Ghalib, ghazals, musha'iras: an Asian tradition of spoken word

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It was an extraordinary moment, for me, at any rate. Early on during a talk about a famous South Asian poet his words were read out in Urdu – and many of the audience began joining in, knowing them word for word.

Novelist and editor Marion Molteno was delivering a talk about the 19th century poet Ghalib, who wrote many ghazals, a series of couplets linked by strict metre and rhyme. She has edit...

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Review

Beyond the cringe ... How I saw the light and learned to love the anti-slam

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“Welcome to the worst night of your lives!” That was the enticing introduction from host Dan Simpson at the start of the Anti Slam Apocalypse, a grand UK final of anti-slammers from around the country. The packed audience, many of them already in the know about anti-slams, whooped and hollered their...

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Review

Poet & Painter: Helen Jagger and Michael Moss

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Cornwall for our many visitors is perhaps mainly bucket and spade, surf, ice-cream, and, inevitably, crowds. But what those of us who live here value most are the empty landscapes and seascapes, at th...

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Review

Too Brave to Dream: RS Thomas, Bloodaxe

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This is a book of ekphrastic poems by an elderly Welsh clergyman, left between the pages of two treatises on art. An inspiring description? It makes a difference that the artists included Dali, Tanguy...

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Review

High on Rust: Ray Webber, Tangent

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Ray Webber is an anarchic ex-postman from Bristol, an artist, writer, thinker and drinker, who has published his debut collection of poetry at the age of 93.

His poems are generally short and weave...

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Review

After Trump: an artistic and poetic reminder of America's Great Migration

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A week after the shock of America’s supposed liberal values being trumped by bigly bigotry, the country’s apparently ingrained red neck having been thus exposed, I had the privilege of attending an e...

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Review

The Magnitude of My Sublime Existence, Selima Hill, Bloodaxe

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Selima Hill’s readers are fortunate indeed, because she is writing prolifically (four books in the last four years) at the height of her powers. She is funny, tragic, acerbic, brilliant. There is some...

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Review

Caroline Smith and the poetry book 'that needed to be written'

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“I thought this was a book that needed to be written – and that I was in a unique position to write it.” Caroline Smith is the wife of Labour MP Barry Gardiner, and has worked for him in his Brent Nor...

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Review

Umbrellas of Edinburgh anthology, Freight Books

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The title of this anthology is either a comment on the weather or, with its echoes of ‘Les Parapluies de Cherbourg’, a veiled nod to “the Auld Alliance”. This landmark anthology contains the work of 7...

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Review

100 Prized Poems: 25 years of the Forward Books, Faber

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Twenty-five years ago the first Forward prizes were awarded, going to Thom Gunn (best collection), Simon Armitage (most promising young poet), and Jackie Kay (best single poem). In 1992, as Forward pr...

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Review

Centres of Cataclysm, 50 years of Modern Poetry in Translation, Bloodaxe

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Modern Poetry in Translation was founded by Ted Hughes and Daniel Weissbort, went into a splendid second incarnation under David and Helen Constantine, and now continues to flourish edited by Sasha Du...

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Review

Omens and hope in showcase of poetry's young stars at the Troubadour

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A wealth of young poetic talent was on show at the Troubadour in London on Monday night in an evening curated by 2016 Eric Gregory award winner Dom Bury, a member of the Coffee-House Poetry team at th...

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Review

What It's Like To Be Alive: Deryn Rees-Jones, Seren

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Deryn Rees-Jones is professor of poetry at Liverpool University. After her first degree in English at the University of Wales, Bangor, she completed a PhD in contemporary women’s poetry at Birkbeck Co...

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Review

MUMB: Cathy Crabb, Flapjack Press

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One of civilisation’s best-kept secrets is that the Perfect Parent does not exist, although countless manuals, self-help guides, and people who enjoy occupying moral high grounds would have you believ...

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Review

Pamphlets by Kuli Kohli, Jeff Phelps, Bo Crowder: Offa's Press

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Offa’s Press has scored a hat trick - three publications from Kuli Kohli, Jeff Phelps and Bo Crowder that all deserve applause.

Kuli Kohli was born in Uttar Pradesh, India, but has lived in England...

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Review

The Way the Crocodile Taught Me: Katrina Naomi, Seren

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Crikey pepper as my grandad used to say (a child-friendly version of Christ Almighty, I believe) – what a story. Katrina Naomi tells us about her fraught childhood and adolescence in a tumble of brill...

