Church and Other Dirty Words is a collection of poems by author and poet Brad Cohen. I reviewed it back in 2016, and was hugely impressed by the raw and visceral feel of the words - blunt and honest and directly speaking to my experiences as a Gay man. As a result, I was thrilled to be asked to review "Church and Other Dirty Words: The Film Collection" - a collaboration between Brad Cohen and director Sian Williams.
There's definitely a danger with adapting poems, in that part of the wonder of poetry is the myriad of individual meanings the words can take on in the reader's minds. There's a concern that there'll be less of a connection for the reader in watching another person's view of how the feelings and thoughts of a poem should be conveyed - but it's something that the team behind "Church and Other Dirty Words: The Film Collection" have carefully avoided - these short films are direct, thought provoking and utterly electric.
The films differ in tone and content - but overarching themes unify them as a collection - all of them filled with a searing honesty that's impossible to turn away from. "Church and Other Dirty Words" was already a varied and original body of work, but Cohen and Williams should be applauded for finding dynamic and innovative ways to approach these poems - the words are allowed to take centre stage, but the magnetic performances and inventive, creative cinematography allow for films that stimulate both visually and aurally. Performances from artists such as Danny Polaris, Joseph Connolly, Charlie Knight, Sophie Chittenden, Sian Williams, Victoria Matthews, Luigi Ambrosio, Joe Gilmore and Matthew Williams are accompanied by a score composed by Himuro Mansion - ranging from slow, meditative themes through to pulsing beats. It's cleverly arranged - sympathetic to the performances but excellent in its own right.
In terms of the the range of films, it's hard to pick a favourite - the overarching films with Danny Polaris and Joseph Connolly delve into a relationship full of raw emotions and, in the final film, a tenderness and openness that corresponds to the themes of the poems perfectly. "Masc4Masc" features Joseph Connolly in a blunt, direct and intimate short, and "DJ Pygmalion" is a vivid, sexual and pulsing piece performed by Charlotte Dowell that's almost staggering in its directness. Lingering looks in "Girl Under You" stay with the viewer long after the film has ended, and the sensual, fluid movements of Luigi Ambrosio and Joe Gilmore in "Bedside Surgeon"convey a relationship without a need for words - the phrase "poetry-in-motion" by be an age old cliche, but it's beyond fitting here.
An original, powerful and brilliantly crafted project, "Church and Other Dirty Words: The Film Collection" takes already brilliant poems and carries them through to a new creative level. Combined they're only just over half and hour, but they'll stay with the viewer far, far longer.
Imagine feeling lost in your own body. Imagine spending years living a lie, denying what makes you 'you'. This was Ryan's reality. He had to choose: die as a man or live as a woman. In 2012, Ryan chose Ryannon. At the age of thirty she began her transition, taking the first steps on the long road to her true self, and the emotional physical and psychological journey that would change her for ever.
In 2017 we seem to have reached a new era of awareness and acceptance when it comes to Trans people - with media campaigners and writers like Paris Lees and Janet Mock alongside actors such as Laverne Cox and Rebecca Root, Trans issues are being talked about in the mainstream media, and, for the most part, being accepted and celebrated.
We're not there yet though - there's still a hell of a lot of ignorant people out there, and media coverage can often be tainted with a curiosity that swiftly veers into disrespect and unwelcome intrusion.
Step forward Rhyannon Styles, performance artist, dancer, hairdresser, clown - and now writer. She's been a columnist for "Elle UK" for the last two years, and brings her experience, expertise and considerable talent to "The New Girl", a memoir that entertains every bit as much as it informs.
Rhyannon was born Ryan, and throughout her life went on an emotional, psychological and ultimately physical journey to become the woman she is in today. It's a journey that Rhyannon tells with no holds barred - allowing the reader to get to know her very well indeed. As such, it removes any potential awkwardness for the reader who may not be all that familiar with the ins and outs of transitioning, and instead feels like you're catching up with a friend over coffee. That's not to say that Rhyannon's journey isn't difficult - parts of this read had me tearing up, and Rhyannon's frankness and honesty conveys in part the immense difficulties and huge life choices that people questioning their gender face.
