As regular readers of this blog will know, and possibly roll their eyes to hear again, being part of Jo Bell’s 52 has brought me an embarrassment of riches. Take my recent reading at Poetry Café Refreshed in Cheltenham, for instance – one of its organisers, Sharon Larkin, was a fellow 52er and I was delighted to accept her invitation to be their guest reader.
The venue is the splendidly quirky Smokey Joe’s in Bennington Street, which is decorated in the style of a 1950s diner, complete with period fixtures and fittings. The performance space is a lovely bright and airy room at the back, which includes a jukebox fashioned from the back end of a vintage Mini and even a selection of old coin-operated arcade games.
The format of the event is very civilised – there’s an open mic section where everyone gets to read a couple of their poems, after which the guest reader has 20 minutes to do their thing. There’s an interval for mingling, book buying and refreshments, and then everyone has another turn at the open mic.
The compere is Roger Turner, whose relaxed style really puts everyone at their ease. I read half of my set from Communing, and then did a few other poems which had been published elsewhere. It being a lovely bright summer’s evening it was nice to be able to see the audience’s reactions as I read (they seemed to enjoy it!).
The open mic was of a very high standard with some accomplished reading. It was good to meet Stephen Daniels, who edits an online journal called Amaryllis. He’d driven over from Swindon to take part and it was fun to compare notes on the poetry scene since we’re both comparative newcomers.
I sold half a dozen copies of Communing and met a lot of new poetry folk, so it was well worth the comparatively short road trip! I hope to return at some point in the future – I wish I’d had one of the fresh waffles that everyone was raving about, although I did partake in a bottle of Butcombe Rare Breed ale which is brewed near me in North Somerset!
In other news, I’ve had a few poems accepted here and there: And Other Poems, Lakeview, Amaryllis (NB: this was before I met its editor!) and London Grip. As ever, I’ll update my published work history on this site with the details, and if you follow my Facebook page you’ll see them as they pop up.
I’m waiting for a few responses to submissions and have everything crossed. If anyone’s at all interested, my submission stats for this year are: 27 submissions made, 12 acceptances, 11 rejections and 4 awaiting a decision; I’m very pleased with that strike rate!
I also have a couple of gigs lined up, at Poetry Can’s Can Openers event in Bristol on Friday 2nd September, and at Ross Books in Ross-on-Wye on Friday 23rd September alongside fellow IDP poets Ben Ray, Mab Jones, Simon Williams and Bethany W Pope. We’re looking to arrange further IDP showcases in Bristol, Cardiff/South Wales, Exeter and Swindon later in the year, so watch this space as well as my Facebook page and Twitter account for announcements.
And if you run a regular poetry evening and would like me to come along, just let me know!