Tag Archives: Luke Kennard

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.

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©Murdock Ramone Media

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!

September Review (better late than never)

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So the Christmas adverts haven’t gone unnoticed and I realise we are fast approaching the end of November, (I realise this as I haven’t started seasonal shopping yet)! It has been a really busy Autumn, which is great as this is the life I wanted… it does mean that my blogging time has diminished.

I have some great ideas how to utilise this blog in 2017 that will fit into the ever-increasingly busier patterns I now exist in. I will save the big reveal for the New Year whilst I focus on the backlog!


REVIEW OF SEPTEMBER

September was the most exciting month of 2016 so far, my debut pamphlet ‘Fragile Houses’ made it out of editorial and to the printers and I was able to get my teeth into something I do well, organising the Book Launch event and promoting.

fragile-houses-best I was always a little unsure how soon to the end of the process the book had to be before the promoting could begin. Hard work after keeping it a secret for so long. Frustrating though the length of time it all took was, I am glad we launched in October because it is close enough to still being NEW at Christmas! So if, like me, you haven’t started shopping yet…

The rest of September wasn’t too bad either.

Week 1

I finally managed to get back over to Permission to Speak, where Walsall Poetry Society had the headline slot. A collective of poets with a great range of work. Richard Archer – a poet from Walsall helped set this up. Richard has written 3 books of poetry and has performed his work on TV and radio. He describes his poems as a sideways look at life as he tries to dissect the world around him, failing or succeeding in equal measure.

Richard was joined by founding member Bryan Sydney Griffin a.k.a “LaGrif”, Marrianne Burgess, Paul Elwell, Ian Ward and Vicki MacWinyers.

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I was also delighted to see Steve Harrison there, our paths haven’t crossed in a while. Busy poets that we are, with a few Counties of separation. It was a good evening and it felt like coming home. Rob Francis is always so welcoming and it is a great venue to perform in with one of my favourite stages (because it is made out of old school desks) and features in one of my poems. It was lovely to share the evening with Claire Walker and Ian Glass.

I missed the Fringe Festival in Digbeth, as I was out celebrating my birthday (yes! It was in August), I like to party! It was at the expense of missing several submission deadlines this month though. I try to be kind to myself when that happens but the inner voice is screaming ‘GET ORGANISED GIRL!’

 

Week 2

I spent my time organising new term workshops for my Writing West Midlands group and sifting my way through the admin mountain.

I went to Waterstones to watch fellow V. Press poets David Calcutt, Kathy Gee and Claire Walker who have spent months planning ‘From Birth to Bone’, a scripted reading combining poems from all of their collections. I was a little gutted that Fragile Houses wasn’t out in time to participate, I have had conversations about collaboration for sometime. Still I have a few ideas to bounce around in 2017.

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It was a fabulous night and their work blended well. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was a jolly good performance. The other thing I loved was the programme. Listed on it were all the poems and the relevant pages from their books.

What I did manage to do was speak to Stuart, as an Area manager and Poet himself he is fully behind events in Waterstones. I have over the year attended several, but from this point onwards the book shop becomes my second home! I confirmed my book launch was to take place in Waterstones ! Oh, my wake me up – I am dreaming!

I went to SpeakEasy in Worcester where the featured artists was a three piece, ‘Threezacrowd‘ – Michael Thomas on words and Campbell and Jan Perry on music. SpeakEasy tends to be poetry so it was different to have some music and singing. Mike Alma and Pip Barlow brought us guitar and voice the month before.

mike-and-pip-barlow-mary-davis Photograph – Mary Davis

The photo is from the August SpeakEasy, where I read some of the canal poems (still in draft form) from our poetry trip. I was wearing my Tiller Girl badge and Alan Durham wore his pirate badge.

speakeasy Photograph – Mary Davis

I spent the rest of the week planning and promoting my Book Launch, working for Writing West Midlands, wrote endorsements for ‘Birth to Bone’ and my pamphlets became real and reached the editor. I still cannot believe I waited to pick them up for several days as our schedules weren’t matching.

They were published in time for the London Book Fair, which was exciting.

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Week 3

Following some summer preparation, I started organising INKSPILL – our online writing retreat. Sending emails and making contact with writers was fun and in the process have pretty much organised next year’s Guest Writers too.

It was also the first ‘Licensed to Rhyme’ – my most local poetry night! Finally my hometown can offer something and what a something it is. Maggie Doyle and Fergus McGonigal ran SpeakEasy for a couple of years and both took retirement from it earlier in 2016. Maggie and Fergus worked hard finding the perfect venue and pricing and all the millions of behind the scenes work, we never really consider.

licensed-to-rhyme The Advertiser

Spoz co-hosts the event with Maggie Doyle once a month. This first evening was a great success and because the venue is an Arts Centre (Artrix) we have professional sound and sound engineers to boot. We walked on to ‘James Bond theme music’ and the atmosphere was electric. Which all helps performers to perform well. I had a 10 minute Guest Spot and Maggie mentioned my pamphlet was to launch in a few weeks too.

Even more exciting was finally meeting Dreadlock Alien, a man people have constantly spoken about since I hit the circuit in 2014. I knew some of his poems and have seen him perform online but to meet him was thrilling and it was lovely to see a lot of the Birmingham crowd over here too.

