Saturday, 31 December 2011

Salt Modern Voices at The Poetry Cafe

Bricks or cobbles? At any rate, tres urban.
I am determined to get this post in before 2012; it may be the only constructive piece of writing I've achieved over the Christmas break. Also, it seems rather fitting to close the year with a summing up of the last installment of readings at The Flying Goose in Beeston, arranged by the Nottingham Poetry Series and Nottingham Trent University. December 13th was Salt Modern Voices night, a new series described by the publishers as: 'a brand new series from Salt which aims to deliver short works to new readerships....experiments or side-projects which have a distinctive literary merit...issued like an EP prior to the development of a full-length collection and aimed at breaking new talent and building reception for the writer.' Which sounds very understandable to me. I love the idea of pamphlet being like an EP, I always thought of them in a similar way. Individual poems in magazines are like singles; pamphlets EPs and the collection is the album. My pop upbringing has clearly affected my perception of poetry publishing then. It's also a very savvy project and the web page I lifted this quotation from reads more like a manifesto rather than an introduction to the Salt Modern Voices Series. You can read it here:

It's been two years since I decided to get serious about poetry and it was two years ago I started buying pamphlets, primarily over collections, simply because they felt more accessible and you could buy a few at a time and read works by different authors; then you'd buy the 'album.' Nine Arches have published some very attractive and desirable pamphlets for instance, The Sopranos by Roz Goddard and The Night of the Day by David Morley. I should also mention the work of Smith/Doorstop (click!)at this juncture who produce remarkable poetry pamphlets too and have done for a very long time. I am currently reading The Sea and the Forest, by Sally Baker, lovely.

The Salt project seems rather ambitious due to the amount being published in a relatively short space of time, but that seems to be a Salt trait, something to do with capturing zeitgeist, I suspect. Beeston's Flying Goose cafe was one of the many venues up and down the country showcasing this new series. Four readers: Emily Hasler, Shaun Belcher, JT Welsch and Adrian Slatcher, as well as a single poem at the end by Tim Cockburn as well. Very different in subject matter, but I felt that a similar cadence seemed to resonate through some of the readings, so there was almost an incantatory tone to the evening and bound the readings together rather effectively. Welsch took us to the movies, which was rather exciting for a chilly December night in Nottinghamshire. Belcher's poetry seemed reflective and sonorous; Slatcher's were lyrical and seemed to focus on smaller details in the context of a global experience. It was great to hear Emily Hasler again who read from her pamphlet Natural Histories.

Hasler's opening poem was 'The Cormorants':

You scan the bay and always see one -
plumped like a discarded coat on some
purposeful post of sea-bleached wood.

Hasler has also appeared in Salt's The Best British Poetry 2011, with a poem called 'Valediction', a very memorable love poem which finishes:

The weekend laid out - a mahogany table - I know
where it is; I know where you are. When it rains

the earth smells like it's been there for years.

I always enjoy Emily's readings and have been lucky to catch her twice this year, Natural Histories is a very readable and enticing publication. There was also a chance for us non-Salty beings to read a poem of our own, so Deborah Tyler-Bennett and Roy Marshall had a go amongst others. I lowered the tone with a poem based on teaching Larkin, called 'Larkin' oddly enough.

The drive home was equally memorable for different reasons, lost on the A52 with three poets in a car, headed for some far-flung corner of Derbyshire and not Leicestershire,where we actually live, with 'The Organist Entertains' on Radio 2. Yikes.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Breaking New Year, 2012

This is traditionally the time of year when people put up thoughtful, balanced and considered retrospectives of the year. I'm of moderate intelligence, but am very slow this evening. I felt I should mark the passing of the year in some way. There's no rush. After all, wasn't the term Romantic coined after the era had gone? I hope to put up some thoughtful, balanced and considered blog posts on some recent events I attended very soon, but in the meantime here is a little tune by Scott Walker, which seems to be about passing years, which seems incredibly relevant for Dec 30th.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

I'm Pregnant!

No, that's a lie. It's only true in a metaphorical sense, and you know how writers like that sort of thing. Ok, I'd like to announce that my debut collection Melanchrini is scheduled for publication in Summer 2012 with Nine Arches Press! I'm part of the debut series which features first collections from Andrew Frolish, Alistair Noon, Daniel Sluman. Phil Brown's Il Avilit was recently launched in London and I've heard tell it was a great event. I'll be looking forward to getting a copy very soon. Why Melanchrini? It's a Greek word meaning 'dark featured' for women, the masculine is Melanchrino.I was called Melanchrini when I was growing up, by my family. So it's personal choice, but it also rhymes with Martini, and I think that's a good thing. I like the chime with melancholy too. You can read about the debut series here:

For the record, when I was pregnant, four whole years ago, I wrote a blog entry on how I thought I'd never write a word again. I had morning sickness from hell and it interfered with everything creative. The creativity was obviously being diverted to the twins, who were at that point floating around in the womb.The website is falling apart due to neglect, but it's still out there in Internet la la land for the time being:

Monday, 28 November 2011

A Night of HappenStance

hap•pen•stance [hap-uh n-stans] noun: a chance happening or event.

I have a new heroine and her name is Helena Nelson, the chief editor of HappenStance. What a great night we had on Saturday at Lee Rosy’s in Nottingham. This was the venue for ‘A Night of HappenStance,’ which featured Happenstance poets D.A.Prince, Robin Vaughan-Williams, Marilyn Ricci, Ross Kightly, Matthew Stewart and Helena Nelson. A rare treat as Helena is based in Fife and Matthew had travelled from Spain. I actually managed to have a good long talk with Helena afterwards about various things, some of which included poetry. She’s clearly interested in people, is extremely approachable and it was a pleasure to meet her. The readings were top notch and Helena’s approach was to introduce the poets by reading out the lines which most appealed to her from their poems. Take these lines from Marilyn Ricci:

‘...she yells, above the roar of her

welding torch out in the hall where she’s rebuilding

a number 39 which used to go to the Crystal Palace,

and will do again if she’s anything to do with it.’

