I didn’t so much enjoy the first story in this collection. Funnily enough, I always struggle to like the first story in any given short story collection. The title story of this collection was fantastic. I loved the very short ones: A Contemplation of Rain and Ducks and Lucky Underpants. Superstitions was another stand out and the simplicity of these lines. ‘The car engine falls silent. A door clicks open, clunks shut.’ Just a description of the opening of a door!
In Growing Pains, Isabelle Kenyon navigates the grey space between child and adult. From the playground wars with worms, to the value of a woman s body as she learns to take up her own space, this collection values kindness in what appears to be an increasingly cruel society.
I liked how Isabelle Kenyon used punctuation in her poems, like every word is carefully placed and the punctuation dictates our perception of the words and their meaning, as well as the impact the poem has on us. That aside, the subjects of the poems are something we can all probably relate to. Grief, and morning commutes, being two examples of that. The poems on a woman’s body and the value that is placed upon it, were interesting perspectives. Something I would have liked to have been explored more.
Growing Pains is a good read, and I enjoyed it as much I did Isabelle’s other books. Hopefully there will be a full-length poetry collection coming soon, because I always find myself wanting to read more.
A few bits and pieces I would like to share with you.
First of all, Ghost City Press every summer – since 2016? have published a series of chapbooks by a variety of writers that are completely free, with the option to donate however much you like to the author, and all you need to do is signup here and they will send a chap directly to your inbox Monday to Friday. It is from now until September. It’s a great way to find new writers to read.
Post Ghost press have stocked up their Etsy shop with new stickers and zines. I haven’t purchased anything from them yet, but I do like what I see and I will have to buy from them ASAP.
One of my favourite publishers Fly on the Wall Press have now put up their new magazine issue for pre-order. The theme of this issue is food (yum) and they have been putting on their YouTube – videos of the writers performing their work. I am super excited to announce my poem Dinner is in this issue. It’s a poem about sieves and bubbles. Get pre-ordering here.
1, Tell us about you, and your writing (themes, influences etc.)
I’m on a journey to become as weird as David Lynch. I’d say I’m about 3% of the way there, so this may take a while. Most of what I write – my columns, my poems, by books – are about being yourself and accepting your weirdness. Some of us are more capable than others, because being yourself is an extremely brave act. Weirdness is feared intensely in the world, often by insecure people.
My first book The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks is about being completely, unapologetically yourself and not worrying what people think. I try not to be cliched about mental health. In the book, the main character Elodie-Rose deals with a constant buzzing and whirring in her brain whenever she decides to give zero fucks for something the day has thrown her way; like bullying or sexual harassment or even being told she’s too loud in debating class. Eventually, when she decides to live life as she chooses, the whirring stops. And in my upcoming poetry book, House of Weeds, every character has been labelled an outcast by society. The poems are about rebelling against norms and embracing your strange. Making peace with it.
I’ve been influenced by the oddest, most magical content: Jim Henson, Roald Dahl, The Mighty Boosh, The Worst Witch, horoscopes, Ella Frears, Anne Carson and Michael Rosen. There will always be a dark humour in my work, because I believe even the saddest, most terrifying situations need laughter.
2, What are some of the ways in which you promote your work, and do you find these add, or eat into, your time writing?
Every single waking second of every day I spend working, with my laptop open. It’s ruining my eyesight. And I live on Twitter, despite how angry it makes me. I write a lot of comment pieces on the themes of my books and have a regular column for a magazine called Shots, which is designed for the creative community. I’m known as outspoken, which is weird in and of itself, because I only talk about what I believe. In the book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson talks about how we’re cultivating a society where only the bland will thrive. I try and remember that when I write.
3, What projects are you working on at present?
House of Weeds, published by Fly on the Wall Press, is coming out on 17th May. As soon as the world is back to normal and it’s appropriate to do so, me and the book’s illustrator Jack Wallington are staging an immersive exhibition in Peckham, so you can go straight to the scene of the book, and live like its characters. I couldn’t be more excited. I’m also writing an audio sitcom and am in the final stages of a novel about the dark, exploitative side of the volunteering industry, set in Kenya.
4, What does poetry mean to you?
I struggle with the inaccessibility of poetry, sometimes. So many regular people simply feel they “don’t get it.” What a tragedy! I don’t want poetry to be a secret club, for English grads from redbrick universities who use the same words and voices. It defeats the object of the world being gifted this unrivalled art form that allows people to rip out a piece of their ridiculous brains and throw it on a page to see what happens. When I started writing poetry I was stunned at how much I could get away with, how much I was able to speak my mind, but do it beautifully, with wit and surprise. Poetry is therapy, genuinely. It’s becoming more accessible over time, and when my friends say to me “I don’t get it” it makes me sad, because they don’t realise that all you have to do is try.
Amy Charlotte Kean is an advertising strategist, innovation consultant and writer from Essex. Her first book, the number 1 bestselling The Little Girl Who Gave Zero F*cks was published in 2018 with Unbound. Amy’s rants, reviews, short fiction and poems have been published in The Guardian, Huffington Post, Disclaimer, Glamour, Abridged, Burning House Press, Poetry Village and many others. She was shortlisted in the Reflex Flash Fiction competition and was an Ink, Sweat & Tears poet of the month. Her second book, House of Weeds, is out in May with Fly on the Wall Press.