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 …