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Sophie Sparham

“I gave up everything to write and perform. I gave up my career, my nine-to-five wage and worked three part-time jobs where I had less responsibility so I could have more time to write and trial workshops. I regret nothing!!!!! This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”

Sophie Sparham is a writer from Derby. She has written commissions for BBC Radio 4, The V&A and The People’s History Museum. 

Sophie co-hosts the poetry night ‘Word Wise’ which won Best Spoken Word Night at the 2019 Saboteur Awards. Last year she became the first poet to perform at the metal festival Bloodstock Open Air.

THE MAN WHO ATE 50,000 WEETABIX

‘If I was asked to make a film of my life / I’d capture every unextraordinary moment.’

Beth’s astonishing debut collection  takes the umbrella theme of the smile and shares it out – with great generosity and care – among a multiplicity of subjects, moods and meanings. Smiles can be brave, shy, sad, or a lighthouse beam of joy. They can be a mess of countless other things.

This subject seems so appropriate to a poet whose presence, way of reaching out to every member of her audience, and most of all her smile, seem to create smiles all around her. Her leaps of imagination take the breath away. Her use of recurring imagery draws a safety-net of light around her listeners and readers.

Some of the smiles that inspired poems in this collection are contributed by people whom Beth has met on her adventures with The Poetry Machine. These poems are worthy of your great attention. We dare you not to smile as you read.

SAMPLE POEM

Sunrise Over Aldi

It won’t always be like this, somewhere
boys will put down their postcodes and weep
into tracksuits, step over double yellow lines
and loiter with one another. On the south side
of the city a mother will embrace her daughter
for the first time, try on her new name and
find that it fits her lips. Caroline she will say,
Caroline, Caroline, you look beautiful. 
It won’t always be like this, somewhere
a seventy-year-old bird watcher will buy a motorbike
and find that he too can fly, a black woman
will show a mixed-race girl how to tie a headwrap
and something in her heart will leap. Somewhere,
someone will utter the words; I love you,
I miss you,
I’m sorry. 
An atheist will speak Allah and smile at the taste
of honey on his tongue, the dead will climb out of
their graves and shake those standing in line
at the bank. Somewhere, you will look down at the
stars shooting across the duel carriageway and
decide to climb off the iron railings. In the shadow
of the service station, you will wait for dawn.

'I don’t believe there’s anything ordinary, anything commonplace about Sophie. In fact, since reading her poetry, I’ve come to believe that - in the same way that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing - there’s no such thing as an ordinary moment, only ordinary ways of looking. Reader: you’re in for a treat'
Helen Mort

SAMPLE VIDEO

More from Sophie!

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Beth Calverley

I feel very strongly that poetry is for everyone. A lot of people think they can’t do poetry. What I say to that is, poetry is just listening to the world, thinking about the world, and writing it down from your own perspective”

Beth Calverley is a poet, creative coach and founder of The Poetry
Machine. Her poetry lives and breathes, holding your hand through crisp emotional landscapes.

Beth co-creates poems with people via her supportive practice, The Poetry Machine. She collaborates with places of work, learning, care and play, helping people to express what matters to them most.

One of Rife Magazine’s 2018 influential young people in Bristol, Beth was a Roundhouse Slam Finalist 2018 and a Bristol Life Awards Arts Finalist 2020. She is Poet in Residence at UH Bristol & Weston NHS Foundation Trust and was published in These Are The Hands, the NHS anthology endorsed by Stephen Fry and Michael Rosen.

Beth has performed at iconic venues such as Birmingham Hippodrome, Bristol Old Vic and London Roundhouse. She has worked with the BBC, Sky, Oh Magazine and The Prince’s Trust, among many other brilliant local and national organisations. Beth is also part of House of Figs, a music and poetry duo, and co-produces Milk Poetry, a nurturing platform for spoken word in Bristol.

BRAVE FACES & OTHER SMILES

‘…I told you / ‘I really like your smile’ / and, to my surprise / you gave it to me.’

Beth’s astonishing debut collection  takes the umbrella theme of the smile and shares it out – with great generosity and care – among a multiplicity of subjects, moods and meanings. Smiles can be brave, shy, sad, or a lighthouse beam of joy. They can be a mess of countless other things.

