Walking and Reverie Workshop – 25th April at The Poetry Café

This caught my eye…. looks like it could be a really stimulating event.

Date: Wednesday 25 April, 2018   2.30pm – 5pm
Price: Full price: £25, Concession: £18, Poetry Society Members: £18
Venue address:
The Poetry Café, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX


po cafe.jpg

This dynamic workshop with visual artist Zoe Benbow and poet Sarah Corbett will lead you through a series of meditations, writing and drawing exercises designed to release creativity and engage the imagination in order to create new worlds in image and text. You will walk through imaginary landscapes, map a journey and work with fragments of found text.

No experience necessary, just a willingness to invent and play. All materials will be provided.

The opening of Sarah and Zoe’s collaborative exhibition, Dorothy’s Colour, and a poetry reading with guest poet Susan Wicks, will follow from 6pm.


Sarah Corbett
Sarah Corbett was born in Chester in 1970 and grew up in North Wales. She received a BA honours in English and Sociology from Leeds University in 1992, an MA in Creative Writing from The University of East Anglia in 1998 and a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Manchester in 2013. Sarah taught Creative Writing for the Open University from 2004 – 2009 and is currently part-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Sarah was awarded a residency at The Yaddo Foundation in 2005 and was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow in 2012.

Zoe Benbow
Graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1989 Zoe Benbow has chosen to centre her career in studio practice. Based in London. Benbow has undertaken five international residencies and eighteen solo shows alongside numerous group exhibitions. Work is represented in many corporate and public collections including Queen Mary University of London, The British Council and Manchester City Art Gallery. In 2013 Benbow collaborated with the poet Deryn Rees Jones in the touring exhibition Where we begin to Look- Landscape and Poetry which was presented at The Poetry Society London, The Glass Tank at Oxford Brookes University and other venues.


Red Shed Poetry Competition – closes 28 April 2018

Red Shed Poetry Competition 2018
Sole adjudicator: Maria Isakova Bennett
Closing date: Saturday 28th April, 2018
Prizes: 1st— £100, 2nd—£50
​Short listed poems – £10

Wakefield Postcode prize—£25 

Generously sponsored by Mocca Moocho café


About the Judge

The amazingly creative Maria Isakova Bennett is one of the founders of Coast-to-Coast-to-Coast, the beautiful hand-stitched poetry journals you’ll have heard about. Maria lives in Liverpool and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. She won a Northern Writers’ Award for poetry in June 2017, and has won and has been placed and commended in many poetry competitions.

Find out more and enter here.




All the Relevant Gods by Robin Houghton

relavent godsAll the Relevant Gods was really brought alive for me when I heard Houghton at a recent Kent and Sussex Poetry Society meeting. It’s a pamphlet I recently read and very much enjoyed, but hearing from the poet herself was brilliant. She added so much, not just some backstory to a number of poems, but she made the poems richer, deeper and I love how they made a little echo back to the first reading I had done some weeks before. I think it is the strength of good writing when a phrase or stanza unpeels itself weeks later, somewhere deep in your skull without you even remembering it was there in the first place.

If you get a chance to hear Robin read I urge you to. Until then here are a few poems from the pamphlet…. if you enjoy them, take a moment to follow the link to Cinnamon Press and bag yourself a copy for just £4.99.

London Bridge to Waterloo East

Ratcheted backwards along familiar lines
something is dead and we’re the mourners –

a squeeze of tracks tight between windows
thirty bottle panes across, a Pearce Duff’s sign,

shadow lines of a custard tin. Here we are
cheek to cheek with chimneys, eyelevel

with feral pigeons arranged like heraldry
in their smoke-blackened niches. Crane lower –

under a mash of adverts left to peeling, through
iron bars set in yellow brick, liquid escapes

down grilled steps, sensing the river. This fine
bent gristle thing nudges us into the old stories.

Our wheels sharpen on a drawn-out mass
of points and then we’re stationary, our heaving

carriage balanced over Union Street arches,
hearts beating up out of sleeping bags below

where once packers and platers lit their fags,
off to the Rose & Crown, after the factory closed.


1 Poultry

Shoot up in the fast lift,
poke the faux grass with toothpick heels.
Late lunch at the Coq d’Argent –
accept a drink, plan your exit.

After two pm the old religion can be smelt –
some urban Plague myth – even here,
halfway to the holding stacks
of City-bound planes.