Wonderful stuff. It was great to hear Matthew again, as I so enjoyed his pamphlet ‘Inventing Truth.’ He has a deeply engaging style. He read his poem ‘Instructions for Coming Home’ at the beginning and end of his reading. The perspective altered when he mentioned at the end that the poem was written from the point of view of a widower, the preparation of a simple meal is given a certain gravity by the final line ‘Now confront the day, bite by bite.’

Robin Vaughan-Williams read from ‘The Manager,’ and I think this was my favourite reading by him, probably because it was the longest. ‘The Manager’ is a strange and fantastically sinister short collection and one worth digging out. Ross Kightly was another writer I’d come across for the first time and he was great, despite his own admission that he was being followed by a Mafia boss. It was interesting to hear his work which was certainly entertaining. D.A. Prince was excellent, and I’m always struck by her clarity and ability to simply express what’s there without any superfluity. I think that was a trademark of all the Happenstance poets, and I imagine Helena’s editing has a lot to do with it. It’s sharp, measured and alert writing.

I’d never heard Helena read before, I knew she was probably going to be good, but my word she was better. Her writing is beautifully formed, memorable and – and – funny. Yes, funny, as in it makes you laugh. There are not many poets you can say that about, (Ok, maybe Geoff Hatterlsey, I love his work too).The imagination and verve is startling, for instance ‘Poetry Virgin’ which turns a humdrum excursion on a Virgin Train, with its mundane announcements, into something deliciously surreal:

‘A quiet stanza is situated near the rear of the poem

For readers who do not like howling.

Passengers should familiarise themselves

With the safety exits and the layout of the poem.

I brought a copy of her ‘Unsuitable Poems,’ which I’ve been dipping into since the weekend. At the post-reading drink (obligatory, it was a Saturday) local poet Roy Marshall was there and we also bumped into another local poet Sarah Jackson, completely by ... (forgive me) happenstance. Well, I think that’s a neat ending.

I'd like to thank...

I've been nominated for the Leibster blog award by Gary Longden, a lovely initiative to support bloggers with small but perfectly formed follower lists of less than 200. It's all described by Gary here:
I have to nominate some blogs of my own in turn.

1. Jess Mayhew's Drift Rook blog which is here: Jess Mayhew was one of the winners of the Crystal Clear Creators pamphlet competition and is a superb writer. She's one of those people who definitely worth keeping an eye on.

2. Left and to the Back: A music blog run by Dave Bryant, who is absolutely dedicated to sharing the best of the obscure. The sort of blog where you come across quirky records and is so well written too. Dave, funnily enough, is also a poet.

3. The Literary Critical Detective, by James Holden, here on a fascinating foray into the creative and the critical...

4. Laura Smith's Made by Lolly, here: very beautiful objects d'art for all to enjoy!

5. Jayne Stanton's lovely writing blog Poetic Licensee which is full of writing! The kind of thing I should do on my own blog really!

Monday, 31 October 2011

A Woman Walks into a Pub: Shindigs, Flying Geese and Hearing Voices.

Hearing Voices Issue 4 - Because you're worth it.
Doesn't time fly? A busy couple of weeks with some very tip top poetry events to talk about here. I thought I should probably write about these before we plunged into November. The new issue of Hearing Voices is out by the way, more on that later. On October the 18th The Flying Goose Cafe in Beeston opened its doors to a new season of readings, with Jack Underwood, John Lucas and Pippa Hennessey.

This was a lovely evening in a very cosy venue and all three poets, despite being rather different in flavour, complemented each other well. Pippa's reading was warm and memorable and there were some very memorable images in her work. I should really write things down, but there was one about planting a tree in childhood, almost by accident, which grows and flourishes in the future while everything else changes. John Lucas's readings always leave me feeling that I've learnt something worth knowing. John talked about poetry of the Second World War, and read a poem by the American Randall Jarrell. Controversially, John asserted that poetry of this period is the equal and in some cases the more superior when compared to the poetry of the Great War. This threw me, but then I've not read an awful lot of WW2 work, apart from the odd bit of Keith Douglas, so perhaps it's time I delved further. Jack Underwood was a treat, very individual and full of verve. Again I should make notes but I remember devils' mouths replete with slim legs and envy over the pre-pubescent obsessions of girlfriends, such as pet horses. Anyone remember that classic series for girls, 'My Friend Flicker?' I think he has nothing to fear.

Last Monday saw the launch of Issue 4 of Hearing Voices, (yes that’s Hearing Voices, every home should have one!) at The Western Pub in Leicester. The guest readers were Mal Dewhirst, Charles Lauder, Wayne Burrows and Jane Commane. All great, I could write and write but so many other people have done this for me, so I’d suggest looking at some of the blogs below for a more spirited version of events, as I’m a little red eyed and snoozy at the moment. Suffice to say that Wayne’s pop stars and space travellers, Mal’s nature adventures, Charles’ sonorous and quirky work and Jane’s race horses and school anthems were all warmly received by an audience so attentive and wonderful I don’t know if it would be possible to find their like elsewhere. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again, the open mic at these Shindigs is superb. As Alan Baker put it: ‘Poetry is a participation sport; most readers are also writers of poetry, and the whole scene is democratic and unhierarchical. But this is not to say that standards have to be driven down to the lowest common denominator; there's no reason why that should happen, and the evidence of the Leicester readings is quite the opposite, with people generally trying to raise their game to keep up with others.’ There you go, proof.

