Thursday, 27 December 2012

Better Things - A New Year's Resolution Poem

This year
I will run the length of the country
I will run a marathon
I will run to the shops
I will try to stand up at least once a day

This year 
I will lose a stone
I will lose some weight
I will eat more sensibly
I will stop watching workout DVDs whilst eating takeaways

This year
I will abstain from all alcohol
I will cut down on my alcohol intake
I will only drink at weekends
I will try not to develop another chocolate liqueur addiction

This year
I will give up smoking
I will smoke fewer cigarettes
I will smoke lights
I will understand 'social smoker' is another term for 'scrounger'

This year 
I will learn to play the piano
I will learn to play the harmonica
I will learn to play the kazoo
I will learn that Guitar Hero is not a real instrument

This year
I will work my way out of debt
I will kerb my spending
I will only buy what I need
I will only buy new handbags if they are truly beautiful

This year 
I will progress to a management position
I will be best employee I can be
I will strive for better things
I will stop stealing stationary



*Disclaimer: This is a poem. In real life I do not smoke or steal stationary. I do, however, think Guitar Hero should be added to the standard classical orchestra set up.

Monday, 24 December 2012

RWA

In Northern Europe, the Robin has become a symbol of Christmas. But these aggressive little buggers don't quite represent the sentiment of the season for me.

Did you know that male robins are so protective of their territory, that they'll fight to the death, not just with other robins, but with any other little birds that try to muscle in on their turf? In fact, up to 10% of adult robin deaths are as a result of these battles! Hardly 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen', that.

Imagine what a robin could do to a person, if it thought it could get away with it?

RWA

The Robin Red Breast wears his colours on his chest
But it's no cummerbund or cravat.
It's the colours of his gang that, from his throat, do hang,
Signifying that he murdered next door's cat.

He downs cans of Special Brew and has a few obscene tattoos –
For fun, he drinks whole bottles of Night Nurse.
He may seem a sweet delight, but I once saw him start a fight
With a squirrel and the squirrel came off worse.

Watch the glint within his eye as he sees you walking by,
He wants to ambush and eviscerate you.
He sings a merry tune, but it's the soundtrack to your doom.
There's no limit to the bile with which he hates you.

As you're too big to take down, he simply hangs around,
Brooding on his blood lust and bad luck.
We've mistaken all of this, for avian friendliness
But be sure, if he could, he'd fuck you up.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

NEWS - A Year in Review

I know it's a horrible cliché to say it, but it really does feel like 2012 has gone far too quickly!

I hate to get all misty-eyed, but it really has been such an amazing year for me! I've been lucky enough to have so many fantastic opportunities and I'm always completely flabbergasted by the amount of love the spoken word community has to offer. So I'd like to take a minute (just sit right there) to thank everyone who invited me to perform at their shows, or accepted my poems for publication, or bought a copy of my pamphlet, or came along to see me tell some poems. It's all just been so incredible - so thank you!

If I had to sum it up in one word, I'd say that 2012 was a year of 'firsts':

I took part in my first Poetry Slam, as part of the National Poetry Rivals Competition and won second prize; the first time I've ever won money for my poetry (and hopefully not the last). I was runner-up in the first ever Fenland Poet Laureate Competition and I did my first ever paid gig as part of the Verbal Remedies poetry events in Peterborough.

I played my first gigs on the festival circuit, doing performances at Natural Rhythms, and Folk East, as well as taking part in the  Strawberry Fair Under 25s Slam. I even got my first heckle at the Natural Rhythms event - which is a pretty big deal!

I did my first performance as emcee, as part of the September Shindig Multimedia Show, introducing the bands and artists and (hopefully) entertaining the crowd with my poems in between sets. That gig led on to another show, supporting Jacqui & Geoff and their Band a the Cornerhouse in Cambridge.

I also did my first radio interview with the lovely Mr Patrick Widdess, and performed in front of one hundred and twenty people as a support act for Miriam Margolyes as part of the celebration of the works of Charles Dickens. 

Finally, I made my first poetry video with Blazej Mikula, about Zombies, and did a three minute set at the Camden Round House in that London, in front of proper poets! As well as all that, I also released my first poetry pamphlet through dead beat press. 'Inconceivable: Poems by Leanne Moden' is available now to buy for £4 plus p&p!

Phew! I think that's everything for this year.

I've been offered some fantastic gigs in 2013, so watch this space for details of New Years fun and frolics. Merry Christmas!

 ***

Incidentally, if you live in the Fenland area, the next call for submissions for Fenland Poet Laureate 2013 has just launched. Reigning champion, Elaine Ewart will be taking her rightful place on the judging panel and one lucky Fenland Poet will be crowned Laureate, with the chance to represent the Fens and literature throughout the year. Application forms can be found on the Atelier East Website. So what are you waiting for?




Friday, 21 December 2012

Tortured Artist

My life has been too comfortable
For the tortured artist tag.
I've never suffered a scary disease
(Apart from a little jet-lag.)

I've never been hurt in a break-up
I've never been hurt in a fight
I once stubbed my toe on a chaise-longe
I still twinges, but I think I'm all right.

I've got no great secret or scandal
(Though I'm socially awkward as hell)
No hobbies or interests to speak of,
I was never inclined to rebel.

I don't hold much faith in religion
And politics isn't for me.
I wear a frown though comfortably well-off
I'm beige to the core, can't you see?

To simulate angst I've been stabbing
My arm in the leg with a fork.
The truth is, I don't feel inspired
But I've gained a slight limp when I walk.

I've jabbed myself hard in the nipple;
My friends all looked on in concern.
'Don't worry you guys, I'm a poet.'
I protest as I self-Chinese Burn.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Essex Lion

 Because I have my finger on the pulse of current affairs, here is a poem about the lion spotted in Essex in August of this year...

The Essex Lion

He was sighted, first, in Clacton.
He was glimpsed at down in Greys.
The locals were beside themselves,
As the hours turned to days.

The bandwagon was leapt upon,
Local tourism was dying
Until, by chance, a new attraction:
The fabled Essex Lion.

It took little time to cash in,
Mugs and T-shirts made with ease,
And let's not forget the rubbish jokes
From a thousand twitter feeds.

Did he escape from a local zoo?
Had he nefarious intentions?
Was he here to get a spray tan
And some newer mane extensions?

