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On the road again

I’m looking forward to reading at three poetry events in October, two in Yorkshire and one at the Swindon poetry festival (details are on the ‘Readings‘ page) .

Since 2012, I’ve been lucky to read in guest spots in about thirty different venues.

I’ve never been sure how this whole ‘getting readings’ thing works for poets.  Apart from pamphlet and book launches organised by  publishers – I’m lucky to have had a couple of these, firstly for my  pamphlet, ‘Gopagilla’ and then for the book ‘The Sun Bathers’ –  it seems readings beget readings, and that meeting and chatting to people at magazine launches and competition prize-givings can help.

A couple of years ago I was invited to read with poet Janet Rogerson in Sheffield’s  Blackwell bookshop. Janet, one of the organizers of Manchester’s Poets and Players, subsequently contacted me to ask if I’d  like to read with Geraldine Monk and Liz Berry at the beautiful library. This was real thrill.  You can see me fidgeting on the video of the event here, or use the link to check out Poets and Players extensive archives.

Other invitations have come from poetry night organizers, usually run by poets I’ve met over the years, including my Yorkshire based friends John Foggin and Keith Hutson. It is just as well that I have these supportive chums as I’m not very good at approaching poetry event organizers or groups, something that must be done some time in advance as planning invariably begins about a year before the programs happens.  Approaching groups didn’t seem very dignified and I wasn’t sure of the etiquette. I used to think  ‘oh look, so- and-so is reading again ‘ and wonder why I wasn’t reading too!

Poetry readings in England, outside of spoken word events at theaters, poetry festivals, tours by laureates and other well-known poets and those visiting universities, take place in pubs, cafes, church halls, libraries and bars up and down the country. There is a small but vital and vibrant scene run by and for enthusiasts.

After a recent magazine launch I found myself having a drink with a poetry event organizer and another poet friend. My mate, sensing reticence on my part, said ‘How about getting Roy to read for you?’, and the organizer responded favorably and offered me a reading.  I like to think it was because she likes my poems. Failing that, perhaps my manners/ face/ dress sense appealed. Whatever the reason, I was, as always, thrilled to be invited. It seems that when it comes to poetry guest slots, as with most things,  if you don’t ask you don’t get. Also, it’s not what you know but the way that you do it – or something like that.

I enjoy reading and have improved of late. Gone are the days of standing shaky-handed, dry mouthed and ultra serious before an audience, rushing through a poem, heart pounding, breath refusing to be available in the right places.

With long gaps between readings, it is easy to experience self-doubt.
The only way to deal with this is to practice my set aloud before the next reading. I know that being really well prepared will help with anxiety and make for a good experience for my listeners.
By the time I read a competition winning poem at the Wenlock poetry festival earlier this year, I had practiced it so much I could have recited the poem from memory at high speed. I’d walked across fields reciting  it in various accents (mildly sonorous quasi Richard Burton Welsh being a favorite) and sung it to a variety of tunes.Thankfully I’d not met anyone on my walks who might have considered me odd. If you are practicing in public you can always pretend to be speaking into a mobile phone. It was just as well I had learnt the poem. After being introduced by the competition judge, Don Patterson and invited to the stage, I realized I’d lost my glasses and the poem before me was a blur.

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Reading at the John Rylands Library

A few months ago I was delighted to be invited to read at John Rylands Library in Manchester by Janet Rogerson of Poets and Players.

Manchester

Piccadilly Square, Manchester

I was doubly pleased when I learnt that I would be reading with Liz Berry, who’s book ‘Black Country’ I recently reviewed on here (see Poetry Reviews page above) . If you’ve read the review you will know I am a great admirer of Liz’s work. I was also looking forward to meeting fellow readers Geraldine Monk, and the unique musical/spoken word performers, Les Malheuraux.

John Rylands
John Rylands Library

The library reading room was even more beautiful and impressive than it
had appeared in the pictures I’d seen, and for a big space it felt warm and intimate, possibly because, although cathedral-like in structure, it was, as Liz Berry said, a cathedral to books.  All the performances were highly enjoyable.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading (I’ve noticed from the video that  I’m a bit of a fidget, but my family will tell you I never could keep still)  met some lovely people and had a great time.
I’ve added a link to my reading at the end of this post, and you can find Liz Berry’s magical reading, Geraldine Monk’s intriguing piece, and the singular distraction that is Les Malheurax on the same page. Performances at Poet’s and Players. youtube page
  

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Swimming, beermats, fairs and waiting rooms.

It’s been quite a busy poetry week for me.

Not in terms of writing, although I have produced a draft or two that I’ll have another look at tomorrow. Several pleasing things have happened.

Firstly, I received a nice surprise when the organisers of the Bradford on Avon Arts Festival got in touch. A few months ago I had entered their Poems on a Beermat competition. This was for poems of up to 12 lines, and the shortlisted poems where to be printed on beermats and distributed in pubs throughout the Bradford on Avon area.  I was pleased that my poem  ‘Night Swimming’ had been chosen by poet and Interpreter’s House editor Martin Malone, who was judging the competition. You can read a little about the prize giving evening see the winning poems on Josephine Corcoran’s blog and read some of the poems via a link Josephine has on there. My poem tells the tale of a swim I took  with some poet friends off the coast of Wales near the town of Cricceth  one magical midnight a couple of summers back. The swim was the idea of the force of nature that is Joan Hewitt, whose work I have featured  here before.

Here is a picture of Cricceth beach at sunset. Our swim took place much later, under moonlight beneath and nearer to the castle’s  silhouette.

CRIccieth
Cricceth

It is always good to have poems in places other than on paper or on-line, and I am very much looking forward to receiving my 25 beermats.

Yesterday I attended the Free Verse poetry book fair in London. It was a great pleasure to read my contribution to the new Happenstance ‘choclit’ anthology ‘Blame Montezuma’ alongside Alison Brackenbury, D.A Prince (who was also launching her new collection), Clare Best and others.

I also sat in on a couple of discussions, but the best part of the day was spent wandering around the main hall and chatting to poets and publishers. It was great to meet up with Alan Baker, Jane Commane, Matt Merritt and Ross Bradshaw of Five Leaves Press, amongst many others

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Conway Hall

I was pleased to meet Liz Berry, and was able to tell her how much I love her book ‘Black Country’.  I wanted to attend the reading Liz gave later, but was so busy chatting with Greg Freeman of ‘Write out Loud’ that I missed it. I do hope to see Liz read in the near future.

I did manage to attend the launch of Michael Brown’s Eyewear pamphlet ‘Undersong’, and I look forward to spending some time next week having a closer look at his work.  If you have the new issue of The North magazine you will find one of Michael’s poems there.

I returned home to Leicestershire to receive another pleasant surprise. The organiser of Poems in The Waiting Room New Zealand had been in touch to ask if she could use one of my poems.   Poems in the Waiting Room is a charitable arts in health trust who, every year distribute 6000 free poetry cards to medical waiting rooms, rest homes, hospices and prisons throughout the South Island of New Zealand. Each season’s poems are also transcribed into Braille booklets. Of course I replied that I would be delighted and look forward to receiving my postcards. It’s lovely to think my work may be of interest to, and maybe provide a brief diversion for someone who is possibly in difficult circumstances.  Once again I am indebted to Josephine Corcoran for publishing the poem on her excellent And Other Poems, as I imagine that is where it was seen on a computer screen in New Zealand. Poetry travels faster and further in the internet age.  You can read the poem here.