Tag Archives: Poetry

My poem ‘Drone-Boys’ in The Spectator

I’m delighted to be in The Spectator again. A big thank you to Hugo Williams for choosing my poem about lambs, drones and lads on the South Downs.

Since moving to Brighton three years ago, sheep have begun to loom large in my life. They can be very addictive creatures – drones, less so!

You can read the poem in the November 7th issue (or on the image below).

This issue includes an intriguing poem about a fly by Kate Bingham, plus a villanelle in praise of Wendy Cope by Jane Blanchard.

The Spectator is England’s oldest continuously published Magazine (dating back to 1828), so it’s seen a lot of history come and go. It usually carries between two and four poems per week, plus a weekly competition for themed or form poems. Check each week for the required topic.

You can submit poems for the body of the magazine to Hugo Williams, c/o Clare Asquith, Arts & Books, The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP.

Prole Magazine is 10 years old!

Prole x6Prole‘s 10th birthday is a cause for celebration among all who prefer their poetry and short stories lively and accessible. So here’s a glass (or two!) raised with a hurrah for editors Brett Evans and Phil Robertson, who have steered this Sabateur award-winning magazine from the word go.

I’ve been chuffed to have poems in seven of those issues, including the current one (Prole 30), which contains short stories by Dan Burns, S. Dean, Sue Pace, and poetry by Sharon Black, Michael Carrino, Kitty Coles, Kevin Hanson, Deborah Harvey, Jennifer A McGowan, Matt Pitt, Emma Purshouse and Rowena Warwick among others. Prole cartoon

Until recently, the magazine has come out three times a year, but now it’s going to be biannual. This will take some pressure off the editors but will very likely disappoint readers and submitters alike.  C’est la vie. We’ll appreciate it all the more. I love the look of the magazine, with its trade-mark black and white covers, witty cartoons, and clear demarcation between prose and poetry. Great that contributors are offered a profit-share too.  Prole issue 30

Prole is not just a magazine, however. Every year, it holds a Prole Laureate Competition (plus similar for short stories). You can read the 2020 winning poems by Paul Stephenson, Jinny Fisher and Angela Platt in this current issue.

Is your finished pamphlet looking for a home? If so, there’s still time to enter this year’s Prole Pamphlet Competition, being judged by John McCullough. Your pamphlet needs to be between 20 and 40 pages. Closing date is September 16th. More details at: Prole

Dreamcatcher – worth a pile of beans!

Dreamcatcher 40_0001During the siege of Leningrad, people flocked to the libraries for nourishment. Here, we flock to the supermarkets for toilet rolls. Perhaps the Russians have something to teach us.

I’m fortunate (so far) in having food and books enough. And my contributor’s copy of Dreamcatcher 40 has just arrived, pulsating with verbal and visual treats.  It’s Wendy Pratt’s final issue as Editor, and she’s really pushed the boat out.

It includes some cracking short stories: Mark Jarman’s fascinating take on Shanghai; Kevan Youde’s mouth-watering sea voyage; a tale from Down Under by Christian McCulloch and something for Movie buffs from Mark Wasserman.

Poets featured include Claire Booker, Nick Boreham, Pamela Coren, Sandra Galton, Yvonne Hendrie, Michael Henry, Gary Jude, Mark Anthony Kaye, David Lewitzky, Karen Little, Jenny McRobert,  Jeremy Platt, Florian Rose, Iain Twiddy and Alessio Zanelli.Dreamcatcher 40_0002

The ravishing artwork in this issue has been selected from oil paintings by David Baumforth. Born in York, David’s inspiration is the ‘bitter beauty’ of England’s North East coast.  His technique is Turnerian, but the modern visual risk-taker is very much in evidence too.

Dreamcatcher 40_0003“I paint how I’ve always painted,” explains Baumforth, “and that’s with a focus on the truth of what I see in front of me. Yorkshire and its coastline are a constant source of inspiration. My last collections are very well received, and though that is gratifying, success or lack of it can be a distraction.”

Wise words indeed. And what fantastic use of colour. Clearly a painter I need to find out more about. So, thank you, Dreamcatcher for introducing him to me.

This issue also carries reviews of Derrida’s Monkey by Nell Farrell, and The Unknown Civilian by Antony Owen. Plus a very handy guide by Alan Gillott to three, on-line resources for writers: Write Out Loud, The Poetry Kit, and Rhyme Zone.

To buy a copy of Dreamcatcher 40, subscribe to the magazine (two issues a year), or check submissions windows, visit: Dreamcatcher

 

Celebrating Change – When Poetry Packs a Punch

A project underway in Middlesbrough is working with local people and the wider literary community to harness the power of poetry for creating social and political change.

