Three poetry pamphlets

It’s always a joy to receive a surprise package in the post.

The most recent contained three poetry pamphlets, commissioned by the University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing, and an accompanying letter from Dr Julian North at the School of Arts.

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I was pleased to discover that two of the pamphlets (containing, amongst others, my commissioned poem, ‘Slave Bird’) have recently been re-issued:

Friendship’s Scrapbook: a sequence of five poems by Deborah Tyler-Bennett and my own single poem, written in response to archive material comprising a range of anti-slavery pamphlets and hymns, letters and journals produced by Leicester abolitionists, Elizabeth Heyrick and Susanna Watts.

Women’s Writing in the Midlands, 1750-1850: poems arising from a series of Record Office workshops led by Deborah Tyler-Bennett, in response to the original material that inspired Friendship’s Scrapbook.

The newly-published Writing Lives Together is an anthology of poetry and prose written as part of The Centre for New Writing’s ‘Writing and Research Series’ in a series of workshops responding to nineteenth century archive material including journals, confessions, lyric poetry and autobiography by Dorothy and William Wordsworth, Coleridge, Dickens and others.

All three pamphlets were launched at Leicester Shindig on Monday 27th November. Contributors to the anthology (Richard Byrt, Jo Dixon, Aysar Ghassan, Anna Larner and Jonathan Taylor) read their poems, and I  read my ‘Slave Bird’ poem.   I particularly enjoyed the humour of Richard Byrt’s ‘To Asda,’ a sonnet after Coleridge’s ‘To Asra’ and Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale,’ and, by contrast, Anna Larner’s ‘On Reflection’ a sonnet after the same Coleridge poem.

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All three pamphlets are available for free by emailing newwriting@le.ac.uk or click here for further details.

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My pamphlet pre-launch

Monday night at The Western pub saw a Leicester Shindig!-with-a-difference.

In a change from the customary format, Jane Commane hosted an open-mic-only first half (with the usual bar-set-high readings, I must add).  A Soundswrite Press showcase, hosted by Maria Taylor and compered by Karin Koller, comprised the second half of the evening.

Karin opened with a few words about Soundswrite women’s poetry group.  You can find out more here, but I’d like to add that I’m immensely grateful for the insightful feedback, support, friendship, open discussion and love of good poetry that characterises our twice-monthly meetings.

It was good to see so many fellow Soundswriters in attendance and to hear them read a diverse selection of poems, many of which I remember first encountering as early drafts.

Caroline Cook co-featured with a reading of poems from her pamphlet, Primer, launched last March.  For me, it was a nudge to re-visit my favourites in this primer-painted slim volume.

The evening being a kind of pre-launch event, too, I co-featured with a reading from my debut pamphlet, Beyond the Tune (Soundswrite Press).  As most of those gathered had workshopped many of its poems as early drafts and/or heard them at the open mic, I changed my mind several times when I was planning which ones to read on the night.  In the end, I decided on a sort of journey through the pamphlet, reading eight of the twenty-seven poems by way of a thank you and as an invitation to the reader.  And I also read a new poem (recently workshopped at Soundswrite) because there is a writing life after sending out a body of your own work into the world (although there were times when I did wonder).

Photo: Jane Commane

Photo: Jane Commane

It was an evening filled with warmth and friendship as much as poetry.  And wonderful to sign copies of my pamphlet, too!  My thanks to those who came and to those who were there in spirit.  It means a lot.

I’m now looking forward to the launch proper on Saturday October 4th (post to follow).  I’m thrilled that it’s to be a joint launch with D A Prince for her second full collection, Common Ground (HappenStance Press), not least because she has been my main editor (and oh so much more) over the past year or so.  It’s a free event, open to all, as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival, too.  I’d love to say hi to you there if you’re able to make it.

After yesterday’s ICT woes and various pleas for help via email and messaging (many thanks – you know who you are!), to say nowt of the step-by-step (read idiot-proof) guide on WordPress Help, I’ve managed to get a Buy Now button functioning on this blog.  So a signed copy of my little pamphlet (plus a bonus poem-on-a-postcard) is available to (ahem) buy now by clicking here, or you can buy direct from Soundswrite Press here.

If you’re operating a no-buy year/policy, you can read a copy at any of the following:

Saison Poetry Library, level 5, Royal Festival Hall, London

Boston Spa Reading Room, British Library, London

There are also the usual legal deposit copies in the Bodleian library in Oxford, Cambridge University, National Library of Scotland, Trinity College Dublin and National Library of Wales.  (Imagine!)  Or you could request a copy at your local library.

Pamphlet diary date #1: Leicester Shindig!

As promised, here’s the first of two diary dates for your poetry calendars:

Leics Shindig Sept 2014

I’m really looking forward to featuring at one of my favourite regular poetry events.

I’m treating the evening as a pamphlet pre-launch: I’ll be reading poems from Beyond the Tune and copies will be on sale for the first time.  I’ll have my signing pen handy, too!  And if you haven’t yet picked up a copy of Caroline Cook’s Primer – well, I reckon it’s rather excellent and well worth a read, too.

