Since I last wrote, I’ve attended three very different but equally inspiring poetic celebrations.
First up, the 20th Anniversary London bash for Gerry Cambridge’s magazine The Dark Horse in Vout-O-Reenee’s, a private club which was everything you imagine clubs to be – an atmospheric, subterranean drinking den run by the magnificent Sophie Parkin, full of amazing characters and writers (nice to see Alan Brownjohn in a pink suit). It was a wonderful night. Gerry showed slides of the caravan where The Dark Horse began and played harmonica. And I got to perform on a bill with Wendy Cope, Niall Campbell and Kei Miller (possibly my favourite reader right now). Then there was the whisky, and some truly handsome copies of The Dark Horse anniversary issue to take home.
I also attended the Stand Up and Spit: The Big One, a celebration of ranting poetry organised by the incomparable Mr Tim Wells. The bill was quality: Mark Thomas, John Hegley, John Cooper Clark and, most of all, Linton Kwesi Johnson, whose ‘All Wi Doin’ is Defendin’, written about racist police oppression forty years ago, was so horribly relevant today the hush was electric. Then he performed ‘Mi Cyaan Believe It’ by Michael Smith, in tribute to the poet he first heard read on the very same stage, and the room seemed to shiver. Just an undeniably important poet.
And having been the Jerwood/Arvon poetry mentor for the last year, last week I went to the launch of Wassailing, an anthology of works from writers on the Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme 2014/15. There was wine. There were canapes. There were tears and whoops. We’ve had such a lot of fun the last year, and all my mentees have written such ridiculously good poems, I was extremely proud of them as they read (they stormed it).
Whilst I’m on the subject of former mentees, I should also point you in the direction of ‘Blueprint’, an e-pamphlet that’s just been published by the Poetry School, featuring the New North Poets I worked with two years ago (and for which I’ve written an introduction.) A really lovely read, including work by Kate Davis, Jenny Hockey, Andrew Fentham, Amy Ekins-Coward and David Keyworth. And it’s free.
In other news, I’ve got four events coming up in July myself – there are performances of Ovid’s Heroines at the Oxford Playhouse on the 9th and Latitude Festival on the 19th, details here. I’m also taking part in a panel on ‘Making Poetry Work’ at the Poetry Cafe on July 23rd at 6pm (with Kayo Chingonyi, Kirsten Irving and Kate Potts), and will be doing poetry workshop at the Idler Academy tent at the Port Eliot festival on the 30th… The summer of shows is just beginning!