Oh, did I mention Hearing Voices is on sale now? And you’d like a copy, well of course you would, you are after all very intelligent! This issue features work by Joanne Limburg, Helen Ivory, Todd Swift, Mark Mawson, Mark Goodwin, David Caddy, Jacqui Rowe, Lydia Towsey, Alan Baker, Tony Williams, Nathan Lunt, George Ttoouli, Jess Mayhew, Matthew Stewart, Deborah Tyler-Bennett and many others. Please send a cheque made payable to Crystal Clear Creators to Jonathan Taylor, Crystal Clear Creators, c/o Department of English and Creative Writing, Faculty of Humanities, Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Leicester, LE1 9BH, U.K. Postage and packing is free!

Gary Longden's blog is here:
Matt Merritt's:
Alan Baker's:

Very much worth a read! As is Hearing Voices, out now! You know the rest...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Me and Mr. Jones

I'm very impressed with Ms Winehouse's ability to blend the sounds of a classic Jazz styling with a unique North London idiom. 'Fuckery' is an exqusite word; we may never see her like again.


Ok, let's begin. There's quite a lot happening this week. If I could, I'd be catching John Agard at WORD! in Leicester tomorrow, it should be a good evening. This Saturday also sees the Brummie version of States of Independence (West), which is utterly free. This will be held at the Eastside Projects Gallery on Heath Mill Lane in Digbeth. If the Leicester ones are anything to go by this one should be just as good with publishers such as Penned in the Margins, the Shoestring Press, Nine Arches Press, Happenstance, Leafe Press, Bloodaxe, Flipped Eye Publishing, to name a few, all represented.
As for moi, I begin my proudest writing commission of the year this Autumn; writing the script of my twin daughters' Christmas play to be held at their playgroup in December. I can't say much at the moment other than it will involve glove puppets; probably a dragon and a wizard. I expect to earn a mince pie or two. I'm also very glad that my review of Paul Kingsnorth's collection, Kidland, has been posted on Todd Swift's fabulous blog Eyewear. It's a pleasure to be involved with a blog that is actively raising the profile of contemporary poetry on the Web. You can read it here at:

I've also been reading a lot too, and can recommend John McCullough's 'The Frost Fairs,' definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Guardian Online

I found this the other week and was a very happy bunny to see my poem up on the Guardian online. Thank you, Colette Bryce for selecting my poem! Have a peek here:

Lyrical Lounging - September 17th 2011

Jess Mayhew and yours truly, Maria Taylor
I've been quiet of late. The last few weeks have seen me head down over a desk whenever the chance arises editing, reviewing and writing at the cost of enhancing my social life. However, last Saturday meant a trip down to Northampton to perform at the Lyric Lounge with CCC pamphlet winner, Jess Mayhew. Jess is a very talented discovery, at only 21 she writes with an authority and maturity which is quite startling. We both had an opportunity to share our work with a very receptive crowd. Ok, I had a cold and was dosed up with various superdrugs but it went well. The event was held at The Fishmarket, an art gallery which was indeed a fishmarket in years gone by. There were still a few marble tables where the fish were sold, to mark this. This intriguing and idiosyncratic arts venue is unfortunately going to be shut down next year. Not your best move Northamptonshire council, methinks. The venue was full of very eager and enthused artists, writers and performers and there was also a free lunch!

Jess and Maria
                  The 17th of September is also my dad's birthday. He turned 74, he won't be reading this blog as most of his reading matter consists of the sports pages, but Happy Birthday Papa!
There were felt tips, so I used them.
Another contribution by myself.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Live from Neptune!

Hello world, I've been having many technological gripes at the moment. The television has had a nervous breakdown since the digital switch over and I can't watch 'Come Dine with Me' anymore. My record player's packed in and I refuse to accept that my video player's also suffering a similar fate.Yes I know these are ancient forms of technology for some, but to me they're so real in my heart. Plus the down key on my mobile no longer works. There's no money to fix this. I walked into an O2 shop completely bewildered by words like 'bluetooth' and vaguely aggressive sounding acronyms like 'SAR.' I scuttled away down the Cattle Market feeling rather left behind and I'm technically not that old, but all this upgrading is leaving me flummoxed.
                   Ironically, I've been watching things on the Internet, to cheer me up. Three loud hurrahs for the Internet, even most Luddites get it. If YouTube had existed when I was a teenager I would have probably exploded with excitement and spent my days glued to Smiths and Blur videos, emerging now and then, a pale-shade of yellow. So here's a scratchy demo recording probably made circa 1967-8, although it sounds as if it's being broadcast from Neptune.That's the Internet for you, it's spell-blindingly modern enough for a person to access the past and otherworldly items.

Shindiggery - Monday 22nd August.

The Leicester shindigs jointly held by Nine Arches Press and Crystal Clear Creators have a real sense of buzz about them and last Monday's was exactly in that vein. The headline readers were Matt Meritt, Roy Marshall, Alex Plasatis and Deborah Tyler Bennett, whose new pamphlet 'Mytton, Dyer, Sweet Billy Gibson' is out now. All of them were wonderful. Alex's reading was a real surprise, of a very lascivious nature you'd say, very funny though. I'd go into details but there might be children reading. Matt's work is always a pleasure and was, as always, evocative and well-written. His writing is at full strength, and we were lucky to hear some brand new pieces. Deborah's work is always a treat and some of the poems from the pamphlet were based on her own great-grandfather and very strongly-voiced, making use of her Nottinghamshire roots and dialect. I was born in Worksop, you know, I'm very fond. Roy's work is imaginative and sonorous, my left ear was right next to the speaker, I savoured every word.
         The open mic, was very strong indeed, performances came from Mark Goodwin, Jayne Stanton, Gary Longden, Jane Commane, Jonathan Taylor and others. All wonderful. I left with rather a glowing feeling, happy that such things were occurring in my own city. Put that in your pipe, London town. If you would like to read other accounts of this event then are two I know of, one by Gary Longden:
and Matt Merritt:

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Under The Radar 8

UTR 8 - with added Cow!