Had he come to DJ at the clubs
and bars on Brentwood high street?
Was he nothing but a fat tom cat
Or a poetical conceit?

Had he met a girl from Essex
In Kenya, while on the booze,
Heard that her name was Savannah
And just got a little confused?

After several weeks of nothing
the reporters were restless and sighin'.
By now, if you said that you'd seen him,
we're pretty sure that you'd be lion.

It may have been a hoax,
but it wasn't all that funny.
Turns out, the Essex Lion
was just some moron in a onesie.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

NEWS - Folking, Filming & a Busy December

It's been a pretty exciting week for me this week! I've done some more Dickens-related work with the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, offended some people with my bawdy poetry at a local folk night and - best of all - filmed a few poetry videos!

Well, in reality, it was local photographer Blazej Mikula who did the actual filming, I just stood around spouting nonsense in front some lights. So you know, it was just a normal Saturday afternoon for me really...


Blazej was kind enough to ask me to be the subject of two of his videos for his upcoming website. And who am I to refuse the chance to be in front of the camera?

It was actually pretty nerve-racking, as I've never been filmed before, but Blazej was a consummate professional and the whole thing was a lot of fun! All in all, we spent about four hours shooting short videos for 'Zombie Love Song' and 'Shaving Grace'. 

In order to achieve a good mix of shots, we filmed the same sequence over and over - and the repetition was actually really beneficial for me. I now know both those poems backwards and inside out! Keeping the speed, rhythm and intonation the same for each shot was quite tricky, but I don't think I did too badly for a first-timer!

I was also filmed 'eating a watermelon slice like a ravenous zombie' - which was pretty bizarre!

The draft edit looks fantastic, and I'm really excited about the release. I'll let you know as soon as the videos are on youtube: watch this space!

The night before my celluloid début, I went along to my very first Folk Open Mic Night - and enjoyed it so much that I'll be going again in the New Year!

The folk nights are held at Denver Mills, just south of Downham Market, and you couldn't ask for a better venue! The room itself is in a converted hayloft, with views of the mill buildings. Out there, in the middle of the Fens, you do feel very cut off from everything, even though there's a Tesco and a 24 hour garage just round the corner. Still, with the mist rolling off the marshes and the Christmasy chill in the air, it was all very atmospheric.

We began the night with a slap-up pie and mash dinner in the Windmill café, followed by some delicious puddings! Then, once we were all sufficiently stuffed with food, we made our way to the loft.

It was a great night; one of those evenings where everyone in the audience seemed to have a hidden talent, and everyone was encouraged to share and participate. Small, supportive venues like that are often the most rewarding. I went along with Elaine Ewart, the Fenland Poet Laureate, who read some fantastic poems about eels and lamas. Elaine and I were both invited to a poetry open mic night in Downham Market too, so we'll definitely be checking that out in the New Year! 

Then, on Wednesday, I was one of several poets on stage at the Thomas Clarkson Community College in Wisbech, helping to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens. The local museum, the Wisbech and Fenland, is currently exhibiting the original manuscript of Great Expectations, and the event, funded by National Lottery money, was held to publicise the exhibition. I've probably talked about the manuscript before, but it's just so unfathomable to me to think that a document - in Charles Dickens' own handwriting - could be owned by such a small town museum. It's fantastic to think that such a piece of cultural history is available to see, so close to home!

Anyway, I read two of my Dickens themed poems (written for the Miriam Margolyes event which I hosted in Wisbech last month) and it was lovely to get such a good reaction from the crowd. I gave my details to a few of the audience members and the organiser, David Wright, said that people had been asking if I had any published work for them to buy. It's always lovely to hear that people like my stuff, so I'm really chuffed that I got the opportunity to go!

Next week is another busy week for me, with Hammer and Tongue on Wednesday night, the Christmas party at the Cornerhouse on Thursday night and some super special poetry stuff in that London on Saturday night! I can't wait!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Gawain and the Green Knight

King Arthur and his men sat down;
A courtly party, in the round.
On Wetherspoons they had descended
(The pub, by Merlin, recommended.)
’Twas chivalry they were espousing,
Though most of time was spent carousing.

They'd come to dine, all twenty seven,
For 'twas the birthday of Sir Kevin.
A dinner most Arthurian
Of egg and chips and beer and ham.
But as they laughed and supped and ate,
Foul spinners span the threads of fate.

For those who play from dusk till dawn
Know out of mead are bust-ups born.
And Sir Gawain, hot-head lout,
Would likely get them all thrown out.
As, if his armour had one chink,
'Twas that he could not hold his drink.

And so it was, some knights strode past,
With gasp of breath and crash of glass
The pint was knocked from Gawain's lips
And larger doused his fish and chips.
As soggier his food became,
He wheeled around for one to blame.

“Oi Green beard! You colossal tit!”
“Leave it Gawain, he ain't worth it!”
The Knight, who stood o'er six feet tall,
Addressed Gawain in languid drawl,
“'Twas not I who spilled your pint,
“But, if you're spoiling for a fight..?”

The Knight was fast, but Gawain faster,
And none could move to halt disaster,
For, quick as light, his sword unsheathed,
The Green Knight's neck, in two, was cleaved.
His head hit carpet with a thud,
His green cloak stained with bright red blood.

The party shocked, a silence fell,
Sir Kevin claimed to feel unwell.
And yet, through all, the Knight still stood,
A headless figure stained with blood.
From on the floor the head did cough,
The Knight reached down, raised it aloft.

The eyes snapped open, sharp as claws,
“What the fuck'd you do that for?"
"I bare my neck, you go and strike it?
“Next year: my turn. See how you like it!”

And with a flourish, the Knight had gone
To sellotape his head back on.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Fancy Dress

Seems a woman can't dress as a zombie
without flashing a flush of her flesh.
This fashion for sexing up costumes
is ruining my fancy dress!

I know that we're all grown up women
and we can't dress like kids any more,
but, tell me, is there a mid-way point?
Or do we jump straight from princess to whore?

It's fine if you want to dress sexy,
but not every costume needs tits.
What happened to our imaginations?
What happened to outfits with wit?

I know that we're all grown up women
and we can't dress like kids, that's for sure.
But, there's got to be some sort of mid point?
I can't go out in my pants any more.


