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Now, I apologise in advance.  This should be a review of the Lee Marvin readings on Tuesday.  It is not.  It’s mainly about me.

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Keeping me company on the bill was Ken Bolton, host of the evening, Matt Hooton and Heather Taylor Johnson.  Ken was up first to read two poems.  I should say what they were about and had planned to make my usual notes but alas, found it difficult to concentrate (sorry Ken!).  Next up was Matt who read a piece of prose after setting the scene of being invited to look at a patch of ancient dirt (that much I remember and it really doesn’t do Matt’s work any justice, useless I am!).  And then there was me.

There were some big names in the crowd – my usual gang of Rachael Mead, Mike Hopkins, Alison Flett and Heather, and then Peter Goldsworthy, Shannon Burns, Mike Ladd and David Mortimer, one of whom told me beforehand they had come especially to hear me read so you know, no pressure.  And just like my launch, initially a bit nervous in the lead up but once up there, calm.  Strange.  I read 7 poems, two of which I had read at the launch, managed to get a few laughs in the right places and left the audience with thoughtful faces.  Result.  All after finding out that two of my poems had been published in the new Friendly Street Poets Anthology launched earlier in the evening at another venue, which was a real surprise and something I knew nothing about, one of which had been shortlisted by Mike Ladd for the Satura Prize (the best poem in the anthology) and then also discovered I’ve been shortlisted in the mindshare poetry awards, the winners of which will read at the Festival of Now in October.  So you could say my head was pretty spaced out, helped/hindered by the two glasses of wine I had had.  But again, apparently, I did good.  And again, really enjoyed it.  This may become a habit.  Why I’m writing in short sentences I don’t know.  Maybe I’m still slightly stunned.

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Now Heather’s set I remember (yay!) because I could relax.  Heather read two pieces of prose with a focus on her mother so emotive stuff, followed by a poem in three parts about coping with Meniere’s disease, a condition Heather herself suffers with which she projected onto Graham, the protagonist in her brilliant debut novel Pursuing Love and Death published by Harper Collins.  The poem was beautifully poignant brimming with sea imagery, with lines like ‘and with a body craving salt you are full of ocean’ to convey the debilitating giddiness associated with the disease.  I have no doubt this will feature in The Fractured Self Anthology Heather is currently pulling together.

So you know, back to me.  I managed to sell some more copies of my chapbook, with requests to sign from above famous poets(!) and left the Dark Horsey Bookshop stocked with a few aswell.  Definitely another night to remember – what a blast!

Wednesday saw a collaboration between wonderful local poets Mike Hopkins and Heather Taylor Johnson at the Halifax Café, reading a few poems written on their recent jaunt to the UK where they cycled, yes cycled, around the Yorkshire Dales.

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Introduced by Ian Gibbins, responsible for Friendly Street Poets communications, Mike was first up beginning with a poem ‘From Wensleydale’ (after Jen Hadfield), which was inspired by the place names they came across during their trip. A clever poem with a strong sense of the great outdoors followed by another called ‘Hills’ and ‘Walls, the latter closing with the gorgeous image of ‘the land’s flanks stitched with drystone ribs.’ Mike also read a piece called ‘Burning the Bartle’ about the annual tradition in a village they stayed in where an effigy of Bartle is burned – ‘Bartle the sheep stealer, Bartle the pig thief, Bartle the giant’ – and finished his travel poems with ‘The Fox and Hounds’, describing a typical British pub with its eclectic name and clientele. Mike is an entertaining poet, telling it how it is, wonderfully conveyed through the poems ‘I could yet turn into’ where he describes a recent eye test, ‘Taking off Tony Abbott’s clothes’ a hilarious commentary of just that, and finished with a piece about the kind of poems to avoid reading aloud, which left very little!

Heather opened with a poem called ‘Feet’, one of two poems written while away, which painted an almost surreal picture and yet was literally grounded. Using a theme of perceptions, Heather then read ‘How to identify an author at a reading’, a stunningly simple description, followed by poems about pregnancy with the fantastic line of ‘a belly that is feral with what it’s done’ and a three part poem that examined being pregnant from the outside, inside and bottom up, beautifully poignant. Heather has a lullaby voice, woos us into her world where ‘The kitchen floor’ gives us visceral images of home and heat and in ‘The cake is done, I am done’ a relationship is cooling. In ‘The sick room’ we watch as ‘he offers to feed you spoonfuls of himself’ and then takes us on a journey with poems about traveling through South America. Heather finished her set by advertising her ‘Fractured Self‘ anthology, a collection of poems that will focus on the different facets of human nature when impacted by illness, a brilliant concept and one I plan to contribute to.

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