Tag Archives: Leon Priestnall

When Beat Poetry Howls. HOWL 8.2.17

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It has been far too long since I made it to HOWL, in fact far too long away from the circuit in Birmingham, it moves fast. New faces, new students, new performers. I was delighted to see people I knew at this event and fully expected to as the Headline line up was phenomenal: Bethany Slinn, Sean Colletti and Luke Kennard.

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It was lovely catching up with people before the event and during the intervals. A good many of us there just to listen and enjoy and celebrate…there are a lot of Birthdays this week! HOWL celebrated its 2nd Birthday this evening! A pinnacle Leon should be very proud of.

The Dark Horse, Moseley, was packed! Open mic spots were rarer than unicorn teeth but it didn’t matter, in fact I think I probably enjoyed myself more without the pressure/nerves of performing. My past few floor spots have not been me at my most shiny.

SS Leon P2

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Leon Priestnall always encourages the audience into a frenzied state and if he hadn’t, tonight his acts surely would have. The open mic-ers were ON FIRE and some of them brave enough to be taking to the stage for the first time, as for the Headline Acts… well:

Luke Kennard

Luke Kennard is the author of numerous works of poetry and short fiction. His second collection, The Harbour Beyond the Movie, made him the youngest writer to be nominated for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. In addition to poetry, he writes criticism & short fiction.

Kennard’s work is witty, extravagant and provocatively genre-bending. His first book, The Solex Brothers, consisted of six hilarious, highly energetic prose poems, whose modalities ranged from dramatic monologues, short fictions and dream narratives to Beckettian dialogues, passages of journalese, diaristic studies, and, in the volume’s Eliotic notes, some very funny cod-criticism (“I’m no fan of Eliot’s Great Tradition – which seems to have left us with lots and lots of really boring poems about old famous poets. Thanks a lot, keepers of the flame”).

While such diversity might in other circumstances dilute a reader’s sense of a poet, Kennard’s poems are unmistakably his own. His latest collection, Cain, was published in June 2016 and described by the Sunday Times as ‘Nabokov watching Netflix with John Ashbery.’ His first novel, The Transition, will be published by 4th Estate in 2017
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Sean Colletti

Born and raised in California (not the one near Quinton), Sean Colletti came to the UK to read Creative Writing at Birmingham University (BA) and the Universtity of East Anglia (MA). Choosing the lesser of two evils, Colletti returned to Birmingham for his PhD and to write his first novel – whilst performing ‘his first love’ at poetry events across the city. And if we’ve found the right Sean Colletti on Twitter, he also enjoys sci-fi, whiskey and losing at poker… sounds like a Friday night in to me. He has headlined at Hit the Ode, OOh Beehive and currently hosts Grizzly Pear for writers bloc at the University of Birmingham.

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Bethany Slinn

Fairly new to spoken word, having previously come from a theatre background, Bethany Slinn has gone on to perform her poetry locally this year in arts venues and has recently co-founded the Birmingham Poet’s Co-op. She uses her words for social action, for the connection, and for playtime and would describe the current state of them as dancing somewhere between poetry and preaching. Never-stop- being-curious. She most recently featrued at Level up and supported Hollie Mcnish at The Birmingham Rep

Leon Priestnall © 2017


I hadn’t seen Bethany before (told you I have been off the city scene for too long), her set was amazing and I loved the way she sent her mum out for one of the poems and then called her back in at the end. Recently graduated from a MA in Liverpool, she has hit the Brum scene performing at an event at the MAC, Level Up & Nexus Digital.

Sean Colletti, I have had the pleasure of watching before, but tonight he took us places that I never dreamt of going. Theatre of the soul. If you ever get a chance to see him perform, you should. But tonight he told us about his friend Jess, who took her life. The grief he has been living through. During his poem for Jess he asked us to stand up if we had ever experienced loss. Practically the whole room stood and then came the lines ‘the audience has just grown and no-one here is dreaming, no-one is screaming…’ we sat down after announcing the names of the lost. It was hugely moving. I cannot do it justice in writing, but Sean took our hearts this evening and he is entitled to a small part of each one of them. Muscle poetry at the deepest.

