Tuesday, 13 September 2016

POEM - Skin

The villanelle is one of my favourite poetic forms - I really like the repetition and the constricted rhyme schemes, and I love how deceptively difficult they are to write as well! 

I've been trying to write a decent villanelle for about five years now. I'm still not sure if I've managed it yet, but I'm pretty happy with this one. I've completely re-written it about three times now, and it's probably still not finished, but I wanted to show it to you anyway. Let me know what you think.


You have no right to tell me what to wear;
and how I dress is no concern of yours
coz I’m in charge of how much skin I bare.

I thrive upon your disapproving stares
and you can't crush me now, so rest assured
you have no right to tell me what to wear.

I'm flattered by how much you seem to care
by pointing out my weaknesses and flaws
but I'm in charge of how much skin I bare.

I know my clothes won't lure some hungry bears –
I'm pretty sure I'm safe to be outdoors.
You have no right to tell me what to wear

A chair that's covered up is still a chair
and un-uphostered flesh still isn't yours.
See, I’m in charge of how much skin I bare

and, if I had to guess, I'd say you're scared
because you can't control me any more.
You have no right to tell me what to wear
coz I’m in charge of how much skin I bare.


Friday, 9 September 2016

FRIDAY NIGHT NEWS - Poetical, Verse Matters, and Hackney Downs

Hello there, stranger!

It seems like it’s been quite a long time since I last updated you on my wild and wonderful adventures. The reasons for this are two-fold: a) I’ve been quite busy and b) I forgot to do my blog last week. What a flighty poet, eh?

Anyway, since last we spoke, I have indulged in the following lyrical exploits:

1. I spent an evening in the company of a lovely group of musicians and spoken word performers at a new open mic event in Nottingham called Poetical. These monthly nights are hosted in this incredible little attic-top eatery called the Alley Cafe – a great intimate space way up in the rafters of one of the buildings just off the market square in the city centre. It’s a vegan and vegetarian cafe, and they do the best chocolate torte I have ever tasted in my life!

The show itself was really good too, with a nice balance between the music and the poetry. I was there under the auspices of DIY Poets, and it was brilliant to see some familiar faces performing in a totally new location. It was great to catch some excellent local musicians’ whose work was new to me too!

In fact, I had such a good night that I didn’t even mind falling in a puddle on the way home!

Angry sky tears

It was a pleasure to perform at Poetical, and I’m hoping to get back there again very soon.

2. Due to a last-minute drop-out, I managed to wangle a slot at Verse Matters, a wonderfully socially-conscious spoken word night in Sheffield. With a hugely diverse line-up, including talks from charities and social organisations, as well as a monthly collection for the local food bank, the whole event had a really positive community feel to it.

Many of the performers read pieces that related to the themes of injustice and social change, and there were great moments of humour, as well as some really searing pathos too.

Of course, my contribution to all this was a few silly poems about genitals. What can I say? At least I’m consistent!

Photo by Vicky at Hive South Yorkshire

 The next Verse Matters is on Thursday 6th October at Moor Theatre Deli, and you can check them out at their website here.

3. Then, last weekend, I went along to That London to take part in the second ever Fourth Wave Feminist Solidarity Festival in Hackney Downs – and it was such a brilliant day!

The event was hosted by an amazing group of fourth wave feminists, who had done some mega organising in order to create a festival that was full to busting with incredible speakers, workshops and activities. While I was there I saw a lecture on the problems faced by factory workers in developing countries; an inspiring talk by Saba Shiraz on the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK; a thought-provoking speech by Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party; and a great talk on menstrual health by Mandu Reid from The Cup Effect.

There were also talks by LGBT+ groups, abortion activists and feminist academics, as well as workshops facilitated by trans rights organisations, self-defence instructors, and gender equality organisations. There were performances from musicians and poets (including Bridget Minamore, who is one of my absolute favourites!) and there was even a feminist book swap shop as well!

Doing some poems at the festival

I was really impressed by the organisation and inclusivity of the event, and it was wonderful to be part of such a positive and enlightening experience too! If you're based in London, why not seek out the Fourth Wave group, and get involved in all the lovely stuff they do?

Also this week, I've had a couple of pieces of good news from writing competitions, which is both unexpected and lovely.

The first piece of good news was that one of my poems is going to be published the Great British Write Off anthology this year, which is really exciting!

