Tag Archives: Waterstone’s

Nine Arches Press Summer Party

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Nine Arches Press know how to throw a party! I missed it last year as I was performing elsewhere but – having kept a do it next year section of my 2016 diary, I knew it was coming up and booked my tickets as soon as it was announced back in June!

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I had a busy day and went for a power nap before catching my train into Birmingham. Mr. G. came home and found me still asleep. I haven’t moved so fast in a long time. I managed to catch the train and arrive at Waterstones just in time.

It was lovely (and not a surprise) to see so many poets there. They had a good crowd and there were lots of people I didn’t know too.

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Jane Commane (Nine Arches Press) introducing the poets and welcoming us to a party complete with Flamingo straws. Image  © 2017 Cynthia Miller

I was really excited when I saw who was on the list this year and there readings were all captivating.

Gregory Leadbetter has had all of his launches/readings whilst I have been elsewhere, so even though his book was released last year this was my first opportunity to hear him read it. He also hosted the event, using the book sleeves of the new publications to introduce each Guest Poet.

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© 2017 Nine Arches

I thoroughly enjoyed his reading, I had heard several of the poems before at events but listening to a full set was a real treat. I will be putting ‘The Fetch’ on my birthday list. For a first collection it is extremely strong.

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Gregory Leadbetter’s first full collection of poems, The Fetch, brings together poems that reach through language to the mystery of our being, giving voice to silence and darkness, illuminating the unseen. With their own rich alchemy, these poems combine the sensuous and the numinous, the lyric and the mythic. 

Ranging from invocation to elegy, from ghost poems to science fiction, Leadbetter conjures and quickens the wild and the weird. His poems bring to life a theatre of awakenings and apprehensions, of births and becoming, of the natural and the transnatural, where life and death meet. Powerful, imaginative, and precisely realised, The Fetch is also poignant and humane – animated by love, alive with the forces of renewal.

‘The Fetch is a terrific, precise and dazzling collection. The whole book exemplifies a poetry of being that shows what is possible when we allow ourselves to be fully human in our perception and poetry.’ – David Morley
© 2017 Nine Arches Press
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© 2017 Stuart Bartholomew

I am a big fan of Angela France’s work and what is special about her latest collection ‘The Hill’ is I have been privy to the inside of the work for the past two years. I have done workshops using Archive materials with Angela, who has just spent the past two years deep in records of the past. I also know that the places she writes about are places she knows well. I missed her Launch in Ledbury and have resisted buying a copy of her book until I heard her read.

I particularly enjoyed the use of Anglo Language found in a short sequence of work in this book. I think place and people are two subjects that grip me,  for anyone who feels the same this collection is for you!

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Here, we encounter ghosts, foxes and ancient kings. We meet the protestors who, years before the Kinder Scout Trespassers, were standing up for their rambling rights and took the law into their own hands in 1902 when a landowner tried to enclose the hill they had walked for generations. And though history is never far from the surface, The Hill raises questions that are just as important today; who has the right to roam, whose land is it, anyway?

“these are words that make you ache for the place.” – Phil Smith, author of Mythogeography and On Walking

 © 2017 Nine Arches Press

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Rishi Dastidar’ Ticker Tape was released earlier this year. I have known of Rishi for a while but only met him in Ledbury Poetry Festival this year.

His set was fresh and different. His poetry is distinctive and the themes cover a lot we can recognise, modern poetry for the 21st Century. I enjoyed the wit of his work and the pleasure he takes in performing it.

From politics to pop, from the UK to California, wherever digital heartbeats flutter and stutter, Ticker-tape is a maximalist take on 21st century living. Rishi Dastidar’s first full collection showcases one of contemporary poetry’s most distinctive voices, delivering effervescence with equal servings of panache and whiplash-quick wit.

Here is sheer madcap ingenuity and also impressive breadth; ranging from odes of love to deconstructed diversity campaigns and detonations of banter’s worst excesses, plus appearances from ex-SugaBabes, a shark who comes to tea, to the matters of matchstick empires and national identity. Ticker-tape is bold, adventuresome and wry – an unmissable and irrepressible debut.

 © 2017 Nine Arches Press

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And finally –DFa0G2FXkAA8038

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Tania Hershman who claimed not to be a poet when I met her a few years ago. She is/was a published author who had started to cross to the poetry genre. It is a good idea to expand your repertoire and flex your writing muscles this way.

What is unusual is to have a first collection published by a well established publisher within a couple of years of starting out.

A huge achievement. A pleasure to listen to.

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 © 2017 Nine Arches

Tania Hershman’s debut poetry collection, Terms and Conditions, urges us to consider all the possibilities, and read life’s small print before signing on the dotted line. These beautifully measured poems bring their stoical approach to the uncertain business of our daily lives – and ask us to consider what could happen if we were to bend or break the rules, step outside the boundaries and challenge the narrative.
In feats of imagination and leaps of probability, falling simply becomes flying, a baby collects the data and scrolls through everything it sees, and there are daring acts of vanishing and recreation. Be wary, for even the evidence here often leads us astray. And in between this, Hershman’s precise poetry elegantly balances the known, unknown and unknowable matter of existence, love and happiness, weighing the atoms of each, finding just the exact words that will draw up the perfect contract of ideas.
Praise for Terms and Conditions:
‘This is a sophisticated debut collection by a writer already well known for her inventive short stories.’ – Kathryn Maris

‘There is a plenitude and a loss to Tania Hershman’s Terms & Conditions. A plenitude of tones and forms and linguistic playfulness, and a fine sense of loss that spins and passes through the poems.’ – Simon Barraclough 

‘In her debut collection of poetry, acclaimed writer Tania Hershman reveals the strange intricacies of science and our daily lives. Here, we find a cabinet of curiosities: Elvis and Marilyn, fire ants, cake and wind turbines. Hershman gifts the reader with collisions of grief and laughter, joy and curiosity. A wonder.’- Doireann Ní Ghríofa
‘Tania Hershman’s work is full of brilliant and passionate observations on dreams, falling, names and dancing, they are moving, loving meditations on how we move and love, what it feels like to be alive.’ – W.N. Herbert

It was a superb night and we all had time for mingling and chatting too. A delightful summer’s evening and the kind of party I really like nowadays… relaxed, with books and booze!