For a subject that it so difficult, emotional and intensely personal, Rhyannon does a fantastic job of not making things get too heavy - she's clearly a funny, witty and warm person and as such the reader enjoys embarking on every step of the journey with her, no matter how dark and difficult it gets.
Transitioning is going to be an individual and different journey for anyone who chooses to embark on the process, and, as such, there's no way one could cover all the potential questions that one on the journey, or the family and friends supporting them, may have. Rhyannon, quite rightly, chooses not to try and cover every possible base, but concentrates on telling her story - one packed full of humour, insights and warmth that offers considerable support, hope and understanding for those reading, whether you're trans, questioning, or just an ally. The last year or so has seen some brilliantly good Queer literature published in the UK - and "The New Girl" is a shining example of that.
“Being good is overrated. Wicked on the other hand…simply delicious”
Cutting your friends from your life and treating guys as Ken Dolls may seem like an easy task to achieve…WRONG! It’s harder than you realize. Especially where you live in small city where the gay community consists of only a hundred people. So you’re bound to run into drama.
Recently single, Allister finds himself at a crossroad. Try the dating scene again hoping to find a better guy who won’t take him for granted or dip into the hook-up scene feeding his inner sex god.
First a photographer, now a writer – Allister Dean is a Nevada based writer, currently relocating to Oregon in order to write his second novel. “Deliciously Wicked” is his first, and it’s a debut that’s both strong and sparkling – pulling the reader into a world that’s fun, sexy, honest, and relatable.
It may seem rather difficult to believe, but “Bridget Jones Diary” was first published in book form 21 years ago. Whilst it sparked a revolution in how it recorded women’s lives, no-one has, to my knowledge, been able to emulate that style well in writing about men – certain changes have to be made, and especially when writing about a Man in this day and age, when diaries are less of a thing, but so many elements of our day to day lives are recorded in emails, texts, blogs, tweets, Instagram posts, dating site profiles, etc…
Allister Dean has collated all of those differing elements, and combined them into one book – making it a read that feels fresh and exciting, allowing the reader snippets that give them detailed glimpses into the lead characters life, and yet allow for the book to maintain a strong sense of pace – it excels at being a light read, yet it’s rather astonishing quite how much information you can gleam from just a few pages of text exchanges, snatched conversations, sexual encounters and messages to ex boyfriends.
It’s quite often that I read books wanting to have on the characters as a friend – but it’s rare to read one where it feels like the lead character is a friend from the off – regaling you with sexy stories, sassy asides and bitchy comments that make for hilarious reading. You shouldn’t just write this tale of as a shallow look at gay life though – it’s packed full of interesting insights and frank acknowledgements. Brilliant asides are peppered with chapters of story that move several different plots along, keeping the book moving at a rapid pace, but nevertheless, allowing the reader to get to know other characters who enter Allister’s life, and making this a far deeper read than it may initially appear.
Fun, funny and filled with clever writing, catty characters and sexy situations, “Deliciously Wicked” is far more than the sum of its parts – a great read with a big glass of wine and a big bar of chocolate ( or one of the delicious meals that you’ll find the recipes for within the pages of this book…)
When was the last time you managed to get away from everything?
Robert and Tristan needed to close a chapter in their relationship. This photography book will take you through their intimate journey in search for answers. You will leave behind the city to immerse yourself in nature and witness the awakening of their passion, and above all, the deep connection they thought they had lost. A special moment in their lives that only you, me and the woods will share.
Vincent Six is a photographer based in London. Originally from Spain, he has dedicated a big part of his professional career to creating images for films in Hollywood, but has set up his own independent publishing label in order to explore a more intimate side – in a book full of passion, love, and nature.