Look out to where domes are clouds,
black antennas stricken trees, people
blips fading from someone’s radar.
A good place to fail.

Tender is the man-made view.
Look down where a scrawl of red tail-lights
sings stop in the name of love
and windows laugh open.

Two sips of Sauvignon Blanc and all London
is under you, your parapet bends
eye-level with skinny cranes,
arms turning in a show of listening.

Robin is a talented poet and the person behind Telltale Press, a poets’ publishing collective set-up around 2014, which producing stunning pamphlets, or as the press calls them, “calling cards”. These debut pamphlets help their poets showcase their work. Telltale look for poets with a first pamphlet ready to publish and who are shortlisted or commended in pamphlet competitions. A track record in good magazines is also something they look for. Check out Robin’s pamphlet, The Great Vowel Shift here.

Watch Robin read here:

Long Haul from Robin Houghton on Vimeo.

robin.jpgRobin Houghton’s work appears in many magazines including Agenda, Bare Fiction, Envoi, Magma, Poetry News and The Rialto, and in numerous anthologies. Also in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2017 (Eyewear). She won the Hamish Canham Prize in 2013, the Stanza Poetry Competition in 2014 (and was runner-up in the same competition in 2016) and the New Writer Competition in 2012. Her pamphlet The Great Vowel Shift was published by Telltale Press, the poets’ collective she co-founded in 2014. In 2017 she self-published a handmade limited edition mini-pamphlet Foot Wear. After winning the Cinnamon Press Poetry Pamphlet competition in 2017, Robin’s third pamphlet, All the Relevant Gods is out from Cinnamon in February 2018. She blogs at robinhoughtonpoetry.co.uk


Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year Competition 2018


2017 winner – Steve Xerri

Poet of the Year Terms and Conditions

1. Entry is open to all adults over the age of 18 years on 4 October 2018. National and International entries are welcome. Any number of poems may be submitted but no alterations may be made to a poem once it has been submitted.

2. The closing date for the Competition is Monday 18 June 2018. Entries may be emailed to tina@canterburyfestival.co.uk or posted/delivered to: Poet of the Year Competition, Festival Office, 8 Orange Street, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2JA, by midnight on that date. Entries will not be returned so please keep a copy.

3. An entry form must accompany each submission and a £5 entry fee paid for each poem. Only one entry form and one payment need be sent even if several poems are submitted. Payment may be made by PayPal; an invoice will be issued upon receipt of the entries, or by cheque made payable to Canterbury Festival Foundation (Friends). Should payment not be received with hard copy entries or within five days of the issue of the PayPal invoice, the poems will not be entered into the Competition.

4. The poem or poem sequence may be on any subject and in any style but must not exceed 60 lines in length excluding title and line breaks. It should be principally in English; incidental foreign words/phrases and the use of regional variants are permitted.

5. Entries are judged anonymously and the poet’s name and address should not appear on the poem itself.

6. Handwritten entries cannot be accepted. Hard copy entries should be typed in black ink on A4 paper. Please do not staple entries.

7. Entries must be the poet’s original, unpublished work (including any website, public blog, online forum or broadcasting medium) and not accepted for publication before the Awards Evening on 4 October 2018; please note all entries will be checked. Ownership remains with the poet at all times; the Festival will not assume any share in copyright. The Festival Friends are not responsible for any claim of plagiarism which will be directed to the poet alone.

8. Once submitted the poems will be deemed to have been freely entered into the Competition and may not be withdrawn unless under exceptional circumstances and with the express permission of the judges.

9. Poems will be sent anonymously to the judging panel:
• Luigi Marchini (Chairman SaveAS Writers Group)
• Steve Xerri (Poet of the Year 2017)
• Katherine Peddie (Assistant Lecturer, School of English, University of Kent)

10. The Competition organisers reserve the right to change the judging panel.

11. The judges’ decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into concerning the decision.

12. A longlist of entries will be selected and published in the 2018 anthology. These must be in electronic format; if submitted in hard copy longlisted poets will be asked to re-submit the selected poems by email. Longlisted poets may claim a free copy of the anthology which will also be on general sale.

13. A shortlist will be chosen from the longlisted poems and the poets will be asked to read their poems at the Awards Evening on 4 October 2018. If they are unable to attend or prefer not the read themselves, they may nominate a reader or request the judges to do this on their behalf. Nominated readers will not qualify for the ‘Best Read Poem’ award.

