Friday, 20 December 2013

End of year lists

I'd like to beg forgiveness for a little bit of own-trumpet-blowing now, as Rob Mackenzie has selected The Elephant Tests as one of his favourite books of 2013, over at his excellent blog, Surroundings.

It's an intriguing list all-round. I'd agree with pretty much everything Rob says about the Luke Kennard and Ahren Warner collections. The latter, I know, seems to have divided opinions pretty sharply, but as Rob says, the sheer ambition and individuality at the very least mean that it forces you to have an opinion about it.

Andy Philip's collection is awaiting me at home, and I look forward to reading it over the holiday. He set himself a very high standard to maintain with his debut, The Ambulance Box, but the poems that I've read from the new book raise the bar even higher, if anything.

The Gillian Allnutt and Dai George books both sound right up my street, so I'll be looking to get hold of them soon, and the Robert Bly/Tomas Transtromer letters too.

Finally, Rob's own excellent second collection, The Good News, is available here, and deserves to be on more than a few end of year lists itself - it's a genuinely questioning, intellectually curious book, yet every bit as readable and playful as his debut.

All of which reminds me, I need to compile my own lists...

Monday, 16 December 2013

Some people try to pick up girls...


...and get called asshole. This never happened to Pablo Picasso.

Friday, 13 December 2013

An evening in Swindon

Swindon's one of those place-names beloved of British comedians. Not because it's intrinsically funny (like, say, Nether Wallop, or Pratt's Bottom), but because (oh, and Penistone, of course) it's somehow seen as a byword for dull, red-brick provincialism. Thinking about it, Birmingham has suffered in the same way over the years, and just as unfairly.

I've always had a very large soft spot for both, the former not least because it was the home town of XTC, a neglected national treasure if ever there was one. The proximity of White Horse Hill, one of my very favourite spots in these islands, also helps. After last night, I have another reason.

The Bluegate Poets Open Mic was held at Lower Shaw Farm, which by day is a city farm sort of affair, but which by night provides a thoroughly relaxed and creative atmosphere for reading poetry.

An open mic night stands or falls by the quality of its audience and readers, though, and Bluegate scores highly there. There was great variety and quality in the open mic readers, and if I pick out Michael Scott and Hilda Sheehan's work as highlights, that's not to say that there wasn't a lot of other really fine work. I particularly enjoyed the sky lark poem from James (sorry, didn't catch the last name), and the excellent poem on apartheid-era South Africa by another gentleman whose name I didn't catch (it was authentically angry, yet measured).

I read a couple of 10-minute sets, sold plenty of books, and had a thoroughly good time. It's always great, too, to finally come face to face with people who you 'know' through Facebook or Twitter, so meeting the likes of Stephen Payne and Hilda was lovely.

As if all that wasn't enough, there were cupcakes, and a poetry quiz to finish the night (I started promisingly, but fell away badly). I headed home up the Fosse Way with a smile on my face and a head full of poetry.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Maps and Legends launch


Last night saw the official launch of Maps and Legends, the new anthology celebrating five years of Nine Arches Press, at the Library of Birmingham.

Jo Bell compered, and her introductions were poetry in themselves. In particular, she paid fitting tribute to Nine Arches editor Jane Commane, whose tireless work has seen the press go from strength to strength. She's a very active editor, working through manuscripts with poets with great perception, supportiveness and patience, and I know I'm not the only Nine Arches poet who would say that that, above all, is what makes being published by the press such an honour.

Readings were by Angela France, Daniel Sluman, Maria Taylor, Roz Goddard, Myra Connell, Deborah Tyler-Bennett, David Morley and myself, plus Jo and Jane reading the work of David Hart and the much-missed Milorad Krystanovich respectively. It was great to hear so many fine poets together, and I think the occasion also brought out some poems that don't always get an airing otherwise. In keeping with the book's theme, I read Warning Against Using These Poems As A Map, plus Watching Woodcocks (well, once Jo had teased the appreciative audience with the clitoris reference, I felt I couldn't let them down). We adjourned to the Prince of Wales for a swift one afterwards - I only wish it had been longer.