The other day I got my new copy of 'Under the Radar' and I really think it's a very strong and memorable issue. There's poetry by Robin Vaughan-Williams, Claire Trevien, Deborah Tyler-Bennett and I was really impressed by Kate Fox's poem, 'My Mother as a Sunday.'  UTR 8 is just a pleasure to read. There are also reviews by Alison Brackenbury, Zoe Brigley and Matt Merritt on the intriguing Roy Fisher. I'm really pleased to have two reviews in this edition of collections by Michael W. Thomas and Simon Perril. There's an extract of my review of Perril's book here at the Salt blog:
Under The Radar 8 is definitely worth seeking out. I should also mention that Tears in the Fence, edited by David Caddy, is experiencing trouble at the moment. It must not go under! It's a beautifully and very carefully produced magazine which always features very striking work. Pester your library to get a copy if you can't afford a sub. (Not too unkindly though, I love libraries, so please do it ever so graciously.)

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


[N.B. There's no reason for why I called this blog post 'Frog' I couldn't think of a better title and Roy's blog features a frog and what a lot of assonant rhyme there is here.]

Roy Marshall has put up one of my poems on his excellent blog, it's called 'Fable' and you can find this here:
I should also mention that back copies of 'The Rialto' have gone up on the South Bank poetry magazines website, here you can find one of Roy's poems, 'Hayride' on this great resource:
It was a very good edition which also included poetry from Katy-Evans Bush, David Morley, Sarah Jackson and some frozen peas from Simon Armitage.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Amy Winehouse

Sunday, around  midnight, found me in the departures lounge of Larnaca Airport. Over a sunburnt shoulder I read the headlines that Amy Winehouse had died and it left me feeling rather moved. This feeling surprised me, I'm not her biggest fan by any stretch, but I can see there was something rather unique in her contralto voice and her style. I have fuzzy memories of being given my epidural to the sounds of 'Valerie' which just happened to be on the radio in the operating theatre; a much better choice than all that whale song nonsense. It's one of those deaths in rock which is sad but not exactly unexpected. Rewind to spring '94 when as a teenager I saw a picture of Richey Edwards from the Manic Street Preachers posed in front of a pile of bones in the Parisian catacombs. A year later he was missing, presumed dead. It seems fairly obvious in hindsight, but how easy is that to say. And then of course are all the well-known members of the 27 club, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain amongst others. Now it seems that Amy will be on that rather tackily named list.

Friday, 8 July 2011

How I finished off June...

This one's for you, Ms. Tyler-Bennett

There’s so much going on at the moment, festival season is in full swing. Yours truly is having some time off though and has many friend and family commitments at the moment. That didn’t stop me from attending the Lowdham festival and the Leicester Shindig at the end of June. Lowdham, with two excitable 3 year olds, was a good day out. There was a children’s tent, a Cat-in-the-Hat and a conveniently located playground. Result. I snuck off for a couple of readings. John Lucas was reading from his new book, Next Year will be Better, it’s a rather humorous and affectionate look at Lucas’ experiences of growing up in the 50s. The 50s of course should feel like a very long time ago, but after growing up in the 80s with revivals galore, it doesn’t actually feel so distant. The decade gets overshadowed by the 60s perhaps, but so many interesting things were going on. My dad was also coming of age in Cyprus, working in the kitchens of the British army bases in Dhekalia, whilst my mother had been forced to leave school early and train as a seamstress. When they came over in the 60s to the UK, like so many others, they probably didn’t realise that they were staying for the long haul.

I’m really looking forward to reading John’s book. I also caught Deborah-Tyler Bennett reading from her new collection Revudeville and the new Nine Arches pamphlet Mytton... Dyer... Sweet Billy Gibson..., if you’re into the idea of crazed aristos leaping over dining tables with their horses, you should give it a whirl. I should also say that Deborah is a keen afficiando and wearer of Vintage fashions, especially the 1950s, so I dedicate the photo above to her. Deborah’s reading was shared with Gregory Woods, and they complemented each other.

So once we had recovered from the twins at Lowdham we attended the Leicester Shindig on the following Monday. It was a real treat hearing Luke Kennard. His first poem was ‘The Choir,’ it was dedicated to a friend who was suffering with depression. It was thrilling and original, and perhaps that was the tone of the entire reading; there was so much linguistic energy. Strange, funny and utterly memorable. You’d think with all those awards Mr. K would have an excuse to be distant, but he wasn’t, he was charming and approachable. The other guest readers were Simon Perrill, Joel Lane and Lydia Towsey. I introduced Lydia and her work was warm and her tone was friendly. Simon’s poems were stark and imaginative, the idea of the moon appearing in daylight, with ‘its phantom currency’ appearing in the blue really grabbed me.

