2012: year-to-view

According to WordPress, since moving here on 15th January, my blog has received 6,300 views over 49 posts, with visitors from 46 countries.  That’s the number stuff dealt with.  Here’s a more interesting take (I hope) on my poetry year:

This year I’ve ventured beyond Leicester to discover the delights of open mic nights across the Midlands: Poetry Alight in Lichfield, Nightblue Fruits in Coventry, The Fizz in Polesworth and Spoken Worlds in Burton-on-Trent.  Each has its own formula for success, its unique character, thanks to Gary Longden, Antony Owen, Mal Dewhirst and Gary Carr respectively.  I’ve enjoyed meeting up with friends, making new ones and hearing readings by a wide range of featured poets.  Word! at the ‘Y’ and Ping…K! Poetry continue to nurture and surprise.  Leicester Shindig remains a diary ‘must’ – four featured poets, high quality of open mic readings.

Poetry Alight July 2012

Yours truly, reading in front of the auspicious fireplace

Spoken Worlds July 2012

My poetry diet has been enriched by attending readings from Ian McMillan, Michael Horovitz, Marianne Boruch, Jackie Kay and Jo Shapcott, amongst others.

Favourite nights out: the Crystal Clear Creators pamphlet launch, my tiny exhibit launch with Galleri Gestur and guest reading at Ping…K! Poetry, Carol Ann Duffy’s reading at Leicester University as part of Literary Leicester week.

My exhibit

Great days: States of Independence at De Monfort University, the Lichfield Festival, Dig the Poetry at Polesworth Abbey and a guided tour of Polesworth’s Poetry Trail.

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An impromptu half term getaway: the Hay Festival (even the wet Welsh weather couldn’t put a dampener on readings by Gillian Clarke, Phillip Gross and Ben Okri et al).

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Best workshop: Cathy Grindrod’s Creative Development Workshop for shortlisted candidates of Writing East Midlands’ mentorship programme really helped me identify and refine my writing goals for the next twelve months.

Social support network: I’m continually grateful for the support and friendship of fellow poets at Soundswrite, Leicester and South Leics stanzas.  Workshopping my poems remains an essential part of the writing process.  (And friends on Facebook, Twitter and blogs for links, laughs and so much more).

Behind the scenes: writing, writing, writing, submissions, the odd published poem in journals and online.

The highlight of my poetry year: the five inspirational days spent in Cork as part of the Twin City Poetry Exchange: Paul Casey’s welcome and tireless hosting, our O’Bheal guest readings in Cork and Limerick, visits to Grange Stone Circle and Cobh, and the company of fellow poet Janet Smith.

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2013: looking forward: my featured poet reading at Leicester Shindig on 14th January (am thrilled) and a half term getaway: a two-day poetry course on the north-west coast (can’t wait).

Wishing you all the very best in health and happiness for 2013.

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Lichfield: Alight with Poetry

The first of two visits to Lichfield this week:

Poetry Alight

On Tuesday, The Spark Cafe was once again packed out for an evening of poetry, hosted by the Lichfield Poets and ably compered by Gary Longden.  The chicken and roast veg couscous went down a treat with the help of a pot of Earl Grey or two – just the ticket at the end of a working day followed by an hours’ drive.  The formula: same as Shindig – ten or so open mics plus two guest poets in each half.

Hotfoot from their weekend at the Ledbury Poetry Festival, Crystal Clear Creators’ Jonathan and Maria Taylor guested to close the first half.  Jonathan amused and entertained with a poem and a short story on a musical theme.  Maria read poems from her new collection, Melanchrini (Nine Arches Press).  Needless to say, said publication is currently gracing my handbag cum poetry swag bag.  Jane Seabourne and Nick Pearson of Offa’s Press opened the second half.  Two contrasting voices: Jane’s beautifully-crafted behind-the-facade imaginings and Nick’s sharp and humorous take on the world of work.

My reading at the open mic.

Once again, a high standard of open mic poetry.  And good to catch up with Janet Smith, my fellow poet on the O Bheal Twin Cities Poetry Exchange in August.

Next Poetry Alight: Tuesday 2nd October

Leicester Shindig: March 2012

Hot on the heels of States of Independence came the bi-monthly poetry event jointly hosted by Nine Arches Press and Crystal Clear Creators.

The first open mic poet to the floor was yours truly, reading He Came To Me from the current issue of Under the Radar and a recently re-worked poem about the Old Man of Hoy.  Next came Charlie Jordan, former Birmingham poet laureate, with Words.  And what a treat hers were.  I liked ‘Peel your words like a ripe avocado’s thin tarmac skin.’

Kate Ruse followed, reading two poems about Nijinski (the dancer, not the racehorse)from her forthcoming Original Plus pamphlet. Knowing something of its journey, as a fellow member of Leicester Writers’ Club, I’m looking forward to reading this. I enjoyed Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s homage to Ian Dury’s Reasons to be Cheerful.  Lindsay Waller-Wilkinson’s beautiful love poems, I Know and Scars I remember featured on her blog.  Charles Lauder’s Coffee also appears in Under the Radar, and 69 in his newly-published pamphlet, Bleeds (Crystal Clear Creators).

Michael W Thomas was the first feature poet of the evening.  He entertained us with a poem about his father’s decrepit car ‘[squatting] on the driveway like a bulbous toad,’ ‘clearing throats of arterial roads’ so its passengers ‘[prayed] for Rhyl before the brakes gave out.’  He also paid tribute to the outmoded Especial and read from a sequence about childhood.

I enjoyed Jonathan Davidson’s humour, in particular On learning a Poem by Peter Didsbury (whilst walking along a ‘knife-narrow lane’).

