Poetry is one of a number of things that really gets under my skin. When beautiful imagery, emotion and sound combine together in perfect proportion, they pack a powerful punch. This is something I dream of achieving, a dream that’s fairly safe to hold onto given the elusive nature of sublime endeavour.

Meanwhile, then, I have been making the best of the poetic skin that I have. First up, this photographic montage (above) of one of the poems in Be[yond] on poet Claire Trévien’s feminist blog The Rag Poetry .

I have also just found out that my poem ‘Her Bruises’ is one of 10 shortlisted poems in a Oxford Poetry and Oxford Phoenix Picturehouse poetry competition to celebrate the film Under The Skin. Amongst other things, this may involve a reading in Oxford, and waiting for the three winning poems to be announced. Nail-biting stuff!

Talking of readings, the Quiet Compère Tour of the North, Birmingham event at the MAC theatre was amazing. It was a great night, full of atmosphere and fantastic and varied poetry. Such an honour to be part of it, with thanks to the audience and organiser Sarah Dixon!

It was also a delight to be a guest poet at Poetry Bites in Birmingham, alongside Helen Calcutt. Having read from the floor in the past and headlined there almost three years ago with my first collection, Into the Yell, (alongside Adele Falconer and Fatima Al Matar), it was great to be back, and a moving night. My thanks for a wonderful evening go to Helen, the floor poets, audience and Jacqui Rowe, who runs the event, and has said some generous things about both of my poetry collections.

MICROREVIEWS

So, on now to even quieter reading.

First, Lorna Dowell’s Crossing the Ellipsis (HappenStance), which does exactly what the title suggests, with beautiful, crafted concision. These poems cover a range of gaps, spaces, losses, missings, betweens, absences and …s. Relationships of all kinds are at the heart of poems full of intimate details, close observation and quiet yet surprising metaphors, such as a pair of slippers as empty speech marks behind the front door in ‘Code’. This pamphlet also encompasses a range of forms and look on the page, and a lovely, connotation-provoking front cover image.

And now to finish my review of the fabulous Nine Arches anthology Maps & Legends: Poems to Find Your Way By, edited by Jo Bell and Jane Commane.

Milorad Krystanovich’s poems of people and nature are atmospheric, sometimes mysterious and full of stunning lines and images.

The Ruth Larbey selection is alive with sounds, poetry that is fun, imaginative and with startling, yet so right, images.

Chris McCabe’s intriguing and compelling poems feature the city of London and its sounds set alongside the personal. They are full of pace and spark, displaying imagination and variety.

I’ve blogged before about how much I enjoyed Matt Merritt’s The Elephant Tests. His anthology poems show his precise imagery, concision and humour and his range in terms of content; from meaning and writing to bird-watching, lovers and sayings brought to life.

The poems from David Morley are also alive with the quiet drama and emotion of nature, with dazzling flashes of sound, imagery, metaphor, word, play, humour…darting like word-dragonflies through the poems from Fresh Water and acrobatic as the circus performers in those from A Lit Circle. As a reader, this all evoked delightful gasps of wonder, surprise and recognition.

Meanwhile, Alistair Noon’s poems from Earth Records are literally out of this world, or on the borders. These are poems of place and people. Startling images, juxapositions and the mix of modern and traditional made ‘The Seafarer Poet in Newcastle’ a particular favourite for me.

Matt Nunn’s poems of youth and places are easy to identify with. There’s an enlivening mix of conversational and more tarditionally poetic, urban reality and the more existential, images that startle, and sparkle. A small taster from ‘M50 Poem’ (a route I travel often!): ‘this road composed in rainbow and bruises’ and ‘ragrolled with ghosts washed up from an estuary’.

Joie de vivre is also very evident in Mario Petrucci’s evocative, sensual, thought-provoking poems. His unique style, offers the gentle brushings past of moments, atmosphere, music

There’s an energetic pace and bubbling language in Jeremy Reed’s poems taking us through London. The city’s water worlds, a pub, personal memories, the political, all these strands intertwined in poetry that is full of character.

Dan Sluman is another poet whose excellent first collection I’ve blogged about before. His spare lines offer striking images and emotional punches; they are stunning and powerful.

Another Nine Arches poet whose first collection I enjoyed is Maria Taylor. Her poems in the anthology are full of precise, moving imagery, humour and sadness. They are poems that create a still space within, which they echo across afterwards.

Simon Turner’s poems quiver with nature’s quiet beauty, the effects of places on us (Midlands landmarks and everyday locations) and the poetry around us.

Last, but not least (I talked about Tony Williams’s poems in my last blog post), Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s poetry reverberates with sound, pace and characters, from historical eccentrics to Keith Floyd to Great Aunt Lucy.

I’d already read Nine Arches collections or pamphlets by many of the poets mentioned here and in my previous post. But from this anthology, it’s clear there are some I’ve missed out on along the way/years. Maps & Legends really gives a flavour of both the press as a whole and the individual poets – a great start for finding one’s way into Nine Arches range of poetry and poets, and fantastic too for rediscovering old favourites.

#100kindsofhappy

This is a mini-writing challenge I have set myself: 100 fairly spontaneous snippets/haiku of moments of happiness/wonder/awe. I am ‘publishing’ these over social media (twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook). So far, I’m up to about 30 in my drafts, and it’s now starting to get harder to find new/different moments, gulp! The ones that have gone out already are:

1.
sun waking a face
windchimes a music river
opening wintered doors

2.
silence stills the air
the mind’s white noise quietening
windchimes in the heart

3.
tulips kissing in the wind
grace of their curving
with the natural world

4.
shade-shifting spring skies
when even the clouds hold light
soft shapes of pearled white

5.
cherry drift evenings
thin rose sap sipped from a glass
bare feet in mown grass

6.
the blackthorn’s white tips
slowly splitting, in a gasp
of tiny petals

7.
fingers curled in mine
this skin asking not grasping
that palm to palm kiss

8.
warm mist & slow sips
from morning’s first full tea cup
the day’s throat opens

9.
sleepy eyes sift light
the hush & rush of love’s voice
lullaby whispers

10.
the butterfly pause
of flower wings against leaves
summer’s scented dreams

11.
steam rising from taps
hands & water across skin
a lingering heat

12.
strange cities at dawn
streets laid out as bare mysteries
blushing in the sun

13.
patterns of part-light
shadows playing hide & seek
cave life on plain walls

14.
the book’s open page
new worlds waiting to be loaned
strange words taken home

15.
the warm velvet skins
of blankets, cushions, chocolate…
lulling roughed senses

16.
cinnamon-mulled wine
cooked apples stuffed with raisins
spices tempt dulled tongues

…to be continued!

EVENTS

The first full week in April I am looking forward to an MA Arvon week at The Hurst in Shropshire, with Helen Mort as guest poet. Hurrah!

Just before that, there is the launch on Thursday, April 3 at 7pm at The Dogstar, Brixton, in London, of the second issue of ‘Verse Kraken’, in which I am delighted to have a poem, ‘In the Ointment’.

Sadly, there has had to be a change in my May gig line-up, as the Lichfield Word Alight is actually on a different date now to the one I was originally booked for, meaning I can’t make it. I am still looking forward to my Worcester and Manchester readings though.

On Friday, May 9, I will be a guest poet with Ruth Stacey, who has a new pamphlet coming out with The Dancing Girl Press, at The Hive in Worcester for a Ledbury Poetry Festival, Worcestershire Literary Festival and Worcester University spoken word event. (More details to come soon).

Then on May 12, I will be reading as part of the Carol Ann Duffy and Friends series in the Studio Theatre at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. I am very excited about this!