Pleased to say I'm involved with two of the region's literature festivals this autumn. Kicking off with a live podcast on Saturday at Durham Town Hall, I'll be discussing Northern Poetry with friends and fellow poets, Degna Stone and John Challis. We'll be steered by Andrew McMillan (whose second collection, Playtime, I've just read and loved), the curator of the Rich Seams project whose umbrella the podcast sits beneath. The series began at the 2017 Durham Book Festival and is touring to other venues across the North, with Andrew wanting to cast new light on what it means to be a 'Northern Poet' today. Alongside reading from our own work, we'll discuss which voices might be absent or marginalised in this conversation; what it means to honour the various cultural and industrial seams of the North; and what its people and landscapes might have impressed on a poetics of northernness. I've known Degna and John through the poetry scene in Newcastle for years now (Degna was one of the founding co-editors of Butcher's Dog, a magazine we set up after meeting via New Writing North's poetry development programme, while John has been a friend from the old Trashed Organ days to his involvement now with the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts.) It should be a really rich and good-humoured discussion. It takes place this coming Saturday, 14th October, at the Burlison Gallery in Durham Town Hall, 12.30-1.30pm. Tickets are £3 and available here.
Secondly, next Wednesday, 17th October, I'm co-delivering a talk for the Sunderland Literature Festival on the life and work of William Martin. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my championing of Martin, but for those who aren't, why not come along to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens between 3 and 4pm to hear me and Graham, William's son, talk about his poetry? Bill was born in New Silksworth, to the south-west of the city, and served in the RAF in India during the Second World War, where he would come to meld a Methodist-Socialist upbringing with Eastern spirituality. He later had a career in the audiology department of Sunderland Royal Hospital while pursuing life as an artist and poet and was noted for his bardic style and rich tapestry of long poem-sequences imbued in the working-class traditions of the Durham coalfield. He is not very well known in his home city, which is a shame as his poetry, to my mind, is some of the most important to have come out of the North-East in the twentieth century. We will celebrate his life in words, images and songs next week. Tickets operate on a suggested donation basis of £3 and there's further information here.
Right, back to the PhD, on which I intend to post a detailed update soon.