After the interval, Jonathan Taylor introduced the Crystal Clear Creators’ half with Things Not To Be Mentioned at Antenatal Classes: a Guide for Fathers-To-Be. Refreshing to have the male POV!  Gary Longden followed with a rant/response to the death of pop stars (a spectator sport).  Good to hear open mic poems from Jane Commane and Matt Nunn, too.  The elephant in the room was the subject of a newly-penned poem by Matt Merritt.  I’d like to hear this one again/see it on the page.

Two of the Crystal Clear pamphleteers crowned the evening as feature poets.  Aly Stoneman defined Lost Lands as places imbued with memory, childhood landscapes.  Having just finished reading this, I enjoyed hearing a small selection read by the poet herself.

Andrew ‘MulletProof’ Graves, referring to Citizen Kaned as his ‘first album,’ read his favourite ‘track,’ Middle-Aged Mod.  I remember hearing MulletProof read this at Lowdham Book Festival in 2010; my first encounter with one of my favourite performance poets.

Crystal Clear Creators pamphlet launch

After a wonderful evening of poetry and prose, I am simultaneously enticed into six very different word worlds, each exquisitelycrafted and ‘giftwrapped.’

Maria and Jonathan Taylor of Crystal Clear Creators hosted the launch of its six new pamphlets as part of De Montfort University’s Cultural Exchanges Festival.

An evening in two halves: open mic readings, followed by readings from the pamphleteers after a brief introduction by their respective mentors.

Deborah Tyler-Bennett said that Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves’ performance poems worked equally successfully on the page and the ear, their hard edge quality belying their tenderness.  ‘Mulletproof’, who describes himself as a frustrated rock ‘n’ roll star, began by reading Ceremony, or Mills & Boon meets council estate (his words): ‘star-crossed lovers’ take their post-coital ‘shower in the headlights and raindrop confetti.’  He followed with his ‘title track,’ Citizen Kaned: strongly evocative, an ‘inter Stella Artois cruise’ through a booze-soaked world. To end, an ink-still-wet tribute to Davy Jones: poignant, tender.

Maria Taylor described her mentorship of Jessica Mayhew as a mutual learning process, her mentee as a poet capable of transforming the everyday into the unfamiliar.  Jessica’s pamphlet, Someone Else’s Photograph, contains poems of the sea and her Shetland family history.   I loved the title poem’s onomatopoeic ‘shutter-click’, evocative ‘bone-stud limpets blink’ and the intrigue of ‘us on the other side of their photograph/walking away, crab-shadowed.’

In the absence of Wayne Burrows, Maria Taylor also introduced Roy Marshall, a poet with a talent for compressing language that makes experiences so immediate.  Rose, the opening poem in Gopagilla: achingly tender, his newborn son ‘a mirror of his mother,’ sound-echoed in ‘murmurs’ and ‘miniature.’  We are left with the beautiful image of ‘her sleep-slackened rose.’

Mark Goodwin introduced Charles G Lauder Jr: bodyscape poems inspired by the work of Lucian Freud, Bleeds uses daring language and varied visual play to explore femininity from the male perspective.  Scheherazade Arrives in Boston, the opening poem, immediately engages the reader with its intriguing title and theme of obsession.  Touchable: a series of three poems: in II, ‘red rivers’ dry to ‘brown continents,’ mapping the bed and rendering her ‘untouchable.’  III, truly a poem from the heart, is my personal favourite.  But more of that in a future blog post.

David Belbin mentored the only prose writer amongst the newly-published six.  In Without Makeup and Other Stories: Hannah Stevens, a DMU graduate, manipulates language and tense with precision to create vulnerable characters inhabiting a fragile world.  She read the title story: I engaged with the clipped sentences. The opening paragraph immediately raises questions in the reader: ‘The room looks away’: an arresting viewpoint.

Aly Stoneman’s reading from Lost Lands closed the evening.  Mark Goodwin introduced her a landscape poet whose water-themed poems have a musicality that rings through them, pliable yet able to cut rock.  her work is myth-rich; personal, yet universal.  I enjoyed and will re-visit I Put Away Childhood Things. I was captivated by Aly’s reading voice, her fluid hand gestures and sinuous body language.  I can’t wait to meet her words on the page.  Again, more later.

I’m already venturing inside those tantalizing Helen Walsh covers…

Leicester Shindig!

Monday 23rd January: poets and poetry lovers packed out The Western pub for the first Leicester Shindig! of 2012.

This bi-monthly event is co-hosted by Nine Arches press and Crystal Clear Creators.  Its winning formula: open mic slots and guest poet readings; an evening in two halves with an interval for catching up with friends in poetry, meeting new faces, re-fills at the bar and a browse at the book table.  (I came away with my planned purchase of David Morley’s The Night of the Day).

Open mic poems I enjoyed included Maria Taylor’s Larkin: a cautionary tale about the dangers of over-teaching (click here to read it).  David Calcutt’s reading was particularly captivating.  There were a couple of dual-voice poems and, in a timely homage to the Bard of Scotland, Nick Leach recited Robert Burns’ To A Mouse.

Guest poets:

John Lucas read extracts from his current project and several poems about mice.

Jessica Mayhew transported us to other worlds, reading some poems from her forthcoming Crystal Clear Creators pamphlet (added to my list of ‘must haves’).  A talented young poet with a bright future.

Helen Calcutt‘s guest spot was the highlight of my evening:  beautiful images, sculpted sounds, superbly articulated.  Her first collection will be published later this year by Perdika, London (another for the list).

Unfortunately, Phil Brown was unable to attend, but you can purchase, or read an excerpt of, his Il Avilithere (part of the Nine Arches Debut new poets series).

Remaining Leicester Shindig! dates for 2012:

Monday 19th March

Monday 21st May

Monday 16th July

Monday 17th September

Monday 19th November

Visit Nine Arches online: several titles are reduced in their January sale!