“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 …