craic

luck of the irish

Some weeks are ones you want to live long in your memory. For me, this week has been one. First, I learned that the video of my poem Impulse was one of the winners in the Culture Matters spoken word competition. That put a much-needed spring in my step. Then I found out another of my poems was runner-up in this year’s Prole competition (you can read the winning poems here). I’m chuffed to bits, and am now putting more spring in bigger steps.

It’s easy to make a song and dance about it, to tell the world when you’ve had some success and things are going well, but I’m no stranger to that sense of frustration and despair that most (all?) poets know. Those days when you wonder if your work has any value at all, whether you’re kidding yourself, whether you’d be better off knocking the whole thing on the head and walking away. So, if you’re a poet or a writer who’s going through that right now, hang in there. Keep watching, keep learning, keep honing your craft.

Above all, keep writing. Because it’s what you need to do.


keeping it global

In late February, after my set at Orators & Opinions, Worcestershire poet Neil Laurenson interviewed me about why I write poetry, and much else besides. Thanks to him for taking the time to pose some very interesting questions. If you’d like to read what I had to say in response, you can do that by clicking here.

This week Proletarian Poetry published my poem ‘desaparecida’ on their website. As you may know if you follow me on Twitter, my friend John Sevigny – and a female colleague – were kidnapped by members of a drug cartel in Mexico early this year. The poem reflects upon that, and the additional dangers faced by women there, as I explain in the blog which accompanies the poem. You can read it here. It is, perhaps, right to highlight it on International Women’s Day, but I’ll leave you to be the judge of that.

Thank you for your continued support for my writing. It means the world.


more gone

Less than two weeks ago I posted the news that more bees bigger bonnets had sold out. Now I’m popping up again to tell you that a fine fine place has done so too. My heartfelt thanks to all those good folk who’ve bought a copy and given it a home – it’s gratifying and humbling to know my work has reached so many people.

A second print run of a fine fine place has been ordered from the printers. If you haven’t got a copy yet and you’d like to buy one, just click on this link.

Looks like I should crack on with getting the next volume of poems together then, eh? No rest for the wicked….


gone gone gone

If you’ve been meaning to buy a copy of my fourth book of poems more bees bigger bonnets, I’m sorry to tell you you’ve missed the boat. The last few copies of the second print run were snapped up at Thursday’s gig in Walsall (thanks, good folk of Orators & Opinions!)

I’m really proud of the work in more bees, and incredibly chuffed that so many people have  backed up my faith in it by shelling out their hard-earned on a copy. Like most poets, I know poetry’s unlikely to make me rich – you’d be bonkers to choose this route as the best way to untrammelled wealth – but it’s reassuring to find that the words I write strike a chord with others. That’s what it’s all about, in the end: communication. The sharing of ideas and experiences and voices. And that’s what poetry’s so good at, which is why I love it.

That’s enough trumpet-blowing for now. Time for a walk in the glorious spring sunshine. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for unlikely bonnets. And welcome bees.

note: the marketing department wishes to point out that you can pick up my fifth book of poems a fine fine place on the ignitebooks.co.uk website. Just follow this link.


put in perspective

It’s only natural – what with this being a website about my poetry – that most of my posts centre on that. Sometimes, though, the focus is rightly wrenched onto other subjects. This is one of those times.

My friend John Sevigny is a US photographer who spends a lot of time working in Central America. Nice work if you can get it, you might think. Except in early Jan, while working in Mexico, he and a colleague were kidnapped by members of a cartel. Over a dozen armed men burst into their apartment, beat the living daylights out of them with boots and guns, dragged them outside, and drove away with them. This is not – sadly – an uncommon event in Mexico, where over 20,000 people have been ‘disappeared’.

What John and his colleague experienced in the following 38 hours is the stuff of nightmares. I won’t list it here. If you want to, you can read John’s article by following the link at the end of this piece. But you don’t have to. You really don’t.