Finally, a word about the library itself. What a glorious building! I'd seen a lot of it on the regional news, but I was still taken aback by just how big it is, and it looks fantastic, inside and out (especially at the moment, with the surrounding square and streets lit up for Christmas). It is, I suspect, the only reading I'll ever give/hear in which a huge illuminated ferris wheel is the backdrop to the readers. Birmingham has always had a lot of fine civic buildings, and this one is a more than worthy addition.

Oh, and one more thing. The anthology is priced just £10.99, and you can find full details here.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Bluegate Poets reading

Next Thursday, December 12th, I'm delighted to be the featured reader at the Bluegate Poets Open Mic night, at Lower Shaw Farm, Swindon.

It all starts at 7.30pm, and I'll be reading a couple of short sets in between the open mic slots. I'll have plenty of copies of The Elephant Tests available on the night, at a reduced price, and also a few of hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica, so come along and enjoy the readings and maybe pick up a Christmas present or two.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Maps and Legends launch

As I mentioned the other day, I'll be reading at the launch of the new Nine Arches anthology - Maps and Legends - at the Library of Birmingham next Wednesday, December 11th. Full details, including how to book tickets, can be found here.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Maps and Legends


This is out from Nine Arches Press next week, just in time for Christmas. It's an anthology celebrating five years of Nine Arches, and is edited by Jo Bell, featuring poetry from Claire Crowther, David Morley, Luke Kennard, Maria Taylor, Angela France, Daniel Sluman, Alistair Noon, Tom Chivers, David Hart, Roz Goddard, Phil Brown, Deborah Tyler-Bennett, Ruth Larbey and myself.


The anthology will be launched with a reading next Wednesday, December 11th, from 7.15-9pm, at Room 101, Library of Birmingham. Tickets are £6 / £4.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Last post from Scotland

Here's a little group of waders on the harbour wall at Hopeman - Redshanks, Turnstones and a couple of Purple Sandpipers, plus a Shag in the harbour at Burghead. And yes, you do have permission to snigger at that.




Sunday, 1 December 2013

Speyside revisited

A few more pics - Coal Tits at Loch Garten, including one being fed by our guide Toby, and a Red Squirrel, always good to see. 





Wednesday, 27 November 2013

New from Alan Baker

Alan Baker's new chapbook, all this air and matter, is out now from Oystercatcher Press, for just £5. That's one to add to my 'to order' list - I always enjoy Alan's poetry, and Oystercatcher (run by Peter Hughes) have published some terrific books in recent years.

Speyside, the Highlands, and the Moray coast

Last week, I was up at Nethy Bridge with a Heatherlea/Bird Watching Magazine readers' holiday. Despite appalling weather on the first day, we logged 90 bird species over the three days, plus the likes of Red Deer, Red Squirrel and Mountain Hare. Over the next couple of weeks I'll post a few pics from the trip. To start with, here's a truly extraordinary lek of Black Grouse - we counted 29. The males gather from autumn onwards to face off and generally mark out territory, ahead of the lekking proper starting in the spring (by which time the females are present to see what all the fuss is about).


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Elephant Tests reviewed by Tim Love

Tim Love has reviewed The Elephant Tests over at his excellent Litrefs Reviews blog. Despite Tim's warning that what he posts are essentially notes for reviews that never got finished, he always manages to highlight a wealth of interesting points with his unusual approach. I should warn, however, that once you start browsing his blog you're likely to be there for hours.

If Tim's review does pique your interest, you can of course buy The Elephant Tests for just £5 until the end of November, at Inpress - just click here for details.

Roy Marshall and Rory Waterman launch readings

Tomorrow night (Wednesday) sees a double book launch at Jazz and Poetry in Nottingham, with Roy Marshall and Rory Waterman both reading from their debut collections (The Sun Bathers and Tonight The Summer's Over, respectively).

