Connecting Nothing with Something – review

Connecting Nothing with Something's contributors include Salena Godden. Image: Influx Press

Connecting Nothing with Something’s contributors include Salena Godden. Image: Influx Press

There is talk of snogs, spliffs, fights and pints amid much rhapsodising about youthful rebelliousness – against a background of burnt-out piers – in this anthology of fiction and poetry inspired by often ignored landscapes.

This is the latest book to be unleashed on the world by small Hackney publishers Influx Press, founded by Gary Budden and Kit Caless in 2011, and follows the publication last year of Acquired for Development By… which contained short stories, poems and journalism with an eye fixed squarely on Hackney.

Influx Press is committed to publishing what Budden and Caless call “site specific fiction”, and the pair hail from Kent, so it is hardly surprising they have plumped for the coastal landscapes of south east England for this project.

The untameable sea has obsessed scores of literary types, but Connecting Nothing with Something (the title adapts a line from TS Eliot’s poem imaginatively epic poem The Waste Land) shows that often dysfunctional coastal towns can be as fertile a ground for literature as the familiar pavements of Hackney.

Contributors include Salena Godden whose ‘The Beirut of a Hastings Saturday Night’, an excerpt from her book Springfield Road, has a wonderful beat-like quality and is richly poetic – as you’d expect from this punk poet extraordinaire – with lines about “brackish, hard-nut fishermen” and the “murky green gruel” of the sea that the great Dylan Thomas himself (another child of the coast) would have been proud of.

‘You Wantsum?’, a well-observed comedic piece by Kentman turned East Londoner Iain Aitch, describes Margate back when it was “too tough for art” and “regeneration was still something that happened on Dr Who”.

Now, we are told, “released from the rabbit hutches of Hackney, arty couples find space to breed in the six-bedroom former boarding houses that sit haughtily side-on to the crashing waves”.

The Port of Dover is a place of transition in James Arthur Jones’ ‘Dover-Calais’, and there’s a foreword by Stoke Newington resident Travis Elborough.

Amid talk of salty old sea dogs, the sea itself seems strangely absent – better to read ex-Hackney resident Philip Hoare’s new book The Sea Inside (launched earlier this year at The Last Tuesday Society in Mare Street) if you are a fan of the ocean and its denizens, although Gary Budden does squeeze in a quick mention of herring gulls in his story ‘The Exhibition’.

In his great introduction Budden writes: “My dad, a keen birdwatcher and self-taught ornithologist, helped bring the Kent and Sussex coasts alive…

“Binocular and wellington jaunts to Dungeness, Romney Marsh, Rye, the white cliffs of Dover… Know how to look at a place and it becomes wondrous; realise you’re not just anywhere, but somewhere specific with its own set of rules.”

This sensitivity to place is what Influx Press is all about.

That and great writing.

Connecting Nothing with Something: A Coastal Anthology is published by Influx Press. ISBN: 9780957169364. RRP: £9.99