Laurane Marchive gives her London Literary Round-up for June
On June 5th I headed to Housmans Bookshop for a conversation around The War on Drugs and the Global Colour Line published by Pluto Press and edited by Kojo Koram. Housemans Bookshop is an independent bookshop based in London near Kings Cross, opening in 1959. They specialise in radical issues and progressive politics, with sections on LGBTQIA+, Feminism, black politics, anarchism and more. Fun fact: the bookshop stores the widest range of radical pamphlets, newsletters, newspapers and magazine of any shop in Britain. It also hosts regular events on socio-political and cultural issues.
The event revolved around a collection of essays tackling the War on Drugs and its disproportionate effect on oppressed races. The discussion was chaired by Ash Sarkar with Editor Kojo Koram and contributor Oscar Guardiola-Rivera. The “War on Drugs” Koram argued, is futile because wars, by definition, have an objective, they make a distinction between combatants and civilians, and more crucially, they end. The War on Drugs ‘isn’t supposed to be won’ Koram says. But as he explains, the use of the term ‘war’ in the context of drug policing has changed its very meaning, legitimizing the idea of wars on abstract concepts throughout the 20th and 21st century and leading to an increase in securitization, for example the 2003 Patriot Act. But the consequences of the War on Drugs aren’t just political, they’re also social. “The war on drugs,” Guardiola-Rivera explains, “is class warfare.”
On June 8th I attended Ambit’s 60th birthday as part of the Stoke-Newington literary festival. Now in its tenth year, the festival celebrates the literary history of the area, with events taking place in local cafes, bars, libraries and venues. The programming includes reading and conversations, ranging from poetry to children’s literature, from political essays and conversation to literary criticism.
In the small intimate basement of a bar on Stoke-Newington High Street, I joined a crowd gathered to pre-celebrate Ambit’s anniversary. This wasn’t the proper birthday party yet (the actual birthday party will take place on 11th of July in Waterloo, free tickets are still available and the evening promises to be highly entertaining!) but in order to celebrate the magazine’s history, there were readings from past contributors, including Dan O’Brien, Isabel Galleymore, Gboyega Odubanjo and more.
Head editor Briony Bax also took us on a trip down memory lane by reading various correspondence about the magazine. Such correspondence included, amongst others, letters about a competition for the best poem written under the influence of drugs, which at the time of publication in the sixties, caused havoc with the Arts Council. The Art Council was, at the time, supporting the magazine, but upon publication of the competition, withdrew their funding for the year. The competition was eventually won by a poet who wrote it whilst taking the contraceptive pill.
Lastly, on June 21st, I attended the Launch of Daddy Issues by Birkbeck lecturer Katherine Angel at Burley Fisher Books. Burley Fisher is an independent book shop located in Haggerston, with a basement that doubles up as bar and exhibition space. The shop regularly holds literary events and is also closely linked to Peninsula Press, a press formed in 2017. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Peninsula Press launched their list in 2018 with three pocket essays and a collection of short fiction. Daddy Issues is one of their latest books.
“A hands-on mother is a mother-the statement is a tautology-while a ‘hands-on’ father is a saint,” Angel reads on the night. Daddy Issues is the first book since her work of literary non-fiction Unmastered, A Book on Desire, Most Difficult To Tell, which was published in 2012. The book is an essay on fathers and feminism, examining the relationship between daughters and fathers in the wake of the Me Too movement, the downfall of Harvey Weinstein and recent events such as allegations made against Michael Jackson. Referencing writers and thinkers such as Woolf, Solanas and Winnicott, Angel blends the personal and the theoretical to offer an insight into a finial relationship that is often ignored: whenever a man turns out to be a bad man, his family or his wife can distance themselves from him. But what of daughters? And even if the Daddy is a “good daddy,” does that mean he should be given a free pass or treated as a saint? “If we are to effectively dismantle patriarchy,” Angel writes, “it is vital that fathers are kept on the hook.”