Filling A Space In Lucie’s Lounge

See The Space Between Us promo video here – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NgIdDbJXKJrlaBEOxp_NptWukczKBd9i/view

I had a great night reading from The Space Between Us at the Bloomsbury Tavern, as part of Lucie’s Lounge where singer songwriter, and all-round lovely person,  Lucinda Sieger plays host to a variety of musicians and artists on a monthly basis. See http://lucindasieger.com/ for more.31563891_10156542930367845_2897383048095989760_o

I have been lucky enough to read twice at the event and both times the place has been packed out with supportive, friendly people willing each other on. Here are a couple of pictures from the event. In the picture below are Lucinda (front right), Mo Michael (Back Left), Lost Remnants (back row) and artist Alba Ceide (front centre). These acts were terrific and testament to the kind of quality that can be found at Lucie’s Lounge.31603734_10156542934057845_427197968613900288_n

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Video – The Space Between Us

A wonderful promo for my collection The Space Between Us has been made by Lizzy Higham – a real talent to whom I am enormously grateful.  Lizzy took lines from a number of the poems and worked them into a video that gives a flavour of what readers can expect.

Click on the link to take a look – and do please share if you can; I think it deserves viewing.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NgIdDbJXKJrlaBEOxp_NptWukczKBd9i/view

You can of course order the book direct from me on the link above, or via the Cinnamon Press website (it is available from large online retailers, but we will all sleep more soundly if you come direct to me or Cinnamon Press).

Space cover

 

Filling The Space Between Us

Not Long Until We Fill The Space Between Us

My full debut collection will be available very soon, but I thought I’d pique your interest by giving you a peek at the front cover, and by saying a little about the collection.

The book has taken shape over a period of time, interrupted by having a couple of pamphlets published along the way, the day job and life. However, what really focused the mind was winning the Cinnamon Press Debut Collection Prize; suddenly there was a target and consequently a need to really decide which poems go into the collection and in what order.

“Music is the space between the notes” said Debussy, well I think he has a point, and these poems seek to explore some of those silences, gaps, the spaces that exist between us. What is it we really want to say, or avoid saying? What is it that you actually feel and what is it you wish you could feel?  How do you hope to fill the spaces in your life? The spaces between us, be they metaphorical or actual, are at the heart of this collection.

I shall be posting more on the book in a little while, and of course I shall be promoting the collection with Cinnamon Press by doing a few readings.

 

space betweenBut for now, until the book arrives to fill a space on your bookshelf (I hope), take a look at the cover image, designed by Adam Craig at Cinnamon Press. It arrived unexpectedly one day in an email attachment; I paused, puzzled and then loved. I hope you like it – and that you find it works well with the poetry itself.

Cinnamon Logo

 

Poetry That Makes The Everyday Larger

A short and informal review of We Are All Lucky a collection of poetry written by Ben Banyard, published by Indigo Dreams. Not because I was asked to – but because I enjoyed the collection so much!

In my title I use the word ‘everyday’, and that is more complimentary than it might at first sound; who says there is anything wrong with the everyday? The everyday is the universal and Ben Banyard explores this in We Are All Lucky. In his poems Ben does precisely what I look for in a poem; he points towards the small things in our lives and reminds us that these moments, these exchanges and places are what bind us and makes us who we are. There is nothing showy or deliberately tricksy, nothing that says “Look at me, I’m a poet!” in the way too much contemporary writing does. Instead we have a collection that keeps on rewarding by speaking directly to us; nod of recognition when you finish reading a poem, followed by nod of recognition and wry smile as you finish the next, as we see ourselves and the world around us reflected. It is through the familiar that Ben gets us to new ways of seeing.

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Poems such as ‘The Difference Between Us’ and ‘First Aid’ zero in on moments we have all been through, and Ben finds the tug within those moments that get the reader to look again at such times and see their workings. The seemingly everyday becomes something larger than the moment described.  So the set of keys found in the first of these poems acts as symbol for the way we see life differently from each other, or our partners;

I close the drawer, forget them;

You lie awake most nights, straining

To hear them whisper their secrets.

Whilst in the second of these poems,  the mandatory First Aid training course reminds us that a “life behind laptops and paper clips,” is no kind of life to those who have “seen things” like the ex-Army instructor who keeps a defibrillator on “in the boot of his car because he knows.” In this poem, another demonstration of Ben’s keen eye for the everyday, he juggles the cynical office worker alongside the tormented instructor in order to arrive at a confrontation with self that takes us way beyond the familiar.