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 © 2017 Nine Arches

Cheltenham Poetry Festival

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This year’s programme was fantastic and I wish I had managed more events than I did. I however, managed a full dose of Hegley – which makes up for missing the rest of the long list of performances and events I wanted to attend.

John Hegley is one of the few poets that I discovered in my Young Writer years – back when he was touring with his band, Popticians. In fact one of the few university birthdays I remember was watching them at the Phoenix Arts Centre and meeting him.

There was a Hegley shaped hole for a while – he seemed to have disappeared – possibly into fatherhood – for the past few years he has been back on the radar. Or on my radar at least. Some of you will remember my posts from his performances and workshops back in 2015.

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I was delighted to see New and Selected Potatoes as an error in reading dates on a flyer meant I missed him at the MAC. It was an enjoyable show, thoroughly entertaining as one would expect – but the magic treat was bestowed on Cheltenham that night in the Playhouse. We were privy to a new poem, something he is working on for the Roundhouse. I always feel privileged when my ears get an inside like this.

I finally bought John’s book and had a lovely chat about the show, because he is a very kind man who always spends time with each person queuing for a signature. Someone in the line behind me nearly bought a book that wasn’t one of his – I am sure he would have signed it anyway, he has a big heart like that.

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I made a night of it by going for an Italian meal with friends who had been to see the show too.

The following day, (I know I should have booked a B&B) I was back in Cheltenham to enjoy my second Hegley workshop. It was great fun, a good group and lots of people I did not know, which is always exciting for me. We had taken a poem and some art and most of our activities were based around these.

John had us all write about Potatoes too (of course) and crowd sourced a fantastic poem for Anna Saunders *Director of the festival – I will have to go and see if she has had time to use it anywhere.

It was a fabulous morning and finishing slightly before time I headed down to Waterstones with John and Anna, chatting and narrowly missing lampposts along the way! Once at Waterstones, I mingled with the poets from the Open Mic event which had finished and caught up with friends. Then John started his impromptu take over of the floor. (Photos to follow.)

We all joined in with a choral poem and had a great time before he was whisked away to that place festival poets go and I was left to retrace steps and try to find my car before the ticket ran out!

Next year, I have to plan work better to be released for this poetry festival.

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Sabotage Reviews – Verve Poetry Festival

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I can now reveal why all went quiet on reviewing Verve Poetry Festival last month… I was writing this review for Sabotage Reviews. I am delighted they have posted it and I will now (when I have time), resume the blog posts before I forget all the details of the events!

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http://sabotagereviews.com/2017/03/25/verve-poetry-festival-16-19th-february-2017/

I am really chuffed to have had the opportunity to write this! Get it in your diaries for next year.

 

Verve Poetry Festival: Day 3 Poetry Breakfast

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Verve Poetry Festival had nearly 40 events, I spent the whole day at the festival both Saturday and Sunday, missing only the children’s events some workshops and some performances (because of workshops).

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POETRY BREAKFAST

Saturday kicked off with Roz Goddard and Cynthia Miller treating us to a Poetry Breakfast. Free pastries and Philip Larkin Jazz – what is there not to like? Roz opened the event with her love poem to Birmingham.

Cynthia talked about the programme and how the festival evolved from an enthusiastic tweet. One the rest of the city is grateful she sent. They hoped for an accessible poetry festival and that is exactly what they created with Verve. They wanted to reflect the spirit of Birmingham, the passion and drive and they certainly accomplished that too.

Cynthia is one of the new Primers poets (Primers Vol. 2) from The Poetry School and Nine Arches Press and will see her poetry published soon. She shared ‘Anthem for a Nasty Woman’.

Roz talked candidly about falling out of love with poetry and then falling back in love for it with the help of this festival. We all lose confidence and fall out with poetry from time to time, for me it is a weekly occurrence. It always feels good to hear others talk about what you experience, as it answers that question – is it just me? – with a resounding NO!

I really enjoyed waking early and catching a bus into town to catch this FREE event, it was definitely worth it. Even though the decision not to do a writing activity stung (my brain was ready), instead we did Speed Dating (hold onto your hat Mr.G, not like that)! It was a genius idea as it got us mingling and talking to each other about the festival and the future of poetry. We swapped three times, discussing a cue question given to us by Cynthia and moved on at the sound of a Tibetan Singing Bowl (perfect for the early hours). It was fun watching Birmingham wake up behind the screen (festival marquee).

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A great way to greet a full on day of poetry and workshops.

And it was FULL ON. The team have realised that scheduled breaks are necessary, especially as they had certain hard-core participants (Dean Atta, I may be looking at you and Angi Holden) who did 3 back-to-back workshops, that is 6 hours of focus. That is beyond most of us.

