Tuesday, May 30, 2006

We're going to the Zoo, the Zoo, the Zoo ...

For those who believe I do nothing but sit in front of a computer screen all day, here are some photos of my recent trip, with the kids, to Whipsnade Zoo just north of London. If you're planning to go there yourself, go early in the day and expect to spend a long time there. We were there nearly five hours and saw maybe a third of what was going on there.

If you can afford the parking actually within the Zoo complex, go for it (about £12!), otherwise wear sturdy walking shoes, take a buggy for the kids and plenty of water/umbrella shade and/or sunhats if it's a hot day. Whipsnade is a very LARGE place ...

The boys trying to get up close and personal with the big fellas

I did mean to bring extra wipes ...

The closest any human has ever been to this particular species

Indigo in her natural habitat

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Pure & Good & Right

This week I was at an Open Mic poetry night in Leamington Spa - PUREandGOODandRIGHT - which is held in a very chic bar-restaurant on Warwick Street called TOYK. Sean Kelly is the promoter and MC, a man famous for his poem about penguins and his song about Spiderman - if you ever meet Sean, get him to do the Spiderman song for you, it's genuinely hilarious and deserves to be aired on national television - and he was in fine form this evening, managing not to introduce me as a snooker player (unlike last time) and even forgiving me for hitting him in the face with the microphone. (An accident, I should add. I'd have hit him a lot harder if I'd intended to.)

Like the first PUREandGOODandRIGHT it was a star-studded evening, a sort of 'Who's Who' of West Midlands poets.

We had Julie Boden, former Birmingham Poet Laureate, though she was being part of the audience for once rather than shaking her booty at the mic. Dreadlockalien - aka Richard Grant - current Birmingham Poet Laureate, was also there, giving us his honey-tongued 'I wanna hear poetry' vibe. (Yes, mellifluous.) Plus Andy Conner, one of the 'Six of the Best' artistes from this month at the Birmingham Library Theatre, who gave us more of his long poems from memory - an impressive talent for memorising, this guy, and a quirky style of delivery.

To my great pleasure Roy McFarlane, gifted performance poet from Wolverhampton and a central member of the New October Poets, gave us an excellent ten minute set after the interval; ignore the quiet unassuming manners of this very polite man, Roy McFarlane is one of the most talented and politically motivated poets I've heard in the West Midlands and deserves to be more widely known in the UK. Then there was Jus B, a new talent and smooth groover from somewhere round the Birmingham area - didn't quite catch where - who laid it all on the line for us. Several new faces too tonight - new to me, that is - including Sue and Cherie, both of them very confident and impressive.

Oh, and I did a short set myself, and was accused afterwards of not reading any 'rude' poems. I thought I'd gone too far last time with my rudery so chose a slightly tamer selection this month, thinking the older members of the audience would appreciate the gesture. Shows how wrong you can be.

I will be MCing this Leamington open mic night myself on July 17th, while Sean Kelly is away on his hols, which is something I'm looking forward to, in spite of the ribbing I know I'll get at the hands of dear Dread & Co. I'm just arranging a few guest poets at the moment, so watch this space for further details.

I can highly recommend PUREandGOODandRIGHT if you live anywhere in the West Midlands; the restaurant and bar are excellent, the clientele appear to be well-hooved young professionals who are quite happy to listen to a spot of live poetry whilst unwinding with a large glass of Chardonnay, and the atmosphere is intimate, friendly and encouraging to new performers.

The next PUREandGOODandRIGHT will be held on Monday 19th June at 7.30pm. TOYK, Warwick Street, Leamington Spa.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Poetic Ducks and Drakes under Fire

I'm afraid a predator - probably a fox - came in the night a few days ago and did for those poor duck eggs in our back garden. We think the duck got away. The nest itself was decimated but no sign of duck feathers, so hopefully she lives to lay another clutch even though her unfortunate offspring perished before they could be hatched. So that's the end of that. But here are the first few eggs which I managed to capture on camera before their sad demise ...

Talking off the tribulations of sitting ducks, we've been having a humdinger of a fight in recent weeks on the Poem forum on the contentious issue of sexism in British and Irish poetry.

Needless to say, I am on the team which believes sexism still exists, and sometimes in spadefuls ... it's just a little more subtle now than when it was not punishable by public beheading. But the opposing team - all men, except for one woman - mostly believe it's outdated and unfashionable to see sexism at work in contemporary poetry, some even claiming it doesn't exist at all and that we must be hysterical feminists with chips on our shoulders about men - and the rest - to claim something so ludicrous as women being discriminated against in the dear old liberal utopia of British poetry.

Clearly nettled by our arguments, one well-known male poet cited a recent anthology by a major editor to demonstrate that person's lack of sexism. Another gentleman - on our team or perhaps just acting as a referee - quietly pointed out that 135 of the post-1945 poems in that anthology were by men. Only 16 were by women.

Hmmm ...

So here are some sitting ducks to accompany that topic, all of them poets and female, being treated with dinner by the Heaventree Press - the out-of-focus guys at the far end of the table - before performing at the Herbert Gallery in Coventry last month, to celebrate International Women's Day. That's a major poet Pascale Petit there with her eyes rather unfortunately closed, Kimberley Trusty opposite laughing, I think that might possibly be Helen Ivory beyond Kim with all the flowing golden hair, and we also had Esther Morgan, Zoe Brigley and of course myself, Jane Holland, hidden behind the camera as usual. The event went down very well, the large gallery was packed with standing room only within minutes of the start, and Jenny Ousbey was the compere. Excellent stuff.

However, although I believe expenses were paid for some who had travelled a long way, dinner seemed to be the main fee. Certainly that was all I got for performing that night. It was a very nice dinner in a lovely Coventry restuarant called Brown's, but cash would have been even nicer. Would that have been the case with a reading of six reasonably well-known male poets?

Somehow I doubt it ...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

New 'Live Poetry' Discussion Forum - have you joined yet?

Oh yes, there are yet more Jane Holland projects in the mix this month ...

If you've been wondering why I haven't been posting as regularly as usual on Raw Light - and I'm sure you have! - here's the reason; a few weeks back, I launched a new discussion forum for UK poets who are into performance and spoken word, and it's been eating all my spare time since then.

This new discussion forum is a place where performers and poets can exchange views, make friends, advertise new or regular gigs, open mic nights and festival performances, see what's on in live poetry right across the UK on a daily basis, play quizz games, and generally network. Naturally, it's taken a fair amount of time to get the forum up and running, and encourage people to register as members and begin posting new topics for discussion, so I haven't been able to keep posting to this blog as often as I'd like.

Anyway, you can visit my new 'live poetry' discussion forum here - POETS ON FIRE FORUM - and why not become a member, while you're there? (Hint, hint!) It's all completely free, and takes less than 3 minutes to register a username and start posting.

Maybe see you there?

Here I am on stage at the Birmingham Library Theatre last week:

Saturday, May 06, 2006

"First performed on stage at the age of three ..."

Here's my three year old son Dylan, checking the microphone before my SIX OF THE BEST performance last week, who got up on the stage of the Birmingham Library Theatre as one of the warm-up acts and recited the opening stanza of John Masefield's famous poem 'Sea Fever' to an audience of nearly 100 people.

Now there's something unusual to tell the other kids at nursery!