So long, 2018

Ah, well…another year slips by! I managed to do plenty of blogging earlier in the year but have let things slide since July. Ho hum!

It’s been another good year. Although I haven’t quite written as much as I’d hoped (especially on the prose/short story front), I’ve really enjoyed getting out and about to read from We Are All Lucky:

06/04/18 Can Openers, Bristol
An enjoyable lunchtime where I was able to give the new book a first airing. Can Openers (which is now called Silver Street Poetry after the sad demise of Poetry Can) was the place where I first read my poetry aloud in front of an audience. One of my New Year’s resolutions in January will be to try to get along to more sessions – it’s at 12.30pm on the first Friday of every month in the dance studio at The Station in central Bristol. A warm and friendly place to read.

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The Station, Bristol – home of Silver Street Poets

12/04/18 Launch of We Are All Lucky, The Arts House Cafe, Bristol
I panicked in the build-up to this launch that no-one would turn up. When Communing came out in 2016 I was able to crash Deborah Harvey’s launch for her collection, Breadcrumbs, so there was never any danger of us reading to one man and his dog. But going solo was rather frightening, and in the week or so leading up to the event there seemed to be more people apologising for not being able to make it than were likely to be there. As it was, I needn’t have worried, and the cosy little basement at the Arts House in Stokes Croft was full of poetry friends. I was so pleased to be able to assemble my dream team of guest readers (Stephen Daniels, Claire Walker, Melanie Branton and Dominic Fisher) who all read brilliantly. My only regret was not asking someone to take a picture of us all at the end of the evening! One to bear in mind next time…

15/05/18 Reading with The Spoke, Hen & Chickens, Abergavenny
It was a huge honour to be asked to read as a temporary member of Bristol poetry ‘supergroup’ The Spoke. Paul Deaton was unable to make this gig and I leapt at the chance. The reading series at the historic Hen & Chicks (as it’s known locally) pub is well established and I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere there. Bob Walton, Lizzie Parker and Claire Williamson read beautifully and it was great to team up with them and potter over together in Bob’s car! It was especially nice to travel as part of a group because I usually drive to gigs on my own – great to have that camaraderie. I hope to do a lot more readings in Wales in 2019, especially now that the tolls on the two Severn bridges are being abolished!

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The Hen & Chickens, Abergavenny

29/05/18 Berkeley Square Poetry Revue, Bristol
This was my second appearance at this monthly reading series, which combines poetry and spoken word with live music. I read alongside Anna Saunders and Rebecca Kosick, and we were treated to music from Latino/Ladino/Spanish folk singer Rosalind Moreno-Parra and her band. Again, this event was very well attended by an appreciative crowd.

13/06/18 Satellite of Love, Bristol
SoL is perhaps my favourite poetry/spoken word event. It’s so well run by Pauline, Stella and Helen, who always seem to get brilliant guest readers. The open mic is always packed with a diverse bunch of performers and, unlike a lot of open mic nights, there are always people there who come along just to listen! Definitely one to check out if you’re ever in Bristol on the second Wednesday of the month – you can follow their Facebook page for regular updates.

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Satellite of Love at the Greenbank pub in Easton, Bristol

12/07/18 Worcester Speakeasy, Worcester
I managed to sneak a little but further up the M5 for this gig. We really made the most of the weather – the event happened in the beer garden of Wayland’s Yard, which was just as well because the UK was sweltering at that point! It was a lovely opportunity to catch up with 52ers Holly Magill, Kathy Gee, Nina Lewis and Claire Walker, and to meet Charley Barnes (who’s just taken over the running of Sabotage Reviews). I even met up with Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus Maggie Doyle, who I last saw when I was at school with her son in the mid-90s! Again, follow Speakeasy’s Facebook page for news of upcoming events.

18/07/18 Lines of the Mind, Bristol
I was honoured to be asked by Mike and Joe to be the first featured performer at their new event at the Rope Walk pub in Bedminster. The event has really hit the ground running and is well attended every month. I read alongside Callum Wensley, who’s a brilliant spoken word performer as well as part of the team which runs Hammer & Tongue in Bristol. Here’s their Facebook page.