 

RELATED LINKS

Reviews of the Dice Slam and reading from Friday Night, Outspoken and Nine Arches – read them here: http://createdtoread.com/poetic-delights-verve-poetry-festival/

https://burningeyebooks.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/verve-poetry-and-diversity/

 

Verve Poetry Festival Day 2 – Part 2: Dice Slam with Apples & Snakes

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What Verve did really well and the secret behind the magic of the festival was the fusion between Spoken Word and Poetry. I always knew this was possible and the team proved it. What I really loved was people’s reaction to Spoken Word – those who had not experienced it before or wouldn’t brave a city event, found that they loved it.

There was plenty of talk over the weekend of the age demographics for both types of event but by the end of the weekend the spaces were filled with a wide range and people began to understand that it doesn’t matter. They stopped seeing it. If poetry is to thrive we need to have this commitment and enthusiasm for bridging a gap that technically doesn’t have to exist. It of course depends on what you like and I am just happy that I immerse in both forms comfortably.

To come from the relative quiet of the 2nd floor Festival Marquee to the loud, riotous mouth of the 1st floor Bar Stage and immerse ourselves in foot stamping, witness the clicking of appreciate and the howls after every poem performed was, even for a veteran of the spoken word scene, a bit of a culture shock. Like hitting London after a long weekend in the Isle of Wight!

I have been to slams, I have even braved one as a contestant. Now that I know work by heart I may brave some in the future. I had never been to a Dice Slam and I appreciate the Dadaism of scoring through chance, a roll of the dice. It made me feel sorry for the contestants with scores as low as 3 when their performances were clearly double figures, but on the other hand it took away that horrible scoring process that is always subjective at such events.

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Toby Campion, Vanessa Kissule, Skye Hawkins, Charley Genever and Kareem Parkins-Brown were the contestants and I looked forward to every performance as none are names I know. My experience of Spoken Word is bound to the city and some of the big names who headline throughout Poetryville. I love festivals for the potential of meeting and watching new to me poets.

This was an incredibly lively event, hosted by Amerah Saleh, who is a poet I know from her days with Beatfreaks and on the circuit of Birmingham. I first saw her perform at Mouth & Music on home turf. She was also one of four Podium Poets at this year’s festival. The others were Helen Calcutt, Jasmine Gardosi & Geraldine Clarkson.

THE JUDGES

We were introduced to the judges who all performed. Anna Freeman, a lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she is also a multi-winning slam poet and if that wasn’t enough she is also a novelist. http://www.annafreemanwriter.com/

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I loved her ‘My Little Pony Poem’… ‘My Unicorn Friend, branding is a capitalist concept – so I explain this to the other six year olds…’

Dan Simpson is a poet and a producer and has a Doppelgänger working behind the café/bar in Waterstones and is published by Burning Eye. http://www.dansimpsonpoet.co.uk/verve-2-dan-simpson

© 2017 Dan Simpson (I presume)

In a peak of genius which was in keeping with the Dadaism of Dice Slamming, Dan brought this book along with him to use as a judging tool. requesting page numbers from the audience before scanning the page for relevance or reading non-relevance to justify the scores. Sometimes the universe worked and the reading was as apt as a fortune cookie fortune… other times more of a Christmas cracker joke.

Memorable, surrealistic performance… ‘what kind of 90s feminist, Disney character sandwich filler are you?’

Luke Kennard

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Who after years of not getting to see seems to be in my life right now as much as full meals. (Yesterday I had my first proper dinner for a week, so I am suggesting Luke pops up in my schedule weekly/monthly and not everyday… his family would have something to say about that I am sure!) If you haven’t discovered Luke yet, please do.

He is the new canal laureate and a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Birmingham University. He has published collections for more than 10 years, the most recent ‘Cain’ published by Penned in the Margins and has also just published a novel ‘The Transition’. transition-topping-books© 2017 Topping Books

https://www.toppingbooks.co.uk/events/bath/novelist-luke-kennard/

They had the tough job of validating dice scores and they did so with hilarious monologues/comments of worth and woe. As entertaining as the performers, although the performers threw us some very serious poem curve balls too.


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The five featured poets are all ridiculously talented writers and performers, and will converge on Birmingham from every corner of the country. It will be the first time Sky Hawkins (the North), Toby Campion (the Midlands), Kareem Parkins-Brown (London), Charley Genever (the South East), and Vanessa Kisuule (the South West) share the same stage. You may have seen some of them individually, of course, but the Dice Slam at Verve Festival really is a rare opportunity to check the pulse of poetry on a national scale at a single event. And to stop you feeling homesick, the local touch will be provided by our host, Birmingham’s own poetry powerhouse Amerah Saleh.

© 2017 Verve Team

Toby Campion reminded me of my time living in Leicester, he was very excited to be part of the Slam and grabbed hearts with his Midlands Poem. A conversation with the North and South… ‘you never acknowledge the Midlands, despite having been attached for thousands of years!’

Sky Hawkins opened the night with spectacularly hard hitting poetry. ‘Do not let the wolves teach your sons… especially if your sons are half wolves themselves.’ She was the overall winner. Receiving a massive 11 points from the dice.

Charley Genever stormed it- her Meal Deal poem went down particularly well. I liked the darkness of her poetry and that stunning flame/net mesh dress. (I know we shouldn’t belittle women by commenting on their fashion. I will mention Kareem’s bright orangey puffer jacket for balance here.) ‘A woman consumes in shades…’

Kareem Parkins-Brown performed his cake poem to great response. ‘I’d risk it for some lemon drizzle..’ and of course it opened the debate over Jaffa Cakes (biscuit)! Listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/kareempb/cake (WARNING: Contains swearing, but you will hear how much the audience enjoyed his set).

