Verve Poetry Festival 2018

Well, readers (if you exist, it feels like writing into the abyss), I haven’t written properly her since Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Most of my reviews are written for The Norwich Radical, and I’ve now been writing for them for over three years as a volunteer. I felt the urge to write having recently come back from Verve Poetry Festival (alas, as an audience member, not a participant).

One of my cousins is at university in Birmingham, so I took the opportunity to get her a Saturday ticket and visit her whilst attending the festival. We had a lovely time, and I discovered new voices amongst old favourites. It was a bit overwhelming at times being surrounded by so many familiar names and faces, and by the end of the festival my brain kind of stopped working, but it was well worth it. I’ll go through some of my personal highlights.

Dead or Alive Slam

I’d never been to a Dead of Alive Slam, where actors read the work of past poets, and compete against the alive ones. I was very much in team ‘alive’, who were the overall winners, but I discovered poems by both I enjoyed. It featured Genevieve Carver, Isaiah Hull and Caroline Teague – the first two being new to me, and all of them brilliant.  Team Death consisted of poems by Christina Rossetti, Forough Farrokhzad, and Djuna Barnes (read by Tembi Xena, Lorna Nickson Brown, and Zeddie Lawal). Djuna Barnes really stood out to me, which might come in handy for the workshop I’m going to run with Spread the Word – The Femme Canon.

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City Poems

This section featured six commissioned poets, alongside competition winners, and was hosted by the judge Luke Kennard. What I liked about this section was that there were so many poets, and so much variety. It can be difficult to listen to poetry across three days (even for us poets) so this quick succession of poets was welcome for a morning event at the start of a long day. It featured local poets including Roy McFarlane, Bohdan Piasecki, Amerah Saleh, Jenna Clake, Casey Bailey, and Ahlaam Moledina. Having been tutored by Piasecki whilst in the Roundhouse Poetry Collective, and having met Saleh on a previous trip to Birmingham, it was particularly good to hear both their poetry. You can buy the book of poems here.

Stablemates: Bobby Parker

Chaired by Jill Abram, creator of Stablemates, there was discussion and poetry from Martha Sprackland, James Brookes, and Bobby Parker in celebration of new work from Offord Road Books. Although I wasn’t expecting it, Bobby Parker was my favourite poet in this section. He was open about the criticism he had received from his poem ‘THANK YOU FOR SWALLOWING MY CUM’, of which I wasn’t previously aware had provoked accusations of misogyny. I read the poem myself and although I think it’s horrible, I think it’s the intention, it being an exploration of this dark side of masculinity and the validation that men may place on such an act. It is simultaneously simple and complex, and I like it and Parker’s other word. I didn’t realise the connection between this poem and Thank You For Swallowing, which publishes incredible feminist writing.

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The Poetry Assembly: Romalyn Ante

Although a celebration of Jane Commane’s Bloodaxe collection, the event was also supported by Roz Goddard, Liz Berry, Romalyn Ante, and Matt Black. My favourite poet was Romalyn Ante, with her slow, rhythmic poetry, with vivid imagery, it was beautiful to hear her recite. My only issue with the programming of Verve Poetry Festival is the division of sections labelled ‘poetry’ and ‘spoken word’, when there were examples such as this where Ante knew her poems by heart and was in the ‘poetry’ section, yet others such as the Out-Spoken Press section were labelled ‘spoken word’ when both feature books.

Out-Spoken Press Showcase

In moving on to this ‘spoken word’ section, I believe one featured poet, Raymond Antrobus, has been quite vocal about claiming the title of ‘poet’ as his own rather than solely a ‘spoken word artist’. This showcase also featured Anthony Anaxagorou, Joelle Taylor, Sabrina Mahfouz, and Bridget Minamore. I’m very well versed on the latter three poets, all three featuring the the She Grrrowls anthology from Burning Eye Books and so it was great to hear them all together at Verve Poetry Festival.

Nymphs & Thugs: Maria Ferguson

The penultimate event I went to featured Salena Godden, Matt Abbott, Maria Ferguson, and Jamie Thrasivoulou. Whilst they were all great poets, Ferguson was my highlight here, and is always completing captivating. After her show ‘Fat Girls Don’t Dance’ (which I have seen and bought a copy of the book of the same title), she is now working on a show called ‘Essex Girls’. As well as her usual fantastic poetry, in the second half of the two hour slot she gave us a sneak peek into some of her writing from the show.

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Luke Wright & Ross Sutherland

Tom Chivers of Penned in the Margins presented the last section I could attend before hopping on my newly booked coach (otherwise I would have been on night buses from arriving by train 1am the next day in London). It think it was actually Tom Chivers who introduced me to the work of Luke Wright and Ross Sutherland just under a decade ago as an awkward undergrad on an internship at PITM whilst studying at UEA. I have since worked with Ross Sutherland during Shake the Dust, and Luke Wright kindly published my small selection of poems with Nasty Little Press and put me on at Latitude Festival, and I have kept following both their work. It was, as always, great to hear their stuff, especially having recently read and loved The Toll by Wright, and listened to some of the Imaginary Advice podcasts by Sutherland.

All in all, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my recommendations (I has taken me a couple of hours of writing after all). Hopefully next year I’ll be writing as a fellow participant! I’ve been officially freelance since October 2017, so stay tuned for when I find time to write about what that has meant for me thus far (clue: I’m still very much settling back into the UK since my return from Spain in July).

 

Hello 2015

I’m currently typing up notes from BARcademy, a writing and professional development week with Burn After Reading that took place in August 2014. That was 6 months ago. There’s a little indication of how my life is going.