It’s a year-long digital storytelling project, funded by Arts Council England and led by film-maker Laura Degnan and poet Kirsten Luckins.

images59ORYF4GLast month, guest editor Amy Kinsman selected my poem about a refugee seeking asylum via the Channel Tunnel and published it on the Celebrating Change website. You can find it under their recent posts (June 14th), or read it here: Abdul Haroun Almost Medals at Dover 

If you’ve written a poem that tackles injustice, inspired perhaps by people striving to create a better world, you might be interested to know that Celebrating Change are looking for poems on a rolling basis. canva-females-gathering-on-road-for-demonstrations-MADOYVgN2Gw[1]

Here’s the gen:

“Please send poems (no longer than 40 lines) and stories (no longer than 750 words) as attachments to celebratingchange2017@gmail.com. We are happy to accept previously published work, just tell us where and when it first appeared so we can acknowledge.

csd-2735009__340[2]Please also include a short biog (50 words) and links to your blog, website or audio/video channel. A good photo of you, or a photo taken by you that we can use to illustrate the poem would be super for the Insta feed.

Our overarching theme is ‘change’ – guest editors will be more specific. Because this is a digital storytelling project, we like poems that tell a story in some way.”

To enjoy poems already live on the site, including work by Ian Badcoe, Claire Booker, Jane Burn, Sara Hirsch and Marylin Longstaff, check out: Celebrating Change

 

Chroma Magazine – the Red Issue

Chroma 1 coverThe first issue of Chróma launched this winter and features an intoxicating fusion of contemporary poets, thinkers, artists and photographers with one uniting factor, the colour red.  Now, editor Emma Phillips is looking for work inspired by orange.

I was lucky enough to be invited to read at Chróma’s launch party in Brighton’s ONCA Gallery where a packed crowd enjoyed a stunning exhibition of photos and printed word material, then listened to poems and specially composed music.  Chroma 1c

Chroma 1dThe sheer quality of this inaugural magazine is a ravishment to eyes and brain alike. It’s a visual wow as well as being elegantly rammed full of intellectual and emotional surprises.  

My fellow contributors to the first issue include: poets Lydia Bowden, Chiyuma Elliott, Katie Munnik and Constantin Preda; stunning artwork by Karl-Joel Larsson, Darby Milbrath and Coco Davez; and mind-altering photography by Tekla Evelina Severin, Keegan Grandbois, Laurence Philomene, Mary Chen and Sophie Harris-Taylor. There are also in-depth feature articles on subjects as diverse (though thematically linked) as the meat industry, menstrual taboo, self-harm; plus interviews with artists such as Cleon Peterson and film-maker Greta Bellamacina. Chroma 1 There’s even room in Chróma’s 124 generous sized pages for short-stories by Gwen Myers and Colette Coen.

“2017 was a year of blood, shooting, wild-fire and extreme politics,” says Emma Phillips. “Despite this, the magazine also explores the beauty of red through its relationship to love, landscape, lipsticks and gender. In the West, red may mean anger, but in the East, it is a sign of vitality and fertility. It is the colour of happiness, worn by brides at their wedding and hung vibrantly across their streets and temples.” Chroma + poem

To order your copy of  the Red issue of Chróma, please visit the following link: Chroma To submit work inspired by the colour orange, email Emma at submission@chromamagazine.com 

14 Great Poetry Gigs to Celebrate

Postcards (Collage 3)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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGBP Postc (Joolz pic)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 67 launchMagma 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.

Best-of-British-cover[1] 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.

PAE Centrala 2April 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! PAE - John Riley

Written in Water Constable event 6 May posterBrighton 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.

Beyond WordsIf 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALoose 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. Aminur

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 Write Angle 2017Petersfield 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. Petersfield - Claire Dyer 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.

Ver poets poster 17I 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.   Chroma 1d

Chroma 1And 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

When Poems Meet a Composer

Out of Place - St PaulsPoetry began life as sung word, often in a religious context. So what a privilege to return to those poetic roots and have one of my poems set to music and performed as part of an evening of new compositions at the Actor’s Church (St Paul’s) in Covent Garden.

Out of Place is the brainchild of musician Nicola Burnett Smith, who sought out poems from contemporary poets and brought them together with a team of composers to create twelve very varied pieces.  The result was a gala evening of new musical work including fun improvisation, classical composition, solo instrumentalists, wonderful readings by Annette Badland, acapella singing and some pretty acrobatic percussion work!Out of Place - composers

The composers (Gemma Storr, Sarah Woolfenden, Marianne Johnson and Nicola Burnett Smith) each chose poems that inspired them, then spent six months creating a great variety of responses. The chosen poets include Claire Booker, Dharmavadana, Alexander James, Anna Kisby and Samantha Pearse.

Out of Place - Nicki Burnet Smith and Anne BadlandsIn front of a packed audience, the evening raised money for The Rory Peck Trust which supports freelance journalists working in hostile environments. For more information about the Trust or to buy an anthology of all the poems, including some not set to music, (all takings donated to the Trust) please email 2017outofplace@gmail.com or p hone 020 3219 7860.