If you’re local (or not too far away and fancy a poetry jolly to Leicester), it would be lovely to see you there.  For those on Facebook, click here for a link to the event.  Or just turn up on the night and surprise us!

If you’re unable to make it  on a ‘school night,’ details of the (weekend) launch proper to follow, so stay Tuned 🙂

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.

16th July: Leicester Shindig

Another brilliant night of poetry at The Western pub – indeed, one of the best Leicester Shindigs to date, according to numerous Facebook and Twitter comments from attendees.

Those visiting from the West Midlands were treated to a second helping of Maria Taylor‘s poems from her newly-launched debut collection, Melanchrini (Nine Arches Press) after her guest appearance at last Tuesday’s Poetry Alight in Lichfield.  I’m currently re-visiting my favourites after a hungry first read, cover-to-cover (as I’m wont to do).

Kim Moore‘s pamphlet, If We Could Speak Like Wolves (Smiths/Doorstop) is the latest addition to my Poetry Library To Go that masquerades as a handbag.  Her closing guest slot was one of the high notes of the evening.

I enjoyed Robin Vaughan-Williams‘ reading with a difference: pairings of poems – about the wind, and pilots and doctors; ending with three poems from his Happenstance pamphlet, The Manager, read as a continuous piece – each one beginning with  ‘The manager sits behind blue curtains,’ – same line, taken in different directions.  The silences between phrases/line breaks – a delivery not unlike that of Mark Goodwin, to which I find myself listening intently.

Alan Baker‘s latest collection is Variations on Painting a Room (Skysill Press).  He read the lyrical Chilwell; then from The Book of Random Access, a collage of prose poems with quotations and found text; Today in the Snow, a poem borne out of working life on the road.

Open mic poems included Richard Byrt’s My Backyard Bannockburn (crafted sounds), Jonathan Taylor’s Our Price 1995  and Exchange (I do so enjoy his brand of humour), Tom Wyre’s The Lucid Door and Cellophane Man (measured rhythm, rhyme), Gary Longden’s The DJ (a tribute to the names behind the ’70s music I loved…oh, sweet nostalgia), Gary Carr’s Love Letter (written for his daughter), John Kitchen’s The Takeover (alliterative, and one of several weather-related poems of the evening).

For a different take on the night, here’s a link to Gary Longden’s eloquent and comprehensive blog review.

Next Leicester Shindig: Monday 17th Sept

Leicester Shindig: May 21st

Always a diary highlight, my abiding favourite regular poetry night out.

Amongst the open mics:

Caroline Cook’s ‘Weekly Workout’ was a wry take on poetry workshops (ah, those inevitable games of Guess the Poet…).  Not afraid to experiment with styles and voices, I always look forward to hearing/reading her poems.  Richard Byrt’s ‘Coming Out’: wonderful example of ‘less is more.’  I loved the assonance.  Jonathan Taylor’s ‘Mozart’s Clarinet Sextet’: hilarious – I want to hear it again!  Gary Longden’s ‘Majorca’: a tribute to John Cooper Clarke – rhythm, rhyme and humour.  Roy Marshall’s ‘Relic’: an animal bone found on a woodland walk gives rise to contemplating our skeleton and ‘temporary skin’ – haunting last line.  Kathy Bell’s ‘Prayers Requested of an Anchorite’ from a sequence of poems, ‘Balance Sheets for Medieval Spinsters.’  Lindsay Waller-Wilkinson’s ‘Seaham’ – I loved this reworking from the original prose for its soundplay and internal rhymes.

Feature Poets:

C J Allen writes the poems many of us wish we’d written and his reading most certainly did not disappoint.  I purchased his newly-launched collection, At the Oblivion Tea-Rooms (Nine Arches Press) and it’s queue-jumped everything on my reading pile.

Alistair Noon’s Earth Records (Nine Arches), also launched this week, is the poet’s debut collection after publishing nine pamphlets.  Read more here.  Also a Longbarrow poet, listen to soundcloud tracks here.

Ira Lightman, reading in place of Julie Boden, gave a hugely entertaining rendition of poems across several collections as well as new work, amongst which ‘Air on a G String’ was my favourite.  (And the poet’s vivid image of his gents’ loo view: t-shirt print John Lennon sporting a urinating appendage from his Adam’s apple, a lasting impression…).

Robert Richardson, Imagist poet and visual artist, closed the evening.  I especially enjoyed ‘Prose and Poetry’: the former, justified; the latter, troublesome words that, on release, murder you in your sleep.

Next Leicester Shindig: Monday 16th July 2012.

Recent Reads #1

How I envy Gary Longden hearing Phil Brown reading from his newly-published first collection, ‘Il Avilit’ (Nine Arches), at Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

Having read an extract here, I purchased Brown’s Debut collection at States of Independence last month.  I read it over two coffee stops, finding it a real page-turner.  Two poems, in particular, made me smile: ‘Poetry Library’: ‘…the nepotistic quarterlies lining the walls/a paper network of favours/I will never be able to anything offer.’ and ‘On the way to Torriano’ – I love the audacious idea that performance giant Hegley might learn a thing or two from an eight year old boy, missing his gig into the bargain!

I very much hope that Brown will read at Leicester Shindig! in the near future.

Now re-reading…