As this is an extra J&P event, there won't be any jazz this time, but the poetry will be excellent, and the Guitar Bar (click here for details and directions) boasts some good beers.

Entry is free, and it all starts around 8pm.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Buy The Elephant Tests for a fiver!


For the next week, you can buy The Elephant Tests for just £5 at Inpress, as part of the celebration of the fifth birthday of Nine Arches Press. That's just in time for payday, or the start of your Christmas shopping, and of course the whole range of Nine Arches books are available through Inpress too.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Variations on the Great North Road


I've been working with photographer Phil Harris on a project involving tracing some of John Clare's travels, but we also set out to let ourselves get sidetracked, rather than following them too closely.

Yesterday, we traced the route of Sewstern Drift, a prehistoric trackway that later became a drovers' road, running parallel to the Great North Road (which would, by the late 18th century, have been a toll road).

Some stretches are now green lanes and bridle ways, but others are tarmac roads, recognisable by their very wide verges, which allowed the sheep and cattle to graze on their way to market in London. The stretch above is near Thistleton.

The route also largely avoids the centre of villages, instead just skirting round them - no one wanted noisy, smelly beasts just outside their front door.

At times the road takes a large detour round a World War Two airfield, or the only-just-closed RAF Cottesmore, with the drift itself disappearing and then resuming on the far side.

Sadly, the fields alongside are often the sort of arable desert that typifies much of lowland Britain these days - it was hard to find a bird other than a Woodpigeon in this open country. The lane itself, though, was much more lively, especially on its unpaved sections, with the hedges holding good numbers of species such as Yellowhammer. These stretches also had more trees nearby, either in little French-style avenues, or copses such as the one below, near Buckminster, where a water tower sprouts from the centre like an enormous mushroom.






Thursday, 14 November 2013

Against Rape revisited

Just a reminder that Michelle McGrane's Peony Moon blog is playing host to this remarkable protest against rape and sexual violence. As well as a wealth of powerful and thought-provoking poetry, there's also an extensive listing of international resources for rape, domestic violence and abuse support.

Before you start reading, please read the introduction below...


Before the reader embarks on reading these poems, the editors stress that some content may be found disturbing, troubling or even distressing. Sexual violence is an emotive subject, and some writing about rape is as exploitative as the crime itself. Such writing in the context of politics, the media or literature can constitute a “double violation” for the rape survivor who lives the experience for a second time: the experience of “triggering”. Encounters with sexual violence as a subject for literature demand caution, care and respect, but an interrogation of “rape myths” is necessary. The poems selected break the silence of the status-quo, which defines sexual violence as a freak event rather than part of a dominative “rape culture”. This protest is the beginning of a conversation that seeks recuperation, healing and redress.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Winter Wordsmiths

Following on from that dip into the Wordsmiths & Co archives, there are a couple of winter Wordsmiths & Co shows coming up. starting tomorrow night (November 14th) at Warwick Arts Centre at 7.45pm, when the guests will be poets Tony Walsh aka Longfella poet, Luke Kennard, Helen Calcutt and Al Hutchins.

Wordsmiths & Co is back at Warwick on December 2nd, when the guests are poets Salena Godden, Helen Mort, Claire Trévien and Ben Norris. Sadly, work's going to get in the way of me getting along to either of these, but I recommend them very highly. Quite apart from the excellent poets, the whole format is a really new spin on the traditional reading format, with interviews as well as poems.

Wordsmiths & Co is a collaboration between Nine Arches Press and Apples and Snakes.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Wordsmiths & Co reading



MATT MERRITT at Wordsmiths & Co. from Chris Bradley on Vimeo.

Here's a short video of part of my reading at Wordsmiths & Co in June this year, part of an evening that also featured David Morley, Luke Wright, Lorna Meehan, and of course host Jo Bell (who you can see in the background).

