Blog

Rachel Bower

Interview: Martin Banham

A few extracts from my recent interview with Professor Martin Banham, published in the anniversary issue of Moving Worlds (20.1). In the inaugural issue of Moving Worlds, Martin introduced an extract from Wole Soyinka’s highly satirical play, King Baabu. Martin has nurtured a lifelong passion for African theatre and performance cultures: after graduating from the University of Leeds in […]

Habitats

I’ve just arrived home from two weeks in Scotland – a combination of wild camping, youth hostelling and sleeping in a hand-built kata at Comrie Croft’s beautiful eco-site. It was a lovely (if challenging!) adventure with the kids – fields of midges and ticks; a heat wave; brilliant white beaches; common seals; storms and high […]

Ecopoetics & Climate Writing

In her ‘Covid Time Capsule’ my seven year old daughter wrote that the thing she has learned during lockdown is that “you don’t have to go very far.” We live in an urban area, less than two miles from Sheffield city centre, and even though we’ve always spent a lot of time outside, during lockdown […]

Walter Swan 18-25 Poetry Prize, ILF 2020

I am delighted to be judging the Walter Swan 18-25 Poetry Prize this year for the Ilkley Literature Festival. The theme of this year’s competition is ‘A Kindness’. Please send us your poems and spread the word! Established in memory of the writer Walter Swan, the Walter Swan Trust encourages all forms of creative writing, […]

The London Magazine Short Story Prize 2019/20

It’s such an honour to have won the The London Magazine Short Story Prize this year with my story “Against the Tide.” I’d like to thank the panel of judges and everyone involved for their time and energy in making this happen, especially during such challenging times. I am sorry that it hasn’t been possible […]

Northern Short Story Festival 2020

I’m very proud to be involved in the Northern Short Story Festival 2020 and I want to thank SJ Bradley and the team for summoning the energy and creativity to get this brilliant festival online! The festival is celebrating its fifth birthday this year – and wherever you are in the world you can now […]

Sheffield Stories – Collections in Verse

Over the last year, I’ve been working on a project called Collections in Verse in Sheffield, commissioned by the British Library and Poet in the City, along with two other brilliant poets – Joe Kriss and Kayo Chingonyi. The idea of the project is to bring the British Library exhibitions to life through poetry and […]

Stay At Home! Literary Festival

I have been absent because of the current crisis, but I’m here to tell you about the wonderful #StayAtHome!LiteraryFestival, organised at lightening speed by the brilliant Carolyn Jess-Cooke in partnership with Paper Nations. A flood of writers and artists responded to Carolyn’s initial Tweet about the idea on Twitter and within a few days the […]

A3 Review & ‘Hope’

‘”Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul…’ (Emily Dickinson) I am delighted that I will be the Guest Editor of the A3 Review for the next few months. The magazine that behaves like a map! We are now open for submissions on the theme of #Hope. Dangerous hope, the audacity […]

Liz Ferrets Poetry Competition

There are only three days left to enter the Liz Ferrets Poetry Competition judged by me, Sez Thomasin and Kate Garrett. Liz was a brilliant poet and performer from Sheffield and the competition celebrates her life and writing. The winners will be announced at The Showroom (Sheffield) on Monday 17 January. The competition is free […]

Two Christmas Poems

I am happy to have just had two poems published in the Christmas Special of the Bangor Literary Journal, guest edited by Gaynor Kane. The special issue is available to download free. Thank you to Gaynor, and to the editors, Amy Louise Wyatt and Paul Daniel Rafferty, for all their hard work. Merry Christmas to […]

Review: Girl by Rebecca Goss

This is the proof of my review of Rebecca Goss‘s Girl (Carcanet, 2019), published in the most recent issue of Stand Magazine (17.3), guest edited by Vahni Capildeo. Rebecca Goss’s Girl sparks with light, electricity, bodies. This collection of spare, precise poems, characterised by Goss’s distinctive control of her material, not only explores what it is to […]

RSL V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize

I am delighted that my story, “Holly”, has been long-listed for the Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Short Story Award. Congratulations to everyone on the list, and thank you to the judges for their time and hard work!

Listening Workshop!