Luke Kennard, who is a powerhouse in the Literary world (‘Cain’ has made it to the Longlist for the Dylan Thomas Prize this week), dt%20prize%20logotreated us to another incredible set to close the evening. He made us laugh and ponder in equal measure. I love Luke’s poetry and his style of delivery, distinctive/distractive is a joy. He can make people feel happy instantly with his ease.


Luke Kennard is the author of numerous works of poetry and short fiction. His first collection of poems, The Solex Brothers, was published in 2005, and won him one of that year’s Eric Gregory Awards. His second collection, The Harbour Beyond the Movie, made him the youngest writer to be nominated for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. He has since published two further full collections, and two pamphlets, one of which, The Necropolis Boat, was the Poetry Book Society’s Pamphlet Choice in 2012. In addition to poetry, he writes criticism, short fiction, and is currently working on his first novel. He currently teaches English and Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham.

Kennard’s work is witty, extravagant and provocatively genre-bending. His first book, The Solex Brothers, consisted of six hilarious, highly energetic prose poems, whose modalities ranged from dramatic monologues, short fictions and dream narratives to Beckettian dialogues, passages of journalese, diaristic studies, and, in the volume’s Eliotic notes, some very funny cod-criticism (“I’m no fan of Eliot’s Great Tradition – which seems to have left us with lots and lots of really boring poems about old famous poets. Thanks a lot, keepers of the flame”). While such diversity might in other circumstances dilute a reader’s sense of a poet, Kennard’s poems are unmistakably his own. His skill and garrulity across a wide array of forms was extended in his third collection, The Migraine Hotel, demonstrating a propensity for politically-charged language-play in poems like “Army”:

Last week we had to fling a wall over a wall,

But we got the wrong wall:

We flung the wall over the wall

We were supposed to fling over the wall

We flung over that wall. It’s difficult to explain

Kennard’s Python-esque poems often elaborate surreal narratives, given a deadpan concreteness by excessively mundane details. “Chorus”, which can be heard on the site, describes a nightmarish visitation by a choir which will not leave the poem’s speaker alone: “One day the choir arrived without warning or explanation, / Sang the choir in four-part harmony, handing him toast.” Such lines illustrate Kennard’s remarkable facility for self-reflexive commentary. His poems often seem to derive their impetus for composition from an awareness of the impossibility of successful composition; in this sense, the opening of the monologue “[Jeremiah]” can be seen as a straightforward ars poetica: “Let’s say I already know this is going to fail. This’ll be easier if I try to give you an analogy. A parable.” The tendency to dramatise theoretical questions through parable is one shared with the great American poets John Ashbery and James Tate, but Kennard’s work differs from theirs in its exhibition of qualities which might be called “English”—endless self-deprecation, fidelity to grammatical and syntactical propriety, acute class-consciousness—which mark it out as something wholly distinctive.

As Kennard’s recording makes plain, performance adds an extra dimension to his poems’ meanings. In his highly expressive reading, the unpredictable narratives of his poems come to seem strange and inevitable, their unpredictable twists and turns grounded in the logic of a unique sensibility, which, as The Independent has described, “with urgency and generosity…addresses the world we live in now”. Poetry Archive © 2017


I had an incredible evening and it was great to reconnect with Najma Hush, also recently back on the Spoken Word scene.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY HOWL!

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More Poetry Events September Poets with Passion, PFL and Hit the Ode

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On Sunday 13th, I was back again at Café  1 birm ortin Birmingham, this time with Tessa Lowe and Poets With Passion. Once again it was lovely to reconnect with poets I hadn’t seen in a while and meet new people who love poetry. Tessa’s events are always relaxed and it was a lovely way to spend Sunday afternoon.

Before I left she asked Chris Fewings and I if we would be interested in leading the group as one off sessions. Depending on the weather, I have agreed for 2016.

I cannot wait to pick a theme and find poems.

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Poetry for Lunch with Jan Watts at the P Café, Stirchley 17th

Last year you may remember that Jan Watts, former Birmingham Laureate, ran a series of weekly poetry events in the ‘bear pit’ at the Library of Birmingham. Due to funding cuts the library was unable to repeat this successful programme in 2015.