The poems included are The elephant in the room, The Mind's Skyline, and At Frampton Marsh. I'm grateful to Nine Arches Press and Apples & Snakes, both for the invitation to read, and for producing such a fine video. I was, though, as always, taken aback by just how Leicestuh I sound.

And just in case you didn't know, the collection from which the poems are taken, The Elephant Tests, is available here, along with all manner of bargains.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Watching Woodcocks

I'm very grateful to Gill McEvoy for this post at her blog, red botinki, about my poem, Watching Woodcocks, 25.4.10. It's a poem that I've enjoyed doing at readings, and of course it's always nice to get such positive feedback from readers.

I should add, of course, that the poem appears in my collection The Elephant Tests, which is available via that link. In addition, a range of Nine Arches titles will be available for just £5 over the next few weeks, to celebrate the press's fifth anniversary.

Watching Woodcocks also first appeared in this excellent anthology, from Sidekick Books. I recommend it very highly - fine poetry and illustrations.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Against Rape

Rather than launch into a long preamble about what's involved, I'm just going to recommend that you click on this link to Michelle McGrane's Peony Moon blog.

It deserves the widest possible attention, so I won't apologise for linking to it again and again over the coming weeks. I'm in awe of what Michelle and the poets involved have managed to do in making a such a strong and resonant statement.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Resurgence & Ecologist

The November/December issue of Resurgence & Ecologist is out now, and features my review of Ruth Padel's The Mara Crossing, which you can also read here.

There's a lot else in the issue that you can't access online, with the likes of Jonathon Porritt, Heathcote Williams and Andrew Motion featured, plus Peter Abbs on Maitreyabandhu. If you've an interest in the natural world, or the arts, or the area where the two meet, it's a very rewarding read.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Friday night at the Friends Meeting House

The weekend just gone was (unusually for me) a frantically busy one, so I'm only now finally getting round to gathering my thoughts about Friday night's Nine Arches Press Poet Tea at the Friends Meeting House, Leicester.

I was recently trying to get my bookcases into some sort of order, and it struck me how many of Mario Petrucci's pamphlets and books I've accumulated over the years. I'd never, until Friday, heard him read, but it was well worth the wait. His reading, from his Nine Arches collection anima, was astonishingly intense, with a lot of that stillness that I've talked about before, with readers such as David Morley. It was an electrifying start to the evening, and it sent me back to the collection over the weekend.

Claire Trevien's The Shipwrecked House, published by Penned In The Margins earlier this year, has been longlisted for the Guardian's Best First Book Award. It was easy to hear why. The poems are subtly off-kilter, giving an unsettling edge to what can at first feel like familiar scenes and situations, and Claire's delivery of them was assured and quietly animated. I look forward to reading the collection.

Alistair Noon read largely new work, before closing with a number of poems from his Nine Arches collection Earth Records, and what both have in common is a willingness to range freely across geographical and stylistic divides that's refreshing and frequently exhilarating. He lives in Berlin, so visits to the UK are relatively rare, but if you get a chance to hear him read, don't miss it - it's hard to think of anyone else writing in quite this way at the moment.

I read from The Elephant Tests, and tried the book's longest poem, Ravens, Newborough Warren, for the first time. I was helped out hugely by Charles Lauder, who provided one of the two voices for the piece - I'd been wondering how to differentiate the two away from the page, but this seemed to work well.

Hopefully there'll be more Poet Teas to come - it was a pleasure and privilege to be part of the first one.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Normal for Norfolk


Time for a birding interlude. I was over in north Norfolk on Monday and Tuesday, and as any birder knows, time spent there is never wasted.

For a landlubber like me, it offers the opportunity to see all sorts of species of wader and wildfowl that rarely, if ever, pass through my Midland patch. But it struck me, this time, that what really makes it special is the sheer number of birds, close at hand. That makes for some truly staggering spectacles, such as the Snettisham wader roost, but it also means that you see a much wider variety of behaviour than you might normally.

