Rally for Talha draws Bruce Kent, poets and activists

Bruce Kent and Hamja Ahsen

Bruce Kent and Hamja Ahsan

What a privilege to have been invited to read one of my poems at Sunday’s rally for Talha Ahsan held outside the Home Office – and in such august company too, including one of my all-time heroes, veteran humanitarian Bruce Kent, who made an impassioned speech on the injustice of Talha’s treatment, calling for Britain’s iniquitous extradition agreement with the USA to be overturned.

poet Hilaire

poet Hilaire

Fellow Loose Muse poet, Hilaire, read a wonderful poem inspired by her correspondence with Talha whilst he was in solitary confinement in Connecticut Correctional Facility, having been extradited from the UK with no charge.

My poem, entitled ‘Prisoner (Without Charge)’ was inspired by Talha’s own deeply moving poetry and the grace and wisdom he expressed even whilst in such hellish conditions.

Yes folks, any one of us can be extradicted to America without any requirement for evidence, or indeed, a trial date. In a nutshell – you’re guilty until proven innocent.

Through plea bargaining, Talha is now technically free, though he remains in America while the authorities pussy-foot around. He should be home NOW with his family. For more information: FREE TALHA AHSAN CAMPAIGN: www.freetalha.org Twitter: @hamjaahsan / @freetalha #BringTalhaHome

“Gripping and haunting” – Devil & Stepashka moves to new theatre

D&S - StepashkaThere’s a second chance to see Claire Booker’s drama ‘The Devil and Stepashka’ this weekend, as it transfers to Ye Old Rose & Crown Theatre in Walthamstow.

Inspired by a Tolstoy short story, the play is a thought-provoking tale about passion and its consequences. Landowner, Zhenya, stands trial for the murder of one of his peasants, but can there be true justice in an unjust society?

Goblin Baby Theatre Co. has pulled off another critical success, earning four-star reviews during the play’s two week run last month at The Space, north east London: “Gripping and haunting. Booker’s play is very brave as well as unusual. One of those hidden gems on the London Fringe.” Remotegoat.com. “An intriguing new work.” Viewsfromthegods.co.uk  “The superstitiously secular, domestic world of Claire Booker’s The Devil and Stepashka manages to create a believable male Antigone in what ends up to be very literally one hell of a double-bind.” Exeunt Magazine.

D&S - Dasha

Plaudits for the cast and crew include: “Particularly remarkable were Dimitri Shaw as lawyer Boris . . . and Tessa Hart who portrayed both the haunting presence of the murdered Stepashka as well as her living sister Dasha.” RemoteGoat.

D&S - Lisa 2“Lydia Lane is wonderfully precise and pernickety as Zhenya’s doting wife, Lisa. She has the harassed, loving, frantic possessiveness of a woman fearing, but refusing to believe, that she has been replaced.” Exeunt Magazine.  “Overall production designer Christopher Keech is to be congratulated for achieving a varied and detailed design.” RemoteGoat. “Leigh-Anne Abela (director) manages to bring out the intense emotions of this piece, cleverly framing the love triangle between Zhenya, his wife and the memory of his lover . . . leaving us with two passionate individuals, choked by dark desire, spiralling out of control in front of us.” View From The Gods.

‘The Devil and Stepashka’ plays on Sat 19th July (8pm) and Sunday 20th July (2pm and 6pm) at Ye Old Rose & Crown, 53 Hoe St, E17 4SA (a 6 min walk from Walthamstow tube station). For more information or to book tickets, visit: http://goblinbaby.ticketsource.co.uk

Devil & Stepashka GoblinBaby_0001 - Copy

D&S Set

The Creative Team of The Devil and Stepashka are: Leigh-Anne Abela (Director), Christopher Keech (Production Designer), Simon Vella (Music Composer), Claire Booker (writer), Paul Christian Rogers (Zhenya), Dimitri Shaw (Boris), Tessa Hart (Stepashka/ Dasha), Lydia Lane (Lisa).

 

 

 

 

 

Magma’s out! 69 fresh poems for summer

Magma 59Totally thrilled to have another poem in Magma, which meant I got to read my work at the launch last Friday alongside guest poets Lorraine Mariner and Colette Bryce and some delightful fellow contributors, including Alison Brackenbury, Katie Byford, Rowena Knight, Abigail Morley, Ruth O’Callaghan and Mathew Paul.

More than 100 people squeezed into The London Review Bookshop to celebrate Magma 59‘s fresh new take on the theme of ‘Breaks’ by a wide range of poets including Mimi Khalvati and Penelope Shuttle.  The issue crackles with originality. Titles alone make your mouth water, including: ‘Apartment Hunting With the Lady Who Lives in A Shoe’, ‘The Half-Litre Messiah’, ‘The Doll With a Hole in its Hand’ and ‘Mal de Cou-Cou’.

“After poems of great delicacy and eggshells come others of metal and grind,” Giaccometti - Walking Woman 2write editors Roberta James and Alex Pryce. “Already familiar with powerful lines like Sylvia Plath’s “Now I break up in pieces that fly about like clubs” and Tennyson’s rending elegy Break, Break, Break, we were all the same surprised by the extraordinary range of tone and far-reaching subject matter [in this issue].”