I’ve been working on the Collections in Verse project for Sheffield – a collaborative commission with Poet in the City and The British Library. As part of this project, I’m running a series of workshops to listen to the tales and experiences that are important to women in Sheffield. The workshops will ask women what […]

Islands Are But Mountains

Platypus Press have just revealed the stunning cover of their new anthology of contemporary poetry from the UK, aptly titled, Islands Are But Mountains. It’s an honour to have poems published in this book, alongside so many wonderful poets. The anthology is now available to pre-order.

Poetry in Translation

It has been a pleasure working with Yin Xiaoyuan at the Encyclopedic Poetry School in China, who are celebrating their 12th anniversary this year. Xiaoyuan has translated a number of my poems into Chinese, and continues to work tirelessly to translate poems from all over the world. The Encyclopedic Poetry School is an independent, experimental […]

Magma: The Work Issue

It was an honour to read at the London Launch of Magma 74: The Work Issue, edited by the brilliant Pauline Seawards and Benedict Newbery. The Work Issue includes my poem, ‘Continue on Loop’: a sestina that marks the unrecognised labour of parenting, and hopes to speak to the intense love and exhilaration of motherhood, […]

Review: Poetry, Print and Postcolonial Literature

This is the proof of my review of Poetry, Print, and the Making of Postcolonial Literature by Nathan Suhr-Sytsma (CUP, 2017), recently published by the Journal of Postcolonial Writing. This ambitious book opens with an anecdote about the accomplished Nigerian poet, Christopher Okigbo. In 1965, Okigbo published a poem in a volume of essays to mark […]

Sheaf Poetry Festival & Migration Matters 2019

There are some excellent things going on in South Yorkshire at the moment. The Sheaf Poetry Festival has an awesome line-up of events, including a special Verse Matters on Thursday 23rd at Sheffield Theatre Deli with Vanessa Kisuule, Caleb Femi, Rupinder Kaur and Otis Mensah. Tickets are still available for the other Sheaf Poetry Festival […]

White Review Short Story Prize 2019

I was delighted to hear that my short story, ‘Homing‘ was shortlisted for the White Review Short Story Prize 2019. There are some brilliant stories shortlisted, and they are all available to read online so do check them out. ‘Homing’ is part of a new short story collection I am working on, so watch this […]

Listen, I have heard many old tales…

Last week, I was lucky enough to visit the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition at the British Library, curated by Claire Breay. I was invited to see the exhibition, along with two other fabulous Sheffield poets (Joe Kriss and Otis Mensah) as part of the British Library/ Poet in the City commission. The idea of the project […]

Poetry, parenting and Nigeria

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been doing some work at the Hull History Centre, trying to track down a Nigerian poet, Minji Ateli (neé Karibo) who was at the University of Ibadan  in the 1960s. Karibo contributed several poems to The Horn, a Nigerian student poetry magazine edited by J.P. Clark and modelled on Poetry and Audience (Leeds). Karibo’s […]

Crafts of World Literature at the ASAUK

The African Studies Association UK biennial conference took place at the University of Birmingham, 11-13 September. Jarad Zimbler and I ran a stream called “African Literature: Communities, Collaborations, Crafts & Crossings”. The aim of this stream was to consider the ways in which literary works and their authors have moved within, across, into and out […]

Launch of Moon Milk

My new poetry pamphlet, Moon Milk, is now available to buy. We launched the book on a lovely sunny morning in Sheffield at Haggler’s Corner last week. Moon Milk was listed as one of the Yorkshire Post’s ‘Top 5 Pick of the Best Books’ last week, and on Friday, I chatted to Rony Robinson at […]

Book Launch: Moon Milk

Come and join us next Thursday morning (19th July) at Hagglers Corner for the baby-friendly launch of Moon Milk – my new pamphlet published by Valley Press. There will also be a guest reading from the wonderful poet Kate Garrett-Nield. We’ll be in the beautiful courtyard at Haggler’s if the weather is nice! Come and try some […]

New Poem: Foaling

‘Foaling‘, from my forthcoming Valley Press pamphlet (Moon Milk), was published today by And Other Poems. Head over to And Other Poems to read the full poem, to sign up for their Friday Poems or to browse their archives of excellent poetry.

Pre-order ‘Moon Milk’

I’m excited that my new poetry pamphlet, ‘Moon Milk’ is now available to pre-order with Valley Press! The poems seek to explore the complex, and often hidden, experiences of pregnancy, birth and early childhood. More details about the launch to follow. ‘Moon Milk blew me away. I love the mythologizing, the variety of form, the […]

Review: What is a World?

