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 …

You have reached your destination!

The launch of Verse Matters was wonderful. Helen Mort kicked the evening off by reading a few of her fantastic new poems, taking us from the irritations of ‘blonde jokes’ to the diets of climbers.    As Helen was about to read her final poem, a phone chipped in with precision timing: “You have reached your destination”. It certainly …

Once I caught a fish alive…

There’s some fantastic spoken word and poetry events going on in Sheffield at the moment. Up Scribe – a group who have been working with homeless and vulnerable people at the Cathedral Archer project – recently launched a book of fiction, memoir and poetry by the writers they have been working with. The book, called Lights Through the Shadow, …

Poetry in Pudsey

I’ve never been to a poetry night in Pudsey before. But Poetry and a Pint at Cafe Lux seems to be going from strength to strength. A Firm of Poets have a residency at Cafe Lux, which is part of Pudsey Wellbeing Centre: a place where ordinary people are standing up and sharing their poetry with the …

A busy old weekend in Yorkshire

It’s a busy weekend in Yorkshire for poetry. Big ROMP kicked us off on Friday night in Rotherham with the usual warm welcome and fantastic poetry. Poets young and old read poems, and shared stories and beautiful acoustic music. I performed a couple of new poems: “Sweetest Victory” and “People inside People”. ROMP Anthologies are coming very soon, …