Friday, 12 October 2012

Bad Kisser

When we first met, I found you quite charming
But that impression began to cave in
The first time that I let you to kiss me
And you licked me from forehead to chin.

I knew that you weren't great with women
Now finally I understood why.
(Being able to suck on my tonsils
Is not something I want in a guy. )

I still feel the pang of revulsion
When I think of your molars on mine.
The clash of enamel connecting
Sent chills to the base of my spine.

I know you were just keen to please me,
But your technique was really bizarre.
You formed a tight seal round my head holes -
It's not suppose to be like CPR!

In order to give you some feedback,
(Please know that I'm not one to quibble)
We women don't like to be moistened
with silvery trails of dribble.

Not that it wasn't impressive –
The incredible girth of you tongue –
But the ravenous way that you wield it!
You damn nearly punctured my lung!

If I'd known that you packed so much suction –
Like a back hole in fashionable jeans –
I might have asked you to hoover my carpets:
Euphemisms, unheard, like my screams.

But, now that you're gone, I feel lonely;
Normal kisses just don't fill the space.
Turns out that, though I protested,
I want you to chew on my face.

I saw you gnawing the tonsils of some girl
In the precinct by Iceland today.
And I know for a fact that I've lost you
The Bad Kisser who slipped clean away. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Third

I think it must be three, or four,
I've lost my count, not keeping score.
It could be less, it could be more.
I think it must be three, or four.

I know – I'm sure – that I was third.
Not wife, nor mistress. I was lured
by promised love, by gentle words.
I know – I'm sure – that I was third.

The first, a wife, now grey with wear.
The second, with the auburn hair
and me, so slight I'm barely there.
The first, a wife, now grey with wear.

Her perfume, to your shirt, still clings.
The fourth, a blonde, the one who sings
and talks to you of diamond rings.
Her perfume, to your shirt, still clings.

It is too hard to hide a lover.
We each must know about the others.
Change the sheets, discard the covers;
it is too hard to hide a lover.

So, tacitly, I give consent,
by knowing how your time is spent.
Not mine at all; a love for rent.
Still, tacitly, I give consent.

And, each time the thought appals,
I run with haste, escape these walls.
But I'll return to heed your calls.
Half-love preferred to none at all.

Monday, 1 October 2012

News - Shindig at the Leper Chapel

The Shindig event at the Leper Chapel on Newmarket Road was so much fun! And what a beautiful venue!
 
The whole night was really amazing, and all three of the musicians were incredible! The artist Chen Xi, was also fantastic, and it was so great to be involved in such a multimedia extravaganza!

The room was cold but atmospheric, lit as it was, with candles and fairly lights.

Lovely sound engineer Matt Cooke recorded my set and you can listen to it (and download it) here.

We also got a great review in the local secrets ezine, so I'm really pleased about that.





Monday, 24 September 2012

What the Dickens?!

On Thursday 27th September at 11.30am, the Angles Theatre in Wisbech will play host to an afternoon dripping in all things Dickens!

To celebrate the exhibition of the original manuscript of Great Expectations, on show at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, actor Miriam Margolyes will be joining us onstage to give us her unique interpretation of the characters from the classic novel. 

There'll also be some great performances from local drama groups, who will be exploring some of the lesser-known facts about Mr Dickens himself. 

And I'll be the one holding the whole show together! I'll be introducing the other performers, reading a few of my own poems, and generally acting as Ringmaster, Master of Ceremonies and benevolent dictator of the theatre. I might even be persuaded to read this one:

The Adventures of Miss Havisham

Turns out, in the end, I had to stop moping.
(Becoming a shut-in? I just wasn't coping.)
So I got dumped? I got jilted? Well, we've all been there!
I got back on the horse, coz there were men to be snared!
You see, being a single lady (of a certain age)
Is nothing to be sneered at, in fact, it's all the rage!
If Jen Aniston could do it, well, why couldn't I?
I donned false lashes and fake tan, set out to bag me a guy.
I wouldn't find a bloke gathering dust up in my room -
The world's a man-market and there's meat to be consumed!
So I went out on the town to get my broken heart healed,
(Though I swapped the dirty dress for a fuck-me* frock and killer heels.)
I needed rum and karaoke to make me feel alive!
So I got sloshed and took off my shoes and slurred to 'I Will Survive.'
I danced like a loon, shook out the cobwebs (quite literally)
Show all those youngsters I'm not yet fit for antiquity.
Got kicked out of the club for dancing on the bar,
(They might not have minded, but I'd stripped down to my bra...)
Got some stars inked on my ankle in a dodgy tattoo place
(Really glad they dissuaded me from having one put on my face.)
Pinched several men's bottoms (don't begrudge a cheeky grab!)
Then stumbled back to Satis with a doner meat kebab.
A smile on my lips as I crawled into my bed,
Nowt like a night of fun to get whats-his-name out of my head.

*might need to change this for the Thursday afternoon market.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Reach

The moon was within reach that night.
A glistening orb, a bird in flight.
As big as hell and twice as bright.
A great pearlescent peach to bite.
I'd break its skin with diamond teeth -
Burst the shell and pierce the sheath.
Extinguish night, there on the heath,
And banish, from you, all your grief.
The flesh the fruit would then, like sin,
Divulge to us through ruptured skin.
The luna juice would coat our chins
And light our lips as from within.
We would harvest all the seeds
And bury them, to suit our needs.
We'd grow great trees with glowing leaves
And no one, then, need feel bereaved.
Let brightened branches lead the way,
and make the night shine clear as day.
Light the path for those who stray
And keep the pain and hurt at bay.
Alas, the moon is out of reach.
A loveless rock, no glistening peach.
And life has lessons yet to teach.
All you have to do is reach.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

AA (Astronauts Anonymous)

It's the astronauts
who are in my thoughts.
(In the vastness of space, they get bored.)
And it's hard to cope
on a gyroscope,
being measured and tested and scored.

They need some libation
to avoid mental stagnation
so, occasionally, liquor is poured.
Space is hum-drum
until you've had a spot of rum.
*Enthusiasm levels restored*

In their bright white suits
and their fancy boots,
they explore all there is to explore.
Doing experimentation
without gravitation:
a glass of wine is their well-earned reward.