I have no idea why it was that – at the end of those 38 hours – someone took a decision to let them go, but they did. Other people in the same place ended up dead. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, so far as I can see.

One month on, John is recovering in the US, and has chosen to go public with the story of what happened to him. He knows that he has the luck and the good fortune (odd words to use of a man who’s been through what he’s been through, but there you go) to speak out. Firstly, because he’s still alive. Thousands of Mexicans have simply disappeared at the hands of cartels, remember. Secondly, unlike Mexicans who live with the threat of the cartels every day, he’s relatively safe, and can afford to speak.

He knows this gives him an opportunity to use his story to draw attention to what’s going on in Mexico, and what is happening to people there. And – as always – it’s women who bear the brunt of the whirlwind of brutality and violence in the society around them. We live in a world where nameless Mexicans dying does not make headline news, but a US photographer talking about what happened to him in those hours when he was kidnapped… well, that does. Or it can, anyway. And that’s a world of difference.

In an attempt to try and make some good come out of this brutality, we’ve been trying to work out what it’s possible to do. And our suggestion is that making a donation to your local Rape Crisis centre, or an organisation which works with survivors of torture, would be the most appropriate option. They never have enough money for the vitally important work they’re called upon to do.

That might – hopefully – be the positive thing that comes out of what happened. I know John and I would like to think so. And if you want to read John’s account, be warned. It is not, in any way, easy reading.

You can read Part One here.

And Part Two here.


gasping for a pint

I’m tempted to use that as the title for my next book of poems, even though it isn’t entirely true. I made it through Dry January, and while I’m looking forward to sitting in a pub and having a drink again, I could equally happily stay off the booze. But the universe, in its wisdom, has ordained that the 6 Nations starts this evening, and who am I to argue with the universe? Considerably Wet February it is.

So, before I slide under the table in the corner of the local, telling the world and its dog they’re my best mate, here’s a photo of the poem I was commissioned to write for West Midlands Railways as part of a Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists project in conjunction with them. It’s currently on display at Birmingham New St station. Check it out if you’re passing through.

More news once I’m back from the pub in March.


onward and upward

2019. You look away for a moment, and it’s already over a week old, and is busy exploring the world, sticking its pudgy little fingers in the plug sockets, and scribbling all over the furniture with a felt-tip pen. Bless it.

Last year was a lot of fun. Shows the length and breadth of the country with Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists, gigs of my own, and some superb headliners and open mics at our poetry nights in Walsall and Wolverhampton. On top of that, there were astoundingly good reviews for a book I co-wrote: ‘But after the gig…’ the autobiography of Tezz Roberts of Discharge (and a host of other bands). You can read one of them here – and see just why the first print run sold out in a couple of months – if the fancy takes you.

I’m busy making all sorts of plans for 2019 if it keeps away from the plug sockets for long enough to listen. I’ve already got a good number of gigs set up, with more in the pipeline, and I don’t doubt that PPP will be coming up with some outrageous new project or three, too. It’s going to be an exciting twelve months. Bring it on!


that’ll do nicely!

VLR review

When the first review of a book you helped write finally appears in the press, it proper blows your socks off to find out it’s as good as this one for But after the gig….

Thank you, Vive le Rock! I’m so happy to see Tezz’s story getting the big thumbs-up. Even happier that Vive le Rock gave it higher marks than a book about AC/DC. Hells bells!

If you haven’t read this wonderful book yet, do yourself a favour. Pop over to the Ignite Books site and buy a copy, here. 

Trust me, it’s worth it.


one week to go…

I’m a simple creature at heart, with no grand plan for my life other than to follow my nose and see where it leads me. It’s not the most complex of strategies, but it has led me to a place where I’m able to patch together a living from doing things I love.

One of those things is poetry. Another is working with legendary punk musicians to write their autobiography. They may seem like two very different things, but in my mind they’re two facets of the same vital human drive: storytelling. And I love a good story. 



