‘Home Sweet Home’

So, last Sunday. A celebration (rather than a ‘launch’, as it’s already been out for a while, and there were very few copies for sale on the day) of Roddy Lumsden’s new collection, So Glad I’m Me. I will be writing more about this book in due course, as it’s shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize, but for now, let’s celebrate the celebration.

First, the book we were celebrating. Roddy’s tenth collection, and incidentally the only poetry collection I’ve ever seen with a picture of Sandy Denny on the cover. I love this cover in about ten different ways, probably. (There was a sweet moment when the music suddenly got switched on rather loudly behind the bar, by accident, and Roddy just looked up mildly and said, ‘Oh, is that Sandy Denny? Can we have the music off for now?’) I am still waiting for my copy, so haven’t actually seen inside it yet, but as I say, it will be covered in due course.

The event had been organised without much notice, so the pub was full but not rammed – and had opened specially for us, at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon. The atmosphere was intimate, almost like family; well, this is my poetry family, I guess. It’s nice when you realise you have one. (There were people missing, including even two who were meant to be reading: illness, geography, prior commitments, etc took their toll – & they are why I recorded  the reading.) And if there’s a family home, it’s the Betsey, as demonstrated by the special opening… It was good to be there. (N.b., the next gathering of that sort of clan will probably be Tim Wells’ Christmas All-Dayer, which will probably be on 17 Dec.)

Guest readers Fran Lock, Becky Varley-Winter, Angela Kirby, Barbara Barnes, Samuel Prince, Mark Waldron, and Sarah Howe all read a poem each by Roddy as well as some of their own. They were followed by Roddy, who gave a brilliant reading, and disappeared into the night shortly afterwards. This photographic account is thin; my phone had run dead due to a charger malfunction at home, and had to be charged behind the bar so I could do the filming at the crucial moment. But I did film him, in two goes, which are at the bottom of this post. Here’s the audience, with Mr Lumsden in the foreground watching the readings.

Sarah Howe reading, with Roddy and Fran Lock watching.

The mirror: featuring Matthew Caley, Jon Stone, Tom Bland, Richard O’Brien, etc

And the videos.

13th January, 11am-4.30pm

Ten books. Ten poets. One day. (And what a day it is!)

The TS Eliot Prize Shortlist has been announced, and on 13 January, 2018 – the day before the ten poets shortlisted for one of the UK’s two most prestigious poetry prizes will read their work in the Royal Festival Hall – we’ll be meeting to review, read poem from, dissect, enjoy, and maybe even argue about every one of these ten books.

What are the ten books like? What are they about? Do they tell us anything about the state of British poetry? What are the themes and threads that run through them? What conclusions (if any) can we draw, and do we want to? What’s missing off the list? What do we love? Does it compare with the other big one, the Forward Prize? And who (not that prizes are the main thing; they really aren’t) do we think will win?

This lively reading-&-discussion session is a great chance to get to grips with ten books of the year in one intense, exhilarating day. Close readings, context and background info all mean you’ll come out with a good handle on the shortlist, whether you attend the big reading or not. (And if you are, as everyone who has ever done the workshop agrees, this workshop will transform and deepen that experience.)

You don’t have to buy anything, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve not read even one of the books. There will be copies there to look at.

We meet promptly at the Poetry School in Lambeth, as there’s (ahem) quite a bit to get through. We break for lunch (there’s a good cafe nearby, or you can eat in the room) and then unwind in the pub afterwards.

The fee is £60 and you’ll go home, I guarantee it, buzzing with poetry, and with at least two poems from each book in your bag.

Drop me a line to find out more or to sign up.

A great day out at the Free Verse Poetry Magazine Fair

May 14, 2017

Sometimes someone comes along and does something that, once it’s done, seems like it must always have been this way. Charles Boyle did one of those things when he started the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair, however many years ago it was now – five? Six! That first year it was a pretty small affair, in the […]

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Why, it’s a commendation!

January 8, 2017

I’ve recently started entering competitions again. Well – I entered two. And because of the year it was (2016 of course), I forgot to keep notes, so I entered the same poem into both of them. Kids! Don’t do this! So I effectively paid two fees and entered one competition, and probably pissed off the people […]

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TS Eliot weekend approacheth, and with it, the all-day shortlist workshop…

January 3, 2017

Well, it’s that time of year. The TS Eliot Prize is coming up, marking the end of this year’s ‘prize season’. In recent years it’s been the most prestigious, and biggest, award for poetry in the UK; it’s getting a bit of a run for its money lately from the Forward Prize, but still forms a defining look […]

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No No No, NaNoWriMo

December 1, 2016

Well, it’s December now. All over for another year. The failure, the ignominy… The typewriter you see above is not mine, as you’ll read in a minute. It is, in its cool, metallic, clean-lined sleekness, in its bland-faced 1960s rationality, in its businesslike luxe, its straightforward imperturbability, everything I could not be in November 2016. There […]

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A letter to Barack Obama

November 22, 2016

It’s Thanksgiving week in America, and while schoolchildren are being told the old stories about Pilgrims fleeing persecution and friendly Indians teaching them how to grow their harvest, there is a mighty battle raging in North Dakota. At Standing Rock reservation, militarised police are attacking peaceful protesters – protectors, they call themselves – in service […]

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November 11, 2016

This is for everything. I guess at some point I’ll be able to string together a sentence. In the meantime…

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