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So, I think it’s about time to have a look at the previous year and what I’m currently up to. One of my greatest achievements of 2014 (and my life) was being published by Nasty Little Press, and this was followed by an incredible summer of performing at a total of five festivals. I performed at Latitude, Secret Garden Party, Camp Bestival, In the Woods and Bestival. I also managed to fit in a sneaky four day holiday to Spain. I was ill for at least three weeks because of all this activity – just in time for the new term at work. I graduated from the Roundhouse Poetry Collective programme and formed Kid Glove. We now have a logo too – designed by Matthew Dickerson. We’re currently working a Twitter and a website… and on a show about adventure! This will be scratched at the Roundhouse’s Last Word Festival on Sunday 31st May at 1.30pm. Tickets are free, so book yourself a spot now. We’re resident artists at the Roundhouse this year, which is really cool.

KIDGLOVE_FINAL1-01This year has seen a bit of success so far (though I would like to be booked for more features, please). I am delighted to have had a poem accepted into Popshot Magazine! This will be available from 1st April and I’m thrilled to be in it after a lot of submissions in the past. I have also filmed my ‘Paradise’ poem with Guy Larsen, and I’m currently waiting to see it and show it to everyone, which should be by the end of the month – exciting! I will also be working with Joelle Taylor to produce a political poem in the run up to the election, which will be performed at the Festival of Ideas 2015 as part of Open Generation on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th April.

Lastly, make a note in your diaries for the next She Grrrowls event, taking place at Apples & Pears on Thursday 19th March. It will feature Maria Ferguson, Natacha Bryan, Kitten Killers and Cat Bear Tree. Join the event here. Please support these next two events – if we get a good turn out we will be able to confirm the next few months.

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Frightened Robot Gun

Time is short and I have wasted a lot of the day after celebrating a friend’s birthday until the early hours. I’m going swimming soon but I’m already ready for bed. It’s been eventful so without further ado, I’ll let you know what’s been going on.

Firtsly, I went to see Frightened Rabbit back in September. Aside from annoying crowd members and post-work tiredness, it was a great gig. They didn’t play all the songs I would have liked but ‘Poke’ was amazing to see live and the highlight of the gig.

The week after I took a surreal trip to Norwich after work to perform at the launch of internet poetry – Bad Robot, an event organised by Catherine Woodward. Ross Sutherland was performing but sadly I didn’t get to speak to him. I spoke to Russell J Turner who was the surprise guest of the evening and had me itching to do his Googleseed poems. James Sykes was also reading and having not seen him before, I was really impressed, with his deadpan humour, he reminded me a bit of Tao Lin’s poetry. Thom James was seen, rather appropriately, in digital form. Unfortunately, not quite a hologram, but a really cool video flickering poetry across a screen.

I stayed in a hotel, *cough* B&B *cough*, nearby the station as I had to get up at like 5.30am or something ridiculous. They didn’t even have any tea:

Skip ahead to the following week and I finally went to Bang Said the Gun. It was all very exciting, entering the room to the likes of Billy Bragg pumping out of the speakers, monochrome scribbles of the event name all over the walls, and an animation reel for the stage backdrop. Not to mention the cool shakers used for applause. Although, after a day at work, shaking it to more than one song as a build up to the start was a bit like giving a never-ending hand-job. Some white stuff came out and got on my bag. But it has to be said, these guys know what they’re doing and put on a cracking poetry (or anti-poetry) night.

Also, Peter Hayhoe kind of remembered my surname, and having not officially met, this made me happy. He also performed a set himself, of which I particularly enjoyed a collaboration with a female guitarist about pulling girls in 1998, dressing up in the actual shirt of his heyday. Dan Cockrill was a great host, and I particularly like the way he step-touched to the music in between acts. Martin Galton also read some funny poems from a book of hate, along with a heart-warming poem of love about his son.

I didn’t get on the open mic as this event is so popular, the next space wasn’t until 25th October, so I’ll be back then. To be honest, I enjoyed the event so much, I would happily be there every week if I could. One of the main reasons for this was the performance from resident poet, Maria Ferguson (and she references Sarah Kane in this video!). She delivered a narrative poem, that really got me gripped and so I’d probably have to say she was my favourite of the evening.Though it’s hard picking favourites with such an array of talent, and diverse talent at that.

The Roundhouse Slam Champions performed and although I can’t remember their names, I wish I could because they were amazing. In turn, I felt wholly inadequate and old. One guy, who described himself as looking a bit like Sideshow Bob, gave a performance that mixed the comedic and the tragic, with some very poignant lines. Another guy gave a highly performative piece that incorporated subtle physical movements and voice control, giving the effect of cut-up text.

The female of the group had me welling up with  her poetry about mental illness, along with her sweet, soft voice, she came across as an emblem of strength and fragility. I hope I didn’t miss anyone from the group as I didn’t make any notes on the night!

The Ruby Kid was the last before the open mic (where I had to dash off). Back in the day he had complimented my poetry over MySpace, and I even performed alongside him at Speech Motion. I knew I would enjoy his set, but he was even better than I remembered. My favourite was ‘205 Panorama’ which had some really clicky lines – you know what I mean – lines that give you goosebumps and make your ears prick up. Sadly, I can’t find this one online so you’re going to have to see him live. It looks like he’s going to be running a night called ‘Howl’ in Shoreditch so I’ll have to check that out in the future.

The event also had some rather desultory activities such as throwing a balloon across the room to win a drink, and having a massive ‘bang’ hat. I wish I lived in Zone 2 and was like a full-time poet and writer, then I would be able to go to Bang every time.

In other news, my poem The Movement of Hands will be published in Issue 9 of Artemis Poetry Magazine. I’ve been sending out lots of submissions and I said to myself that I would be happy if even just one was accepted so I am very pleased! I’ve also got an exciting project in the pipeline for Novemeber 21st, with Apples & Snakes. Keep the date in your diary!

xxx