All fours: Nia Davies, Bloodaxe

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Nia Davies’s first collection is fizzing with ideas, high spirits and personality. Rather than surreal, it’s a pell-mell stream of consciousness - adult nonsense verse almost - full of delightful non sequiturs and bizarreries.

“‘Personality-wise, I wanted to be a mismatched underwear-set./ Certainly I was keen to become a burden.’ she writes in ‘Mossy Coat’, one of several poems of self-inventi...

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Review

Subject Matters: Jeremy Robson, Smokestack

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Jeremy Robson, a key figure in the poetry reading scene of the 1960s and 70s, opens the floodgates of memory wide in this collection as if eager to make up for the 35-year writer’s block that only ended with Blues in the Park in 2014.

The writer’s block is not entirely forgotten. In the title poe...

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Review

Sunshine at the end of the world: Chris Hardy, Indigo Dreams

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Chris Hardy has lived in Asia, Africa, and other parts of Europe, and in a number of his poems in his fourth collection, Sunshine at the end of the world, he is drawn to seas and oceans, flirting with...

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Review

Poetry that helps keep out the cold: celebrating 10 years of Camden Lumen

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“Poetry makes nothing happen” is the famous phrase attributed to WH Auden. Even if Auden didn’t mean it in quite the way that it often has been taken, sometimes poetry does make things happen, it real...

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Review

Incendium Amoris: Steve Ely, Smokestack Books

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Sometimes one comes across books that confound your expectations of poetry. Most poetry, even some experimental poetry, goes along relatively obvious lines and you generally know where you are in the ...

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Review

Deaf and hearing poets unite at launch of ground-breaking magazine issue

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“This is the first time that I’m seeing both deaf and hearing, signed and spoken poetry in one space, and that for me is a dream come true.” Raymond Antrobus, who was born deaf, was speaking at the la...

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Review

Jimmy Nail adds his voice at launch of NE anthology

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Music and poetry collaborated to produce an unforgettable night showcasing the north-east’s regional pride and identity at the Sage in Gateshead on Friday, where musicians, dancers and schoolchildren ...

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Review

Make Us All Islands: Richard Georges, Shearsman

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Richard Georges was born in Trinidad, and brought up in the British Virgin Islands, where he now lives and teaches. These were among the Caribbean islands settled by British planters to grow sugarcane...

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Review

Black Shiver Moss: Graham Mort, Seren

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Graham Mort was born in Lancashire and studied English at Liverpool University. After training to be a teacher, he taught in schools, colleges, prisons, special education and psychiatric units before ...

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Review

The Five Petals of Elderflower: Angela Topping, Red Squirrel Press

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Firstly, let’s look at that title. I can imagine some reviewers (usually, let’s face it, male ones) thinking:  “Oh dear, it’s all going to be about nice domestic subjects, or be terribly nice and comf...

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Review

Finding the River Horse: Neil Leadbeater, Littoral Press

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The heart sinks. Not another poetry collection about the history and characters of an English county, I hear you complain. But yes, here it is, Cambridgeshire this time. Haven’t we been here before? W...

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Review

Flagging up poetic revelations at institute's festival

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Poetry can be revelatory; it can explain “why you fuck things up all the time”. That was how social scientist and poet Joe Cullen introduced a poetry reading that was held as part of the Tavistock Ins...

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Review

In Person: World Poets, DVD-anthology, Bloodaxe

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A festival of poetry is how publisher Bloodaxe describes this DVD-anthology, of poems on the page plus a quartet of films of poets reading their work. It’s sensational.

Launched at Manchester Centr...

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Review

Smile, even though we're ageing: laugh-out-loud poetry from Roger McGough

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Roger McGough turns 80 next month. Yet the esteemed Liverpudlian remains the epitome of cool, a consummate performance poet, and should have been appointed laureate years ago. Why not have a poet that...

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Review

Heat Signature: Siobhán Campbell, Seren

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Prize-winning poet and critic Siobhán Campbell is an important voice in Irish poetry. Educated at University College, Dublin and at Lancaster University followed by postgraduate study at NYU and the N...