It's not reduced gravity,
but alcoholic depravity
that makes the moonwalk the one to record.
They keep falling over
because they're not sober!
Fixing spaceships while all drunk as lords.

But I don't think it's sinful
that they all want a skin-full
or a whiskey before they're on board.
You'd turn to drink too
if if it was down to you
to boldly go where no one's been before.
(Face down on the ship's bathroom floor.)



Monday, 27 August 2012

The Post Office

This list poem was based on a great piece called The Museum - which I first saw performed by the Norwich Poetry Choir in 2010. Sadly, the Choir no longer performs, so this is my homage to them and their wonderful poems.

The Post Office

The Post Office sells envelopes, packing tape and stationary.
The Post Office does not sell Adult DVDs.
The Post Office will not tolerate corruption within the institutions of government and deplores autocratic regimes in both the Western and Developing Worlds.
The Post Office will scratch your back, if you scratch its.

The Post Office encourages you to think about what you have done.
The Post Office is riddled with lice.
The Post Office was constructed from bricks composed chiefly of lost postcards, missing letters and unattended baggage.
The Post Office would like to remind you not to read the walls.

The Post Office is afraid of spiders.
The Post Office will never grow old.
The Post Office regards all major deities irrelevant, unless they carry the correct postage.
The Post Office is learning the ways of your people.

The Post Office does not sell Adult DVDs.

The Post Office operates an equal opportunities policy.
The Post Office is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The Post Office does not believe in a thing called love.

The Post Office is an eternal, benevolent, unblinking eye.
The Post Office has windows which are painted shut.
The Post Office called for you today, and when it found that were not in, it stole the brass numbers from your door using a miniature screwdriver.
The Post Office enjoys receiving complaints.

The Post Office closes at one pm for an hour of unfulfilled introspection and existential confusion, in which members of staff are invited to partake in musings on the futility of the human condition, discussions on the pointlessness of endeavour and ritualistic sacrifice. Cakes will be provided.
The Post Office does not sell Adult DVDs.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

NEWS - Folk East and September Gigs

So, despite the deluge of rain, the gig at the Folk East Festival was really good fun! It was a small but well-attended event, with a really great mix of people in the audience. The Get on the Soapbox stage was sandwiched between the two main stages, but being on the thoroughfare meant that there were plenty of curious passers-by, willing to stop and listen for a few minutes.

My own set was pretty well-received, with a small but appreciative audience who laughed and clapped in all the right places - always a bonus! I also managed to lure in more people who were clearly intrigued by the content of my poems. In fact, I even saw one man do a double take while I was reading Shaving Grace. (I'm pretty sure it was the 'meaty pocket' line that did it!)

I also managed to chat to some people afterwards and give away a few of my contact cards, which is nice. And it's funny, but I definitely felt more confident performing those poems that I have memorised. It made it much easier to interact with the audience and actually perform, rather than just reading the poems. A good reason to start learning more of my stuff before my next gig! 

And September is shaping up to be a pretty busy month for me:

On 1st and 2nd September, I'm off to Off the Tracks Festival in Derbyshire, to camp in the beautiful countryside and read poems to the festival-goers on the courtyard stage.

Then, on Sunday 9th September I'm performing at Verbal Remedies, one of the events being hosted by the John Clare Cottage in Peterborough as part of the We Love Words Festival. I really love the work of John Clare, so it's great to be involved in an event organised by the charity which bares his name. It's also my first paid gig, which is very exciting for me. 

Then, on Wednesday 12th September, it's the Regional Final of the Hammer and Tongue Poetry Slam in Cambridge. I'm especially looking forward to this one, because there are so many amazing poets competing, and it's always really nice to share the stage with great talent. Performing among great poets always spurs me on to a better performance, and the Hammer and Tongue nights always have such a fantastic atmosphere. I'm even learning a new poem for the night, so hopefully that will pay off!

I'm on the radio on Sunday 23rd September, doing my first ever piece on the airwaves. I'll be the guest poet with Patrick Widdess on Headstand on Cambridge 105. Patrick's show is an eclectic mix of music and spoken word poetry, and I'll be performing some of my poems live on air and chosing some of my favourite music and poems too.

Finally, on Saturday 29th September, I'll be hosting Shindig at the Leper Chapel in Cambridge. There'll be three amazing musicians performing - Lester J Allen, Paul Goodwin and Dave Gerard - and the venue will be decorated by artwork from excellent cartoonist Chen Xi.  Plus, I'll be steering the ship! It's my first time at the compère's mic, and I'll be introducing the acts, making sure everyone's having a good time and performing some poetry too.

 


On top of all these lovely events, I'm also researching, interviewing and writing for the Cambs24 news website. Recent post include an interview with spoken word poet Nikki Marrone, Ely Poetry Festival Organiser CaoimhínÓ Coileáin and Cambridge-based poet Holly McNish. Next to come will be an interview with Kumquat Poetry founder and Poet Flo Reynolds and local poet Jessie Durrant.

So yeah, a busy month ahead. Lots of first times and exciting opportunities. I can't wait!


Saturday, 25 August 2012

Writers' Circle Post - August 2012

The Madness of Lyssa

Jimmy had never held a gun before. The smooth wooden shaft, which had at first been so cold to his touch, had now warmed beneath his grasp, until it was almost an extension of his own arm. It felt as though the blood that coursed in his veins also flowed through the workings of the machine, in a kind a perverse symbiosis that had begun as soon has his pale fingers stretched across the hellish device.

Moonlight glinted off the metalwork as Jimmy stood by the empty house. The scene was a study in shades of grey, as unreal as a black and white movie, in which his own eyes served as shutters. He pushed his eyelids shut, and kept them that way for a long time. The continuing weight in his arms confirmed the reality of the situation.

Unlike most in his position, Jimmy had never felt the need to own a gun. His father had a few shotguns in the house, but those had long since fallen into disrepair. Besides the land on which the herds grazed was so remote that cattle rustlers were seldom seen, and any thief foolish enough to creep by the house would be seen to by the dogs. He had locked them in the house tonight, but they didn't bark and whine like they might ordinarily have done. They were scared too. This was not a night for dogs.

