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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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

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 […]