May is set to be a good month for poetry. The second Newcastle Poetry Festival takes place from the 5th to the 7th of the month, but before I detail that, I’d like to draw your attention to a reading I’m doing at The Poetry Lounge at the Sitting Room in Ludlow, Shropshire, on the 3rd May.
Organised by the poet Jean Atkin, and hosted within The Blue Boar pub in Ludlow, a market town famed for its gastronomic delights and its location close to the Welsh border, at the foot of the south Shropshire Hills, it’s set to be a great night. Claire Leavey and poets from the floor will also read. I’m very much looking forward to it. I haven’t been poeting (which is like Bunburying, but more rhythmical) in Shropshire since I took part in Christopher Reid and Clare Pollard’s Arvon course at The Hurst way back in August 2011.
Then, the main event: the Newcastle Poetry Festival 2016. I missed the inaugural festival last year, as I was at the time still working at the University of Chester, though I heard from a number of sources that it was an altogether excellent thing. This year’s looks just as good, and of course I’m biased and have vested interests, but we live by a mantra in the North-East which goes “Shy bairns get nowt”, so I’m not going to be meek about telling you how great it all looks and giving you the low down on my involvement in it.
Kicking off with ‘Northern Landscapes: Picture Poems’, which has seen PhD students in Creative Writing and Fine Art teamed up to collaborate and respond to the transformational poem, Briggflatts by Basil Bunting, Northern Landscapes will take over the Ex Libris Gallery for a few days, presenting new visual, literary and hybrid works which in some way take inspiration from, or react to, the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Bunting’s poem. My own new poem, ‘Each Pebble Its Part’ will feature, and I’ll be reading it at a launch event on Thursday afternoon.
On Friday the 6th, having been shortlisted for the Basil Bunting Prize, I will be in the audience as Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine (Chicago), announces the winning poems. I will then be flitting between a bewildering array of events, ranging from an AHRC panel discussion on ‘Poetry and Urban Regeneration’, in which Bill Herbert will discuss his involvement in a public arts commission in Darlington; a discussion between Don Share and Stephen Burt on the legacy of Bunting; and readings by, amongst others, Fleur Adcock, Mark Waldron and Sarah Howe. I will then go to the pub and try not to drink too much before the Saturday...
...When the seventh issue of Butcher’s Dog, which I’ve co-edited alongside Pippa Little and Andrew Sclater, will launch, alongside readings by some fantastic Red Squirrels, Vane Women, and the always-brilliant Christy Ducker, who’s recently been resident poet with the Northumbria Police Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird. The rest of the day will be spent listening to poems by the likes of Kayo Chingonyi, Carolyn Forché, Catriona O’Reilly and Matthew Dickman. Put simply: it’s a jam-packed line-up that any poet within travelling distance of Newcastle ought to do their best to attend. It’s also very good value, with a full weekend pass setting you back only £20.
Once the Poetry Festival has wound up, I will be doing my first Annual Progress Review for my PhD and thinking about sending out to some journals again. Finally, and hopefully not entirely poeted-out (or, out-poeted) by this stage, I will be spending the end of the month in Northumberland, celebrating my birthday and putting my feet up at Seahouses.