This subject seems so appropriate to a poet whose presence, way of reaching out to every member of her audience, and most of all her smile, seem to create smiles all around her. Her leaps of imagination take the breath away. Her use of recurring imagery draws a safety-net of light around her listeners and readers.

Some of the smiles that inspired poems in this collection are contributed by people whom Beth has met on her adventures with The Poetry Machine. These poems are worthy of your great attention. We dare you not to smile as you read.

SAMPLE POEM

Spellbound

Amidst the silver clouds and spectacles,
I met you:

lady with the loveliest smile I’ve ever seen.
History rippled your cheekbone map from lip to ear,

cauldrons so clear
I knew straight up
you were magic.

Silence slurped at your cup,
a tiny trick that gave you substance.

Spellbound, I edged closer.

Back then, I was invisible;
too shy to smile without looking for the pieces
of pushed luck in my soul’s reflection,
too shy to risk cracking my face in case it caved.

To me, your laughter lines were loud, sudden.
They drew me in.

The purr of your perfume,
the sheathed claw of your beauty
hinted at a life not read to girls at bedtime.

Your smile was the shock
of near-bad luck turned good.
A black cat walking the right way.
A magpie, joined in the end
by the flutter of a friend.

That’s when you looked straight at me,
like a glass of cold water.

I spilled my thoughts in awe –
appalled at my own daring,
I told you

I really like your smile

and, to my surprise,
you gave it to me.

'This is a rich, absorbing, heart-warming collection, sensitive to life's pleasures and pains. Beth Calverley makes us attend differently to ordinary things - a single look can be 'a glass of cold water', a room 'a tangle / of buttery light', a smile 'a too- / tight scrunchy'. We should all smile more, and we should all read more poetry. This collection covers all bases!''
Helen Mort

SAMPLE VIDEO

More from Beth!

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Sharena Lee Satti

“I write because my heart burns with an

endless desire,

A slave to myself that fuels this wild flower,

Tamed only by spilling ink onto paper,

Releasing emotions that vanish like vapour,

POETRY is my one and only cure.”

Sharena Lee Satti is an Independent spoken word  artist, and Poet from Bradford, West Yorkshire

She is a very passionate poet who writes poetry about her own personal life, current environmental issues, social stigmas, homelessness, poverty and discrimination. She speaks openly about her past and the struggles she had to endure. She found her voice and encourages others to find theirs through poetry and self-expression.

She shares her love of spoken word through performance art. She is an influential, uplifting voice in Bradford, spreading her empathy and love of poetry in her local community. 

Sharena has been nominated for the British Indian awards, Media arts and culture and has recently being associated with Chelping, Red Bull amaphiko, Film and Photographer Tim Smith and Balbir Dance, Kala Sangam (The artist takeover) Bradford Festival, Bradford Literature Festival, and BBC radio, NHS, The south square arts centre, Mend, Bradford producing hub, Saltaire festival, Ilkley Lit festival, Bradford Libraries, Leeds Lieder, BBC Leeds, Drystone radio, Bcb Radio and BBC Radio 4.

She has facilitated spoken word events and has worked closely with schools delivering Poetry workshops.

SHE

The poems in She cover an already long career as an inspiring live poet, host and workshopper – it is obvious straight away that Sharena has produced a formidable body of work. Her collection features new work plus some selected poems from her earlier books.

Her poems are real, raw and honest, addressing issues such as survival, cultural-identity, life’s battles, self-love, bod dysmorphia and many other subjects that people struggle to speak about. Her love of nature is also evident. She writes with her emotions to the fore and her heart at the centre – and with a power that can leave you breathless.

SAMPLE POEM

What Is Love?

