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. 

Well, not quite at Dove Cottage, because that would both be astounding (to read where Wordsworth stood!) and pretty much impossible with any audience larger than five. Instead it’s for the Wordsworth Trust at the Jerwood Centre, part of the Wordsworth Museum.

I’ll be reading as a member of the Poetry Business Writing School – we come to the end of our eighteen months together with a grand reading here at Grasmere this coming Sunday, 2nd March: 2.30 to 3.30.

It’s a free event, and you’ll hear Jim Caruth, Jennifer Copley, Lydia Harris, Fokkina McDonnell, Jane McKie, Kim Moore, Alan Payne, Paul Stephenson, Pam Thompson, Liz Venn, David Wilson, Gina Wilson and River Wolton, along with yours truly. This group is a truly gifted set of poets, positively swimming in prizes and publications, and a very varied bunch, too. You’ll hear largely new poems written during the Writing School and some recently published.

Full details here about the Jerwood Centre reading 

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.

I’m looking at my diary for the year to come. It’s an exciting year for me.

Early in March I read with the Writing School of The Poetry Business at The Wordsworth Trust’s Jerwood Centre, their wonderful museum next to Dove Cottage at Grasmere. That’s Sunday March 2nd, 2.30.  See HERE 

It’s a free event, so you should come along if you can to hear a great variety of UK poets, namely Jim Caruth, Jennifer Copley, Lydia Harris, Fokkina McDonnell, Jane McKie, Kim Moore, Alan Payne, Paul Stephenson, Pam Thompson, Liz Venn, Noel Williams, David Wilson, Gina Wilson and River Wolton.

Jennifer has recently published Sisters, which will be reviewed in the next Orbis. River published her collection Indoor Skydiving  which I hope to review myself at some point. Both are great books. Kim’s If We Could Speak Like Wolves was one of the most interesting pamphlets published last year, reviewed in the TLS no less. Kim also has one of the liveliest poetry blogs in the UK. Gina, Alan and Jim also have really good pamphlets, though published a couple of years ago now. Gina’s Paper, Scissors, Stone  is quite quirky and very clever. Alan has a particularly good line in the terse personal lyric, as shown in his pamphlet: Exploring the Orinoco. Jim’s Marking the Lambs is full of his soft, compassionate, gentle voice. (You can find my Antiphon review of it here).

Unfortunately my own Out of Breath is unlikely to be around as early as March 2nd. The official launch is planned for Tuesday 25th March at the the welcoming branch of Waterstones in Sheffield’s Orchard Square, who always put on excellent book launches. Starts at 6.30. I’ll make a proper announcement when there’s a publicity sheet to send out.

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.

It’s that time of year again: Sheffield’s Literary Festival, Off the Shelf. 

It’s a busy time for me. Yesterday I read at John Clare’s cottage in Helpston (it turns out I won second prize). The poems are here: http://www.clarecottage.org/poetryprize.htm

Tomorrow (Monday) I’m in an Off the Shelf debate on the Future of the Book. (Sheffield’s Quaker Meeting House, St James St, Mon, 10th Oct, 7.30. Freed admission.)

Weds: we’re running the usual (free, open invitation) poetry workshop at Bank St Arts Centre (12.00 to 3.00, Bank St, Sheffield). If you want to take part, bring copies of a poem to workshop, and we’ll have a discussion of Sean O-Brien’s November, too.
(Also that evening Rachel Genn launches her novel The Cure at Blackwells – should be a pleasant event).

Thursday I’ll be reading on the Speakers Steps at the House of Commons, again for the John Clare competition  – a strange prize, but an exciting one. Around 11.30, I believe, if you’re in the vicinity.

Monday 17th: I’ve a ten minute reading as part of the launch of new mag Uroborus, at Sheffield’s West Street Live (7.30). Another free event.

Weds 19th: Launch of Matter magazine no #11. I was part of the editorial team, but won’t be reading, merely listening to all the fine contributors (including Fay Musselwhite, Angelina Ayers, Rosemary Badcoe – lots of great writers)

Also sometime “real soon now” as they say in the software industry, I hope to have the website of Sheffield’s Public Poetry available for OTS to launch. This is proving harder than I thought to get together, but I think I’ll make it.

If you want to choose other OTS events, you can find a programme at: http://www.offtheshelf.org.uk/programme.php

And whilst all this is going on, Rosemary and I are putting the first fabulous issue of Antiphon together. I think it’s going to be particularly good and will, naturally enough, post a notice when it’s there for your delight and delectation. (Apologies to all poets who’ve not yet had a decision from us: we both need to agree to a poem before including it, and that’s caused a fair series of debates).

logoSheffield is holding its very first Poetry Festival on the weekend of April 1-3rd, with “fringe” events in the days preceding and following.

