Two poems published by ‘One Sentence Poems’

Very happy to have two poems published on the US-based website One Sentence Poems. As you might guess, they publish poems consisting of a single sentence.

Many thanks to editors Dale Wisely and Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco for including them.

You can read them here: Distance and Mutation.

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Four visual poems in ‘Bad Kid Catallus’ from Sidekick Books

Hot off the you-know-what from Sidekick Books is Bad Kid Catallus, an interactive blend of words and pictures, with scrapbook and do-it-yourself pages that allow you to join in the mayhem. Delighted to have four of my (not remotely child-friendly) poem-pictures included.

Here’s the blurb:

“Gaius Valerius Catullus was Ancient Rome’s most notorious scandal-monger, filthsmith and lovelorn wretch. In this interactive handbook, his famously sexy, savage, tender and scurrilous poems have been transformed and mutated in myriad ways: compressed, expanded, bricolaged, Catullus in six pulp genres, Catullus as playlist – even a Catullus karma sutra. And then there are pages for you, the reader, to fill in, in your own obscene fashion. You’ll never look at a sparrow the same way again.”

Aquire your copy from the folks at Sidekick Books.

‘No Unauthorised Vehicles’: children’s poem for National Poetry Day

The lovely Liz Brownlee, poet and editor of the website Poetryroundabout.com, has posted a children’s poem of mine on the theme of ‘freedom’ for National Poetry Day 2017.

The poem’s called ‘No Unauthorised Vehicles’ and it was inspired by a sign I saw nailed to a gate while out walking. You can read in online over at Poetryroundabout.com where there are lots more children’s poems all about freedom.

‘Hack’: new e-chapbook, free for National Poetry Day 2017

The theme of this year’s National Poetry Day is freedom and so I thought I’d self-publish a free e-chapbook for the occasion.

So here it is: it’s called Hack and it’s a short collection of collage poems constructed from text taken from a single issue of The Sun newspaper on 21st June 2017.

The project initially started out as a kind of exploration of the British gutter press in general. It occurred to me that while I like to get on my high horse and bitch about the tabloids, I’d never actually read any of them in full, cover to cover. So I did. I read them all and, since this was around the time of the Brexit referendum and the general elections that preceded and followed it, it was an ‘interesting’ experience.

Frankly I found it utterly demoralising and so somewhere along the way I had this idea to take the papers I’d read and see if I could cut them up, kind of Bowie-style, and make poems or artwork from them – try to transform some of the negativity into something more uplifting.

Long story short, I failed. The words, the syntax, the tone were such that I couldn’t find a way to make anything positive out of them. And I had to admit that the old poets’ mantra of ‘the best words in the best order’ certainly seemed to apply here (where ‘best’ refers to fitness for purpose rather than goodness). So in the end I gave up pushing against them and went with them instead. I took a single issue of the top-selling tabloid, The Sun, on the longest day of the year, 21st June (the sun at its peak) and made collage poems that reflected my experience of, and impressions from, reading the paper. ‘Hack’ is the result.

Have a read. Drop me a line and let me know what you think if you like. I’d be interested to know, since this was a pretty experimental project for me! Thanks.

Throughout the project I kept thinking of that Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.” So while I’d defend freedom of the press to the hilt and while I appreciate my own freedom to parody the press, freedom without responsibility sure raises some pretty interesting questions.

 

Poem in The Gardeners Rest poetry snug

Now that’s what I call a top pub! The Gardeners Rest in Sheffield is run by its customers as a community project. It supports vulnerable adults and people with learning difficulties by providing employment opportunities. It stages regular arts and music events. And it has a poetry snug! I’m honoured to have had a poem, Sleeping with a Bearded Man, on its walls.

The Gardeners Rest poetry snug

‘Dancing with Life’ in A Poem for Every Day of the Year

Holy guacamole with extra-hot salsa on the side, I’m between the covers with Bob Dylan! And Spike Milligan. And Roald Dahl and Oscar Wilde. Byron, Keats, Shelley, Auden, Lennon & McCartney, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Rudyard Kipling and many more.

Forgive the exuberance but I’m crazy proud and excited to have a poem in this gorgeous anthology, nuzzling alongside a long list of literary heroes and heroines. A deep bow of gratitude to editor Allie Esiri.

Here’s the official, more sensible, blurb:

A Poem For Every Day of the Year is a magnificent collection of 366 poems compiled by Allie Esiri, one to share on every day of the year. These poems are funny, thoughtful, inspiring, humbling, informative, quiet, loud, small, epic, peaceful, energetic, upbeat, motivating, and empowering!