You Me The Woods is a book full of Vincent VI’s beautiful photography, but chooses not to focus solely on the beautiful images, but instead inserts a written narrative alongside the images, detailing private conversations between the two characters whose interactions VI closely details, and allowing the readers unbridled access into the lives of these two men – allowing a level of closeness and intimacy between the reader and the action of the book that is almost unparalleled.
The writing documents close, flowing conversation between two lovers – the kind of conversation that only comes from years of love and intimacy. The writing takes the reader by the hand and guides them through the photographs – shedding light on pictures that are already filled with an immense amount of storytelling – making this an immersive experience. Whilst it’s only a short read, you’ll want to linger over these images – the models are truly beautiful men, and Vincent VI has created a real sense of connection between the pair of them – making the pictures moving, emotive, and erotic.
There is some nudity, but it’s beautifully shot – and the reader does not feel like they are watching two men mid photo shoot, but merely being granted glances into the lives of two men during a moment of their relationship – intimate, yes, but also filled with love and affection.
It’s also worth mentioning that nature is the real third character here – a beautiful forest setting adding to the enchantment of these pictures, and also highlighting the fact this book is part of the One Tree Planted campaign -so for every copy of this book that’s bought, a tree will be planted. I feel like I’ve given you enough reasons to buy this book already – but if not, that’s one more for you!
A beautiful, tender and intimate read, You Me The Woods is a book that creates something more than a normal photography tome – creating a project that portrays a relationship in stunning fashion. Most definitely a book to buy and look at over and over again…
Join Theo and Maria : Two of life’s young professionals, oversexed and under appreciated as they strive and stumble their way through life’s ups and downs within their Central London existence. Maria , a feisty, career driven woman and her friend Theo, a gay, sarcastic, warm hearted lover of life, find themselves, on a whirlwind journey of life, love, loss and sexual humour set against the backdrop of a vibrant Soho.
Rob Adam is a writer based in Somerset, writing about life, love and relationships.
So, it has to be said that I have somewhat of a mixed relationship with “Soho” – the area in which Rob Adam has set this book. As a gay teen growing up in the countryside, magazines like “Attitude” and “Gay Times” had me believing that Soho was a mythical Valhalla of Men, overflowing with fun, friendship and sex. As it turned out, that wasn’t quite the case – there was plenty of what I’d hoped for, but also a lot of loneliness, a lot of drug use, and a lot of superficial attitudes. Of course, part of my feelings on it are based in part to my having been a very self-conscious at the time, and now I’m a lot older (and hopefully wiser), I enjoy a good night out in Soho with the rest of them.
Author Rob Adam captures the sense of fun that permeates the area, but also makes no secret of the fact that the characters who populate it are layered, relatable characters who the reader will instantly recognise, and Theo and Maria are so brilliantly written that it’s not just enjoyable to spend time in their company, it’s an absolute pleasure. The journeys they go on through out the book may initially seem relatively light, but Rob Adam does not avoid delving into difficult and troubling situations – really delving deep into the history of these characters, and using it as a means to move these characters forward into new situations. Anyone who has been through a heartbreak or a job loss, or even been fed up of the dating scene, will instantly feel an empathy with the characters, and their strong friendship is a real backbone for the book, and I’m sure something that will continue to serve as a strong thread for the series as it moves forwards.
There’s sex here – good sex too, written about in such a way that make it fun, exciting and sexy, and yet never veers into smuttiness or seediness. The sex scenes aren’t just thrown in – they’re always there to move a plot forward. Yes, they are fairly explicit, but in the context of the book, extremely enjoyable! They’re balanced well with real tenderness, care, and brilliant wit – there are some real laugh out loud lines in this book that will stick with the reader. Brilliant fun – roll on Book Two!
