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.

A pleasant surprise fell on our doormat today, unexpectedly. “The Book of Euclid” (Cinnamon Press) arrived with five of my poems in it. These poems helped me win the Cinnamon poetry prize, which will be my first collection. I sent the draft manuscript to Cinnamon last week, with the working title “Out of Breath” and, all being well, it will appear in 2014.

Meanwhile, the news on Antiphon is that our next issue will be a special one designed to support Sheffield’s 2013 Poetry Festival. It will appear in the middle of May, and contain poems from the poets reading at the festival. We’re very excited by this, as it should mean our biggest and best issue yet, and the festival looks likely to be a good event too (June 1 to 8th in Sheffield, UK).

Issue Six of Antiphon is now up and running, ready for your reading pleasure. Find it here.

Rosemary and I feel that every issue is better than before, though it’s hard to know whether that’s true, of course. So we’re asking our readers to let us know which poems in this issue they particularly like. (The poet who gets the most positive feedback will get a special feature on the Antiphon site). You can contact us with feedback through the Antiphon site (antiphon.org.uk) or through Antiphon’s blog, here:

Equally good news is that the 2013 Sheffield Poetry Festival is going ahead. It’s planned for June 1 to 9th, a mix of well known poets, local poets, workshops, readings and unusual events. I’ll be posting the details as they firm up.

You might like to check out the new website of The Poetry Business, just up and running yesterday. It has some very useful resources for poets, and the discussion forum may well develop into something really interesting for active poets.

See: http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/

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.

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).

If you’re near Sheffield, and want to give a poetry workshop a try, you may be interested in the one Angelina Ayers and I are running out of Bank Street Art Centre. We’ve run three sessions, and each time the group has grown, but we’ve space for two or three separate groups to meet. We also include a brief discussion of a recent collection (next time, it’s Don Paterson’s Rain. )

If you’re interested, for details check the blog at: http://bankstreetpoets.blogspot.com/

I suggested to Off the Shelf, Sheffield’s literary organisation (which organises the annual literary festival in October) that the city should have some sort of guide to the public poetry scattered across the city. We’ve poetry by Roger McGough, Carol Ann Duffy, Benjamin Zephaniah, Andrew Motion and many others scattered around the city.

They’ve asked me to compile such a thing: a list, photos, a website, a map.

If you know of any public poetry on buildings or artwork in and around Sheffield, that’s free to access and read, please let me know.

Well, Sheffield Poetry Festival has now ended. I gave a Poetry Walk, helped with a Poetry Garden Party, performed in a collaborative poetry event (“Out of Place” with the Tuesday Poets), read with Matter writers past and present, read with current MA Writing students. All of this was fun, enjoyable, interesting, successful. As was almost every event I attended. And I attended nearly all of them.

Simon Armitage’s opening reading was great, flanked as he was by the excellent Nell Farrell and Ed Reiss, neither of whom I’d heard before. I found Matthew Hollis’s talk on Robert Frost and Edward Thomas enlightening and perceptive, and he’s sent me back to both poets. I enjoyed his poems, too. The poets I was most amazed by, though, were both new to me: Elizabeth Barrett and Kathy Towers. Liz Barrett’s reading I was enthralled by: the drama and sensuality of her reading I found mesmerising. I’ve not read her book yet (“A Dart of Green and Blue”) but it’s there tempting me. Kathy is a graduate of the MA Writing I’m studying. If my first collection is half as good has hers (“The Floating Man” – check it out) I well be well pleased. “Music and light” abounds in that work, a wonderful lyricism.

However, one event stood out above all others for me. Perhaps not for a good reason, and perhaps I shouldn’t be blogging about it. But I can’t resist.

As a bit of fun Peter Sansom and The Poetry Business set up “University Poetry Challenge” – an homage to the TV programme, containing entirely poetry and song questions, although, Peter being Peter, quite a few of the questions were a little skewed from mainstream poetry. Somehow, I found myself captain of my university’s team (Sheffield Hallam University, since you ask). Now, I’m not a lecturer in poetry, creative writing or English literature. When I taught literature last, Margaret Thatcher was doing her best to destroy the UK. My team consisted of three English lecturers (Chris Jones, a great poet who ought to be wider known; John Turner, a local poet who excels in performance work; and Keith Green, a linguist, who also writes the occasional poem) and my daughter, Natasha, who volunteered to stand in at the last minute because one member fell ill. She’s a poet, just starting out, graduated from Hallam last year.

Ranged against us were a team of Professors of Literature, Sheffield University’s finest. And their captain? No less than Simon Armitage himself. Simon has recently been made Professor of Poetry at Sheffield, a well deserved role which he seems to be fulfilling well – but a rather formidable opponent for me. I’d attended a workshop he gave for the Poetry Business. He’d workshopped my poem. He knew my mettle.

All set then, one would expect, for Sheffield University to walk over Sheffield Hallam University, and grind us into the dust. And, in fact, they probably should have. Their knowledge of “real” poetry and its literary context proved much greater than ours. However, and luckily for us, and certainly for the entertainment of the audience, Peter had liberally sprinkled the questions with local info, jokes and lateral questions: “In poetry, what do Robert and Gravy have in common?” Answer: Browning.

To cut a long gloat short, we won. According to the scorers, by one solitary point. Admittedly, the scoring systems seemed a little, er, flexible, with points being awarded and deducted for somewhat strange reasons. (We lost six, I think, for suggesting that a quote about tears was definitely not by Ken Dodd.) Nevertheless, a point is a point, and that difference is enough for victory, and we had it.

Of course, it now means that I’ll never be able to attend a workshop run by Simon Armitage again. At least, not if I want my poem to remain intact. And I’m grateful that every competition he judges will be anonymous, because I suspect he won’t be too keen on my presence in any other competitions.

But he’s a generous man, and a forgiving one, I’m sure.

I hope.

Or my poetic career may well be over………