14. The Awards Evening will take place on Thursday 4 October 2018 in The Gulbenkian Theatre, University of Kent, when the winning poems will be announced. Doors open at 7pm and readings begin at 7.30pm. The Winner will be named Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year and receive the University of Kent Prize of £200. £100 will be awarded for the second, £50 for the third places, and £25 will be awarded to the People’s Choice voted for on the night. The Best-Read Poem, as read by the poet, will receive a bottle of Sparkling Wine.



Sigma – indie-rock band with poets’ lyrics – playing in London on April 10th


This year, Latvian indie-rock band “Sigma” is releasing its second album “Mythologies” and they are playing on

Tue 10 April 2018
19:00 – 21:00 BST

St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconcilation and Peace
78 Bishopsgate

Grab your ticket here

Latvian Literature has the honour to present indie rock band SIGMA, which will perform songs from their second album Mythologies. All song lyrics are written by well-known Latvian poets – Kārlis Vērdiņš, Inese Zandere, Marts Pujāts, Anna Auziņa, Jānis Rokpelnis, Inga Gaile and Uldis Bērziņš. This concert will be a part of celebrating Latvia’s participation at the London Book Fair 2018 as a market focus country and also Latvia’s Centenary.

I heard them play in Riga last month and am assured that at this concert they will be singing in English. That week I also went to the launch of 30 Questions People Don’t Ask: The Selected Poems of Inga Gaile which I will be saying more about soon. One particular poem has taken deep root in my head – cracker of a poem called Rebirth of the City. I whole-heartedly recommend it and the rest of the collection to you.

a sigma

SIGMA are Jānis Ozoliņš, vocal and keys, Kaspars Lastovskis, bass, and Uģis Eihvalds, percussion. The band was formed in 2005 with its debut album released in 2015 and received the Annual Latvian Music Recording Award for Best Alternative or Indie Album.


Beer-tasting and poetry on April 8th – A double bill – Parthian Baltic and the European Poetry Festival


An evening of poetry and beer-tasting to celebrate the launch of Parthian Baltic, a series of books showcasing the best writing from Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia.

Featuring readings from Madara Gruntmane, Eduards Aivars & Krišjānis Zeļģis (Latvia –  photos below), Eeva Park & Veronika Kivisilla (Estonia), Aušra Kaziliūnaitė, Marius Burokas & Giedrė Kazlauskaitė (Lithuania),  and translations and discussion from Jayde Will, Rimas Uzgiris, Richard O’Brien & Adam Cullen.

The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, London, W1T 1JB at 6 pm


European Poetry Festival: Performance Literature & Sound Poetry

European poetry is going through a remarkable renaissance in avant-garde and innovative practise. A series of poets explore the possibilities of performance, aliveness, space, time and sound. This event is a unique opportunity to witness first-hand the possibilities of an old art in a new century. Sergejs Timofejevs, one of the founders of The Orbita Group is also performing.


IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, London SE1 7LG

He had a face that was in love,

it was already time to admit that he
was in love. In his hands was
a long umbrella and from the windows
the priests were observing him. The little girl
was thinking about her doll, and when
mama took her by the hand, she paid him
no attention. Mama said:
“Should we buy some ham,” and
headed for the shop. He was running,
bouncing and spinning on his axis;
for this reason he kept losing his way.
He was in love, although not one
girl he knew came
to mind; he laughed. He knew
that the weather would be splendid, as long as
this was what he wanted. And even if
he didn’t care, for some time
it would still be the same. The long umbrella
he waved overhead and put
in the vestibule. The night was deep blue, the day was
green, but the lips of his beloved were red,
like a strawberry; he whistled and walked,
congratulating himself. Yes, his beloved
must be splendid; he wrote his friend
an entire letter about this and inserted it into a magnificent
envelope. His friend would be delighted and send
greetings: a postcard with a little violinist
on a lamp-lit street.

By Sergej Timofejev and translated by Anne Marie Jackson


Cheryl Pearson – Featured Poet

oysterCheryl Pearson’s first collection, Oysterlight was published in 2017 by Pindrop Press, run from the Cevennes, by poet and editor Sharon Black.

Pearson is well-published in magazines and from what I’ve read elsewhere has a thorough submissions strategy which evidently pays off. Her work has been anthologised by The Emma Press among others.

Here’s just a tiny taste of what you’ll find in Oysterlight – just to whet your appetite.