I was delighted when Jan decided to re-launch PFL at the P Café and gutted that I had work booked and couldn’t attend the first event a week before.

It was a great event, lots of poetry was shared and they are creating a Smorgasbord of poetry on the wall at P Café from PFL.

The P Café is an amazingly creative place with a fantastic menu of delicious food, drinks and treats. The truffles are to die for and the atmosphere of the place breeds instant relaxation and happy vibes. I only wish I lived a little nearer!

The best moment at PFL has to go to Elaine Christie –

PFL ELaine

What are the chances of this happening – A fly landing on the page of my poem, when the next line I was about to read was – “Or lost in the flurry of flashing fireflies”

pfl dave pfl jan pfl me pfl mike pfl mogspfl 1

Photography Elaine Christie © 2015

Hit the Ode with Bohdan Piasecki (Apples & Snakes), Birmingham 17th

It was a busy old day for poetry. In the evening Myfanwy Fox (thanks for the lift) and I were in Birmingham for Hit the Ode. They have 3 headliners – a local, national and international poet.

Leon Priestnall (who hosts HOWL) was headlining in the local slot and he was on fire for his set.

The National Poet was Jackie Hagan from Manchester and the International poet was Toni Stuart from South Africa.

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Hit the Ode brings the most exciting poets from the region, the country and the world to the heart of Birmingham.

Join us! We have poems. Poems you can spread on toast in the morning. Poems which sing embarrassing songs under the shower. Poems which will heal if you apply steady pressure. Good poems, Come and get them.

Featuring:

From Birmingham, Leon Priestnall
A stalwart of the Birmingham poetry Scene, Leon is a poet with a passionate performance style, betraying influecnes ranging from hip-hop artists to the Beats. Leon runs the popular Howl event series in Kings Heath, and has been a Hit the Ode supporter for years – we’re delighted to finally be able to offer him a full slot. He will be joined on stage by a special musical guest.

From Manchester, Jackie Hagan
Jackie Hagan was raised on broken biscuits, by hecklers, in a little town that’s now studied on the GCSE syllabus as a ‘failed social experiment’. She performs poetry and comedy, is a playwright for Graeae Theatre and runs Seymour Poets, a creativity project for isolated adults based at blueSCI Arts and Wellbeing centre in Manchester. Jackie is the winner of the 2015 Saboteur Award for Best Spoken Word Show for Some People Have Too Many Legs.

From South Africa, Toni Stuart
Toni Stuart is a poetry writer, performer and developer from Cape Town, South Africa. Her work uses poetry to interrogate a range of social issues such as the stories of place and displacement, HIV/Aids, and gender-based violence. She was named in the Mail and Guardian’s list of 200 Inspiring Young South Africans for her work in co-founding I Am Somebody! – an NGO that uses storytelling and youth development to build integrated communities.

Bohdan Piasecki © 2015

The whole night was electrifying as always and I thoroughly enjoyed being back at HTO – (they take the summer off).

J. H © 2015

HOWL – Headlining: The Sun at the Station

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Following the wonderful writing workshop with Claire Walker on the 12th August, I went home to select & rehearse my set for HOWL.

HOWL is a monthly spoken word event hosted and created by Leon Priestnall.

©Murdock Ramone Media

©Murdock Ramone Media

They have 3 headline acts each month as well as open mic slots. I was delighted when Leon asked me to headline earlier this year. The date clashed with Ledbury Poetry Festival and Ruth Stacey’s book launch. So I had to wait some extra time to grab this opportunity.

HOWL is always a great night, without fail you will feel thrilled by the performers and leave on a poetry high every time. I think this energy is how I set myself alight (not literally) – I was in the 2nd headline slot and had to make it through the first half and interval before hitting the stage. I had memorised part of my set and was also anxious to get the poems right and hopeful that the set I had selected would work, as I didn’t have my poetry notebooks with me.

I think all performers in this position worry about whether the material is appropriate, if this is the right audience.

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I needn’t have worried the set was well received and I was delighted by people’s comments both on the poetry and my performance of it. I think this was probably my strongest headline set this year and I look forward to smashing through my own performance barriers another time.

