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Performance Poetry Readings Telltale Press

Off the bench

Forgot to mention here that I was a last minute substitute for a poorly Siegfried Baber on a recent Telltale and Friends night at Telltale’s old stomping ground of the Poetry Cafe. A quick reshuffle meant that Robin Houghton introduced the event instead of me. Uncharacteristically I was not really in the mood for doing a reading, but having done so I was very pleased I did.

John McCullough read from his new book Spacecraft which is wonderful, and I will write something about it on this site soon. Sarah Barnsley read some extraordinary new and playful poems. Jess Mookherjee, the newest Telltale recruit and gave us a preview of her new pamphlet Swell, due out this Autumn. It’s lovely work, sensitive and direct.

All participants had to hare off afterwards due to the unspeakable Southern Trains debacle. Jess headed off to Tunbridge Wells, while Sara, John, Robin and I got the train to Brighton. Unusually for poets after the meeting, stone cold sober but the journey home passed in a flash with such good company.

Below left to right, Sarah Barnsley, John McCullough, Jess Mookherjee and me. Photo taken by Robin.

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Robin has long held an ambition to film Telltale performances, but for all kinds of reasons this has not worked particularly well.  During the evening Robin took a film of me reading Postcard from Ithaca. Seeing this film below has already had one positive outcome. I have started a frowny new diet.

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Poetry Readings Telltale Press

Telltale & Friends reading 7th July

Just a quick note on here about a Telltale & Friends reading coming soon. I shall be hosting the evening. A great bill… First, and hotter than a sizzling hot thing, is John McCullough right now. He’s a long-term Telltale friend, and his spanking new collection Spacecraft is already going down a storm. On the night we’ll also showcase Telltale’s latest recruit Jess Mookherjee, whose collection Telltale will be launching later this year. You’ll also find on the bill are fabulous Telltale stars Sarah Barnsley (The Fire Station) and Siegfried Baber (When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid). 

june16-flyer-for-email

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Poetry Readings Telltale Press

Telltale Press reading, Lewes 13 April

The Telltale poets’ collective is positively gambolling into Spring, bringing with it some exceptional poetry to Lewes next month. I’m looking forward to this Telltale reading greatly, not least because I can hungrily engulf the poetry without having to perform myself. Plus the event is free and in the characterful Lewes Arms, one of my favourite pubs in the centre of Lewes.

Prepare a fiendish pitfall trap on a Lewes side street and you’d be unlucky not to end up with a half a dozen writers in it at the end of the day. This may account for why Lewes audiences are usually so thoughtful and responsive. I’m looking forward to blending in with them there.

I’m looking forward to hearing Abegail Morley read for the first time. She has a fine publishing track record, and I last encountered her yeti dodging at the Himalayan Gardens in Kent.  Her forthcoming book is ‘The Skin Diary’. Maybe I’m biased, but I always find my fellow Telltale poets Robin and Sarah to be moving and engrossing, and I’m interested to meet Rebecca White, who I am hearing good things about.

Hope to see you there, if you’re within reach.

A5-flyer-Lewes-2016

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Poetry Telltale Press

Sarah Barnsley, the phoenix of ‘The Fire Station’

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The Fire Station by Sarah Barnsley is being officially launched on Thursday 12th November at Goldsmith’s, University of London, where Sarah teaches. It is published by Telltale Press so I can hardly claim to be impartial about it. But I have to say something, because her poetry is exceptional.

The Fire Station is a pamphlet which is partly autobiographical, detailing a relationship with a erratic — but plainly loved — father who once worked as a fireman. Some of the poems are set in the scorched aftermath of her father’s difficulties having lost his job through injury.

The poems collected here are the work of a writer who has emerged from these childhood challenges with her humour hardened and fire-tempered. She also has a clear perception of tragedy but never allows this to stoop to self-indulgence. My current favourite of the fire themed poems is called Big Hands. The poem smoulders with a hard-won black humour.

When you put my budgie
under the grill
and apologied for not being

able to afford a microwave
to resuscitate him
I didn’t think you were mad.

You didn’t think I was mad,
conducting a bird
funeral on the patio, reading

from Genesis, scattering
cornflakes on
the rosebud in lots of three.

