Acquired For Development By… A Hackney Anthology – review

acquired for development anthology preface

Acquired For Development By… A Hackney Anthology is edited by Gary Budden and Kit Caless.

From its first electric crackle, Acquired For Development By… galvanises the landmarks of Hackney on the page. Short stories, journalism and poems cross paths as the flow of images takes you from a homely borough to the fringes of what you know via a future Dalston you’ll never visit.

The first, and most mesmerising, work of the entire collection is a love story that rises metallic out of Hackney Marshes – an obsession with a pylon.

Then journalists Nell Frizzell and Tim Burrows introduce us to canal-dwellers and kittiwakes, before the jolting experimental poetry of the Kingsland Road moves the collection on.

We ride up to Stamford Hill and Stoke Newington, pausing for an intimate conversation behind a pub and a glimpse of London 2061.

In Clapton, Sam Berkson’s poetry captures the moving margins of Hackney gentrification, and in Homerton Eithne Nightingale recounts the life and death of a Pole on Murder Mile.

The danger of writing about Hackney would be that it would get too close up, fall to common cliché and lack a sense of togetherness. But Acquired For Development By…  has detail without being meticulous, is personal without being obscure, and flows as smoothly as the N55 bus at 4am.

Editors Gary Budden and Kit Caless have previously worked on Ambit and Stalking Elk magazines, and it’s easy to praise their expertise in getting writers’ work to sit nicely together. Some notes jolt – the ever-present haikus that haunt most anthologies, for instance, and an article which starts, “An account of Hackney today wouldn’t be complete without exploring…”.

But there are strong notes towards the end: Budden’s pared-down story series, Tautologies, Rosie Higham-Stainton’s sensual ghost story and the last piece, Siddhartha Bose’s lyric free verse.

Hackney is home to some great young writers at the moment – rough gems a few of them, but also published and award-winning writers. All of the contributors to Acquired For Development By… have written just for the joy of it.

Acquired For Development By…
Publisher: Influx Press
Price: £11.99.

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