Notes from the Underground

The following text is written by Joseph Ridgwell and taken from the Hand Job Zine anthology and is available to purchase here.


‘The aim of the writer is to transmute experience into art by any means necessary!


In today’s troublesome times, terrorism, recession, depression, corrupt politicians, war all the time, PANIC SIGNALS FUCKING EVERYWHERE - lit fiends of the world must stand up and be counted.


'I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man's.' --William Blake


We are living in a degenerate and uninspiring age - silent witness to the decline of Western civilisation as it embarks on a long, slow and inevitable death march. This is why we have our current disastrous cultural vacuum. This is why people venerate talentless celebrities. This is why they watch reality TV. This is why Donald Trump may very well become the next President of the United States of America. It is also the reason they read the shit that clogs up the bookshelves of leading retailers and badly-written fairy tales by adult authors who should know better. This is why everyone is afraid of offending anyone else. This is why we have lost our civic pride. This is why people are obsessed with money. This is why there is no courage, bravery, or verve in the domain of the arts. This is why there is no sense of community or belonging. This is why vast swathes of the population feel marginalised.This is why colouring books for adults are the latest craze amongst the unawakened. The Western world is fast becoming infantalised en masse.


‘When sitting just sit, when walking just walk, most of all don’t wobble.’ Lin Chi Zen master.


Life repeats itself, cycles come and go, but this does not permit intelligent individuals to sit in their cockroach infested bedsits and do nothing. The primary purpose of the artist is to question the status quo at all times. They are in an endless search for a reason to believe in the banal and terrifying existence that is the lot of all humans. Some go mad in pursuit of truth, others fall by the wayside, destroyed by any number of lifestyle diseases, and others, maybe the true geniuses of our times, merely say nothing and just wait around to die.

Can the literary underground save our wretched souls? The problem facing any talented artist today is enabling their voice to be heard amongst the countless voices screaming for attention. And as the mainstream becomes more and more irrelevant to more and more people, the intrepid reader has to dig a little deeper to satisfy their morbid curiosity and bold conceptions. They have, in fact, to go underground, deep, deep underground. To a place so obscure that almost nobody has heard of it. But it is here that all the action is happening, where the pure creators abide, the originators and innovators, also known as the brilliants. And yet on arrival, the wide-eyed lit fiend has to be on guard for the literary underground can be as frustrating as the mainstream.  More books are published than ever before. The internet has spawned thousands of literary sites, zines, and print on demand has seen a proliferation of chapbooks, novels, and short story anthologies. 99% of these sites and books are arid wastelands of nothingness. And yet lit fiends taking things into their own hands is not necessarily a bad thing - it’s just the reader is in need of a guiding hand to lead them to nirvana.


Tip Top Tips

Avoid safe writing. Avoid outfits that are deluding themselves that they can make money out of their half-arsed endeavours. Avoid writers who are obviously writing for a market. Avoid all slam poets and slam poetry - bad acting by bad actors. Avoid all pay to enter writing competitions. Anything that has arts council funding, lottery funding, or any form of government funding must also be avoided. Any writing or art affiliated to this is by its very nature compromised. Academia is a no go area. This is a shoddy scam, an infertile desert, a creative black hole. This is where people go when they can’t hold down a real job. 


‘I think that the miracle of our times is that so many people can write down so many words that mean absolutely nothing. Try it sometime. It's almost impossible to write down words that mean absolutely nothing, but they can do it, and they do it continually and relentlessly.’ Charles Bukowski


And once more the mantra - seek and ye shall find!

The list below is by no means exhaustive, but it will give you a little taster of what is out there, beyonds the narrow confines of the mainstream. Rummage around in these zines, books, and manufacturers of saucy seaside postcards and you, yes YOU, will find some of what you have been searching for.

leamington Books

blackheath books

 bottle of smoke press

kilmog Press

tooting free press

london books

one o’clock gun


hi vis press

gonzo library of the indy outlaw

poems for all

chiron review

hand job

pig ear press

east london press

paper and ink

ragged lion press

empty mirror

burning house press

black sparrow books

rebel inc.

Here you will find writing that is alive, that makes you feel alive, that encourages all your nerve-endings to vibrate. Writing that makes you question society, your peers, even the actions of your own family - and leaves you wanting more, more, more! The opposite of dead writing, safe writing, government sponsored writing. And yes this writing will offend, shock, disgust and traumatise, maybe even turn you on like a mother-fucker, but that is what art is supposed to do. And do it it must! For verily if it fails we, as a nation, a people, a race, are doomed.


‘Load the Literary Guns!’


Joseph Ridgwell


May 2016