Six reasons to join The Poetry Society

If you’re still not a member of The Poetry Society, here are a few good reasons why you (and your bank account!) might decide to join in the party. It costs as little as £20 a year.

In no particular order – the infamous Stanza Bonanza! StanzaBon (Reading v Clapham)

All over Britain, groups of poets get together at Poetry Society Stanza groups to share work, inspire each other, produce anthologies or perform together in friendly internecine shoot-outs.  Here is last month’s Stanza Bonanza between Clapham – aka Original Poets – (front from left: Tom Vaughan, Nicole Carrell, Tessa Lang, Mark Fiddes, Claire Booker; back far left: Hilaire) and Reading (back from 2nd left: Susan Utting, Louise Ordish, Shelley Connor, Gill Learner, Alan Hester, Ted Millichap).

Poetry CafeOur Bonanza frolics took place in The Poetry Place – another great reason to support the Poetry Society. This bijou building (ok it’s cramped and steamy in summer but a refurb is on the way) is bang smack in the cultural heartland of London’s Covent Garden. Virtually every night there’s an event to enjoy or an exhibition to ponder. The Café provides tasty vegetarian food and a place to write or hang out in. Upstairs there’s a venue for workshops, parties and hard-working Poetry Society staff (also boxes and boxes of poetry books – the nicest possible kind of tripping hazard).

Every member receives a copy of Poetry News, packed with news and views. As a member, you can enter the Member’s Poems competition four times a year. Winners are published in Poetry News and receive a juicy parcel of poetry books. My poem ‘Deadline’ is twinkling away happily in this summer issue. If you’d like to read it, along with the five other winning poems on the theme of Smell, please click: www.poetrysociety.org.uk/membership/members-poems-2/

Poetry News Summer 2016More than £16,000 is give out each year in prize money by the Poetry Society, which runs The National Poetry Competition, The Ted Hughes Award, the Foyle Young Poets of the Year, Slambassadors and numerous others.

Members also have the option of receiving Poetry Review – one the most respected poetry magazines in the English speaking world.  If you hope to be published in its august pages, perhaps take advantage of the Poetry Prescription service available to Poetry Society members at a very reasonable fee. Poets with great track records are available in the four corners of Britain (or by Skype) to read and report back on examples of your poetry. I can highly recommend it from personal experience (thank you Katy Evans Bush!).

Joining the Poetry Society gives a nice warm feeling too, as you’re directly supporting its original, eclectic projects. From canal-sides, supermarkets, football pitches and former battlefields, to schools and arts venues, projects range from ongoing programmes to one-off commissions of new work. The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree, The Canal Laureateship, Poems on the Underground, National Poetry Day – all wonderful examples of how the Poetry Society is raising poetry’s profile with people of all ages.

Convinced? Still not sure?  For the full deal, click on: www.poetrysociety.org.uk/ and give some serious thought to joining, supporting, engaging with and using the opportunities that the Poetry Society has been providing to poets and poetry lovers since 1909.  You know it makes sense!

ElbowRoom unfolds its Poetry Broadsheet

ElbowRoom Broadsheet (issue 1)Too many poems, not enough space? Some literary mags choose the online option. Others produce large-round-the-waist issues. ElbowRoom has gone for its first intricately folded Broadsheet, available to subscribers and at book fairs, as a perfect addition to their handcrafted magazine.

I’m delighted to be part of the experiment curated by Rosie Sherwood and Zelda Chappel and printed by their publishing arm As Yet Untitled. The crisply folded sheet of  fine cream paper contains poems by myself, Mary Gollonne, Jason Jackson, Wes Lee, Richie McCaffery, Nikki Robson and Chamning Yuan, including one by Phil Vernan of five stanzas which can be read in any order. I’ve tried three different orders so far and it works! ElbowRoom Broadsheet 2

And for those who love their prose, there’s a touching short story by David O’Neill  – A Hole to Dig and A Past to Bury.

Claire at ElbowRoomThe Elbowroom Broadsheet was officially flagged up earlier this month at an ElbowRoomLive gig for the launch of issue 12.