I should also mention the Southwell festival, I can't make it at all this year, curses. However, Aly Stoneman's blog on the event is very interesting and there's a lovely review of Simon Armitage's reading, see here: I really wanted to go, but I was too busy quaffing champagne at my friend's wedding in Suffolk. Next year, perhaps.
To suit retro theme here I am in an old car, at aforementioned wedding.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Top tips for Open Mic Virgins

Yes, this image is indeed relevant.
I don’t normally like to write ‘instructive’ blog posts, but I was having a chat about the subject of Open Mic with a friend the other day. It got me thinking about the value of participating on the Open Mic and the various pleasures and pains that accompany this type of performance. The first one I ever did was at the tender age of nineteen, I’m not purporting to be an expert here by no means, but I’d like to share what I think works.
I’ve seen some rather cruel things written about Open Mic. Yes, we know that sometimes the standard is mixed; not everyone who gets on stage is either going to be an extraordinary slam poet or a serious candidate for the T.S. Eliot prize, but I don’t think that’s the point. It's a democratic experience; it gives people a chance to share their work, but it also gets people in through the door to events as well. It can also be rather educational. You might just surprise yourself when you perform to an audience and learn things about your own work that you never realized before as well as escaping your ‘comfort zone.’ Similarly, you can also learn from other people’s performances.

Ok, La List:

1. When an organiser says a reader has 3 minutes and isn’t allowed to go over and read more than 2 poems then you must absolutely stick to this, no ifs and buts. This is not the time for your 2,000 line epic on the reformation of the Church of England, written in iambic heptameter. " It'll only take 20 minutes, okay 30, no one will mind," you say. Er, no. You want a few friends in the audience, don’t you?

2. Have you actually read your work before the event? I mean out loud, even if it’s to a row of teddy bears in your bedroom? Have you figured out where the stresses should be and how your voice could be used effectively?

2 a) just because something is a ‘page poem’ doesn’t mean you can’t do a lively and stimulating reading, in fact it may work in a much more subtle and effective way. This is better than doing a foghorn impression of what you think is a ‘performance poem.’

3. Look up now and again at people, don’t just clutch a sheet of paper in front of your face, this works better if you have followed no.2 in this list.

4. Punctuation – use it! Respect your full stops, pause when necessary, don’t pause when it isn’t required. I recall once losing the thread and staring into space for a second, that killed my ‘flow.’ Dingbat. You live and learn. (4a - you're only human.)

5. Can you read your own handwriting?

6. Don’t overdo the intro, if it takes you 5 minutes to introduce a six line poem then you have to wonder if the poem actually works by itself. Don’t tell the story first, have a bit of mystery, but by all means mention – briefly – what your audience may be interested to hear.

7. Out of courtesy, if you are going to mention ‘other stuff’ i.e. a fab new comp you’re running, tell the organiser first.

8. What’s the event? Poetry? Oh so, you’re going to read an extract from your novel instead? Our survey said, ‘I don’t think so.’ At least ask the organiser, some places are more flexible than others.

9. Don’t offend people please… they don’t like it. I once had to endure something bordering on misogynistic, it was awful. I didn’t clap, not many people did. Avoid arrogance, people don’t like it either. They like confidence though and clear delivery.
9a. As much as arrogance is a pain, don't be all coy and apologetic. Avoid saying things like 'this is a crap poem,' just read the darn thing.

10. Enjoy! It’s your space. You can make friends and be part of a supportive crowd. Also, you never know who’s listening…

Please comment if you have any thoughts on this.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Tears in the Fence

The new issue of Tears in the Fence arrived through the letterbox, featuring Alan Baker, Janet Sutherland, David Caddy and lots of others including a very quirky and interesting review article on John Ashberry by Jeremy Reed. It's a beautiful edition, white with a monochrome image of a swan on the front. I also have a poem in this issue, 'A Little Night Music,' which started off as experiment in a Pascal Petit workshop early last year. It was based on an ekphrastic exercise where I was given a copy of painting by Dorothea Tanning, titled 'A Little Night Music' (can't seem to upload it, probably under copyright!) and quite simply wrote about the image, it seemed to get me writing differently, I'm normally a little more, what the word - mainstream? Anyhow, I enjoyed writing the poem and would like to use that side of my head more if possible.
Go, seek out, buy Tears in the Fence!

Thursday, 16 June 2011


This is a misleading entry. On the surface it may appear informative, but actually it's an attempt by me to keep tracks. So, this month sees the next Leicester Shindig! This will be held on June 27th at The The Western Pub, 70 Western Road. Doors open at 7:30 and if you want to read get there early, you know the drill. Guest readers include: Luke Kennard, Joel Lane, Simon Perrill and Lydia Towsey. Simon's collection Nitrate, published by Salt, is wonderful, I've written a review on it, which should appear in the next issue of Under The Radar.

The event also sees the launch of the third issue of Hearing Voices which is out now and not available in book shops, but can be purchased via Amazon or send me a message. We've come to the end of the funded issues, there was only money for three. However, issue 4 looks like it's going ahead, following the fate of magazines up and down the country and across the world where there are no tramlines, just wings and prayers. So do buy if you like the sound of it. Here's a pic of issue 3, the front cover was designed by Helen Walsh:

Issue 3 has been guest edited by Alex Plasatis and Melissa Flowerdew-Clarke and features work from Kathleen Bell, Georgina Lock, Matt Merritt, James Walker, Geoff Stevens, and many others, including an 'other' called Maria Taylor.
Other things coming up include the Southwell festival, (can't go this year), featuring Simon Armitage and Matthew Welton. I haven't looked at the full schedule, but I'm sure there are some excellent things going on. Yes, and the Lowdham festival, I may be going in the capacity of woman-helping-out-on-stall-for-DMU, but the twins are coming so it may end up closer to origami, then book selling. There's a talk by John Lucas and a reading by Deborah Tyler-Bennett on June 25th at Lowdham too. My dearest, Jonathan Taylor, is also reading at the Swansea festival tonight, which I couldn't get to, on account of motherhood, but he's reading some of my work.