Vanessa Kissule also pulled incredible set out of the bag having already enjoyed all other performances. I was immersed in the moment and was delighted to get to meet her briefly after the show. ‘Youth is made for bright colours and hemlines that hug upper thighs’

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It was a fantastic second night at the festival.


Dice Slam originated in the Netherlands when Bernhard Christianssen tried the format for the first time. There has only ever been one in the UK before and that was 6 years ago. (Before I hit the poetry scene or even started writing again.) No doubt it was brought to you by Apples & Snakes/ Bohdan Piasecki.

Photography unless otherwise stated © 2017 Waterstones/ Verve Team

Verve Poetry Festival Day 2 – Part 1: Kim Moore, Mona Arshi and Katrina Naomi

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I really wanted to create this post Friday night, but I was too tired. I have had 7AM alarm calls and 36 hours clocked at Verve in contrast to 14 hours sleep over 3 nights. I really wanted to post whilst the adrenaline was my driving force because my memories and emotions are still connected at that point.

Day 2 was another all evening event including: Kim Moore, Mona Arshi, Katrina Naomi, Toby Campion, Vanessa Kissule, Skye Hawkins, Charley Genever and Kareem Parkins-Brown in two separate events, both of which I was really looking forward to.

The programme is amazing and there are so many poets involved. A year in planning and such a smoothly operated inaugural festival… so smooth in fact that some people have mistakenly thought it has been running for years. I keep telling the team what a great job they are all doing and there is the proof! ^^^

I bought a festival pass, but had I been ticketing each event I would definitely have bought tickets for the first 4 events of the festival (Thursday & Friday night).

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We started with a reading from Kim Moore, Mona Arshi and Katrina Naomi, three multi-award winning poets, this event was sponsored by Birmingham City University and introduced by Jonathan Davidson, who also ran the Q&A.

I enjoyed the readings and discovering more about the poets, drawing parallels with my own decisions. I enjoyed them talking about Birmingham and how much the city has changed. I remember when I first came back after a decade away and the whole town had found ‘sparkle’, I lost my way, most of my landmarks and subways had disappeared.

Last time I heard Kim Moore read was at Swindon Poetry Festival last year. Mona Arshi also read at Swindon, which is where/when I discovered her and her beautiful work. I was in a Master Class with Daljit Nagra and wasn’t able to meet her properly or buy her book as we had to rush back to our notebooks.

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Kim Moore read from The Art of Falling, Seren Books. I loved hearing her teaching the trumpet days stories, I know what it is to have 30 children all with violins and at least 8 of them attempting to make the worst noise because the last thing they want to do is play it! Kim and I have both made huge decisions leaving full time teaching to be poets. I really wanted to buy her book in Swindon but I bought so many that I had to draw the line somewhere. I particularly liked ‘All the Men I Never Married’.

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Mona Arshi read from Small Hands, Pavilion Poetry Liverpool University Press. Mona talked about the form used with poems in this collection, the ghazal, originally an Arabic form, her passion evident. She shared ‘Hummingbird’ an early poem of hers that she has stopped reading. She talked about writing about her twins and at the mention of the ‘Jinn Spirit’ a decoration fell down. A lingering line ‘essence of girl darkness…’

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Katrina Naomi was my wild card, my new to me poet. I love festivals for this reason. It was a delight to hear her read. She opened her set with a poem about her mother, which focussed on one of those 70s swimming hats with the flowers all over them. Katrina read from The Way the Crocodile Taught Me also Seren Books.

Listening to all three women sparked inspiration. I am hoping to write some Nan poems, play with some new forms, look at using repetition successfully and probably some poems about boys.

These poets gave us their real insides tonight, I do not just mean ‘spilled guts’, I am talking about the honesty and truth. They could have chosen far less exposing poems to share but they gave us the blade edge.

Jonathan Davidson asked questions at the end and we heard from each poet about how they got into poetry. Mona returned to it during her difficult pregnancy (I returned through illness), Katrina said she fell into poetry by mistake (which is what I always say about teaching) and Kim was squeezing it in around the day job (which is my current transition, although I have graduated  with book ending my week with writing days).

“It’s an exciting adventure.” Kim Moore – on poetry.

“Poetry is transformative. Poetry discovers you, you have to write it. It’s a compulsion.” Mona Arshi

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At the end I planned to talk to all three poets. Which I did. I also bought copies of all three books using Christmas money.

 

RELATED LINKS

http://literatureworks.org.uk/features/katrina-naomi/

Verve Poetry Festival Opening Night

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Verve Poetry Festival Opening Night

Verve Poetry Festival

I cannot express how excited I am that Birmingham finally has a poetry festival. It was the brainchild of a renown collective and blends spoken word and page poetry perfectly, as it should be. Poetry is such a small part of the universe that to segregate it further has always seemed a little absurd to me. Candy Royalle is a firm believer that ‘poet’ covers it.

http://vervepoetryfestival.com/about/

They don’t actually name themselves: Stuart Bartholomew (the God of Waterstones), Cynthia Miller, Emma Wright of the Emma Press & Bohdan Piasecki.

I have been counting down since November when I attended the V.I.P Launch and saw the programme the following day. Before the end of the week I had bought my festival pass. Reimbursed with additional travel expenses by Mr G. for Christmas, my mum bought me my workshop tickets for Christmas too and doesn’t it always taste better when it is FREE?

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I am kicking myself that I didn’t keep up with the announcements beyond social media, as I discovered late Wednesday night some of the programme had to be changed.

