Monday, 15 September 2014

Tears In The Fence Festival

The independent literary magazine, Tears In The Fence, is holding a festival to celebrate its 30th birthday, on 24-26 October.

It all takes place at the White Horse, Stourpaine, and among the speakers already confirmed are Peter Hughes, Carrie Etter, Dorothy Lehane, Chris McCabe and Steve Spence. You can find out more here.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Poetry: The Next Generation

The Poetry Book Society has announced its 20 'Next Generation' poets, the once a decade list that aims to, as chair of judges Ian McMillan puts it, "lead our national cultural conversation for many years to come".

As always, there's going to be a lot of argument about who was included and who wasn't, as well as the criteria used to make the choices and the entry requirements that do seem to make things harder for small presses.

I'm not going to rehash those arguments here, but I do find Daljit Nagra's inclusion slightly strange. Not that he's not a fine poet, just that I would have thought he's already very firmly established as one of poetry's big names - I would have thought the place could better have gone to a less well-known poet. On the other hand, maybe outside poetryworld he's not that well-known, and this is, after all, an attempt to get people who wouldn't otherwise read poetry to pick up a book.

Anyway, congratulations to all concerned, and I'm particularly pleased to see Rebecca Goss, Luke Kennard and Helen Mort among the 20 - all poets whose work I enjoy a lot. Of the others, there are several who I'm still to read, so if nothing else it will give me some ideas for the future.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Winchester Poetry Festival

Winchester Poetry Festival takes place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with writers including Jackie Kay, Michael Longley, David Constantine, Patience Agbabi, Ros Barber, Julia Copus and Brian Patten among those taking part.

You can find full details, including the programme and how to book, here.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

And the books I brought back...

I didn't say yesterday that I returned home on Saturday with several more books than I set out with (of course). They were:

Sarah James' Be[yond], as I mentioned in my last post. It's an adventurous and hugely enjoyable collection - I recommend it highly.

Three splendid Worple Press volumes - Andy Brown's Exurbia, John Greening's Knot, and Anthony Wilson's Riddance. I haven't started on any of these yet, but all three are by poets I've enjoyed a lot in the past. There are loads of other goodies in the Worple stable, too - Michael McKimm's Fossil Sunshine is excellent, and Stephen Boyce's The Sisyphus Dog looked intriguing.

Royall Tyler's A Great Valley Under The Stars, from Isobar Press. This is one of the reasons Free Verse is such fun - I doubt I'd have come across this book otherwise, but I started reading it yesterday and it's great. I have a bit of a fixation with New Mexico, which is what made me pick it up initially - I'm glad that I did.

Finally, it occurred to me when I got home that the programme given away free to everyone attending is actually a pretty good little anthology in its own right - there are profiles of each attending press, plus a poem from one of their poets. I have a spare copy, so, if you'd like it, leave a comment here, and I'll send it out.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Free Verse 2014


On Saturday, I was down in Red Lion Square in London for the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair. I attended a couple of years ago (or was it three?), and it was obvious then that it had bags of potential, but I was staggered at just how busy it was throughout the day on Saturday. From beginning to end, the main room was exactly as it appears in the above photo, while the readings and talks were well attended.

I particularly enjoyed the Knives, Forks and Spoons Press readings, especially Sarah James (and bought her collection, Be[yond]), and the readings from Bill Griffiths' work by Geraldine Monk and Alan Halsey (pictured below).



As always at such events, a large part of the pleasure was in catching up with other poets and publishers, and I chatted to Helena Nelson, D A Prince, Alan Baker, Michael McKimm, Peter Carpenter and Roy Marshall, among others, as well, of course, as to my own publisher, Jane Commane of Nine Arches Press (below).


It was only afterwards that I realised that, in the hustle and bustle in the Conway Hall, I'd managed to somehow miss Alison Brackenbury and the Sidekick Books stand - that's a mark of how busy it was.

I read alongside fellow Nine Arches poet Josh Ekroy, and Worple Press poets Mary Woodward and Martin Crucefix, at the Garden Cafe out in the middle of the square. There was a decent-sized audience, and we were on just before the arrival of the marchers in support of the NHS (and Billy Bragg, a longtime hero of mine). Me and Josh are pictured below - I think I need to work on my microphone technique.



