Tales From The Bar Side

Hastings’ own local literary zine has just published its thirteenth issue. Paper And Ink has already achieved cult status in the national and international underground poetry and short story scene and its limited print run always sells out. The previous issue, Girls To The Front, an all-female collection edited by London’s Katie Doherty and reviewed by me in these pages earlier in the year, sold out before it had even been printed.

Number 13 reverts back to the editorship of Hastings poet and Paper And Ink founder Martin Appleby. The theme and subtitle this time is Tales From The Bar Side and it features some of the cream of independent underground writers from England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and various regions of the US. There may be contributors from other parts of the world included but the short author biographies are not always geographically specific – short story writer George Steer ‘lives with his dog Frank on a small island under a warm sun’.

All the poetry and short stories in this collection are inspired by sleazy dive bars and the long-celebrated relationship with alcohol enjoyed, sometimes to the point of self-destruction, by some of my favourite writers of the twentieth century. Think of people like Ernest Hemmingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, Brendan Behan and Hunter S Thompson, to name but a few.  For more on this I recommend Olivia Laing’s excellent 2013 book The Trip To Echo Spring – On Writers And Drinking.

The contributors to Tales From The Bar Side may never reach the iconic literary status of those I mention above but that is not to say their work is any less valid for those of us interested in honest ‘real-life’ writing (I prefer this term to the judgemental ‘lowlife’) or what came to be known in sixties America as ‘meat school’ poetry (another awful term but it does describe a movement and style that has endured). Interestingly, whereas the alcoholic writers cited above are all male, a third of the Paper And Ink #13 writers of alcohol-inspired poetry and stories are women – make of that what you will. Some describe themselves as punk poets and most have been widely published in the small press and online literary journals.

Within the common theme of this collection each work has its own quirky and, often bittersweet, message. Some of the writers are well known to me on the underground scene, others are names I have not encountered before. It’s always tricky to single out work from an eclectic collection, and all the stories are worth reading, but I have to mention Fifty Shades Of Shite from Fee Johnstone of Aberdeen, Joseph Ridgewell’s A Brutal Night Of Poetry (Ridgewell already a cult figure of
the literary underground from East London), and Collette’s Bar by Andrea Mbarushimana, a community worker from Coventry.

Favourite poems I found here are Bar Fight from New Jersey writer Joe Albanese, Derro Pub from Trevor Crowe of Sidney, Stranger In A Bar by Elizabeth Harper from Chicago, and Hastings’ own John D Robinson with The K.O. Bar. Paper And Ink Literary Zine is available from www.etsy.com but remember they always go quickly.

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