Poetic Musings

I hope everyone had a good Christmas. I don’t really do Christmas. But it gave me a chance to sit down and read a lot of poetry.

I re-read some of Frank O’Hara’s work. Discovering him was the key that got me in to poetry in the first place. His work is accessible and mixes what some might consider ‘high’ art with what others might consider ‘popular’. So an O’Hara poem might incorporate Classical Greek mythology, allusions to Renaissance poetry, and brand names such as Coca Cola.

I also read the work of Keith Douglas, a poet from the Second World War who died in France in 1944. His work is also accessible and often fun, filled with imagery and life inspired by his travels during the war.

But for me, the most inspiring book was Richard Thomas’s ‘The Strangest Thankyou’, a virtuoso performance in rhyme and poetry. Richard is a wonderful poet of great skill and each word seems perfectly chosen yet without making the poems themselves seem sterile. I have seen Richard perform on countless occasions and he always transports the listener to some other place, a world entirely of his own invention. This collection maintains that feeling until, by the end of the book, the reader starts to think like him. Which isn’t a bad thing. The moment I finished reading it I thought, hmmm, now I should be writing like that. It’s a magnificent volume and I really do recommend that everyone go out and purchase at least two copies.

Here’s a handy link: http://www.culturedllama.co.uk/featured-poem-flamingo-by-richard-thomas-03122012

So what’s next? I’ve got a month or so off from performance poetry matters. I’ve been working on a few new poems, but I’ve been mostly concentrating on my novel.

Anyway, happy new year, everyone.

Performance Poetry Whimsy and Shenanigans

Photos taken by the talented Holly Collins
Photos taken by the talented Holly Collins

Its been the most wonderful month or so in the world of performance poetry, especially after the euphoria of co-winning the Exeter Poetry Slam with the wonderful Daniel Haynes. I saw Daniel at Taking the Mic this week backed up by a guitarist and keyboards and performing his poetry to a wonderful jazz beat. It was sublime and dreamy.

Last month I went to Berlin and while I was there I took part in a German poetry slam. I was the only person there at the King Kong Klub performing in English, yet in spite of this I managed to come fourth out of nine. The audience mostly spoke  English and they all laughed at the right moments. It was a weird experience. I didn’t understand a word Christian, the host, said, and some of the poems went on for ten minutes without break. In any case I made a lot of new friends.

Recently I have been involved in a musical project with a load of talented people. The idea for our first song, which I call ‘Llanfair etc’, came from John Samuel, the lead singer of my favourite local band, Future Ghosts. (Known also as Future Ghosts UK due to a copyright issue). We have been working on the sonAndorra a while and it has a wonderful chorus sung by John which has to be heard to be believed! Anyway, at an Acoustic music night at Epicentre the other week, we got together with Freakboi, Bryce Dumont, and Matt Spalding, and we improvised tunes and rhymes to the audience. Matt played the Eliza Mockingham, a broom with pots and pans attached. I think we ably demonstrated our mastery of musical and lyrical form.

Not long after this, Tim King, James Turner and i drove out to Frome in Somerset for the Hip Yak Poetry Shack. Matt Harvey was the headliner, but we had mostly gone for the mini poetry slam. amusingly, we got lost on the way and arrived late. we werent allowed into the auditorium, which was ok because se werent on for a while, but the box office and tuck shop staff insisted James perform for them. He did so, amiably and with his usual gusto, right there and then in the empty theatre cafe! Tim and I later came first and second in the slam, bringing the trophy home to Devon along the A303, to some acclaim!

And this week I headlined at Poetry Island, at the Blue Walnut in  Torquay. It was a busy night for me, hosting as well, and all of the other poets were of an extremely high calibre. Jackie Juno, Chris Brooks, Simon Blades and Joanna Hatfull to name but four. I think I did okay, though I was extremely glad when it was all over!

So it has been an incredibly busy time of late for me and I am looking forward to a few weeks off from all poenamoured about. Though I shall probably be making a couple of videos and posting them here and there.

Thanks to all of my wonderful friends this year for all of their support and laughter!