What else, competitions. Right, I have a phobia of competitions. I'm never sure if they're worth the hassle or not. So, why not just see them as a contribution to worthwhile organisations, such as Cheltenham Buzzwords, judged by Alison Brackebury. A worthy one I think. If you're a woman you could try Mslexia, judged by Jo Shapcott. I'm reading Of Mutability and it's excellent. The lucky woman will win herself £2,000, a week at a writing retreat and an afternoon with Fiona Sampson. There's lots of details on The Poetry Kit, about all these comps, many noteworthy ones are coming up such as the Keats-Shelley Prize, Bridport and others. There's one on Eyewear, celebrating six years of the blog. The prize is £6, there's a lot you can do with that amount, you could enter more competitions for one thing. Will I be entering any, I think not, I'll have to really persuade myself. What I would advise is that on the Mslexia and Poetry Society website, you can browse through the winning entries which is always interesting.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

My Sweet Canary - Remembering Roza Eskinazi

Let’s have a break from writing!

This spring sees the release of ‘My Sweet Canary,’ a documentary of the life of the singer Roza Eskinazi. Roza was born Sarah Skinazi to a Sephardic Jewish family around the turn of the twentieth century. In fact, no one seems to know when she was born; like any diva, Roza was notoriously difficult about revealing the year of her birth. It seems that any year between 1890 and 1910 is credible. Sarah’s family moved to Thessaloniki in Northern Greece and it was around this time, working in a neighbouring city, that Sarah developed her love for singing and dancing, much to her mother’s disgruntlement. Sarah would become Roza, move to Athens and over a span of 50 years or so would become one of the most famous singers in Greece whose influence would spread over the Anatolian region, making her popular in Turkey. Roza herself couldn’t speak Greek at all in her early years.

What fascinates me about Roza is that she was independent, earning money and singing Rembetika at a time when it was seen as ‘un-Greek’ to do so. She also defied borders and gained fans all over South Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Remebetika, the genre Roza was most famous for singing, was synonymous with rebellion. In 1937, a ban was imposed on recording music in the style ofAmane; a singing style that we would associate with music of the Middle East. Singers of Amane were monitored closely.

The End of Amane - it would be back...

It seems strange that anyone would ban singing in a particular way, but the Rembetes seemed to pose a threat to conservative Greece. Many of them had escaped Smyrna in the ‘20s and come to the mainland as unwanted exiles, living underground, inevitably sliding into crime as they couldn’t find work. Roza’s songs often deal with drug addiction, in particular cocaine use, which was a particularly popular drug. Of course this is the 1920s/30s here, not San Fran ’67. Roza persisted and in the 1970s, (at this point in her sixties, maybe seventies, perhaps even eighties, no one knows of course) would enjoy a massive revival in her career and fortunes, appearing in mainstream press and TV as something of an icon. Roza died in 1980.

Her story is a fascinating one, and I’m merely sharing it as a gentle tribute - an acknowledgement if you like – of someone who I think was an intriguing personality and talent.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Age before Ink?

Fig 1. Silly boy...

In  the last few issues of The Rialto, there has been a great deal of discussion about poetry written by the young. In this case under 35, well you can imagine my relief being 32 at time of printing. Now I'm 33, with not so long to go before my 36th birthday grabs me by the ankles and pulls me into a pit of decrepitude. According to Nathan Hamilton, lovely man, us 30-35s are still young because our 'frontal cortex' has 'not finished developing.' Therefore, 'good news: at 35, you are still a young poet.' Well that made me feel like cracking open a bottle of cider and hanging out at the shopping precinct in a Nirvana T-Shirt. But then, oh misery, someone wrote a letter saying that 30-35 was 'too old,' apparently many of us have a 'des res, double garage and two children by then.' Well I have twins and I'm fond of where I live so that's more sand grains through the hourglass then. Blimey. Then I read a letter by D.A. Prince, a local poet, a very gifted local poet who I've read and have listened to at various readings, saying the debate is 'irrelevant.' You know I think it's partly Chatterton's fault. There's this obsession with youth and writing, when perhaps there needn't be. I suppose it's all those smouldering portraits of young romantics that support this myth. But if Nathan Hamilton still thinks I'm young, then great. I'm off for a joy ride in my hoody, thanks Nathan, on behalf of many confused early 30 somethings.
                 Perhaps the most positive reason for getting excited about young writers is one of promise. Obviously if someone is a gifted young writer, than surely it means that they can only continue to progress and write wonderfully as they age, (you know, even at 38, 39 for instance*). At worst, I hate it when publishers think they can capitalise on a sexy photo of some young thing. Perhaps this happens a little more in prose? I'd like to think writing is writing and not the X factor. There are many gifted older writers about who are in their 70s, 80s and beyond. Les Murray, Roy Fisher, Ruth Stone, Gerard Benson, Diana Athill and others I could mention. Thomas Chatterton was a silly boy.

(* this is called IRONY.)

Kaleidoscopes and Pingggk!