This is the proof of my review of Pheng Cheah’s What is a World?, recently published in a special issue of Seminar (54.2. Pheng Cheah’s What is a World? argues for the “world-making” power of literature. Taking on the might of recent debates in world literature, Cheah argues that literature has the capacity to redefine (rather than […]

Poem: Postnatal Ward

I was delighted to hear that my poem, ‘Postnatal Ward’ was awarded fourth prize last weekend in the York Literature Festival Poetry Prize 2018, judged by Andrew McMillan. Hannah Copley’s brilliant poem, ‘Haworth 1855’, won a well-deserved first prize in the competition. All of the winning and commended poems have now been published on the […]

Review: Vahni Capildeo

This is the proof of my review of Vahni Capildeo’s Measure of Expatriation, published in the most recent issue of Stand Magazine 216, (Vol. 15.4, 2018) Capildeo, Vahni. Measures of Expatriation. Manchester: Carcanet, 2016. ISBN: 978 1 784101 68 8  128pp This stunning collection by Vahni Capildeo has been rightly celebrated for its complex exploration of migration, exile, […]

#Not All Women

One hundred years ago, on 6 February 1918, the Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed, which allowed property owning women over the age of 30 the right to vote. Over the last few weeks there have been many events to mark the centenary of some women getting the vote. There have also rightly […]

Tone Deaf

My poem ‘Tone Deaf’ was published today by Atrium Poetry. These are the first few lines – go and check out their site to read the whole thing and lots of poems by other excellent writers… “Before you were born I was tone deaf silently mouthing songs at funerals afraid of voicing my breath. But you […]

Tony Harrison’s Unblinking Eye

This is the proof of an article originally published in Stand Magazine 15.3 (2017) At the end of April 2017, poets, directors, academics and publishers came together to celebrate the remarkable work of Tony Harrison on his eightieth birthday at the British Academy in London. The range of tributes was impressive: from Lee Hall’s moving account of how […]

The power of words

There’s a great write-up of the Verse Matters anthology in the Yorkshire Post this week. Yvette Hiddleston says There is a huge diversity and range of work here, all imbued with a forceful sense of the potential power of hope and humanity, dialogue and empathy. It is an important, healing book for our divisive times. […]

They’re at it

I’ve been writing a poem a day over Christmas for #12DaysofForm and wrote a little sonnet from the speeches of Mhairi Black MP. Not my usual style but it’s an important subject…  #fixuniversalcredit

Verse Matters Anthology Available Now!

The Verse Matters anthology has landed! It looks fabulous and is now available to buy from Valley Press.   All royalties go to ASSIST Sheffield who work with destitute asylum seekers, and the Archer Project in Sheffield who support homeless and vulnerable people. Featuring new writing from: Nick Allen, Charlotte Ansell, Catherine Ayres, Liz Berry, Jacob Blakesley, Laurie […]

New poems

There are some lovely poetry journals around, and I’ve had the pleasure of publishing in a few of them this month. My poem “Note to a Neighbour” was published this month in the sparkling “Ice and Snow” issue of The Writers’ Cafe Magazine #3. They’ve got a call out for their next issue, “Time and Space”, so check […]

Book Launch: Verse Matters Anthology

Come and join us of the launch of the Verse Matters anthology, co-edited by myself and Helen Mort, published by the brilliant Valley Press.   The anthology aims to harness the power of everyday, human stories in these times of inequality, xenophobia and dehumanisation. The anthology includes unpublished poems by well-known writers including Malika Booker, Liz Berry […]

Poetry in Leeds: Harrison, Stand & Strix

There’s lots of great poetry coming out of Leeds this week! My special issue of Stand (Tony Harrison Birthday Issue) arrived in the post today and it looks great! It includes articles by Simon Armitage, Jeffrey Wainwright, John Whale and Cécile Marshall, who has translated many of Harrison’s works into French. It also includes my article, “Tony […]

Call for Papers: African Literature

The African Studies Association UK Conference will  take place at the University of Birmingham in September 2018. The Call for Papers for the conference is now open (deadline for submissions, 16 February 2018). I am co-organising a conference stream on African Literature with Jarad Zimbler, University of Birmingham: African Literature: Communities, Collaborations, Crafts and Crossings […]