Out Of Water

How flash-quick that vital line was breached,
how sudden the drowning in sky –

the banked fish gasped as though crying out
for the stippled riverbed, the lost underlight;

choked on throatfuls of sun. The eye
dragging clouds into its rolling pivot,

like fairground candyfloss catching
the stick. I saw none of it,

but I saw it all. Next milky morning, the gold dog
rooting. She came when I called,

her thrilled nose starred with the leavings.
Could she scent the striped light in which

the fish hung before leaping? The breath
of the bird as it stripped the wreck

back to the rungs? I wonder if afterlives
swing from an owl-mouth’s ceiling,

the way my own bones
close over waterless lungs.


Pre-dawn I wake, and your breathing finds me,
places me into this bed, this room, this
sudden not-quite-morning. You won’t mind me
folding into your side, so I fold; kiss

the tangled mat of hair on your bent arm;
smell the yeasty smell which makes your skin taste
of wheat. Once, in Wales, we went to a farm
where a similar smell rose from the waste

of horses – a homely smell, redolent
of good earth, heat, sweat, physical labour.
I tucked myself into you, nonchalant.
Breathed you in as I do now, bed-neighbour

on this dark dawn, as the clock enforces
order and you dream – perhaps of horses.


Once, I was golden, and lifted like a trophy.
Once, my body made men howl.

These days, I’m worse than invisible. Just a
rusting voice, a fabulous crown.

To pass the time, I talk to my statues.
Pretend them back to handsome, use

a flirty tone. Sometimes I take off all my clothes
– despite the cold – and pose,

naked, on a bent stone knee. Or fill
the chilly curl of a fist with my breast.

Once, just once, I toppled one and cracked
him open like an egg. Combed through concrete ribs

to find the rock that was his heart. And then I broke it.
See, I told him, how you like it.

“In her poem ‘Girl as Star’, Cheryl Pearson writes about ‘a girl held together/by her own gravity’ and it seems to me that this book is held together by its own beautiful and finely-crafted gravity. The poems are built with care and love and with a deep conviction that language not only helps us to survive, it helps us to dance.

Ian McMillan


cheryl_pearson-300x293Cheryl Pearson was born and raised in Cheshire, but now lives and works in Manchester. Her poems have appeared widely in journals and magazines including Antiphon, Bare Fiction, Crannog, Neon, Envoi, Prole, and Southword. She has also had work featured in anthologies produced by The Emma Press, The University of Chester Press, and Puppywolf Press. She won the High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature in 2016, and was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize. When she isn’t working or writing, you can find her drinking beer in the Peak District. Oysterlight is her first full-length collection.


London Undercurrents – Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire


Ahead of S.A. Leavesley’s launch and evening  readings at The Poetry Café on Saturday 31st of March I thought I’d give you a little sneak peek at some of what’s in store that night, starting with the London Undercurrents: Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire.

Together, as London Undercurrents, they have had pairs of north and south poems published in a number of magazines, including South Bank Poetry, Brittle Star, Lunar Poetry, and online at Ink, Sweat & Tears and Severine Literary Journal, Well Versed and Proletarian Poetry. They have featured at Loose Muse, The Shuffle, Fourth Friday and Beyond Words and appeared on the Poets Anonymous show on Croydon Radio. In 2017 they were awarded a Research and Development Grant by Arts Council England, are being mentored by Jacqueline Saphra. On International Women’s day 2018 they staged a guerilla poetry reading along the 19 bus route, which joins together their two patches of London (pictured).

I am so pleased that they have each sent a poem for me to share. First up is Joolz with Mussels at low tide.


Mussels at low tide

..When Lady Thames has gone out
and glimpses of her underneath she rudely

..reveals, frothy skirts of foam do bibs
make which tucker up nicely under our shells to

..serve as slurp-catchers for us messy-eater
bivalves. Silt-hungry, hinges creak open

..to release our one-footed scoops of tongue
which lick the meat of the river into us. Toeless,

..we dandle in mud ––cockles and mussels alive-oh––
snap shut against harvest by boatman, gull, urchin.

..In the lull of eddies, we feast and filter sluiced by
drain slop, the juice of pipes. We boat and brick

..and scavenge as she turns, lifts currents of
petticoat, hides us back under.


Joolz Sparkes was shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize 2010, and Cinnamon Press pamphlet competition 2016, and is published in Magma, Shooter Literary Magazine, Great weather for MEDIA, The Persisters Zine and South Bank Poetry magazine. She has featured at Ledbury Poetry festival, was Poet in Residence at Leicester Square tube station and is a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen.