At the start of this year, I put the finishing touches to But after the gig… the autobiography of Tezz Roberts. Tezz lives for music, and has played thousands of gigs with a huge number of bands, which is interesting in itself, but the book is so much more than another rock biog. Read it, and you’ll see what I mean.


Anyway, the point of this blog is to say that – while the book has been selling through the Ignite Books website for some months now – it’s officially published next week, on 1st November. And I’m doing an interview and Q&A on November 6th at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton as part of their ACT night. Doors are at 7pm, entry is free, I’ll have discounted copies of the book with me (and probably a few copies of City Baby, too). If you’re in the Midlands, it’d be lovely to see you. And if you’ve questions to ask, I’ll do my best to answer them. But remember, I’m a simple creature, so plan accordingly….


time for trumpets

There haven’t been many idle moments of late, which suits me down to the ground, but a couple of days ago I stumbled across one. At a loss what to do, I found myself – for no particular reason – doing a stock check on my poetry books. (I’m living the dream, I know).

Turns out I’ve sold over four hundred copies of my volume of poems more bees bigger bonnets. Four hundred. Wow. That’s pretty good going for someone who’s trundling along quietly, sorting out their own gigs*, doing their own thing.

Thanks to everyone who’s bought a copy. There’s been two print runs of the book now, and it’s unlikely there’ll be another. If you want a copy, there’s just sixteen left, and you can get them here. And now, I’ll get back to re-pointing the house. (I’m definitely living the dream)

*please note I’m available for birthday parties, weddings, barmitzvahs, poetry events, celebrating the fall of Tory governments etc etc.


bit more punk

Don’t get me wrong, I love my poetry. There’s something about getting up in front of an audience, spinning your words, and showing them that poetry isn’t the awful dead stuff they thought they learned at school (it’s just people saying words, folks!) which makes me incredibly happy. It can be in a pub or at a festival – like yesterday – or pretty much anywhere, but not many things beat someone saying I don’t like poetry, but that… that was OK.

Yeah, not much beats that.

But I also really enjoy finding untold stories and getting them into print. It’s not too great a stretch for a poet, if you think about it, and I’ve never been someone to settle for having just a single string to my bow. A few years ago I stumbled into working with Steve Ignorant on his autobiography. Then Ross Lomas of GBH and myself spent weeks recording his life story, which became the best-selling book City Baby.

Now, the manuscript for But after the gig… the life story of Tezz Roberts of Discharge, has gone to the printers. I can tell you it’s one hell of a rollercoaster ride. It’s on sale now at Ignite Books, and you can order a copy here. It’s well worth it.

Oh, and if you’re visiting Ignite, my books of poems are also on sale there. Just saying… 😉


collaboration

If there’s one thing the past few weeks have shown me, it’s that collaboration is good for the soul. I knew that anyway, of course – I’ve been working with Wolverhampton poets Emma Purshouse and Dave Pitt for the past eighteen months, during which we’ve created a spoken word show (long-listed for a Saboteur Award) set up a thriving poetry night, and done our best to help local pubs stay open and thrive. Recently, though, we expanded this collaborative way of working to include several other poets from our region. The experience has been amazing.

We were lucky enough to get funding from Arts Council England (thanks, folks!) for our Black Country Broadsheet project, which aimed to take poetry out and about in the Black Country, make more people aware of what’s going on here, and entice some of them  along to the events we’d set up. We wanted to take poetry out of its comfort zone. And we did.

What was hugely enjoyable was the opportunity to get to know other poets better, to hang out together, and to have a laugh. To work together with one common purpose. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a project more. Thanks to Rob Francis, Rick Sanders, Casey Bailey, Marianne Burgess, Bones, Jeremy Grant, and Mogs for throwing themselves into this project and helping make it such a success. If you haven’t heard any of their work yet, you’ve been missing out. Luckily, the broadsheet project still has one week left to run, which means you can do something about that.

