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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.

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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

Seeking the yeti of inspiration

Of course, when not being a masked poet, in my Clark Kentish guise of agency copywriter I have to write to order lots of the time. Just last week I was writing about heart pills for dogs, not something I had imagined myself writing about as I sprang out bed in the morning.

When it comes to poetry, however, I am not a writer who seeks topics to write about or quakes at a white page. It was particularly interesting, therefore, for me to go to a day organised by Abegail Morley, who among other things, is poet in residence at Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, near Sevenoaks in Kent. I have followed her excellent Poetry Shed blog for some time but never met her. Abegail had gathered armfuls of poets and released them into the gardens, which were beautiful with azaleas, rhododendrons, acers, as well as many more native species. There were also gorgeous formal gardens, and lots of sculpture. There was even a yeti, whose photograph was in the leaflet, but sadly went unglimpsed by me at least.

I went with my pal Robin Houghton, who introduced me to Lucy Coterill, and we sauntered about the gardens discussing poetry and marvelling. When it came to writing something, I was surprised to find a poem came easily to me. I was sat at a table looking at a fountain with Robin and Lucy. Having dashed off a few lines I said ‘Boom!’ to jokingly dispirit the competition but Robin, who is worse at the naming of plants than I am, was already coming up with a funny poem about alliums. And Lucy wandered off lonely as a cloud to write a cracking poem about a statue’s inner space.

When it came time, for those who wanted to, to share their poems I was rather amazed at the high quality of the work. And I came away having met some lovely people, and with the start of a half-decent poem. Perhaps I should try this sort of thing again.

Below, a view over the Weald, Robin and Lucy, hand shaped windsocks, and a lovely rusted treelike sculpture.

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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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Uncategorized

When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid

Last night in Bath saw the official launch of When Love Came to the Cartoon Kid, the Telltale Press pamphlet from Siegfried Baber. Success has many fathers, so I’m delighted to point out that I had a small part, alongside Robin Houghton and Telltale Press, in the launch of what is a extremely assured debut by a writer in his mid twenties.

Siegfried’s work is often preoccupied with America. Such as Texas Boy At The Funeral of His Mother with its juxtaposition of a description of a sweltering funeral where ‘Distant relatives got naked and searched for/ a sprinkler to dance under’ while the bereaved son watches the ‘air above her grave/tremble and blur like the roof of an oven.’

In the title poem When Love Came To The Cartoon Kid, the cartoonish responses don’t occur ‘his boxing glove heart didn’t burst/clean through his chest and his mouth didn’t clang open like a cash register’ but in these denials a greater love is suggested. The cartoon floorboards are fallen through. In Crisis On Infinite Earths a  female superhero has been supplanted by someone younger, and is ‘wondering why Clark Kent hasn’t aged/a single fucking day’.

Another strand in Siegfried work, cuts below the cartoon surface to good old sex and death. Rabbit involves us in a skinning, ‘yanking it free from those overalls/of brown fur’, while the poem Milk is an eroticised encounter at a bus stop, with the I of the poem pouring milk over the naked body of the woman sitting next to him.

So simply do yourself a favour and get a copy here right now.

Below another excellent cover by Hannah Clare.

dustjacket-cartoonkid

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Poetry Reading

Poetry: reasons to be cheerful

An imaginary helicopter is a valuable possession. When I finally stop ignoring the helicopter in the room, I clamber in and rise vertically to peer down at life. (Google Earth has diminished the freshness of this metaphor for ever, of course, but you get what I mean). I did it this morning, and this is what I saw.

I find I’m grateful that I live in a country of poets. Right now there are people in their thousands sat at desks around these islands writing poems. Why? Because they want to be one of those poetry millionaires? *Guffaws* For celebrity? I don’t suppose even Carol Ann Duffy is molested by fans as she pops out for a jar of gherkins. No. Mostly people write poetry because they love it, and because quite a few people love reading it too. Just because it doesn’t seem to have the potential to generate much cash, poetry is the starveling of the arts. But that doesn’t mean that poetry should have an inferiority complex. Poetry has been, and continues to be, one of our greatest national treasures.

I’m grateful for all those people who in the face of indifference and pitiful funding, will willingly give up their time to run magazines and websites. These tiny cultural ecosystems are often incredibly fertile. In a few pages they provide a forum for more exciting, dangerous and beautiful ways of seeing the world than you’d get from a year of watching mainstream TV. So I’m grateful to all those people who do that because they love it, and people love what they do. Collectively they create an environment for poetry in this country.