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Review

Sunshine: Melissa Lee-Houghton, Penned in the Margins

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There’s a received wisdom in modern poetry that says that you use as few words as possible to say as much as possible; a kind of austerity of the word. Every word has to earn its place in the line, ha...

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Review

The public and the personal: reasons why Laura Taylor looks back in anger

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Laura Taylor is angry … you can tell that from her T-shirt.  But where does her anger come from? You can find more than a few clues in her poem ‘Dear Margaret’, written shortly after the death of form...

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Review

Homecoming: Joanna Ezekiel, Valley Press

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Joanna Ezekiel has worked as a teacher, bookseller and librarian; she has had a British Jewish upbringing, and is of Indian Jewish heritage. She is the author of five books of poetry, and Homecoming i...

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Review

Hollie McNish and Salena Godden provide best of initiations at Manchester lit fest

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I reckon that if you’re a spoken word virgin you might as well start at the top and my friend certainly did that when I took him to see Hollie McNish and Salena Godden at Gorilla, an event that was pa...

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Review

154: edited by Helen Eastman, Live Canon

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Live Canon publish anthologies and debut collections but they are also an ensemble of actors who perform poetry from memory at theatres, festivals and events throughout the UK and abroad. This latest ...

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Review

It's not all about Jeremy: poems inspired by Labour leader are launched

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The news that the anthology Poems for Jeremy Corbyn was being reprinted because of its popularity, reported right at the start of its launch at Housman’s radical bookshop in London, probably received ...

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Review

Lustful Feminist Killjoys: Anna Percy and Rebecca Audra Smith, Flapjack

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These two poets, both with links to Manchester Metropolitan University, are the brains behind Stirred – the feminist collective that runs poetry workshops and performances and works out of the city’s ...

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Review

Measures of Expatriation: Vahni Capildeo, Carcanet

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I am usually pretty indifferent to awards culture in this country; poetry prizes for many years seemed to go to the same few names, mainstream and to me frankly rather bland poets who seemed to hog al...

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Review

Peter Riley, Steve Ely, John Foggin, Mark Hinchliffe: Calder Valley Poetry

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Ted Hughes would undoubtedly have approved of Calder Valley Poetry, a new small poetry press taking its name from his native West Yorkshire landscape. Its first four beautifully produced pamphlets are...

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Review

Asterism: anthology of punctuation, Laudanum

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Asterism, perhaps one of the less well-known forms of punctuation, is used to indicate minor breaks in text, to separate sub-chapters in a book or to call attention to a passage. It is also a pattern ...

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Review

The view from the train: poets deliver a special night on BBC2

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There was the perfect excuse for a poetry lover to be a TV couch potato on Saturday night. Congratulations to BBC2 for providing an alternative to the usual fare of The X Factor and Match of the Day –...

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Review

Affectionate, comical, angry, proud: Birmingham poets tell of their city

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Those of us who enjoy poetry and spoken word know how the words of a single poet can touch our emotions, make us laugh, put a lump in our throat, or see our everyday surroundings in a different light....

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Review

Four portions of everything on the menu for M'sieur Monet!: Penelope Shuttle, Indigo Dreams

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Penelope Shuttle’s first collection, The Orchard Upstairs, was published in 1980 by Oxford Paperbacks. Many collections have followed, along with five novels and the non-fiction books she co-authored ...

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Review

Animal People: Carol Rumens, Seren

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The cover of Animal People says “the key to the collection is the sequence ‘On the Spectrum’, which explores what it is to be ‘on the autistic spectrum’…”. This sequence is intended by the poet to be ...

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Review

To Fold the Evening Star: Ian McMillan, Carcanet

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Barnsley-born Ian McMillan is an untiring advocate for poetry, as presenter of BBC Radio 3’s weekly  programme The Verb. He has been poet-in-residence for English National Opera, The Academy of Urbani...

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Review

The Poems of Basil Bunting: ed. by Don Share, Faber

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Firstly, let’s get certain issues out of the way. This is an expensive book, a solid, serious-looking and weighty hardback, not a paperback you could take on the beach or read on the train. It’s inten...

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Review

Say Something Back: Denise Riley, Picador

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Perhaps the most appropriate response to the death of a child remains Lear’s “Howl, howl, howl”. But, if this book is such a howl (and it is), it’s an eloquent, beautiful, intelligent howl, one that g...

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Review

The Immigration Handbook: Caroline Smith, Seren

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Caroline Smith’s collection The Immigration Handbook (Seren) is the product of her experiences as an asylum caseworker in the constituency office of a north London Labour MP, and the characters within...