So pop over to our Youtube channel and give yourself a treat.


broadsheet

Way back in late 2016 – when myself, Emma Purshouse, and Dave Pitt founded the Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists collective – one of our major goals was to take poetry out of its small-but-beautifully-formed niche and plonk it down in front of people who are convinced they don’t like poetry.

First, we wrote our ‘poets, prattlers, and pandemonialists’ show, performed it in Wolverhampton, and took it to Edinburgh (then Leamington, then Leeds, and on). That was fun. And a lot of people whose first thought is ‘Ugh. Poetry.’ thought so too, which makes us very happy. (some people who do like poetry enjoyed the show so much they put it forward for a Saboteur Award, and we don’t have words to say how overjoyed we are about that)

Now, we’re busy with another of our ideas which first saw the light of day as our collective met in a Wolverhampton pub and set the world to rights over a couple of pints: the Black Country Broadsheet.

It’s a simple idea. Ten poets from the Black Country. Five free events across the region. One specially commissioned video for each poet. 2000 copies of a broadsheet to hand out to people across the Black Country so they can see that poetry is written by people from their neck of the woods, that it can be funny, serious, angry, loving, and yes, they may not like all of it, but there’s going to be something there which speaks to them. That’s where the free events come in, of course. They’re an opportunity to see all these words come alive. And for people to get up and share their own words, if they want to.

You can find out more about this by following @pandemonialists on Twitter, or by joining this group on Facebook. And keep an eye open for copies of our Black Country Broadsheet when they start appearing towards the end of this month. There are some fantastic poets involved in this, and you’re going to love their work. We do.


hibernation

Well, kind of. I was busy making a hot chocolate late last night (yes, that’s how wildly rock’n’roll life at mine is right now) and it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t updated the website in… what? Weeks? Ye gods! In our million-mile-an-hour world, where the expectation of regular cyber-updates is taken as a given, what on earth was I thinking??

Naturally, I had a word with myself. And now, I’m writing this blog to convince you – and myself – that I care. Because truth be told, I’m rather enjoying just cracking on with life. Getting out on the mountain bike. Going to the gym. Swimming. Sitting in and actually reading poetry rather than scrolling through my timeline on Facebook or wondering how may ‘likes’ a post will get. I’m diving into Jo Bell’s wonderful 52 book and spending hours letting my imagination run riot with ideas for new poems, then sharing them with friends and seeing what they’ve made of the same prompts.

It’s all very enjoyable. And revitalising. And exciting. And whatever that Danish zeitgeisty word is that people started using twelve months ago when they decided they were just that bit too old to go clubbing. Hygge. Yeah. That. Not a word you hear a lot of round here, where they just call it ‘staying in’, but you get the drift.

I’ve gigs coming up. The new book is out (if you buy a copy, I promise to crawl out from under the duvet and shuffle to the Post Office to send it on its way). I even found time to send a poem to Culture Matters, who published it here today, bless them. But right now, I’m more interested in getting a sourdough bread mix on the go, losing myself in a good book, and doing as little as possible.

And I tell you what, it’s addictive.


thanks

A huge (and slightly belated) thanks to everyone who came along to last week’s benefit gig for Paulette Wilson. It was a last-minute venture, and we didn’t really know what to expect, how many people would turn up, or how much it would raise. In the end, the room was packed, the bucket filled with donations, we collected over £300 for Paulette, and a good time was had by all.

Thanks to poets Steve Harrison, Emma Purshouse, Paul Francis, Dave Pitt, Bones, Rick Sanders, and Spoz for their excellent sets, to ukulele ensemble Not Quite Dead Yet for raising the roof, and to the Clarendon Hotel for letting us have the venue for free. Thanks, too, to those people who couldn’t make it to the gig, but supported Paulette via the Justgiving page we’d set up. Your generosity means we’ve already reached our target, but the page is still open till mid-January, so we may yet raise more.

