Swindon, Antiphon, John and Emergency Poetry

Last week I had the pleasure of attending, for one evening only, the Swindon poetry festival. I was there to read from the ‘Double Bill’ anthology (Red Squirrel Press.) The reading, organised by the anthology’s editor Andy Jackson, saw poets who were able to attend reading their own poem as well as one or two others of their choice.

In addition to my poem ‘Guinness’ I chose to read Isobel Dixon’s poem about Fred Astaire because I loved its dancing rhythm, and also Helen Mort’s poem ‘Sheffield by Almodovar’  about the Spanish director and screenwriter, which I enjoyed for the seeming ease with which it unfolds, and for the fact that it is a ‘rewind’ poem with the action happening in reverse.  It was good to meet up with friends including Alison Brackenbury, Jo Bell (the festival’s poet in residence,) and David Clark who very generously gave me a copy of his brand new, and beautifully produced, Ninearches collection, ‘Arc‘. You can read some poems from Arc by clicking this link.  

Arc Cover for web

Their was a large and appreciative audience in attendance and after the Double Bill event we were treated to a reading from Kei Miller. I had not seem Kei read before, and by the end of his reading I felt it had been well worth the two hundred mile round trip to Swindon. Kei read both from his Forward Prize winning collection ‘The Cartographer Tries to Map a way to Zion’, but also from his 2010 book of poems ‘A Light Song of Light’ which, Kei explained, was written in the aftermath of his mother’s death. I can see how Kei’s latest book warranted so much attention, being an ‘insiders’ view of colonial legacy which utilises a dialog between two cultures to explore Jamaica’s recent history. ‘The Cartographer..’ is a vibrant and vitally important book for many reasons. But during the reading I found myself most effected by the beautiful, timeless lyrical elegies from ‘A Light Song of Light, and I am going to order the book later today.

Also this week the latest edition of the excellent online magazine Antiphon was published. It includes my poem ‘The Faithless Husband’ , which was inspired by Lorca’s fantastic poem ‘The Faithless Wife’ . Antiphon is packed with good poems from the UK and America, and you can also hear recordings of some of the poems (including mine) here.

In other news my friend  the poet John Foggin, whose work and thoughts were recently featured here (see ‘Stocktaking’ post) has featured some poems and a few thoughts on the nature of ‘home’ on his ‘Great Fogginzo’ website. You can read John’s  ‘cobweb’ here.

The  latest issue of the excellent magazine ‘The Interpreter’s House’ has arrived. Along with the usual high quality selection of poetry and prose (124 pages and all for only £5) there are some poetry book and pamphlet reviews including my own take on Richard Skinner’s Smokestack Books pamphlet, ‘Terrace’.

I’m looking forward to reading with Maria Taylor and Jo Bell at Writers in the Bath, Sheffield, next week, and I’ll also be reading a couple of poems before Martin Malone reads from his new Shoestring Press collection ‘Cur’ at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop, Oxford. Then, on the 24th of this month, I’ll be in Palmers Green, North London where there will also be readings from three more (distinguished) poets and music from the Helios Consort.

Finally, a new anthology from  Michael O’Mara books, ‘The Emergency Poet, An Anti-stress Poetry Anthology’ has arrived.

Emergency poet

This picture doesn’t really do justice to the book, a lovely hardback. It’s a brilliantly conceived collection compiled by Deborah Alma, ‘ the world’s first and only emergency poet, who travels to schools, libraries, festivals and other events in her 1970s ambulance to offer consultations and prescribe poems as cures for various maladies.’ The collection is designed to lift your mood and offer poetic help whenever it may be needed. Arranged by spiritual ailment, the sections include a range of verse, new and old, and includes work from W.B Yeats and Shakespeare as well as contemporary writers such as Wendy Pratt, Penelope Shuttle, Myra Schneider and yours truly. It is quite a surreal experience to see my little poem ‘Instant Karma’ from ‘The Sun Bathers’  opposite one from Rainer Maria Rilke!  I spent a very relaxing afternoon having a preliminary look through the book, and suggest it might make a lovely gift for a friend who needs a little poetry ‘lift’ – let’s face it, who doesn’t!   The anthology is available on-line, and if you are in the UK may I recommend you purchase a copy from WH Smiths where it is currently available for the ridiculously low price of £6.99.