On Sunday I gave a reading at Warwick Uni as part of Kaleidoscope, a conference on the use of colour in the arts. I had to think about how I use colour in my writing, which was unusual because I wasn't sure how conscious I was of doing this in my own writing. Having to plan got me thinking quite hard about the subject. Some patterns began to crop up, such as the using colour to write about memory; writing about light rather than individual colours and how colour is a suggestive rather than simply a descriptive tool in writing. I read with Roz Goddard, Matt Nunn and Matt Merritt. Everyone had their own unique approach to the subject of colour: urban decay, football, nature, memory. Roz, Matt and Matt read work which was very striking, it was quite simply a very high standard of poetry.
             After the reading my twins crept in and entertained the audience with their toddler antics; running and jumping over the sofas in the Writers' room at Milburn House. They were over the moon when they discovered a box of toys no doubt used by David Morley's children when they're around. Very different ambience at that point. Returning to the reading, there were some interesting questions at the end too and prompted some lively debate veering off the main topic of colour and thinking more specifically about how we write about 'home' where ever that may or may have been.
         Last night went over to Pingggk in Leicester and heard my mate Roy Marshall read. He even played the guitar. It was rather a relaxed evening with lots of homely ginger biscuits - baked by the fair hands of Bobba Cass - being handed around. Roy was a great reader and entertainer, but I knew he would be. He certainly has a way with words, many editors have concured with this.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Pingggk! with Roy Marshall

How many years must a mountain exist, before it is washed to sea? How many Gs are in Pingggk, the name of Leicester's newest spoken word night, not sure, but hoping it's three. On May 31st, next Tuesday, Roy Marshall is the main act at Pingggk! and it should kick off at around 7:30 with slots for open mic, whoops, nearly spelt that 'open mice.' Roy is something of a local phenomenon in Leicester, he's been published in lots of top notch magazines including The Rialto and Smiths Knoll. He's also won a comp to have a pamphlet published with Crystal Clear. So then, 7:30, 15 Wellington Street, Leicester next Tuesday it is.

Oh, by the way checked my stats page, never knew it existed before. I would just like to thank the people who actually read this blog! Especially those from the Ukraine, Brazil and the Netherlands - you are all splendiferous.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

It Gives Us the Other - Nottingham Contemporary, April 28

The Nottingham Contemporary is a wonderful place, and despite having been open for 18 months or so this was my first visit. I read with Emily Hasler and Helene Fromen. The reading was the closing event of 'It Gives Us the Other,' a conference about poetry in translation. So I opened by reading my poem, 'At Her Grandmother's Table' which features a little Greek. This poem will also be featured in the forthcoming edition of 'Staple' magazine. Despite having arguably one of the most common English surnames, I'm actually Greek Cypriot, my full maiden name was Maria Dimitri Orthodoxou, I just married into Englishness. Anyhow, what a remarkable venue, having read at a great many open mic events at pubs and back rooms and so forth, this was a room where even the quietest whisper could travel to the furthest corners.
The event was hosted by Eireann Lorsung, who works tirelessly arranging such events for the Nottingham Poetry Series. After I read we heard Emily Hasler, who is a very striking young poet who read an excellent selection of work. Emily's poetry was really enjoyable, I was particularly taken with 'St. Jerome and the Chaffinch,' a delicately written piece. The main reader was Helene Fromen, who not surprisingly for such a day, read in French, with Eireann reading the English translation afterwards.

 Now, translating poetry is a notable skill. Not only must a translator cope with idioms and turns of phrase native to a particular language, but also produce something which still 'sings' in a different tongue. Translators have to be poets themselves. I have a copy of Cavafy's poems, Greek on one side and English on the other and it's fascinating to compare similarities and differences. Helene's work sounded fresh, alive and spontaneous, so someone did a great job there. I'm afraid I'm not sure who, but perhaps it was Eireann?
Afterwards a lovely meal and a chance to take a breath for a month before my next reading. Thank you ever so much the Nottingham Poetry Series. I should also add that Eireann produces the most wonderful posters for the NPS, (featured above), I framed mine, a thing of beauty is a joy forever, n'est c'est pas?

Saturday, 23 April 2011


Last Monday was the date for another Leicester Shindig with not only me reading but Kathy Bell, Matt Merritt and Matthew Stewart. All three guest readers were excellent. Kathy Bell has a powerful command of language and imagery, a rich contemplative music exists in her work. Matt Merritt is just brilliant as always and I think 'Things left in Hotel Rooms' is one of my favourite poems at the moment. Matthew Stewart was the surprise for me because I'd never heard him read before and living for much of the year in Spain, this wasn't likely. I'd come across a few things in magazines, but to hear him read poetry which was so well-crafted and sonorous was such a pleasure. He has a pamphlet out with Happenstance called 'Inventing Truth' so do yourself a favour and get a copy, I would absolutely recommend it. Matthew blogs here:

The open mic was another lively mix of voices, with readers like Mark Goodwin, Jayne Stanton, Pam Thompson, Mal Dewhurst and lots of other interesting stuff. I enjoyed Laurie Cusack's piece, even though he forgot to print off the last page, very well saved I thought. I also met and listened to Gary Longden, Brummie based poet,actor and reviewer, who also reviewed the night here at:

Shindig happens again in June with Luke Kennard, Joel Lane and others as yet unconfirmed. Look forward to it as ever.

Why am I about to post this?

Dear Poem I am working on, yeah, you. You who are doing my head in this evening, a Saturday night no less. You have deliberately been playing games with me for over two weeks, why can't you be like some of your other friends, poems that miraculously write themselves. Oh no, you don't wanna play that game, you lack magic, grace, you feel like prose. You are starting to get on my wick, you so-called 'poem.' You are forcing me to write a highly questionable blog entry that I about to click send on and share with intelligent people world-wide. Sort it out!

Friday, 8 April 2011

The news, breaking not broken.

I have been pretty lucky publication wise this year. There's quite a bit to look forward to in terms of magazines. I have work either publsihed or forthcoming in Staple, Tears in the Fence, Obsessed with Pipework, The Coffee House, Ink, Sweat and Tears and The North. Here's a link for the Ink, Sweat and Tears webzine:

Plus readings a plenty Leicester Shindig on April 18th avec moi, Matt Merritt, Kathy Bell and Matthew Stewart. This takes place at The Western, Western Road, Leicester at 7:30pm and it won't cost you a penny, gentle reader, but obviosly your drinks will. I also read with the Nottingham Poetry series with Hélène Fromen and Emily Hasler, from 7:30 at the Nottingham Contemporary, Weekday Cross - again free. The strange one coming up next Monday is a reading at my old school (!), no not one I was a pupil at - they demolished that one, honest- they really did - but one I worked at as an English teacher, Beauchamp college in Oadby, Leicester. That should be interesting, I'll try and remember it's a reading and not Year 13 revision.