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Review

Mapping the Staffs and Worcs: Emma Purshouse, Linda Nevill

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Emma Purshouse is a freelance writer and performance poet. She was born in Wolverhampton but now lives on a narrowboat and enjoys travelling the inland waterways. The Staffs and Worcs is one of her fa...

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Review

Celebrating the Brontes, the north and grassroots poetry at trailblazing festival

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A new kind of poetry festival – certainly one that I haven’t seen before – was born at the weekend, in the “creative hotspot” of the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth, West Yorkshire.

In the same setting...

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Review

Meanwhile, Trees: Mark Waldron, Bloodaxe

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The landscape of British poetry has changed in the past decade with more and more work of high quality being published by magazines, small presses and the established publishing houses. These fundamen...

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Review

They Who Saw The Deep: Geraldine Monk, Free Verse Editions/ Parlor Press

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A major new collection from Geraldine Monk is something to celebrate. One of the very best British experimental poets writing today, she has produced a book that takes its measure of the sea and histo...

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Review

Pétroleuse: Steph Pike, Flapjack

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With the inflammatory title of Pétroleuse and a scarlet stencilled image of the artist against a whitewashed brick wall, there is already ample signposting that this poetry collection is not likely to...

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Review

Collected Poems vol 3: Bill Griffiths, Reality Street

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First of all, let’s deal with the figures. This book contains nearly 500 pages of poetry and covers a five-year period. Two other volumes, each equally lengthy, have covered the period from 1966-1991....

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Review

Writing the revolution: ferocity and finesse at Laura Taylor's 'Kaleidoscope' launch

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The rights of consumers in the face of despotic big business, women’s freedom to decide what happens to their own bodies, and the liberty to speak your mind without the threat of state censorship were...

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Review

Kaleidoscope: Laura Taylor, Flapjack

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Hats off to Flapjack Press for continuing to deliver their mission to explore the synergy between performance and the page. The concept is well tested in Laura Taylor’s debut collection, Kaleidoscope....

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Review

Selected Poems: Talking Zebras open-mic poetry group, Cleckheaton

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Cleckheaton was previously only noted for the production of textiles and midget gems; and having its railway station nicked. Until, that is, the arrival of Talking Zebras, a curious mutation from thei...

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Review

The Green Dress Whose Girl is Sleeping: Russell Jones, Freight Books

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Russell Jones is a young Edinburgh-based poet who has published three pamphlets and whose recent debut collection, The Green Dress Whose Girl is Sleeping, displays a facility with differing forms, fro...

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Review

Soldiers of the Caribbean: Kat Francois lifts lid on untold stories from the first world war

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You might assume that Raising Lazarus, a play by performance poet, actor and comedian Kat Francois about her relative's role in the British West Indies Regiment, had been timed to coincide with the ce...

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Review

Ice, heat and cicadas: prize-winning poets roam continents at the Troubadour

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There was a chance to hear three prizewinning poets at the Troubadour on Monday as Sarah Howe, pictured, Michael Symmons Roberts, and Caitriona O’Reilly took part in What We Should Have Said, a kind o...

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Review

Ocean of difference? American and UK poets read together at the Troubadour

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Is there a great divide between Anglo and American poetry? Or are there more similarities than differences? Dangerous territory on which to generalise, of course. But there was a chance at the Troubad...

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Review

Modern, classic hero: Linton Kwesi Johnson marches on to his own beat

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Saturday night saw me taking the train into Liverpool to see one of my all-time heroes – the legendary Linton Kwesi Johnson. Even better, he was being supported by one of my more recent all-time heroe...

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Review

Dreaming of Our Better Selves: Marion Tracy, Vanguard Editions

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Death and illnesses are central to human life, and the determinedly contemporary approach Marion Tracy brings to this collection is balanced by depth of experience. Tracy began writing poetry as an ad...

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Review

Loop of Jade: Sarah Howe, Chatto

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On the cover of this beautifully produced book of poetry we learn of Sarah Howe that she was born in Hong Kong in 1983 to an English father and Chinese mother and moved to England as a child. Thus the...

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Review

Let's hear it for the Shakespeare 400 Sonnetathon at the British Museum

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Liz Berry, pictured, read Shakespeare’s sonnets in her Black Country accent, and took us from the British Museum a little closer to Stratford-on-Avon and the West Midlands. Jo Shapcott described readi...

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Review

Clasp: late modernist poetry in London in the 1970s, Shearsman

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London has been a very important centre for experimental, late modernist, avant garde, linguistically innovative, whatever-you-call-it poetries since the 1960s. Not the only place, as a previous volum...

