Erbacce 45 is out!

Always full of surprises, the latest issue of erbacce  (Italian for weed) has spread its green feelers across continents, with poetry from Chicago, Germany, Italy and the UK.erbacce 45

Edited in Liverpool by Alan Corkish and Andrew Taylor, erbacce has a fine tradition of presenting poetry that is  unusual, provoking, even – words that make exciting  shapes on the page.

I’m delighted they’ve taken four of my poems for this issue, alongside the work of Peter Eustace (Verona, Italy), Michelle Chen (Whitestone, USA), Clive Donovan (Devon), Alex Dreppee (Darmstadt, Germany), Luke Karl Thurogood (Wigan) and Eric Allen Yankee (Chicago, USA).

It’s great to read a wide range of poets in one magazine, but it can also be enjoyable to read more work, from a smaller pot of poets. This is where erbacce comes into its own. Issue 45 includes 14 poems by Peter Eustace, a thought-provoking poet of pared down words and a fierce eye for detail. In an interview with Alan Corkish, Peter explains how his forty years based in Verona have affected his poetry, and what drives him to carry on writing.

If you’d like to buy a copy of erbacce 45, or submit your work to the magazine, please click on this link:http://www.erbacce.com/

UK/Romanian Poetry Art Exhibition

poetryartexch 6There was a real buzz last night as people crowded into Undercurrents Gallery in Deptford to enjoy words blown up big, tiny, ripped apart, hung on walls, painted, incendiarised . . .

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The free exhibition showcases poetry and artifacts from nine Romanian and British poets who make up Poetryartexchange – a project which draws on art for poetic inspiration and plays with poetry as a visual art.  The participating poets are: Claire Booker,  Anna Maria Mickiewicz, John Riley, Steve Rushton, Andra Rotaru, Margento, Iulia Militaru, Aleksandar Stoicovici and Stephen Watts.

Each poet submitted two poems on the subject of art and/or poetry and then wrote two more in response to each other’s work. These, along with statements and discussions between poets, plus the original poems, will be developed into an online book, to be published by Contemporary Literature Press (the online publishing house of the University of Bucharest) in spring 2017. For more information, please visit:  http://editura.mttlc.ro/  poetryartexchange4

You can catch the FREE exhibition at Undercurrents Gallery, The Bird’s Nest, 32 Deptford Church Street, SE8 4RZ. It runs until Wednesday 25th May and is open to the public every day of the week from 12 noon to 11pm.

Feel a bit artistic yourself? You’re invited to leave your own mark on poetryartexchange‘s living blackboard where spontaneous poetry and/or art will arise (and may appear later in an e-book).  

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Further exhibitions are planned for Birmingham, Bucharest and the Romanian Embassy in London. Undercurrents Gallery provides generous space to artists and free entry to see their work. If you’re interested in setting up an exhibition, check them out at The Birds Nest, Deptford or find out more at: undercurrentsgallery.tumblr.com

Booker poem makes it into The Spectator

Spectator (26.3.16)_0001You know how it goes – another A4 brown envelope hits the doormat, you rip it open, braced for a rejection, read the slip which says  . . . hang on, it says: “Thanks, I’d like to take your poem. With best wishes, Hugo W.”

Within hours of reading Hugo Williams’ note,  the phone rings. It’s the Spectator’s Arts Desk to check my poem is still available (apparently, a two month wait is considered worthy of an apology). Then, after a couple of days, the emotional back lash – is it true, did I dream it up, will it really go in?

Come Easter, there it is, better than a chocolate egg, on page 13 of the March 26th  edition, all shiny and brand new in the middle of an article about Tory in-fighting.

Friends are duly phoned. They buy copies (many in disguise for political reasons) and I sit back and try to imagine the 60,000 readers who might be considering my poem right now. Will it help them think differently about the refugee crisis?  Does poetry make anything happen? Are we all wasting our time? Spectator (26.3.16)_0004

Much too heavy for the Easter break. I decide on a piece of chocolate and settle down to read some mouth-watering book reviews, including one I may well spend my ill-gotten fee on: Seeing Ourselves: Women’s Self-Portraits. It’s by art historian Frances Borzello, full of lavish illustrations and new research into gifted female painters who currently languish in museum basements. Shame on you, Establishment!

