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.


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.