Thursday, 4 September 2014

Free Verse


Just a reminder that Free Verse, the poetry book fair, takes place in London this Saturday. As part of it, I'm reading at the Garden Cafe, Red Lion Square, at 11.30pm, with Josh Ekroy and two Worple Press poets. There are events at the Cafe, at the nearby Conway Hall, and at the Rugby Tavern in the evening.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Birdwatching Argentina


As there's been a heavily Argentinian feel to the start of the new football season at Leicester, with the arrival of Ulloa and Cambiaso, I thought I'd post this video from the trip to Argentina I went on earlier this year. We were at Puerto Valle, looking out across the Rio Parana towards Paraguay. I don't actually do much in the video other than nod a lot, but fortunately my travelling companions were more talkative.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

On Nuthatches

My latest post at Out There With The Birds concerns the Nuthatch, and Bernard O'Donoghue's poem of the same name. While I was out at the weekend, I saw good numbers of this species around my patch, presumably little family parties just getting ready to disperse for the winter. They were noisy but, as in the blog post, largely indifferent to my presence.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Judi Sutherland on Ritchie McCaffery

There's a really good review of fellow Nine Arches poet Ritchie McCaffery's debut collection Cairn here, in the Irregular Features section of the Dr Fulminare site. While you're there, have a browse through the many excellent past reviews and features, too - it's a truly eclectic site.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Matthew Stewart on Ben Wilkinson

Matthew Stewart, at Rogue Strands, has posted an excellent review of Ben Wilkinson's chapbook For Real, from Smith/Doorstop.

I'm in almost total agreement with Matthew about it. It is, in its own way, a very raw and emotionally honest book, and all the more affecting for that, but that's not to say that Wilkinson's writing isn't considered and absolutely sure-footed throughout.

Anyway, I'll post my own review when I finally get round to finishing it, but in the meantime, do yourself two favours. Read Matthew's review, and buy Ben's book.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Vote for Britain's National Bird

Posting on here has been fairly sparse of late, mainly due to work and Birdfair. But, one of the best things at Birdfair this year was the launch of the National Bird Vote.

My friend David Lindo, also known as the Urban Birder (you may well have seen him on The One Show and the like), thinks it's high time that Britain had an official National Bird, and I agree whole-heartedly.

So, I cast my first round votes on Sunday, choosing Curlew, Skylark, Kingfisher, Gannet, Lapwing and Puffin (I think - it was a tough choice). Now's the time to make sure that your favourites make it into the second round.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Anxiety dreams

Apropos of nothing, I've been thinking about anxiety dreams, and how they change over time. Most people, at one time or another, will have had the naked-in-public dream. Having failed to revise for an exam is another common one.

My most regular one, for many years, had a cricketing flavour (I used to play club cricket regularly). I'd get the call to go in to bat at the fall of a wicket, and find I had no pads on. I'd rush to get padded up, manage to do so in time, then find that the spikes in my boots were stuck fast in the wooden floor.

These days, I occasionally get a poetry anxiety dream instead. I'm doing a reading, usually somewhere pretty upmarket-looking, when I realise that I've got no books or manuscript or anything. At that point, it occurs to me that I've never actually written a poem, and I'm caught between asking the organisers why on earth they booked me, and legging it at high speed.

But anyway, my question is, does anyone out there get anxiety dreams that are nothing to do with any aspect of their real lives?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Under The Radar 13

Issue 13 of Under The Radar is out now, from Nine Arches Press - you can order it, or set up a subscription, here.

Featured poets include Mona Arshi, Bob Beagrie, Rebecca Bird, Sharon Black, Joseph Blockley, Peter Branson, Brendan Cleary, Jim Conwell, Frances Corkey Thompson, Martyn Crucefix, Nicola Daly, Rebecca Farmer, Carolyn Finlay, Mark Goodwin, Terry Jones, Charles Lauder Jr, Jack Little, Siobhan Logan, Tim Love, David Lukens, Beth McDonough, Nigel McLoughlin, Abegail Morley, Theresa Muñoz, Ben Parker, Mark Rutter, Janet Smith, Jayne Stanton, Paul Stephenson, Mary Wight and Charles Wilkinson, there are short stories by Gary Budden, Myra Connell, Mark Mayes and David Steward, and a selection of in-depth reviews.

It's the first one for which I've acted as poetry editor, so I'll be interested to hear any feedback about how you think we've done in terms of striking a balance of content.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Free Verse - The Poetry Book Fair


An early heads-up for this - I'm reading with fellow Nine Arches Poet Josh McEkroy at the Garden Cafe at 11.30, but I'll be hanging around all day, either at the Nine Arches stand or somewhere close by. There's loads of good stuff going on, and if anyone fancies catching up, drop me a line.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Hidden cities

I was interested to read this piece on the UK's top hidden city spots, and pleased to see Moseley Bog come out of it so well. It's a wonderful place, like nearby Sarehole Mill, with which it shares the distinction of having inspired the young JRR Tolkien. In both places, it's hard to believe that you're so near to the centre of a major European city.