We have made some changes to our programme for Sunday 19th Feb at Verve. Most notably, Melissa Lee-Houghton has had to pull out of the festival for personal reasons. This has left a hole in the programme, as Melissa was due to run a workshop in the afternoon as well as reading at the evening headline event alongside Penned In The Margins stable-mate and Birmingham based Luke Kennard, and excellent Bloodaxe poet Shazea Quraishi.

It is a hole we have been working hard these last few days to plug, and plug it we have. Shazea Quraishi was thrilled to be asked to run a workshop in Melissa’s place from 1-3 PM. While Melissa was going to be getting her workshoppers to focus on the idea of writing to, Shazea will instead focus on writing as.  

For the evening headline event, we decided to ask to excellent Ruby Robinson to read for us in Melissa’s place, and we have to say we were thrilled to bits when she agreed. Ruby has had an glorious year on the back of having her first collection, Every Little Sound, published by Pavillion Poetry – being short-listed for the Felix Dennis Prize for best first collection and the T.S. Eliot Prize. Collette Bryce wrote, ‘Every Little Sound is an extraordinary first collection from a very gifted young poet.’ We are so excited to hear Ruby read and feel she has added something to our evening headline event that it didn’t possess before. It will be a wonderful reading.

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I am really excited about meeting Ruby, who I discovered through INKSPILL 2016 (our online writing retreat right here on this blog).

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This morning I found out Robert Harper/ Bare Fiction is doing Poetry surgeries for FREE over the weekend. All 8 slots are fully booked now of course.

http://vervepoetryfestival.com/poetrysurgeries/

Speaking of surgeries, I was diagnosed with Sciatica years ago and rarely suffer. Yesterday as I arrived at work my back went and I was in agony all day. Driving, getting the train and then sitting for 4 hours has not helped. After a soak, a massage and a hot water bottle I only managed about 3 hours sleep. I am now dosed with pain killers and trying not to sit for too long! It is the only thing that will ruin this weekend for me. I saw from last night’s sneezy front row that nothing is keeping any of us away! I am packing a cushion and a mini hot water bottle for tonight and probably catching the bus so I won’t need to drive.


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Last night was as incredible as I knew it would be and it was fabulous to share it with an array of poetry friends. I love festivals for catching up with everyone and spending time amongst the throngs of poets. It was great to see that there was audience present as well as writers amongst the festival goers – a great treat for anyone and EVERYONE!

I arrived about an hour early as I know better than to trust city train services. This gave me a chance to chat to friends and relax before the night unfurled. It was lovely to see Daljit Nagra again and I really appreciated the chat we managed before he was whisked away to the Green Room! The Barista helped, having put our coffees on the same tray it would have been awkward for either one of us to refuse the other’s company. I was delighted, of course. I think Daljit has a genuine interest in other people and their poetry/lives. I took his Masterclass in Swindon last year at the Festival and am delighted that he will be Poet in Residence this year.

The opening night combined two events that happen regularly in Birmingham. The Poetry Parlour is hosted at Waterstones and features a poet and an Open Mic format and Hit the Ode, probably needs no introduction. One of the biggest poetry nights organised by Apples and Snakes and hosted by Bohdan Piasecki. This was a Thursday night guaranteed to ROAR!

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The Festival Stage was fully decorated, fairy lights, bunting, the famous green chairs and Roz Goddard was our glamorous host.

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© 2017 Emma Wright

Jane Commane interviewed Daljit with quality questions and he talked about several collections. After that he read and we were spellbound. Pin drop audience moments.

Then an interval followed by the open mic section. I had pre-booked a slot for one poem, I think that was a great idea to maximise the usual 8-9 poets to 12. Actually Roz made the decision to invite an extra 3 readings, treated to 15 poets/poems. A great range of voice. I performed ‘Your Gift’ from Fragile Houses.

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Then to complete the evening the winner of the Verve Poetry Competition performed an incredible set. I didn’t enter this competition and I am regretting not being organised enough to make the deadline because Saturday and Sunday will be filled by the anthology that was published from the entries, including an opportunity for work to be read. I know many/most/probably all the poets who are bound in this collection and it is on my must buy list. Which is so incredibly long that I have already marked out the books to buy later in the year. Waterstones have a eye-catching display right by the front door of all the books from festival poets.

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© 2017 Waterstones

Hit The Ode

As I have mentioned many times on this blog is an amazing night! Full of passion, spoken word and laughter. They always have 3 Headline acts, one local, one national and one international and this evening was no exception.

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© 2017 Waterstones

HEADLINERS:

From the Midlands, Soweto Kinch: the man who embodies the Brummie renaissance, a lyricist, playwright, poet, rapper and saxophone virtuoso in one tight package. http://www.soweto-kinch.com/

From outside the Midlands, Jemima Foxtrot: writer, theatre-maker, performer and musician, Jemima’s makes the distinction between song and poetry irrelevant. https://jemimafoxtrot.co.uk/

From beyond these Isles, Dizzylez: rapper, poet, percussionist, loop-pedal master, this French jack-of-all-trades creates layered narratives in front of your very eyes. http://www.dizzylez.com/

© 2017 Verve Programme

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I regret not signing up for an open mic slot in advance – I didn’t think it through, I was upstairs in the Parlour and the event finished in time for the next one to begin. I snuck out a little early to sign up but was already too late. I was a little hesitant at performing at both events and this prevented me from sending an email. Silly really. I had surprised myself earlier in the day by realising that I now know some of the lighter poems in my pamphlet off by heart and last week wrote an amusing poem about lists which I could have shared. In another way it is great to attend, watch, enjoy… although I did have to move to the back after the first half to grab a comfy green chair as my back was in spasm by this point.

