Friday 22 September 2017

Leicester and Cambridge

I'll be giving two readings from The Knives of Villalejo in the next few days as the guest poet at a couple of excellent events.

First up is the Nine Arches/Crystal Clear Creators Shindig in Leicester on Monday 25th September, where I'll be reading alongside Romalyn Ante and Rebecca Bird (plus open mic). This event will be held at The Western Pub, 70 Western Road, Leicester LE3 0GA. Entry is free and the evening will get going at 7.30p.m.. I still remember my last reading at Shindig back in 2011, when I launched my first pamphlet, Inventing Truth. The beer was great and the atmosphere better, so I'm looking forward to going back there, meeting up with lots of old friends and making a few new ones.

My second event, meanwhile, is on virgin territory for me, at CB1 Poetry in Cambridge on Tuesday 26th September, where I'll be reading alongside Menka Shivdasani. The starting time on this occasion will be 8p.m. at CB2 Bistro on Norfolk Street, Cambridge, entry 5/4 pounds on the door with open-mic slots also available. I've heard lovely things about the vibe at this regular event, so I'm keen to find out for myself.

You can find more information about CB1 Poetry at their website, while here's the poster for the Shindig:

Monday 18 September 2017

Poetic fame

You win The Bridport Prize and the inaugural Bloodaxe Books National Poetry Competition. Bloodaxe then publish your first full collection and it's made a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. All this happens in the space of twelve months. Little do you know that thirty years later only a few aficionados will know your name in the poetry world.

This chronicle forms the bare bones of Deborah Randall's story, but very little more appears on Google. I encountered her first collection, The Sin Eater (Bloodaxe Books, 1988) among the remnants of Peggy Chapman-Andrews' personal library, and my curiosity was aroused. Randall's work is idiosyncratic, often drawing on the myth kitty yet also raw, earthed in harsh personal and natural landscapes. Her edgy, uneven male-persona poems are especially interesting, gnawing indirectly yet painfully at gender models.

Following the publication of that first book in 1988, Randall brought out a second collection, titled White Eyes, Dark Ages (Bloodaxe Books, 1993). Since then, I can find nothing in her name. A few pieces from her two books have been anthologised, especially by Bloodaxe, but her name has faded from the scene.

Poetic fame is ephemeral, as certain present-day, C.V.-driven careerists would do well to note. Moreover, the current maelstrom of social media means that taste moves on even more quickly than in the past. Poetry lovers can only savour, treasure and keep alive delicious discoveries like Deborah Randall's work.

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Liz Lefroy reviews The Knives of Villalejo

The first review of The Knives of Villalejo is now out! Liz Lefroy has posted a beautifully written, appreciative piece on her blog, which you can read by following this link.

Friday 8 September 2017

Peggy Chapman-Andrews

I regularly browse the shelves of the poetry section at my local secondhand bookshop in Chichester whenever I’m back in the city, so any new intake always attracts my attention. On having a look this August, however, I realized that I was especially in luck, as a number of terrific books had arrived, all from the same private collection. What’s more, they were all signed and dedicated to their previous owner, and there was even correspondence tucked inside them between the poet in question and the collector.

The books were by winners of the Bridport Prize and they were all dedicated to “Peggy”. The letters were addressed to “The Competition Secretary” and discussed prize-giving ceremonies and winners’ reactions to their awards. After getting home with my haul, I started googling and quickly discovered that these books had come from the personal library of Peggy Chapman-Andrews.

These days, most writers associate Peggy Chapman-Andrews with the first novel award in her name, which is still run by the Bridport Prize. In fact, she almost single-handedly set up the Bridport Arts Centre in 1973 and later, as a fundraising venture, the internationally acclaimed Bridport Prize. Peggy continued to help out as a volunteer even into her nineties until her death in 2013.

I feel an intense sadness that her carefully curated collection of poetry books has been broken up. The correspondence was folded and tucked inside each book with such precision. I suppose it’s inevitable that most such private libraries should end up being dispersed, but this is another example of the ephemeral and passing nature of poetic fame and reputation, as I’ll  explore further in forthcoming posts about specific volumes from Peggy Chapman-Andrews’ collection.

At least these books have found a loving home. I treasure their texts and the story behind their journey into my hands. Thank you, Peggy.

Friday 1 September 2017

Featured on Atrium Poetry today

Atrium Poetry have today published a poem from The Knives of Villalejo, titled "That Number". You can read it by following this link, and why not browse Atrium's excellent archive while you're there...?