‘Incurable’ book launch at Gay’s The Word, August 6th, 2019

IMG_1466.PNG
Photo take from Darcy Sullivan’s Channel on YouTube

Moments away from the snarling frenzy of traffic on the main road and into the quieter arteries of Bloomsbury, a sense of the past still lingers. Once an oasis of creative bohemia, the area has managed to hang on to its identity, there are second- hand book shops, coffee bars where you can hear Jonathan Richman and Roy Orbison whilst corner pubs feature some of the original Victorian exteriors, sea green and damson purple tiles glimmering in the late afternoon sun as they have done for the last century or so.  I am nervous and suggest to my companions, ‘Lord’ & ‘Lady’ Darcy that we venture to the small park on the next block from ‘Gays the Word’ bookshop, where we will be launching ‘Incurable’ – the selected writings of Lionel Johnson, featuring a biographical essay and some photographs as old as the pubs. (Available via Strange Attractor Press.)  I wonder if Lionel, a desperate tippler, ever drank round here. The vast Gothic hulk, The Russell Hotel, probably belonged to the family of one of his dearest friends, Francis, Earl Russell. It is a fascinating monolith, the exterior decorated with plump garlanded cherubs and shell-shocked Merlads coiled around lights that no longer work. How fantastic it must have once looked, like a magical ship sailing on a sea of night.

London has become a very difficult place to live in, uncomfortable, over-priced, and competitive – circumstances keep me here but it also has so many poetic ghosts fluttering around like spectral white moths that I am inclined to stay until I too join them. It is nearly twilight, the day giving itself up to the evening and I’ve begun to procrastinate – part of the pre-event ritual. I insist politely that we stop off at the little park to watch the last of the sun’s rays glancing off the leaves on the tall trees, like tiny golden darts. Lord Darcy, dashing dandy about town, press officer for the Oscar Wilde society, who will be asking the questions that need to be asked, reminds me that we really should convene to ‘Gays the Word.’

Gays The Word distance shot.JPG

I’ve done many literary events over the years but none have been as enjoyable as this one or as thoughtfully prepared, a big thank you to Uli who did all the organising. What makes an evening special? The venue has much to do with it, ‘Gay’s the Word’ being a historical and community landmark, as well as a Queer safe space and a very fine bookshop. The audience are brimming with good-will; Jamie from Strange Attractor gives a stirring speech about how independent publishers and independent bookshops are part of the same precious fabric. Lord Darcy’s moustache is impeccable as is his knowledge of Oscar Wilde. One of the microphone’s break, but that happens at every event, usually I blame the ghost of Johnny Thunders but tonight it’s Lionel Johnson being the little trickster, despite his melancholy visage on multiple copies of ‘Incurable’ taking up most of the shop window display. The past always interweaves with the future, however, and just as we are about to start, Walter Lure arrives with Mick Rossi, currently playing in Walter’s LAMF band. I cannot believe that a Heartbreaker has attended one of my gigs!! But stranger things have happened. They always do.

Nina Antonia on BBC Radio Ulster

johnny_thunders__nina_antonia_closeup.jpg

“Nina Antonia has just done a radio interview Johnny Thunders – In Cold Blood for BBC Radio Ulster. Look for ‘The Arts Programme’. It goes out this evening, at 6.30pm.” – Jungle Records

Photo by John Tiberi

Nina Antonia at Gay’s The Word July 25th

Screen-Shot-2019-07-18-at-2.29.47-PM.jpgNext Thursday – I will be in conversation or should that be in conservation (but never conservative! ) with the supremely stylish at Gay’s The discussing Lionel ‘Incurable’ Johnson, between 7-9pm. Facebook Event below:

https://www.facebook.com/events/363653467620786/

Kindle edition of  ‘In Cold Blood’

IMG_0855.jpg

To mark what would have been Johnny’s 67th birthday, the Kindle edition of  ‘In Cold Blood’ is finally available. It’s taken awhile but it’s worth it! Thank you to Asphaltsiren on Instagram for posting every edition, which even I can’t aspire to as I don’t have Kindle. What is edifying is that Johnny is ever more appreciated, although it’s tragic that he can’t be around to enjoy it but the music, like the memories, still prevail. x

amazon.com/author/ninaantonia

Thoughts on the delightful write-up of ‘Incurable’ in the Gay & Lesbian Review.

