Love is a Battlefield: Louise Fazackerley, Nymphs & Thugs

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Eight years ago, Louise Fazackerley went to a event in Wigan organised by Write Out Loud host and poet and lyricist in his own right, John Togher.  Like the birth of many a performance poet, this proved to be the gateway to a whole new adventure.  Since that night, she has gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the stand-out performance poets of the north.  Described as “a great performer” by...

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Review

Keats, celery, Luton, wallpaper: John Hegley brightens wet night in Hebden Bridge

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On a rainy evening in Hebden Bridge I ventured down a side street, pushed open a forbidding door and ascended the stairs of the Trades Club. Given the history of the Calder valley I half-expected to see the ghost of Edward Thompson doing a WEA gig on the rise of the English working class, but no; it...

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Review

Poetry, song and Christmas cheer from Carol Ann Duffy and Little Machine

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A packed Emanuel School hall in Battersea, the stage lit with flickering candles and draped with red roses, the Dark Rose for Christmas album artwork provided an atmospheric backdrop. A silver-grey wi...

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Review

Journeying along the waterways as Jo Bell looks back

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A journey through Jo Bell’s three years as canal laureate took place at Little Venice in London on Wednesday night, involving, among other things, kingfishers, dry docks, the enormous Caen Hill flight...

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Review

Don't Mention the Children: Michael Rosen, Smokestack

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Until I read the blurb, I thought the title of this collection of adult poems by the former children’s laureate, Michael Rosen, might refer to hiding the content of this book from the children  - or p...

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Review

Wendy Cope at Folkestone book festival: funny, affectionate, and still as sharp as nails

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Ted Hughes is said to have told Wendy Cope in 1992: “I like your deadpan fearless sort of way of whacking the nail on the head – when everybody else is trying to hang pictures on it.”

Cope is still...

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Review

Out of Everywhere 2: ed. Emily Critchley, Reality Street

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One of the seminal anthologies of non-mainstream poetries of the late 1990s has to be the first Out of Everywhere anthology, edited by Maggie O’Sullivan. It’s a brilliant collection of various poetrie...

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Review

Poet reaches for the sky to remember those magnificent women in their Spitfires

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Diana Barnato Walker, who delivered 260 Spitfires and many twin-engined bombers during the war,  was convinced she had a guardian angel, in the form of a badly-burnt pilot. Lettice Curtis ferried almo...

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'Visionary in a utilitarian age': John Cooper Clarke on 19th century opium eater Thomas De Quincey

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Dr John Cooper Clarke, to give him his full honorary academic title, does have a certain affinity with Thomas De Quincey, 19th century author of Confessions of an English Opium Eater, and friend and a...

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Review

True Tales of the Countryside: Deborah Alma, The Emma Press

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What a treat for lovers of exuberant, lusty, warm-hearted poetry - Deborah Alma’s first collection of her own gutsy poems, plus her Anti-Stress Anthology which she uses in her guise as the Emergency P...

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Review

Smoke Rising: John Seed, Shearsman

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I first came across the poetry of John Seed in the anthology, A Various Art, a gathering of British experimental poets from the 1970s and 80s. I can’t say that I was struck by them, not that they were...

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Review

No one gets hurt as A Firm of Poets do the business

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It must be made clear at the outset that A Firm of Poets are a collective of northern-based, er, poets. It’s just that whenever I’ve heard their monicker I’ve always found myself thinking of the kind ...

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Review

An evening with Carol Ann Duffy: pearls, poems on demand, and a last-minute book hitch

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An Evening with Carol Duffy at the Manchester literature festival was billed as the launch of the poet laureate’s first collected poems, but there was a slight hitch – no book. The German printer has ...

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Poetic humour with a cutting edge: consummate performer's Caribbean history lesson

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John Agard makes free with anachronisms – indeed, they are part of the joke. Arriving on stage in historic dress as Christopher Columbus, but with a shopping trolley, he extracts various items from it...

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Review

Play that anglo-saxophone! Michael Horovitz celebrates 35 years of Poetry Olympics

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It was billed as the Poetry Olympics Enlightenment festival - and I hadn’t really known what to expect. I did know that veteran poet Michael Horovitz , who put together the Children of Albion antholog...