The atmosphere at The Harrison in King’s Cross was informal and fun, with some wonderful singing and technical bravado by Andrea Kempson and sure-fire poetry from Stephen Bone, Louis Buxton and Andrew Wells. I joined them with a set of my own work. According to the publicity blurb, my role was to be the tease for the up-coming Broadsheet. No pressure then!

ElbowRoom Andrea Kempson

Andrea Kempson

ElbowRoom issue 12 is a limited edition (as are all the previous ones), hand crafted and a perfect little gem. To check on its availability or that of The Elbowroom Broadsheet please visit:

http://www.elbow-room.org/

Childhood memories flutter in The Moth

Summer so often brings childhood bubbling to the surface. A time for drowsing, lazing and youthful adventures.  The latest issue of arts and literature magazine The Moth contains images and words that sparkle with beaches, rivers, people disrobed, fragile and intriguing.  Moth (issue 25)

Poets in issue 25 include Mona Arshi, Claire Booker, Christina Logue, Stuart Paterson, Jennifer Tonge and Terence Winch. The art is lusciously reproduced, including beach and seascapes by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, mono-tint bathers by Jane Hambleton and work by Michael Carson (cover).

There are treats in store for story lovers too, including ‘The California Grizzly’ by Matthew Woodman, ‘Proves the Rule’ by James Kincaid and ‘The Chantry Priest’ by Thomas Maloney. I particularly enjoyed ‘Glad There Are Places’ by Hugh Smith:

Moth (is. 25)“I’m glad there are places within you, vast, perhaps endless places, which my love has nothing to do with. My love might ruin your conversation, but it can’t touch your childhood.”

And for a finger on the pulse of one of poetry’s bright young stars, there’s an illuminating interview with Guardian First Book Award winner Andrew McMillan in which he talks about his ex-labourer father, Ian, aka the Bard of Barnsley. Sometimes they perform their work together at venues: “I used to be very resistant. I guess for obvious reasons. It’s just kind of fun now. It’s like our equivalent of a fishing trip or having a lads’ night away.”

The Moth is a quarterly arts journal edited by Rebecca O’Connor and Will Govan and published in Co. Cavan, Ireland.  Look out too for the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize, worth 10,000 euros, which is in association with The Moth. The closing date this year is 31st December. For more details, t0 subscribe to the magazine or submit your own work, please visit: http://www.themothmagazine.com/

Moth (Recreation '99 by Jonathan Turner)

Recreation ’99 by Jonathan Turner

 

New Drama at the Arts Theatre

Paperback PicturesUpstairs at The Arts Theatre in Covent Garden is a lively venue with a bar at the back for those of thirsty inclination. Pretty handy during a recent hot May night when upwards of 80 people packed into its bijou space to enjoy new dramas by Claire Booker, Aaron Hubbard, Dean Moynihan and Chris York, plus music by Lescines and Rebecca Vaughan.

My play ‘Blue Line Day’ was directed by Paul Heelis and featured Monty Burgess and Leonora Barton in the roles of Michael and Rachel – a couple who can’t live with (or without) each other.  Thank you to all involved for their talent and hard work which really paid off.

We were also treated to a bravura performance by Alexandra Robinson in Chris York’s ‘Build a Rocket’ offering up the joys (and horrors) of childbirth, whilst ‘The Boy Who Built a Clock’ by Aaron Hubbard made us question our prejudices. And Dean Moynihan’s very clever play within a play, ‘This is This’, had us all wrong footed – several times over.Paperback Pictures 2

Paperback Pictures’ bimonthly new writing event, Foot in the Door, showcases work by upcoming theatre professionals. And they’re hungry for more! If you’re a writer, actor, director, musician or theatre technician looking for an audience and a chance to hone your craft, find out how to get involved at:  http://www.paperback.pics/

Sibling productionsIt’s always a thrill when I discover one of my plays has been performed north of the border. ‘Socks Go in the Bottom Drawer’ had another airing in Scotland, this time in the town of Lauder (ashamed to say I had to get the atlas out and find it – just above Galashiels). Thank you to Lauder Amateur Dramatic Association for giving it a four night run in March, and thank you to Comedy Plays for bringing the play to their attention.

If you’re a playwright who is happy for your work to be performed by amateur actors, do check out the possibilities at: www.comedyplays.co.uk/

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!