Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Christmas Clerihews

I'm a tiny bit obsessed by Clerihews at the moment, so I thought I'd do a few Christmas/New Year's themed ones, to keep myself busy during that weird Crimbo-Limbo period.

In case you're new to them, a Clerihew is a silly pseudo-biographical rhyme that takes a well-known person and imagines them in a completely different - and preferably ridiculous - light.

Clerihews are supposed to have an AABB rhyme scheme, a varying meter and a lot of forced rhymes, which makes them perfect for a little bit of seasonal silliness:
Santa Claus
breeds dinosaurs.
All the reindeer ran away –
now the raptors pull the sleigh.

The Krampus
has Sky Plus.
So when he's out eating babies
can you record Match of the Day, please?

The Queen
is completely green.
But she isn't a lizard, like Ike says,
she's just glued herself into some baize.

Jools Holland
likes eating pollen.
His mother was one quarter bee,
which explains the strange way that he speaks.

Krampus (not Jools Holland)

Saturday, 26 December 2015


I know how much of a cliché it is to do a 'Year in Review' post (in fact, I said as much last year). But it's happening and there's nothing you or I can do to stop it, so we'd better just ride the wave of nostalgia, all right? Get your memory surfboard, coz here we go:

January // February // March
2015 got off to a pretty exciting start when I did a supporting slot for Luke Wright at the Hammer and Tongue Poetry Slam in Cambridge. I helped judge the Cambridgeshire regional Poetry by Heart competition, performed at the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival, and my second pamphlet was published by Stewed Rhubarb Press. I also took part in the first ever Cambridge Anti-Slam, and Lunar Poetry folk interviewed us about the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards and Fen Speak (check out the interview HERE).

In February, I wrote sonnets with  Russell J Turner, Adam Warne and Andy Bennett, for our forth sonnet writing challenge, 28 Sonnets Later. I also performed at Trinity College, Cambridge, did a workshop with Y13s at Kimbolton School, and got the chance to be part of the judging committee for the Fenland Poet Laureate awards!

March was another busy month: I performed at Beasts and Bards, Listen Softly London, Espresso Library, and the Cambridge Speak Easy, and we announced the winners of the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards.

Beasts and Bards

April // May // June
In April, I did NaPoWriMo with some awesome poets from Cambridge, Norwich and London, and we each managed to write thirty poems in thirty days. I took part in Poetry to Go at the Cambridge Literary Festival, recorded some poems for the Peterborough Green Festival (podcast here), and did some poems at Rhymes with Orange in London. I had a poem published in Poems for Peace, featured at Tapas and Tales in Suffolk, and did a gig at Queen Mary University London.

My favourite gig in May was the Poetry Rivals Slam in Peterborough, and in June, I did poems at the Strawberry Fair in Cambridge and at The Chocolate Poetry Club in London town. I also travelled down to Camden for the first ever National Anti-Slam. Before we moved away to the East Midlands, I did my final Fen Speak show. And cried. A lot.

Chocolate Poetry Club

July // August // September
In July, I did Forget What You Heard (About Spoken Word) in London, as well as loads of poetry workshops as part of Arts Alive in Cambridgeshire. I also when down to Essex to perform in Colchester with Martin Newell, and did some poems at the first ever St Ives Discovery Day.

August is always a month of festivals, and this year I performed at the Colchester Free Festival in Essex, and Folk East in Suffolk. We also started exploring Nottingham, and I did some open mics with the DIY Poets and Poetry is Dead Good.

September was another busy month: I performed at the Superheroes of Slam competition in Leicester, and at the Nottingham Playhouse Open Day, as well as was the Stuff of Life Festival in Hedley Villas Park. I also got my poem published in the Fenland Reed, a publication created by this Year's Fenland Poet Laureate Jonathan Totman, and his partner Mary Livingston.

Stuff of Live Festival

October // November // December
In October I went back to Cambridge to take part in the Festival of Ideas and to do a workshop and performance for Allographic: Other Voices. Then in November, I did some poems at Word Drop at the Hop Hideout in Sheffield, and helped with some stewarding at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. Finally, in December, we had our first Crosswords gig in the caves under Nottingham, and I performed at Heard of Mouth in Leicester, and Speech Therapy and the Nottingham Poetry Festival.