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Review

Well-versed pupils are stars of the show at Marsden's poetry jam

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You must always expect the unexpected at Write Out Loud’s annual open mic poetry jam at Marsden jazz festival. This year a group of pupils from Lily Lane school in Moston, north Manchester turned up, ...

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Review

Oh frabjous day! Carol Ann Duffy's words with a Dire Straits vibe

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It was TS Eliot’s birthday on Thursday. He would have been 125, Little Machine’s Walter Wray reminded the audience at Rhythm and Muse,  a regular poetry open mic and music night at the Ram Jam Club, i...

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Review

Raining Upwards: Henry Normal, Flapjack

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Henry Normal held a large audience in the palm of his hand for a good hour at Manchester City Library last Friday evening. A skilled performer with a ready repertoire of anecdotes and reminiscences, h...

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Review

Night Sky with Exit Wounds: Ocean Vuong, Cape

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First collections are always mixed bags. There’s a sense of setting-out-of-stalls, of showing the world what you can do, of trying on different hats. This book is no exception to that rule.

There’s...

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Review

A good long read! Concertina publications and performance arts at the Poetry Book Fair

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Free Verse’s Poetry Book Fair at Conway Hall in London would still draw the crowds, even if it was just about selling books – but it is always a lot more than that. The event, built up by organisers C...

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Review

The Nagasaki Elder: Antony Owen, V. Press

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Many of the poems in this collection are about two moments in history that continue to haunt the world – the atom bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945. The two bombs, nic...

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Review

Lives in transit: travellers' tales beside the Betjeman statue at St Pancras

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I wasn’t going to write about National Poetry Day  – once it’s gone it’s gone, you might say – but an event staged by arts organisation Poet in the City at St Pancras station early on Thursday evening...

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Review

Gerry Sweeney's Mammy: Dónall Dempsey, D&W

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This poetry collection deals, among other things, with the author’s childhood in Ireland, the deaths of siblings and older relations and his fascination with words and reading. It contains numerous re...

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Review

No sweat, it's cool: verdict on new-look Poetry Cafe as pamphlets are launched

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This is a picture of a happy audience in the new-look basement of the Poetry Café on Saturday night. There’s no doubt that the old downstairs at the Poetry Cafe in London had a ragamuffin identity – a...

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Review

A happy return: Rhythm & Muse flies flag again to mark 10th anniversary

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A popular poetry and music night unfurled its banner again on Tuesday to mark the 10th anniversary of its launch. Rhythm & Muse began at The Lion pub in Teddington, south-west London, before moving to...

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Review

Translating Mountains: Yvonne Reddick, Seren

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This pamphlet by Yvonne Reddick was the winner of the 2016 Mslexia poetry pamphlet competition. Born in Glasgow, Reddick won a Northern Writers’ award for poetry in 2016 and is currently an academic r...

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Review

This is Not A Rescue: Emily Blewitt, Seren

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Several things are clear from this collection: Emily Blewitt loves cats and she adores reading Jane Austen. She also has a penchant for American documentaries. Blewitt was born in Carmarthen, studied ...

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Review

Thorn Kings: Clare Mulley, Battlefields Trust

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The 16 poems in this pamphlet collection are inspired by the four major battles in English history. Clare Mulley is a young Yorkshire-born poet, journalist and teacher, and poet in residence at the Ba...

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Review

Water Chits: Denise Bennett, Indigo Dreams

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Denise Bennett is a prize-winning poet, editor and teacher who runs poetry workshops in the local community. She has previously published a pamphlet and and two full-length collections. With several p...

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Review

Moving readings wind up marathon poetry festival

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It began with a stiff climb early one morning in April to commemorate the centenary of the death of Edward Thomas, and ended in July with an evening of powerful and moving poetry, interspersed with cl...

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Review

What would Alice have said? Conger on menu as poets cram in for anthology launch

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There was a definite air of Lewis Carroll at the launch of a poetry anthology in Guildford on Monday night. The author of Alice has links with the Surrey town – he wrote Alice Through the Looking Glas...