Finally I’m grateful for the people I’ve met through poetry. This week I went to a Pighog and Red Hen reading at the Redroaster Cafe in Brighton excellently organised by Michaela Ridgeway. I found myself blown away by the work there, including from poets in the open mic spots. It’s even better when one of your mates is a featured performer and pulls off a blinder. Robin Houghton’s delivery was full of the compelling authority such strong work merits. While young Romanian animator and poet Andreea Stan fascinatingly wove stories in poems and film.

A sketch of Robin
Robin Houghton… Somewhere near you a poet is being amazing.

 For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives 

In the valley of its saying where executives 

would never want to tamper;

These oft-quoted lines from Auden’s poem In Memory of W.B. Yeats have been accused of a kind of defeatism (but then he was writing an elegy). Not only does this diminish the importance of W. B. Yeats in history, it overlooks the generations of persecuted poets in, say the former USSR, precisely because it was feared they could make something happen. While poets of the Négritude movement in 1930s Paris went on to change their societies. Léopold Sédar Senghor, became the first president of Senegal while Aimé Césaire was mayor of Fort de France in Martinique. (The poetry of both is extraordinarily good by the way and still little known in the UK.)

I believe poetry has made many things happen in my own life.  And more importantly I believe it can retain and grow its cultural significance. The beauty of poetry is that it can never be suppressed. It can sprout up like weeds from a bombsite. It’s one of the reasons I’m grateful to be alive.

Poets of the world unite. Grab a notebook and a pencil. Now change the world.

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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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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
Categories
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

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Poetry Reading

Reading in the Poetry Cafe, Weds 7th Jan 2015

Please come to this reading if you find yourself in spitting distance of central London. For, with no trace at all of post-festive wear, Telltale press and friends will burst from the blocks on Wednesday 7th January, at 7.00pm at the Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street,  WC2H 9BX.

Rhona McAdam, one of the outstanding Canadian poets of her generation is launching Ex-Ville her spanking new collection. Meanwhile Catherine Smith is fresh from the triumphant launch of The New Cockaigne, published by Frogmore Press (a journey into a place of compulsory debauchery, where rivers flow with beer). Add to the evening, an exciting new talent: Siegfried Baber journeying from Bath to showcase fresh work, plus Telltale’s own Robin Houghton (who quietly bagged winning spot in The Stanza Poetry Competition a few weeks ago) as well as me too.

I usually think of January as the ghastly great Monday of the year. But this reading is making me feel weirdly positive.

London 7Jan

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Marketing Peter Kenny The Writer Ltd. Poetry Telltale Press

Peter Kenny The…

Let nobody tell you that moving house twice in five weeks is a good thing. Murderous impulses it produces aplenty, but writing… no. I now sit in my new study, white augmented by a recently applied shade of grey-green called Sophisticated Sage (what can I say, it spoke to me). A small room, with an elevated view west over north Brighton and rows of streets gleaming in the low sun. There’s even a windmill on the horizon. A visual lottery win compared to my last place, where, if you craned your neck, there was a choice of a square of sky or a guano-spattered brick wall.

ECCE-HOMOIn fact my new view gives me the heady feeling feeling I get looking at the Caspar David Friedrich cover on my old copy of Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo.

As the exhaustion abates, I discover I am happy. I am usually an optimistic person, but two years of property and legal stuff worked my nerve in some ways far more than a full-blooded crisis. Bleak House I understand you now: how appalling the sense of time, money and hope slipping away can be when nothing ever seems to happen except for Kafakesque correspondence, tetchily requesting installation details about the property’s non-existent ‘bulls-eye windows’, for example.

So what’s new? Well when not scraping walls of biscuit-coloured bobbly wallpaper, packing and unpacking boxes, mainly I have been copying my friend Robin Houghton and hoping her sheer professionalism will rub off on me. She and I are working closely on Telltale Press, a poet’s collective, and there will be more news in the new year. Meanwhile I understand The Nightwork is about to pick up a few reviews. Its first review, however,  is here at Sabotage, with the writer somewhat underwhelmed by my efforts.

On a more elevated note there will be a reading in London on Wednesday 7th January. My old friend Rhona McAdam will be gracing us with her poetic presence too, armed with her new book, her sixth, Ex-Ville. There will also be the frankly steamy Catherine Smith, shining new talent Siegfried Baber as well as Robin and I. I’m really looking forward to it.

I am also no longer just a humble Peter Kenny. For various reasons I have morphed into Peter Kenny The Writer Ltd. This all seems fine and dandy till my bank sent a bank card with my business embossed in plastic as Peter Kenny The.  I guess what comes after the The is the big thing.  I’m in the mood to prove it.