#GBWO is quite an unusual competition, because gives poets of all ages and abilities the chance to compete for a prize fund that increases by 50p with each entry the publishing team receive. This means that it’s in everyone’s interest to encourage their friends and relatives to try their luck as well, which is quite a clever way to increase participation if you ask me!

The top one hundred poems will be published in an anthology which comes out next year, and the judges are currently deliberating over their first, second and third place decisions – so keep your fingers crossed for me! We’ll find out the winners in early 2017.

The second piece of good news was that the lovely people at Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis have published another one of my poems, gawd bless ‘em!

The poem they published was a bawdy little number about the Owl and The Pussy Cat getting a bit lairy in a down-market curry house, and I’m really pleased that they liked it enough to put it on their website! You can check out the poem here.

Upcoming gigs:
This Sunday (11th September) I’m going to be doing a few poems at the Nottingham Green Festival, which is taking place in one of my favourite green spaces in the city.

We’ll be on site at the Nottingham Arboretum from 12pm to 6pm, with loads of free live music, outdoor entertainment and activities plus community stalls filled to the brim with refreshments, ethical products and energy-saving technologies.

It’s a grassroots event, with a real community-based spirit, and this year they had a whole tent dedicated to spoken word! There’ll be oodles of poetry goodness, with over four hours of performances starting from 1pm.

I’m on at 1:40pm, and I’ll be hanging round all day to watch the poetry, so hopefully I’ll see some of you there!

Friday, 2 September 2016

POEM - The Fence

I don't usually write a lot of capital P Political poetry. But, as part of my solicitation of subjects for poem commissions, the very lovely Trevor Wright suggested that I write a poem about a fence. It ended up going a bit political. (Or a lot political really.) And a bit anti-Brexit.

And long. Really really long. I reckon it's only a first draft, but let me know what you think.

The Fence
When marking out the land you own
It makes a lot of sense
To purchase and construct yourself
A lovely sturdy fence.

See, hedges are for losers and
A moat is too intense –
Just bite the bullet, grab your tools
And build yourself a fence.

A wall is too conspicuous
And may cause some dissent,
But everyone agrees upon
The merits of a fence!

It keeps the sheep inside the fields.
It’s basic common sense:
We’re guarding all the things we own
By putting up a fence.

It’s simple economic law;
It’s shiny pounds and pence.
We’ll protect what’s rightly ours
By building up our fence.

You see, the world is horrible!
It causes us offence!
And so we’ll hide, all safe inside
The confines of our fence.

This country’s going to the dogs!
It’s not some lame pretence:
We really do feel better when
We’re locked behind our fence.

It’s keeping out the foreigners:
The ones with weird accents.
The scroungers and the loungers
Cannot penetrate our fence.

We're shunning all the terrorists,
The Lefties, and the French.
There's nothing they can do to get
Inside our lovely fence.

Will no one help the Middle Class?
Don’t leave us in suspense!
We do not want to pay our share –
We want to build a fence!

We’re unrelenting nimbyists;
Our fearfulness intense.
And so we seek to rationalise
The building of a fence.

We've lost all our humanity;
Our empathy's been spent
And now we cannot think beyond
The boundaries of our fence.

Compassion's not transactional
But that won't pay the rent.
We just don't want to share our stuff
With those beyond the fence.

It's true that migrants contribute,
But, what with world events,
We'll take our chances, if you please,
Encircled by our fence.

And we can keep our trade, you see,
We'll scoff with confidence:
What's mine is mine, what's yours in mine;
It's not a two way fence.

But when we have our heart attacks
Who'll drive the ambulance?
It's likely to be someone
On the outside of the fence.

And when supplies are running low
Who'll bring us sustenance?
We'll find that we're forgotten
When we're locked inside our fence.

“Compassion's not transactional!”
It's too late to repent.
And they won't hear us sobbing
From the outside of the fence.

And after all, what will they gain
From mounting our defence;
Why go where you're not wanted, right?
Why go inside the fence?

Compassion's not transactional
But sometimes it makes sense
To think about the consequence
Of putting up a fence.

Divide and rule! The Hue and Cry of
Engineered decent;
The only way stop it is
To take away the fence.

When focused on the barricades
We cannot be content
But once it's been destroyed we'll see
The folly of the fence.

There's more to life than bits of land –
Don't follow the consensus.
Remove the panels one by one:
Build bridges out of fences.