I wasn’t I was seven. But
you were forty-two
when you shat in a bag in

Morrison’s car park and
laughed,

Gradually the fire abates in The Fire Station and a lyrical liquidity emerges. The poem Les Rapides Faciles describes with effortless originality two people kayaking to the supermarket, “slaloming around postboxes,/wheelie bins, silver birches”. But the poem surprises us with a gorgeous and candid declaration of love. Wonderful stuff, isn’t it?

We may rush corners,
tumble down the rapids of

Victorian-banked streets,
but it’s the gliding I like best,

the effortless, continuous flow
of being with you, the kingfishers

and dragonflies dipping into our
gentle wash like magic sapphires.

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Poetry Reading Telltale Press

Telltale poets with Tamar Yoseloff and Sue Rose

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Robin Houghton, Peter Kenny, Sarah Barnsley, Tamar Yoseloff and Sue Rose

So another cheery Telltale night. First our special guests… Sue Rose, who I have had a bit of a poetic crush on after hearing her read from The Cost of Keys earlier this year was warm and fantastic. Tamar Yoseloff read from two books, both collaborations with artists. The excellent Formerly made with photographer Vici MacDonald, Her latest book Nowheres is a collaboration with artist David Harker whose fine exhibition Drawing the Line was, handily enough, running at the Poetry Cafe. David’s fine pencil drawings are gorgeous.

Carriageway
Carriageway by David Harker

Telltale’s newest recruit is Sarah Barnsley, who gave an excellently assured reading of excerpts from her pamphlet, The Fire Station, forthcoming this year. Sarah has a particular affinity for US modernist poetry, but there is something absolutely English about her robust and deft writing.

Having been lucky enough to hear Robin Houghton read lots lately, I have watched her transform into an exceptional reader. A sequence of poems about working in a male-dominated corporation was wonderful.  I am increasingly aware of  ‘fit subjects for poetry’ writing about subjects that are already somehow ‘poetic’. These poems of Robin’s drag poetry from corporate glass offices and where attractions, put-downs and the gamut of human emotions occur in the corporate canteen or the business hotel rather than against some picturesque sunset.

Laura Donnelly was over from New York, although from the mid-west, kindly read a couple of outstanding poems from her phone.

As for myself… I did some poems from memory, which I am finding increasingly freeing. But annoyingly I am making the same mistakes again. The last couple of readings I risked untried material before I’m convinced of its quality. I do this because I think the reading should have a little edge to it, but in fact what happens in reality is that while I’m reading it, I can feel my confidence seeping away. The next reading I do is going to be bullet proof.

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Poetry Reading Telltale Press

18th June Poetry Cafe

I’m really happy to be reading with Tamar Yoseloff, whose collaboration with artist David Harker, Nowheres has just been launched. Sue Rose‘s book The Cost of Keys is one I’ve come to admire, especially her poem A Guided Tour that I wrote about recently. Sarah Barnsley is Telltale’s newest recruit and her pamphlet The Fire Station is going to be a major event. Add Robin Houghton whose readings have become increasingly dramatic and assured and it’s going to be a cracker.

june15reading-webflyer

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Poetry Telltale Press

A bit of bardic business

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Peter Kenny, Siegfried Baber, Helen Fletcher, Martin Malone (and the back of Robin Houghton’s head)

Quite a bit of bardic business this week. On Wednesday I did a Telltale and Friends reading with Martin Mallone a top poet who also edits The Interpreter’s House and finished the evening by accidentally setting his poetry file on fire. He is currently writing about the first world war, and there was some laughter as he remarked about his incendiary work as the room filled with the smell of burnt plastic. With Martin was Helen Fletcher who travelled down from Carlisle and gave us beautifully-read deft and delicate work. While Siegfried Baber stepped in at the last moment to cover for a poet who couldn’t make it. He is the next Telltale Poet, and will be launching his collection When love came to the cartoon kid shortly in Bath. In his mid-twenties, Siegfried’s work is fresh, and assured beyond his years. I can only guess at what heights he will reach poetically.

The night was hosted by Robin Houghton, and the Lewes Arms was a really cheery venue. Catherine Smith told me a while ago, that if you throw a stone in Lewes you will hit a writer. The audience was filled with some dauntingly excellent poets, not least Catherine herself. My nerves not helped by making the schoolboy error of reading out a brand new poem. It was about the The Brontës and foxes, and was supposed to be funny, but was heard in pin-drop silence.

