Last night I did an open mic slot at a fundraising event for Greenpeace. There were two fabulous readings by the poets Kim Moore and Clare Shaw, as well as music. The open mic slots were four minutes each which meant three poems per person. This gave a good flavour of each poet’s “voice” and offered plenty of variety. I’d come back from Holland 36 hours earlier, so only just got my tongue round the English…
In the afternoon Clare Shaw ran a short workshop. One of the sample poems was TheLow Road by Marge Piercy. The poem starts: What can they do/to you? Whatever they want. The first stanza is then a list of things that can be done, e.g. “bust you, break your fingers, blur you with drugs, burn your brain with electricity.” After a short second stanza starting But two people fighting/back to back can cut through/a mob, there is this third stanza. The recent news in the UK (the ongoing Brexit saga, the “Windrush generation” scandal, the NHS failure with 450,000 women missing out on mammograms and treatment) has been deeply depressing. So, this was a timely reminder of people-power and I found it immensely encouraging and heartening to read.
Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organisation. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fundraising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter’
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.
I enjoyed my final reading of the year, at York Explore last week. For almost ten years I used to come to York often, to facilitate on the accredited EMDR trainings, running at either the Bar Convent (a “live” convent with nuns still living there) or Kings Manor. So, it felt a little strange to travel to York in a different capacity. Also reading were Nairn Kennedy, an expat Scot who’s lived in Yorkshire for many years, and Laura Potts. She is twenty-one years old, has twice been named a London Foyle Young Poet of the Year and Young Writer. This year she received a Shadow Award in the US, and became a BBC New Voice. Her first BBC radio drama Sweet the Mourning Dew will air shortly. She is definitely someone to look and listen out for!
The cover of Building Bridges, published by Ek Zuban, 2017.
Yesterday was the Manchester launch of this anthology, edited by Bob Beagrie and Andy Willoughby of Ek Zuban. It’s truly an international anthology: work by poets from the UK, Finland and elsewhere – several poems have been contributed by asylum seekers. Many of the poems have been inspired by well-known art work, but the book also contains pictures of contemporary art.
Before the reading some of the contributors took part in a short workshop where I learned a new form – triadic gnome. There are some examples in the anthology. Apparently, it’s usually in four lines, where the first line gives the explanation and the following three lines extend on this. Kieren King’s Three Things I Never Said To You was a clear example.
I took one of the illustrations (Waiting Nightmare) and came up with the following:-
Three ways of keeping the nightmare waiting Keep walking, skipping over the bulldog, the mastiff, the dead pigeon.
Do not, under any circumstance, take a body-builder to bed.
Keep your crop circles small.
It was good fun practising with this and I’m almost sorry that I’m going to miss the next launch. That will be Helsinki in January 2018.
I had a wonderful time in Devon, celebrating my birthday with a poet friend, en route to the Ways with Words Literary Festival at Dartington. I read in the morning with the other ‘new’ Oversteps poets (David Broadbridge, Christine Whittemore and Richard Skinner). We all bought a copy of the other poets’ books. The weather was glorious and I enjoyed a healthy salad lunch with a few women poets where we compared notes and exchanged experiences and gave one another tips and suggestions about new outlets. In the afternoon a number of Oversteps Books poets read their poems on historical figures. I read four poems, including Joan and On reaching his 102nd birthday which imagines a long life for a writer who died young.
I came back to some good news: my poem Leaving Czechoslovakia, 1964 that didn’t do anything in an annual competition had caught the eye of the editor administrating this competition, so it’s now included in the anthology Songs for the Unsung, which Grey Hen Press expects to publish this autumn. It’s just a good reminder to send work out into the world…
The launch of the new printed magazine Strix is at the Hyde Park Book Club in Leeds tomorrow, Wednesday 5 July, from 7:00pm. Editors Ian Harker and Andrew Lambeth are looking for poems and short fiction for the next issue. My poem Whitby Scenes made the first issue and I’m sorry to miss the launch: I’m heading down to Devon where I’ll be reading later this week at the “Ways with Words” literary festival at Dartington and meeting up with a poet friend en route.
I’m chuffed to learn that my prose poem Broken biscuits has made it into an anthology of poems about Yorkshire, published by Valley Press. The proofs came through the other day. I am in good company with many well-known poets including the current Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.
The launch is in Leeds on Saturday 18 March, a few days after I’m launching Another life in the International Anthony Burgess Foundation here in Manchester. A good many poems in the book were written there in the Engine Room.
I admire those poets who perform a piece from memory. I’ve decided to learn Broken biscuits well enough so I can perform it from memory: Is there poetry in broken biscuits? Discuss. The short answer is yes, provided it is articulated in the unashamedly Yorkshire, tongue-in-cheek, twinkle-in-the-voice tones of … (insert name of a very well-known poet living in Barnsley)…
The new Orbis arrived yesterday and I was very pleased to see that it included a review of my debut collection by Noel Williams. It’s a perceptive review, identifying my wish for more to be intended than said in my work, the unexpected insights that result from shifts in viewpoint and the surrealism. The review ends:-
“The simplicity of some of these poems belies their subtlety. It’s a collection written with an intelligence that’s wicked, weird and insightful.”
With that I’m off down to London in a few days to read at Fourth Friday (which is at a temporary venue in South London while the Poetry Café is being refurbished). I’m reading with Wendy Klein who was a fellow student at the Writing School.