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Review

'Pardon me, boy, is that a poem in your pocket?' Singing sisters help poetry jam go with a swing

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The annual Write Out Loud poetry jam at Marsden? That’s just another open mic, isn’t it? Well, no, actually. This is the fifth consecutive year I’ve attended the yearly shindig on the Sunday morning o...

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Marsden the poetry villageReview

Seeing stars on a Sunday morning in Marsden at Write Out Loud's poetry jam

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It must be something in the air of Marsden. It’s a funny time of day to hold a poetry open mic – at 11 on a Sunday morning – but it works. The sixth Write Out Loud poetry jam, compered by Write Out Lo...

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Marsden the poetry villageReview

Flowers by the Road: David Coldwell, Templar

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David Coldwell resides in the West Yorkshire Pennines, and at the heart of this pamphlet is an elemental, almost mystical relationship with landscape. The lines in the poems are long and conversationa...

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David ColdwellMarsden the poetry villageReview

Simon Armitage, Marsden rock star

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Simon Armitage's poems hand carved into Pennine rocks form the outcome of Ilkley Literature Festival’s Stanza Stones poetry project, which launched in style in the Pennine watershed town of Marsden - ...

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Marsden the poetry villageReview

A funny thing happened on the way to the poetry workshop ...

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Humour in poetry is a funny thing. No, scrub that. Try again. Writing about a workshop on comedy in poetry … no, that doesn’t work either as an intro. Start again. One of the poems we looked at the da...

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Review

Then Come Back: Pablo Neruda, Bloodaxe

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Neruda was a towering, universal writer, a Nobel prize-winner, described by Gabriel García Marquez as the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language. His poetry reaches even those who don’t rea...

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Review

No Tigers: Dominic Berry, Flapjack

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This is the fourth poetry collection by Manchester's premier Queer Vegan Poet, Dominic Berry. He gets about a bit does Dom, to put it mildly. With gigs and tours in such far-flung places as Germany, F...

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Review

Hippocrates prize anthology, ed. by Michael Hulse and Donald Singer

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The Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine ranks as one of the more unusual, and now well-established, international poetry awards. It was founded in 2009 by Donald Singer and Michael Hulse with th...

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Review

Spaced out on cosmic poetry in starry night at the Troubadour

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Out in space the numbers are mind-boggling – and so it proved at Monday’s reading at the Troubadour, too. I’m still trying to get my head round the fact that around 60 poets took to the basement stage...

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Review

Articles of War: Marilyn Longstaff, Smokestack

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Marilyn Longstaff has published four poetry collections: Puritan Games (2001), Sitting Among the Hoppers (2004) and Raiment (2010). Articles of War, brought out this year by Smokestack Books, is groun...

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Review

Out of the Weather: Julie Mellor, Smith/Doorstop

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It is always reassuring when you pick up a book of poetry and it’s immediately obvious that the writer is entirely at home with the concept of crafting her work, and equally at home in presenting the ...

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Review

The Meaning of Things: Elaine Randell, Shearsman

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There are some poets who have stayed with me for a long time, and Elaine Randell is one of them. I first came across her work in a 1970s copy of the Poetry Review, and her ‘Diary of a Working Man’, th...

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Review

Kate Tempest in Brixton: politics suffused with hope and humility

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Where better than Brixton for Kate Tempest to perform her latest album Let Them Eat Chaos? Where better than a community riven by the repercussions of gentrification; a community whose long-serving so...

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Review

The Dance of a Thousand Losers: Geneviève L Walsh, Flapjack

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Geneviève L Walsh is a Yorkshire-raised Londoner who began performing her work in 2012. She founded Halifax's Spoken Weird after a year on the open mic circuit, a night that came into creation “thanks...

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Review

Bringing Stanley back to life: anthology of poets inspired by Spencer's art

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To Cookham Dean village hall in Berkshire on Friday night, for the Stanley Spencer poetry competition anthology reading. The hall was packed with more than 30 poets waiting their turn to read – around...

