Writing poetry is one thing. Marketing it, quite another. This is where poetry gigs can come into their own. Over the last year, I’ve taken my poetry pamphlet, Later There Will Be Postcards, on a whistle stop tour of some great venues.
Green Bottle Press launched the pamphlet last October at SLAM Kings Cross – a delightful venue with an ornate horseshoe balcony and music hall feel. So far so great – a nice turn out of friends and poetry well-wishers, plus stablemates Tracey Rhys and Yvonne Piper launching their own books too.
My editor, Jennifer Gregg, had arranged a pre-launch at The Torriano Meeting House – a little piece of literary history tucked away in Kentish Town, which is also home to the imprint Hearing Eye. I featured there with fellow Green Bottle Press poet Sarah Sibley, reading from her PBS acclaimed pamphlet The Withering Room. I was there again two weeks later to feature with poets Alan Price and Louise Warren, and enjoy the usual high quality open-mic readers.
In February I was invited to read two of my poems at Palewell Press‘s launch of a powerful book about refugees – Three Days in Damascus, a memoir by Kim Schultz. The venue was The Hive in Dalston, a really wacky, welcoming space full of contemporary art, great coffee and a happening feel to it. Handy for the Jeffrey Museum too.
Magma being one of my top three favourite literary mags (no, I’m not telling!) I was thrilled to be asked to read two of my poems at the launch of its 67th issue (Bones & Breath) at The London Review Bookshop – handy for the British museum. The distinctive L-shaped room is surprisingly good acoustically, and there’s a real buzz sitting in such close proximity to so many books. Perhaps most inspiring is the quality of listening you get at a Magma launch.
And now let’s hear it for Royal Tunbridge Wells, and in particularly that adventurous publisher Paper Swans Press, who launched their Best of British Anthology at The George, not so far from the pantiles where Jane Austin may have sipped a Bacardi Breezer or two (or the Regency equivalent). My fellow contributors gathered from all corners of the UK to share offerings on the topic of British Life.
April saw me in Birmingham’s Centrala Gallery, a great space which specialises in Eastern European art, and overlooks the Grand Union Canal. It was all part of the Birmingham Literature Festival. With Arts Council funding, our UK/Romanian collective PoetryArtExchange could afford to pay for three British poets and two Romanian poets plus a Polish saxophonist to perform poetry to an avant-garde sound track of words and musical sounds. I really let my hair down on castanets, tambourine and ball point pen!
Brighton Museum, inside the Prince Regent’s fantasy palace with its minarets and flamboyant painted dragons, is a unique venue. For this year’s Brighton Festival, The Frogmore Press invited a contingent of Brighton-based poets to read their work inspired by clouds and sea. What a delight to share words in front of a magnificent collection of John Constable paintings and sketches. There was an excellent turn out from the public, some of whom didn’t expect this added extra but stopped to listen to such poets as Clare Best, Maria Jastrzebska, Mandy Pannett, Jeremy Page, Lyn Thomas and Marek Urbanowicz. Thank you to Alexandra Loske for inviting us.
If you live within reach of south London, count yourself lucky. Beyond Words at the Gipsy Hill Tavern, is one of the most consistently enjoyable spoken word events and punches well above its weight. Hosts Angela Brodie and Caroline Vero invited me to feature in the summer, alongside Jim Alderson. What could be more convenient than a 2 minute walk to the train station and then up to Victoria in an eye-wink? I got home to Brighton in time for a nightcap.
Loose Muse Covent Garden, run by the inimitable Agnes Meadows, welcomed me as feature poet in June, alongside novelist SV Berlin and blogger Naomi Woddis. Later in Ocober I had the pleasure of featuring at the Winchester’s Loose Muse, alongside Jessica Mookherjee. I had time to visit some Winchester’s wonderfully preserved heritage (including King Arthur’s round table) before heading for The Discovery Centre, which was buzzing with interested poets thanks to organiser Sue Wrinch’s warm and efficient hospitality. I even managed to sell ten copies of Later There Will Be Postcards which is (and will probably remain) a personal best. We were the closing act of the UK-India Festival of Words set up by Sue, which included a flash fiction workshop, a free Bollywood film, poetry workshops and performances by Mona Arshi, Rishi Dastidar and Martyn Crucefix.
The Indian subcontinent continued to exert its effects, this time through the Bangla poet, Aminur Rahman, who was over in the UK to promote his latest collection, Perpetual Diary. Agnes Meadows organised an evening at The Sun Covent Garden, where Aminur charmed us with his readings in English and Bengali, and Isabel White, Racheal Joseph and myself were the supporting acts.
Petersfield in Hampshire is a delightful town with a market-place, herb garden and lovely winding river that runs through its Tudor and Georgian houses. It’s also home to a wonderfully eclectic poetry night – Petersfield Write Angle – run by Leah and Jake Cohen. They invited myself and novelist/poet Claire Dyer to fill the feature slot for August (always the third Tuesday of the month). The venue is intimate and quirky, and the open mic drew some extraordinary performances, including a wonderful harpist.
I travelled up to St Albans, burial place of Harold (arrow-in-the eye) Godwinson to feature at a Ver Poets Reading, alongside John Mole and Caroline Vero. St Albans public library was a joy – warm, bright and inviting, with an attentive mix of Ver poets and members of the public making up the audience. John was reading from his Shoestring Press collection Gestures & Counterpoints, and Caroline shared some of her most up-to-the-minute poems.
And the final event I featured in this year, was the launch of the brand new lit mag Chroma at Brighton’s bijou ONCA Gallery. Chroma will focus on a different colour each issue. Issue one is red and heart-stoppingly gorgeous to look at. The launch was awash with talented young artists, musicians and writers, and there was a beautifully curated exhibition of some of photographs and poems (including my own I’m proud to say). So thank you to Emma Phillips for fashioning such a sumptuous read!
Copies of Later There Will Be Postcards are still available at £6.20 plus p&p from: GREEN BOTTLE PRESS