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
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‘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.

The Caterpillar Children’s Poetry Prize 2017

I’m thrilled to have three poems commended in this year’s Caterpillar Children’s Poetry Prize.

Many thanks to judge John Hegley and big congratulations to winner Janet Turner whose poem ‘Auntie Aggie’ will feature in the summer 2017 issue of The Caterpillar magazine. 

Congratulations also to Conrad Burdekin, Richard Evans, Matt Goodfellow, Louise Greig, Lyn Halliday, Mercedes Hessleroth, Eileen Keane, Jemima Laing, John Morris, Heather F. Reid and Gabe Rothschild whose poems were all commended.

Full details here.

One for music lovers: Troubadour (A Picaroon Poetry Anthology)

Just out from Picaroon Poetry: Troubadour, a new anthology of poems about and inspired by music.

From ‘a drunk woman sings along note perfect to Joni Mitchell,’ via ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Brexit,’ to ‘I am Morris-dancing inside’, the poems pay homage to the vital role of every kind of music in all of our lives.

Edited by Kate Garrett and Robert de Born, Troubadour is available now from Lulu and coming soon to Amazon.

“The poems in Troubadour are an electric testament to music and lives lived to unique soundtracks. Reading the anthology is like holding an acoustic guitar close to your chest in the middle of the night, and feeling the vibrations thrum straight through your heart.”
Steve Nash, poet and musician

Featuring poems by Mab Jones, Daniel Fitzpatrick, Stephen Watt, Gareth Writer-Davies, Jack Little, Joanna Darling, Cora Greenhill, Srinjay Chakravarti, Paul Brookes, Kersten Christianson, Tim Dwyer, Peter Branson, Mark Totterdell, Sarah L Dixon, Marc Woodward, Susan Taylor, Karen Dennison, Lesley Quayle, Bobby Steve Baker, Lyndi Bell O’Laughlin, Oz Hardwick, Simon Williams, Cathy Bryant, Laura McKee, Emma Lee, Mike Alexander, Elizabeth Gibson, Danni Matthews, Victoria McNulty, Attila the Stockbroker, Joe Williams, Robert Avery, Rachel Nix, Bree A. Rolfe, Al McClimens, Kerry O’Shea, Janette Ayachi, Jennifer Hambrick, Rikki Santer, Mark J. Mitchell, Rosie Garland – and me.

Whatever Love Is… exploring ‘the big L’ in words, music and song

On Saturday I spent a fine evening in the company of writer and poet Laura Mucha, pianist Alisdair Hogarth and tenor Andrew Staples. The three were performing a one-off piece, Whatever Love Is… as part of the ‘BathSongs’ series.

Rehearsals in progress

Launched by Bath Festivals in 2017, BathSongs is “a sumptuous mingling of words, music and song. Informal in style and performed in small and intimate venues, the series of six one-hour events covers a wide range of music from folk to classical Broadway.”

Whatever Love Is… draws on Mucha’s Human Connection project, in which she spent several years researching romantic love and relationships from every possible angle – from hard data and expert opinion to spontaneous interviews with ordinary people all over the globe.

“I travelled over a quarter of a million miles, interviewing people from 8-95 years of age on every continent of the world,” Mucha explains.

“I approached people in airports, shops, markets, cafes, restaurants, bars, hospitals, parks, galleries, libraries, museums, buses, trains, planes and ships. I interviewed a pro American football player by accident, a model who sat next to me on a plane and teenage hoodies making noise on a bus. People who were religious, atheist, agnostic, male, female, transgender, homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, single, married, divorced, widowed, with children, without children, pregnant, cheating, cheated on, entirely faithful.”

All of this makes for a very rich body of findings, from which Mucha cherry-picks a fascinating range of snippets as the basis for this show. Alongside her own commentary, she plays back recorded extracts from some of her interviews and intersperses these with poems from a range of writers including one of mine, ‘Winter in the Room’ (see 4 poems). Hogarth on piano and Staples on vocals finely illustrate the gamut of emotions being discussed with a range of deftly-chosen songs expressing everything from infatuation to lament.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m keenly interested in projects and performances that take poetry out of its traditional habitat and give it a bit of a twist and so this performance absolutely floated my boat. It was interesting, eclectic, emotive and original. It was also very inspiring and triggered a raft of ideas and questions that are now rattling around my in head and heart.

Fortunately, Mucha’s work will be published in the form of a book in due course and so I’ll get to spend some more quality time with her findings and musings. I’m really hoping that the book launch will be as creative as this!

Find out more about the Human Connection project at http://lauramucha.com 

You can also hear Laura Mucha, Alisdair Hogarth and Andrew Staples talking about the project with Sean Rafferty on Radio 3 – listen here on BBC iPlayer.

PS. The trio has now been invited to perform an extended version of the BathSongs piece in London in 2018, so if you didn’t catch them this time around keep an eye out for details.

Town Hall Poets at Bath Festival

Josephine Corcoran has posted a lovely write-up on her blog of our day reading poems on various outdoor stages in Bath as part of the 2017 Bath Festival: Reading poetry to shoppers and passersby.

It was a certainly new challenge for all of us in the Town Hall Poets group – reading for people going about their day on the city’s streets and sometimes competing with the rain for their presence and attention! It was also a fun day. We laughed a lot, enjoyed each other’s work and felt closer as a group as a result of the shared experience.

Big thanks to Josephine, Bath Festivals and fellow Town Hall Poets for the opportunity.

Umbrellas out at Bath Festival