Indeed the familiar, supermarket checkouts, daily commutes and a junk shop that has become “a rock pool / restocked by the city’s tide” provide Ben with a canvas for his incisive observations. However, there are darker elements acknowledged so the world is not entirely sweetened by the warmth of recognition. Domestic violence breaks in and a quiet acceptance of death is present in some of the poignant pieces. Family is here too, with parenthood being a concern of a number of poems. However, what just stops a series of poems about parenthood and children turn too saccharine is the poem ‘Beach-combing’ that references that terrible picture of the toddler face-down on a beach that became etched on our psyches amidst stories of fleeing migrants in the Mediterranean. “You’ve seen the photo” says the speaker of the poem as he reflects on a day spent with his own son playing on a beach.  The poem takes on a huge subject, and one that could easily be mishandled, but the poem works beautifully – perhaps the poem’s structure helps this, the speaker does not seek to explain or argue, he does not even make that image the last part of the poem – and I think it is that aspect that really helps this delicate poem resist the weight that such a topic brings.

I mention the way ‘Beach-combing’ comes amid a run of family centred poems, and packs a punch because of this. I imagine Ben worked long and hard to get the sequencing of these poems to such a fine point. Short runs of poems are up and running on a topic before you quite notice that the focus has shifted from one subject to another. And the sequencing clearly allows the poems to ‘speak’ to one another so that, as stand-alone poems, the pieces would work well, but as part of a whole they grow further.

And there is light in these poems. I don’t want to give the impression that all the themes are weighty. We have Johnny Cash “safe among” prisoners reflecting on how fine that line he walked really was, we have the football team whose shirts “feature the logo of a local scaffolding firm,” and the pub with a “Pool table sunspot-faded… / Jukebox stocked up to the early-nineties.” Indeed, here is the milieu of our everyday lives, and here is a collection that speaks to us and speaks of now.

Poetry With Purpose

Please Hear What I’m Not Saying

A poetry collaboration for MIND, compiled and edited by Isabelle Kenyon

I’m delighted to now have my contributor’s copy of Please Hear What I’m Not Saying, a collaboration between poets to raise money for the mental health charity MIND. Credit for the idea behind the book goes to Isabelle Kenyon who also put in the hard work to get the work on sale so quickly.

Please Hear

I first became aware of the project when Isabelle put out a call for submissions on Twitter, looking for poems that deal with matters relating to mental health.  I had a few poems that met the brief and now I’m happy to say my work sits alongside about a hundred other writers’ poems.

The collaborative aspect is new to me, and one I like. The notion that these other poets have responded to the call for submissions and now we sit alongside each other – all hoping that people will get behind the project, buy the book and raise money for a vital cause – is a pleasing one. Now I get to enjoy a whole range of writers and styles, some of whom I’m familiar with and others who are new to me.

As poets and writers it is easy to become blinkered, and I admit to spending a good amount of time thinking about my poetry, my book and how to promote me! Well, here’s a break from the self-promotion and a plea that you get behind this cause and discover some wonderful writing in the process; this is poetry for a positive purpose –

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Please-Hear-What-Not-Saying/dp/1984006649/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517601752&sr=1-2&keywords=please+hear+what+im+not+saying

Congratulations to Isabelle for the enormously efficient way this book has come together and for a great idea. @kenyon_isabelle

 

Being Present Beyond The Mainstream

“Humorous and contemporary with an underlying angst.” – reader’s comment on         Being Present.

The fact that the publisher Faber exists is fantastic – think of those beautiful block colour covers for their poetry collections. However, there are plenty of independent publishers who produce quality books, support a multitude of writers and publish for the love of it – nobody is getting rich – as Robert Graves said, ” “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either.” Therefore if you can buy poetry from smaller publishing houses you are helping to keep people in business just long enough to make their next Arts Council application or until they run a competition to raise a little money simply to publish the next book.

Being Present is published by The Black Light Engine Room Press – an outfit that operates on love and stubbornness – two qualities it seems to me that are necessary in the poetry publishing game. So if you can buy from them (it doesn’t have to be my book) then you are keeping the flame in that engine room burning a little longer. Of course this applies to Cinnamon Press, another publisher I have the privilege of working with, and the list of deserving publishers goes on. Faber are great – but they’ll not miss your fiver quite as much as some. 

Being Present is available direct from me or via the Black Light Engine Room website.

https://theblacklightengineroom.wordpress.com/ or contact 

https://www.cinnamonpress.com/

Being Present books

The time for Being Present is upon us.

The opening poem ‘This Year’ is a dynamic missile of  language that drags the reader along behind it (Andrew McMillan, poet).

And here is the finished version of  Jane Burn’s  artwork for my BLER press pamphlet Being Present. It was a tough choice to select just one of these for the book – but I made the choice and you’ll see which I went with when you read it.

 

When you read the chapbook you will start to see how Jane arrived at this image. At present BLER are doing a limited print of the chapbook – so if you want to get one of the first run and have it before the end of the year then let me know and I’ll put one aside for you.

Thanks Morb at The Black Light Engine Room for backing the poems and publishing Being Present.

black light engine room listing

“Leaves are letting go”

 

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 Welcome November, embrace dark nights,   settle yourself for the year’s end,                         the chaos, commerce,  melancholy                     and all hope it brings.