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The poetry of lost landscapes: Tamar Yoseloff and David Harker merge text and art in Nowheres

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A shared obsession with “urban detritus” and “provisional, lost landscapes” has brought poet Tamar Yoseloff and artist David Harker together, to collaborate and explore with paintings, drawings and wo...

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Review

Rhymes, Rock & Revolution: the story of performance poetry

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BBC4’s look at performance poetry and its links with music opened with footage from Wholly Communion, the film of the Albert Hall gathering of 1965, with Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Adrian ...

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Review

'Both my parents were on my exam syllabus' - Frieda Hughes

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The level-headed and even-handed testimony of Frieda Hughes, the daughter of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, stood out in a recent BBC4 programme, Ted Hughes: Stronger Than Death, part of the BBC’s Poetr...

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Review

A Murmuration: David Cooke, Two Rivers Press

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David Cooke is well known to and appreciated by regulars on Write Out Loud. He started out as a winner of a Gregory award, given to young poets, and has become a much-published poet who nevertheless c...

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Multimedia and the message: Zones of Avoidance brings home unavoidable truths

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An award-winning , multimedia poetry production is being performed in a short run at London’s Cockpit theatre  – and I recommend that you see it, if you possibly can. Zones of Avoidance by Maggie Sawk...

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Review

Zygote Poems: Richard Thomas, Cultured Llama

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In the title poem Richard Thomas opens this collection by introducing the “poppy seed” that will become his daughter, Emmeline, “making itself at home”. The size comparison of a six- or seven-week foe...

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Review

Cherry Pie: Hollie McNish, Burning Eye Books

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Published by Burning Eye under her pen name of Hollie Poetry, and inspired by her grandparents’ advice on newspapers, war, sex and tinned cherries, Cherry Pie is the second collection of poems by Holl...

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Review

The Nailmakers' Daughters: Offa's Press

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The latest offering from Offa’s Press brings together the work of three poets from the West Midlands – Emma Purshouse, Iris Rhodes and Marion Cockin - who share with us their observations and memories...

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Review

Arguments Yard: Attila the Stockbroker, Cherry Red

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Attila the Stockbroker is celebrating his 35th year of being Attila, and doing it in style with an autobiography plus an extensive and ongoing book launch tour. Released on 3 September by Cherry Red B...

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Review

The Beauty: Jane Hirshfield, Bloodaxe

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Jane Hirshfield is an American poet, essayist and translator born in New York City in 1953. She has worked widely as an academic of creative writing and poetry and received many awards, including bein...

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Schooldays: Paper Swans Press

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Schooldays is a new collection of poetry and flash fiction from Paper Swans, a recently launched, small independent press. The contents are accessible, vivid and thought-provoking and offer up fresh i...

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Review

Woodchip Anaglypta and Nicotined Artex Ceilings: JB Barrington

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This updated, 2015 version of Woodchip Anaglypta and Nicotined Artex Ceilings, a collection of poems written and performed by Salford-born JB Barrington in an award-winning show, includes angry poems ...

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Review

Small Hands: Mona Arshi, Liverpool University Press

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There is an obvious motif of hands running through Mona Arshi’s wonderful debut collection, Small Hands - hands and palms that have “dents” and “pleats”. Rain crops up many times in the poems, too, of...

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Review

Dark Islands: Tom Chivers, Test Centre

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In this collection of poems Tom Chivers, the innovative publisher of Penned in the Margins, transmits with often dazzling language a vivid and troubling vision in which the old and modern Thames takes...

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Review

The Pity: first world war anthology, Poetry Society

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This Poetry Society anthology, published in 2014, was an initiative to celebrate the centenary of the Great War. They chose four poets who would represent different "poetics and perspectives" to write...

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Still angry after all these years: heroes of Ranting poetry keep the flame alive

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Back in the 1980s, Ranting poets were very angry - angry about the conditions that led to the inner city riots, angry about the miners’ strike, angry about unemployment, and a host of other issues. No...

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The power of Yeats: BBC's Fergal Keane on the poet he takes on his travels

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A multi-award-winning BBC foreign correspondent, whose parents were both actors and whose father knew Louis MacNeice, drew fresh resonances from WB Yeats’ ‘Easter 1916’ on Wednesday night when he read...