A couple of examples. The Curlew above was at Brancaster Staithe, and was the only one I could find around the harbour in the rain. It seemed to have found a rich source of fairly good-sized crabs, but each time it pulled one from the mud, it attracted the attention of two Herring Gulls nearby. It made a point of hurrying away with its catch, either down one of the little half-concealed channels, of between two boats, to eat it, before returning. I'm not sure how keen the gulls would be to take on a Curlew anyway, but it was clearly taking no chances.


Second was a small group of Oystercatchers swimming on a little lagoon. I've never seen even one swim before (although I think most waders are willing to do so to cross little channels, etc), but in this case they did so for some time. Both my memory cards were full at that stage, so you'll have to make do with this Turnstone, taken earlier, which was behaving in typical fashion, feeding very close to my feet.

Finally, here's two bad pics of a ringtail Hen Harrier which came in off the sea not long before dark on Monday - the distinctive white rump is visible on the first pic.




Thursday, 17 October 2013

By The Way

Work from seven artists and photographers from across the East and West Midlands features in By The Way, an exhibition running at the Bohunk Institute, Nottingham, for the next two weeks.

Photographers David Severn, Sian Stammers, Julian Hughes, Phil Harris, Helen Saunders and artists Shaun Morris and Wayne Burrows have produced works that meander through landscape peripheral to the city - the fringes, edgelands and wasteland of contemporary Britain. Work from Midlands writers and poets also features, with text writ large on the gallery walls, and I'm among them - I've been working with Phil Harris on a project relating to John Clare's travels, and some of our work in progress is included.

The Bohunk Institute, at 2 Fishergate Point, Nottingham, is open 1pm-7pm Thursday and Friday, and 11am-5pm Saturday and Sunday.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A great way to start a weekend


Next Friday (25th October), Nine Arches Press is staging a special Poet-Tea at the Quaker Meeting House on Queen's Road, Leicester, from 7pm to 9pm. 

Tickets are £5 and cab be booked here - they include tea and cake as well as a wealth of live poetry, making it a thoroughly civilised way to start your weekend. It's all compered by Nine Arches Press editor, Jane Commane, and the poets who'll be reading are Claire Trevien, Alistair Noon, Mario Petrucci and myself.

Here's some more info on three very fine readers - all you need to know about me is that you really don't want to get stuck behind me in the cake queue.

Claire Trévien is an Anglo-Breton poet. Her first collection, The Shipwrecked House (Penned in the Margins, 2013), was longlisted in the Guardian First Book Award. Her poetry appears in numerous magazines and anthologies including Best British Poetry 2012 and The Forward Book of Poetry 2013. She edits Sabotage Reviews, Verse Kraken, and Penning Perfumes.

Alistair Noon was born in 1970 and grew up in Aylesbury. Besides time spent in Russia and China, he has lived in Berlin since the early nineties, where he works as a translator. His poetry and translations from German and Russian have appeared in nine chapbooks from small presses. Earth Records (Nine Arches Press) is his first full-length collection.

Mario Petrucci's work is “vivid, generous and life-affirming” (Envoi). His most recent poems, inspired by Black Mountain and hailed as "modernist marvels" (Poetry Book Society), embrace contemporary issues of searing social and personal relevance via a distinctive combination of innovation and humanity. Whether exploring the tragedies of Chernobyl (Heavy Water, 2004) or immersing himself in heart-rending invention (i tulips, 2010), Petrucci aspires to "Poetry on a geological scale” (Verse). His latest collection is anima (Nine Arches Press, 2013).

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Poetry is like music to the brain

Very interesting article here, about the way the brain responds to poetry - the video that goes with it is pretty excruciating, mind you, but you can't have everything. The poet Helen Mort has blogged about it here, too - also very much worth a read.

Iceland's love affair with literature

Interesting article on the BBC News website about Iceland's current book boom. Apparently, 1 in 10 Icelanders will publish a book, and more importantly, sales of books are on the increase too.