My own poem ‘Model in Love’ was written during a workshop at Tate Modern, inspiringly led by Pascale Petit. We were allowed to handle (with cotton gloves!) a number of sculptures, including a beautiful work by Alberto Giacometti entitled Walking Woman.

Magma 59 launch at London Review of BooksMagma 59 is available from www.magmapoetry.com  or from selected book stores. Indulge yourself in poetry heaven and enjoy features such as John Humphrys on Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est, Colette Bryce interviewed about her poem The Brits, and Andrew Neilson’s view of poetry on e-readers. Plus reviews by Laurie Smith, George Szirtes and Jennifer Wong.  A steal at £8.60 including p&p!

 

 

 

Poems for The Good Earth – film, art and music too

Mountain peaks, lush meadows, oceans and estuaries – even the moon Good Earth Event 14_0001took part in The Art Project’s poetry, film and music evening ‘Song of the Earth’ at St Pancras Hospital’s Conference Centre last Friday.

It was all part of London’s Creativity and Wellbeing Week. Poets and musicians performed in front of an ever-changing screen which celebrated the richness of our planet – including acclaimed novelist and poet Maureen Duffy, Lisa Kelly, John Gibbens, Ken Champion and Claire Booker.

Lisa Kelly reads from her pamphlet 'Bloodhound'

Lisa Kelly reads from her pamphlet ‘Bloodhound’

‘Song of the Earth’ was curated by Camden poets, Alan Price and Louise Warren as part of ‘The Good Earth’ exhibition of landscape paintings, photography and sculpture by artists Tim Bradford, Michael Connell, Peter Herbert and Amanda Taylor.

“Whether it be sky above or mud below, we live in a unique world,” says Peter Herbert of The Arts Project. THE GOOD EARTH offers artwork that responds to the often transient beauties and evolving surfaces and shapes of the world created by nature and often influenced by mankind itself.”

Maureen Duffy

Maureen Duffy

Live music was provided by Armorel Weston and John Gibbens (The Children) whose lyricism with voice and acoustic guitar kept the audience enraptured.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

THE GOOD EARTH exhibition is free and remains open until Thurs 24th June (Mon-Fri 9.00am to 5.00pm in the Conference Centre, St Pancras Hospital, 4 St Pancras Way, London, NW1 0PE. For details of future events planned by The Arts Project, contact its curator manager, Peter Herbert, on pbherbert@gmail.com

Alan Price’s collection ‘Outfoxing Hyenas’ is published by Indigo Dreams. Lisa Kelly’s pamphlet, ‘Bloodhound’ is published by Hearing Eye. Louise Warren’s collection ‘A Child’s Last Picture Book of the Zoo’ is published by Cinnamon Press. 

Loose Muse hits Manchester, London and Cornwall with Women’s New Writing

MMMmmm, luscious cover and when you open it – what an assortment! So many melt-in-your mouth fabulous poems and short stories to choose from.

Loose Muse Anthology Spring 2014It’s Loose Muse’s fifth anthology – triple-launched in London, Manchester and Cornwall and celebrating the creative talents of 50 women British and international writers aged between 20 and 91!

Some of my favourites? Balaba Aseka’s ‘The Boda Boda Rider'; Anne Macaulay’s terrifying ‘The Dive'; Sue John’s powerfully damning ‘Instructions for a Summer Wedding'; Nancy Charley’s touching ‘Finding Gold'; the street-wise ‘Dyke Spotting’ by Emma Wootton; the witty ‘Apple’ by SaraMae Tuson; plus some great stories by Hilaire,  Isobel White, Fiona Read and Joolz Sparkes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m lucky enough to  have had three of my own poems included, together with my short play ‘Enemy’ (set on the Russian Front in 1943) which was performed at The Lost Theatre Company’s 5 Minute Play Festival last December. To view a film of the play, click on: http://youtu.be/7yvt1Z34rEo

Loose Muse is London’s only regular women’s writers night which has been running continuously since 2005 at The Poetry Cafe, Covent Garden, London. It meets at 8pm on the second Wednesday of each month (except August). It offers a friendly and fun atmosphere for women to perform open mic. Men are always welcome to make up the audience!

To buy copies of the latest anthology (or back-copies of the previous four) go to: www.loose-muse.com or contact Agnes Meadows at agnespoet@gmail.com The anthologies are also available to read in the reference section of The Saison Poetry Library in the Royal Festival Hall, South Bank, London.

The anthology’s front cover artwork is ‘Dismantled’ by Lorraine Clarke, who has also designed all the previous Loose Muse covers. Loose Muse Anthology Spring 13Loose Muse (Autumn 2013)

 

Cropped Loose Muse Anthology

 

Poem on stolen pavements in Prole magazine

Prole (issue 13)When did you last look down and think – hey, that’s an expensive bit of paving stone? The history of our footsteps (and the price on its head)  features in my poem Stone-whisperers out now in the latest issue of Prole magazine.

You can enjoy mind-expanding poetry from a fine array of fellow poets including Wendy Klein, Howard Wright, Lisa Kelly’s hilarious skit on mail-order brides, Bethany W. Pope’s villanelle on her vagina and Sarah Doyle’s sparkling response to Browning’s My Last Duchess.

Prole is a quarterly literary magazine which carries short fiction and poetry. To submit your work or to buy a copy of Prole (issue 13) please click on the following link:  http://www.prolebooks.co.uk

 

 

 

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