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 Bloodaxe, won 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.