Best thing about the night? Seeing Paulette and her daughter enjoying themselves and laughing. After everything they’ve been through, that was priceless. People 1, Home Office 0. Merry Xmas!


paulette

This Thursday I’ll be taking part in a benefit gig in Wolverhampton. It’s got one simple aim: to raise money for Paulette Wilson, a grandmother living in Wolverhampton who’s currently under threat of deportation. If you don’t know anything about her case (and there’s no reason why you would) you can read all about it here.

Poets, prattlers, and pandemonialists is a collective of Wolverhampton poets, and when we heard about Paulette’s case we knew we had to do something to help. So we pulled together this benefit gig in double-quick time so we could offer her some practical, financial support before Xmas. The night will feature a whole slew of our friends, every one of whom gave an emphatic Yes when we asked if they’d be prepared to take part. They’re giving their time and their skill for free, the venue has waived the hire costs, and all we need now is for an audience to turn up, put their hands in their pockets (entry to the night is by donation) and let Paulette know her city stands with her.

There have been times recently where I’ve simply wanted to shut the world out. There’s so much bad news – wars, starving polar bears, anything involving Donald Trump – that I’ve found myself feeling overwhelmed. This benefit has reminded me of what we can do when we work together, how the small steps we take turn into something bigger.

If you’re in or around Wolverhampton on Thursday, drop in to the Clarendon Hotel on Chapel Ash. It doesn’t matter if you can’t stay all evening, just grab a seat and a beer and enjoy what’s going on, and throw some money in the bucket. And if you can’t make it, but would like to support Paulette, we’ve set up a Justgiving page where folk can donate to help her.

Because together we are stronger. And every little helps.


england

I don’t know quite how it happened, exactly how it is I fell through the cracks and found a way of life which allows me to put bread on the table while doing things I enjoy (rather than slaving at things which I don’t) but I’m immensely grateful things turned out the way they did.

Last month saw the publication of my latest book ‘a fine fine place’ (my thanks to everyone who’s bought it, by the way). Last week, I met up with Reuben from Trapeze Films to make a video of one of the poems in it. As always, I’m left with a sense of wonder when someone – with skills which I don’t have – takes the vague idea I have for how I think I might like the video to look, and turns it into something which actually works on the screen. And which looks good, too.

A bit of background to the video… the poem was inspired by a question posed by Walsall artist Carolyn Bayliss. She asked ‘What would you say at the funeral of England?’ As someone who’s always been fascinated by identity, I knew I’d have something to say. I just didn’t know what. I ended up writing England, my response to simplistic nationalism. I hope you enjoy it, find something in it which makes you smile, and something else which makes you think.

Oh, and feel free to share it as widely as you like.

You can view England here.


launch

Like a lot of poets, I genuinely struggle with self-promotion. Really. Writing poems? No problem. Sharing them? Yep, that’s fine. Appreciating other people’s work? Of course. But when it comes to making a song and dance about – say – my new book, my toes curl and I  post some kind of mumbled er… I’ve a… you know… book thingummy… online before running away and doing something else instead.

All of which means that although ‘a fine fine place’ is my fifth book of poems, I’d never ever had a proper launch for any of the earlier ones. And I still wouldn’t have, if my fellow poets and prattlers Emma Purshouse and Dave Pitt hadn’t cajoled me into doing it this time round. But they did. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who came to the Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton last Sunday to listen to me read some poems from the book, have a few beers, and enjoy samosas and pakora with their literature.

For those of you who want one, copies of the book are available… er… on sale… um… you know….

Oh god. There go my toes again.


signed, sealed, delivered

arrival

Here it is. The new book. a fine fine place. To say I’m proud of it doesn’t begin to do it justice, but – if I’m honest – the pride is shrouded just a little in a fog of exhaustion and buried under an endless list of admin. I know I’m not alone in that: last night I did a gig in Bury with the wonderful Kieren King and we both mused how we got into poetry in order to, well, write poetry. Instead we find ourselves spending too many precious hours answering emails and chasing a living. Ah, but the alternatives are worse!

