Tuesday, 28 February 2017

MONDAY NIGHT NEWS – March Gigs and the end of 28 Sonnets Later

I can’t believe that the 28 Sonnets Later Project is over for another year!

It’s been wonderful working with Russell and Andy again, and equally wonderful getting to know Olly through his poems, and I’m really hoping that the four of us will get the chance to meet up in real life (Quelle horreur!) and maybe even perform some of this year’s sonnets in front of an audience!

"Hi Shakespeare, how's it going?"

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge this year too; we wanted to write 28 sonnets about the 28 members states of the EU, and it’s been a genuinely enlightening experience. I’ve learned that the Dutch are the tallest people in the world (on average) and that Skype was invented in Estonia. (Who knew?) I also found that some people think that Finland doesn't exist, and that the Swedish phrase for television static translates to ‘Ants War’ in English - which is one of my favourite facts I’ve probably ever ever learned!

I mean, it’s unlikely that any of this information will be ever be useful to me again, but in my opinion, there’s no such thing as useless knowledge!

Anyway, here are sonnets 13 through 28 for your reading pleasure:

#13 - Die Hermannsschlacht by Andy Bennett
#14 - An Emerald Heart by me
#15 NotwhatIthoughtyou'dsay by Olly Watson
#16 - All Saints' Day by Russell J Turner
#17 – Dynastic by Andy Bennett
#18 - Myrornas Krig by me
#19 – Cinderella Feet by Olly Watson
#20 – Southerscales by Russell J Turner

#21 - Navel Gazing by Andy Bennett
#22 – Imaginary by me
#23 - Wrapped in a White Sheet by Olly Watson
#24 – Christiania by Russell J Turner
#25 – Contramural by Andy Bennett
#26 - You Can't Possibly Rhyme Anything with Estonia, So Don't Even Try by me
#27 - And September Brings a Question by Olly Watson
#28 - 'the other' by Russell J Turner

You can check out the 28 Sonnets Later website to see all the poems in their natural habit, and you can follow us on Twitter for bonus sonnety goodness too!

I’m really going to miss the sonnet writing as February slides into March, but luckily, I’ve got some fun gigs coming up next month to ease the pain!

There’s no Crosswords in the caves in March (we’re taking a break so that I can celebrate mah birthday) so instead, I’ve managed to sneak my way into performing at three events that I’ve never been to before – happy birthday to me indeed!

The first one is the Against the Grain Poetry Slam, which is taking place on Tuesday 7th March at the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre in Lincoln town. I’m really looking forward to this one, as I haven’t stretched my competitive poetry muscles for about two years now! I’ve never performed in Lincoln before so I’m really stoked to see what the scene is like in the city – and hopefully there’ll be one or two lovely poets who I can pop on my Crosswords Featured Poet Wishlist too. (Seriously that Wishlist is getting EPICALLY long – I’m like a spoiled child writing to Father Christmas!)

Lincoln looks well nice! (Photo by Richard Croft)

Then, on Tuesday 14th March, I’m popping down to Peterborough to take part in Write Club, which is a really cool new show created by the very wonderful ‘borough bards Mark Grist, Charley Genever, Lewis Tappenden and Keely Mills.

Four teams of poets compete on the night, and the aim of the game is for each team to write twenty minutes on a theme chosen by an audience member. On 14th March, the theme will be “How the fuck did I get this old?” – a serendipitously fitting topic, given my BIG BIRTHDAY this month. The teams are judged on the night by a friendly audience of rowdy poetry lovers, and the winners will be crowned kings and queens of Write Club!

Pictured: some kings and queens of Write Club - probably...

Should be a good laugh, I reckon!

Finally, I’m rounding off my month in Cambridge for Sunday Night Lives at La Raza, which is a venue that I’ve heard a lot of good things about, but have never actually managed to get to. I’ve been invited along by the very local poet Mark McGivern, who runs the events, and I can’t wait to be back in Cambridge, even if it is for a flying visit.

When I left the city two years’ ago, the poetry scene was bijou but thriving, and I’ve been delighted to watch from afar as new events have sprung up, and established events moved to very swanky new venues. Now, I’m really excited to be going back to check it out in person, and bother all my Cambridge friends into hanging out with me too!

Cambridge looking very sunny indeed (Photo by Andrew Dunn)

Then, we head into April – spring will hopefully have sprung, and I’ll be super busy with all the Nottingham Poetry Festival events that are happening! (Seriously - I've managed to weedle my way into about seven events across two weeks. If I die of poetry-exhaustion, at least I'll die happy!)

Keep your eyes peeled for more information on all those lovely events coming soon!

Also, before I forget, the lovely folk at Left Lion were kind enough to let me waffle on about the Nottingham Poetry scene in the latest edition of their very excellent magazine. You can pick up copies of the Left Lion in all the cool bars, cafes and other nice places around Nottingham, or check out the digital version of the publication on their website. Let me know what you think of my adorably bad journalistic skills!

The offending article (with a marvellous head line pun!)

Sunday, 12 February 2017

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - Light Night, Hysteria and 28 Sonnets Later

Hello there, and welcome to February! It’s one of my favourite months of the year because February is 28 Sonnets Later month!

