Twenty Poets, Four Gigs and a Fistful of Poems!

What a month. I’ve guested with some fantastic poetic talent at four different gigs in front of really engaged audiences (you know who you are!)

Shuffle Feb 14

First up, Jill Abram curated the February Shuffle at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden and rustled up a gang of six very diverse poets –  (l. to r . Matt Bryden, Mehmet Izbudak, Malika Booker, Michael Scott, Claire Booker and Rachel Smith).  The evening spun brightly around Jill’s warmth, words and way with the mic.

Then I had the pleasure of featuring at the Torriano Meeting House under the able baton of Lisa Kelly. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This time I was in a threesome with Alan Price and Louise Warren, whoOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA read new work and also poems from their latest collections – respectively: ‘Outfoxing Hyenas’ – published by Indigo Dreams, and ‘A Child’s Last Picture Book of the Zoo’ – published by Cinnamon.  Lisa Kelly’s ‘Bloodhound’ (Hearing Eye) is well worth a read too.

‘There may be blood, there will be poetry’ – so The Poetry Society Blurb promised.  Yes, Colchester Stanza Group tried to terrify us with tales of daring do by Essex girl Boudicca over poor old Londinium. But Original Poets stood firm and there was no vini, vidi vici about it.

Stanza Bonanza ColchesterColchester wielded some excellent poetry from Simon Banks, Dave Canning, Candyce Lang, Rosie Sandler and Alex Toms, while Original poets, marching under their leader, Andy Hickmott, gave as good as they got, thanks to fine work by Nicole Carrel, Mark Fiddes, Tessa Lang, Claire Booker and Tom Vaughan.

And finally, at Beyond Words this week, I showcased 15 minutes of my poetry along side the wry humour of headline poet Peter Phillips, who introduced us to the loves of his life – wine, poetry and Oscar the dog.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeyond Words offers poetry, prose and sometimes even music and meets on the first Tuesday of each month at The Gipsy Hill Tavern, a mere 1 minute walk from Gipsy Hill overground station (20 mins from London Bridge). Hosts Angela Brodie and Caroline Vero create a vibrant, fun and very welcoming atmosphere: www.beyondwordspoetrylondon.co.uk

The Torriano Meeting House offers a cornucopia of poetry every Sunday of the year, as well as poetry workshops, Story Night, and Folk events through the year. It’s an easy walk from Kentish Town tube: www.torrianomeetinghouse.wordpress.com

Shuffle, Feb 14 audienceThe Poetry Society is one of Britain’s most dynamic Arts association and provides members with a range of valuable services. It runs The Poetry Place, Covent Garden, where you can enjoy poetry almost every night, including the monthly Shuffle, and occasional Stanza Bonanzas. To find out more go to: www.poetrysociety.org.uk

 

Changes to English GCSE slammed by a sonnet!

It’s a mad world. Government changes to the English GCSE syllabus mean pupils will no longer study poems written after 1980. That’s a veto on the last 34 years’ poetic output, including most poems written by our current Poet Laureate!

Morning StarMy sonnet ‘Of Words and Trees’ is a response to this, and was written at a time when the Government was also considering weakening planning laws which protect ancient woodland. The poem was published in The Morning Star’s ‘Well Versed’ section last Thursday. To read it in full, click on: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e9a5-Claire-Booker-Of-Trees-and-Words#.UxnT1PnV9Bo

‘Well Versed’ is edited by Jody Porter. If you have a poem you would like to see published in The Morning Star, you can e-mail him at wveditor@gmail.com 

Hat-trick of poems in The Frogmore Papers

Frogmore PapersThe Frogmore Papers are out – along with the daffodils and precocious tulips! Contributors include Ross Cogan, Sasha Dugdale, Claire Booker, Eoghan Walls, Wendy Klein and Andrew Pidoux.

Three of my poems appear in this latest issue:  ‘Impossible Lover’ (about a love affair I had with a seal off the isle of Lundy); ‘A Voyage Round Alan Bennett’ (a poem about the emotional impact of marginalia); and ‘Red Hair’ in which a young woman meets her biological father.

Poetry collections reviewed in The Frogmore Papers (issue 83) include ‘Vanishing Point by Clare Crossman (Shoestring Press) and ‘Hannah, are you listening?’ by Hamish Whyte (HappenStance). There are also a series of delightful black and white drawings by Clare Johnson at: www.clarejohnson.com The cover design is by Carol Lewis who lives in Hythe, Kent.