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Review

I must be living twice: Eileen Myles, Serpent's Tail

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Eileen Myles is a compelling reader of her own works, and looks on the cover of this hardback selected and new poems as if she’s channelling Patti Smith. The studied air of cool pervades this whole co...

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Review

Casually Discussing The Infinite: Stu Buck, Snow Leopard

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'Casually Discussing The Infinite' is the long-awaited debut collection by Write Out Loud regular Stu Buck.  American publisher Snow Leopard has a healthy list of previously published writers, each se...

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Review

Composers, singers and poets collaborate at Leeds Lieder festival

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The Leeds Lieder festival celebrates the performance and composition of song and of poetry in many languages – and a well-established event, the Composers and Poets Forum and Showcase, once again prov...

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Review

Catching Light: Helen Boyles, Indigo Dreams

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Helen Boyles is an honorary associate in the Department of English with the Open University and has worked since 2002 as an associate lecturer on undergraduate courses in the arts and language faculti...

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Review

No time for lunch at festival's three-hour banquet of poetry

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More than two dozen poets played their part in a three-hour poetry session at a literary festival in a Surrey commuter town at the weekend. The Poetry Lunch, organised by Write Out Loud Woking, compri...

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Review

First Fleet: Michael Crowley, Smokestack Books

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The history of the first fleet bringing the European settlers to Australia is the stuff of a potent “origin story”. Eleven boats arrived from England in 1788, packed with 800 men, women and children, ...

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Review

Pilgrim Station: Dominic James, SPM Publications

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Pilgrim Station is a first collection that, according to James, was written over a period of eight years “in the advent of middle age, that downhill-sloping, happy time, that has brought me to concent...

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Review

New Boots and Pantisocracies: Smokestack Books

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There are one hundred contributors to this anthology, edited and published post-Brexit, and reflecting the reaction of a cross-section of the nation’s poets to the first 138 days of the new Conservati...

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Review

Fables, trading cards, greeting friends: day of bonhomie and fellowship at the poetry book fair

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Judy Brown told a funny story at the Poetry Book Fair at Conway Hall in London on Saturday, before reading out a poem about a rat in her house.  She said she felt guilty about paying to have the rat k...

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Review

Little Blue Hut: Nancy Charley, Smokestack

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In 2011 Nancy Charley, who is an archivist for the Royal Asiatic Society, spent six weeks in a little blue beach hut on Tankerton Slopes, near Whitstable, on the Kent coast, recording the changing tid...

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Review

Closing in on goal: the pioneers of women's football and today's players

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In 1921 the Football Association banned women from playing on FA grounds – a ban that was not rescinded for 50 years. Offside, a play written by spoken word’s Sabrina Mahfouz and Hollie McNish, tells ...

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Review

Lift-off for anthology inspired by trail-blazing women

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Most if not all of us have had that dream of flying occasionally – of looking down on the world from above. On Wednesday night a poetry anthology that tries imaginatively to capture the many aspects o...

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Review

The singing detectives: Project Adorno trace back-story of controversial TV playwright

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Who are Project Adorno? They are a quirky duo employing spoken word and song, electronic music backing, and occasional acoustic guitar, m’lud. The latest show compiled by spoken word maestro Russell T...

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Review

Changes: Patrick B Osada, Dempsey & Windle

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Patrick Osada’s fifth collection is divided into three sections, titled Seasonal, At a Time of Unrest, and Keepsake. The first section celebrates nature with traditional rhyme and rhythm, which feels ...

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Review

Work in 'real world' before becoming a full-time poet, urges Wendy Cope

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People should do some work in the “real world” before embarking on a career in poetry. That is the advice of Wendy Cope, who was a primary school teacher and also worked for the Inner London Eduction ...

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Review

The dark side of Luke Wright's Dartford tunnel vision

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I first heard Luke Wright deliver ‘Essex Lion’ at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013, a year after he’d written it. Its tale of credulous Clacton campers, desperate to believe in something, and angry at bei...