In case you haven’t heard of it before, 28 Sonnets Later is a little project that Andy Bennett, Russell J Turner, Adam Warne and I started in 2012, in which we give ourselves 28 days to write 28 sonnets on a given topic. In recent years we’ve tried our hand at ekphrastic poetry, and a collaborative sonnet corona, as well as writing a series of very silly but enjoyable poems based on the fictional town of Buckley Oak.

Barbara Hepworth's Family of Man - one of the pieces we sonnetified in 2016

This year, the 28 Sonnets Later team (with 28SL newbie Olly Watson) are writing sonnets based on the 28 member states of the EU. We’re doing this for two reasons: it’s a deliciously topical subject right now (And we love a bit of current affairs!) and, until Theresa May has her wicked wicked way, there are still 28 countries in the union – which suits our project perfectly!

Look at this cool EU (and EC) gif! Made by Kolja21

So far, we’ve collectively written twelve sonnets, which I have popped in a list below for your convenience:

#1 Vadleany by Andy Bennett
#2 ¿No es irónico? by me
#3 Notch by Olly Watson
#4 December 25th 1989 by Russell J Turner
#5 Moravianska Venuša by Andy Bennett
#6 Peckish in Amsterdam by me

#7 Flowers in Odd Bunches by Olly Watson
#8 Claretta by Russell J Turner
#9 Vive by Andy Bennett
#10 Massis by me
#11 Ruben by Olly Watson
#12 Melania by Russell J Turner

I genuinely love writing sonnets as part of this project – it really cheers me up in the long dark evenings of February! I always seem to get properly obsessed with the poems, so much so that I even start speaking in iambic pentameter, and I find myself accidentally rhyming in every day conversation.

These are the hazards of being a poet, kids!

Anyway, you can check out the 28 Sonnets Later website to see a new poem every day in February, or follow us on Twitter to keep an eye on all things sonnety!

Zombie Shakespeare FTW!

And, my audio soundscape poetry-based project 'Hysteria' is still on at the LiSTEN iN gallery in the Bonington Atrium at Nottingham Trent University from Monday 13th - 17th March. The twenty minute looped piece plays every week day from 9am - 6pm, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do pop down and give it a little listen.

The project is a selection of my poems which we've recorded and mixed with a bit of sound/music, and it focuses on female bodies, personal preference, and the subversion traditional femininity, all with a heaped teaspoon full of irreverence thrown in for good measure! Thank you to everyone who has been to check it out so far – it’s been really lovely to hear that people have enjoyed listening to it!

Hysterical? Me?

This week has also been a busy one in terms of gigs, with three Nottingham-based events in quick succession:

On Wednesday 8th February, we were back in the caves for another excellent Crosswords Open Mic at the Malt Cross, with an absolutely brilliant featured set from Jim Hall! Jim stunned the audience with heartfelt lyrical tales from his latest collection, BOY, and also gave us a sneaky peak at some of his newer work too.

The very excellent Jim Hall!

We also had some wonderful performances on the open mic, with a great mix of content, styles and experiences being shared on stage. It was another full house – which is always so lovely to see – and although we didn’t manage to get everyone a slot on the open mic, it was still a pretty great night!

Next month we’re taking a break from Crosswords, but we’ll be back in the caves on Wednesday 12th April with a massive featured set courtesy of Norwich-based poet Piers Harrison-Reid. Piers is an incredible poet, and I’ve loved his work ever since I saw him perform in Norwich about five or six years ago.

The supremely talented Piers Harrison-Reid

His stuff is beautifully-crafted, profound and philosophical, with a meticulous eye for detail and I love the way he takes his audience on amazing emotional journeys and I can't wait to hear him performing an extended set with us! So come check him out on Weds 12th April – it's gunna be wild!

Then, on Friday 10th Feb I went down to the basement of the Nottingham Writers' Studio for some Light Night celebrations with the DIY Poets.

Light Night photos from the West Bridgford Wire

Light Night is this festival in Nottingham where shops and organisations open their doors for an evening of illuminations based around the theme of Light. There's a huge ferris wheel in the market square, lots of glorious street food and tonnes and tonnes of lovely light displays and projections all over the city centre. It's a really cool event, which very much appeals to my latent pagan sensibilities!

This year, as part of the festival, the DIY Poets presented a curated poetry show on the theme of light and dark. Hosted by Frank McMahon and Martin Grey, and with short spoken word sets from ten of the DIY Poets, the event also served as a launch night for Kevin Jackson's first collection 'Touching You'. It was a great night with some really impressive performances, and it was wonderful to hear an extended set from Kevin. I can't wait to settle down and read his book now!

Finally this week, we had a little poetry road trip to Southwell for the Folk at the Hop Barn gig with Claude Bourbon.

Claude's guitar work was incredible!

There were four of us in our little poetry troupe: Hazel Warren, Martin Grey, Andy Szpuk and me, and we really enjoyed playing to a different sort of crowd. The audience were clearly not expecting any poetry, and as we got on stage, I could see the fear in some of their faces.

Luckily, the gang gave a brilliant performance, and we completely won the crowd over by the end of our set! A lady even came up to us afterwards to say that she had been 'a bit apprehensive' at the mention of poetry but that we were 'really good' so she was pleasantly surprised. And it's always nice to surprise people into enjoying poetry, I always say!

It looks like I'm telling the audience off here; must be my no nonsense heels!