Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Stratford reading CANCELLED

Unfortunately, tonight's Nine Arches Press reading and open mic at Stratford Town Hall has had to be cancelled - apologies for any inconvenience if you were planning on coming along.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Shindig revisited

Monday night was the latest Nine Arches Press/Crystal Clear Creators Shindig, at The Western in Leicester, and the new venue seemed to be working out very well, with a full room once again.

The format - open mic, two readers, more open mic, two readers - is a tried and tested one, and there was the usual pleasing variety of styles among the open mic-ers. The standard's really impressively high, too.

I won't go into too much detail, as Gary Longden has reviewed the evening here, but Maria Taylor and Kathy Bell were excellent, with the former's more ebullient tone contrasting nicely with the latter's more elegaic approach. Maria has a chapbook coming out from Nine Arches next year, which'll be well worth looking out for.

After my spot (I was standing in for Luke Kennard, who'll now be reading in June), Matthew Stewart read from his new HappenStance chapbook, Inventing Truth. I enjoyed it a great deal. Living and working in Spain, as he does, gives his poetry a distinct flavour, and the book is much concerned with questions of identity, the part played in it by language, and the difficulty of belonging to quite different societies.

I'll be reviewing it properly on here in the future, but it was lovely to meet Matthew at last after many an email conversation over the last few years. I first came across his work when doing some judging for the Plough Prize (an excellent poem called Milko, which features in this book), and he's been a regular presence in UK poetry mags too, so it's good to see the chapbook out there. He's a fine poet with a style that's deceptively simple and very distinctive.

Oh, and finally, the usual setlist:

Things Left In Hotel Rooms
Waiting To Cross
Fantasia For Glass Harmonica
Custard Apple

Early birds

When I was a kid, at least once every summer holiday, my parents would get me and my sisters up at an unearthly hour and take us for a walk up to 'The Rocks' (as everyone locally knows them) - actually the Warren Hills part of Charnwood Lodge.

After the initial shock of being dragged from under the covers, I always found it incredibly exciting. The world, even the very small and very familiar world of a child, looks quite different at 4.30am. It sounds different too.

I could feel the same frisson yesterday morning, when I joined poet Jo Bell and her boatmates for a dawn chorus walk around Wadenhoe, Northamptonshire, as part of their retracing of the steps of Denys Watkins-Pitchford (better known to readers as 'BB').

The weather was perfect, and within a few minutes of starting we'd heard a Cuckoo (my first so far this year). Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks, Chaffinches and Great Tits were of course among the loudest participants, but there were encouraging numbers of Song Thrushes, too, and plenty of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers.

Yellowhammers were notable by their absence. I'd guess BB would have heard plenty back in the 60s, when he was writing his book. The same could be said of Corn Buntings. It would have been too much to expect to be lucky enough to hear a Nightingale, although again I'd imagine they were once pretty common birds in the area.

But anyway, it was all thoroughly inspiring. Back at the narrowboat, we had a mini poetry reading over welcome cups of tea to round things off, before I headed off to catch up on my sleep, and the others continued on their odyssey through the heart of England.

Monday, 11 April 2011

New Walk

Time for another intermission in the constant stream of hastily-written NaPoWriMo poems, this time to flag up Issue 2 of Leicester-based literary mag New Walk.

It well and truly confirms the good impression made by the debut issue back in the autumn, with poetry from, among others, Alice Oswald, Carrie Etter, Matthew Stewart, Dan Wyke, Tom Pow, D A Prince and  Martyn Crucefix, plus fiction from Bill Jones and Robert McGowan.

Best of all, perhaps, given how difficuklt it can be to find extensive writing about poetry these days, there's a wealth of good reviews, essays and comment. J M Coetzee writes on Zbigniew Herbert, Martin Stannard (the academic, not the poet) on Larkin's Letters To Monica, and there's much more - I look forward to getting stuck into it this weekend.

Among the reviews, there's Geoffrey Heptonstall's take on hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica. I'll take a closer look at it on here later (probably after NaPoWriMo is finished), but for now I'll just say that I'm grateful to him for such a thoughtful and generous response to the book.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Shindig! in Leicester

Just a quick break from the madness of NaPoWriMo to let you know that the latest Nine Arches Press Shindig takes place at The Western, on Western Road, Leicester, at 7.30pm on April 18th.

Featured readers are Maria Taylor, Kathleen Bell, Matthew Stewart and myself, and there will also be open mic slots avilable on the door. Admission, as always, is free.

Matthew's going to be reading fresh from the launch of his new HappenStance chapbook Inventing Truth, which I'll be reviewing on here before too long.