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

A Cardiff Poetry Launch with Bare Fiction

annette c boehmThe brilliant thing about being involved in a local writing group is that you get to hear about all the literature related events taking place in your area. The downside is, sometimes you can’t go to all of them. You’d think that summer would be a time to wind down and take a break, but the open mics, book launches, and general literature celebrations seem to have racked up a notch this month. Determined to make the most of this glut in events, despite feeling tired, I attended the Cardiff launch of Annette C Boehm’s collection, The Knowledge Weapon, on Sunday evening. She won the Bare Fiction Debut Poetry Collection Competition of 2015, which was judged by Andrew McMillan.    Continue reading

Ledbury Poetry Festival – Celebrating Diversity

Daljit Nagra reading poetry

A week after the UK voted to separate itself from the EU, people gathered in Ledbury to enjoy poetry from all over Europe and further afield. I attended the festival for just one day, and the highlight was a Versopolis event, which included poets from Britain, France, Germany, Croatia, Norway and Austria. Versopolis is an organisation which gives European poets the opportunity to reach new audiences, having their work translated and performing at festivals. The festival was, of course, planned long before the referendum took place, and yet it seemed like every aspect of it was designed to celebrate diversity, encourage cross-border collaboration and create links with Europe and other parts of the world.    Continue reading

Poets on Tour: Carol Ann Duffy and friends

Shore to Shore Poetry AnthologyWhen I discovered that not only Carol Ann Duffy (UK’s Poet Laureate) but also Gillian Clarke (former National Poet of Wales), Jackie Kay (Scottish Makar) and Imtiaz Dharker, were going on tour together, and would be in Monmouth (only a short distance from home), there was no way I could miss this incredible line up.    Continue reading

Poetry at the Hay Festival – From Roger McGough to Sarah Howe

Roger McGough, poetry at Hay FestivalLast week I was stewarding in the Tata Tent, the largest of the Hay Festival venues, which meant that, whilst I got to see all the big names, I had to visit other venues for the poetry events, which unfortunately seem to attract a smaller audience.

One of these was Roger McGough, performing alongside the band LiTTLe MACHiNe. The event began with the band playing some classic poems to music including ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by Yeats and Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’. Continue reading

A Day At The Cheltenham Poetry Festival

Kevan Manwaring poet

Kevan Manwaring

My day at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival included everything from a thunderstorm to a talking parrot. The first event (which I enjoyed the most) featured Kevan Manwaring performing poetic pieces from his book Lost Borders, interspersed with a selection of traditional folk songs sung by Chantelle Smith. They began in Scotland, with poetry inspired by a walk along Hadrian’s Wall, and moved further afield to Ireland and then America, returning finally to the UK once again, exploring the borders between worlds.    Continue reading

The Power of Poetry on Prescription

Emergency PoetDo you read as a form of escapism? Or perhaps you read to calm yourself down at the end of a busy day? Stressed, Unstressed: Classic Poems to Ease the Mind is an anthology of poems selected specifically to help those who are going through tough times (a form of “bibliotherapy”). I attended a fascinating event organised as part of the Stratford Literature Festival, to hear more about this concept. Dr Paula Byrne (academic and founder of ReLit charity), Dr Andrew Schuman (a medical doctor and poet) and Deborah Alma (aka The Emergency Poet) discussed the growing trend in taking literature seriously for its medicinal value in relation to mental health.    Continue reading

Ekphrastic Poetry from Kelly Grovier

Poetry Book A lens in the palm by Kelly GrovierKelly Grovier’s collection A lens in the palm is full of ekphrasis (poetry written in response to a piece of artwork). Each poem has an ekphrastic quality about it – a certain way of looking, not just at art but at nature and humanity as well. The front cover is taken from a Japanese woodcut by Shosan ‘Monkey reaching for the moon’ c.1910, and it encapsulates the theme of Grovier’s work – reaching out in an attempt to capture the intangible.    Continue reading

Poetry Non-Stop – National Poetry Writing Month

poetry books - National Poetry Writing Month

Poetry Books

April is National Poetry Writing Month (also known as #NaPoWriMo). The challenge is to write a new poem each day throughout the month. It started in America in 2003, and has grown since then with poets everywhere encouraging each other to take the challenge and get writing. Pattrick Widdess, a poet based in Wales who regularly performs his work and has had poetry published in a number of magazines, has written Poetry Non-Stop, an inspirational guide, ready for National Poetry Writing Month 2016.    Continue reading

Interview with Roy Marshall – Poet & Blogger

Poet Roy MarshallI met Roy Marshall on a residential writing course at Tŷ Newydd, in North Wales, in 2012. Since then he has published his first full collection The Sun Bathers, with Shoestring Press. He has had poems published in a number of magazines, blogs regularly about the writing process and reviews the work of other poets. I started the interview by asking him to tell me how it all began…    Continue reading

Bath Literature Festival: Part 3 – The Poetry Salon

Rebecca Perry - bookThe final part of my day at the Bath Literature Festival was a ‘Poetry Salon’ (a combined interview and reading) with Tim Liardet and Rebecca Perry. Neither of these poets were known to me prior to the event, but when deciding which events to attend, I had looked them up and thought their work sounded interesting.   Continue reading

Poetry Review: The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy

The Bees - a poetry book by Carol Ann DuffyA couple of years ago I went to Swansea to see Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke performing their work together. That’s where I bought The Bees – a treasure trove of bright, rhythmic poems by the UK’s Poet Laureate. The theatre was small – an audience quietly buzzing with anticipation, as we waited for the two poets to come on stage.    Continue reading

Poetry Review: Ingrid’s Husband by Paul Henry

Poetry Book - Ingrid's Husband by Paul HenryI particularly love hearing a poet read their own work aloud, and this is how I first heard Paul Henry’s work, as he read from his book Ingrid’s Husband in the cosy library at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre in North Wales. The book takes its name from one of its poems – and it’s this poem which sticks in my mind the most.    Continue reading