With very lucky timing, I was asked to contribute an “interview” (really an emailed Q&A) to the website for Neon Magazine. This is a great way to promote Out of Breath, although the focus of the interview concerns the poems that Neon took: “Sanatorium”, “1984 in 1968” and “Under the Floor” . This is a free downloadable magazine, available here.

Incidentally, checking sales figures on Amazon, I note I’m not quite in the best seller lists yet. The book is currently 2,138,987 in the list., which means I’ve still a little way to go.

I’ve also been asked to read at a great monthly event in Leeds. Poetry by Heart at the Heart Cafe in Headingley. I’m reading alongside five other poets: Steve Anderson, Will Kemp, Hilary J Murray, James Nash and Clare Shaw. Of them, I know Will Kemp’s work best. He’s another Cinnamon poet, and has two excellent books under his belt, with a third on its way. Here you can find Lowland and Nocturnes. James Nash and I were both involved in an Off the Shelf event in 2012, debating the future of the book – and he also was given the Residency for Wakefield literary festival that year, which I also applied for. He does a great deal in and around the Yorkshire literary scene, but I don’t really know his work well. Clare Shaw also has an impressive bio, with two Bloodaxe collections, but I don’t know Steve Anderson and Hilary J Murray at all, so will be interested to hear voices new to me. 

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I’ve now a firm date for the launch of Out of Breath.

It’s Tuesday, March 25th, at Waterstones, Orchard Square, Sheffield. The event starts at 6.30 and will finish a little after 8.00.

As well as me reading from the new collection (that phrase still seems strange, almost a hostage to fortune) I’ve asked a some of our brilliant local poets and friends to help me out, reading from their own work as well as mine. At the moment, Sally Goldsmith and Suzannah Evans are firm bookings. There’ll be at least one other voice.

If you know me, you’ll probably be inundated with invitations to this event. My first collection! Seems impossible.

Today was the last Sheffield meeting of the Writing School, run by the Poetry Business, in Sheffield, which has been one of the biggest influences, aids and joys of my recent writing. Partly this is down to Ann and Peter Sansom who run and tutor it, partly to the other excellent poets the School brings together to rub shoulders and share words.

We will have a final get-together in Rydal in February, culminating in a reading at the Wordsworth Trust. If you’re around the Lakes then, perhaps you’ll come and hear us.

I recommend the Writing School. It stimulates your work, and puts you in contact with ways of writing you will not have considered before.

I also picked up a copy of River Wolton’s new book, Indoor Skydiving. Not read it yet, but it looks pretty good. And a copy of the latest The North (the Poetry Business poetry magazine), issue #51. I’m pleased with this one, as I’ve two poems in it, and Peter asked me to contribute to their periodic piece “Blind Criticism”, in which poets are invited to critique a poem without author which they’ve never seen before. I was partnered with Helena (“Nell”) Nelson, who runs Happenstance Press and offers sharp, close criticism. This seemed an honour to me, and a little bit scary. Suppose I came up with a critique which slated some well-loved, well-reputed poet? Suppose I disagreed radically with Nell’s view of the poem, was even hostile to it? Suppose I showed how ignorant I was of some style, form, tradition – there are so many and I’m so limited in my knowledge.

As it turned out, I really enjoyed the task, wrote far more than Peter could use, and found my account and Nell’s largely fitted together. And so, looking at it now in print, I’m almost as pleased with it as I am with my two poems: “Late Night, Radio 3” and “To an aubergine”. The latter poem was written in a Writing School workshop. You can maybe get an inkling of the School from this little example.

Antiphon Issue #8 is now up and running. You can find it here.

It’s looking good, I think. There’s more in the Interval section (reviews and articles) than ever before, but it’s the poetry that’s most important, and that also remains excellent.

issue 8 cover

In rapid succession:

  • just heard from Cinnamon that I was one of six finalists in their poetry collection award, but didn’t quite get to the final two for publication, which is disappointing but still encouraging;
  • then received my copies of the latest anthology In Terra Pax (in which I’ve three poems) which, as usual, has a great mix of quality poems and stories, including one by my good friend Tricia Durdey;
  • then received two books from Cinnamon for review in Orbis, both of which rather tempt me to do the job myself: Will Kemp’s Nocturnes (I’ve admired Will’s work for some while, even though he keeps knocking me back in competitions) and Omar Sabbagh’s The Square Root of Beirut, a new voice to me, but one which appears on first reading to connect intelligent insight with sensitive originality.

Antiphon Issue #1 seems to have been a hit. We were sent some great poems and were able to create a quality issue (see antiphon.org.uk) publishing twenty poems of the 500 we received.

The question is: can we do it again with Issue #2? We’re hoping for more poems, and even higher quality. We want to build a magazine that’s top quality for language and image. We know we’ll have more reviews and articles, but it’s the poetry that really matters. We’re especially keen to promote upcoming poets who are trying hard to get themselves established (because, that’s basically where we are, too).

So, please submit. Send us your very best and help us make Antiphon the best online poetry magazine in the UK.

A friend, Rosemary Badcoe, and I have just begun a new online poetry mag called Antiphon.  URL is: http://antiphon.org.uk/

Here you can submit work, read the magazine when we’ve compiled the first issue in a few weeks, and join a poetry discussion forum.

We’re looking for good quality work. We see the job of Antiphon as creating opportunities for poems that are not quite managing to find publication elsewhere, but nevertheless ought to be. The idea of Antiphon is that it should include contrastive voices, different kinds of work, so that it contains a hint of the richness of contemporary work, not just a single kind of poetry.

We also want to support small presses and pamphlet publishers, so we’ll be including reviews of such, and the forum contains a thread for such publishers to advocate and discuss their publication philosophies.