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I also worked on (for hours) a professional writing website where people can find me, book me etc. A space I can keep for promo and work. And guess what? I found the only web space that doesn’t link to SEO on Google searches etc. which means unless I send the direct link – you cannot find me. I am limited by free webpages at the moment and many of these need you to install all sorts. I am tempted to use WordPress and as I bought ‘A Writers Fountain’, 16 years ago, I know I can do it again, when money flows a little better.

I still haven’t sat down to work this out but will spend those post-Christmas moments on it, ready to hit 2017 hard.

Come and see it anyway – http://ninalewis.webs.com/ – save it to your favourites, it may be the only way to find it again!

This is the week term started and for this half term I faced a new challenge, I have taken on a 3 day week. Okay, that doesn’t sound a lot but they are full paced and challenging days in a block and I am still on medication. What it will mean is I needn’t worry about not having enough work and it will give me a chance to build up skills with individuals, which is half the battle at the chalk-face or whatever it is called now we are all fully interactive.

It was also super busy with Poetry Events, such as Roy McFarlane’s book launch for his collection ‘Beginning with your Last Breath’- Nine Arches. roy-beg-last-breath

A superb event that took place in Wolverhampton at the Arena Theatre. This was a night I did manage to blog about in real time and you can read the post here.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/beginning-with-your-last-breath-by-roy-mcfarlane/

Hit The Ode was the next evening and I was just too exhausted by then to get myself back to the city, fortunately in a move of pure genius Carl Sealeaf was providing LIVE streaming, which was no way as good as being there – but was much better than missing it all. It also meant I had time for 2 hours worth of research and some book promotion work.

I also started to write properly again, something I haven’t really been able to do whilst the pamphlet was still in editorial.

I booked guest poets for my book launch; Roy McFarlane, Antony Owen and Claire Walker. Delighted they all agreed to read.

This week didn’t stop. On Friday I went to Kenilworth to see a Poetry Reading at the Talisman Theatre, curated by David Morley. Just in the foyer alone I was excited to see so many people, many I had seen just a couple of days earlier at Roy’s book launch. By far the most exciting sightings were John & Liz Mills, I had no idea they were coming, we have already decided to make a reunion of it next year, treating ourselves to pre-show dinner, after show drinks and a hotel. They had booked a hotel, I live a little nearer so opted for a night drive.

I also saw Julie Boden and that was a treat. So glad that she made it to the show.

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The show itself was mighty fine. I loved meeting and hearing new to me poets – Luke Kennard, who I have missed every time the opportunity has arisen, Sarah Howe who writes beautiful, honest poetry and Claire Trévien, who loves language and was a joy to watch/listen to. I enjoyed the sets from the poets I do know David Morley, Jo Bell, Jonathan Edwards too. They promised a special evening – and it was!

I really wish I had blogged about it at the time, because so much has happened since, it was a wonderful evening and I remember it fondly.

http://www.kenilworthartsfestival.co.uk/events/poetry

I missed Jo Bell’s workshop on Saturday as I was going to Worcester Music Festival to see The Anti-Poet, after missing them at WLF (Worcester LitFest) in the summer. I loved it! It was a total nightmare to park, but well worth the agro. anti-poet-2

After this I finally COLLECTED my PAMPHLETS!

It was also London Book Fair and although I couldn’t make it this year and missed the opportunity to perform Ambiguous Answers for Paper Swan Press,

 

my book did make it and I got to follow it all on Twitter.

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And FINALLY on Sunday I headed out to the MAC where I watched the new version of Ten Letters. The original last year was crowdfunded, a project that was the brainchild of Lorna Meehan and Spoz. This year they have a few new performers, lots of new writing and media and have been funded by the Lottery and Arts Council.

I was also asked to appear on a panel of writers on Radio – which I was jumping about over, until I realised it was a work day and I wouldn’t be able to get to the studio. However, I have been booked to do this in January. Which hopefully will be an easier month on the calendar and I will be all fresh and ready.

Week 4

This is the week of the Poetry Festival in Stratford-Upon-Avon and I was gutted to miss every event I had hoped to get to. After typing week 3 for the past hour, I can see why I didn’t have the energy to work, play and drive all over the place. The final performance from all the resident poets, ‘Unexpected Encounters’ was something I really wanted to see, but had booked (way back in August) my final birthday meal with friends, where we got to cook our food on hot volcanic rocks and this was something that couldn’t be undone. It was a great night!

It was also Leicester Shindig and I hadn’t realised Claire Walker was featuring there, missed it completely. Leicester was the city I came out as a poet in and performed spoken word for the first time.

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I had several invites to events I missed this week – it was hard enough to stay awake and work without going out in the evenings. I was getting in and falling asleep. I did admin tasks, promotion online and booked tickets for Swindon Poetry Festival. I also managed to get to the local Stanza meeting as well as taking a Headline booking for Stirchley Speaks next month, the night after my Book Launch. I also took my first booking for 2017 and booked up October.

On Sunday I read at Open Poetry in the Arboretum, Walsall and promoted my forthcoming pamphlet. It was a lovely afternoon.

 

The last 5 days – no wonder this month seemed so long!

I continued Market Research, promoting and organising the Book Launch (1 week to go).

I missed some submission deadlines.

Took pre-orders for the pamphlet.

Missed Poetry Bites and the Open Mic at Waterstones, 42 and a Scratch Night. I was attempting to take my editor’s advice and take it easy the week before the launch. Which I managed ALL WEEK and then at the weekend (with 48hrs to launch) I broke my promise to myself.

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MORE ON THAT IN THE OCTOBER REVIEW.