Of course, it is a country with a very strong literary tradition. During the few days I spent there earlier this year, our guide twice urged me to read various 20th century Icelandic books, while the medieval sagas were a constant presence wherever we went. Quite whether that has any implications for Britain I've no idea, but there did seem to be less of a tendency to separate literature into different genres, or to talk in terms of high and low culture.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Jazz and Poetry revisited

Over at the Jazz and Poetry Facebook page, David Belbin has posted videos of Pippa Hennessy, Sarah Jackson and myself reading at last week's event. There's footage of two of my poems - Magnetite and Watching Woodcocks.

While you're there, take the time to have a trawl through the wealth of previous recordings on the page, and give it a Like.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Jazz and Poetry

Last night I was lucky enough to be one of the invited readers at the first session of the new season of Jazz and Poetry, at The Guitar Bar, Nottingham.

It's a well established night, which combines poetry with superb music from Four In A Bar, a trad jazz quartet that includes poet and publisher John Lucas. It's run by novelist David Belbin (who has also, for many years, been reviewing theatre, comedy and particularly music here with unfailing open-mindedness) and poet Pippa Hennessy, of Nottingham Writers' Studio.

Pippa read in the first section, along with open mic-ers Russell and Tony (whose full names sadly escaped me), and all were excellent. Russell was brave enough to read with backing from the band's guitarist, and it worked well, but all three had me wanting to hear more.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It's a really good space, with excellent acoustics and a lot of character, and the audience were more than kind. It was only the second full-length reading I've done from The Elephant Tests, so I'm still sorting out what works and what doesn't, but it's got me looking forward to the other readings I've got coming up in the next two months.

Sarah Jackson's debut collection Pelt, from Bloodaxewon the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry, and very deservedly so too. I've read it with great enjoyment, and I suppose I thought I knew it quite well, so it was a surprise to find myself noticing new pleasures as she read. But that, I think, is what a good reading should do, and it will certainly send me back to the book again. Incidentally, her pamphlet Milk, from Pighog, was also excellent, and a really beautifully produced publication too.

There was time to make new acquaintances and catch up with old faces like Alan Baker and Kerry Featherstone, although I unfortunately managed to miss Rory Waterman. But no matter, as Rory's launching his own debut Carcanet collection at the bar on November 27th, when Roy Marshall will also be launching his Shoestring Press debut The Sun Bathers, and before that on November 13th the next Jazz and Poetry will feature Gregory Woods and another guest TBC.

As if all that's not enough, there's a good selection of real ale on tap, plus bottled beers including a particular old favourite of mine, Sierra Nevada (I only noticed it too late, but I'll put that right next time). There you go - even more reasons to be at the next event.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Tasting Notes - a poetry film by Matthew Stewart

Matthew Stewart's wine-themed poetry chapbook, Tasting Notes, published by Happenstance, has been turned into a film - you can watch it here. It's a great way of presenting the poems, I think - perhaps it wouldn't work so well with a longer collection, but it suits a pamphlet down to the ground.

Actors reading poetry - the results

So, 25 of you voted, and 13 of you said that poets should be given the choice about whether or not their poems are read out by actors at awards ceremonies. Another 10 were dead against the use of actors at all, while two of you called for the thespians to be the first choice.

Thanks to all who voted.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Actors reading poetry

There's a very interesting discussion going on at Helen Ivory's Facebook page over the decision to have the nominated poems in this year's Forward Poetry Prizes read by actors at an event at the Southbank Centre.

My initial reaction was disapproval - I've been to a few events over the years where actors have done terrible things to innocent poems, usually by over-emoting, over-enunciating, or trying, as someone on the thread says, to sound as if the poem has just come to them.

On reflection, my position is altering a little, although I still can't really see why they couldn't give the poets the choice whether to read themselves. Some, I'm sure, would have been happy for the actors to take over, so the publicity boost from their presence (which I assume is the major reason they were enlisted) would still be there.