You can find out more at: http://www.sheffieldpoetryfestival.org.uk/home.html where you can also download the full festival brochure. There are 34 events to choose from (I’m involved in a couple) including readings by Simon Armitage, George Szirtes, Geoff Hattersley, Geraldine Monk, Helen Mort, Ben Wilkinson, Chris Jones (on the Forward Prize shortlist last year), Elizabeth Barrett, Mark GoodwinMatthew Hollis, Maurice Riordan, Harriet Tarlo, local laureates Ann Atkinson and River Wolton and many local poets, less well known, but well worth hearing nevertheless.

The group I belong to, The Tuesday Poets, have a themed event “Out of Place” planned for March 29th, 7.30 at Bank Street Arts.

There are also launches of new books, an event for children, a poetry walk, a garden party, talks, social gatherings where you can meet many of the poets taking part and even a “poetry university challenge” in which notables from the two Sheffield universities show how little they really know about poetry.

It’s bound to be fun and interesting. Some of it might be exciting. If its successful, the hope is to make it a regular event, so please come along and support it.

I had a pleasant time at the Newark Prize reading yesterday. C.J. Allen, who has many competition successes, also read, and I was pleased to find that a friend of mine also had been recognised in the competition: Lou Wilford, with two poems in the runners up.

On the way home I suddenly realised I’m already involved in as many poetry events this year as I was in the whole of last year. This is partly because of my recent luck in competitions: following Newark, I’ve the event at the Moorland Discovery Centre, Longshaw Estate on March 12th, and the Awel Aman Tawe award at Pontardawe in late Feb – although that’s perhaps a bit far away.

Then the Sheffield Poetry Festival and its fringe in late March and early April (the festival proper starts on April 1st) has me down potentially for a poetry walk and a garden party (for Art in the Park), a rather exciting event from the Tuesday Poets called “Out of Place”, a reading as part of the celebration of ten years of Matter, and then our annual MA students’ reading, too, although that’s not really part of the festival, I guess.

Then there’s also the open mike Speakeasy next week, which I haven’t been to for ages; and I’ve been asked to read at “Unquiet Desperation”, a local poetry get together.  Finally, I’m working on an installation of children’s autumn haiku for the Winter Gardens, due to be installed in the first week of Feb, and then repeated with a variation as “Four Seasons” again the in the Winter Gardens in April.

A busy time. Really nice that my work is being enjoyed, though.

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.

It’s busy, busy, busy at the moment.

Sheffield’s Literary Festival, “Off the Shelf” begins in October. I’m in five events, and most of them are attached to other activities. Matter #10 will be launched, a golden magazine, so there’ll be two events launching and reading from it (at Blackwells on 13th Oct and Riverside on 21st Oct) and a third, excitingly, at the London Review  Bookshop (7pm Nov 4th). With Angelina Ayers, we’ll also be Bank Street’s Poetry Cafe reps at the Word Tent Launch of OTS on the 9th Oct. Angelina and I will also be running a day long workshop at Bank St Poetry Cafe linking poetry and art (you get to do a bit of both). I’ll be running a community writing workshop at Greenhill Library in Sheffield on the 13th. Finally, as a member of the brilliant Tuesday Poets we’ll be launching our new CD of poetry on the 26th Oct at Fusion Cafe.

Additionally, for the length and breadth of OTS Angelina and I are organising a “Poet in Residence for a Day” scheme at Bank St, so budding writers can drop on every day and work with a different poet. Some great poets are committing to this idea, making themselves available for what is a programme of free poetry workshops/consultations nearly a month long. I’m not sure there’s been an event like this before.

All of these things, in different ways, need organising and preparing for: whether it’s sorting out a programme, rehearsing, recording, planning the CD or simply encouraging fellow poets to sit in the Poetry Cafe and share their expertise.

But I’m also delivering several workshops for Art in the Park. I did a couple for Nook Lane Junior School, in Stannington and the year 3s seemed to have a great time. They certainly produced dozens of wonderful poems. Today we gave poetry workshops in Wither Woods, at Denby Dale (near Wakefield). Although the weather was a bit fractious, around 30 people turned up to write poems in the woodlands.

If you live in or near Denby Dale, I’m also running a series of free writing workshops in the evenings. Although they’re primarily focused on poetry, I’ll be aiming to deal with the whole range of interests of whoever turns up: whether its short stories, novels, life writing, children’s writing – even journalism, perhaps. You can come along to one session or all of them.

And I’m still continuing with the Poetry Business Writing School. This month we have to write a poem a day for a fortnight, and send six poems for commentary by a fellow poet AND find a poem that we can face receiving feedback on from Michael Laskey, of all people. (And also read Coleridge and Wordsworth in our spare time).

The upshot is, I’ve not been sending out so many poems for publication or competition. It’s nice, therefore, to find this week that readers of Orbis #51 have voted my poem “Presumably Butterflies” the best in the mag, and the Yeovil Poetry Competition gave me a Highly Commended, which is pretty good, too.