Looking Forward to the 21st Ledbury Poetry Festival

Phillippa SlingerThe Ledbury Poetry Festival is now well established, and 2017 will be bigger than ever, as they celebrate their 21st year. Described by Andrew Motion as “the best” poetry festival in the UK, it will be crammed full of events, including kids activities, free ’20 minute’ readings and writing workshops, alongside the big names in poetry. I interviewed the Festival Manager, Phillipa Slinger, to find out more.       Continue reading

Book Review: Too Brave To Dream – newly discovered poems by R.S. Thomas

Too Brave To Dream - Poems by R.S. ThomasThe poet R.S. Thomas passed away in 2000, and two books on modern art were discovered in his library, with previously unseen poems inserted between the pages. Too Brave To Dream: Encounters With Modern Art brings these poems together for the first time, alongside the images themselves. The poems are varied, short and impressionistic, similar in style to the ekphrastic work published during his lifetime. They are surreal, reflecting the appearance of the art he is writing about, but they are also intriguing in their own way.    Continue reading

Reflections on Edward Thomas 100 & National Poetry Writing Month

Glyn Edwards poet

Glyn Edwards

National Poetry Writing Month is over at last, and it seems like only yesterday that I was cosied up on the sofa listening to the autumn storms, thinking April seemed a long way off. It was back in October that I began to plan a series of events for #EdwardThomas100, to mark the centenary of the World War One poet, and to make Cardiff University’s incredible archive collections more visible to the public. It’s been an exciting few months, and it’s hard to believe it’s all over, so here are some reflections on the experience…    Continue reading

Poetry Review: And Suddenly You Find Yourself by Natalie Ann Holborow

Poetry book Natalie Ann HolborowNatalie Ann Holborow’s debut poetry collection presents us with a raw, emotional journey of self-analysis, exploring family estrangement, broken relationships and the vulnerability of human experience. Holborow turns life, love and myth into stark reality, with unnerving language and compelling imagery. This is poetry grounded in the physical, from the “silvered, reeking bass” consumed in a restaurant, to “the housefly buzzing, hysterical, / butting its skull to get out”.    Continue reading

Poetry & Music at the Abergavenny Writing Festival

Rufus Mufasa (2)The Abergavenny Writing Festival began last year, but I wasn’t able to make it, so I was determined to get to at least one of their events this year if at all possible. Life is busy! But I managed to get to the grand finale – an event which combined music and poetry. It was a beautiful drive up into the Welsh hills, to the Kings Arms Hotel, where we sat in a cavernous room with unusual acoustics to hear from some talented local musician-poets.    Continue reading

Two Roads, Two Poets: The Friendship of Edward Thomas and Robert Frost

Edward ThomasThe first thing that struck me about Edward Thomas, when I began to research his life and work, was his close bond with the American poet Robert Frost. Frost’s famous poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ was actually written for Edward Thomas, during a period of indecision. It was 1915, and Frost himself had returned to the US, whilst Thomas was intending to follow him there. But the First World War was still raging, and Thomas’s conscience held him back. He did not want to enlist but, as he explained in a letter to his friend, “hardly a day passes without my thinking I should.”    Continue reading

Book Review: Now All Roads Lead to France – The Last Years of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis

Now all roads lead to FranceMost biographies begin at the beginning. Not this one. This one reads more like a novel – and the last few years in the life of much-loved poet Edward Thomas certainly provide an engaging plot. Hollis begins his tale with an introduction to Harold Munro’s Poetry Bookshop, which opened in London in 1913, providing a unique hub around which the poets of the day gathered… But Edward Thomas is not yet a poet at this stage in the story; he is a stressed poetry reviewer, churning out travel books and reviews, struggling to make ends meet…    Continue reading

Death Writing and Poetry: An Interview with Christina Thatcher

Christina ThatcherChristina Thatcher is a poet and creative writing tutor from the US. She moved to the UK in 2009 after winning the prestigious Marshall Scholarship (studying MAs at Cardiff and York). She is currently working on a PhD at Cardiff University, and her debut poetry collection, More than you were, will be published by Parthian in May. I met her through Roath Writers, the community writing group which she has been running since 2012.    Continue reading

Edward Thomas 100: Celebrating A Poetic Legacy

Edward Thomas I recently discovered that Cardiff University holds a unique collection of rare books and manuscripts. Amidst this literary treasure trove, there sits a shelf or two of unassuming boxes, containing the Edward Thomas archive – a set of objects, original manuscripts, letters, notebooks and other material relating to this popular poet. And it just so happens that it’s exactly one hundred years since Edward Thomas was killed, at the Battle of Arras in April 1917…    Continue reading

Verve Poetry Festival Highlights – A Celebration of Diversity

Geraldine Clarkson

What I enjoyed most about the recent Verve Poetry Festival (first of many, I hope) was the fact that it embraced poetry in all its guises, from the academic to the experimental, the hilarious to the downright ridiculous. We had spoken word at its most ostentatious, the big names and the new faces, plenty of opportunities to hear about the writing process, and workshops on themes as varied as ‘taking risks’ and performance technique…    Continue reading