glr-logo-dark-blue.jpg

Of the one thing that Lionel Johnson was certain, it is that we all fall under the heel of history to be as mist. Even in life, Lionel was particularly misty and acutely morbid, haunting boneyards as a schoolboy, not out of any ghoulish proclivity but to find the answers to eternity: ‘I have tried, oh, so earnestly tried, in utter faith to make the dead hear me, feel for me, comfort me.’ Thankfully, he was met with silence, aside from his footsteps echoing on ancient stone in the mausoleum and charnel houses of Winchester & Oxford. Only the best for Lionel! One senses through his poems and letters that he had presumed always to be ill-fated. Perhaps a doctor had muttered bleak predictions on encountering a child so unbelievably ethereal in comparison to his robust brothers, who like their father, would achieve military renown. Alas, Lionel because of his drinking, didn’t achieve literary longevity although he was well-regarded, no lesser than his old friend and associate, W.B Yeats publishing a selection of his poetry whilst T.S Eliot was an admirer but then Johnson simply petered out, like one of those candles he carried on his midnight cemetery flits.

In part, the Wilde juggernaut has driven rough-shod over any awkward blips in the myth making, Lionel Johnson, enigmatic and fey, elusive and reclusive, has been the will-o’-the-wisp in the drawing room at Oscar’s house in Tite Street. But it’s not easy pinning down someone who was a ghost in life. The theft of a considerable amount of correspondence between Lionel and Lord Alfred Douglas would have gone some way to redressing the balance, of fleshing out their ‘special’ friendship as well as possibly giving a different perspective on ‘Bad Boy Bosie’ who couldn’t help be what he was – a fraught, spoilt, love-hungry, profligate aristocrat. That which made him appealing to Oscar Wilde, also made him appalling.

The secrets that Douglas and Johnson shared will most probably remain that way. Thankfully, Lionel Johnson can still speak to us, through his poetry and essays. Which is why Alan Contreras’ generous and thoughtful write up in no lesser publication than The Gay & Lesbian review is all the more important, for it gives Lionel, silenced by time and circumstances, a voice once again.

Read the review – https://glreview.org/article/short-reviews-28/

‘The Greenwood Faun’ & ‘Fiddler’s Green’

‘The wild vine slips with the weight of its leaves

But the berried ivy catches and cleaves

To the limbs that glitter, the feet that scare

The wolf that follows, the fawn that flies’ (Swinburne)

Who is that fleet foot & almond eyed creature dancing to the dapples of light in the eternal forest? What is that piping rising sweetly on the incense perfumed air that calls you to follow, with leaves entwined in your hair? Why it’s ‘The Greenwood Faun’ returned for the start of spring with a lovely review in ‘Fiddler’s Green.’ For your delectation, ‘Fiddler’s Green’ is a U.S fantasy zine of the highest standards, can’t recommend it highly enough, fascinating features and lovely artwork. (‘Fiddlers Green’ is where mariners deceased go to party beneath the waves, a forevermore of accordions, ale, dancing girls, cabin boys and pearls.) ‘The Greenwood Faun’ & ‘Fiddler’s Green’ glimmering like lanterns in the lambent dusk of timeless literary tradition. As intoxicating as a bacchanal.

Fiddler's Green  Vol 2 No 2 p43.jpg

 

‘Incurable’ Review in The Idler

I’m sure The Idler would have been a magazine whose ethos Lionel Johnson would have appreciated. Good to see The Idler appreciating ‘Incurable’ in issue 65. Gary Kemp on the cover talking about the Ghosts of London. I wonder if he ever encountered Lionel the melancholy versifier? London is teeming with spirits, even when the old is replaced with the new, that which was there before, still leaves an imprint.

