I have been away
with the fairies. “The fairies”
means “sh*t-loads to do.”
But now I’m back, blogging. Not incessantly (I don’t want to start with empty promises), but intermittently, with choice morsels from my poetry life. A lot’s happened since my last post, in June (shh, tell no one!), but thankfully not all of it poetry-related, so I’ll try and catch you up as briefly as possible.
I went to Amsterdam (not much poetry, admittedly, but much more culture than you, you cynical reader, immediately assumed, given my age and gender! I only have one bar crawl t-shirt and novelty Dutch football jersey from that adventure, I’ll have you know.)
I competed in the inaugural UK Team Poetry Slam (almost exclusively poetry), held in Bristol and hosted by MC and poet Jack Dean. Brum came 3rd overall, and I saw some of the country’s leading performance poets do their thing for their respective cities. My poem of the night was by Keith Jarrett, whose words doubtless helped London take the win. Check it out:
I also met a woman who (quite deservingly) appears to be the most popular person in the poetry world, Jo Bell, whose collection, Navigation, is beautiful, and who gave me a lift from Bristol to…
Ledbury Poetry Festival (there was poetry there, in abundance). I competed in the Slam and came second in a nail-biting and exciting final (congratulations to James Dolton on the win). I went to see Bang Said The Gun and came home with their coveted Golden Gun trophy, as well as slight tinnitus and bare enthusiasm. Top marks to anyone that can cause tinnitus during a poetry night. If you’re ever in London, it is a must-see gig.
I went to Latitude, Shambala, and Bestival (varying quantities of poetry). I was volunteering as a festival steward (putting YOU, you drunk fool, to bed!) with fellow poet Elisha Owen, so we didn’t have as much time as we would’ve liked to spend in the Poetry Tent/Wandering Word/Amphitheatre (the spoken-word stadia at each of the three fests). But pushing through the night-shift exhaustion, we managed to catch a fair few great poets, a number which increased festival by festival as we got better at not falling asleep! My personal highlights were, in no particular order; Josh Idehen, Bohdan Piasecki, Anna Freeman, Luke Wright, John Cooper-Clarke, Chris Redmond, Harry Baker, Jeremy Toombs, John Hegley. Another major discovery (or re-discovery, more accurately) is spoken-word and music. Having grown up listening to (and trying to be) Eminem, it is so refreshing to come back to hip-hop with no pretence or social obligation, but out of a sheer love for it. Dizraeli and The Small Gods were incredible at Shamabla. Their blend of Folk and Rap is so seamless and natural that when listening to it you wonder why anyone tries to do anything else. Scroobius Pip headlined the Saturday night in Latitude’s poetry tent, but I was too tired to take any of it in properly. Although he attracted massive crowds, what I did catch seemed little more than a cappella lyrics rather than poetry. Then I saw him at Bestival, with his band, and he showed me exactly why so many people had turned out to hear him speak at Latitude. His is a very different brand of rap music to Dizraeli’s but is equally electric, laying his raw and emotive bars over aggressive punk or heavy metal accompaniments. I instantly bought “Engurland (City Shanties)” by Diz, and Pip’s “Distraction Pieces” upon getting home – and I rarely buy physical music these days. They are both well worth a listen. Pip also programmed a small section of poetry each day at Bestival (his Satin Lizard Lounge), and this was a guaranteed win every time. Nice one.
Poem of the summer? Bloody hell. Why would you put me on the spot like that? I’m always so abrupt when I interview myself.