Cave Poetry

Damn! That's a lot of stuff to get through. Congratulations if you managed to read that massive post! You win ten Cool Points (not redeemable in any shops).

Seriously though, it's been a fantastic year and I hope you've all had a good one too! Next stop, 2016!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

MONDAY NIGHT NEWS - Rave in the Cave

On Wednesday night, I spent the evening underground.

I wasn’t pretending to be a badger – Ok, maybe I was just a little bit! – but I was also hosting the very first Crosswords spoken word night at the Malt Cross in Nottingham.

It was the first event I’d organised since moving up to Nottingham, and I’d fallen in love with the quirky subterranean venue a few months’ previously at a heritage tour event. I wasn’t sure if it was a little too soon for me to be getting stuck in on the Nottingham scene, but if someone asks you to do poetry in a cave, it’s actually very hard to turn them down!

So I booked a featured act, put some info on facebook, and waited to see if anyone would turn up.

Thankfully, the prospect of underground poetry was a big draw, and we had a full house, with loads of people coming to watch and to participate. We had seventeen fantastic poets on the open mic, some of whom I’d seen before, while others were completely new to me.

We had poems about caves, poems about politics, poems about relationships, and poems about travelling. There were dark supernatural tales, poems about music, stories of families, and even poetry about poetry. It was a real mix of voices, and the variety and quality of the writing was undeniable. An open mic night is only as good as its volunteers, and I have to say that at my first event in the East Midlands, Nottingham did me proud!

So thank you to everyone who came along to participate in the open mic: Andrew, Andy, Chris, Orla, Claire, Martin D, Martin G, Stephen, Peter, Michelle, Sam, Patric, Sam, James, Phil, Jeff and Frank. 

And a massive, massive thank you to Hibword, our fantastic featured performer, who came in like a whirlwind of energy at the end of the night. When I first saw her at the Leicester Superheroes of Slam, I knew that I had to get her to Nottingham! Her poetry is utterly mesmerising, a beguiling mix of rhythm, rhyme, syncopated beats and dazzling imagery, and her performances fresh, exciting and completely frenetic! I couldn’t take my eyes off her for one second, and from the raucous applause she received at the end of the night, I know the audience felt exactly the same way. It was a total honour, and a great way to round up a brilliant night!

But, it wouldn't be right for the whole thing to go without a hitch, and sure enough... I spent most of the night snapping pictures, only to find that my phone had corrupted the files overnight. (Perhaps it didn’t like being so close to the earth’s magnetic core?) So sadly, there’s no photographic evidence of the event – except for this one blurry photo that I uploaded before all my files disappeared.

This is why I'm a poet and not a photographer...

So yeah, you’ll just have to take my word for it,that we had an excellent night!

And so, the follow-up plan is to see if the Malt Cross are keen for more poetry, with the possibility of starting up a monthly event. Fingers crossed, wish me luck and watch this space!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

POEM - The Kakapo

This poem was inspired by a conversation with Nottingham poet Martin Grey, who asked me to write something about the Kakapo, everyone's favourite endangered antipodean. Kakapos are beautiful flightless birds who live in New Zealand and almost suffered a similar fate to that of the Dodo. So here we go, this is a poem about the Kakapo:

The Kakapo is large and slow
And isn't scared of strangers.
A friendly bird. From what I've heard,
He doesn't notice danger.

The Kakapo has scaly toes
And undernourished wings.
He can't fly or climb so high,
But he's good at other things.

The Kakapo sings loud and low
Just like a baritone.
He wakes at night and doesn't bite;
His habits are well known.

His plumage gleams yellow and green
To help him camouflage.
And he's adapted to be rapid
When he's on the march.

The Kakapo, that so-and-so!
That feathered optimist!
His island home was overthrown
By human colonists.

The Kakapo wanted to know
The visitors' intentions.
So, curious, he caused a fuss,
And garnered their attention.

The colonists could not resist
A birdy so delicious.
The Kakapo was awfully slow –
And not the least suspicious.

This twilight owl was not a fowl
Who lived by trepidation,
And mariners did not discuss
New Zealand conservation.