Structo interviews North Korea’s ex poet laureate

Structo15 coverCan poetry truly exist in a totalitarian state?  Structo (issue 15) unearths some painful answers in its interview with Jang Jin-sung, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ex poet laureate.

Jang was once employed by Section 5 (Literature), Division 19 (Poetry) of Office 101 of the United Front Department (jeepers  – room 101!) where, as a privleged member of the elite, he was allowed access to Byron’s poetry. It had a profound effect on him.

Now living in South Korea, Jang explains how culture in the DPRK was (and still is) a matter of state politics. “Even on gravestones you cannot write what you want, because when over three people are able to read it, it is considered propaganda and is therefore subject to censorship. No private or individual literature can be written. No artists are free to be creative.”

Structo Launch 2016

Structo contributors and editors

More fortunate poets making a mark in Structo’s 15th issue include Daniel Bennett, Claire Booker, Marianne Daniels, Claire Dyer, Siobhan Harvey, Michael Metivier, Timothy Otte, Maria Ferencuhova (translated from Slovak by Juana Adcock) and the eternal Sapho (translated by Kate Wise).

The launch drew contributors from all corners of the UK and was a convivial affair in Oxford’s Albion Beatnik Books, with chat, tea and fabulous chocolate cake.  Holding up the side for poetry were Claire Dyer and myself, both reading some of our work published in this issue. I was particularly moved by Picture This  – Claire’s paean to maternal love (and loss). Claire Dyer at Structo

Structo without short fiction would be – well, something else altogether. We were treated to some eye-watering originality from Jude Cook, Stephen Hargadon, Paula Hunter, Dan Micklethwaite and Barbara Rennel who performed their short stories with gusto.

Structo Stephen DurkanA highlight for me was Stephen Durkan’s one-man blitz of a story ‘A Day in the Life of a Modern Man’. His first published piece, apparently. Bravo Structo for spotting a winning new talent!

Never judge a book by its cover, so the saying goes. But it turns out a good cover is: “a distillation, a haiku, if you will, of the story.” Structo’s interview with leading book cover designers Jennifer Carrow, Daniel Benneworth-Gray and Oliver Munday left me with a much clearer idea of what makes me stop, browse and buy. Think about it next time you make a purchase.

Structo 16 hubbub

Talking of which, to buy a copy of Structo (issue 15), or to download earlier copies (for free) or to submit your work, please click: www.structomagazine.co.uk   Twitter or Facebook  

New drama grid-lock at The Pleasance

If you’re a director, actor or playwright, Director’s Cut Theatre Company are on the look out for new blood (see below for latest call).

They’re utterly professional, command healthy audiences and are a pleasure to work with, as I discovered when my 10 minute play, Pig in a Blanket, was performed at The Pleasance Theatre, Islington, earlier this year. No U-Turn It was part of a showcase of nine new plays – No U-Turn! – based around the theme of people trapped in traffic. Ironic, as it turns out, because on performance night, north London was plunged into havoc by engineering works and a defunct Picadilly Line. Despite this, more than a hundred people managed to get through to see the show.

Artistic Director (Heather Ward) and Dramaturg (Jessica Mayne) selected plays by Claire Booker, Mitch Day, Clare Knights, Callum McGowan, Michael Pearcy, Nikki Racklin, Julian Ross Davison, Julian Warren and James Withey from nearly 200 submitted to a very specific brief. No U Turn We had to create up to four characters stuck in traffic, unable to leave their cars, with a specific place they were heading to. At the end of each play, the traffic had to move on, yet we weren’t allowed to reveal what had caused the jam.

No U-TurnA total of 16 actors and 9 directors set to work turning our words into theatre, including specially created choreography to link each of the nine plays. A big thank you to Rosie Ward and Lauren Orrock for their finely crafted performances as ‘Rat’ and Ellie (animal rights activists with a nasty secret in the boot) in Pig in a Blanket. I had great fun at the first rehearsal watching them go through improvisation exercises with co-directors Kieran Rogers and Peter Gould, including revisiting Rat and Ellie’s childhood haunts and a pretty hard-nosed police interrogation. Pig in blanket

The next showcase Drafts is coming up on 29th May at Southwark Playhouse for which writers’ submissions have just opened. They’ll be casting next month.

