Friday, 30 November 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: Section 10 of "Torso in the Window" by Ágnes Lehóczky


Then spot the city in the making. You have been up there before. Your routine attic-trip. Climbing up the timber boards of the wooden vaults. You say you are good at spotting fictitious city walls of unknown capitals. Carved in the highest vertex of the geometric solid, just above the choir: geography of an imagined home. You say your eyes are drawn to it. You have been up there on many occasions. The ceiling. The city. Stretches out like fishnet made of braided fibres, robust like ribs, or bridges. On the curvature of the vaults, diagonally, transversely, intermediately, slim figurines walk across in haste…shadows of circus animals march across the arches, camels, laden, caged-in monkeys, agitated, acrobats, fire eaters, hand in hand, no doubt, there is a world up there, perpetually changing, dependent too on the position of the sun, a non-stop preparation in dusk, you say you can spot clear outlines of builders, masons, bricklayers, all in the process of building. No. Knocking down. Yes. Building. To get to the core of the place they have been travelling to for so long. They travel to settle, you say. You say you see them arrive, slow rows of caravans, departing. Unclear. The difference. Between departures and arrivals.

Ágnes Lehóczky is an Hungarian-born poet and translator. Her first full collection, Budapest to Babel, was published by Egg Box in 2008; her second one, Rememberer in 2012 (Egg Box) includes "Torso in the Window". Her collection of essays on the poetry of Ágnes Nemes Nagy, Poetry, the Geometry of Living Substance, was published in 2011 by Cambridge Scholars. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of Sheffield.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Seeing Oaks" by Frances Presley

Seeing Oaks


Her love of her mother. Her mother’s gift of language.  We were looking at dead or almost dead trees today, trying to decide where we could plant trees for my mother and what kind.   Mr Carslake offered two yews, but I don’t really fancy yews.  They were always in church yards.  There’s a very practical reason for that ....  to keep the cows away for their own protection.   And it was a very useful wood.   Not that they are really poisonous.  I remember Hanley, was that his name in Ruskington?    Hanwell     Yes, he ate a few berries just to show that they weren’t.  Because there were yews at the bottom of the school garden.....  Or walnut trees, he said we could have walnuts.  I’ve got nothing against walnuts, I suppose they’re native.  But I was thinking more of oaks, or maybe ash.  Don’t you think, oaks?  He examined  the branches of a great tree in a clearing that looked almost dead, snapping off some twigs.    They could clear this away.


pine needles
wish bones
these two must be separated
not in the same house
skin flurries
wind or the furies
sleep creases

he said that the two oaks will grow
and if they die
they will be replaced

and I imagine my mother
watching them
my eyes her eyes
these gaps of sunlight
between the shifting oak leaves
and that is true of any oak tree

"Seeing Oaks" comes from Somerset Letters, originally published as a book by Oasis Books in 2002, with selections, including this one, later included in Paravane: New and Selected Poems 1996-2003 (Salt, 2004). Presley's last two books were published by Shearsman; to learn more about her and her work and read selections, please see her Shearsman author page here 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: "A Loyal Friend" by Tania Hershman

"A Loyal Friend"

Most people considered Jacobsen a loyal friend and so they invested everything, every cent they had. When Jacobsen failed to appear at the time they had agreed, no-one worried. Jacobsen's a friend, they said to each other. He is probably delayed, they said cheerfully, and helped themselves to nuts.

Several hours later, when attempts to contact Jacobsen had failed, they started talking in a different way. This is the point where you smile, they said to one another, and you say, We should have known. This is the point where you call the police.

Jacobsen was never found. It was never even determined where Jacobsen had come from, so to work out where he went was a lost cause. For a long time, his friends, the ones who had considered themselves confidantes and intimates, would meet and talk about him. One by one they began to confess their ignorance. What was his first name? they whispered to each other. What was he really called?