And thus and so, the Kakapo
Is pretty much endangered.
And that is why, if you can't fly
You shouldn't talk to strangers.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS – Upcoming gigs and projects

When we moved to Nottingham from Cambridge a few months ago, I was really excited but also massively anxious. A new house, new job and a new city all in one go?! Yikes!

And while I *was* worried about whether I’d like my new office job, or if we’d find a nice house to live in, it turns out that my main concerns were poetry-based. (As usual!)

After all, I’d met such an incredible bunch of people in the last five years poeming across East Anglia, and there’s no way I could be that lucky a second time around. Right?

Well, I can tell you that this is one of the only times in my life that I’ve been happy to be proved completely wrong! The poetry scene in Nottingham is so bloody vibrant! And inclusive, and egalitarian, and welcoming! And the scene in next door in Leicester? Excellent. And the scene over the border in Sheffield? Amazing!

I feel really grateful to have landed in such an awesome place!

And I’m really excited because I’ve managed to meet some fantastic people already, and get involved in some really exciting gigs and projects, the first of which is due to start next Wednesday, when I’ll be hosting my first open mic night in the city!

The event is called Crosswords, and it’s a collaborative project with the Malt Cross Pub, a refurbished Victorian music hall and community charity on St James’ Street. They’re always looking for new ideas for creative ways to use the space, so when I suggested a spoken word night, they were more than happy to help out.

The first show is happening in the caves underneath the pub – which is probably the coolest place ever to do poetry! We’ll have a guest set from the fabulous Hibword, as well as loads of open mic slots for poets, writers, and storytellers – and the whole night is totally free! How amazing is that? We’re so lucky that the Malt Cross are giving us the venue for free, and I can’t thank them enough for their generous attitude to spoken word! Arrrrrgh! I’m so excited about this one, you guys!

If you want to come along and strut your poetic stuff, you can sign up to the open mic from 7:30pm, and the show starts at 8pm! It’s going to be gloriously terrifying, and I can’t wait!

As well as doing a bit of compering, I’m also going to be performing a couple of sets at various events over the next few months. I’ll be in Leicester at Heard of Mouth on 17th December, and after Christmas I’ll be doing House of Verse on 16th January (also in Leicester). The, in February, I’ll be doing a featured set at the DIY Poets’ gig at the Maze on 11th and sharing a couple of poems as part of Poetry is Dead Good on 16th. It’s going to be a busy start to 2016!

On top of all this, I’m starting a new project, writing lyrics as part of a collaboration with a musician called Ian Baggott. I have never written a song before in my life, but after Rob Green’s song-writing workshop at Book Off last month, I thought ‘Why Not?’ I’ve also got a couple of top secret poetry schemes up my sleeves, so look out for those in the New Year too! So that's all pretty exciting!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

THURSDAY NIGHT NEWS - Nottingham Poetry Festival

I’ve got so much to tell you - I don't know where to start! This is what happens when you leave it so incredibly loooooooong between posts!

The last couple of weeks have been really hectic, and there are some really exciting things coming up on the horizon, but I’ll save those for a later post… (I am such a tease!)

So, what’s been happening over the last few weeks? Well, the first ever Nottingham Poetry Festival has been running in town over the past fortnight, and it’s been fantastic!

The main festival events were organised by Nottingham-born poet and TV producer Henry Normal, and featured some big name talent with the likes of Luke Wright, LemnSissay and Attila the Stockbroker all performing in the city. But the best part about the festival was that it publicised all the year-round grassroots spoken word nights as part of its programme, giving Black Drop, Poetry is Dead Good, Speech Therapy and others a chance to engage with a wider audience. 

One of the first festival events was Book Off, on Sunday 22nd November, which took place in the awesome performance space upstairs at Rough Trade Records in the Creative Quarter.

The organisers, Ben and Sobhian, are aiming to start a monthly event to bring together local writers, performers and workshop facilitators to create a brilliant interactive programme based around literature in all its forms. And if they carry on like they did at the first event, they’ll have no problems at all! (Hint: it was awesome.)

As part of my evening with Book Off, I attended a song-writing workshop, performed in a poetry open mic, watched a Q&A with three novelists, and enjoyed a sketch show by a local all-female comedy troop called ‘Major Labia’. (And honestly, how can you not love them with a name like that?!) I also saw some brilliant poetry from the Mouthy Poets, Black Drop and the marvellous Ben Norris, as well as some amazing Hungarian folk music, and two poems about pubes!