Beginning with Moby Dick: The Rise of the Undead (Part One), Tex Daw chronicles the passage of two men on board the Pequod, a whaling vessel poised on the edge of a world that is about to change forever. Haunted by the riddle of the vampire’s dance, each of the men is transformed, and the world is made anew…
Tex Daw is a digital collage artist, a tai chi practitioner, and an avid BMX rider. He is currently living in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and is a keen instagrammer – follow him @texdaw.
In the last ten years or so there have been a wave of reimaginings of classic tales with supernatural elements – the unexpected popularity of”Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” beginning a flood of titles that included my personal favourite (in terms of titles, I’ve yet to read it – )”Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”. Some of the books were okay, some were no more than cheap cash-ins that failed to stay true to the original, so the trend seemed to die down a little – a fact cemented by the recent box office bomb that was the film adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. So, when I received a copy of “Moby Dick – The Rise of the Undead”, I can’t deny that I was a little concerned about what kind of read it would be…
Thankfully, it’s really very good indeed.
Moby Dick, in it’s original form by Herman Melville, is already a very strange, gripping read, filled with giant sea creatures, strange prophecies, lost coffins and rampant homoeroticism. Tex Daw has taken all of the elements that make Moby Dick a great read and amped them up somewhat – but he’s done so with great respect for the original text. As a result, this is very fun read – a dark and moody adventure peppered with the supernatural, the subterranean, and gallons of seamen (pun very much intended!). It’s no light read either – the prose is at times elaborate and clever, with some very amusing phrases and snippets of dialogue really brightening the book up.
If you like men, whales, the sea, or simply fun takes on old classics, “Moby Dick – The Rise of the Undead” is a fun and thrilling read – bring on part two!
Faringdon House in Oxfordshire was the home of Lord Berners; composer, writer, painter, friend of Stravinsky and Gertrude Stein, and a man renowned for both his eccentricity and his homosexuality. Turning Faringdon into an aesthete’s paradise, exquisite food was served to many of the great minds and beauties of the day. Since the early 1930’s, his companion there was Robert Heber-Percy, twenty-eight years his junior, wildly physical and unscholarly, a hothead who rode naked through the grounds and was known to all as the Mad Boy. If those two sounded an odd couple, especially at a time when homosexuality was illegal, the addition of Jennifer Fry to the household in 1942, a pregnant high society girl who became Robert’s wife, was really rather astounding. After the child was born, the marriage soon foundered. Berners died in 1950, and Robert was left in charge of Faringdon, ably assisted by a ferocious Austrian housekeeper. This mad world was the one first encountered by author Sofka Zinovieff, Robert’s granddaughter. A typical child of the sixties, it was much to her astonishment that Robert decided to leave the house to her.
Histories of stately homes can always be fun reads – crumbling buildings filled with people far madder than one may realize at first glance, living lives that are grand, but often filled with the weight of expectancy and responsibility. Perhaps it’s the class system that has left so many of us intrigued by these lives, and it’s this mix of curiosity and nostalgia for days gone by that keeps programmes like Downton Abbey so popular, and has seen a resurgence in recent years of books that explore the lives of the high and mighty. Sofka Zinovieff’s book however, both caters to those needs and yet manages to be a completely different kettle of fish.
Granddaughter of the Mad Boy of the title, the author came to the house in her teens, and whilst her mother never enjoyed much of a relationship with the man supposed to be her father, Sofka became fond of Robert, and he her. So fond, in fact, that in his later years he revealed that he was leaving the entire estate to her. It’s through this fascinating relationship that Sofka is able to explore the history of the house and its inhabitants – the life of her fascinating grandfather and his partner, one filled with fun, drama and incredible guest stars. A look at the visitor’s book for Faringdon House would be a rather incredible thing, as the reader spies characters such as the Mitfords, Salvador Dali, Margot Fonteyn, John Betjeman, Cecil Beaton, Elsa Schiaparelli, Gertrude Stein… It’s rather dizzying, and reflective of the astonishing lives that Lord Berners and his Mad Boy lived together. Gay and partnered at a time when it was frowned upon by most in society, and also rather illegal, the lives of these men are fascinating and glamorous. The introduction of a woman (the author’s grandmother) to proceedings takes the book in a slightly different direction, and the quest for truth and information about family secrets leads the reader in directions that prove both comical and quietly moving.