The whole evening was exceptional. The open mic slots taken up by extremely talented poets.

The other headliners Sophie Sparham and Carl Sealeaf blew us all away. It was great meeting Sophie and reconnecting with Carl.

I am grateful to Leon for this opportunity and I still buzz just thinking about it!

HOWL

Birmingham’s Growing Poetry & Rhyme With Reason

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GROWING POETRY SCENE IN AN ALREADY VIBRANT CITY

In the past quarter there has been an influx of new talent in the city, young, talented and ambitious poets have taken a bite of the poetry scene, chewed it and decided they can also provide a delicious event for the rest of the city to chow down on… and they are not frightened to get everyone involved either, driven by spirit and desire over three new events have practically popped up overnight (of course, this isn’t true, beneath the tip of the iceberg (success) lies all the hard work and decision making)!

This post started out as a review of the Launch of Rhyme With Reason – Nicole Murphy’s new night of Spoken Word, in composing the opening paragraph I realised how much new poetry (events and performers) have sprung up in 2015 and how many of us get the opportunity to share with a new audience because of it.

So in case you are not from this wonderful middleland let me share with you the new gems and masters!

HOWL – Leon Priestnall – The Sun at The Station – Kingsheath

I met Leon in 2014 at Word Up, where he came and supported the acts and shared waffles and drinks with the poets. I remember talking to him about writing the first and second times our paths crossed. For a while he was a poet who didn’t perform (at least not at the events I saw him attend) and he was even existing without social media because I remember one of his first poetry videos doing the rounds in an experiment of exposure over social networking.

Anyway long story short he is a fine performance poet who has filled many Guest Spots this year all over the city and has also started his very own eclectically brilliant, beat inspired, spoken word night. The Sun at The Station first made it onto my radar with there UNPLUGGED nights every Sunday and although I saw lots of the Birmingham poets performing I thought it was primarily a music event and I am never sure how well my poetry stands on those stages, I have in the past – but I feel this time my writing has changed.

It wasn’t long before Leon had the venue pegged and created his own night HOWL Feat – which (due to other commitments) I wasn’t able to make in the early days. I have made it to two events, both superb and am Headlining along with others in August.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/3-in-a-row-mouth-music-howl-speakeasy-a-week-of-events/

©Murdock Ramone Media

©Murdock Ramone Media

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysVRsytlFpo

Leon Priestnall is a poet, writer and performer based in the West Midlands. Leon’s work battles back and forth between the personal and the observational, the angsty and the humorous but is always accessible. Leon has performed at various venues around the Midlands ranging from music events to burlesque. He was a runner up in the 2007 Spiel Unlimited Solihull Poetry Slam and has released two spoken word EPs in collaboration with musician Dan Hartland. He now runs spoken word night Howl at the Sun at the Station, Kings Heath.

STIRCHLEY SPEAKS – Jess Davies at the P Café, Stirchley.

SS Jess Davies

©Murdock Ramone Media

Jess Davies, who I first met through the 52 Project 2014 kicked new life off by discovering a pocket of Birmingham starved of words and brought Stirchley Speaks to the P Café. I was delighted to be at the launch night in May, missed June as I was away on holiday and am performing there in August.

http://www.pcafe.co.uk/poetry/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/06/10/poetry-wrap-5-a-brief-introduction-on-exhaustion/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCePHIIkNtY

http://jessmaydavies.tumblr.com/

Jess Davies is a Midlands based artist who dabbles in both the contemporary arts Scene and the Poetry scene. She was recently commissioned to write a poem for the museums at night tour at the local pen museum. Her writing is personal, heart wrenching, observational, heart wrenching, surreal and humorous. She currently runs Stirchley Speaks at the P Cafe in Stirchley.

LOUD MOUTH – Frankie Ryan, The Bond Co. Digbeth

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Frankie Ryan (a.k.a Ryan Murray)

©Murdock Ramone Media

I was on holiday and missed the launch of this event, I have heard good things and it is one for the future diary!