Poetry – for loss, absence and bearing witness…

isobel dixonOn this – the final day of the Verve Poetry Festival, we have just been treated to a memorable showcase of four poets from Nine Arches Press, whose writing is both poignant and moving, unafraid to face up to the difficulties of life and the pain of loss. All the poets agreed, in their discussion afterwards, that poetry is an essential tool for “bearing witness” in the world, that it’s important to be truthful, allowing emotion to come through in your work…    Continue reading

A Feast of Poetic Delights at the Verve Poetry Festival

Dan Simpson

Last night I feasted on poetic delights of all kinds at the Verve Poetry Festival, which is beautifully pink and exciting… hosted by the many-layered Waterstones Birmingham store. I’ve never seen so many poetry enthusiasts in one space before! We had readings from Mona Arshi, Kim Moore and Katrina Naomi, followed by a full-on spoken word Dice Slam with Apples and Snakes, featuring poets from around the UK, and a rather unusual judging method… Continue reading

Poetry Review: Beginning With Your Last Breath by Roy McFarlane

poetry book Roy McFarlaneBeginning With Your Last Breath is a rich, powerful and moving debut from Roy McFarlane, a poet based in the West Midlands. It is split into five distinct sections, each one exploring a different aspect of the poet’s experience. But the book holds together through the shared themes of identity, family, love and loss, in the context of racial tension and cultural change. The cover image reflects the story of the poems within; it shows a painting by Sonia Boyce – She ain’t holding them up, She’s holding on (Some English Rose), 1986 – the image of the mother figure holding onto her family amidst the struggles of life and racial identity.    Continue reading

Cardiff Poetry Experiment

poetry experimentExperimentation is at the heart of all art forms, and poetry is no exception. A couple of weeks ago I attended one of the ‘Cardiff Poetry Experiment’ events, run by Cardiff University’s School of English. I was greeted at the wrought iron gates of Wyndham Arcade by the magical password ‘poetry?’ and allowed inside. The venue was Wyndham Tea Rooms (sister of Waterloo Tea Rooms), where you can get the best cuppa in Cardiff (though they were serving other drinks too).    Continue reading

Looking forward to Dylan Day 2017

dylan thomas paintingInternational Dylan Thomas Day (aka #DylanDay) takes place on 14th May each year, and it’s a fantastic excuse for celebrating the work of this renowned Welsh poet. The idea is that people everywhere (you don’t have to be in Wales) can organise their very own Dylan Thomas themed event, small or large. Last year there were 50 events all across the UK, as well as in New York, Milan, Perth, Sydney and elsewhere… Continue reading

An Interview with Novelist, Poet and Musician Linda Lee Welch

Linda Lee Welch Linda Lee Welch was born and raised in the USA. She moved to the UK in 1976 and has worked as a musician, writer, community artist and teacher. She has two novels published by Virago and is also a prize-winning poet. She taught Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University for sixteen years, after completing the MA herself. Now retired from teaching, she is focusing on her writing, and collaborating with other writers, musicians and artists, including her husband Michael Harding.    Continue reading

Poetry Review – The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America

Book - The Other TigerIt is strange to hear someone reading a poem in another language (a language which you don’t understand at all) and then to hear that same poem read again in your own language. There is a sense of building anticipation, as you hear the emotion behind the words, with particular intonations that seem to stand out… Yet the meaning must come later, inevitably with a sense of both satisfaction and loss, as no translation will ever convey the strength of the original…    Continue reading

Looking forward to the Verve Poetry Festival: An Interview with Cynthia Miller

Cynthia MillerThe first ever Verve Poetry Festival takes place next month in Birmingham (16th-19th February). It’s set to be an exciting weekend, with a strong emphasis on spoken word performance, as well as the usual poetry readings and creative writing workshops. I interviewed Cynthia Miller (Co-Director of the Festival and a poet herself) to find out more. She began by explaining how it all started…    Continue reading

Regular Literary, Creative Writing and Performance Poetry Events in Cardiff

Will Ford performing at RARAIf you’re putting dates into your 2017 diary, then you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss out on any literary events. I’ve pulled together a list of all the regular literary events, spoken word gatherings, book launches and poetry performances which take place in Cardiff throughout the year. If I’ve missed any out please let me know, or add your own events via the comments below…     Continue reading

Collective: Eight Poets and Eight New Poetry Collections

Poet Tracy Rhys

Tracy Rhys

What’s the collective noun for poets? Perhaps ‘a plethora of poets’, or ‘a stanza of poets’? My own favourite is ‘a pub-full of poets’ (they tend to gather in pubs). Whatever the word, we had eight of them reading their work at this new event, entitled ‘Collective’, organised by Christina Thatcher (whose own debut collection will be published in 2017). It was not held in a pub, for once, but in the retro café / bar Little Man Coffee Company, on a night so foggy that Sherlock Holmes would have felt very much at home…    Continue reading