Perfect for reading aloud and sharing with all the family, it is bursting at the seams with familiar favourites and exciting new discoveries. T.S.Eliot, John Betjeman, Lewis Carroll, William Shakespeare and Christina Rossetti sit alongside Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy, and Kate Tempest. This soul-enhancing book will keep you company for every day of your life.

Grab a copy here or in your local bookshop.

If you’re in the London area, there’s a launch event at the National Theatre on 10th November 2017.

“An inspiring evening of readings of some of the magical and humorous poems in this journey through history and human experience. Read by four actors including Joanna Lumley, Stephen Mangan and Simon Russell Beale. Chris Riddell (political cartoonist for The Observer, award-winning author and illustrator, and Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2015-2017) will be live drawing this event.”

Details and tickets here.

‘Blueprints for a Minefield’ reviewed by Jenny Danes for Sphinx

Jenny Danes has written a lovely review of my chapbook, Blueprints for a Minefield, for Sphinx Reviews.

“This debut pamphlet signals the arrival of a lively, playful and remarkably distinctive poetic voice – but more than that, it’s a book of surprises.”

Read the full review over at Sphinx.

Many thanks to Jenny for her kind words. They’re very much appreciated.

Jenny’s excellent debut chapbook, Gaps, was also reviewed for Sphinx recently by Elisabeth Sennitt-Clough. Have a read here.

“An epic collective ode to the underwater realm”: ‘Aquanauts’ from Sidekick Books

Aquanauts is a sumptuous, multi-tentacled haul of visual poetry, highly collectible and creatively inspiring. From the rich broth of the garden pond to the immutable dark of the deep, this anthology plunges us between lionfish, laternfish, sharks and skates, monsters and manta rays, plankton and plesiosaurs.

It’s the first in Sidekick Books’ new series of Headbooks,  a sumptuous blend of the factual and fantastical, the lyrical and the visual – and fully customisable, with scrapbook and do-it-yourself pages to record your own facts, findings, ideas and journal entries. Keep it with you, fill it up, pass it on or stow it way for later enthralment.

Delighted to have three poem-pictures skulking in its brackish waters. Big thanks to editors Jon Stone and Kirsten Irving. Backstroke over to Sidekick Books and grab yourself a copy.

Out of Place 2017: the Covent Garden performance

At the tail end of last year I was thrilled to have a poem selected for ‘Out of Place’, a collaborative project in which poetry would be used as the inspiration for several new musical compositions, culminating in a performance six months later.

Well, the night of the performance, 3rd July 2017, finally arrived – and boy, was it worth the anticipation!

It look place in the gorgeous St Paul’s Church (also known as The Actors’ Church) in Covent Garden, London and was a magical evening of words, music, song and theatre. The pieces performed were brilliantly creative and ranged from the deeply moving to the joyously fun. It was a great turnout too and after the performance some of us poets joined the composers/musicians on stage for a Q&A.

“Would you do it again?” was one of the questions asked and I think we were pretty unanimous in answering “yes!”.

Don’t worry if you missed it as the whole event was recorded and is available to enjoy on YouTube. Check it out here: Part One and Part Two.

With huge thanks and deep appreciation to project director Nicola Burnett Smith and her fabulous team of fellow composers and musicians: Marianne Johnson, Sarah Woolfenden and Gemma Storr, with guests Annette Badland and Sarah Lambie.

It was an absolute honour and a privilege to be involved!

L-R: Nicola Burnett Smith, Annette Badland, Marianne Johnson, Sarah Lambie, Gemma Storr, Sarah Woolfenden

Here’s the poem of mine that was turned into music (it’s the first piece in Part One).

The Day The Songs Escaped

Who knows where the call came from,
but sure as bongos are bongos, they all responded.
Rising from our bellies they slid up open windpipes,
slipping out unnoticed past unbolted throats.

Radios rolled over as the music made its unspoken exit –
just left, vacated, without so much as a note.
Record collections? Helpless, refrains laid to waste
as the grooves sloped off then stole away.

Come dusk, a few final tunes rolled up their sleeves,
blended with the beats pealing out from evening hymn sheets
and simply, with no fuss, took to the breeze.

For all that time, we supposed we had songs.
For all that time, the songs had us –
by the loins, the lungs, the hamstrings, the guts.

Two poems in ‘Under the Radar’ magazine

Issue 19 of ‘Under the Radar’ magazine from the always-inspiring Nine Arches Press is out now featuring poetry, short fiction and reviews. 

Many thanks to editors Jane Commane and Matt Merritt for including two of my poems: ‘Ginger’ and ‘Harbour Lights’. Find out more and grab your copy here.