Loud Mouth

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfHbUmoPYic
Frankie Ryan is a poet, photographer and spoken word artist. He has performed regularly around the Birmingham scene. His first published piece ‘freedom lament’ launched the Birmingham book club section in Nubi Magazine back in may. July 3rd will see the launch of his own spoken word night ‘loud mouth’ and his first poetry collection ‘beyond your line of sight’ will be available later this year.

RHYME WITH REASON – Nicole Murphy, Alfie Birds, Digbeth

Nicole Murphy’s new night was my initial reason for this post, the launch night was phenomenally well attended and the performers came from as far as Bristol, the audience was a great mix – so many new faces to us all, which is what we hope with poetry events really – that Spoken Word filters out and gets reborn. It certainly did on Monday 6th July!

rhyme with reason It was a fantastic night including free cake and raffle tickets (for a Waterstones gift card), great performers and a brilliant venue. It was the start of a busy run of events for me and it was a great start, I left pumped full of adrenaline and was pleased to have met and watched Hannah Teasdale in action, as she headlined Word Up the same night I was performing for the first time in London – I am back there this summer, at the Poetry Café no less!

RWR started on the back foot, I had a particularly tiring day at work, arrived flustered and late in the city, had to park further away than I wanted to – but within minutes of the night kicking off I was there, back in my body and mind and enjoying life. A great first night!

Pangaea

Pangaea

Nicole Murphy

Up and coming poet from Walsall. Her poetry combines humour and powerful emotion. She has been a regular on the Birmingham scene for a while now but has recently started her own night ‘Rhyme with Reason’.

http://livebrum.co.uk/the-oobleck/2015/07/06/rhyme-with-reason

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/event/rhyme-with-reason/

©Murdock Ramone Media

©Murdock Ramone Media

I have been lucky enough to have seen ALL these wonderful fresh blood poets perform around the city and I have tried to make it to the opening night to support them. I missed one launch (sorry Frankie Ryan) as I was on holiday. I hope to make it to more of these events n the future!

Creative Poets on fire!

Poetry Wrap 6

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A funny week this one because it included a major poetry event, the Worcester Poet Laureate Final. I spent most of the week as a bundle of nerves swinging between trying to manifest positive thoughts or not think about it at all!

After my poetic adventure at Cannon Hill Park, I felt fairly worn out. To be fair it was the fifth event of last week. This week  I had work, two open mics, clothes shopping, appointments for Opticians (who messed up the lenses in my new specs) and at the Hair Salon (dread), as well as tutoring, attempting some writing and learning my poems by heart.

I was unfortunately too tired to get to Mouth & Music. At the beginning of the week I was working full time, Monday was a 16 hour day! I rarely do those anymore, unless it involves a desk and my laptop. Both Monday and Tuesday I went straight to bed and slept for a couple of hours. I wanted to get to the ‘Comedy themed’ night and have heard that it was great fun, I was just too tired. Tough call, but as I fell asleep before 10 PM, the right one.

I did manage HOWL – Leon Priestnall’s amazing night of poetry in Birmingham. It was a full audience and a fantastic, lively event.

Howl provides a space for the best spoken word artists in Birmingham to speak freely, no restraint, express themselves, provide food for thought, rock the house and entertain.

SS Leon P2 Leon Priestnall pictured here @ P Café ‘Stirchley Speaks’

© 2015 Murdock Ramone Media

Headline Acts

Unhindered Reign

Unhindered Reign are one of the leading spoken word duo’s on the Birmingham scene. Featuring at Spoken word Brum staples such as Level Up and opening for US slam champion Buddy Wakfield at Hit The Ode. With both top Knotch writing and performing styles- tackling issues both social and personal- Luci and Sipho, who make up Unhindered Reign, are two artists not to be missed for anyone who wants to see the best of what UK spoken word has to offer.

Glynn Philips

The man, The moustache, The myth…. You’re never quite sure what he’s going to pull out the bag- or even which of his alter ego’s is going to show up on the night. Rest assured you won’t mistake him in a line up!