Suffice to say it was an eclectic and incredible night, and I can’t wait for the next one!

On Tuesday 24th November, I performed a short set as part of the DIY Poets show at the Lofthouse in Hockley. 

The Lofthouse is a really quirky little venue, accessed via a buzz release door and up four flights of stairs (Just one floor below a pole-dancing school!). Once you find your way to the right place, it’s a gorgeous little bar, all decked out with fairy lights, candles and plenty of rum!

And the DIY Poets had a trio of lovely ladies as their featured acts (A way to balance the lack of female poets in the main poetry festival line-up.) and Clare Stewart, Orla Shortall and Lytisha Tunbridge were all fantastic to watch! The shorter sets from other DIY poets were also really enjoyable and the whole night was completely free. You can’t say fairer than that really, can you?

On Thursday 26th November, I popped across to Bar Deux on Sherwood Rise, to take part in my first Speech Therapy open mic night. These events are hosted by local legend Miggy Angel, who’s a really fun and engaging compère, with a real honest and supportive hosting style. 

 And there were so many people on the open mic! I counted twenty four, but I don’t know how accurate that was (Everything started to go a bit blurry after 11 o’clock!) Still, the standard of poetry was incredible, and I don’t think I looked at my watch all evening. A sure sign of a good night out!

I particularly liked Miggy’s ode to poetry ‘this poem is for you’ and Andrew’s political parody of Bohemian Rhapsody,  which had the whole audience dancing in their seats! There was sinister prose courtesy of DIY Poet’s very own Prince of Darkness, Chris Page, and some fantastically bitter breakup poetry from first time open mic-er Tom.

I really like the inclusive way Miggy operates these events, which felt really welcoming and supportive, while also allowing poets to do edgy and subversive stuff, no questions asked. It really is the best of both worlds, and I’d definitely recommend Speech Therapy if you ever find yourself at a lost in Nottingham on a cold and wintery Thursday evening!

So I’ve been to a lot of events as part of the poetry festival. But some other stuff has happened too.

I had a poem published by I Am Not A Silent Poet, the online magazine that speaks out against abuse in all its forms. There’s a lot of brilliant poetry on the website, and I’d encourage everyone in the world to check it out. You’ll be bowled away by the depth of feeling, and the quality of the writing. Trust me. (You can also check out my poem here.) 

And, because the Nottingham Poetry Festival has been on for the last few weeks, the Nottingham press have been really interested in local poets. I’m not sure if I count as a local poet yet, but I’ve been here almost five months now, so I chanced it, and got myself invited along to film shoot with Notts TV, our local telly station.

The shoot was actually a really cool idea: the folks from Notts TV wanted to film local poets reciting their poems, then add these short films into the footage from various other poetry festival events.  

And our poems were filmed in the caves under the Malt Cross Music Hall on St James’ street, so the whole ambience was proper spooky, and looked really good on camera! 

Originally, I was hoping to recite my poem off by heart, but after six failed attempts, I admitted defeat and read it from the pamphlet instead. I was a bit disappointed, but I think it turned out ok in the end!

I have no idea if the finished clip will make it to air, but if you’re within the Notts TV aerial range, keep a look out, just in case!

Then, on Monday 30th November, I spoke to a lovely lady called Jennifer for an article about the DIY Poets for the Nottingham Post. I was more than happy to sing the praises of the DIY Poetry Collective, who have been so incredibly welcoming and generous to me over the past few months. I can’t wait to see the article in print – hopefully it will bring even more people into the DIY Poets fold!

And, if all that wasn’t enough, we’ve also just launched this year’s Fenland Poet Laureate competition! (Yes, I’ve still got my finger firmly wedged in that lovely poetic pie!)

So, if you live, work or study in the Fens, and fancy yourself a bit of a secret poet, please enter our lovely competition! You’ll be in with a chance to be crowned Fenland Poet Laureate 2016, plus it’s completely free to submit a poem. So there’s no excuse not to, really, is there? 

For all the information about the competition (including details of eligibility) check out the Atelier East website here. And good luck!