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I thoroughly enjoyed HTO and was sad to leave before the end of Soweto Kinch’s set. I missed my train and couldn’t risk missing the last one as my car was parked in the suburbs and it would have been expensive to reach it. It has happened before, funnily enough at my first HTO I attended in 2014.

It was a great night, I was mesmerised by Dizzylez and his set, mostly in French. It reminded me of my time in Montreal, which is probably the last time I saw performance work in French for any length of time. I used to speak fluently, but not been to France now for over a decade and don’t use the language much (other than teaching) so I am no longer fluent.

Jemima Foxtrot was mesmerising. I really hope to catch her again. It was good to have music at HTO too – all three Headliners are musicians/musical.

It may be the excellent Waterstone’s Americano or adrenaline – or lack of sleep or a combination of all three, I feel like I am on top of the world. Welcome to my life during a poetry festival! WHOOOAAHHHOOOO

pitm-blog-bannerTonight I have the pleasure of Kim Moore, Mona Arshi & Katrina Naomi. Kim and Mona I met at Swindon last year and Katrina has always been performing in clashing events on the festival circuit. I look forward to discovering her.

Followed by the Dice Slam (Apples and Snakes) and the last bus home. Fingers crossed the service runs smoothly. I may have to find some space under a bookcase if not!

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Review of the Month – November (let’s get one blogged in time) UPDATED

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UPDATED

I cannot believe it is the end of November already. I have marked it with a great night in Worcester at an ‘Arthur Rackham’ themed 42. Great to see some new faces too.

This month has been abundant with opportunities and I am witnessing the domino effect. There is a lot to review and I am busy with end of month submissions, so this post has recently been updated and completed.

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REVIEW OF NOVEMBER

Week 1

I finally managed to get back over to Permission to Speak, where David Calcutt was headlining with his V. Press Pamphlet ‘The Old Man in the House of Bone’. d-cal-old-man

It was a great night and I performed some new work written from An Atomic Sun Workshop facilitated by Antony Owen that I attended earlier this year. Writing about Hiroshima takes time and finding places where it is comfortable enough to know you can perform it, is the next challenge. They worked. People were reminded.

Antony Owen and myself (along with many other writers) have work in a Shabda Press anthology. Accepted a while ago, contracts signed in Spring, we are happily approaching proof and publication and it should be out February time. There are big issues that we must not shy away from, but it can be a lonely place, it is great to meet like-minded writers. I have to say that Antony writes from the heart and everything he writes matters socially, whereas my political poems come and go.

Writing about such horrific histories can be hard without support of those around you.

I did lots of writing this week and with working, found I was too exhausted after October to manage evening events on top. I missed them. Forgave myself and spent time at the desk.

I had my writing group, which over the past fortnight has taken time preparing. I spent hours researching for topical writing tasks for the Writing West Midlands group and structuring the session and resources, they all seemed to enjoy it and we had some new members too. Even treated them to some time in the book booth windows to write outside of the space. My group discovered an interesting Jukebox on display and created all sorts of ideas about what it was really.

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Mr G. and I went to another big gig.

 

Week 2

I completed an interesting challenge set by Helen Calcutt and was rewarded with two new poems, one that stands out well, was performed at SpeakEasy and will be published.

I attended my first Birmingham Stanza at Waterstones, run by Roz Goddard. Jane Commane was the invited guest talking about publishing. It was an enjoyable evening and I was able to take another recently penned poem for some editing support. In fact I spent most of my week at Waterstones.

I missed HOWL as I was working and already had 48 hours with double events. Let me state – I am too old for double event nights!

I went to SpeakEasy in Worcester to see Ben Parker Feature and buy his new book. bp-seIt was a great night of poetry, thoroughly enjoyed and lovely to see Ben again. I missed the last chance to see him as Mr G and I were away when he organised his poetry event at the Swan Theatre, where he is poet in residence. I first met Ben at the end of his poetry residency at Royal Worcester Porcelain Museum at his Worcester LitFest event two years ago.

I cannot wait to read his new collection ‘The Amazing Lost Man’, which was released November 1st.

In this startling and energetic first collection, Ben Parker explores real and imagined territories and reports back in poems that are both darkly funny and vividly descriptive. Combing concision with a surreal lyricism, the worlds of The Amazing Lost Man are at once strange and familiar, while the central sequence of ‘Insomnia Postcards’ is a joyous clash of the quotidian and the bizarre. These poems have a subtle music, and a confident voice that draws the reader in. (cover)

cover_parker_1024x1024 I know the rule is never judge a book by the cover and I tend not to. Fortunately there is no rule about falling in love with a cover and I have. It is much brighter in reality – buy one and see. https://store.eyewearpublishing.com/products/the-amazing-lost-man

More from Ben here http://www.benparkerpoetry.co.uk/about

My recent poetry book buys have been piling up as I have spent the past few months invested in a crime novel with a bitterly disappointing ending (I still do not know who the murderer was)! Back to poetry for a while.

It is also good to hear when your poetry inspires others;

Big thank you to Suz Winspear, Nina Lewis and Lauren Hill. Those poems of heartbreak inspired me to write my first new prose in five months, while sat in the audience!

Afterwards I rushed out to the sticks to celebrate a friend’s birthday, made it in time for cake and just before the bar closed for drinks.

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The following night I went to the Poetry Business – Poet Laureate Choice Readings at Waterstones Birmingham. The Poetry Business publish under smith/doorstop imprint.

