Brent Poet Laureate Launch – meet featured poet #3: John Agard

What can I say about our third featured poet for the Brent Poet Laureate launch this Friday?! Basically he’s a total legend and it’s a huge honour to have him involved. John Agard is one of those names that my non-poetry friends know and respect and get excited about, a lot of them probably studied him at school and I often find those that did remember his poems fondly…

This year John is the recipient of the Queen’s Award Medal for Poetry, and in the past he has been Writer in Residence at the South Bank Centre and Poet in Residence at the BBC. Nuff said.

Step one: watch him do his thing below…
Step two: reserve your FREE ticket to see him on Friday evening!

Brent Poet Laureate Launch – meet featured poet #2: Warsan Shire

I became a big fan of Warsan’s poetry after reading her first collection last year. The book is called ‘Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth’ and is full of powerfully affecting poems documenting narratives of journey and trauma with a strikingly simple beauty. Me and Raymond Antrobus booked her to perform at Keats House as part of an event there, and this first video is of Warsan reading her poem ‘conversations about home (at the deportation centre)’ at that event.

You can see Warsan read alongside Inua Ellams and John Agard as part of the (FREE) launch event for my role as the Brent Poet Laureate, which is on Friday June 21st. All the details for that can be found here…

I wanted also to include this video featuring Warsan’s writing. It’s called ‘Excuses for why we failed at love’ and has a really different feel to a lot of poetry videos around. Great stuff.

Brent Poet Laureate Launch – meet featured poet #1: Inua Ellams

This is the first in a mini-series of posts to introduce you to the incredible poets I’ve managed to persuade to grace the stage at the (FREE) launch event for my role as the Brent Poet Laureate, which is taking place on Friday June 21st. First up, Mr. ‘two of my solo shows sold out their runs at The National’ himself – Inua Ellams!

I first saw Inua performing in a library in Acton back in about 2007 when I didn’t even really know what spoken word was. It was another few years before the emphasis in my creative life shifted from hip hop to poetry and story-telling, but I always remember that funny little event as a turning point when I realised that poetry could speak to me so strongly through live performance.

This video is of Inua performing his basketball inspired poem ‘leather comets’, which is a favourite of mine.

Inua’s poetry is great to read on the page too, and his pamphlets ‘Candy Caoted Unicorns And Converse All Stars’ and ‘The Thirteen Fairy Negro Tales’ are available from Flipped Eye.

Chill Pill Christmas special at Deptford Market…

Photobucket
Photobucket

Deptford market it an amazing place with an authentically local feel about it that is too often missing at more trendy boutique style markets. This is a real place for real people. Also, you can get anything you want. Anything. And almost always at a wildly reasonable price. One stallholder told me he had been working there for 32 years and the man’s patter was so on point I could believe he was three decades deep in the game.

“if you can’t see what you’re looking for, just ask. I’m looking for your money, and so far I can’t see it”

A recent addition to the market has been young marketers, trainee traders if you like, supported by a council development programme. On the Saturday we were there (9th December) the young traders were housed in a little market on the square. As part of the overall aim of the project to bring more people to the market (crucially in a way that supports what is already there) Chill Pill were invited to collaborate with site specific theatre director Peader Kirk in order to provide some Christmas entertainment. We thought that the best way to do this would be to fit in with the existing market, and see what happened if we tried to run a stall ourselves! As you can see it was decorated ‘tastefully’, although we did have a few people enquiring after the trees rather than our poems…

Photobucket

On arrival we got chatting to the young traders; about their wares, what inspired them to get started, their creative processes, business so far etc – The four of us chill pill poets (me, Raymond Antrobus, Deanna Rodger, and Adam Kammerling) then wrote little ‘instant’ poems about each stall-holder individually, before belting these out with a few of our own pieces over the PA. The marketers were really happy to have their stalls written about and promoted in this unusual way, as for young newcomers vocally attracting custom can be a daunting thing to go about.