For more information or to buy a copy of issue 83 please check: www.frogmorepress.co.uk

The Frogmore Papers were founded in 1983 and are published in March and September each year. If you’d like to submit your work (poetry or prose) send hard copies to the editor, Jeremy Page, at 21 Mildmay Road, Lewis, East Sussex BN7 1PJ, UK (email submissions are accepted only from overseas via frogmorepress@gmail.com)

Feminist fairytales put wolf in the dog house!

Some great reviews and lively audiences at last month’s Fairytale Festival ‘Retold’ prove beyond doubt that women’s theatre can put bums on seats and still be taken seriously.

Hoodie at Space (Eliza pic)

Activist theatre company ‘Goblin Baby’ commissioned Claire Booker, Amy Bethan Evans and Tilly Lunken to update three traditional fairy tales. The plays were performed for five nights at The Space, Isle of Dogs, then transferred to The Hen & Chickens Theatre, Islington for a further five nights.

Claire Booker subverted Grimm’s ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and set all the action inside the belly of the wolf where it’s dark, it stinks and it’s packed with victims. Can Hoodie, Gran and Aisha escape, or should they wait for the Woodcutter?

Hoodie Aisha (Eliza pic)

“‘Little Red Hoodie’ feels like a sudden gem and Natasha Atherton is truly riveting as Aisha, a Muslim woman who wakes up in the stomach of a wolf. This piece of writing engages with a more delicate kind of metaphor and allows a story to be told; one which is very moving. This truly feels like a fairytale done differently, while remaining recognisable.”  ThePublicReviews

“Booker devises a brand new character, Aisha (Natasha Atherton), a devout Muslim who has unexpectedly found herself detached from the rest of her body. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The idea of women being empowered to save themselves comes across in this play and there’s a nice nod to the disparity in generational attitudes, with Hoodie (Tessa Hart) and Gran (Rebecca Peyton) coming to different conclusions. Hoodie gran (Eliza pic)Peyton’s slightly doddery, well-meaning grandmother character is a delight.” ViewFromTheGods

Tilly Lunken’s play used a reunion of three old school friends queuing up to watch Snow White as a way of dissecting issues of beauty and appearance. “There is a sweetness here and Priscilla Adade-Helledy (Lilly) brings an enjoyable levity to proceedings. Some truly poignant moments show up with wonderful lines like “[Snow White is] a story of never escaping the dreams of your mother.” ThePublicReviews

RETOLD“The Snow White Complex’ definitely packs a big emotional punch, thanks to the cast but also director Kuba Drewer.” ViewFromTheGods

Amy Bethan Evans ‘As if by a Stair’ used the story of Rapunzel as a fable which illustrates how young people’s futures have been sold down the river of so-called fiscal necessity.  “Whilst the pieces are each completely different and unique, the overall fairytale and socio-critical tone still makes the show feel like one big ensemble project where everyone is very much in tune with each other.” RemoteGoat
Goblin Theatre (Red Hoodie)

Watch this space for more information on Goblin Baby Theatre Company or go to their website at: http://www.goblinbaby.com

Claire Booker’s short comedy ‘Last Man in Watford’ plays at Loose Muse, The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9BX on Wed 12th February (8.00pm).

Tilly Lunken’s One Act drama ‘Mint Leaves’ plays at the Hen & Chickens Theatre, 109 St Paul’s Road, Islington, N1 2NA on 13th and 14th February (7.30pm).

Goblin Baby Theatre’s one-night-only benefit production of Eve Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’ takes place on Sunday March 16th at 7pm at The Space, 269 Westferry Road, E14 3RS.  

True WW2 story – and only 5 minutes to tell it

My short play ‘Enemy’ (http://youtu.be/7yvt1Z34rEo) was filmed last month at The Lost Theatre as part of their annual 5 Minute Festival.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe play was inspired by the true story of Otto Schimek, a young Austrian recruit to the German Wehrmacht, who refused to shoot hostages on ethical grounds (he was a devout Catholic) and in return was shot as a ‘coward and deserter’.  

In my play, Otto spends his final night locked in a cell with Nadia, a Russian partisan who will face a firing squad the next day for assassinating German officers.  Can they possibly find common ground?

