The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford: muses and misspills on books, jazz, poetry, stuff like false flags and smoke screen: is randomly decrepid and is neo-bankrupt: is so analogue it's anal.
ALBION is an old word for England; BEATNIK is an American slang and constructed word for AN ATTITUDE OF MIND, introduced by JACK KEROUAC in 1948 (he claimed from the word ‘beatific’). The shop stocks twentieth century English and American novels and poetry, also jazz; and a range of second-hand books.
Top shop dog Arthur has been disappointed: he learnt recently that Brexit is right wing claptrap (poor Roger Scruton to be described thus) and not, as he had hoped, a new brand of digestive biscuit. This follows on from his recent disgrace as an imperfect lover, his use of cowsplat as deodorant, and his audition for a remake of the last scene of Casablanca. Arthur had already survived a threat of eviction.
WANTED for the Beatnik by cake loving, tea swilling owner: cake maker (poets please advise: cakemaker or cake-maker?). Regular deliveries, e-number free, possible to be vegan and not scoffed at (might even be welcome). Bread and butter pudding the high tide of all baking – it stuffs French knickerbocker glory stuff right up the whatsit, though flapjack (flap-jack or flap jack? anyway contrive to make it, if a poet, what it shouldn’t be) excellent also; ginger cake, lemon drizzle, chocolate sponge, that sort of stuff, all good as stand by; tarts are excellent
Cake makers galore please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The wonderful David Leake, a fierce supporter of the book, bookshops in general, and the Beatnik in particular. His wonderful (small) garden at Corpus Christi teems with life (and is, alongside Lady Margaret Hall, the finest garden in Oxford). It’s an oasis of individuality and organic calm (as it should be, nature wins always) amidst weedkiller and the Bursar’s whimsical edict. Too many bursar’s in life, fat bully boys masquerading as Billy Bunter (who, if you didn’t know, was inspired by the figure representing Obadiah in the stained glass of New College antechapel, a little bit podgy because the glazier in 1382 ran out of the appropriate sepulchre glass).
THREE DOORBELLS IN SEARCH OF A DOOR It took an act of generosity from a Portuguese friend to deliver the rooster, an ornament as fine as a Botticelli angel. But it took my brilliance with a drill to fix it to the door. Trouble is it would never ring (I blamed naff Euro technology, everyone knows we do it better here). Then I had the notion to turn it upside down: technically it should then have rung, but of course didn’t. A Czech friend pointed out that my geography was wrong, should have been pinned above the door not upon it, silly me, now my rooster rings each time someone enters the shop, but several months into its life in the Beatnik. Apologies to English folk, my dull-wittedness has let down my nation: the two vital components in this story were Europeans, my Anglo-plonkerdom to the fore, life in cosmopolitan Oxford still a learning curve. Reminds me of gangster Bob Hoskins’ [yep, that’s def me, more hair but not so podgy] Dunkirk-like speech at the end of The Long Good Friday to his failing American mafia business wannabes: “what I’m looking for is someone who can contribute to what England has given the world: culture, sophistication, genius, a little bit more than an hot dog, know what I mean? We’re in the Common Market now…”
For a long time you couldn’t say anything bad (and get away with it) about Winston Churchill (a drunk), Dany La Rue (a naff hoofer), or Bono (tosser extraordinaire). John Coltrane, too (he celebrates an honorary ninetieth birthday this week), but that’s because you’d just be wrong: he was of the essence and a genius. A birthday blog for John Coltrane.
The BEATNIK READING GROUP meets next on Tuesday, September 27th at 6:30pm, all are welcome. The book to be discussed is William Blacker’s Along the Enchanted Way, tales of his life in Romania. The book was described as “captivating” by Patrick Leigh Fermor (and he was one of the best stylists in the English language). Next meeting will be 25th October to discuss Aldous Huxley’s Time Must Have A Stop. All are welcome to come along to this very friendly, monthly group meeting.