The definition of 'hidden' is fairly loose, and one slight disappointment is that they seem to have chosen from a fairly restricted list of cities. I would, I confess, be struggling to make a case for anywhere in my home city, Leicester, but I can think of very worthy candidates in any of three other cities I know pretty well - Nottingham, Newcastle and Cardiff. I'd be interested to hear of other worthy locations from readers.

A couple of weeks back, I was down in London to meet one of Bird Watching's long-standing contributors, David Lindo (AKA The Urban Birder). He took me for a morning stroll around his local patch, Wormwood Scrubs, and I was staggered not only by the variety of the bird life that we saw, within a stone's throw of the Westway and the hustle and bustle of West London, but how quiet it was, both in terms of sound (less than outside my house on an average morning) and seeing other people (we encountered a dozen at most).

Cities need these little oases of calm and green, or rather city-dwellers do, so it's depressing to see that not only is the Scrubs being mooted as the site for a major open-air concert later this year, but it's also under threat from HS2. You can find out more about it at the Save Our Scrubs site here, and sign a petition to preserve this hidden gem.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Cafe Writers competition

It's a long time since I entered a poetry competition (it's a long time since I wrote a poem - that might have something to do with it), but the Cafe Writers comp is one of the best out there.

Very reasonable entry fee, good prizes, and it all goes to support the very popular monthly Cafe Writers reading/open mic slots in Norwich. This year's judge is the wonderful David Morley, so you've all got until the end of November to come up with something to impress him.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Edward Thomas at Out There With The Birds

I've got some musings about bird names, poetry and Edward Thomas up at Out There With The Birds - as always, take the time to have a browse of this really fine blog, and enjoy great writing on birds from around the globe.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Leicester Shindig, July 21st, 2014


It's Shindig time again on Monday, with guest readers Carol Leeming, Tony Williams, Richie McCaffery and Kerry Featherstone. As always, it's free, everything starts at 7.30pm, downstairs at The Western, on Western Road, and open mic slots will be available on the night.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Jo Bell on 52's success

Nice piece here about the success of Jo Bell's 52 project, which aims to get poets writing a poem a week in response to a series of prompts. The Facebook group now has 560 members, and they're really producing some fine work, much of which is now getting published in mags, etc.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A walking reading with Tony Williams

This Sunday, July 20th, I'll be joining Tony Williams for a walking reading around Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottingham.

It's to help launch Tony's splendid new Nine Arches collection, The Midlands, and it's free, but places are limited and should be booked in advance here.

We're meeting at the Visitor Centre from 1.30pm, with the walk to start at 2pm. We'll stroll around this superb reserve in search of wildlife, and no doubt people-watching too, stop every now and then to read a poem or two, and then return to the centre at 4pm for more reading - I've been enjoying Tony's book this week and it really is worth hearing out loud.

If you get there early, I should add, the Visitor Centre usually has a magnificent array of cakes.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Black Box Manifold 12

The Summer 2014 edition of Black Box Manifold is out now - I've enjoyed the poems by Peter Hughes, Kelvin Corcoran and Martin Malone so far, but there are plenty of other names worth investigating, plus a review of the anthology Dear World And Everyone In It. Enjoy!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Larwood country

Nice article here from Sidharth Monga, about tracking down Harold Larwood, arguably the greatest fast bowler ever to play for England. He ends up at Kirkby Portland CC - I've trudged around their outfield a few times in the past, sustained by the thought of following in a legend's footsteps (and by the excellent teas).

Friday, 11 July 2014

Cannon Poets reading, July 12th

I'll be reading with my fellow Nine Arches poet, Angela France, at Cannon Poets, Moseley, Birmingham, tomorrow night. There will, of course, be an opportunity to buy copies of The Elephant Tests, should you want to.

The reading takes place in the Moseley Exchange, in the Post Office Building, starting at 7.30pm, and as well as the poetry there's music from Flootsweet.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Kathy Bell and Carrie Etter at Jazz & Poetry


The final Jazz & Poetry for the time being (it will return in October with the launch of Mahendra Solankia's second collection The Lies We Tell), takes place next Wednesday, July 16th, at the Guitar Bar, Clumber Avenue, Nottingham NG5.

The poetry will be supplied by Kathy Bell, reading from her new pamphlet at the memory exchange, and Carrie Etter, reading from her excellent and highly-acclaimed collection Imagined Sons.

Entry is free but donations are encouraged, and of course there's jazz from Four In The Bar (including special guests).

Friday, 4 July 2014

Butcher's Dog magazine

Always good to see new poetry magazines succeeding - Matthew Stewart has some good things to say about Butcher's Dog here.