Idler 65 Lionel (2).jpg

Tales of Hoffman: ‘Incurable’ reviewed in Fortean Times by Eric Hoffman (25/02/2019)

IMG_9831

As always, I was extremely grateful to have garnered a good review, this time in the ever readable ‘Fortean Times’, courtesy of Eric Hoffman. The poets, authors and creative spirits of the Decadent era remain a perennially evocative subject. It was long enough ago to make us nostalgic for something we never experienced yet not too far back to be incomprehensible. Some might say that the era belonged to Oscar Wilde and although he was one of the figureheads of the last decade of the 1800’s, many of the ‘minor’ characters, including Arthur Machen, Ernest Dowson and Lionel Johnson, to name but a few, were equally enticing. In many respects, my preference is always with those considered ‘minor’, Wilde’s work can be too bombastic and over extravagant, whereas Arthur Machen had the lightest touch in enchantment, Ernest Dowson’s poetry is like a misty dream that fades before your eyes and Lionel Johnson has an exquisite ghostliness, he is just passing through.

It is a testament to Eric Hoffman’s skill as a reviewer that he manages to not quite warm to Lionel Johnson yet to still see ‘Incurable’ as worthwhile. Johnson is a symbol of all the young poets who died too soon, never realised their full potential, drank too much and cried too much. He was engagingly fallible yet managed to be a muse to none other than W.B Yeats, whose genius goes beyond the limits of time. Although Johnson disliked the term ‘Fin de Siecle’ he was very much a product of it as Eric’s review concurs. Lionel had a charming inability to do much of anything, except write poetry that has the appeal of an ancient tapestry in an ancient hall that still has an intimation of beauty despite it mouldering away quietly. To be able to do one thing well, whatever it may be is worth a rose left on a gravestone and a 4 star review.

Nina Antonia Feature Interview

Canadian documentary film director Douglas Arrowsmith @feltfilm caught up with Nina in London where they talked about her latest work, Incurable: The Haunted Writings of Lionel Johnson, the Decadent Era’s Dark Angel. Many thanks to Douglas for this!

Nina Antonia Feature Interview from feltfilm on Vimeo.

Japanese Rocks

Japan JT.jpg
Photo Credit Unknown

Johnny Thunders was loved in Japan and he in turn appreciated his Japanese audiences. They didn’t dwell on his drug past but considered him an artist and treated him with courtesy. Besides which, he loved all the funky little knick-knacks so integral to Japan’s pop culture, returning from his first gigs there, in 1988, laden down with novelty lighters including  mini-handguns and fire-breathing Godzillas plus a staggering amount of kimono’s which he distributed amongst his friends. Johnny might have been a Heartbreaker but he was always a New York Doll, the bright trashy splendour a part of his aesthetics.  Had the guitarist been allotted more years, I have no doubt the love affair with Japan would have continued, as it was he played his last electric gigs there in March, 1991. Sadly, Johnny was by this point perilously ill and it was touch and go as to whether he’d be able to make the weeks’ worth of shows.  However, he didn’t want to let the fans or the band, The Oddballs, down.  Johnny’s Japanese swan-song was played out with great aplomb and he was chased down the street and mobbed by girls wielding flowers.  Tentative plans for a new album featuring Japanese musicians were made prior to the guitarist’s departure. Thunders was always good at putting up a front but there were indications that he recognised that he was bowing out, from the lily in his lapel to a last tattoo, Christ crucified, done in Bangkok, in early April 1991, a matter of weeks before his death.

It is impossible to quantify how influential Johnny Thunders was, from New York to London to Russia, Japan, wherever he roamed, he left chaos and glory in his wake. (An honourable mention goes to the Wakefield Working Man’s club, but that’s another story for another time) In Japan, Johnny Thunders was a rock n’ roll icon, his style and influence taken up by a legion of young musicians, including Hiroshi The Golden Arm Nakagome, who has been kind enough to share his archives for a Christmas Thunders treat. It was after all, one of Johnny’s favourite times of the year.

A big thank you to Hiroshi & everyone who remembers……


An Interview with Nina Antonia by Brian Young (RUDI – The Sabrejets. Original Punk from Belfast) from DOLL magazine 2001.

Screenshot_2018-12-13-01-50-18.png

KIMG6891.JPGKIMG6892.JPG


Johnny Thunders Special produced by Hiroshi The Golden Arm Nakagome including his review of Nina’s In Cold Blood.

http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/goldenarmtokyo
http://www.youtube.com/user/goldenarmjp

KIMG6901.JPGKIMG6900.JPGKIMG6899.JPG