EDITORIAL - Ken Clay
MODIGLIANI – Jim Burns
WHAT BECAME OF – Alexis Lykiard 17
TOFFS AND WHEEZES SPREAD DISEASES Alexis Lykiard
END OF 2020 VISION/S - Alexis Lykiard
CRICKET LOVELY CRICKET - Alexis Lykiard
DIAGNOSIS – Alexis Lykiard
MALAISE – Alexis Lykiard
TRUTH – Alexis Lykiard
KING BOB APPROXIMATELY – Aubrey Malone
UNCLE TOM AND AUNTIE LIZZIE - Keith Howden
FROGSPAWN – Keith Howden
COLIN RENSHAW – John Lee
THE POLISH SHOP – Mark Ward
WHO KILLED FATIMA DURRANI ?– Mark Ward
HABOOB – Mark Ward
EXODUS – Mark Ward
IFFY ARMOUR AROMA – Tanner
THE CONFESSION (2) Bob Wild
SPIDERS – Keith Howden
AT SHANGRI –LA 1933– Keith Howden
LEFT WITHOUT SAYING – Tom Kelly
TIME IS TURNED TO PAP – John Taylor
FROM THE CLOSET – George Aitch
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US – Jim Burns
I ATE IT COLD (2) – Ivan de Nemethy
CHICKEN FEED – David Birstwistle
PSYCHES – Ken Champion
MY EXPERIENCES IN THE BOOK WORLD-Aubrey Malone
THE BOOK BUSINESS
As the old joke has it – what’ve you gotta do to make a small fortune out of writing? Start with a large fortune. Most writers would settle for a living and even top poets like Simon Armitage and Carol Ann Duffer have to stoop to the horror of working in universities. Still, a day job was good enough for Eliot, Auden, and Larkin. One of the finest oik poet of recent times, Peter Reading, worked a weighbridge in Shropshire and jacked it in when he was told he had to wear a uniform. Poor pisshead Pete (I have a signed limited edition of his collection Shitheads describing oiks in Blackpool with fake turds on their caps).
They ordered things differently in the old USSR. If you got into the Writer’s Union you got a villa, a car and access to western shops. You’d have to write panegyrics to Stalin and Brezhnev and if they didn’t come up to snuff you’d find yourself in gulag. A small price to pay for the kind of respect and security our own oik poets can only dream of. The top dog himself had literary aspirations and his History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), Short Course (1938) was a big seller. Punters didn’t worry about remembering the title; they knew there’d be a pile ten feet high in the shop where a small box of sausages used to be. It was nearly as successful as Hitler’s Mein Kampf which made the crazy carpet chewer an instant millionaire.
So, without the advantages of absolute power, how exactly are you supposed to survive? Even hairdressers and barmen get furloughed in the kingdom of Boris but poets and story writers? It’s the food bank for you mate. Hovering like a mirage in the desert is the example of JK Rowling or Dan Brown. There’s no denying these scribes have a rare talent and have earned their loot in the market. It’s also the case that you couldn’t learn the knack of it and clean up with an imitation. But is it literature? No.
Poets are a different breed. It’s possible there are more people out there writing poetry than reading it – and certainly fewer buyers of poetry. They have a great advantage over the toiling prose writer – the reading. Poets are like pop singers (and now even they’ve been hobbled by streaming and the reduced sales of CDs). At the reading you can project – especially if you’re some kind of charismatic nut-job like John Cooper Clarke (Bukowski and Ginsberg would be other examples). Then after your brief stint on the stage the gobsmacked punters would queue towards a stack on an adjacent table.
In both spheres, poetry and prose, marketing and publicity are the keys. Unless you’re a great talent (and it could take years for this to dawn on the feckless book buyer – by which time you could be dead) you need a marketing angle or stunt. If Fred West or the Yorkshire Ripper had written a novel it’d outsell, say, the late novels of Henry James (perhaps a bad example but you see what I mean). And this assumes you’ve jumped over the first tripwire – publication. What technology takes with one hand it gives back with the other. Yes Jeff Bezos is a greedy sod only concerned with profit, if your book is offered at ten quid Jeff’ll want five. The arcane algorithm which ranks his vast list is a well-guarded secret. But the nerds have also invented print-on-demand and the Ebook by which you can publish and sell your own stuff, cheap as chips. Speaking of which many of these unreadable works can be dismantled to wrap the said chips or used to wipe the other end of your digestive tract as you rip out the never-to-be-read again pages.
There’s more in this dysphoric vein in Aubrey Malone’s piece on page 97. Coincidentally Alexis Lykiard had recourse to the great miserablist Robert Burton (An Anatomy of Melancholy) and stumbled across this:
"It would be better to make toothpicks, than, by literary labours to try to win the favour of the great.” Or even a living one might add.
However, to end on a positive note, you should write for its own sake, or simply, as Stendhal advised, to entertain a few friends – The Happy Few. Forget about fame and riches –they’re a snare and a delusion. Who wants to be Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos? Aim for the respect and appreciation of your peers – your fellow writers who feature in the Crazy Oik and get published by Penniless Press Publications. All the rest is vanity
Ken Clay April 2021
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US
My father, in his younger days, had
chased pirates in the China Seas.
shelled Bolsheviks near Vladivostock,
brawled with bottles and knives
in a Mexican bar, and nearly had his
throat cut in a barber's shop
in Ireland at the time of the Troubles.
He had also been a steeplejack,
a docker, and a labourer, not to mention
one of the army of unemployed, walking
twenty miles a day in search of a job.
Towards the end of his life it happened
that we both worked in the' same factory.
Those were, I suppose, his quiet years,
sweeping floors, and drinking two pints
only each Saturday lunchtime, because
his bowels wouldn't take it anymore.
He hadn't much to say, that tired old man,
when we met in the pub. He would laugh
about the time he jumped ship, or remember
what was said to him when he got drunk
and missed the sailing of the Royal Squadron.
I asked him why he'd killed Bolsheviks,
and he didn't know, it was something
that had happened long ago. The few good
times came back, the odd words spilled out
from conversations forty years before,
a sight seen, like the Grand Fleet in line
at Jutland, would come into his inner eye,
and he would lean on the bar, and quietly
look out to sea. When he died they scattered
his ashes at the crematorium. The old sailor,
who rarely spoke of anything but ships,
lying amongst the soil and grass he didn't
know. Any water would have done, the shore
at a seaside resort, or the river even,
but instead he was thrown onto a garden.
Flowers and poems. He would have laughed
at what we gave him for a funeral.