This month’s FEATURED TITLE Bernard O’Donoghue’s wonderful new collection, The Seasons of Cullen Church, not long published, is lyrical, observant, elegiac, beautiful so often, riddled with memories of his childhood in Cork. In ‘Connolly’s Bookshop’ he writes uncomfortably of an established shop in decline (the bookshop did indeed close), noticing how the stock has shrunk until “bit by bit you’re marooned in the middle // on your high stool amongst the books that show // why books are out of date, why you must move // with the times and be careful what you stock, // defiant Crusoe at the centre of your island.” Am not sure of the Crusoe analogy, but the shop is careful enough to stock this book, £12.99, a handsome hardback (I don’t often speak well of Faber as publishers). If, like Friday, you have sown gold coins in the hope of a bumper harvest, you could call buy to by a copy.
Also published earlier this year by Faber is Jamie McKendrick’s Selected Poems, in stock also at £12.99, a bargain at 150pp. Focused and well crafted, these poems chisel detail yet suggest the grand and daring, the out of reach, and McKendrick so often is searching for sky nails “that will nail anything // to nothing // and make it stay.” He is an antidote at times to O’Donoghue’s fondness and nostalgia. His Hopperesque poem ‘&‘ tells of two lovers ill at ease and whose song seemingly has been sung, the one starched and arched, refusing “to slump in a heap or sleep in a hump”, the other prim and “with a shield of books and a chewed biro”; their argument unwinds the ampersand, once attaching two nouns, so that it can now be pulled asunder like a cracker; meanwhile their two cats are “love-locked in a tricky double helix”. Bernard in ‘The Thaw‘ posits the healing in a relationship, the once “moon-hard glistening” now no better than a “yielding slush”; yet “packed in ice, we can retain whatever // it was we once must have meant by love // and the kind frost that stopped it going off.”
I have recently been setting out the Back Room Poet’s anthology Infinite Riches In A Little Room, available from 10th October, published by the Albion Beatnik Press. Am amazed at the addiction local poets have to hyphens, and to little poetic effect. (Compound-adjectives my arse: hyphen-junkies more like.) In October the Albion Beatnik will publish also Humphrey Astley’s poetry pamphlet The Gallows-Humored Melody and, in November, Peter J. King’s collection All What Larkin. In Michaelmas term the yearly compendium edit of Oxford University Poetry Society’s Ash magazine will be published, and it will include a raft of new poems as well as the previous two volumes. The next issue of the shop magazine The Sandspout will be on Saturday, 19th November.
In stock is the tiniest literary magazine in the world: Matchbox Stories from Book Ex Machina, an original publishing initiative from friends in Cyprus. Each issue is a box, and within is collected four tiny stories, each its own matchbook. Each matchbook story is by a brilliant writer. The current issue (£12.99) contains stories by Ali Smith, Etgar Keret, Marti Leimbach and Frances Gapper.
For Oxford Arts Week we hosted an exhibition by local artist Stella Shakerchi entitled 50 Shades of Re(a)d, subtitled an attempt to curate a vital book collection. Stella exhibited here before four years ago. An accompanying book has been published, and the paintings will remain here for sale: sale proceeds will go to the charity Humane Society International, which works on animal protection issues
David Attwooll’s last poetry pamphlet was Otmoor. A sequence of ten poems echo tales of the local moor’s past and present and evoke its myths and buried memories. The poetry is a call and response to Andrew Walton’s mud-filled yet warm and playful paintings of this area of wetland, described forbiddingly as a “place apart”. The pamphlet is beautifully produced, its font, layout, brittle binding, all of a piece, each enrich the experience of its reading. The poetry and the cross-hatched landscape sketches dovetail to produce a remarkable and collaborative achievement, also a lodestar of poetry publishing, and so soon after their previous venture, Ground Work, which depicted Port Meadow. I suggest all poetry lovers locally should buy a copy: this is the most impressive poetry book I have handled, it is worth every penny (and more) of its £6 sale price.
VIDEOS >> Two clips from the Beatnik. Firstly, guitarists John Etheridge and Pete Oxley in the shop recently, paying homage to Grant Green, and a concluding extract from violinist Chris Garrick and pianist Dave Gordon‘s concert here in April, Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely.
HOMILY >> The Albion Beatnik Bookstore is an independent and enthusiastic bookshop in Jericho, Oxford, opened in 2008. It sells new and second-hand books, including twentieth century literature, poetry and jazz. It has a cafe with over 70 speciality teas and cake, and it hosts reading and writing groups, many evening events, including poetry, book launches, talks, and jazz and folk concerts. The shop has a no petting, diving or bombing policy (unless with the owner). And if you are genuine and enthusiastic, you are always welcome.