Poetry in Southsea and Out of Bounds

Isn't it wonderful when things go well? When they go as planned and the sun shines and you drive along to a poetry gig and everything works out? Well so it was on my visit to Southsea for my slot as Guest Poet at Tongues and Grooves at The Florence Arms. on May 27th. Run by the delightful Maggie Sawkins and Ed, T&G is one of the South-East's  most flourishing and long-standing poetry happenings, having run for 9 years at the same venue with a healthy monthly attendance of poetry followers.

In all the excitement of getting there, meeting Maggie and being able to wear a summer frock, just one blip occured - I'd been given a new phone by a daughter who thought I needed to drown the dinosaur and Maggie's details were in the old one. I'd thought I was hip putting it in the old notepad rather than simply writing it in my diary. Panic. I hadn't worked out how to use the new one yet. So phone call to Somerset daughter to check my emails. Bless her. Tore hersellf away from relaxing in the garden after the busy morning we'd had doing a boot fair marathon round Cheddar, and found me what I needed. The bigger blip was discovering that the Florence Arms had just given the poets notice, after 9 years! The hunt is now on I believe for a new venue. Despite the worry, I was enveloped into a poetry warmth, and treated to a feast of poetry and song by the open-mikers who included Gareth , Sam, Christina, Richard, Armando, Felicity and Maggie herself sharing her lovely poetry. T&G has a recipe for success - it mixes poetry and music in equal parts and lo and behold if the musicians did not include George, former  half of the Phatt B'astards (hope I've spelt that right) regular performers for years at our own Broadstairs Folk Week. How many times had I not jiggled along at their gigs in Broadstairs pubs and the bandstand?

If I thought the evening was fab enough I was wrong. Some of us stayed up till 3 in the morning drinking, laughing and talking. Can't rememember the last time I did that! Thanks to you all and good luck with the new venue!

Back home in Wales, more blessings - the arrival of the long-awaited Bloodaxe anthology OUT of BOUNDS in which four of my poems are featured. This anthology is an incredible selection of Black and Asian writers responding to the cultural geography (both internal and external) of the UK landscape and includes poems by John Agard, Benjamin Zephaniah, Grace Nichols, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Daljit Nagra Linton Kwesi Johnson and Jackie Kay to name a few. Putting aside my own poems about both Wales and Kent and which I'm thrilled to have included,  what's more important is, as the editors say in their introduction:

This collected body of work should not be read as an attempt to create a canon or construct an identity, but rather as a means by which we as readers, as poets - can contemplate, trouble, embrace and reject the categories of our living and being.

Here's a treat from Inua Ellams:

... this narrative of progress, the city  tale;

this story is my story, this vista my song..

I cluster in the quiet, stack against steel

seek islands, hope, and a pen to sow with.


If you treat yourself to one poetry anthology this summer, let this be the one.