Then, a bit panicked, I performed an old poem of mine called Someone-else’s patch, which is a monologue of someone who is paranoid about having a double. It was originally published in the sadly now-defunct Iron, which was for some time my favourite magazine. I teed it up by saying that it was written by the younger, better-looking slimmer Peter Kenny and I have suspicions about him, playing with the double idea. I did it from memory, having relearned it last week. Robin has been thinking about memorising her work, and she wrote about it here in her blog. I’d forgotten how freeing not having to read your work out can be.

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Me performing from memory

And talking of blogs, Roy Marshall who, like Robin, as well as being a highly-regarded poet has an extremely well-regarded blog to boot. Flatteringly enough, he did a post featuring me.  And in Roy’s next post he featured Siegfried.

Today (Sunday 19th April) I have a poem Hooked on the Ink Sweat and Tears site.  Really chuffed by this, as Helen Ivory manages to round up some amazing work. It was written ruefully recalling how I spent many childhood summers slaughtering as many fish as I could, and this poem is a kind of atonement. By coincidence, I have a poem on the Guernsey Poets website today, called A Glasshouse, also written about Guernsey.

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Poetry Readings Telltale Press

Reading in Lewes on 15 April 15

Really excited to be doing this reading in Lewes, and to meet Martin Malone, editor of The Interpreter’s House, Helen Fletcher who is trekking from Carlisle to share her poetry with us and Ryan Whatley  an exciting new poet whose work Robin Houghton and I read recently and really liked. A bonus is that it that the reading is in The Lewes Arms, which is an utterly excellent pub.

Lewes reading

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Music Poetry Telltale Press

A stocktake

Thanks to hefting a sack of wet sand just before New Year, January was a trapped nerve. Weeks of sleepless and painful nights left me groggy. In one fanboy moment I tweeted (it seemed right) Pascale Petit about her fabulous poem Ortolan about her father eating a songbird. She told me that it was written after a sleepless night in Paris. I wish insomnia made me anywhere near as creative. Anyhow, with January swept under the carpet this is a snapshot what I’m up to, and who I’m up to it with.

  • Board Games a rather surprising entry this. But I find that I am long-range adviser to Amanda Milne, doyenne of New Zealand’s board game inventors at SchilMil, who is planning to set a game on an island well known to me.
  • Music I have begun a new collaboration with Helen Russell, a Hove based composer, who got in touch after hearing the Clameur CD I did with Matt Pollard. My project with Helen is in its infancy, but it is a longer piece of music with orchestra and singers. We are basing the piece on a story by Jose Saramago. This is the first time I have worked with an existing text as a springboard but, now I have adjusted to the idea, I’m quite enjoying the structure this provides. It is exciting to sit at the piano listening to Helen play some of her emerging beautiful fragments and sketches. I’ve already begun to supply some words, and I’m fascinated to see how this project unfolds.
  • Peter Kenny The Writer Ltd. Already this year I have been working on  IBS and swine health projects. Annoyingly other more glamorous projects are about to go live, but I cannot yet speak of them due to commercial sensitivity. In the could-do-better department, however, I am also working to improve my marketing blog.
  • Poetry Under the benign influence of Robin Houghton, I am being more methodical about sending my poems out for publication. There was room for improvement. But after a few weeks I’ve already had an acceptance already from Helen Ivory at Ink Sweat & Tears. I am also now firmly part of Telltale Poet’s Collective with Robin Houghton. We are about to go into Borg mode and assimilate new poets. Further readings and publications will be announced. I’m also consumed by a passion for reading poetry again. Poets I’ve read in January included (in no particular order) Pascale Petit, David Harsent, Rhona McAdam, Tamar Yoseloff, Ester Jansma, Jorie Graham, Catherine Smith, Kathryn Simmonds, John McCullough, Stephen Bone, Tara Bergin, and Tua Forsström.
  • Prose I have vowed this year to finish my children’s novel featuring a character called Skelton Yawngrave. I have been writing this off and on for about eight years. It must end now, mustn’t it?  Could this be the year Skelton Yawngrave emerges from the shadows?
Skelton Yawngrave
Skelton Yawngrave
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Poetry Readings Telltale Press

Kicking off the New Year at the Poetry Cafe

Robin covers what was a great night. Really good fun. Here’s a photo of us all too. L to R Robin, me, Rhona, Catherine and Siegfried.

January 7th