Jess Davies

Jess Davies is a Midlands based artist who dabbles in both the contemporary arts Scene and the Poetry scene. She was recently commissioned to write a poem for the museums at night tour at the local pen museum. Her writing is personal, heart wrenching, observational, heart wrenching, surreal and humorous. She currently runs Stirchley Speaks at the P Cafe in Stirchley

HOWL

All headline acts were fab, I particularly liked Unhindered Reign (Luci Hammans and Sipho Eric Dube), as I hadn’t seen them before, I have seen both poets on the circuit but hadn’t seen either perform – together they are… legendary! Currently work for the BBC and George the Poet.

The open mics were filled by;

Timothy Scotson, Frankie Ryan (Ryan Murray), Nicole Murphy, myself – Nina Lewis, Abbie Foster (who it was a pleasure to meet), Anna Higgins (who has been around poets forever and finally made her debut performance- powerful indeed), Lexia Tomlinson, Leah Atherton, Oakley Flanagan, Tom Crossland and more.

An invigorating evening of poetry and an eclectic mix of styles and performances.

Worcester Lit Fest

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Worcester Lit Fest started on Friday 12th June with the Launch & Poet Laureate final, in which I was placed 3rd. Delighted! Here are links to posts about this event.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/finally-the-final-is-here-worcestershire-poet-laureate/

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/06/13/wlf-2015-the-launch-poet-laureate-final/

Saturday there were several events I wanted to attend. It was Caldmore Carnival and a few months ago David Calcutt started working on a group poem using our workshop poetry. We rehearsed a choral reading, sadly I was never able to go as it clashed with the last WWM meeting of the year, an important one in which I said goodbye to Ian MacLeod, the Lead Writer. I take over the group from September.

Evesham is also hosting the AsparaWriting Festival at the moment and Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, a well respected local author had organised an afternoon of poetry. It was Heather Wastie’s first official appearance as Worcestershire Poet Laureate and sounds like it was a great success.

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Heather Wastie current Poet Laureate, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn & Fergus McGonigal, Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2014-2015

I went to The Hive, where I saw this… QC HIVE

Writing West Midlands

The goodbyes were harder than I thought they would be. After spending a year and a half as an Assistant Writer for the Worcester Senior group, I am now taking over as Lead Writer. Read all about it here WWM

Worcester Lit Fest

Last night I went to an event ‘A Night at the Museum’ at the Royal Worcester Museum. It was a poetry book launch, to mark the end of Ben Parker’s Residency and celebrate the new Poet in Residence, Dr. Todd Swift, taking up his position. Chloe Clarke, Worcestershire’s Young Poet Laureate was also performing.

This book launch marks the conclusion of Ben Parker’s tenure as poet-in-residence at The Museum of Royal Worcester.

Ben Parker will be reading from a collection of poems produced during his residency, which will be available for purchase for the first time. This event also marks the beginning of Todd Swift’s residency at The Museum, and Todd will be reading from his highly acclaimed poetry.

Ben’s poetry has appeared in a number of magazines, including The White Review, Under the Radar and Oxford Poetry, as well as Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam. His debut pamphlet, The Escape Artists, was
published by tall-lighthouse in October 2012 and shortlisted for the 2013 Michael Marks Award.

Todd is a British-Canadian poet, publisher, critic and editor. He is the editor of numerous anthologies; and has published eight full poetry collections. His poems have appeared widely, including in Poetry Review, and Poetry
(Chicago).

In 2004 Todd was the Oxfam Poet-in-residence. He blogs at ‘Eyewear’ and runs the indie press Eyewear Publishing. Todd’s PhD in Creative and Critical Writing is from The University of East Anglia (UEA). He was born in Montreal, Quebec.

WLF © 2015

I saw all three perform at Ben’s Book Night at The Hive and was looking forward to relaxing into a chair and listening to them again. Great venue, inspiring art and beautiful words.

BP Chloe Chloe Clarke

Todd Swift BP Dr Todd Swift

BP Ben Ben Parker

BP Royal Worc   Ben Parker From Porcelein It was a lovely evening and I treated myself to Ben’s Pamphlet too. All proceeds go towards the museum, a kindness they appreciated.

http://www.museumofroyalworcester.org/working-the-kiln-by-ben-parker-poet-in-residency/

http://www.benparkerpoetry.co.uk/