For more details about Drafts or The Director’s Cut Theatre, including future writing, directing or acting opportunities, please contact Heather Ward (Artistic Director and Producer) at: www.directorscuttheatre.co.uk

Poems, reviews, short fiction in Under the Radar

The alphabet’s been good to me. I was born with a ‘B’ in my mouth, which means I get to be one of the front runners in alphabetically organised lists through no skill of my own.

Under the Radar (issue 16)Uncommonly for a literary magazine, Under the Radar chooses to present its poetry in alphabetical order. You’d think this would make an awkward flow of poems, kicking randomly against each other. But no; in issue 16, more than fifty poems weave their content, style and layout with panache, offering a truly invigorating read. How did editor Jane Commane manage that?

And  there’s the added advantage that it’s easier to track a poet you know or want to read for a second time if all the work is alphabetically arranged.

Writers in issue 16 include Claire Booker, Natalie Burdett, Andrew Button, Rishi Dastidar, Chris Dodd, Charlotte Gann, James Giddings, Chris Hardy, Jenny Hope, Brian Johnstone, Martin Malone, Joan Michelson, Fiona Moore, Angela Readman, Martin Reed, Marion Tracy and Julia Webb.

There are a couple of short stories, plus thirteen well-argued reviews from Kathleen Bell, Alison Brackenbury, Kim Moore, Pam Thompson, Deborah Tyler-Bennett and Charles Whalley. The clever money appears to be on, among others, Josephine Corcoran’s The Misplaced House; Steve Ely’s Englaland; Kim Moore’s The Art of Falling; Peter Riley’s Due North; and John Tait’s Barearse Boy.

To buy a copy of Under the Radar (Issue 16) or to submit your own work (the current window for short fiction and poetry closes on 30th April) please visit: www.ninearchespress.com

Women Refugees Speak it, Hear it!

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One in three women will be victims of rape or violence at some point in their lives. So what can we do about it?

It was my privilege to organise ‘Speak it, Hear it! – a fund-raising poetry event held in Clapham earlier this month as part of One Billion Rising (www.obrfestival.uk) which campaigns for an end to violence against women. The evening featured contributions from invited poets Sue Johns and Lisa Kelly, open-mic excellence  and a heart-stopping performance from women refugee poets.

The communal poem Set Her Free  was created by a group of 12 women in association with Women For Refugee Women (www.refugeewomen.co.uk) which works to help empower women who have sought asylum in the UK. Grassroots coordinator Marchu Girma, introduced two of the original poets, Jade and Joy, whose moving stories helped create Set Her Free. Their performance was brilliant, deeply moving and very humbling.

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Click here to watch the full version of Set Her Freehttps://youtu.be/EQEEthsuF08

Open mic poets were in fine form during ‘Speak it, Hear it!’ and included Angela Brodie, Laura Collins, Patricia Foster, Jane Grael, Hilaire, Susan Hodgets, Rachel Joseph, Frank Mariani, Anne McCaulay, Camilla Reeve and Caroline Vero.

Subject matter ranged from inappropriate police behaviour and domestic violence to the tempting of Adam by Eve and one woman’s experience of Paris burlesque. A humble apple even got a bit (or should I say bite) part in one of Sue Johns’ poems.

Speak it Sue Johns, Frank Mariani

Sue Johns’ latest poetry collection Hush was published by Morgan’s Eye Press in 2011. Sue also writes and performs theatrical monologues and works with art/word collaborations. She is currently working on a series of poems about prostitution.  www.suejohns.co.uk

Speak it Lisa Kelly

Lisa Kelly’s finely observed poetry tackles both personal and social issues. Her poems have appeared widely in leading literary magazines. She is a board member of Magma and her pamphlet Bloodhound is published by Hearing Eye.

The One Billion Rising Festival was organised by Goblin Baby Theatre Company (www.goblinbaby.com) and staged at The Bread & Roses Theatre, Clapham, between 7th and 14th February. Events included sell-out performances of The Vagina Monologues and The Princess Monologues, stand-up comedy, play readings, burlesque, drumming, body confidence workshops, an art exhibition and talks on topics such as human trafficking and respecting femininity.

 Photos courtesy of Tessa Hart.