October 2010


Next week is another exciting week for me. As Off the Shelf, with its (too) many exciting activities comes to a close, I’m in London next week for two launch events.

The first is the long awaited The Book of King’s, an anthology of writings from graduates of King’s College, Cambridge, written to promote the college. I’ve a story and (I hope) a poem in there – it’s not been clear whether the poem will appear or not, but my work is rubbing shoulders with the likes of Martin Bell, Jan Pienkowski, Zadie Smith, Tam Dalyell, Simon Hoggart and Charles Saumerez Smith (whose room was next to mine at college, but I don’t believe I exchanged more than half a dozen words with him). Of course, my wife and I will be overawed by the company, and hugging the wall most of the time, but it will be a great event nevertheless. This will be at the Royal Society, so that venue itself is pretty exciting.

On the following day, 4th Nov, we’ll be giving the London launch of Matter 10, the magazine of the MA writing at Sheffield Hallam University, in which I’ll be reading a small extract from my children’s novel. The venue this time is the London Review Bookshop, so that’s excitement of a different kind. This is a public event, so by all means turn up (starts at 7.00). There’ll be some great readings.

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I won!

This was a real surprise, as I was pretty sure I knew who the winner would be when I saw the shortlist. But it turns out I was wrong.

In an interesting, though perhaps a little self-indulgent literary salon (a first for me) discussing new writing at Somerset House (a first, too) meeting Romesh Gunesekera (also a first, of course) the announcement and presentation was made. This is my best prize so far, because this is an international magazine of some repute, and it was judged by Moniza Alvi, who’s a pretty sharp poet. I’m really pleased, so thanks to Wasafiri.

I think the only downside was that I more or less confirmed some of the characteristic failings of contemporary poetry lit culture which were being discussed in the salon prior to the award, by being a white, middle-aged, British male winner of a prize in a magazine which is trying hard to promote writers of colour, an international agenda, and young writers wherever possible. I think my poem, “Anthropology of Loss”, fits the agenda, even if I don’t, but I did feel a little ambivalent taking the prize: overjoyed at the success, but slightly concerned that there might be others better suited for such a wonderful award.

The poem, along with the winners of the Fiction and Life Writing prizes will be published in the March issue of Wasafiri. You can find the list of winners and the shortlisted works at: http://www.wasafiri.org/pages/news_01/news_item.asp?News_01ID=205

is the name of an anthology to be published by Cinnamon Press in Spring 2011. I’ll have four poems in it, as I was shortlisted in their pamphlet competition (but didn’t make the final cut). The poems are: Litany (I wrote for my daughter, Natasha); In the Vice Provost’s Garden (which was written actually overlooking the garden of the vice provost of King’s College, Cambridge); Seven Summers (a sequence of seven haiku I wrote for the Sheffield Haiku trail, describing seven distinct summers of my life); and, The Song of Yellow Skin, which is one of the poems from my woman and warfare sequence on Kim Phuc. Strangely now, four of those six poems have been taken, but not the key, central, poem See Kim Run (although thei was recently workshopped by Michael Laskey, so maybe I’ve now an improved version).

Here’s an update of my events in the near future (mainly within Off the Shelf).

Oct 6th, 20th and 27th, 5pm till 7: Poetry workshop, Methodist Chapel, Denby Dale: A free workshop organised by Art in the Park

Oct 9th, 12.30: The Word Tent: Sheffield Town Hall (with Angelina Ayers) – reading. A free event.

Oct 13th, 1-3: Greenhill Library, Sheffield: an introductory workshop for writers. A free event, organised by Art in the Park.

Oct 13th, 7.15: Launch of Matter #10, Readings at Blackwell’s Bookshop, Sheffield. Free.

Oct 21st, 7.00: Readings by Matter #10 writers, Riverside pub, Sheffield. Free.

Oct 23rd, 10am till 4pm: An Art and poetry workshop (with Angelina Ayers), Bank Street Arts Centre, Bank Street, Sheffield. £4/£3 (Supported by Bank St and by Blackwell’s Bookshop)

Oct 26th, 12.30-5.00: Drop in Poetry Clinic, Bank Street Arts Centre, Bank Street, Sheffield. A free resource. Drop in to the poetry cafe anytime for chat, reading, workshopping, discussion of poets and poetry.

Oct 26th, 6.30-10.00pm: Tuesday Poets on a Tuesday, Fusion Cafe, Sheffield. £12 for food. Book in advance.

Nov 4th, 7.00:  Launch of Matter #10, Readings at London Review Bookshop, London. Free.

Oct 9th to Oct 26th: as part of Off the Shelf, we’ve organised a series of “Poets in Residence for a day” at Bank St Arts Centre, Bank St, Sheffield. Come along to work with a different poet every day (except Sundays and Mondays). Twenty different local poets, supported by Noel and Angelina Ayers, will be on hand to help you with your work, or to talk about their own.

And say “aha!”

Three poems of mine in the new issue of Open Wide #24 http://openwidemagazine.blogspot.com/

They’re “Something and Nothing” (a slightly odd poem, where I experimented with abrupt shifts of image, with mixed success), “A Photograph of Mary Macdonald Dreaming of her Father” (written originally about a photo in The Scottish National Galleries taken by Lewis Carroll) and “Sandalwood, lavender, charcoal, lime” (drafted in a Tesco’s carpark).