It's Day Four of our Best Young British Writers selection, and today poet and publisher Dan Holloway attempts to break all of my rules...
I love the idea of spotting and championing new writers, being there at the start of something magical and bringing that something to the public. I hate that new these days is equated with young. Granta and the like are a lot to blame for that. So I’m going to start with:
Davy Mac (David MacArnold)
A new writer but definitely, he won’t mind me saying, not a young one. I met Davy when he stuck his hand up to open mic at an event I organised at Modern Art Oxford. His tale of the despair of homelessness blew me away. He was a squaddie for years, he’s been homeless, and now he writes and campaigns on both fronts. He is the author of the Homeless Oratorio, last year’s Hammer and Tongue Oxford Poetry Slam grand champion, and a startlingly brilliant firebrand ready to stick a much needed rocket up the nation’s conscience.
And now back to the game. The following are all young. I am going to rule out three people I have announced I will be publishing through 79 rat press – Paul Askew, Sian S Rathore and Emily Harrison. All are young, all are brilliant. All would be on any ones to watch list that had any validity. But in the interest of avoiding conflicts of interest so to speak, they have been left out. All the below are to be taken, where appropriate, with “excepting the above” as read.
Vanessa Kisuule is the best performance poet in the UK. Her verse is deeply political, deeply lyrical, and deeply moving, with far less rant and far more power, far less easy rhyme and far more depth than pretty much anyone else on the poetry slam circuit. She is featured in Rhyming Thunder, the “best new poets” book from the superlative Burning Eye Books, and will have her own full collection very soon I’m sure. When she does, it will turn a lot of heads. Get on the wagon before everyone else does.
Andy Harrod is the best flash fiction writer I’ve ever read. Which does the skilfulness of his artistry a gross disservice. His work combines hauntingly evocative photography and flash vignettes that weave layers of place, situation, character and feeling together like layers of lacquer applied by a master craftsman. His debut collection Living Room Stories was hugely acclaimed in the too few places it has been read, including a rave review from Harper Collins’ Scott Pack, one of the publishing world’s most famous fans of all things Japanese, which makes sense because Harrod has the deft touch of a haiku master.
Claire Trévien and Kirsty Logan
And so to the final choice. I want to give a nod to the vibrant, fascinating world of Alt Lit. The obvious choice would be the excellent poet Gabby Gabby, but her work strays very close to what I guess could be called the avant garde mainstream – she deals superbly with the themes of Alt Lit – disconnection, middle class malaise, the internet, brands and I’d recommend her to anyone. But I think I’ve already ruled out the very best voices on the periphery of British Alt Lit, Sian S Rathore and Paul Askew. I want to end with anger. But the name I want to give, Errol McGlashan, who is currently taking the world of performance poetry by storm, misses the age criteria again and Thom might get really cross. There’s not enough of it in contemporary literature. I’d also love to end with truly experimental fiction, but I don’t know that the brilliant examples percolating away.
So I’ll end with No One. The gap that needs filling. A person who takes the 21st century’s assumptions about literature, society, identity, politics and rips them apart. Someone who gives grammar the finger, who reaches deep inside themselves and plucks out the seething, violent viscera inside and scrapes it across the page. If that’s you then you deserve to be here.
Dan Holloway is a literary whirlwind: among his many achievements he is an author, publisher, poet and pundit. Follow him on Twitter
Day 5 - Workshy Fop picks