Photobucket

Apart from these sporadic performances over the PA (at which we also read some of our favourite ‘seasonal’ poems by other authors) we also tried to bring a bit of poetry to those stall holders and bargain hunters who weren’t naturally passing our way. Our strategy was two fold:

  1. Wandering with ‘the poetry stocking’, from which people could pull titles of Christmas poems, which we would then read to them. Check out Adam doing his thing below. These guys offered us a quid when we were done. Despite us reading them a pretty bleak (although brilliant) poem called ‘snow’ by Vladimir Holan
  2. Photobucket

  3. Chatting to stallholders and punters, and asking for their own Christmas moments or memories, or alternatively their wishes for themselves or others for this years festivities. We noted these contributions down on Christmas labels and hung them from our trees, before Ray compiled a beautiful little crowd sourced Christmas poem from the results.

Photobucket

The final service we offered was an idea I pinched from Poetry Takeaway which I saw at Latitiude – where people could come up and ask to have a poem written for them, about anything they wanted – again the turn around for these was mega quick but this video of Adam reading his to the young woman who requested is evidence of what can be achieved in five minutes!

All in all it was a cracking day, and definitely considering trying to get a plot for another stall in the future! Below you will find the text for my pieces for the marketers… Enjoy!

Dr. Denim
A battered leather suitcase
Full of old jeans, but
Everything is in here
Un-pick and re-stitch
Zips, hems, pockets
Make ties, bags, wallets
Make anything you want
Made to order, man’s on it.
Dr. Denim, if you’re passing the stall
Pop your head in, certified swag
What d’you reckon?!

 

Niamh’s preserves
Niamh went from jewellery to jam.
24 carat cake jam.
sticky fingers in the workshop,
berry red splatters on the worktop
roasted red pepper and peach,
each deep flavour worked on and brought through…
Compliment your cheese with a chutney,
have it with a brie or a cheese that’s more crumbly
Perfect for a feed if you’re hungry
Deep in the fridge late night with the munchies
Branstons? What?!
Yeah that’s a brand that you’ve seen and heard
And so it may seem absurd,
but you’re much better off with one of Niamh’s preserves!

 

Adam and Cuth – The Letters E.P.

Adam and Cuth are two people I rate highly, and I have wholeheartedly enjoyed collaborating with both of them in the past (on that note, you can hear a tune Cuth produced for Mole & Iris here)

Needless to say when I heard the two of them had teamed up for this project I was suitably excited. It didn’t disappoint. Cuth cooks up them lush beats as he only he can, soul-tinged goodness that proves his ear for finding and attacking a sample only improves over time.

Adam brings a genuinely refreshingly combo of considered,well written content and an intricate but almost conversational flow – he’s a proper rapper, but also one who brings his spoken word skills and approach in to play at points with great results. Top lad, who is also the latest addition to the Chill Pill collective…

Basically, I recommend you check the ep here but I’ll let the boys do their own promo from here on in with this cracking little video they put together to mark the EP’s release…

A warm welcome…

Being made to feel welcome is important, and when I went to Newcastle to run for the first workshops on the north east leg of the ‘Indiana Jones and the extra chair’ tour that was certainly the case…

First up, my mate Mark met me at the station and drove me via the beer shop to his house, where his partner had prepared us a mighty pasta feast (with home-made pesto no less!) – they continued to feed me like an absolute king all weekend, including home-made soup on saturday lunch and a packed lunch box of leftover pie from the night before to take with me for the train home on Sunday. Quality stuff. Cheers guys.

Saturday was the first time I’d been to Live Theatre, and straight away I was impressed by the location on the quayside, and by the building itself…

20121016-150208.jpg

20121016-145628.jpg

Walking through the front door I was greeted by this sign, and then soon after met by Rachel from juice festival and Laura from New Writing North – I’d been chatting to these guys on phone and email for ages so it was great to finally meet them in person. The welcome party was made completed by the arrival of Kirsten from Apples and Snakes, and also by the presentation of my Juice Festival ‘welcome pack’. These guys know how to do what they do properly!