 

 

 

The National Poetry Comp deadline has passed and your best bet might be tied up for a few months as we await a result. There are plenty of other competitions open (see the Poetry Library website for a pretty full list ) but it may  be time to look inwards and start writing again. Allow the poems that are ‘out there’ in the world to do their thing, like leaves scattered, and start tapping into your root system to begin again.

My next writing task is to come up with the biog/dedication for my chapbbook            Being Present – due to be published at the end of this November. See my page from Aug 2015  for more on the perils of this deceptively simple sounding task – https://neilelderpoetry.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/the-process-of-pamphlet-publication-2/ 

Then I shall try and discover what lies buried in the mulch of my mind – start the process of putting leaves back onto the tree.

Here is a poem from my pamphlet Codes of Conduct reflecting on this time of year and that nagging feeling that things are left undone as the year runs down.

 

Reckoning

In the hard flat light of November

nothing is forgiven.

Leaves are letting go, 

and the year is running out;

at his time all that you’ve achieved

or failed in is exposed

like leaf-bare branches.

 

Around you, deep-lodged rhythms

have kicked in. Migrating geese

in V formations leave

you fixed on your position.

 

On high ground frosts have taken hold,

to making waters still,

send animals to ground.

But you have no soft burrows

to be safe in.

 

The reckoning is slamming in your mind:

a gate that will not shut.

 

(Codes of Conduct, Cinnamon Press)

 

 

Being Present

Being Present is the title of my forthcoming chapbook published by The Black Light Engine Room. Below is a snapshot of the early proof copy.

 

You will notice the book is divided into two halves – I Friends, II Colleagues. What runs through all the poems is the idea of how, in this selfie-age, we look at ourselves and each other. The act of looking is very much to the fore – sometimes with admiration and sometimes something darker is at work.

Part I, Friends, explores the friendship and lives of Ellie and Tara, two twenty-something women; they might belong to Generation Rent. Tara and Ellie takes turns in the collection, poems alternating focus or presenting them together – but always with an idea of being very much part of an age where to look and to be looked at is how we live each day. It is an age of mindfulness and being told to live in the moment – it’s aboutBeing Present‘.

Part II, Colleagues,  shifts focus to the world of employment and it continues the question of how much our projected self is the real self. Sure, your boss looks like she’s in control – but what’s really going on behind the door of her office? Of course there’s darkness, but there’s humour and hope too – like most workplaces. The titles of the poems give a clue as to how much the poems are ‘Being Present.

 

Thanks to p.a. morbid at The Black Light Engine Room for giving these poems a chance. Right now the book is in production, with Jane Burn of Jane Burn Storybook Art producing an illustration for the chapbook. Judging by the team’s previous work, I think it’s going to be a thing of beauty.

 

 

Poetic Voices

Poetic Voices – Anything But Ordinary

I imagine many are familiar with The Poetry Archive; Sir Andrew Motion and Richard Carrington were able to engineer this excellent resource for poetry, and it remains part of Sir Andrew’s lasting legacy as Poet Laureate.

A quick search on the Poetry Archive shows that contemporary poets such as Hannah Lowe and Jack Underwood can be found alongside poets from ‘The Canon’. The site is huge and covers poets from all parts of the globe. One could spend hours on the site; the audio recordings, in particular, are worth giving time to – hearing Tennyson from 1890 for instance is quite something.

Being on the Poetry Archive site must carry some cachet, though in fairness the site does say “It is important to emphasize that we do not consider poets who are already in the Archive to be better poets than any who are not there yet.”  Inclusion on the site is by way of recommendation to a panel that “is always looking for reasons to include people and never for reasons to exclude anyone.” However, finances are part of the sticking point in adding to the Archive, the cost of including a new poet being around £2,500 (studio hire, engineer, copyright etc).

An alternative route to hearing poetry being read aloud online exists with Poetic Voices – a home to poets –

 “of all ages and backgrounds to share their work on a simple, easy-to-use, accessible platform. Not only is it a useful tool for artists, it also serves as an online library of sorts, in which you can explore and discover poets, get inspired, or simply to get lost in the art of poetry.”

This is an excellent resource for finding poets who may be less-well known than some on the Archive, but whose work ranks alongside them (in my view). I was alerted to the project when I read at Enfield Poets and I have subsequently been able to contribute three poems to the site.

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It really is an excellent venture and one worth exploring. My only question or criticism is to wonder why the site labels itself ‘The online archive for ordinary poets’ – why the word ‘ordinary’? Take a look at what’s on the site and you will agree that there are some wonderful pieces on there that are anything but ordinary.

 

My three recordings are here     https://poeticvoices.live/portfolio/elder-neil/

The Poetic Voices Home page is here         https://poeticvoices.live/

The Poetry Archive   http://www.poetryarchive.org/