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.
Here are piles of blue books with the colourful cover image – a painting by my brother-in-law – and glowing endorsements. Publication of Another life is perfectly timed: I’ll be giving my debut collection as Christmas presents. Some friends and family members have already ordered additional copies too. Manchester city centre is heaving with the crowds attracted by the Christmas markets, so the launch is postponed till early 2017.
I sold my first copy last Saturday to Pansy Maurer-Alvarez who’d flown in from Strasbourg to read at Barlow’s Cigarette. She’s published by KFS – knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk. I very much liked her work. And the invite to read got me to brush up and polish some more experimental work and “found” poems. It was fun to include German and Dutch words and phrases and my performance was well received.
Covent Garden tube station and Manchester Cathedral is where you could have heard my poems this month. My poem This too is art was one of six winners in the quarterly competition for members of the Poetry Society. I gave permission for it to be printed and handed out to people passing their stand. Along with some of the other winning poems on the theme of ‘Messages’ it was recorded by staff and played all day on National Poetry Day (6 October) in Covent Garden tube station – ticket office, lift, platforms – just like any other announcement. One feels for the staff in the ticket office!
I always enter the annual Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition. It’s local and any money left goes to charity. This year one of the three I sent was Highly Commended by Jo Bell. She read after Michael Symmons Roberts delivered his talk on Poetry and Religion. It’s a slightly daunting venue, but the poet-in-residence Rachel Mann put everyone at ease and it was a great experience.
My lucky streak in competitions has ended: nothing in the Torbay and Buxton. But the collection is definitely being published this year! It’s all done; just waiting for two poets to send some kind words for the back cover…