20121016-150524.jpg

The young writers soon started to arrive as well, and then it was up to the studio to get started – not without stopping to check out this awesome view from the third floor…

20121016-145639.jpg

The whole building immediately has the feel of somewhere you know you will get good creative work done, and that very much proved to be the case for the participants over the weekend – each one of them came up with a quality draft of a piece inspired by one or some or all of the themes of family, food, and heroes. You can keep up to speed with the project as it develops on here

Holiday reading: EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING (Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz)

Some poems are so good they make me want to put the book down and start writing. And like a lot of poets I find it hard not to read as a writer these days – I automatically start assessing the use of language or form, I’m constantly on the hunt for clues or stepping stones to write better poems myself, and whilst that can be inspiring it is also frustrating at points.

‘Everything is Everything’ by Cristin O’ Keefe Aptowicz is the first collection for a long time to lift me out of this, to make me want to not stop, but to keep on reading. As a reader.

Aptowicz has a style I find easy to take in; simple and clean but full of such brave, quirky beauty within that. She uses everyday language to spark such strong poetic images, and fills each poem with a sense of something felt  beyond the words themselves; of the hearts of the poems, their reasons for being poems rather than words in some other form.

 

 

The blurb on the back of ‘Everything is Everything’ (her fifth collection) states that inside Aptowicz ‘polishes her obsessions until they gleam’, but as I read the poems these obsessions shone out to me almost as personas – without being a straight autobiographical narrative in any way, the collection gave me a real sense of character and life-journey, of the different sides to her personality that seem to shape her writing, or rather personas that appear through it. By no means exclusively I enjoyed getting to know the geeky teen on the academic decatholon team, the passionate slam poetry ambassador, the proud lover and New Yorker, the shy and awkward recluse, the quirky trivia queen, and the embattled commuter on her 9-5 office grind. I also enjoyed finding I had been left space to read creatively, to imagine connections between the moments and experiences described.

 

Coming back to the collection with my writers head on was fun too, and particularly to read Aptowicz as a performance poet who is currently thinking about how best my stuff might work on the page. I hear her poems clearly as I read them, and the strength of her voice is enhanced by how the poems look. Second time through I also realised that part of the reason the book flowed so well for me is because Aptowicz uses shorter poems brilliantly throughout – they almost take the role of pre-amble in a spoken word set by giving you a break from such an intense level of required focus, and help her to frame or give context to the following poem or poems.


Anyway, I did end up inspired and hungry to write – which is what I’m going to go and do now! If you want to find out more about this collection and Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz in general then follow the link: http://aptowicz.com/poet/everything-is-everything/

BRAND NEW ANCIENTS (Kate Tempest)

Right then, last Monday I was lucky enough to go to the dress rehearsal for Kate Tempest’s new full length show which is running at BAC until the 22nd. I doubt I will put it better than the press release so here is the basic premise:

Unfolding on the edges of the city, Brand New Ancients discovers the
myths of modern times in the lives of two families as they collide, connect and come apart – all racing towards a violent conclusion.

Poet and rapper Kate Tempest tells an everyday epic over an exhilarating
live score played by tuba, cello, violin, drums and electronics, that
finds the gods of today all around us and reveals that our true heroes are much closer that we think.

It goes without saying that Kate is an incredible rapper, poet, performer and playwright, and the quality of the writing in this show is indeed wildly good throughout. The musicians are amazing too, and Kate proper gets going with a flow over some dope beats at points. In fact there is so much I could say about the writing and the music, and the staging, all of it, and 99% of everything I would say would be positive. But time is tight and the biggest compliment I think I can pay the show is to say that it filled me with an overwhelming urge to call my loved ones as soon as I left the theatre, to tell them how perfectly imperfect they all are, how proud I am of the everyday epics in our lives, of the struggles we struggle and the grind we grind. I bounced home.

Basically, Kate has managed to retain that thing she does that fills you with longing, and with the knowledge of your own power and beauty, but to do that within a tightly constructed, multi-layered narrative spanning generations. Genuinely blown away. Do the right thing and get your tickets here: http://www.bac.org.uk/whats-on/brand-new-ancients/