Epistolarity and World Literature

My book on letters has just been published online by Palgrave Macmillan, and will be available in print by the end of the month. Epistolarity and World Literature, 1980-2010 is part of a new series edited by Neil Lazarus and Pablo Mukherjee: New Comparisons in World Literature. The book examines the resurgence of the literary letter at the end […]

A Snake in the Garden (Stand 15.2)

This is the proof of a short article that I wrote for the Special Issue of Stand on Geoffrey Hill. The issue is full of great poems, articles, photographs and tributes, including by John Whale, Sarah Prescott, Jeffrey Wainwright, Elaine Glover, Jon Glover, Hannah Copley and many more! A Snake in the Garden. Stand 15.2 (2017) […]

New Poems, Books, Harrison & Hill

It’s been a busy old month finishing off as many things as I can before my maternity leave! I’m pleased to have some new poems published in the wonderful Foxglove Journal of Poetry and Fiction, including Waiting, New Beginnings and Cherries. The Geoffrey Hill Special Issue of Stand has also just been published, which includes my article about […]

Verse Matters – what’s next…

Thanks to Seven Hills Film for the lovely highlights video from our Verse Matters ( South Yorkshire Poetry Festival) event in May at the Moor Theatre Delicatessen!  The night included performances from Salena Godden,  Kate Fox, Hive Young Writers (14-25s) Kevin Titterton, Angelina Abel with the CORS/PO performance, Mina Salama (Arts on the Run). You can also see clips of the wonderful Jepps Books (Sheffield’s […]

Letters letters letters!

My new book, Epistolarity and World Literature, 1980-2010 is now available for pre-order  from Palgrave Macmillan. The book examines the return of the literary letter at the end of the long twentieth century. It asks how authors returned to epistolary conventions to create dialogue across national, linguistic and cultural borders and repositions a range of contemporary […]

Shades @ Visual Verse

My poem, Shades, has just been published on the wonderful website, Visual Verse. The poem responds to a striking image by the artist Alejandro Alvarez. Each month Visual Verse offers an image and challenges writers to respond in one hour – and in no more than 500 words. Check it out and give it a go! The […]

Sheffield Feminist Archive

It was lovely to talk to Hattie from Sheffield Feminist Archive this morning. The Sheffield Feminist Archive project is working with Sheffield Archives to ensure that documents relating to Sheffield’s feminist past and present are collected and preserved for future generations. Hattie was a great interviewer and she has published a blog post about our conversation. […]

Verse Matters @South Yorks Poetry Festival

We’re running a special Verse Matters in collaboration with South Yorkshire Poetry Festival on Saturday 27 May at the Moor Theatre Delicatessen in Sheffield. Come and join us! It’s an amazing line-up. There will be sparkling poetry from the wonderful Kate Fox Fox (poet), powerful words from national slam champion Solomon O.B (poet), brilliant music from Mina Mikhael Salama […]

Yarl’s Wood

My poem “Yarl’s Wood” has just been published on the excellent poetry site The Stare’s Nest. The site publishes ‘poems for a more hopeful world’ – something we certainly need at the moment. My poem is a palimpsest translation of Anne Askew’s “The Ballad Which Anne Askew Made and Sang When She Was in Newgate, 1546”.  It draws […]

Cora Greenhill’s ‘Artemis: The People’s Priestess’

  Cora Greenhill’s Artemis: The People’s Priestess pulses with light, heat and movement. Just published by the wonderful Three Drops Press, the collection tells the ‘back story’ of Artemis: her power, sensuality and sexuality. The poems chart Artemis’ growth through a series of dramatic poems, each spoken by a different character. At the heart of the […]

Intersectional feminism, photography and poetry

As part of the Women’s Paths Seminar Series at the University of Leeds, I will be giving an informal talk which will combine my poetry, feminist arts work and thoughts on the urgency of intersectional work in the current political context. The event will take place on Tuesday 4 April from 5.15pm – 6.45pm in the School […]

Verse Matters #SheFest 2017

After an amazing Verse Matters in February (where we had about 100 people in the audience) and another brilliant Hive-Verse Matters young people’s open mic, we are back next Thursday 9 March @ The Moor Theatre Deli for a special event for International Women’s Day 2017. There will be powerful featured performances from Anna Percy (Stirred, Manchester), Carole Eades (Gorilla, Sheffield), Louise Clines (Broomhill Writers, […]