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Review

Imagined Sons: Carrie Etter, Seren

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Discussing the topic of lyric poetry on an Arvon course last year, I heard someone say that all lyric is about the absence of the loved one.

True or not, I found this idea an arresting and fruitful...

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Review

Thought-Apples: Bert Flitcroft, Offa's Press

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The title is apt; former English teacher and Midlands poet Bert Flitcroft has put a lot of thought, and indeed thoughts, into these poems. An insight may be gained from ‘Forbidden Fruit’; its content ...

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Review

Unsparing shock and awe as The Hundred Years' War anthology is brought to life and death on stage

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The Hundred Years’ War, a touring production of modern war poetry in performance inspired by the Bloodaxe anthology, has the barest of sets – a table, two teacups and saucers, a few stools and an acco...

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Review

Meeting up with Muldoon: Manchester's Poets and Players competition winners

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What a great return to the newly-extended Whitworth art gallery for Mancheser's Poets and Players, where a full house heard the results of the 2015 poetry competition. Not only did we hear the winners...

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Review

Reincarnation of that Albert Hall spirit at the Roundhouse ensures the beat goes on

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It was a day when the anecdotes just kept on coming. Allen Ginsberg was “very, very drunk, and quite angry that he had been kept waiting for so long” when he finally got up to perform at the First Int...

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Review

Zones of Avoidance: Maggie Sawkins, Cinnamon

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This year’s winner of the Ted Hughes award for new work in poetry was the former poet laureate, Andrew Motion, for his work based on interviews with soldiers returning from Afghanistan. The previous y...

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Review

Full moon, seashells, and trailing ducks: Jackie Hagan's one-legged view of life

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The force of nature that is poet and writer Jackie Hagan performed her show Some People Have Too Many Legs at Manchester’s Contact theatre to an adoring crowd of family, friends and fans. She said it ...

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Review

Avant-garde poetry in the home counties fails to pull in the crowds

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You wouldn’t necessarily consider Guildford to be a hotbed of avant-garde poetry. And that could be why, when 11 people took to the stage to perform Bob Cobbing’s ABC in Sound at the finale of the Sur...

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Review

Taking the long view: election poetry from Live Canon

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The three ballot boxes on the stage were, we were told, stuffed with poems. And the lines delivered from memory by three young actors from Live Canon poetry ensemble on the eve of polling day provided...

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Review

Avant-garde poetry in the home counties fails to pull in the crowds

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You wouldn’t necessarily consider Guildford to be a hotbed of avant-garde poetry. And that could be why, when 11 people took to the stage to perform Bob Cobbing’s ABC in Sound at the finale of the Sur...

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Review

Andrew Motion, Harry Patch, and the poetry of war

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When the BBC sent Andrew Motion to talk to Harry Patch, who was then Britain’s last surviving first world war solder, and who died in 2009 at the age of 111, it was “my most interesting commission whi...

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Meltdowns, anthropomorphic puzzles, and other surprises at The Other Room's birthday party

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I see Write Out Loud’s Julian Jordon was at The Castle pub on Manchester’s Oldham Street the other night doing a review - and blow me, I was in there the following evening, this time for a birthday pa...

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Manchester moments: Tony Walsh sends sparks flying; Liz Berry's dialect delights

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An audience of 250 packed into Manchester’s Frog and Bucket comedy club, at turns whooping and hollering, mad with laughter, and trembling in tears, as the words were made flash and dealt amongst them...

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Review

Farewell to John Rylands library with readings full of illuminations

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Manchester’s immensely popular music and poetry event Poets and Players is fighting back after being surprisingly snubbed by the Arts Council which has supported it for a good while. But if the organi...

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Review

Hollie McNish - unassuming, inspiring, and making light of the internet trolls

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I was expecting her to be polished and professional. I was expecting her to be entertaining and enthralling. What I was not expecting was to be laughing like a drain for the majority of her show. Holl...

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Review

Look back in anger, forward in hope: poets mix it with politics in election anthology

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The question of anger in political poetry was raised at the launch of an anthology aimed at encouraging people to vote, in one of London’s most popular poetry venues, the Betsey Trotwood pub in Farrin...

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Review

More Bees Bigger Bonnets: Steve Pottinger, Ignite

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More Bees Bigger Bonnets is Steve Pottinger’s fourth collection of poems, and according to publisher Ignite Books, his best yet. A bold claim? We shall see.

