‘The Best’ weekend

It’s been one of those weeks when everyone (including our elderly cat, poor boy) has wanted an extra piece of me – mostly in a good way, I hasten to add. This weekend has been a full-on music-poetry combo, and sensible folk might have opted for a lazy Sunday, in readiness for another week at the chalkface (at end of an over-long spring term).  But I rarely take the sensible option (as those who know me – er, know) and ‘life is short’ is a maxim I live by (see previous post here). And there was absolutely no way I was going to miss the Eyewear launch of The Best British & Irish Poets 2017 anthology.

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I couldn’t have ordered better weather for a London jolly. With time to kill before the event, I walked from Brixton station to The Windmill in warm sunshine, sporting varifocal sunglasses and minus a cardie.  The early birds amongst us then sat outside until the bar opened (my, it was nightclub-dark in there).

Eyewear’s Todd Swift ably steered us through the afternoon, keeping pretty much to time considering this involved cajoling everyone back inside at the end of each brief break in proceedings.

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Todd Swift at the mic

Luke Kennard spoke about judging the 900 or so entries and read some of his recent work, including a ‘Brexit morning’ poem and finishing with one from ‘Cain.’  It was good to talk to Robin Houghton, say hi to Jill Abram and exchange a few words with other contributors in between readings.  And Luke Kennard talked poetry and life stuff with me as I rested on a bar stool after a long stint of standing.  And he said nice things about my poem.

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Luke Kennard

I chose to listen/watch rather than follow poems on the page during readings.  I particularly enjoyed Alan Buckley’s ‘Miracle’ for its arresting images and its delivery, Niall Bourke’s ‘Marbletown’ for its satirical humour, and Jessica Mookherjee’s ‘Vernal Equinox’.  There’s a real range of subjects and styles in the anthology to enjoy reading at my leisure.

The anthology is available from Eyewear Publishing for £10.99.  To purchase (and browse the other publications, while you’re there), click here.

Before catching my train back to Leicester, I met my youngest sister for a catch-up over a bite to eat – serendipitous that we both happened to be in London for the day. We hadn’t seen each other in over three years! When did life become so busy…?

Having typed most of this on the train journey home, I’m finishing and posting this on Monday morning. After a much-needed early night!

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Welcome to Leicester poems on air

Three of my poems about life in Leicester city, written during my writing residency, have been published in Welcome to Leicester, an anthology of 90 poems about what this diverse city means to those live here (Dahlia Publishing), edited by Emma Lee and Ambrose Musiyiwa.

Unfortunately, I was unable to make the launch held at Leicester’s African Caribbean Centre as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival, so my contributor’s copy was doubly welcome when it arrived by post.

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Emma Lee has written about editing the anthology on her blog here.

Emma and Ambrose have been busy promoting the anthology since the launch.  Here’s a link to a conversation about the anthology on Leicester Community Radio with an airing of some of the poems, including Ambrose’s spirited reading of my celebratory LCFC poem, ‘The Art of Winning’ at approx 30 minutes in.

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‘The Art of Winning,’ published in ‘Welcome to Leicester, poems about the city’ (Dahlia Publishing 2016)

 

A Writing Residency

In my last two blog posts my aim was to bring readers up to date with my reading activity over the last few months.  I do so much poetry reading that, at times, I wonder whether it becomes a displacement activity for writing.

In my work life, I like the challenge of a deadline.  If I have all the time in the world in which to write I’ll take forever to get down to it.  If, however, I have a remit and a due date I work much better.  That’s why I like the challenge of a writing commission.  As winner of the Bru Leicester Writes poetry prize I was granted a writing residency and commissioned to write a sequence of five poems on the theme of Life in the City.

What’s not to like?  A busy, bustling city base from which to soak up the atmosphere/people-watch, a first-floor bird’s-eye view of city-centre street life, a paid commission, space and dedicated time to write – with coffee and cake to hand (those who know me know…) and a gift card to spend on eats and drinks at the till.

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So March 11th saw me meeting up with founder of Leicester Writes and editor of Dahlia Publishing, Farhana Shaikh, at Leicester’s Bru Coffee & Gelato (my place of residency) to discuss the finer details.  Back then, the June deadline seemed a long way off.  I wasn’t necessarily confined to the ideas I’d originally outlined in my proposal, and such a broad theme could be interpreted in many ways.  Just one ‘ask’: with Leicester City Football Club’s track record for the season to date, would I also consider writing a ‘bonus poem’ capturing the spirit of the underdog team and the city’s rising fan fever.  Moi?  With not a sporting gene in my body? [insert, here, any emoticons you know for ‘ brain freeze’]  Okay, I said, I’ll give it a go (eek!)

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Although I did a fair amount of online research for my poem sequence, inspiration came mainly from my walks between the rail station on London Road (or, more often, Dover St car park) to the Clock Tower (beating heart of our city) via Granby Street and Gallowtree Gate (with Bru Coffee conveniently situated half-way between these two points).

 

King Richard III

King Richard III, Cathedral Gdns

 

I could have written a poem about any or all of Leicester’s famous names and nameless faces immortalised and memorialised in statuary.  This one, for instance.

 

 

 

photo credit: crosbyheritage.co.uk

photo credit: crosbyheritage.co.uk

 

 

In the end, I chose (or rather the destination chosen by my poem was ) Thomas Cook, whose statue greets rail passengers outside the station on London Road.

 

 

 

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Maria, a The Big Issue vendor no longer occupying her usual Granby Street spot opposite Bru, became the subject of a poem following a conversation I had with a regular customer and one of the baristas on enquiring after her whereabouts.

 

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Leicester’s Clock Tower is a babel of voices clamouring to be heard.

 

And my LCFC poem?  I confess to becoming a Foxes fan at least for the remainder of the season as our team’s path to Premier League King Power & Glory unfolded and I trawled the Twitter feeds around each nail-biting match.  As the saying goes, you couldn’t make it up!

photo credit: leicestermurcury.co.uk

LCFC open top city bus tour                                                           photo credit: leicestermurcury.co.uk

My six poems were duly submitted (ahead of the deadline – yay!), typeset, printed and made available on customers’ tables at Bru for my reading on June 28th as part of the Leicester Writes Festival of New Writing:

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Three of my residency poems –  The Art of Winning, The Big Issue and Time Traveller – will be published in Welcome to Leicester, an anthology of poems (Dahlia Publishing) to be launched on Friday 7th October as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival.  It’s free but bookable in advance (click here for details and scroll to page 23 of festival programme).