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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). 

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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.

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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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Charity Guernsey Marketing Poetry Travel

Ready for Chad and missing writing poetry

Chad

Final stage of prep seems now to be done. Passport renewed, visa obtained, jabs jabbed (although inconveniently I had a fever when I went for my yellow fever jab so I had to return a few days later) anti-malarial Malerone tablets bought, while my wife has armed me with lots of practical things like wet wipes, hand sanitisers and so on. Final thing to buy is a mosquito net, and I need to locate and deploy my inner hairy-chested man of action.

My inner h-c man of action especially required after a day of compulsory security training. Essentially the training gave you an idea of what to do in every conceivable worst case scenario, delivered by a man who has spent much of his life working in the most hostile environments, bless his white-rimmed eyes. Lots of advice from what to do if you are being robbed (simply give them everything) right up to the best position to take on the floor if someone throws a live grenade into the room. Rather melodramatically a dummy grenade was thrown into our room, prompting us to flatten ourselves on the floor, heads pointed away from the blast. Hardly soothing stuff.

Nevertheless, the script I wrote which we are filming seems to have been approved by everyone, and next week we see how reality matches our expectation. I am hoping we can edge beyond the normal tropes of DRTV and see if we can get something exceptional. Fundraising DRTV advertisements have some rigid but proven conventions so it is definitely about striking a balance between abiding by conventions and managing to surprise people.

Poetry

I’ve not had much chance to engage with poetry over the last few weeks, due being very busy in my Peter Kenny The Writer Ltd mode. This is making me itch to write poems again.

I particularly enjoyed being on the Telltale Stand for the Poetry Book Fair. More than anything I value the chance to get a snapshot of what is going on in poetry in the UK, and also to drift about chatting to some old friends and putting some names to faces. I bought books too. One simply because I liked its name: Infragreen by Kate Bingham, and another because it was connected with Guernsey: Timothy Adès translation of How to be a Grandfather, by Victor Hugo. I spoke with Timothy who had just returned from the Guernsey Literary Festival, and had bumped into Edward Chaney there. I also bought a Carcanet New Poetries IV anthology. I love these Carcanet anthologies. They invite a kind of personal statement of its poets, which is a potential minefield. Some are illuminating while others make me hoot with laughter at their portentous vacuity. All adds to the fun.

Me, Robin Houghton, Siegfried Baber, Sarah Barnsley
Me, Robin Houghton, Siegfried Baber, Sarah Barnsley

My favourite moment on the Telltale stand was when a woman looked at the four free poem postcards we were giving away. Silently she picked up one after another, read the first line or two through her magnifying glass, and replaced the card on its pile with a visible shudder. She came to Sarah Barnsley’s card last, and lo! She regally retained it before moving on. Praise indeed.

In fact Sarah Barnsley’s new pamphlet is just out from TelltaleThe Fire Station contains some truly exceptional poems.When I get back from Chad I will write more about them.

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Poetry Publishing

TELLTALE PRESS at the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair – Conway Hall, London Saturday 26th September

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Yay! Telltale Press will be represented at the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair this weekend. Come to our stand say howdy to Robin Houghton, Siegfried Baber, Sarah Barnsley and myself. We’ll be armed with revolutionary pamphlets and plenty of chat. Plus you have to grab hold of Sarah Barnsley’s spanking new ‘The Fire Station’ as is it is released into the wild for the first time.

I had a blast last year there as an attendee, sloping about with Robin and feeling the poetry buzz – amazing publications, elegant design, live readings and much  bumping into old friends. I feel proud that just one year later Telltale is now a robust little press able to take its place at the fair too. See you there!

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Marketing Poetry Travel

Chad, Telltale Press and some poetry acceptances

I am off to Chad. In less than a month I shall be going to what is, according to the United Nations human development report 2011 is the fifth poorest nation on earth. I will be part of a small team to fact-find and shoot film for fundraising activities. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit twitchy about the idea at first (Chad being roughly three thousand miles outside my comfort zone) but this rare opportunity to do something good in the world has to be seized. My trepidation is rapidly being replaced by curiosity and excitement at the opportunity to grow as a writer and a person.

Telltale Press news… The Poetry Book Fair is happening on Saturday 26th in The Conway Hall London. I’m really proud to be on the Telltale stand (it’ll be our first time and we are sharing a stand with the lovely folks at The Frogmore Press) with Robin Houghton, Siegfried Baber and Sarah Barnsley.

Sarah’s spanking new Telltale pamphlet, The Fire Station, is about to released into the wild, and having read it I can tell you it is wonderful.

My own poems have had a couple of cheering acceptances lately. From Under the Radar magazine another with The Island Review which is a beautiful site visually and in content. While the excellent poetry anthology edited by Josephine Corcoran called And Other Poems will also feature a poem later this year. No doubt I shall be bragging about these more when they see the light of day.

Chad

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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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Performance Poetry Reading

A quick humblebrag – reading tonight 18th June

A quick humblebrag… I’m on tonight at the Poetry Cafe at 7.00pm as a part of a Telltale Press and Friends reading, with new Telltale recruit Sarah Barnsley, plus the brilliant Tamar Yoseloff who I’ve not read with since the 90s, Sue Rose whose new book I love plus multiple award-winning Robin Houghton. The Poetry Cafe is here.

Please come along if you can.

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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.

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