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.


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.