John Berger,1926-2017

I was saddened yesterday to learn about the death of John Berger. Having spent some time in the wonderful John Berger Archive at the British Library, I am in the somewhat peculiar (and privileged) position of having read many of Berger’s letters, notebooks and manuscripts from the late twentieth century, and therefore feel that I […]

Review: The Book in Africa

This is the proof of a review I recently published in Textual Cultures 10.1 (2016): 85-88. Davis, Caroline and David Johnson, eds., The Book in Africa: Critical Debates. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. ISBN 978-1-137-40161-8. Pp: xii + 280. Hardback $95. This volume introduces a range of debates about the book in Africa through an impressive set […]

Sheffield to Aleppo

My new poem, Sheffield to Aleppo, November 2016, was recently published on Wildcat Dispatches: for Dangerous Times. You can read the poem, along with an important piece on Syria by Mark Boothroyd and Wildcat’s Statement on Aleppo on the Wildcat Dispatches website. This is the poem in full:   Sheffield to Aleppo, November 2016   It’s only […]

Wildcat Dispatches: for Dangerous Times

I am excited to announce that the first issue of Wildcat Dispatches: for Dangerous Times is launched today: a small labour of collective love and fury and hopefully the first of many. I am proud to have written an article with Jake Phillips for the first issue. We argue for the importance of acknowledging the links between sexism and racism, particularly in […]

Reclaim The Day #ReclaimTheNight 2016

I’m proud to be reading at #ReclaimtheNight in Sheffield next Friday (25 Nov). We need this event now more than ever, especially in the dangerous political context in which we are now living. The shocking triumph of Donald Trump last week clearly shows that widespread and popular chauvinism and xenophobia are alive and kicking. Personally speaking, given my own recent […]

Full Moon and Foxglove Anthology

I am excited to see that the latest anthology from the wonderful independent publisher, Three Drops From a Cauldron is now available. Full Moon & Foxglove: An Anthology of Witches and Witchcraft contains over sixty poems and flash fiction pieces, including my new poem “Shard”. The Anthology, edited by Kate Garrett and her brilliant team, explores one of the most […]

Keep up the fight

Trump’s election victory this morning has left many reeling. It is time to grieve, but not time to abandon the fight against injustice, xenophobia racism, misogyny and sexual violence. Over the last 18 months we have grown a powerful community in Sheffield in which people have felt safe enough to come to events to share their […]

Sing Freedom!

A personal story told by Leeds choir leader Frances Bernstein, with songs of liberation (Tuesday 22 November, 7.30-9.30pm, Clothworkers Hall, Leeds) Leeds University Centre for African Studies are offering a chance to see the special show: ‘Sing Freedom – a story with songs of liberation’, a personal story told by Leeds Free Range choir leader Frances Bernstein, set against […]

Verse Matters November 2016!

After a wonderful Hive Verse Matters Young People’s Open Mic last week, Verse Matters is back on Thursday 3 November at The Moor Theatre Deli for the last event in 2016! Come down for fab poetry from Loma Sylvana, wonderful stories from SJ Bradley (Fictions Of Every Kind) and great music from Salt Pinchers (incl. Stella Sminkos) There will also be brilliant open […]

Calling all young people (14-25)!

Verse Matters is teaming up with Hive South Yorkshire to run a young people’s open mic on Thursday 27 October at the Moor Theatre Deli in Sheffield! If you write poems, tell stories, compose lyrics, spit bars or have anything else to say out loud to a supportive audience, this is an evening to celebrate your words, ideas and talents […]

Women of Steel #NationalPoetryDay

It was great to talk to Toby this morning on BBC Radio Sheffield‘s breakfast show about my new poem, Women of Steel, commissioned for National Poetry Day. In a new project from BBC Local Radio, the Forward Arts Foundation, and Apples and Snakes, the 40 stations of BBC local radio are marking National Poetry Day by […]

Review: Memory, Mourning and Memorialisation

This is a proof of my review of three books, recently published in Stand 14.3 Bromley, Carole. The Stonegate Devil. Sheffield: smith|doorstop Books, 2015 (ISBN 978-1-910367-54-4) Madec, Mary. Demeter Does Not Remember. County Clare: Salmon Poetry, 2014 (ISBN 978-1-908836-31-1) Williams, Merryn. Letter to My Rival. Nottingham: Shoe String Press, 2015 (ISBN 978-1-910323-39-7) Carole Bromley’s striking second collection, […]

We Shall Overcome!