Anyway, the book. It’s everything you would expect, and everything I would have wanted. My thanks and gratitude to Brenda Read-Brown, Boff Whalley, Emma Purshouse, Jonny Fluffypunk, Laura Taylor, and Spoz, all of whom have found it in themselves to say very generous things about it. Donald Trump was too busy getting het up about football players protesting racial injustice to have anything to say, but I think it’s fair to say he wouldn’t like this either. Hey ho. Decide for yourselves by getting a copy here. If you want it signed, just say. The sealing and delivering comes as standard.


golden days

OK, where did the summer go? Last time I sat down to write a blog, August still stretched out before me with the promise of golden days and summer heat. Now, there’s mist in the mornings and I’m putting on the lights not long after I’ve had my tea.

Much has happened in the meantime, though. The ‘poets, prattlers, and pandemonialists’ venture to Edinburgh was a joy, outstripping our wildest dreams (well, probably not our wildest) of how things would go. We had a blast, we saw some great shows – spoken word, documentary talks, and theatre pieces – and we pulled enough of an audience each evening to cover our costs and put money in our pockets for a beer. Given that the average audience for a Free Fringe show is four people, that’s quite an achievement.

From there, I trundled up to Orkney in the camper van – yes, that’s the van with the newly-fettled brakes and steering – for a few days kicking back, watching seabirds and sunsets, and fitting in a pay-as-you-feel poetry gig in Kirkwall. I love the inclusiveness of these gigs: if you’re skint, you’re still welcome; if you’re curious about poetry, there’s no price-tag to deter you; if you love poetry, we’ll see you there. There’s an honesty about it. And of course, there’s the element of uncertainty, that edge, wondering just how much money you’ll find in the hat at the end of the night. And the surprise when you find out.

Thereafter, southwards via a string of festivals to another pay-as-you-feel gig in Falmouth (if you’re visiting, I recommend you check out the Chintz bar, it’s a splendid one-off of a place) and a chance to play in the surf before the summer slipped away. My annual ritual to mark the passing of the seasons. And now I’m home. I’ve a new book at the printers – I’ll be posting a blog about that, and the Wolverhampton book launch, very soon – and months of mists and mellow fruitfulness to come. Bring it on.

P.S. If, like me, you don’t do deferred gratification, the good news is that the book’s on sale already. You can click and buy it here.


festival time

The day is almost upon us. From Friday, I’ll be in Edinburgh. Saturday is the first date in a one-week run of ‘Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists’ the spoken-word-show-piece-of-theatre type thingummy I’ve been rehearsing with Dave Pitt and Emma Purshouse. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun it’s been working with this pair of reprobates – because it absolutely has – but if you come along to the show I’m sure you’ll see exactly what I mean.

There’s still so much to do before I leave tomorrow morning. And yes, the eagle-eyed among you are right: that does mean I’m taking two days to get to Edinburgh. I’ve copies of the ‘punk in Walsall’ newspaper to drop off at Rebellion Festival in Blackpool tomorrow lunchtime, and a gig in Appleby in Cumbria that evening. But first I need to get the van back from the garage – the small matter of getting brakes and steering fixed before I set off – pack everything I need for a week at the Fringe, wash, shop, and fit in one final rehearsal. 

Sometimes it’s exhausting just thinking about it. But it’s also wonderfully, madly, bounce-up-and-down-like-a-kid-on-his-way-to-the-seaside exciting. It’s great to be taking part in the Fringe anyway, but to be doing it with two good mates, and with a piece of theatre I’m really proud to have played a part in helping create, well, that just takes the biscuit.

Watch this space for all the news of our adventure!


edinburgh

Sometimes, an idea blurted out on the spur of the moment in the course of a few drinks down the pub, a nothing, a casual aside you never really expect will go anywhere, well, it proves to be a moment of genius no-one ever expected.

That’s the nearest I can come to explaining the concept of ‘poets, prattlers, and pandemonialists’. An idea which first saw the light of day as myself, Dave Pitt, and Emma Purshouse wrapped ourselves round a fourth (or maybe fifth) pint during one of our regular meetings in a pub in Wolverhampton. We liked each other’s poetry, we got on, we had a laugh and took the mick out of each other like there was no tomorrow, so why not work together? What could possibly go wrong?