Tania Hershman is the author of two story collections: My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions (Tangent Books, 2012), a collection of 56 very short fictions, and The White Road and Other Stories (Salt, 2008; commended, 2009 Orange Award for New Writers). Tania's short stories and poetry are published or forthcoming in, among others, Five Dials, Stinging Fly, Tears in the Fence, PANK magazine, Smokelong Quarterly, the London Magazine, and New Scientist, and on BBC Radio. She is writer-in-residence in Bristol University's Science Faculty and editor of The Short Review.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Five Hundred Pound" by Tony Williams

"Five Hundred Pound" by Tony Williams

My growing up began in a pedalo at Carsington Water, when Granddad said to me, ‘I’ve left you some money in me will. Just so you know. I won’t be going for a long time yet, but when I do, there’s something for you. Five hundred pound.’
  We churned round among the swans without speaking. Drifting in near the bank we went under an overhanging tree, and I felt tiny insects or flecks of sap fall on my head and shoulders. I couldn’t speak; my head was full of five hundred pound.
Granddad was sitting there, his leg warm next to mine, the smell of his hair and coat. But I was thinking: Playstation. Mountain bike. Year’s supply of Haribo.
All through dinner all these ideas were tumbling through my mind. ‘You’re quiet,’ said Granny. It was sort of exciting but sort of painful too – how would I know what to buy? What if I chose the wrong thing?
He hadn’t known he was about to die. It was just chance that on the Monday I got back from school, mucky and cross after Games, and Dad was there, home early, in charge, and Mum was crying and hugging me. They sat me down and told me, and the first thing that came into my head was, ‘Digital camera. Playstation. Portable DVD.’ The second thing was, ‘Granddad’s dead,’ but the damage was done.
On the day I was wearing this dark suit. The collar chafed my neck, and I was glad. I wanted to cry. I looked out of the window of the black car at the rain. My fingers were drumming in my pocket, though. It felt like I had a secret.
At the crematorium I sang along although I didn’t know half the words. I tried to listen to what everyone said about Granddad, but all the time I was thinking how sad I had to be, and not thinking about the other thing. Then I found out I was crying, and it was OK.
Everyone went outside and stood about. Boring. Some of the men were smiling, and then some of the women too. They were talking about drinking. I knew there were tables of sandwiches and sausage rolls waiting at Granny and Grandad’s, and I really wanted to eat a plateful, but I didn’t think it was right. But Dad started rounding everybody up, and I went anyway, sitting in the car next to Mum, her cuddling me too tight.
It was the summer before the money came through. I’d twigged that Mum would make me save it, but she said we could go into Nottingham and spend some of it on something I wanted. We went and stood under the stone lions, and then to Dixons. I got an mp3 player. Then we had burgers at this posh ‘joint’, as Mum called it. They were massive, these burgers. I didn’t like the gherkins. When we were waiting for pudding I got the mp3 player out and had a go on the buttons, tried it out, looked at the instructions. It was OK, but I knew I’d failed.

"Five Hundred Pound" appears in Tony Williams' just-released collection of short stories, All the Bananas I've Never Eaten: Tales of Love and Loneliness (Salt). His stories have appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, Horizon Review, Fuselit and Under the Radar. His most recent poetry publication, All the Rooms of Uncle's Head (Nine Arches), was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet choice. He lives in Northumberland and teaches at Northumbria University.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Sudden Prose Reprints: Susie Campbell's "White Work"

White Work

'A form of embroidery worked with white thread on white fabric.' 

--Royal School of Needlework 

I am invested in plain seams, functional edges bound to prevent fraying, truthfully sewn. The facts. These loose threads hemmed around the commonplace for a purpose. It is pointless you arguing for the stability of satin cross-stitch, their disingenuous little histories. Nobody pays for gold and silver to be conservative.  I sicken at the floss of it, the twist and count, knotted in cerise, gimped in rose. And the slyness of your white stitch on white linen, the innocent excision of threads from the ordinary: here it is, you protest, my honest handiwork simple as your everyday stitches, perhaps just an accent or two in ecru or ivory. 

Susie Campbell

Susie Campbell writes in various forms for performance and for the page. She has a particular interest in cross-genre, collaborative work. Her work has appeared in various online and print journals, most recently Shearsman and Smiths Knoll,  and she has performed at Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe festivals. She has just started the Mst in Creative Writing at Oxford University. 

"White Work" appears in the current issue of Shearsman