Come and join us at the next Verse Matters at the Moor Theatre Delicatessen on Thursday 6 October. It’s a special event for We Shall Overcome – a nationwide movment of artists, musicians and community organisers to protest against austerity and support those affected. It’s also National Poetry Day so what could be more auspicious! All cash donations will be donated to the Archer […]

Reach for 100 rejections a year

Malika Booker recently posted a link to an article that advises writers to aim for 100 rejections a year. It’s all about accepting rejections as part of the process rather than as some kind of ultimate judgement. It turns out that it’s very sensible advice. I decided to send more writing of my writing off and have since had work accepted […]

Leeds Peace Poetry 2016

I’m really pleased to be working with schools for the Leeds Peace Poetry Prize 2016. This year’s theme is refugees. This includes all categories of displaced people, including asylum-seekers. The competition offers an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the current situation, but of the long history of human migration and entrants are encouraged to think […]

Unite against racism

On 23rd June 2016 we gathered in the Moor Theatre Deli for a special Verse Matters for Refugee Week and Yorkshire Festival. It was a powerful and moving event, balanced in that tense moment between the daytime voting for the EU Referendum and the results the following morning. Given the ‘Leave’ result and the rapid rise in race-related hate crimes since the vote, it is even […]

Decolonizing Education

On 17th June we ran a symposium on Postcolonial Education: Teaching, Learning and Schooling in and After Empire’. The event was jointly organised by Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds, and put together by Rachel Bower, Matthew Whittle, Jonathan Saha and Emily Zobel Marshall. The aim was to bring together researchers, poets and community educators to think critically about […]

Harrison and Simmons in Nigeria

More fascinating material continues to be accessioned into the Tony Harrison Archive in Special Collections at the Brotherton Library in Leeds. Most recently, Special Collections received manuscripts and correspondence relating to Aikin Mata: Tony Harrison’s translation of the Lysistrata with James Simmons in Zaria, Northern Nigeria. There is also a striking collection of letters between […]

Refugee Week, African Stories in Yorkshire & Postcolonial Education

It’s the Yorkshire Festival and Refugee Week next week which means that there are a host of brilliant events across the North which celebrate the diversity, stories and talent of the region.   There is a wonderful week-long Migration Matters festival in Sheffield and Wakefield, and as part of this Verse Matters is running a […]

Review: Poetic Collaboration in Iraq and Palestine

This is the proof of a review that was recently published in Stand 14.2 (2016) in Leeds: Van Winkle, Ryan and Lauren Pyott, eds. This Room is Waiting: Poems from Iraq and the United Kingdom. Glasgow: Freight Books, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-908754-49-3. 128pp. Bell, Henry and Sarah Irving, eds. Forewords by Liz Lochead and Maya Abu Al-Hayyat. […]

‘Poetry & A Pint’ and ‘Lyrical’

  I have guest slots at two fantastic poetry nights this week – Cafe Lux (Pudsey) with A Firm Of Poets on Thursday 14 April 7-9pm, and Lyrical Presents: Rachel Bower & Amy Kinsman in Sheffield on Friday 15 April. Come and celebrate the brilliance of poetry in Yorkshire. There will be open mic slots, good words and warmth. Cafe […]

Poetry, Music, Stories & Seeds!

Verse Matters is back tonight (Thurs 7 April) for another fantastic night of poetry, music and solidarity at the Moor Theatre Delicatessen.   There will be fantastic performances from Rosie Garland (Poet), Robert de Born (Poet/ Musician) and Sarah Sharp (Musician) as well as sparkling open mic performances from Nicole May (poet), Steven Kay (fiction), Sez Thomasin […]

Review: Okpewho’s Blood on the Tides

This is the proof of my recent review of Isidore Okpewho’s Blood on the Tides: The Ozidi Saga and Oral Epic Narratology (Rochester, NY: Rochester UP, 2014), published in the Leeds African Studies Bulletin 77 (Winter 2015/16). In this formidable book, Isidore Okpewho, distinguished expert on African literature, offers a detailed account of the historical, […]