Jimmy moped his brow with the back of his shirt-sleeve, juggling the weight of the shotgun from arm to arm as he did so. The yard was still in the moonlight. Not the calm stillness of a summer's evening, but the tense, expectant silence of a narrative yet to reach completion. Jimmy looked about the yard furtively, the gun poised against his shoulder, muzzle pointed out ahead like an eyeless touch. He knew that she was locked in the barn, but the trip to buy the gun had taken longer than he had anticipated, and there was every chance she might have worked her way loose from her temporary prison.

The madness had descended suddenly upon her that day – like a mist rolling in from across the hills – leaving behind little but a familiar husk, empty like the discarded skin of a rattlesnake. She tore through the yard, hissing and snarling, baring sharp teeth and lashing out at the farm hands as they tried to calm her with gentle words. Jimmy had called to her with infinite softness, and seen her turn from him in confusion and denial. It was then that he realised that he must purchase a gun.

He couldn't buy one from the village. He was too well known there, and folks would like it odd that he had chosen now of all times to suddenly acquire a firearm. No amount of explanation would quell their feverish curiosity. It was better to be secretive, and to end an epidemic before it was given the chance to take root. Jimmy was afraid of prison, but he was more frightened of the suffering that she might endure if he failed to act quickly. She had always been loyal to him. It was only right that he perform this final act for her.

So the gun was sought with quivering hands, purchased at a store two towns over, from a man who didn't ask questions and didn't check his cards. The gun was sought and driven back to the barn, which lay still and silent in the twilight, a sharp contrast to the disturbance of his mind.

As Jimmy stood facing the barn across the yard, he shivered, though the evening air was frustratingly close and warm. The house at his back did not feel like a protective cavalry, as he had hoped it might. It was more like an accusatory jury, peering down at him from the darkened windows, judging him before the crime had even been committed. A nervous cough escaped his lips, as he tried to clear the cotton that choked him. The sharp noise awakened her and the inhuman howling began afresh. The barn door shook in its frame as she threw herself at it again and again, trying in vain to escape, and to bite. Snarling, frustrated and increasingly unhinged, issued from the building, like the howling of a trapped animal hungry for flesh. She threatened him through unseen jaws, her unintelligible ranting making Jimmy's heart thud painfully against his chest, willing him to fly and leave her to starve in solitude like rat in a trap.

The frame of the door buckled and sagged against the barrage and Jimmy could see the whites of her eyes, red and streaming, searching him out through the cracks in the panels. Those eyes that had once looked at him with nothing but obedient affection were now so filled with menace and fear, as if she were drowning in her own maddening rage.

Without warning, Jimmy's knees failed, and his legs collapsed like a folding chair beneath him. He landed face down in the dirt, prostrate before the rising tide. The gun pressed painfully against his ribs, cradled between his body and the earth, as if he were shielding it from the horror of the night. He could still hear the bolt straining to contain her as she heaved against it with all her strength. He could still hear her shrieking and howling, her yelps twisted by fear and malice. These sounds seemed fainter now, as if he were suddenly very far from the scene, and all the time moving further away. The earth smelt familiar and comforting against his face.

He did not know how long he lay there, drinking in the heady scent of earth and slipping in and out of consciousness. When he finally rose, shaking, to his feet, the gun still clutched close to his body like a treasured infant, the barn was quiet. Had she exhausted her passions or had the door been broken in weary persistence whilst he slept? The barn remained intact and he stroked the shaft of the gun absently, relieved that the defences had held during his absence.

Without knowing just how he had achieved it, he found himself at the entrance to the barn, looking back at the dark shadows of the house and the scuff marks in the dirt where he had fallen. Now that he was closer, he could feel a low growl emanating from the building, like the grinding of a rusted engine, painful and pitiful in comparison to the sounds of blind fury which had preceded it. She was entering the final stages now, exhausted from the thrashing terror and consumed inwardly by the disease. There was still a chance that she might lash out when cornered, and an infected bite would draw the madness deep into his own blood. There was not a doctor for miles, and the cure was worse than the disease.

His hand stretched out towards the heavy iron bolt, as he struggled to position the shotgun against his shoulder, which was bruised from the fall. In his youth, he had often seen his brothers shoot tin cans, and tried to remember the correct stance. The bolt in the centre of the door was rusted and creaked as he touched it. The soft growl within grew louder. The breath caught within his chest as he wrenched the bolt sideways and swung open the door.

Nothing.

The growling continued, coming now in laborious, racking bursts, almost like sobbing. Jimmy stood motionless on the threshold, waiting for something to happen. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he could see her, stretched out across the bales of hay in the centre of the room. She was panting heavily; her eyes rolled upwards into her skull and her head jerked backwards in painful spasms. Her limbs were contorted beneath her, twitching and flexing in agony as she struggled to breath.

Jimmy steadied the gun against his good shoulder and took aim. He closed his eyes tightly and, conflicted by sin and duty and half hoping to miss, he fired a single shot. All at once, the panting ceased.

He threw the gun aside and ran to her. He couldn't touch her. The fur of her chest was already thick with matted blood and the froth that had blossomed around her nuzzle would still be infected. Vowing to get the rest of the dogs vaccinated first thing tomorrow morning, Jimmy wiped his eyes, and went back into the house.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

NEWS - Roundhouse Poetry Slam

The second semi-final for this year's Roundhouse Poetry Slam was held last night in Camden in North London. And it was amazing!

It was my first time performing in London and I was really impressed by the standard of competition. Every poet who performed was excellent; I'm glad I was judging the competition!

There were fourteenth slammers, each performing two poems, one before the interval and one after the interval. The atmosphere was electric, and the crowd were incredibly enthusiastic which made the idea of going up on stage - in front of the biggest crowd I've ever faced - slightly less daunting.

All of the poets were amazing, and it was great to see such a vast range of talent on offer. There were funny poets and serious poets, beats poets and more traditional poets. There were rhyming poems, rhythmic poems, prose poems; poems about war and abortion, poems about earthworms and drunk-dialling.

It was an incredible night.

Unfortunately, I didn't get through to the finals, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. But every single winner last night thoroughly deserved a place in that final. It's very hard to feel anything but immense pleasure at being part of something so great!

I'm very smug that I managed to remember all the words to my two poems - as it was the very first time I'd ever gone 'off book'. In the past, I've always had my trusty notebook in my hand when performing, acting as a sort of safety net. But it's great to know that I can memorise and recite, and I'll definitely be learning more of my poems for the Hammer and Tongue Semi-Finals in September.

