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Poetry Out Loud: 'You' by Anthony Anaxagorou

Posted on June 17, 2016 by Yen-Yen Lu | 0 comments

 A powerful and personal poem from Out-Spoken Press publisher Anthony Anaxagorou. Each line is heartfelt and carefully constructed to resonate with the reader, listener, viewer, and the 'you' addressed in the poem. 

Anthony is a writer and performer based in London. His work has been featured on BBC Radio 6 and at the British Urban Film Awards. He founded Out-Spoken in 2012 and won the Groucho Maverick Award in 2015.

Anthony and Out-Spoken are well-established in the spoken word poetry scene in London, hosting live poetry events each month known as Out-Spoken Live where past performers have included Rob Auton, whose collections Petrol Honey and In Heaven the Onions Make You Laugh published by Burning Eye Books, Malika Booker, an international writer and Inpress board member, currently chairing the judging panel for the Forward Prize for Poetry, and Sarah Howe, winner of the TS Eliot Prize for her debut collection Loop of Jade. Out-Spoken also run poetry and creative writing masterclasses, which have been equally popular. More information on their events can be found on their website and Facebook.

 

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IRON Press editor Peter Mortimer muses on the strange rituals of live poetry readings.

Posted on May 12, 2016 by Rebecca Robinson | 1 comment

Those of you out there who regularly attend live poetry readings will recognise a certain sound when I describe it.

The sound comes from some audience members at the end of certain poems whose nature is – how shall we put it? – slightly enigmatic. The poet reads the final line – let’s for sake of argument say it goes, ‘so the black absence was folded into the crease of destiny’. There follows a short silence, which in turn is followed by a barely audible ‘mmmm’ noise.

This ‘mmm’ noise implies is that the listener fully appreciates that the poem is full of  deep significance without quite yet knowing what that significance is.

I have uttered this same ‘mmmm’ noise myself.  I utter it almost involuntarily. If I’m honest I must confess it means I don’t know what the poem is on about, but dare not admit to same and sense at least some response is called for. So the ‘mmmm’ noise seems a safe bet. When several audience members emit the ‘mmmm’ noise , it can sound like a  short Buddhist mantra.

Unlike with songs, at a poetry reading, the audience rarely claps each individual piece, which is considered bad form. Or maybe the reason’s because the total audience at most poetry readings could fit into a phone box (anyone remember phone boxes?), which would leave the applause sounding somewhat hollow.

I’ve organised many readings over the years. The poets themselves, much as I love ‘em, can drive me mad. You ask them (plead with them?) to limit their slot  to 25 minutes and two hours later with many of the audience either in a catatonic state, dead, or already propping up the bar in the Dog & Duck next door, the poet is still ploughing on.

‘I’ll make this my last poem’ is often the most heartening sentence I hear at a live reading. Unfortunately that final offering is often the length of Paradise Lost.

Poets are normally thought of as sensitive flowers, their antennae responsive to every aspect of the world around them.,  So how can they be so curiously self-absorbed? Witness the upsurge of Open Mic poetry nights when aspirants are invited to read their latest magnum opus.

Often a published poet is also on the bill, but the aspirants have no interest in this person.

The Barnsley poet Ian McMillan tells the tale of when he was the guest poet at an Open Mic slot event and read to an audience of minus two. There were only two people in the audience both of whom read their own work in the Open Mic first half.

By the time Ian McMillan got up to read in the second half the two had gone home.

People who bemoan the fact that the general public can no longer remember poems by heart should realise that neither can poets – not even their own work.

In maybe only five per cent of readings do the poets perform without the text in front of them. Normally their nose is glued into the book, often to the detriment of their voice projection. Imagine the uproar if singers did the same thing at a live performance.

The opaque nature of much modern poetry explains the often lengthy introductions by the authors at live readings. “Let me give you some background to this poem……” they begin, pointing out various vital references which the poem in isolation is unable to put into context. Pity the poor soul reading the poem in the book thus denied such background and facing possibly only obfuscation.

Some readings have been heady intoxicating affairs indelibly etched on the memory.  I’m unlikely to forget Allen Ginsberg, Ted Hughes, Basil Bunting or Hugh MacDiarmid, all at Newcastle’s famous Morden Tower poetry venue, built into the old city wall and hosting the world’s best poets since the 1960s (alas, now sadly in decline).

Poetry slams have become the modern vogue and this has seen the line between stand-up comedians and poets often blurred. Inject enough energy into your slam performance and even doggerel can sound appealing. Though as much modern  poetry is still po-faced the arrival of slam is welcome.

Some poets are so excruciating in live performance that they should never be allowed out of the garret. They could take a leaf out of amateur football’s book, where players turn out on windy Sunday morning park pitches with no expectation there will be any spectators, but enjoying it anyway. The activity, they realise, if for their own enjoyment.