Pre-Raphaelite Women: Poetry in Response to Art

La Ghirlandata by Rossetti

La Ghirlandata by Rossetti

I have always been attracted to the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, and intrigued by the lives of the women who modelled for their paintings. Muse by Dawn Marie Kresan is a collection which focuses on these women, particularly on Elizabeth Siddall, who was actually a poet and artist in her own right. Bethany Rivers’ pamphlet Off the wall also takes much of its inspiration from artwork, and contains some poems on similar themes to those explored in Kresan’s book.   Continue reading

From Stage to Page: An Interview with Poet Mab Jones

mab-jones-poetMab Jones has a longstanding reputation as a performance poet. She’s performed at numerous festivals and won spoken word awards. But now she’s decided to focus on writing poetry for the page. Her first collection of page poetry take your experience and peel it was published this year. I met up with Mab in the Sherman theatre café, where we chatted about her transition from stage to page, the many novels she is planning to write, the thrill of performance and the necessity of deadlines. We began by reflecting on where it all started…    Continue reading

Poetry Review: A Whole Day Through From Waking by Jacci Bulman

Jacci Bulman poetry collectionWritten in a bare, modest style, Jacci Bulman’s first poetry collection explores life in all its frailty and vulnerability. The language hooks you in, following the story inside each individual poem. Bulman plays with punctuation and form to reveal a raw, broken humanity. Themes include the uncertainties of youth, the agonising reality of grief and illness, and a celebration of life and hope.    Continue reading

The Magic of Medieval Poetry – Simon Armitage Translating Pearl

Medieval Poem PearlSpeaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Simon Armitage admitted that, when translating the Medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, someone literally had to take it off him, before he would allow it to be finished. “Translation is addictive,” he explained, “and much easier than writing your own poetry, because you can concentrate on it for longer, and it’s far less open-ended”. He added that “working with poets from the past is like tracing family members or finding ancestors; it’s like harmonising, like singing along to the Beatles in the car, two voices together.”    Continue reading

Made in Roath – A Community Festival of Arts & Culture

The Bard of Ely

Made in Roath is a local community arts festival which began eight years ago and has grown into something not to be missed. Roath (aka The People’s Republic of Roath) is an ever-expandable quirky area of Cardiff which even has its own alternative ‘Actual History Museum’. The festival involves art in all its forms and this year, despite a nasty autumnal cold, I managed to get along to some of the spoken word / performance events, which were as fascinating and unique as ever.    Continue reading

Apples, Lyrics & Elves: Highlights from the Cheltenham Literature Festival

Tracy Chevalier book signingLast night I caught a fleeting glimpse of the magical white-tented world that is the Cheltenham Literature Festival. Passing through, from Coventry to Cardiff, I was only able to attend three events, but each one was thoroughly enjoyable. With a similar set up to the Hay Festival, including an almost identical bookshop tent, the same (though fewer) toilets, and extortionately priced refreshments, there was an air of familiarity that was somewhat comforting.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: The Immigration Handbook by Caroline Smith

Poetry - The Immigration Handbook, by Caroline SmithThe Immigration Handbook is an impressive collection which varies in tone and style. Smith uses simple language, small details and powerful imagery to present to us the extraordinary lives of ordinary people, caught up in situations beyond their control. As the asylum caseworker for a London based MP, she has spent years helping immigrants to navigate the complexities of an underfunded, overstretched bureaucratic system.    Continue reading

The Art and Awkwardness of Poetry in Performance

Fleur Adcock reading poetry

Having recently attended far too many poetry readings, spoken word events and open mic nights for any normal person, I have begun to notice there are certain ways of doing things, some which work well, and some which don’t work so well. I think it would make an interesting PhD study, but, as I’m a rather impatient person, here’s a slightly more immediate and concise exploration of the art of performing poetry…    Continue reading

Poetry Review: Gardening With Deer by Kathy Miles

Poetry Book Gardening With DeerGardening With Deer is a full-bodied, elegant yet accessible collection of poems which hold tightly together but also incorporate a range of topics, from art and myth to personal experience. It opens with an unnerving poem entitled ‘Bear’, which creates a sense of underlying fear, as we contemplate the “growling dark” and “the shadow on the wall that could be bear”. This theme continues throughout, as a prowling, dangerous presence, lurking just beneath the surface.    Continue reading

Poetry at g39

poetry Tom SinclairLast Friday I attended a free event organised by local poet Mab Jones as part of the ‘tu fewn, yn cynnwys ni’ (‘Does that include us?’) festival at g39, an art gallery in an old warehouse. The festival explores themes of access, inclusion, empathy and diversity. I’d never visited this venue before, but it’s a vast cave of a space with plenty of room for exhibitions and workshops. Actually it felt much more like an informal gathering than an official event, with dim, atmospheric lighting and a random assortment of seating.    Continue reading