“One of the most vital and vitalising literature organisations in the country”
Andrew Motion
The Laureate’s choice 2016, picked by (of course) Carol Ann Duffy.
The four winning pamphlets are:
Geraldine Clarkson’s ‘Dora Incites the Sea-Scribbler to Lament’
Zeina Hashem Beck’s ‘There Was and How Much There Was’
Mark Pajak’s ‘Spitting Distance’
Tom Sastry’s ‘Complicity’
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I am lucky enough to know Tom through Jo Bell’s 52 project (2014) and have met Geraldine a few times since this new life started in 2013, although this was the first time we had properly met for some time. Nice to be remembered though.
It was wonderful to meet Mark and always good to expand the world of known poets, he was smashing to talk to and I will remember his early morning running and the bear. When in the states (Yosemite), 2015 I had a running mantra ‘Let me see a bear, let me be at a point of safety’… I did see a bear and her cub, I was on one of many transport buses at the time (thank goodness) – as up close and personal as I wanted to get!
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Zeina’s video performance from Dubai kicked off the evening, impressive, soul-driven poetry and from there we enjoyed a live set from the PB poets. It was a pleasant evening and they have since celebrated again in Bristol and I have only heard good things about that event too.
There is currently a special offer – just in time for Christmas – you can buy all 4 pamphlets for just £20.00
‘Geraldine Clarkson’s poems are musical, often playful incantations that delight in the power of words. Formally inventive and vivid with natural imagery.’ – Carol Ann Duffy
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Zeina Hashem Beck’s ‘There Was and How Much There Was’
‘Whether drawing on myth or fairytale, or writing directly from women’s experience, these are powerful poems by a new writer with a remarkable gift for storytelling.’  – Carol Ann Duffy 
‘Mark Pajak’s skilful poems keep themselves open, especially to childhood and adolescent experience.  Even so, they are far from frail – their insight and imaginative verve make them robust as well as eloquent.’ – Carol Ann Duffy 
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‘Tom Sastry navigates the mysterious everyday in this honest and often funny collection, making friendships and love affairs new and strange.’ – Carol Ann Duffy
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Mark also won the Bridport Prize this year with ‘Spitting Distance’.
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After this event I rushed to the other side of Birmingham to perform from Fragile Houses, my own pamphlet at Spoken Word at the Ort. It was a fabulous night, run by Debbie Aldous. It always feels like coming home.

I am too old for consecutive nights of double bookings though.

The next evening I was back in Waterstones (told you I need a bed there) for a wonderful evening with Indigo Dreams poets, also doing a whistle stop reading tour.

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It was a fabulous evening and a pleasure to meet Kate, Mab and Bethany W Pope, all of whom I knew of but hadn’t met and the lovely Bethany Rivers, who I met at a Writers Network event hosted by WWM back in 2013 and know from poeting in Shropshire, where she does a lot of work. I can highly recommend all their pamphlets. I am currently reading ‘Off the Wall’ By Bethany Rivers.

This evening was delightful, a magical experience and a thoroughly enjoyable Q & A after the readings. Powerful poets doing what they do best.

I shared the evening with Claire Walker and Holly Magill and it was special.

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I also received news that I had won 2nd place in the Museum of Royal Worcester Poetry Challenge and I had to keep this a secret, even the judges didn’t know as it truly was judged anonymously by the panel. It was so hard not telling anyone and slightly awkward as I was going to see Claire Walker headline at Poetry Café Refreshed in Cheltenham on the same night as the awards/reading. This wasn’t quite as hard as keeping my publishing opportunity quiet, but I just wanted to celebrate the success openly!

 

Week 3

I made some submissions, finally! And enjoyed Licensed to Rhyme, where Emma Purshouse was headlining.  She has just won a book award too.

I Once Knew a Poem who Wore a Hat Emma Purshouse and Catherine Pascall Moore
Lots of wonderful imaginative and outrageous poems in this collection which is full of the charms and idiosyncrasies of childhood.  It’s easy to see how children could love these breezy poems and become attached to them.  One could easily imagine them being learnt by heart and repeated in playgrounds.  The illustrations by Catherine Pascall Moore are quirky and appropriate.  The hints about, for example, the best way to learn a poem or how to speak a poem aloud, are unusual in a book of this sort and never patronising. 

 

A first was VIP invite to the Verve Poetry Festival Launch – I will be telling you lots more about the festival throughout the coming months. verve12 Luke Kennard

I love watching Luke perform, dynamic doesn’t cover it – you may notice a group of us chatting – we are not talking through his set – here he is preparing to dive in!

The event was everything I hoped my first VIP experience would be and along with brilliant performances from Luke and Amerah Saleh. verve11

I spent the evening eating divine V cakes and mingling with many people, also had the pleasure of meeting some people for the first time.

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The tickets were live within 24 hours and I have already bought my festival pass for February. I also plan on doing as many workshops as I can and all of this has happened just in time –  for Christmas I have asked for Verve to be gifted back to me… so although with transport etc. I will be running up a bill, the tab is already paid for. Result. verve5

Find out all about the festival and buy tickets here http://vervepoetryfestival.com/

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The night after this was the Poetry Challenge event at the Museum – Royal Worcester Porcelain Museum. Which was a lovely event facilitated by Suz Winspear (Poet in Residence) and the Museum.

cup Prize winning treats – unexpected and beautiful.

It was an absolute joy to surprise all the judges who had chosen the winning poems without knowing who wrote them. I was delighted to be placed and loved the fact the winner and my fellow runner up, Shelagh Wain (from Burton-on-Trent), were poets I did not know.