Despite the fantastic eccentricities, beautiful buildings and lavish lifestyles that are contained in this book, aided in part by the lovely layout and multiple images that appear throughout, this is a book that at its heart is a warm and loving biography of very real people. Flawed, human and endlessly fascinating, the fact that author Sofka is related to these men (even if potentially not by blood) and knew characters at the very heart of this story make it one with deep emotional ties that really help the reader form connections with this extremely fun cast of characters, and it makes for a gripping and transporting read that’s very hard to put down indeed.
This review was first published on The Bookbag – http://www.thebookbag.co.uk
Ah, Poetry. I know that word sinks fear into the hearts of a lot of people – those who struggled through Shakespeare’s sonnets at school or days trying to decipher Tennyson’s epic sagas at school, may well have been put off poetry for a long time. I rediscovered a love for it as a teenager – falling hard for the myth of Ted Hughes, and the visceral, raw poems that described a countryside and nature that I was all too familiar with, and my love of poetry has continued today.
I was hugely excited then, to be contacted by up and coming author Brad Cohen. Born in Guernsey in 1989, Brad is an experienced journalist and copywriter who had his first visual poem “Tectonic Trill” featured as part of the Hilbert Raum Gallery’s exhibition “Hummm…”, and his debut prose poem “Church” is published in Fincham Press’s anthology “Purple Lights”, released this month.
“Church & other Dirty Words” is a collection featuring 8 of Cohen’s pieces, and it’s a raw and visceral series of poems, that unsettle the reader with their bluntness, but are so screamingly honest that it’s impossible not to relate to the writing, especially if you’re Gay – Cohen writes about gay sex and gay porn with a satisfying bluntness, and poems such as Masc 4 Masc and DJ Pygmalion manage to convey feelings of arousal, excitement, and shame – pretty much par for the course for those of us who have gone through the period of hook ups and Grindr/Scruff/ whatever’s new these days. The focus isn’t just on sex though, with a searing tenderness in “One Thousand” and “Placeholders”, and blazing passion in “Tectonic Trill”.
Refreshing and new, Brad Cohen has shown in this short collection that he’s a hugely exciting poet, and one whose poems deserve to be got out into the world. “Church & other Dirty Words” has yet to find a publisher, so if you know of anyone who’d be interested in snapping up author Brad Cohen before it’s too soon – contact him at Brad Cohen’s website
Every ninety years, twelve Gods return as Young people.
They are loved.
They are hated.
In two years, they are all dead.
It’s happening now.
It’s happening again.
So, I am a huge comics fan – I have been ever since I was a child, and for years my comics appreciation revolved solely around the X-Men – finding a home in that bunch of mutant misfits was a huge part of my growing up. Back in 2011, a new writer call Kieron Gillen came aboard as the writer of the flagship X-Men book, and his writing was so, so good, that I was compelled to seek out his other work. “Phonogram” is a fantastic piece of brit-pop centric fantasy, “Young Avengers” an amazing look at growing up told through super heroics, and a run writing Loki for “Journey Into Mystery” that, with the help of a certain Mr Hiddleston, has put Loki front and centre as a compelling anti hero in the Marvel Universe. So, I was understandably hugely excited when I read that he would be teaming up with his regular collaborator Jamie McKelvie for a new book, “The Wicked + The Divine” The Social Book Co were kind enough to send me a copy to review.
Does it live up to my impossibly high expectations?
Yes. Oh yes.