Verse Matters: International Women’s Day

We had a wonderful first night at the Moor Theatre Deli to celebrate International Women’s Day 2016 as part of SheFest Sheffield. Amy Kinsman (Poet) performed a fantastic set of poems and Fiona Helsing shared her amazing, powerful music. River Wolton (Poet) read her wonderful poems and there were also brilliant open mic performances from Ayan Abdi (Poet) Suzannah Evans (Bank St Arts), Marina Poppa (A Firm of Poets), Ben Jackson (Forest Sounds), […]

Sheffield Poem-a-Thon for Refugees

  On 2 April, myself and many of the poets who have performed at Verse Matters are reading poems in Sheffield for the Poem-a-Thon for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, raising money for ASSIST who work with destitute asylum seekers and refugees in Sheffield. ASSIST is a fantastic charity which has been working in Sheffield for […]

Verse Matters on Sheffield Poetry TV

I was recently a guest presenter on Sheffield Poetry TV for a special episode on Verse Matters. The Verse Matters episode is now available to watch online (https://vimeo.com/155382260). Check it out for fantastic poems from Louise Clines, Sarah Thomasin, Kate Garrett-Nield, Kevin Titterton, Rachel Garner, Shelley Roche-Jacques, Gee Nah, Liz Searle and Janet Murray.

From Mugen to the Moor Theatre Deli

We had a brilliant last night at the fantastic Mugen Tea House on Scotland St on Thursday 4 February. Sai Murray read some inspiring poems and a very funny (but sobering) short story, Arian Sadr gave a mesmerising performance on his Tonbak (Persian goblet drum) and Daf (circular frame drum), and and London-based Hannah Chutzpah performed some funny and incredibly […]

Education, Rights and Migration

There are lots of fantastic events happening at Universities across the North of England which connect local and international issues.  On Friday 26 February, the School of English at the University of Leeds is hosting an event on Remembering Human Rights in an Age of Crisis in partnership with the David Oluwale Memorial Association. Speakers include Gary Younge, Caryl Phillips, Corinne […]

Verse Matters is Moving!

I’m excited to announce that we’re moving Verse Matters to the fantastic Moor Theatre Delicatessen in March. We’re super happy about the move, which will give us more space and allow for even more collaboration, and it’s more central for all those people who come to Verse Matters by train. It will be the same Verse Matters – coming together in solidarity to share the […]

“Put all weapons down”

It was another full house at Verse Matters in January, with 90 people squeezing into the Mugen Tea House for a night of solidarity and fantastic performances.  Abigail Ward got us started with a couple of her brilliant poems, followed by Norah Hamill‘s visceral and powerful poem, In the Streets of Bolton.  Ingrid Hanson read for the first time, […]

#SolidarityStarDust 2016

Verse Matters is back this Thursday (7 Jan) with another fantastic line up! Sprinkle the start of 2016 with some solidarity star dust! Don’t let January finances stop you – it’s pay what you can on the door. There’s fantastic comedy and poetry from Chella Quint, brilliant poetry from the wonderful Gav Roberts and exciting music […]

Soul Seed

My poem,”Soul Seed” featured on Pankhearst’s FRESH site yesterday. Pankhearst is a fantastic collective of independent writers. It was formed in 2012, and it exists to develop and promote new writers. They have published two collections of poetry and flash fiction, four full length collections of fiction, two novels, and more than a dozen Kindle “singles”. They are currently […]

Residency @ Bank St Arts

I am delighted to be working as an Artist in Residence at Bank St Arts (Sheffield). I am working on a project called “Soul Seeds and Wrinkly Bellies.” This collaborative project explores the poetics and politics of pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenthood: subjects that have historically received little attention in literature. There are three related strands to the project: […]

Aikin Mata

It was my privilege to meet Tony Harrison at his home in Newcastle on a wet October afternoon. We sat at his kitchen table drinking strong coffee, and talking about his early years in Leeds and his work at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Northern Nigeria, where he worked from 1962-1966. Tony Harrison is often referred to as ‘Britain’s leading […]

Up Hill and Down

It has been a packed few weeks for international cultural events in Leeds, Sheffield and the region. Last week the celebrated Mexican poet Pedro Serrano read his poems in Spanish and English to a captivated audience at an event run by the Poetry Centre at the University of Leeds. I ran from here to the White Cloth Gallery to […]

Nigerian Student Verse (1960)

