I spent the weekend zipping up and down the M42, or rather down and up.
On Saturday, I was at the Pow Wow Litfest 2011, at the Prince of Wales, Moseley, Birmingham, for a reading. It's a terrific venue - an old-fashioned and roomy pub with a good beer garden - and there was an excellent audience for the various performances (I particularly liked the capoeira demonstration).
Joel Lane also went down well, reading one of the pieces from his new Nine Arches Press short story chapbook Do Not Pass Go, as well as a number of poems that built on some of the themes from his last poetry collection, The Autumn Myth.
I had to leave earlier than I'd have liked, but the organisers ought to be proud of such a wide-ranging and well-attended event.
Yesterday, I headed north instead, for the latest LeftLion/Nine Arches Shindig, at the Jam Cafe in Nottingham. It's a superb venue, too, just about the perfect size and comfortable, and as ever the open mic readers were very varied and pretty much uniformly excellent. Wayne Burrows' poem, Zeropolis (I might have got that wrong) was a highlight for me, and Aly Stoneman's The General's Horse, but there was plenty more to enjoy. I read a couple of poems - Azul, and a new (I wrote it on Friday) untitled one that takes its lead from a line from The Sopranos (from Patsy Parisi, in fact), and they seemed to go down well.
Joel Lane again read well, and I bought his chapbook. I've only had time to read the first story so far, but it's excellent - noir-ish crime stories with a West Midlands setting.
Angela France's reading, from her new Nine Arches chapbook Lessons In Mallemaroking, highlighted all her poetry's strengths. She's interested in seeing where unusual words or phrases take her, and in creating back stories to them. She's also, I'm pretty sure, the only poet ever published in the Sunday Sport - the poem in question, Hide And Seek Champion Found Dead In Cupboard - was a highlight here.
Tom Warner already has a really fine chapbook out as part of the Faber New Poets series, but his reading also suggested that there are great things to come. He was back on home turf, effectively (he lives in Norwich, but is from Mansfield originally), and poems that touched on subjects such as the Miners' Strike struck plenty of chords, especially after last week's tragedy in South Wales. I wish I'd had longer to talk to him afterwards, but I'll be keeping an eye out for future work from him.
It was a lovely way to round off the weekend, anyway - the carrot cake and Bundaberg ginger beer helped, too.