Chuffed to have this poem from Hilaire. Read it. Love it. Come on Saturday for a whole lot more.

Gum Tree, Battersea Park

Far from home, like me.
Long acclimatised and

rooted in London soil.
Three strong trunks whorling

upwards under low sky.
Wind rasps through crisped leaves

that cast occasional shade
from northern sun.

Mate, I wish I knew
your proper name.

I whisper coo-ee!
Wait for the leaves’ reply.


Hilaire was poet-in-residence at Thrive Battersea in 2017. She has been published in magazines such as Brittle Star, ARTEMISpoetry and South Bank Poetry, and in three anthologies from The Emma Press. Triptych Poets: Issue One (Blemish Books, Australia, 2010) features a selection of her poems, and her novel Hearts on Ice was published by Serpent’s Tail in 2000.


Valerie Morton showcases Kathleen Strafford – Her Own Language


“And I am perpetually waiting for a thought so passionate and alive
it has an architecture of its own

I am forever waiting to be taken by surprise.”

from I am Waiting (tribute to Ferlinghetti)

These words from Kathleen Strafford’s brilliant debut collection are more than fulfilled with the turn of each page. In “Her Own Language” Strafford demolishes structure and reconstructs words in a way which is unique, exciting and unexpected. There is great skill in the way her lines rock and roll and yet slow their pace at the right moment, allowing pauses through her varied formats for the reader to absorb the everyday with new eyes. It is refreshing to feel at one with her, that she has her audience in mind as she writes.

Every line in this collection is captivating in itself making it difficult to choose a favourite, but there is one that continuously revolves in my head:

“as if I could buy back all the days”

(from Handbag from Ohio):

“I slide everything back inside like it’s currency
as if I could buy back all the days
…………and nights the moon
…………opened up his arms
…………& in the morning wake
…………to find my cheek
…………on the roundness of his belly”

It is impossible not to relate to this nostalgic, yet unsentimental longing in everybody to re-capture the past, even just for a fleeting moment.

Another line that stays with me and epitomises the pull of this collection is from the opening poem Her Own Language:

“There’s a sideways balance in the corner of daybreak”

Strafford has the ability to look at big subjects from new angles – sex, love, death, loss, and joy – her wicked sense of humour often disguising the pathos within : her voice is bold, unafraid to be heard from the rooftops and yet has the quietness of conviction. This is assured writing, varied and surprising at every turn. Her often light, humorous tone disguises depths displayed in audacious punchlines as in :

First Time

occasionally now
in the shank of the night …………        I see him.
At my approach
his lip twists
into a sneer
Within each dilated pupil
he flaunts fragments
………………………………….of hymen

the way a cat parades
a piece of torn wing
so I stand
……..gazing at his face
……..yearning to shout
Give it back, give it all back
Yet knowing the whole time
…………………….his cock
………………………will always have
………………………..my name on it.”

This collection swings back and forth – from the hilarious Conversations About Socks “hip hop hopping away” to the sinister A Hundred Ways to Cook Potatoes “she told me in the night/he creeps half-baked/into her bedroom/trying to peel her” to the most beautiful and tender Sewing:


I search for you
in my sewing box

Your threads were knitted and purled

All came unravelled
as the doctor subdued the room
……………………….with woven whispers

I embroidered stars to your fingers
……………………….music to your perfect lips

How easily you slipped from me

How can I unpick your name
where every snapped thread is a
……………………………………….full stop?



You can hear Kathleen Strafford reading here

I would strongly recommend a cosy chair, a glass of your favourite wine, and this book – an unforgettable experience.

Available from Dempsey and Windle Publishing HERE


Canoes on the Dordogne by John Arnold


after a painting by Alice Boggis-Rolfe

I’m transported twenty years upstream,
back to that carefree glide,
the Mistral Blanc breathing on our skin:

a body fit for Speedos,
a smiling wife who paddled topless
and daughters eager for the new;

the weightless drift upon a warm flow,
inches deep; then lazing on the bank –
vin rouge, fromage, baguettes…

But now, another vantage point:
a high hill. A rural landscape’s summer doze.
The young ones are distant:

their canoes, small as pond skaters,
float between the flawless planes
of water and Perigord sky.


John Arnold was born in London in 1951. He is a retired town planner who lives with his wife in East Sussex . He has two grown up daughters and three granddaughters. His poems have been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies, and have been broadcast on BBC Radio. He is a member of the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society.