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Review

Mick Yates, Jennifer A McGowan, Abegail Morley (Indigo Dreams)

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The books under review here are all published by Indigo Dreams, a Devon-based press which publishes 50 poetry books a year. The press also runs the annual Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize which the...

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Review

'Privileged' poets engage with writers at risk at English PEN festival

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The idea was: pair 30 poets with 30 writers at risk from regimes around the world, and commission new work from each of the free writers to draw attention to the plight of those that are not free, or ...

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Review

Memorandum: Vanessa Gebbie, Cultured Llama

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What is there still to say in poetry about the first world war? Vanessa Gebbie, a Welsh writer living in England who has won awards for her short stories, flash fiction and poetry, including the 2012 ...

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Review

The Cycle of the Scarecrow: Ian Whiteley, Currock Press

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The Cycle of the Scarecrow is Ian Whiteley’s second collection of poems.  Born in Wakefield and now living in Wigan, and firmly grounded in the north of England, he explores the back streets of histor...

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Review

Lucky: Graham Buchan, Lapwing Press

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As generations of pogrom, Holocaust, and genocide survivors pass away, the message of “never again” trickles away, and humankind seems determined to repeat its mistakes with some gusto.  We have an ac...

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Review

What Blair might learn from Johnny: Luke Wright's show about politics, class and friendship

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I first saw Luke Wright’s What I Learned From Johnny Bevan, which focuses on the broken dreams of the Tony Blair years, almost a year ago, at its debut performance on a Saturday lunchtime in Shropshir...

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Review

Cocktail of sun, sea and Sheffield provides joyous mix at the Troubadour

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Mix ingredients from the Caribbean with a pinch or two from Sheffield and Derbyshire. Think of love, death, and a day spent at home instead of going to work. Three poets -  Malika Booker, Peter Sansom...

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Review

A Gap in the Rain: Barbara Cumbers, Indigo Dreams

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Barbara Cumbers is a poet whose work makes you think of sudden inundations and new landscapes, the slow movement and shape-shifting of continents. Her first full collection, ‘A Gap in the Rain’, (Indi...

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Review

Yesterday's Music Today: Knives, Forks and Spoons Press

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This is a wonderfully varied anthology that, like a good compilation tape (remember those?), never settles down into the obvious, and can veer from Billie Holiday to the psychedelia of Gong in the tur...

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Review

Irascible, ill-mannered, worthy but dull? An evening with Wordsworth includes his bad points

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“You’ll have to stay another night. The Wordsworth Trust’s running a poetry session in the café tomorrow.” Jane Rousseau – no relation to Jean Jacques – was adamant, even offering to let me stay for f...

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Review

Shall I compare thee to a selfie stick? Dos and don'ts of first-person poetry

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Can a poem be considered as a selfie stick? And how much “I” should there be in poetry? These were a couple of key questions considered by poets Fiona Sampson, Tim Liardet, RA Villanueva, and Fiona Mo...

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Review

Louise Fazackerley's poetry in pyjamas charms children and parents

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In the week that a headteacher gave pyjama-clad parents a dressing-gown dressing down, Manchester’s Z-Arts’ Family Theatre invited audience and staff to turn up thus clad to both Saturday showings of ...

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Review

Small Nuclear Family: Mel Pryor, Eyewear Publishing

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Small Nuclear Family is a debut collection. This, too, is the first time that a collection from the excellent Eyewear Publishing has been reviewed on this site. A wrong hereby righted. I love the appe...

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Review

Yarn: Maitreyabandhu, Bloodaxe

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I can remember the first Maitreyabandhu poem I ever read. It was in a collection for a competition of winning and shortlisted work. It was about some mules and, though rated as “selected” only, I thou...

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Review

History or Sleep: Robert Sheppard, Shearsman

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Robert Sheppard is probably one of the most important poets writing in Britain at the moment. A big claim for a poet you’ve probably never heard of; but I think I can justify it. He is important as a ...

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Review

Not in this World: Tracey Herd, Bloodaxe

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Not in this World is an impressively readable collection of poems about loss and pain, where the poet expresses deeply personal ideas and emotions while avoiding self-revelation.

Tracey Herd is a S...

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Review

52: Jo Bell, Nine Arches Press

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The idea of the 52 project was brilliantly simple. Jo Bell knows a lot of poets. She was inspired, in a moment of generosity and madness, to set up a “global workshop group” with hundreds of practisin...

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