It's all coming back to me...

March, what happened in March? Oh, we had the plumber round and the following also happened... Aoife Mannix was tip top at Word! at the beginning of the month and treated everyone to some well-observed and beautifully delievered poetry. I received a free copy of Seamus Heaney's collected poems on World Book Day and let it be known that these free copies were circulated to the customers of The Swan in the Rushes, Loughborough on a Saturday night. The poetry corps of L'boro is pretty fearless. Then pancake day, then I got a cold and went to a birthday party in Stoke and then - then the world famous States of Independence on March 20th, organised by Ross Bradshaw and the Creative Writing team at DMU. It was a very good day and both me and J came away with sackfuls of verse. I made an interesting discovery amongst other things, I'd never read any Dorothy Nimmo before but I was handed a copy by Peter Sansom and have been reading it since. It was a lovely day and the sun shone and there were some terrific speakers.
The Nottingham Shindig took place on Sunday 21st with Luke Kennard, Deborah Tyler-Bennett, Mark Goodwin and Mike Wilson. I'd been looking forward to hearing Luke Kennard for a while and it was very striking work. Then I got laryngitis. Anhyhow, a good month for verse - en avant!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Nine Arches and CCC at The Western, Leicester

There's a lot going on in Leiecster, all sorts, connected with the world of poetry and spoken word, such as WORD!, Pinnngk! (spelling may well be wrong), the LPS and others. Last monday I found myself compering half of the Nine Arches/Crystal Clear shindig at the Westen in Leicester, not entirely sure how this happened. Anyhow, a very packed venue in which many open mic veterans and virgins took to the floor as well as guest speakers Myra Connell, Mark Goodwin, Pam Thompson and Will Buckingham - who read prose, yes prose, remember that? Actually I've got an itch for Madame Bovary, but that's another story.

As seems to be the tradition at Nine Arches events another animal became guest of honour, this time Splat the dog, who was brought along by Susan (don't know surname, who also read, Susan, not Splat. At the November Shindig there was a parrot, so I shall be holding a sweepstake for a guess of the next animal. It was great to hear so many speakers and wonderful to have a new venue for Nine Arches in Leicester.

Friday, 4 February 2011

The best events I never went to: Jan, 2011

Hello again. This is a special blog post dedicated to being absent. Last week the Nottingham Poetry Series hosted a evening with Matthew Welton, Carol Rowntree Jones and Simon Turner. Would have gone but twins off colour.
I'm very interested in Matthew Welton's work, he puts a lot of emphasis on metre in a sort of arithmetic driven way. He makes the form work hard and it's quite a unique style. At a previous reading he was telling us (the audience) about it all, whilst concentrating very hard. The result is lines like this:

Vodka, she likes. Whisky also. And plums. And limes.
And lemon-peel. Fried fruit. Dry beans. Deep soup. Warm cream.

I find myself over the dishes with this in my head sometimes, creeping in. Also wanted to hear Simon Turner as I find his work very interesting too, I'm very partial to a poem of his called 'The Ruined Chapel' on Hand and Star.

I should also say that I'm reading with the Nottingham Poetry Series in April. I will be going to that one.

There was also the Spoken Word All Stars which looked like a jolly evening too, with Andrew Graves and Lydia Towsey.

Signing off now.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Updates for January - Reviews and more...

January still seems to be continuing. Okay, it's the 30th, still feels like a long month though. I've been reviewing quite a bit of late, just finished one for Under the Radar for Simon Perril's collection Nitrate. Picked up the new edition of Under the Radar which in a strangely synchronous way features my review of Roads Ahead published by Tindall Street Press. There is another one in the pipeline too.
A few poems are due to be appearing in various magazines as well and I'll probably mention them in due course. I do like reviewing, it's a different skill. It sometimes feels a bit like homework rather than writing of the creative kind. You normally have a sense of deadline and a word count, as well as the need for a formal structure. Having said that I always feel that bit more enriched by the process. You learn things. These recent reviews have been my first ones of poetry, I've written ones about prose and academic publications which have appeared in the TLS. It's always a treat when your free book (hurrah, free book!), comes tumbling through the letterbox in its padded envelope, like a present. There is that difficult bit in the middle when you actually have to write the thing and your drafts fail to make sense, but eventually after cups of tea and thoughtful bouts of staring out of windows, it normally falls into place. Hmmm, time to put the kettle on again, I think.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Fame at last

Just received an email from Lydia Towsey saying that a film of me reading/performing a couple of poems is up on You tube. It was recorded in June 2010 by filmic wizard Keith Allot and if you go to the Word site there are plenty of poets to choose from.

Here's the link:

or just go to You tube and put in Maria Taylor Word 2010 and I will appear as if by magic. Now, next time I appear I'll remember to get the make-up out, 'cause I look an ickle bit pale.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Hearing Voices and other developments

On Monday the 10th of January, which seems like an awful long time ago now, we launched 'Hearing Voices' at the Western pub in Leicester. A very good crowd, over 60 people or so, which for an evevning of readings is pretty good and shows the eagerness of the people of Leicester and surrounding areas! Sold quite a few copies too.

We had many performers take to the open mic, some of whom were featured in issue 1 of the magazine. A very lively evening that was positively buzzing. Issue 2 should be out soon. Plus, PLUS! - there will be a second lauch at DMU's cultural exchanges week, some time in March.