For me, the best thing about last night was the chance to get together with like-minded people and hang out. I only wish I had spoken to more of the poets performing, but my guts were in knots with all the nerves!

It was also a great chance to get some feedback from the judges, who are all professional poets with years of writing and performing experience. Polarbear, who was introducing the show, was really helpful. He said that I need to make my poems more personal in order to connect more with the audience.

 Inua Ellams was fantastic, and gave me a signed copy of his latest collection for free, saying that he really enjoyed my performance. What a lovely thing to do! Plus, the signed message was personalised too. I really can't wait to read the whole collection!

Kat Francois said she really enjoyed my stuff. (She actually said I was f*cking hilarious, which is such an amazing compliment!) She said she liked my quirkiness and the content of my poems, but, in order to improve I need to work on my delivery. I know that 'owning the stage' is something that I haven't yet had the confidence to do, so I'm going to take her advice, trust in the material and work on projection, diction and movement.

Another great thing about the night was just how friendly and supportive the audience were! So many people came up to me in the interval and after the show to say how much they enjoyed the performance. And the crowd laughed and cheered in all the right places when I was speaking on stage, so that's fantastic.

I must stop writing or I'll be gushing about it forever - but I'm really grateful to have been chosen to perform in the semi-finals and the whole experience has given me a taste for performing in the capital. Watch out London!

The final of the Roundhouse Poetry Slam takes place on Wednesday 29th August at 7.30pm at the Roundhouse in Camden in North London and tickets are just £4. I strongly urge you to go along; you definitely won't regret it!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Sonnet

If Frankenstein created his monster today,
He would not be ostracised, threatened or shunned.
His life would be captured by hacks in the Sun,
They'd fabricate his business and he'd feel betrayed.
Frustrated, our monster would take weeks away –
To exotic locations with beaches and sun –
But out of the bushes, paparazzi would come,
Desperate for photos of Frankie at play.
He'd be asked to sell perfume: Eau de Cadaver.
And, despite Rigor Mortis, get acting jobs too.
The fashionable folks would affect his skin's pallor,
So that all teenage girls glow a deathly grey hue.
To revive his flagging career, he'd take a gay lover,
And as obscurity beckoned, he'd appear on Big Brother.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

NEWS - Folk East Festival and learning my poems

On 25th August I'll be performing at Folk East, an intimate, three day folk and arts festival at Somerleyton Hall near Lowesoft in Suffolk.

The festival focuses on a mix of traditional, contemporary and world folk music, as well as performance and street arts and family-friendly workshops. Folk East is an eclectic event, renowned for showcasing local talent alongside established artists and musicians on the brink on success.

I'm really excited to be involved in the festival, working with Get on the Soapbox as part of their very first festival stage! I'll be performing on Saturday 25th August, on stage after 7pm, and sharing the lime light with some really talented people from around East Anglia.

Get on the Soapbox is such an excellent organisation as it allows local artists a platform at gigs, shows and festivals in East Anglia. It gives them that much-needed exposure and lets them hone their performance skills, while giving audiences the chance to see great live acts at grass-roots level. 

Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing the eloquent grumblings of Norwich-based poet and comedian Andy Bennett, and watching Peterborough Poet Kelly Mills always makes me deliriously happy.

But the best part about these events for me, is watching other performers and finding amazing new poets to gush about on my blog!

Also, check out the picture. My name is on the poster!



In other news, I've been thinking about learning my poems off by heart. Or some of them anyway. I know, I know! A poet should know their own poems, and I know that I wrote them, but they just don't seem to want to go back into my head once they've come out!

Anyway, since I have not one but two poetry slam competitions coming up in the next month, I thought I'd better try and make an effort.

I've been recording my poems and playing them back, listening to them when I walk to work. It's weird and a bit awkward hearing my own words spoken back to me - especially if someone asks me what I'm listening to! But I think it's working and I've managed to learn two fairly well so far. I've also learnt that my voice sounds terrible on recordings!

Here's a video of me attempting to recite a poem I wrote called Liaison. The first two stanzas are deliberately 'romantic', and the pay-off is in the final couplet, so bear with it!

I hope you like it! And apologies for the terrible quality of my camera phone!







Saturday, 4 August 2012

The Reverse Kafka


Gregor awoke late one morning
To find himself just as before.
But his mother and father were beetles,
Scuttling around on the floor.

The lodger was now a great fat slug,
Leaving silvery slime in his wake.
The cleaner had become a brown earwig,
All man-sized – it was too much to take!

Gregor was shocked by such changes
But there was simply no time for debate;
In the kitchen his caterpillar sister
Had slowly begun to pupate.

Gregor fled from the house then,
And stumbled out into the street.
All of the people were insects
With feelers and too many feet.

The bugs all began to crowd round him,
Till he felt his insides start to twist.
He wished he was a Lawyer or Banker,
And not a world-renowned Lepidopterist.

Gregor was desperate to reason
With the monsters, but couldn't keep pace.
In the end, he got his comeuppance,
Pinned forever inside a glass case.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

NEWS - Roundhouse Poetry Slam and Publications

This week a lot has been happening on the poetry front - which is great news, as other aspects of my life have not been running so smoothly...

First up, it's the amazing news that my application for this year's Roundhouse Poetry Slam has been accepted! I can't tell you how excited I am! I almost can't believe it! Exclamation marks!!!

It's such a big deal to get into the competition, because it's a national event and it will be my first big performance in that London. Previous entrants have gone on to do great things on the poetry circuit, so it's a great chance to get noticed and put myself out there. Plus, this year the slam is being judged by some amazing spoken word performers: Polarbear, David J, Kat Francois, Inua Ellams and Daniel Cockril. Just being able to share a platform with those guys is going to be ridiculous!

The first stage of the competition has been split into two heats - one on 15th August and one on 22nd August. I'm taking part in the second heat and I couldn't be more nervous! From what I can tell, it's a knock out type situation: all the poets will perform one three minute piece, then the best ones will go through and perform a second piece on the same night. The best slammers from each heat will then battle it out at the final on 29th August.

The winner gets £500 (the Colin and Helen David Prize) and the title of 2012 Roundhouse Slam Champion. It's a pretty sweet prize, but I know that competition will be really fierce, so I've been busy in the last few weeks, trying to put some excellent rhymes together. Watch this space.