I recently had the honour of meeting Professor Martin Banham, one of the great authorities on Nigerian theatre and Director of the Workshop Theatre in Leeds, 1966-1998. We met on a windy October morning in the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Martin handed me a rare copy of Nigerian Student Verse (Ibadan, 1960): a slim anthology offering […]

November 2015

Humanism does not have a chance unless we recognise the full humanness of every single person who is killed, regardless of their nationality or race. Until we recognise the structural inequalities that underpin cycles of violence and selective mourning. Until we cry and rage together for everyone. November 2015 I was a teenager in Beirut, […]

We lit up the night

Even though it was a dark, wet November night, Verse Matters was packed out again this month. It was an incredible night. Louise Clines opened with some brilliant, heartfelt poems: the last about the birthing of her first child in water. Fran Critchlow read some beautiful poems, followed by Keira James’s mesmerising anti-war poem. Kev […]

Poetry and Sufi Soul

It’s the last Verse Matters of 2015 tomorrow! Join us at the Mugen Tea House (Scotland Street) for fantastic poetry from Kate Garrett and Gina Elbow and beautiful music from Sufi Soul singer Sarah Yaseen (Rafiki Jazz). There’ll also be great open mic performances from Charlotte Cass, Louise Clines, Jude Calvert-Toulmin, Keira James, Faiza Zai, Liz […]

Lunch Poems

We are offered an ‘injection of poetry’ every Wednesday at the fantastic LUNCH POEMS in Leeds, created by Dr Helen Mort, Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow in the School of English (University of Leeds). The sessions have been squarely international in outlook so far, ranging from the continuing inequalities in publishing, particularly for Black and Asian poets, to Frank O’Hara’s Lunch […]

Wole Soyinka in Leeds

Wole Soyinka was a student in Leeds in the late 1950s, where he worked with Tony Harrison, James Simmons and Geoffrey Hill. The extensive archives in Special Collections at the Brotherton Library contain fascinating pictures, manuscripts and letters from this time, including photos of Soyinka performing alongside contemporaries including Barry Cryer, Simmons and Harrison at the Empire Theatre on Briggate. It was […]

Review: Writing by Ivan Vladislavić and Eben Venter

This is the proof a review that was recently published in Wasafiri: a literary magazine of international writing: ‘My point is that “restless” doesn’t mean that you never rest. Don’t you see? It means, and I quote, never still, fidgety’ (86–87). Thus argues Aubrey Tearle, the narrator of Ivan Vladislavić’s extraordinary novel, in a vain attempt […]

Freeing verse. And saxophones…

There was a fantastic mix of words and music at Verse Matters in October. Shelley Roche-Jacques kicked off the evening with a lovely reading which explored the historical role of women writers. This was an apt opener, given the continuing inequalities in publishing, particularly for women, and for Black and Asian writers. In 2005 the Free-Verse-Report asked why so few […]

Poetry Out Loud: Performance and Publication in the Digital Age

Last night I took part in a fantastic event with Helen Mort, Malika Booker and Rommi Smith at the Chemic Tavern in Leeds. The event was part of the Debating the Book series, which includes a wide range of readings and talks across Yorkshire. It is an exciting year for poetry at the University of Leeds. The Poetry Centre has […]

Verse Matters – September

Verse Matters was back in September with a fantastic line-up. Everyone loved the featured artists: from Toria Garbutt’s high-energy poems to Genevieve Carver’s wit and Lou Richards’ haunting melodies.    I was also very proud to host several poets who had never read their work in public before. Ross Walcott performed two powerful poems, Luke Worthy gave a […]

Terrestrial Journeys

Dina Mousawi – the extremely talented British-Iraqi actress and writer behind Return – is developing a new theatre project working with Syrian and Palestinian refugee women in Beirut. The project is called Terrestrial Journeys, and is about exploring experiences of migration and using art in the pursuit of social change. Dina has supported Verse Matters from the outset, and […]

Verse Matters – September

After another fantastic night in August, Verse Matters is back on Thursday 10 September with more talented artists. There’ll be fantastic poetry from the formidable Toria Garbutt (A Firm of Poets), beautiful music from Lou Richards and poetry from the wonderful Genevieve Carver (Paper Boat Poets). There’ll also be open mic performances from Iranian musician/ MC MoLi Nik (ASSIST), Katherine […]


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