Exeter Poetry Slam

As you may already know, I was fortunate enough to to-win the Exeter Poetry Slam on Sunday night, with a very talented poet by the name of Daniel Hayne. It was a dead heat in the third round so it was decided we should share the accolades. And why not? It feels great to be a co-champion, it feels like much more of a bigger story! Having said that, I am still not sure that poetry can ever be judged the same way as sport. The audience were wonderful, appreciative and intelligent, but it all depended on the dynamics at the time. If the audience were miserable, or had better tastes, or had all left their ovens on or parked on double yellow lines, then th story might have been different!

So I have spent today trying to write some new material. That’s the problem with something like this. Everyone has heard my best stuff now! After a couple of false starts with a poem about being high fived, and another poem about an architect falling for a supermarket janitor, I wrote a new piece about being friends on Facebook with Frankenstein. I am moderately happy with it!

It feels like its been one of those days in which not much has been achieved. I have a typing of typing to do and emails to send but I have been ignoring everything. Perhaps writing this blog also comes under procrastination!

Anyway, there a two people I would like to thank for helping me win. My director, when I was in the only play I have ever been in, who first got me performing or even being brave enough to speak in public, Polly Agg-Manning, and the performance poet Chris Brooks, who likewise encouraged me in performing and helped me to navigate the world of performance poetry in all its subtlety!

Exeter Poetry Slam

I have had a busy weekend rehearsing for the Exeter Poetry Slam on Sunday night. It’s going to be an interesting evening, I have never done a slam before except for the Bang Said The Gun thing in London a couple of months back. 

Part of me still wonders if it is right to judge poetry in a sporting manner seeing as though so much of it revolves around circumstance and audience response. Perhaps it is the audience who should be judged and marked. On the other hand I am looking forward to the whole event. James Turner and Clive Pig will be taking part, two of the finest performers in the South West.

i also had some fun over the weekend making a short film with the maverick director Bonjour Twain. He certainly put me through my paces and the part where he made me spin round and round was particularly challenging. The results can be seen with this link



Year of the Cassowary

Can it really be over two years ago that I wrote most of the poems that made it in to my first collection, ‘Year of the Cassowary’? The last couple of years have been a whirlwind. I only ever came to an evening of performance poetry because I had told myself that I neededd to see more culture. And then Chris Brooks, the host, put out a call for new poets. Hmm, I thought, I shall give it a go!

Lately I have been attempting to write some new material with the idea in mind of a new collection.  I have accumulated a lot of new poems and found a lot of old ones which, on reflection, didn’t seem as bad as I thought. So these are currently in the process of being prodded and poked and shaped lovingly the same way a potter makes those pot things. The only trouble is that alls of my poems are traditionally called ‘Poem’, as Richard Thomas alluded to at his headline slot at Taking the Mic in Exeter last month. So this will make the contents page look a little strange!

As a result of all this I have been looking anew at Year of the Cassowary and feeling quietly proud that this little pamphlet should have such a pedigree and should have led to so much. Many of the poems are still performed regularly.


If you are intersted in downloading the Kindle version, the address is http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0080Y3366/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb


Sorting Out the Naff from the Not-so Naff

Over the last couple of days I have been looking at my poems and deciding which ones are performance and memorable and which, on reflection, turned out to be pants. It’s really quite disturbing to discover that the poems which seemed at the time to be the ultimate expressions of humour, humanity and my own personal mindset revealed themselves to be, on reflection, Decidedly Naff.

The poem about empty boxes, for example.

The poem about horses, winking.

The poem about Pritt Sticks.

The poem about finding 5p.

And all of these were glued into my performance poetry book among the supposedly good ones. Which meant that every time I opened the book, the chances were I would find something Really Quite Below Average.

So as a psychological boost, they have been removed, torn out, replaced by new ones. Which means the new ones now are scattered throughout the book. It’s chaos, but it makes me feel much better!

i have also been looking at methods of performance. Bryce saw a pair of Pet Shop Boys-esque sunglasses in a charity shop the other day and he opined that they would look good in my act. When I went to purchase them, alas, they had gone. In any case the lady on the counter looked scary. But this break from hosting and promoting duties from Poetry Island has allowed me to look at performance issues, and more announcements will be forthcoming.

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