If you're in the Camden area in North London on Wednesday 22nd August, why not come down to the Roundhouse and say hi? It'd be great to see some friendly faces in the crowd, and tickets are only £4, which is pretty reasonable considering you could be watching a host of future spoken word superstars!

 I also got a letter in the post today from the team at Poetry Rivals, letting me know that my poem, Liaison, was accepted for publication! It's being placed into their 2012 anthology, which will be available to buy in the Autumn.

It's always really nice to have your stuff in print  - but the best part is that all the poems in the anthology are now under consideration for the Poetry Rivals Poetry Slam 2012. The judges deliberate over the next few months, and select the fifty best poems from the anthology. The writers are then invited to perform at a special prize-giving event, with a chance to win £1,000 or a publishing contract with Bonacia ltd, the organisers of the competition.

I placed second in the Poetry Rivals Poetry Slam in 2011, and it'd be really cool to get through to the final again this year. The fifty finalists are announced in a few months time, so I'll keep you posted!

The last thing I must tell you is that I've started a community blog on my local news website Cambs24. The blog is called Literary Ely, and promotes spoken word, poetry and prose events and gigs in the East Cambridgeshire area.

So far, I've been lucky enough to be invited to review some great local events, as well as interview a really talented bunch of Cambridgeshire-based writers and performers. I'm hoping that the blog can grow and become a place for news and reviews on the Cambridgeshire arts scene, but we'll see. For now, I'm really enjoying writing about what I love and meeting really cool people.

You can find some of my more recent articles on the links below. -x-
Other Voices Review
Ian McEwen Review
Elaine Ewart Interview

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Birds

It was something that Beyonce said
That crystallised my views.
A tiny piece of wisdom,
Too interesting to lose.

She said (though I misquote her)
"I need no man to chase my blues!
"I'm an independent woman,
"I'll buy my own damn Jimmy Choos!"

I admire her liquidity
And sound financial means,
But does equality really boil down
To funding your own handbags and jeans?

Don't get me wrong, I want fair pay,
The glass ceiling should be shattered,
But I thought our worth as human beings
Was the value that really mattered?

Saying that men aren't required
Is negative and spiteful.
Belittling the boys won't make us look big
And sometimes a fish needs a bicycle.

We do ourselves disservice
With our combative, hateful words.
And men should have access to their children.
And women should not be called birds.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Premature Poet


I'm a premature poet –
The words come out too fast –
I just get over-excited!
And my rhyming never lasts.

I splurge an hour's performance
In fifteen minutes flat.
The poems fall in dollops,
Spent with a shameful splat.

It's just that I get nervous
(Though others say there's nothing to it.)
I find it hard to get relaxed
When you lot are watching me do it.

I'm a premature poet:
I always finish too soon.
I can't keep the verse from rushing out,
Like a figurative monsoon.

I want to satisfy a crowd
But just as I reach the peak
I leave them unfulfilled with a cheap sex joke
Then I'm embarrassed to even speak.

I've tried the pills and potions;
I've tried drinking pre-show rum;
I've tried applying 'delayed-action jelly'
But it just made my lips all numb.

Some people have suggested
That abstinence is key.
But I know I'd go blind on my lonesome
Reciting solo poetry.

So I'll keep on rhyming quickly
Blushing and feeling ashamed.
And you'll just have to bear with me
Until this poetic dysfunction is tamed.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

NEWS - Natural Rhythms and Verbal Remedies

Last Saturday I performed as part of the poetry tent at the first Natural Rhythms Festival. It was a really cool event and everyone seemed to be having a great time, despite the mud and lack of sunshine.

Natural Rhythms was held in a farmers field in the middle of the Fens in East Cambridgeshire and the event itself was pretty small, with only 1,500 tickets available for the weekend. That being said, there were four good-sized music tents, a poetry café and even a secret open air stage, hidden in its own woodland clearing. The limited number of people gave the whole thing a really intimate vibe and the rain meant that there were plenty of filthy-footed festival-goers crowding into the tents. They came to shelter from the rain, they stayed for the live music and performances.

There were around ten poets and spoken word acts performing in the Naked Ape Café on the Saturday evening, and every performance was excellent. Even though the event was billed as a music festival, there were plenty of people keen to sample other entertainments, and we were grateful for a small but appreciative audience of around twenty people. My particular favourite acts were local poets Hollie McNish, Jessie Durrant and Nikki Marrone as well as Hull-based punk-poet Jim Higo and Norwich wordsmith Russell J Turner.

My own set went pretty well and I even had a few people come up to me afterwards to ask for more info, which is always nice.

But I was left in the same awkward position - again - scribbling my details on a scrap of paper while other performers had nice shiny cards with their contact details on them.

I've thought about business cards before, but something's always held me back. I suppose I feel like only 'real' poets should have business cards, and I always feel like I'm just doing this for fun. Still, when you have to write your website address on the seventeenth beermat, you know its time to do something. So this week, I got my own cards:


Gunmetal on Eggshell


I'm actually really pleased with how they've turned out! Hopefully people will still ask for them, now that I have some to give out!

In other news, the Peterborough Arts Festival, which was due to happen last Sunday, was cancelled at the last minute due to the wet weather. It was a real shame, as I'd spent a lot of time writing a entire new set for this event, but at least I now have twelve new poems - some of which might even be good enough to perform!

And luckily, the nice people at the Peterborough Arts Festival didn't want me or the other commission winner to miss out, so they have organised for us to perform at the next Verbal Remedies event, at Beckett's Chapel in Peterborough on Sunday 9th September.

Verbal Remedies is being hosted by the We Love Words Festival for the benefit of arts and engagement programmes at the John Clare Trust. The gig features myself and Alex Tyler as well as poet and playwright Luke Kennard. It promises to be a cracking show, so if you're in the Peterborough area on the 9th September, please do come down and say hello.

It's actually less than two months away - I'd better start writing some material!

Writer's circle post - July 2012

 Six Hundred Years

David winced and forced back the swollen flesh, peeling blackened skin across bloodshot eyeballs. The lids had swelled as the bruises blossomed and now only deliberate, painful effort could stop his eyes from closing completely. His vision, blurred as it was at the best of times, now drew in on all sides, and the edges of the room became unknown to him.