“The Wicked + The Divine” is a dizzying ride of a book, but a strong cast of characters make it a compelling and fun ride for the reader, even if you’ll spend most of the time on the edge of your seat. The twists here are so big, and so surprising, that there’s a strong chance you’ll be left open mouthed whilst reading. “Fandemonium” collects issues six to eleven of the comic, as well as some bonus supplementary material, most of which is in the form of stunning artwork. This is really the second arc of the book, so by this point the reader, and the characters, are fully entrenched in the mysteries surrounding the characters. Laura is a fantastic lead, and it’s always rather nice to see a 17 year old written as, well, a 17 year old. Issue Six contains a compelling two pages that don’t just explore the character, they also hit pretty hard at what it feels like to be a teenager, in a surprisingly quiet and effective manner. Characters only briefly met before, like Inanna and Cassandra are expanded upon in these issues, and the plot ricochets along at a breakneck pace, that still somehow allows the characters time to breathe and grow.
Of course, no comic would be complete without artwork, and Jamie McKelvie is genuinely one of the best comic book artists around today, without a doubt. Every character is distinct, the fashion and design is superb, and some issues ( in this case Issue 8, when Laura discovers the true extent of Dionysus’s powers), are stunning. Like tear out the pages and stick to the wall of an art gallery stunning. There’s such life in this world that they have created, such kinetic energy, that it’s truly, truly astonishing.
Compelling, clever and current, “The Wicked + The Divine” is easily one of the best comics being published today.
The Yorkshire city of Willingsley is full of straight-shooting, gobby northern folk going about their day to day lives, with their love affairs, their health problems and all of life’s other nonsense grinding on day after day. And then suddenly, monsters come to town and people start dying. At the center of it all is Eric Mayfair, a twenty-something who a year ago was facing imminent heart failure. Fatal. Terminal. That’s what the doctors said. And then, miraculously, Eric got better. He doesn’t know how. No one does. All he knows is he has a new heart, a great black leech of a thing embedded in his chest that no one else seems to see. Then someone close to Eric is murdered and, in his search for answers, Eric uncovers an unseen world of monsters, dark powers and deadly secrets.
I love a good urban fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, I love fantasy of all kinds, but there is something immensely satisfying about seeing places and situations you know transformed into dark corners full of magic and monsters, and characters that remind you of people from your life plagued with surprising powers and treacherous secrets. I’m fairly used to seeing dark urban fantasy set in the South of England, but the North still seems ripe for exploration – and author Steven B Williams is the man to do it.
The setting is a huge part of this story – the Northern town that the Yorkshire dwelling author creates is so fantastically drawn that any one who has been a town like it will instantly feel both at home an uneasy – this is that run down town you know, just with added monsters. It’s fitting too then that the characters are instantly recognisable – as someone who grew up gay in a Northern town, Eric’s experiences are immensely familiar. The other characters too, feel incredibly real – they never slip into stereotype or caricature, but remain fleshed out throughout. In fact, the characterisation is a huge strong point here – even the smaller characters are developed enough to make the reader feel that when these bit players leave the pages they head straight into fully fleshed out lives. Dee in particular was my favourite of these – a job centre worker planning for a wedding, who is swept into the chaos that is Eric’s life.
Plot wise, the strong characters are thankfully complimented by an equally strong plot, with themes of grief, acceptance and romance carefully threaded together. Eric slowly discovers that he is part of a strange new world – and the rules and mythology of this new world are seeded well here – there is a lot to take in, but it never overwhelms, and I’m eager to see it expanded in future books. Characters and concepts are seeded for the future, but the arc for this book still remains a satisfying one with a thrilling climax. It’s also an adult tale – nothing too explicit, but it’s a brave book that combines fantasy with characters who grapple with grief, loss, and depression – and yet still maintains a light and pacey tone that keeps one turning the pages over and over again.
As a new voice in fantasy, Steven B Williams is one to watch out for, as “Heartsnare” is an enthralling ride of a read. In this brave new world where fantasy can be found taking up increasingly more space in bookshops, it’s a treat to stumble across something as original, as exciting and as well written as “Heartsnare”. A must read, it’s out in October – so get preordering today!