A good week. A long post.

Hi, this is a chatty post, somewhat in the style of my friend Kim Moore, and is therefore longer than usual.

It’s been a good week for me, as I’ll explain, although not so good for the thirty Greenpeace protesters of various nationalities still being held in prison in Russia. In case you missed it, the protesters boat was boarded by armed forces and they have been detained on charges of piracy. The Greenpeace members (and a cameraman) were in the arctic to protest against drilling for oil, their point being that where there is drilling and shipping there will be spillage.  One of the protesters is the brother of a friend, and she is understandably worried and frightened at the situation. I would have expected this to be a high priority news item, but yet again my instincts for what is news have been proved wrong by the lack of coverage. Needless to say, I hope this situation is resolved and the detainees released as soon as possible, although the larger questions related to the preservation and protection of the Arctic will of course remain.

This week I read at the Lumen in north London with Deborah Tyler-Bennett.
The Lumen readings are in a beautiful church with a large stained glass window erected in 1966.

2013-10-15 20.17.06

Deborah has a new book out with Shoestring press entitled ‘Kinda Keats.’ This collection was largely written as a result of Deborah being a resident writer at Keats House, Hampstead in the summer of 2010. The title is a play on the Kinks album ‘Kinda Kinks,’ and in the title poem the Kinks own Ray Davis is spotted by Deborah and friend on the heath after a workshop.

The collection cleverly and deftly blends Deborah’s obvious immersion in the life of the poet and her absorption of the ambiance of the house and its surroundings during her residency with more modern references.  This makes the work immediate and vibrant, with the various narrative strands and historical and biographical details skilfully interwoven. Deborah also has a keen eye for and knowledge of period fashion, and her skills of description evoke the texture and colour of garments. Take this from the opening poem,
‘Keats Magic Coat.’

Buttons blink from acorn’s to ducks’ eyes
to spangled poppy-heads, their troubled dreaming.

Lapels: kingfisher flash: fresh-moulted hen feathers.
Fabric: stiff white wastes old Gods grumble in;
then, just as sudden, misted Autumn’s
russet-apple skin.

Let’s not wax too poetic.

Garment soon stale soaked as poverty, thin-
lining sewer splashed, sweating Peterloo’s spilt blood,
that story dark as Newgate’s  Knocker.

It was hugely enjoyable listening to Deborah read, and I was relaxed and comfortable when it came to my turn. The open mike section of the evening was of a very high standard, and Deborah and I both read again before the end of the evening.

Other events this week- my eight year old son decided to take my book to school to show his teacher, and she chose a the poem ‘Blackbird in Winter’ and read it to the class. As a result three little girls told Alex that they would like to buy a copy. I’ve had to explain that, due the adult nature of the book, I can’t accept any of their pocket-money!

The Rialto magazine has arrived,  and although I haven’t had time to look at it closely,  I did very much enjoy a poem by Sarah Davis called ‘The Blue Sky’.

Last week the aforementioned Kim Moore (nominated for a Michael Marks
award for the brilliant If We Could Speak Like Wolves) posted a poem of mine on her blog, and this week the excellent Antiphon online magazine has kindly featured a poem from ‘The Sun Bathers’ in  their Exhibition space ,together with illustration by editor Rosemary Badcoe.

Incidentally I’d like to thank everyone who has bought the book so far. I’ve already almost sold the batch of forty I bought from my publisher and will need to order some more.

Finally a poem I had forgotten has come back into my inbox and with it the news that it was selected for an anthology, ‘Double Bill: poems inspired by popular culture’, due out in 2014 from Red Squirrel Press. Submitted poems
had to be ten lines long and be related to a particular product or advert, from a list including Guinness, ( a subject close to my heart although rarely tasted due to its propensity to increase my weight,) Fairy Liquid, Domestos, Hovis PG Tips and a few others I can’t recall. The best poems for each product/theme as judged by the editors at Red Squirrel Press were selected and my Guinness poem ‘The Black Stuff’ was selected to represent the Liffey water.  I understand the anthology will include work from George Szirtes, Adam Horovitz, Luke Wright, Simon Barraclough, Sheenagh Pugh and others.