He could no longer see the other men. But they did not cease to exist, as he wished they might. Instead, they were shapeless entities, vague noises shifting and moving in the darkness beyond his perception. Like shades, moving beyond the veil; they were ghosts, these men who had yet to die. These men who had not yet fulfilled their purpose.

There were only three of them in the chamber. It was a long, low room with a riveted hatch pressed into one wall and rows of shuttered portholes running the length of another. Each surface was a patchwork of metal sheets, bolted together in a haphazard manner like a hastily-constructed submarine. The craft itself did not seem sea-worthy, and, as it began to move, the bolted sheets rattled, shifting against one another like tectonic plates.

Though the light in the cabin was dim, David could smell his fellow detainees cowering, as he did, in the darkness. The pervasive stench of gangrenous flesh and unwashed rags hung heavily in the air and David wondered if there might be thousands more aboard the shuttle, in other chambers just like this one. Men hidden in the wheel arches and crammed into the baggage decks, their pitiful screams muffled only by the sound of the engines.

More likely, the scent of fear had accumulated over the years, permeating the pores of the iron hull of the shuttle as it ferried its human cargo to the ultimate destination. After all, it was not a pleasure cruise. The health of the passengers was of low priority and there was no return journey. It was clear that the ship was not cleaned between flights. The stink of filth and ammonia mixed in the foetid air; the floor was slick with piss.

“My friend?”

The hiss, low and loud and close to David's right ear, wretched him from his own thoughts and startled him so much that he cried out in shock.

“Shhh! Do you want those guards to come back?”

A European voice. Young and male. He couldn't have been more than twenty years old. Perhaps a freedom fighter? Or a defector, no longer willing to help the regime? The accent was British – a slight hint of West Midlands in his leaden vowels, but this had been heavily suppressed.

David thought, as the man spoke, that his words had a certain thickness to them, as if this detainee was struggling to talk through split lips.

“My friend, please. I wish to speak with you.”

They had tried this tactic before. David remained silent. He was nobody's friend. Not here.

He tried to lift his head, to get a better look at young terrorist from Birmingham, but the metal collar around his neck restricted his movement. His wrists and ankles had likewise been encircled in thick manacles, and great chains looped between them down to an iron ring which was bolted to the floor. The guards must have restrained him while he was unconscious, as he did not remember being shackled in this way at the compound. David felt the warm metal bite into his skin and angry red welts snarled beneath this unwanted jewellery. His every movement was punctuated by the dull metallic clank of chains.

A sudden, juddering movement caught David off balance and he stumbled, awkwardly shifting his weight to keep from falling. The shuttle was moving again. David was dimly aware of the nausea rising in his stomach, and he consciously fought the urge to vomit.

Above him, a porthole had been left uncovered, and its shutter flapped impotently with the motion of the ship. Though blurred, David could make out bursts of orange light striking through the darkness out there beyond the six inch plate glass. The light illuminated a thin strip of bolted metal on the floor of the chamber and flung stark shadows across the hatch in the far wall.

Even though he knew it to be a fact, David found it difficult to accept that the craft was travelling at twice the speed of light. His mind, like his body, was too bruised and broken to contemplate such a thing.

So instead, he focused on his breathing.

Shuttle sickness was common side effect on these flights. He had read that somewhere. The technology itself had never been refined; there was no call for it. Comfort was not the main purpose of the journey. Detainees did not deserve a comfortable ride.

In the darkness to his left, David heard the third detainee wretch violently. The smell of bile – that sharp scent of stomach acid, devoid of any nutrition – stung David's nostrils. The detainee sobbed and wretched and screamed. David turned his head away and rubbed at the flesh of his bare chest, massaging at the knot of fear that tangled around his lungs.

“I'm scared.”

The detainee to his right had spoken again, his voice quivering with alarm.

“Where are they taking us?”

David did not answer. He knew where they were going. When they were going.

“Do you know where we're going?” A whispered question that felt more like a threat. “Do you know what's at the end of this journey?”

The chamber was quiet.

The third detainee began to sob again, to curse his mother and his Gods and to make pleas to the heavens for deliverance. But no matter how loud he shouted, his cries could not penetrate the thin metal skin of the ship's hull. His Gods and his mother could not hear him now. He was beyond deliverance.

David remained silent.

“Your resistance is not noble, you know.”

“There is no shame in confession. None at all. In the end, it may even save you from what's to come.I think we're almost there now. There's still time to stop this, David.”

And still, David remained silent.

The man changed tact: “Don't you want to see your wife again? If you tell them what you know, you could go home. You could see your family. You have a very pretty wife.”

He gave a laugh, short and sharp, devoid of warmth or mirth. Like the bark of a dog.

“We're not allowed to torture you any more. I'm sure you know that. I'm sure you read up about your rights. Sure, we can still rough you up a little bit, force you to stay awake for days, deny you food. But we can't torture you now, not really. In the years before, we would pay less reputable countries to do the torture for us. But now...”

He paused, and David felt a hand on his shoulder. A jolt of panic shot through him and he flinched like a wounded animal. The agent laughed his dog's bark laugh once more.

“No modern country has the facilities we need for persuasion. Lucky, then, that this particular technology is available. It's expensive, of course; the shuttles and capacitors are not cheap, but the process always yields the desired results.”

“Where are you taking me?”

His words were raw, rasping and barely audible now that the thrusters had kicked into overdrive. David felt a shift as the agent rose from the floor beside him.

There was no metallic clank of chains.

The man lifted David's chin with his index finger; it was as powerful as a coiled spring. David stared into the agent's pale face. A livid red cut ran diagonally across the man's bottom lip, like a line drawn in the sand. The agent talked slowly and deliberately, navigating the scar as spoke. His narrow eyes radiated cruelty and contempt.

After careful contemplation of David's features, the agent sighed.

“Well,” he said, pulling his hand away from his victim and turning towards the escape hatch. “Don't let it be said that you were not warned. I'm sure you will find Vlad Dracul to be a most receptive host. Once we land, you and you friends will be relinquished into his care. You will not survive the ordeal. Goodbye David.”

The man with the slip lip opened the hatch and slipped out of the room. Darkness closed in once more and David felt the ship slow to a halt. He was six hundred years from home. Not even the Geneva Convention could save him now.