Thursday, August 13, 2009

You’re invited to a
Monday 24 August 2009
2 pm til 5pm, only £10
(10% goes to Barnabus causes)
Downstairs in the café at
473 Wilmslow Road, Withington, Manchester
0161-445 7744

You can come to this newly-announced work shop and enjoy trying some easy, unusual and fun writing exercises that use randomization and play to trigger fresh ideas for your writing.
You’ll look at your writing in a fresh way and take home 3 or 4 new pieces. Whether you write poems, fiction, scripts, raps or blogs, and if you’re a beginner or you’re more experienced, this work shop is for you.
Join poet and Commonword trustee Steve and Comma fiction writer Anthony downstairs in the café with no name at 2pm

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The State of British Poetry 3

Being a review of City State: New London Poetry, penned in the margins, 2009 (£9.99)

The picture on the cover is of fingerprint through which can be seen a map of the London Underground. So far so London: but it says something about the status of British poetry: it goes on under most peoples' feet most of the time. It's hardly noticed by the media, and yet it goes on, beautifully producing.

And here is a good, deep shaft drilled into the poetry of the capital. I don't know what it says about what's going on elsewhere, in Sheffield, say, or Cardiff, or even remoter parts like Cockermouth; but it shows that poetry is in a very healthy state at least in the capital.

What I like about this anthology is its range. There are poets here as Heather Philipson who, I guess, could fit into the latest Bloodaxe catalogue with relative ease. There are others, like Nick Potamitis or the founders of the Oppened readers, Steve Wiley and Alex Davies, who are much more experimental and are carrying on the work of poets such as Allen Fisher and Iain Sinclair. And there's poets coming out of a more performance-oriented stream such as Jacob Sam La Rose, whose wonderfully ironic How to be Black is one of the many highlights of this collection. Holly Pester, too, is a performer, but one of a very different type: her mashups of syntax, semantics and sound probably deserve to be heard as well as read.

Mostly, these are new names to me: except for the very wonderful Chris McCabe, whose first collection The Hutton Enquiry is an essential must-buy from Salt. It's good to see so many young poets in one place, all of them writing in different ways. It's good to see a book that is so diverse: most anthologies have one poem followed by another fairly similar. Here we get the rhymes of Ben Borek followed by the more open-form Siddartha Bose, and a real sense of surprise and adventure.

If it shows one thing, it's that adventure and ringing the changes are still part of the world of contemporary poetry. When the media, if they touch poetry at all, just give us the usual suspects, it's great to know that beyond all that, there's a real wealth of poetic talent about. This is a true anthology of what's going on in poetry now; and even though it confines itself to the capital of this fair land, it's a real barometer of what's going on over the whole country.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Organised Chaos

Last week saw the wonderful Manchester Jazz Festival, and what a lot of lovely noise and clatter there was about town that week. Although I didn't go to any paying gigs this year, I did see a few bands that were up-and-coming, including the very wonderful If Destroyed Still True, who combine that very English folk-jazz tradition with making a very good and at times pretty free improvising. They were at the Bridgewater Hall foyer, along with a piano trio and the Ryan Quigley Sextet (or Sextent as he kept joking throughout.) They were both good, but also a little ordinary. I also found out about the jam session and the jazz that's going on around Manchester, with a fair number of young people involved. Some great jazz during the week, and at times the rain provided extra percussion effects on the tent outside the Town Hall!

Poetry wise, I read at a charity gig for the Barnabus people who work with sex-workers and the homeless in the centre of Manchester. A Christian group putting their lives where their faith is, as it were; and the evening was gently political, with my old friends Dave Pullar and Claire Mooney providing some excellant ranting.

I'm also impressed by the Unsung Arran issue; a bunch of very enthusiastic young people who put together a magazine for free, organise a wonderful evening's reading in The Thirsty Scholar and generally don't seem to mind being among older folk like me at times. Even if I do have to say no to going on to late night parties, it's good to know there's some real enthusiasm going on with poetry around Manchester. And some of the poetry that came out of the Arran trip - I won't mention names - was great too.