Words in Pictures: Joe Dunthorne

The irreverent poet and novelist from Swansea takes performance poetry to a higher level.


Some comic relief from Words in Pictures: Joe Dunthorne, the unassuming-yet-quietly-successful young poet and novelist, created some excitement in 2008 when Penguin published his debut novel Submarine, to great critical acclaim.

Despite comparisons to Salinger, and the fact that Submarine is being made into a film starring Paddy Considine and Sally Hawkins, Dunthorne is still an active member of the London poetry scene, co-running "Homework", a night of "literary miscellany" that runs in East London at the Bethnal Green Workingmen's Club.

Dunthorne writes about this series of events on his website: "It got its name because the idea is that, for every show, all the performers must do their homework, which means writing a new piece of work for each event. It started as a way to force us to produce more poems, but now we are in thrall to its dark chemistry." This video is a performance from "Homework", and shows off Joe's rapping abilities.

But Dunthorne is not just a performance poet: his first collection of poetry, number five in the "New Poets" sequence, will be published by Faber on 6th May 2010.

The film version of Submarine is being produced by Warp Films, directed by Richard Ayoade, and is due to be released in early 2011. In the meantime you can watch this video.

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On Wheels

A new poem by Patrick Mackie

The hills swarm and soften towards the end of the day just as
flames do in a fireplace as the evening
loosens and breaks open and lets out night.
A nasty, grotesque, impatient year ended,
and the new one will be bitter,
tired, opaque. Words wrangle in every inch of air,
their mouths wide open in stupid shock
at what they have just heard every time they hear anything. Venus,
though, blazes with heavy wobbles of albeit frozen
light. Brecht, who I like to call my
brother just as he called Shelley his,
has a short late poem where he sits by a roadside, waiting
while someone changes the wheel on his car,
watching with impatience, despite not liking
either the place that he is coming from or
the place that he is going to. We call it
connectivity when in truth it is just aggression
and imitation writ ever larger. Poems, though,
are forms of infinite and wry but also briskly
impatient patience. Brecht’s poem seems to end,
for instance, almost before you
can read it. It wheels. The goddess is just a big, bright
wilderness but then soon enough she clothes
herself again in the openness of night and I lose her.

Patrick Mackie’s latest collection, The Further Adventures Of The Lives Of The Saints, is published by CB Editions.

This article first appeared in the 18 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Age of Lies

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