Russian women played significant roles in partisan operations during the second world war. They could move around with less suspicion than men and proved every bit as determined to remove the German aggressor from Mother Russia in what became known as The Great Patriotic War. 'Enemy' illustration, Volgograd

In ‘Enemy’, the role of Otto is played by George Weightman and that of Nadia by Carla Espinoza.  They both turned in performances of passionate intensity. The play was performed live in front of an appreciative audience on 10th December at The Lost Theatre, Stockwell, south London.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

'Enemy' illustrationFor more details about The Lost Theatre (including their One Act Play Festival in May) please check their website at: http://www.losttheatre.co.uk

To view ‘Enemy’ by Claire Booker click on http://youtu.be/7yvt1Z34rEo or you can read the script at http://www.bookerplays.co.uk

Booker produced Off Broadway (2,000 miles ‘off’ to be precise!)

Building on Sand, Reno 13Nevada has made theatre history! It’s the first state in America to debut a play by Claire Booker. The wonderfully monikered ‘Goodluck Macbeth Theatre Company’, based in downtown Reno, had a fantastic month earlier this October, with a run of her sea-side comedy ‘Building on Sand’.

“With the manner of Moliere – or, dare I say it, a Benny Hill sketch – this seaside farce involves lots of contrived situations, misunderstandings, naughty behaviour and characters that are adorably weird,” said the drama critic of Reno News & Review.  “The play is seriously funny – I know this despite having missed several lines due to audience laughter – everyone watching laughed a lot.”

Building on Sand Nevada

Laughter seems to have been contagious, as proved by the thumbs up given by ‘Your Sassy Gay Reviewer’ Oscar Ceezon, to what is essentially a heterosexual romp: “I laughed throughout the entirety of the show. Whether it was the ridiculous premise, the highly-charged sexual innuendos, or the senile musings of an old woman, the wealth of humor present is boundless. The production benefits from an already brilliant script, which the cast bring to life. A hilarious show and certainly worth seeing.”

“A credit to director Amanda Alvey, for effectively casting the show. Richard (played by Ian Sorensen) delights audiences with his quirky antics and has a hilarious physical presence on stage. Juliette (Amanda McHenry) grounds the production with her dry wit and delivery, harkening back to an Oscar Wilde period piece, where the humor lies in the subtle quips and clever intonation. Building on Sand - Reno

Dan (Marvin Gonzalez) woos audiences with his suave charm and sly remarks . . . Aunt Dot (Jeanne Weiser) and Berenice (Jessica Johnson), ultimately won me over in the end and delivered some of the funniest bits of the show.”

For more information on ‘Goodluck Macbeth Theatre Company check out their website at: http://www.goodluckmacbeth.org  To read an excerpt of the play, click on: http://www.bookerplays.co.uk

Building on Sand - Good Luck Macbeth Th Co

A Brace of Clapham ‘Original Poets’ in Poetry News

heaneyUnfurl the latest copy of Poetry News and you’ll find poems by Claire Booker and Andy Hickmott, selected from among 313 entries to the magazine’s competition on the theme of ‘Unsayable’.

Six poems were selected anonymously by Katrina Porteous, who specialises in radio poetry, and whose new collection, Two Countries’ is due from Bloodaxe in 2014.  This is what she had to say:

‘I didn’t like Seamus Heaney’ by Andy Hickmott shocks, because so many of us loved him. But I think it earns its right to do so. I like it for saying what we think should not be said, and for using that trope to lead us gracefully to what indeed is not said until those quietly devastating last lines.”

‘What Cannot Be Said’ by Claire Booker, nails the detail of intimacy and simply rings true. The rhyming couplets, risky to some modern ears, reinforce the clock’s relentless tick.”

To read either of these poems, or the other four winners (by Suzanna Fitzpatrick, Sue Leigh, Denise McSheehy and Marie Naughton) check out Poetry News (Winter 2013/14) or click on:  http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/publications/poetrynews/pn2014/

Andy and Claire both belong to ‘Original Poets’ who meet every month in Clapham, south London, to feedback on poems; whether from long-established writers or those new to poetry.  The ‘Originals’  occasionally perform their work, most recently at ‘Beyond Words’ in Gipsy Hill, ‘Poetry Unplugged’ in Covent Garden’s Poetry Place, and at a legendary Poetry Bonanza event: Clapham versus Brixton.  New members are always most welcome.

For more information on Clapham Original Poets please visit:  Facebook page