That was less than a year ago. Since then, we’ve run poetry slams, put on the premiere of our show ‘Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists’ in Wolverhampton, and set up an entirely new – and very successful – poetry and spoken word night in Walsall. We still like each other’s poetry, and we still have time to meet down the pub and take the mick out of each other.

edinburgh jpgFor our next venture, we’re taking the PPP show up to the Free Fringe in Edinburgh. Why not? It’ll be an adventure. We’re doing a cut-down version of the Wolverhampton show, so it fits into the 50-minute slot we’ve been given, and from August 5th to 11th we’ll be performing at BarBados on Cowgate each and every evening at 7.30pm. Like all the Free Fringe events, it’ll be free entry, and we’ll be passing the hat round at the end of each show to help keep the wolf from the door.

Courtesy of the very talented photographer, Matt Timbers, we’ve a fantastic image to promote our show – you’ll see a small version of it to the left of this sentence. If you’d like a copy for yourself, or to share with friends who live in Edinburgh, or who might be visiting the city in August, drop me a line at steve@stevepottinger.co.uk  Maybe we’ll see you there for a pint, too.

P.S. You can read more about when we first performed the show in Wolverhampton by clicking here.


books

In 2012, my book ‘Island Songs was published. It had been a good while since I’d dipped my toes into the world of performance poetry, and I ordered way more books than I was ever likely to sell. Ah well, nothing to do but roll up my sleeves, get out there gigging, and hope to find people who’d want them.

This last Monday – just before the evening rush hour – I hopped on the motorbike and rode out along motorways and A-roads for a gig in Welshpool. There, in the interval of a poetry event in the back room of a pub, I sold the last ever copy of ‘Island Songs’. It had come as something of a surprise when, a few weeks earlier, I’d found I had just ten copies left, and I decided that all the money from those last copies would go to a worthy cause, the charity Shelter, who do so much to help people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

My thanks to every single person who’s bought and enjoyed ‘Island Songs’ (there’s more of you than I would ever have dared to imagine). Two years ago I followed it up with ‘more bees bigger bonnets’ and this seems as good an opportunity as any to announce there’ll be a new book – my fifth – in the autumn. If you organise poetry events and are looking for a feature poet (or you know someone who does) or you’d simply like me to come to your town and read to you and your friends, get in touch.

I know not every gig will involve sitting outside a pub in the sunshine watching swifts and swallows and jackdaws, but I’ve a motorbike and a strong urge to travel, so let’s make it happen.

(This morning, Ignite Books made a donation of £40.00 to Shelter. If you want to support their work, you can do so here)


it’s a wrap

It’s a worrying moment. You’ve just about made it to the end of your poem, and you know you’ve nailed it. Tone of voice? Bang on. Body language? Perfect. You’ve even remembered all the words, and got them in the right order. You start the last line – and someone sends the cameraman a text.

He hasn’t got his phone on silent, which means the audio track picks up the ‘ping’ as the text arrives. On the one hand, this is hilarious – if you’d started the poem two seconds earlier, or whoever sent the text had pressed ‘send’ a fraction later, you’d have a perfect take in the bag – but behind the laughter there’s a nagging sense of doubt. What if that was the take for the day? What if you spend the next couple of hours stumbling over the words, forgetting your lines, and being interrupted by traffic and street noise from outside?

The pressure is on. Fortunately, the next take is fine (the cameraman has put his phone on silent, thankfully). You do another one – just for luck – and that runs without a hitch, too. Job done. As the cameraman packs his gear away, you laugh about the timing of that text, how it could have thrown the whole day into a spin. By evening, he’s sent the video over. A little later, you post it up online.

A new poem. A new, strong, stable poem. You hope it’ll make people smile.

(if you want to, you can view it here)