But several people on the thread (notably Gary Longden and Jonathan Davidson) make good points in favour of actors being used. One is that, of course, not all poets read their own work well. I'd still want, I think, for the poets to be able to give the actors some sort of direction, but why not have both options? Some poets probably dread every reading, but can't afford not to try to sell books when they're given the chance.

What does still get my goat, though, is what I think is a rather separate issue, that of the actors adding 'glamour' and 'magic' to the whole thing, as if no poet could possibly be trusted to turn up in their smartest clothes with their hair done.

But anyway, I've posted a poll on this on the right, because at the end of the day what poets think about it is not really as important as the book-buying public's. I'll be interested to see what the results are.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

James W Wood at the Poetry Cafe

I enjoy my job a lot, and it's not that often that I'm so office-bound that I can't get away when I need to, but unfortunately, last Friday was just such a time. James Wood was launching his debut full collection The Anvil's Prayer, published by Ward Wood, at the Poetry Cafe in London. I'd hoped to zip down the A1 to hear him read, but it wasn't to be - it was deadline day for our October issue, too, and duty called.

Fortunately, Adele Ward of Ward Wood was recording the event, so you can watch and hear James reading on You Tube here and here - I'm delighted and honoured that the latter poem, Buccaneers, is dedicated to Noel Duffy and myself.

Keep an eye out here - I'm going to take a closer look at James's book on this blog before the end of the year. But in the meantime, I can recommend it very highly.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Nottingham workshop

I'm running a poetry writing workshop next Saturday (September 28th) at Nottingham Poetry Society's monthly meeting. It starts at 2.45pm, at Nottingham Mechanics, 3 North Sherwood Street, Nottingham, and non-members can come along too, paying a visitor's fee of £5. Among other things, we'll be using maps to generate new work.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Shindig does it again

I've written on here before about how, at the best poetry open mic nights (and Shindig is certainly one of those), a mysterious process seems to take place by which many of the poems coalesce around a unstated theme.

It happened again last night, with a string of poems about drugs, booze, addiction, and the fall-out from such things. I didn't catch all the names, but there was an astonishingly assured first-ever performance by a young man called (I think) DP Horton, and another fine poem from David Devaney (I think I've got that right). The regulars rose to the challenge, too - Rebecca Bird's Parisienne poem, and Roy Marshall's rather menacing, butcher-themed piece, were among the highlights, but there was a lot else to enjoy, too.

Of the featured readers, both Lydia Towsey and Deborah Tyler-Bennett, who formed the first half of the bill, are familiar faces, but no less impressive for that. Lydia actually did just two, long poems, both performed from memory (something that always impresses me) - the second of them, with its Spanish setting, was particularly fine. Deborah's new book, Turned Out Nice Again, is a collection of stories about music hall and variety in the East Midlands, and as with her poetry, it demonstrates a great ear for natural speech, especially where accent and dialect are concerned (nowhere but the East Midlands is 'home' pronounced 'omm').

After the break Martin Malone read superbly, both from his Templar collection The Waiting Hillside, and from newer work, touching on memory, family, masculinity and landscape. It's the first time I've met Martin or heard him read (although I've long since enjoyed the book), and he's a born performer, projecting his poems through that mixture of stillness and energy that I've talked about before.

Sarah James was a totally new poet to me, but I'll look forward to reading more of her work. She's had collections out from Circaidy Gregory and Knives Forks & Spoons, and her poetry rather defies easy categorisation, flitting between the mainstream and the more experimental without ever being intimidating.

Finally, it's just worth mentioning that there's an additional Nine Arches event in Leicester next month, on Friday October 25th at the Quaker Meeting House on Queen's Road, Clarendon Park. For just £5 you get four poets (Mario Petrucci, Claire Trevien, Alistair Noon and myself, plus tea and cakes). Follow the link to book.