Born and bred in the West Midlands, he h...

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Review

Far from a comfort zone: Maggie Sawkins on a scary journey, and the friends she found along the way

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The winner of the Ted Hughes award for new work in poetry will be announced in a few days’ time. Meanwhile on Saturday night last year’s winner, Maggie Sawkins, launched Zones of Avoidance, a collecti...

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Review

Not retro but metro: Write Out Loud Sale displays its range of poetic styles

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I arrived at Write Out Loud Sale a little shame-faced, ready to hand myself in, as it were, not having attended for a while. And, like a child, it had grown since my last visit. My!

The venue at th...

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Review

The Pilgrim's Trail: Frances Spurrier, Cinnamon Press

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This is a book about time and memory, about the slippages between our days and hours. It is about how nature goes on, even though we can’t, about the long collective memory we humans share which is ca...

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Review

New and Selected Sorrows: Goran Simic, Smokestack

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Goran Simic is a name you may well have heard of.  Some of his work has been translated by this year’s TS Eliot prize winner, David Harsent.  He was born in 1954 in Sarajevo, 40 years after that famou...

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Review

Reflections of a tireless poet: Elaine Feinstein on Sylvia Plath, TS Eliot, and brave Russian writers

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Elaine Feinstein may now be 84, but “work is my game. It’s how I play”, as she says in the concluding poem, ‘Death and the Lemon Tree’, in her latest collection, Portaits, a series of acute, lively vi...

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Review

One Evening in October I Rowed out on the Lake: Tua Forsström, trans. David McDuff, Bloodaxe

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A brief sojourn in Finland is enough to teach the observer that the country is vast and largely uninhabited, for much of the year buried under ice and snow. Impossible then, for human beings not to be...

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Review

Short of Breath: Vivien Jones, Cultured Llama

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Vivien Jones lives on the north Solway shore in Scotland, and this is her second collection of poetry. Short of Breath has no overarching theme, and encompasses some subjects that are perhaps predicta...

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Review

Soundscapes, psychogeography, and a peach of a poem at The Other Room

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I thought it was time for another visit to The Other Room in Manchester, and chose a night of very enjoyable but almost indescribable work at this welcoming home of experimental poetry. As Americans s...

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Review

No need to mind your language, Mab: loose talk that's about women's lives

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At the start of her set, Mab Jones seemed a little unsure of her audience, and said she probably wouldn’t perform the poem containing her “best rhyme” … the one rhyming “Venus” with “penis”. By the co...

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Review

The Hard Word Box: Sarah Hesketh, Penned in the Margins

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In her introduction to this collection, Sarah Hesketh quotes a care worker’s words: “When you tell this story, make sure you tell it right,” and adds that the staff member at the home in Preston was “...

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Review

Out in the open: celebrating gay poetry, and its inspirations

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I’ve been to a couple of the Poetry Library’s Special Edition readings before, but had never seen the place so packed. The reading, marking LGBT history month,  was billed as ‘Hidden Desires, Hidden L...

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Review

Last train from Marsden: Mr Armitage goes to Washington

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Simon Armitage is famously from Marsden, as is Write Out Loud. I walked past his dad the other day, during my morning constitutional; and here I was attending his and Peter Oswald’s reading at the Fol...

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Review

That's grand: Tony Walsh keeps flame alive at the Book Slam

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One of spoken word’s leading ambassadors and heroes, Tony Walsh, came down south from the north-west on Thursday night to tread the boards of a former Victorian music hall in London.

Walsh was topp...

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Review

The Garden: anthology, Otley Word Feast Press

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The Garden is the second book from this new small press in West Yorkshire, an anthology of rather delightful garden poems. I wouldn’t go quite so far as the editors to describe it as  “stunning”,  pri...

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Review

Two Countries: Katrina Porteous, Bloodaxe

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Porteous tells us, in the introduction to this collection,  that the long poems in the book are a collage of scraps and fragments, “‘an archaeological assemblage of speech, song, litany and chant”, an...

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Review

Larach: John Foggin, Ward Wood

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This pamphlet collection is the result of John Foggin winning the Lumen Camden poetry competition last year with his poem ‘Camera Obscura’. The prize is a chapbook of the winner’s poetry issued by War...

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