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Review

Chuang Tse's Caterpillar: Dave Morgan, Flapjack

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Dave Morgan was, with Julian Jordon, co-founder of Write Out Loud in its Bolton beginnings. In more recent years as a north-west community arts organiser he has been one of the driving forces behind t...

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Review

Having the last laugh: comics beat poets in festival bout of Stand Up and Slam!

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“It’s like, it’s like, I don’t know what it’s like, I’m not allowed to use similes any more,” lamented team captain Dan Simpson, pictured, on a night when his band of poets lost 2-3 to a team of comic...

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Review

Anthology of the sea, ed. Eve Lacey, Emma Press

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I landed belatedly on this collection and I’m kicking myself for not exploring it earlier. As a non-swimmer with a sensible wariness of water, I do enjoy the sea – from a distance. Some of these well-...

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Review

Playwright and poet Bernard Kops, and a library that changed his life

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The veteran writer Bernard Kops is perhaps better known as a playwright, from the school of kitchen-sink realism – but his poetry credentials are not in doubt. He went on the first Aldermaston Ban the...

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Review

The three Dooleys: poetry siblings Tim, Maura and Terence read together in public for the first time

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The Troubadour in west London has seen a number of historic poetry and music nights in its time – but this was a new first. Three poetry siblings - Terence, Tim, and Maura Dooley – reading together in...

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Review

To Have to Follow: Julie Maclean & Terry Quinn, Indigo Dreams

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Collaborations between poets are interesting and, in the age of the internet, becoming more popular between poets from different countries. In this case, the collaboration comes from two writers who h...

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Review

Never mind the football as Wolverhampton also notches up wonderful weekend of words

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The new year starts with a new literature festival, in Wolverhampton. Seventy events throughout the city centre over a weekend, with talks from authors, activities for kids, workshops, and plenty of p...

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Review

McGough and Patten, back in Liverpool where it all began

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So, there I was, back in the city were I once spent three gloriously happy, if challenging years working and living; a city with a certain notoriety; a creative, canny, cocksure yet caring community; ...

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Review

Poets from 'city of sanctuary' launch timely anthology

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A poetry group launched an anthology of its work on Saturday night – and one of the overriding themes of the book was the plight of refugees. It was the day after Holocaust Memorial Day, and also the ...

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Review

Occupied City: Paul van Ostaijen, Smokestack

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Reading this book, I feel like I’m transported to another world. Not just the world of occupied Antwerp during the first world war; but also the world of Berlin Dada, a heady mixture of political caba...

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Review

Knowing My Place: Bob Horne, Caterpillar Poetry

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Bob Horne has been a schoolteacher, milkman and stonedresser. He is also the founder of small press Calder Valley Poetry, and an organiser of an open mic night. The title of his debut collection, Know...

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Review

Once more with feeling: four Surrey Poets at the Torriano

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The Torriano Meeting House in north London has played host to many poets over the years. On Sunday it welcomed four from Surrey  – although, technically, only one was really from that county – plus it...

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Review

Summer Rain: Noel Duffy, Ward Wood

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I knew the word “entropy” and had a vague idea that matter becomes disordered over time. Nothing more. Noel Duffy’s collection changed that very satisfyingly. It educated and interested me in scientif...

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Review

Welcome to Leicester, ed. by Emma Lee and Ambrose Musiyiwa, Dahlia

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This has to be one of the most joyful anthologies that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. In 2015 the remains of Richard III were reburied in Leicester cathedral after being discovered under a car park...

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Review

Poems for John Berger, Smokestack Books

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I’ll confess to having known very little about John Berger, apart from distant memories of his groundbreaking TV series on art, Ways of Seeing. This anthology of tributes to the art critic, essayist, ...

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Review

As in Judy: Rosie Garland, Flapjack

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In a neat twist, the collection’s cover design puts the poet’s name directly above the title, offering us Rosie Garland As in Judy. It might seem ironic, with five books of poetry already to her name ...

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