The concert can be viewed by clicking: Out of Place concert (https://youtu.be/l90YRFlpOtU). If you need to fast forward to my poem (you’ll be missing some great music though) you can find it at 16.20 mins into the film.

To hear my poem read by Olivier-nominated actor Annette Badland (aka Hazel in the Archers!) please click:   Audio of ‘Dancing Green’ (https://soundcloud.com/nicolaburnettsmith/sets/out-of-place?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email)

Out of Place - posterA huge thank you to Annette Badland, the musicians and Nicola Burnett Smith for all her hard work and skill in taking my poem ‘Refuge’ and creating from it her piece ‘Dancing Green’ (clarinet-Nicola Burnett Smith, percussion – Gemma Storr, flute – Marianne Johnson, trumpet – Sarah Woolfenden, piano – Sarah Lambie).

The Wax Paper – an American Arts broadsheet

The internet occasionally throws up gems and The Wax Paper is one of them. I stumbled on its call for submissions through the highly useful (and free) online resource The Review Review  (99review@gmail.com)

Published as a quarterly broadsheet in Brooklyn and distributed in New York, Chicago and Mankato, The Wax Paper has all the bluff of newspapers before they shrank into tabloids. Eight arm-stretching pages is enough to keep you reading happily for more than an hour. The Wax Paper

So I’m delighted, they accepted two of my short plays for publication in Volume Two (Issue One) alongside some powerful short stories, arresting photography and excellent poems. Wax Paper Vol 2 Issue 1 (2 plays)

Poets may have a hard time getting published, but playwrights are competing for even fewer print opportunities.

Double bravo therefore to The Wax Paper for giving over an entire page to my two dramas. Lost Property has been performed a number of times, most recently at The Lost Theatre’s Five Minute Play Festival (see photo to the right with actors David Bevan and Maria Askew). 011_14

Bathroom Secrets is a 10 minute play, most recently performed at Unheard, a Festival run by Goblin Baby Theatre Co. at The Bread & Roses Theatre in Clapham. Bathroom Secrets(Photographer Kenneth Jay)

On the left you can see actors Susan Hodgetts and Mark Lisseman in full flow as a married couple who can’t communicate.

Both plays are available to read on my website: www.bookerplays.co.uk

This issue of The Wax Paper contains poetry by the flamboyantly named Richard King Perkins II, Holly Wren Spaulding, Charles Rafferty, Robbie Gamble, Talal Alyan, Jennie Greensfelder and George Eklund.

Two of the short stories are absolutely knock out: The Gods by Melissa Knox is a fascinating critique of a life under Freudian analysis. The Second to Last Supper by Sabrina Harris, is a brilliantly satirical attack on capital punishment using the absurd (and I believe legally correct) premise that a United States prisoner cannot be executed unless they have been given their last meal request in full.

“The first priority of The Wax Paper is to expand our understanding of the people we share the world with,” says Editor Hans Hetrick. “Pieces will be selected on their ability to illuminate the humanity and significance of the subjects that inhabit the work – work that required patient observation, remained steadfast in its empathy and displayed genuine vitality.”

The Wax Paper with sealIf you have poems, short stories, drama, collected conversations, photographs or artwork you think might belong within these lovely pages, please visit:  www.thewaxpaper.com/submissions or email Hans Hetrick at waxsubmissions@gmail.com

Prole issue 20 is out and proud!

Winner of Best Magazine at The Saboteur Awards in the year that Wales magicked itself into footballing history, Prole has a lot to be proud about.  Prole issue 20

Issue 20 of the Welsh-based lit mag is packed to the rafters with short stories and poetry from the Anglophone world. Poets published in time for autumn include Claire Booker, Matt Duggan, Mab Jones, Joanne Key,  Lisa Kelly, Tess Kincaid, Sue Pace and Jonny Rodgers.

To lift a quote from one of the many Saboteur Award voters: “Prole takes risks, is innovative and don’t take no bullshit from no-one.”  Yes indeed, Prole editors Brett Evans and Phil Robertson accept only clear-sighted work that isn’t dressed up in literary pretention.

Prole issue 20 Sparx' cartoon_0001One of the highlights for me in this issue is Bill Schillaci’s story The Artist Between Lives which had me hooked from the beginning with its ironic take on sessions with a psychotherapist. Also, Maureen Cullen’s Ring of Fire with its great observations and Glaswegian verbal dexterity. Poems that stand out for me include Tess Kincaid’s surreal poem Totem and Lisa Kelly’s Angelica’s Apology. There’s a guilt-inducing little gem from Robert de Born about slug extermination too. And a cartoon by Sparx rounds off the issue

If you’re a prose writer, there’s still time to enter the 2016 Prolitzer Prize which closes for entries on October 1st. Word limit is 2,500. For more details of the competition, or to submit poetry and/or prose to Prole, or buy a copy of issue 20, please click on: www.prolebooks.co.uk

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/