26/07/18 Uncut Poets, Exeter
Another very well established monthly event. Having lived in East Devon for several years, it was great to get back there to read alongside local poet (and fellow Indigo Dreamer) Mark Totterdell. Alasdair Paterson is a great host, and the open mic boasts some of the UK’s most talented poets. I finally buckled in the heat for this event and read wearing shorts! And what a nice surprise to see my childhood best friend Sam, who bought a copy each for his mum, sister and himself.

21/10/18 Torbay Poetry Festival, Torquay
I was delighted to receive an invitation by the festival’s organiser (and Acumen editor), Patricia Oxley. What made this all the more special was that I was reading alongside the supremely talented Vicki Feaver. I was very taken with Vicki, who is kind, funny and incredibly down to earth. She read from her greatly anticipated new collection, which will be published by Cape Poetry in 2019.

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14/11/18 Permission to Speak, Stourbridge
Another trip northbound on the M5 and a little bit closer to Birmingham. PtS is held in a venue which often hosts live bands, which is fitting for a town which produced a good chunk of the indie guitar music I slam-danced to in the 90s (Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself). The evening is run by fellow poet R.M. (Rob) Francis and once again the open mic is populated by the great and the good of the Midlands poetry and spoken word scene. A cracking night, all in all, made all the more special by the audience’s chant (aimed at me) of ‘ONE OF US, ONE OF US!’.

I’m thrilled to say that the book has been really well received by readers, critics and audiences alike. Hop over to the WAAL page here on the site for a summary of all of the nice things that people have been saying about it. You can also order a copy for yourself (signed or otherwise!).

As well as WAAL, I’ve had a number of new poems published in various journals in print and online. Earlier in the summer I was reeling after a string of particularly demoralising rejections lead me to question whether there was any point continuing to submit work. Thankfully I was given lots of moral support on social media and, having dusted myself down, I’m happy to say that I received some nice acceptances. As ever, details of all of my published work can be found elsewhere on my blog.

One of the other highlights of my year has been the publication of PLAY, a new anthology edited by Devon-based poets Susan Taylor and Simon Williams and published under their Paper Dart Press imprint (which they also use to publish the annual Broadsheet).

The idea for the anthology came about following the tragic death of the editors’ grandson Reuben in a car crash late last year. Reuben’s parents decided that a playspace would be a fitting memorial for their fun-loving son, and a site was identified on Vire Island in the River Dart. The anthology is helping to raise funds for a permanent timber construction, which has been designed by Earthwrights.

I was proud to learn that ‘One afternoon’ (from WAAL) was to be included in the book, alongside poems by the great and the good of British poetry including Carol Ann Duffy, Roger McGough, Brian Patten, AE Stallings, Jo Bell and Ian McMillan.

Play Bristol launch

Because a number of Bristol-based writers appear in the book and some of the editors’ family live in the area, Susan and Simon arranged a Bristol launch (as well as one down in Totnes). It was a lovely event at the Golden Guinea pub in Redcliffe – we were all crammed in together in the cosy little basement room and everyone read their poem and one by someone else who couldn’t attend for whatever reason. I’m pleased to say that lots of books were purchased. All future events will be advertised on the Facebook page.

It’s a really handsome (not to mention weighty!) publication crammed with well over a hundred poems as well as some beautiful illustrations. I’ve enjoy reading it with my children. If you’d like to order a copy you can find out more on the Paper Dart website.

2019 looks like being another busy one for me. As well as three readings already confirmed (Picaroon Poetry on 6th February in Bristol, 13th March at Ye Olde Murenger in Newport and 1st April at Wells Fountain Poets), I’m going to be co-editing Lyrically Justified Volume 3 with Shaun Clarke. There are just so many possibilities and opportunities popping up around that, so I’ve no doubt it’ll keep me occupied next year. We’re hoping to publish the book in the Spring.

Dare I also say that I’ve started putting a new collection together. No titles yet, but I’ve worked out which poems to include and started playing around with sequencing. Watch this space for more news!

Finally, here’s a photo of Jeff Lucas, the Portishead-based photographer who kindly allowed me to use his photo of a rusty old caravan overlooking the Severn Estuary for the cover of WAAL. He’s a very talented (and modest) man, with a book of his own due out in 2019. You can see more of his work on his Flickr stream.

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Jeff Lucas, posing proudly with a copy of WAAL

And that’s it – the story of my year! Thanks to everyone who’s supported my writing by buying books, attended (and organised) readings, read the blog, shared info about me on social media etc, etc. Have a very enjoyable festive time!

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