It is so, alas, just so for some poets.

Despite claims for it to be ‘the new rock ‘n’ roll’ poetry is very much a minority activity. Most people at a live reading write poetry themselves. Imagine a barber where 90 per cent of his customers were other barbers. I often awake and wonder why after 42 years of publishing  the stuff, organising live readings and – probably worst of all! – even writing it but I continue, but it’s unlikely I’ll stop now. And that which we love, we also most readily mock.

Though I will attempt from hereon in to cut back on the number of times after a live poem’s final line, I am heard to utter the ‘mmm’ noise.

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Star Wars, Miley Cyrus, and Scottish independence: 'Strange Keys' by Ash Dickinson

Posted on April 01, 2016 by Yen-Yen Lu | 0 comments

The latest collection by multiple slam champion Ash Dickinson, titled Strange Keys, will be published next month by Burning Eye Books. In it, he discusses an eclectic selection of topics, including Scottish independence, Miley Cyrus, and a three-minute summary of Star Wars which he also reads in the video below. He also tackles issues of misogyny and sexism in contemporary Western culture with a voice that combines rap, poetry, and stand-up. 

Ash Dickinson has performed across the UK with his poetry, including at festivals such as Edinburgh Fringe, Bristol Poetry Festival and The Camden Crawl. He has also performed in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the US, and had a six-day feature tour in Canada. 

This collection follows his debut, Slinky Espadrilleswas also published by Burning Eye Books.

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Of Rainbows and Roadkill: Let the Pig Out by Chris Redmond

Posted on March 18, 2016 by Yen-Yen Lu | 0 comments

Chris Redmond, already well established on the spoken word scene, will debut his collection Let The Pig Out, published by Burning Eye Books, this month.

It is a fusion of performance writing and page poems, mixing story forms with internal rhymes and rhythms and touching on a range of topics including fox racing, fatherhood, rainbows and road kill. Candidly explored with a playful heart, this collection has a compulsion to explore the friction between cynicism and idealism.

Chris Redmond founded and hosts Tongue Fu, which is heralded as "the best poetry night in London".  Below is a performance of the poem which gives its name to the collection.

Let the Pig Out is available to buy on our website.

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How to be erotic, by Emma Wright.

Posted on February 08, 2016 by Rebecca Robinson | 0 comments

 

Eroticism is one of those concepts which can be hard to pin down. It means different things to different people, and thus is endlessly fascinating, but when you’re trying to select poems for an erotic anthology it helps to have some criteria in place. Over the course of editing Mildly Erotic Verse, I formed various opinions about what makes poems erotic, so I thought I’d share some below, with the proviso that this is not an exhaustive list.

  1. Mundane details. I think that airbrushed fantasies can often seem like a good idea, but you’re much more likely to find eroticism in relatable human experiences. I’ve got a soft spot for distinctly unglamorous settings in poems, which is why I adore Holly Magill’s ‘The boy who loved welding’:

His overalls sweated
oil onto my office-white
shirt and the zip broke
on my new skirt.

  1. Personal histories. Sex isn’t just a stately pavane starring the gonads – it’s nearly always more complicated than that, inextricable from your romantic history, your hang-ups, and everything going on in your head. I like the way Camille Ralphs’ ‘Yours truly, Stephen Dedalus’ combines an erotic fantasy with terrible guilt, and is none the less erotic for it:

[…] I’ve felt your body shimmer
             on my skin like dawn

on a waterlogged meadow, your hot breath
floating freckles from my cheek. Or I have
dreamt it, and felt so, so sorry.

  1. I nearly always find descriptions of people’s thoughts more interesting than descriptions of what their bodies are doing. For me, the brain is where the real erotic stuff happens, which is why Ruth Stacey’s ‘Come With Me’ is so appealing. In it, lovers trade descriptions of where their minds wandered during sex:

Versailles: gold bed posts with raspberry
corset and cloud-white stocking ruffles,
you were a rakish courtier – and you?

  1. Poetry is a fantastic medium for preserving the ambiguity of ideas, which is why it works so well with eroticism. I love the tumble of nonsense in Nisha Bhakoo’s ‘Mad flash’, which makes no sense but also gets its point across:

Your face is on fire
as you take in my raven
moist and cake
naughty behind curtains

  1. Eroticism is inconsistent! Sometimes the direct approach works just as well, and the erotic charge comes from some unexpected honesty and revelation. Lynn Hoffman’s ‘Rhyming Rita and Silver Sam’ is joyously direct, cataloguing the motions of an old, affectionate couple:

She gathers him in, he fits just so you know.
He kisses lips and neck and breasts and belly,
he’s an avalanche, our Silver Sam,
down Rhyming Rita mountain.

Mildly Erotic Verse, edited by Rachel Piercey and Emma Wright, published on 29th January 2016 and is on sale now (£10).

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