Georgina Byrne (first place – Winner) had never written a poem before. Here is the article Worcester News

You can read Georgina Byrne’s poem here http://www.museumofroyalworcester.org/winner-of-the-poetry-challenge/

paper-1100254_1280 The event was a lovely, relaxing evening of poetry and it was great to have the judges perform alongside the poetry challenge winners. The museum was also open to have a browse around, a treasure trove of porcelain. I love it there, it gives me the same feeling libraries do. (Imagine – chocolate cake…)

The next night was the Poetry Parlour at Waterstones, I had planned to go but after work and the busy month so far – I missed it. Roy McFarlane was the Poetry Parlour this month, once again I have heard positive reviews about this evening from the open mic-ers.

I spent time writing a current piece that cannot yet be disclosed. Looked over a manuscript for someone and finally, on Sunday went to perform at Open Poetry Walsall Arboretum. Which was a great way to finish a ram-packed week! Relaxing to poetry and afterwards having a quick drink in a pub with poets.

 

Week 4

Missed Shrewsbury Literature Festival completely having only found out about it a few weeks ago. I made it back to Poetry Bites which I have not been able to go to for a long time.

Prepped for The Book Party. Post-book launch open mic event where I showed 4 exclusive poetry films and one that has already been shared publically, from Fragile Houses. It was an intimate affair and a great night. Sadly a lot of people couldn’t make it in the end, but it was a perfect evening of poetry and friends. We all enjoyed each other’s poems and I am (as always) delighted when my poetry circles meet for the first time. Glad I have given some more people Lesley Ingram and John Mills and some more Worcestershire poets are now known to them.

a-fh I was touched by everyone supporting and participating in this evening of poetry, had a gorgeous bouquet (thanks Anne Milton), a poem written about Fragile Houses (thanks Charley Barnes) and good friends who travelled great distances to be there.

Suz Winspear & Mogs performing – photography Charley Barnes

The next night I had to miss Stanza (for the 2nd month running) as I was at  a Book Launch in Birmingham. For ‘Womanly Words’ an anthology of poetry (20 female poets) produced by Shakti Women.

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It was an incredibly absorbing evening – I missed a lot of readings whilst driving around in circles trying to park. A relaxed affair around a huge conference table laden with scrabble, sweets, cakes, champagne and soulful women. It was great that a people came just to listen and that so many of the 20 poets in the anthology were able to make the event. It was lovely reconnecting with everyone.

I was unable to participate throughout the year as much as I would have liked due to working on editing Fragile Houses. There are plans afoot already for 2017 though. It was great meeting some of my fellow anthology poets and just spending time chatting with like-minded activists.

I am a little in love with this book. Well done to Zara Walker for her impressive design work on this gem.

http://www.shaktiwomen.co.uk/

Siobhan and Cheryl even sent us away with goodie bags!

After this event, I was asked to do Radio (for the 2nd time this year), I would have loved to have read my poem on air, but after the excitement of this week’s events and my need to be at home and with Mr.G, added to the fact that it wasn’t local and everybody has started Christmas shopping on Saturdays, I sadly passed up this opportunity. I am kicking myself now a bit.

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I spent the weekend at home with Mr G and fitted in a little poetry writing and film making time.

I also received news of 2 exciting opportunities for 2017, that for now I have to keep quiet. (There is a pattern emerging here!)

And I have finished off the month at 42 with an inspiring evening of writing on the theme of ‘Arthur Rackham’s Brain’. Many of us had completed enjoyable research into the works of this artist. As a child I experienced his Wind in the Willows and my poems were written whilst considering his artwork ‘Mischief’, illustrations for ‘The Old Lady in the Wood’ and ‘Undine’. I was pleased with the resulting poems and had some positive feedback on them. A fabulous event to complete the month – literally – on the 30th!

 

 

 

 

A Year of Learning Curves

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2015/16 have been eye opening years for learning. At no point have I thought staying in my comfort zone was a good idea, in fact I don’t think I have found a comfort zone yet. The whole idea behind this leap of faith was creativity and adventure and I expected (sought and found) abundant amounts of it.

I jump from learning about the lengthy editing process to marketing books. I am glad I didn’t look down. I have researched and actioned so much in the past few weeks that it has been hard to keep track of all the avenues. The most important lessons will not be lost though, I plan to share some of my new found knowledge with you. Hopefully the next person with similar Google searches will find more answers with less time and energy used that I expended.

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Bruce Elkin © 2016

The one thing I will mention is how much fun this hard work has been! After decades working (extremely hard) for someone else in a thankless profession, I relish the idea of freedom as much as I love experiencing it. The hours used researching and networking to market my book, Fragile Houses fragile-houses-best By Nina Lewis, Published by V.Press, have been an absolute pleasure.

Of course, there is always the possibility that I am driving people mad with social media updates. With a week to go and today being my last day of freedom to drive the PR machine, I am in fifth gear.

The good news is there are pre-orders both for mailing and for signing. The fear that no one will want to buy the pamphlet is a thing of the past. The fear that no one will turn up for the Book Launch, a fear of the past. Now the worry energy can be converted into real energy as I attack the final full day pre-launch TO DO list. A day to remember.

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A week Monday will be a day I never forget too.

My Pamphlet is a Real Thing: Fragile Houses by Nina Lewis published by V. Press

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I am proud to announce that my debut pamphlet, ‘Fragile Houses’ is published by V. Press. Pre-orders can be taken and it is officially released on the 3rd October.

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It is also available from the V. Press stall at The Poetry Book Fair, 17th September.

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The official book launch is on Monday 3rd October at Waterstones, Birmingham.

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