Its unlimited conversations and pauses of silence
It’s a language that speaks through every heartbeat
It’s a feeling, a sensual kind of healing
That penetrates the soul that has full control of you
And everything that you do, because when you love
You love without limitations or any navigation
Because love takes its own route
It rides through thunder storms and open seas
Tidal waves and a hurricane’s breeze
It’s like an open sky on a summer’s evening
When the sunset fades into the horizon
And you get that warm, fuzzy feeling
Love is an understanding, it’s being patient
It’s holding it together at the times you want to fall apart
When the beating of your heart pulses
When it palpitates, when life sometimes invalidates how you feel
Love carries you to a place that allows you to heal
Love is wireless, its eye communication
It’s an intuition, a spiritual vibration
It’s velvet red roses stemmed with pin-pricked thorns
It’s the early morning sun rays as a new day dawns
Love is eternal, its more than physical contact
It’s loving her soul more than her body in fact
Love is poetry and she is your muse
Your electrical fuse that ignites your heart
Love is a whirlwind of overactive heartbeats
Where eye contact meets
And you know this is the only place you want to be
Where she makes u feel wanted and loved and she shows you
you are worthy
This is Love.

'Sharena's Voice is bold and vital: both in its bravery and in its unflinching vulnerability. If ever you feel alone in the world, read her poems!'
Matt Abbott
Nymphs & Thugs
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Asma Elbadawi

“Many of my teachers predicted I would fail in life. This book is proof to me that I didn’t fail and a reminder that
we are all created in our unique ways, with our own paths and
interests and identities.”

Asma Elbadawi is a British Sudanese (born in Sudan and raised in England) Sports Inclusivity Consultant, Basketball Player and Spoken Word Poet. Elbadawi holds a BA Hons in Photography, Video and Digital Imaging and a Masters in Visual Arts. Her dual cultural heritage deeply influences her creativity with her main focus being female empowerment. She is best known for her involvement in the globally successful FIBA ALLOW HIJAB Campaign. This campaign saw the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) allow Muslim women to wear the Hijab in Professional Basketball and as the 2015 Words First Leeds winner which is a National poetry competition partnered by BBC Radio 1Xtra and the Roundhouse.

BELONGINGS

Belongings is, as it sounds, a collection of thoughts and feelings that depict the very heart of Asma Elbadawi’s life as a British Sudanese woman. A life that contains multiple influences, expectations and juxtapositions. Her poems are raw and unfiltered – Asma holds little back in her work, covering subjects personal to her such as migration, mental health, racism and sport. 

These lines that started out as spoken pieces have finally made it to the page, to be read and savoured. Asma presents you with that which is hers. Her Belongings. 

SAMPLE POEM

Words

Someone once told me
You should fear writers
They will dissect your wounds
And present you with them as words
Sentences
Sharp enough to pierce right through you
Let you question
At what point did you drop your armour long enough for them?
To read all your fears
Watch you grapple with your mind
Wonder if you’re strong enough to lay with your nightmares
And come out of the other end gasping for air
Use whatever remaining breaths you have left to drag your limbs to safe haven
Bathe in your dreams
And make them a reality
Or if you will choke

The same person once told me
That you should never trust a poet
They have the ability
To spin silk-smooth words that will leave you enchanted
Believing everything they tell you
Holding on to every thread
Drop your armour
Pied pipers, you will find yourself dancing to their sweet tunes
Follow them into whatever danger zone they planted
Fall deeply
For them to leave you hanging

No one stopped to ask how do writers and poets translate raw emotions so eloquently?
What whirl-wind of a storm must their life be in to feel so deeply?

Luckily someone once told me that there is power in your words
People will always fear people like you
Never lose your voice
Use it even if it’s shaking.

'Whether on film or in the flesh, Asma Elbadawi has an undeniable, almost electrical presence – it’s no wonder that she’s shot to fame over the past year as an outstanding performance poet.'
Verbal Remedy
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Elise Hadgraft / corporationpop

I’m essentially the ghost of the Manchester poetry scene … loads of people have a story about seeing me, very few of them are true. #HYSTPoet

E.Hadgraft and corporationpop are two very different poets living inside elusive Mancunian wordsmith Elise Hadgraft. Where E.Hadgraft’s poems are quiet, poised, beautifully realised musings on love and loss, corporationpop’s music based poetics are down at heel, messy, kitchen sink musings. Needless to say, we at Verve love them both, but we felt that one person’s two quite different poetic approaches deserved their own spaces – their own front covers – their own titles. Thus comes into being Elise Hadgraft’s dual collection-in-one  – Now There Are No More Love Songs/ Mount Olympus Is Empty

Elise describes it as ‘a double sided poetry collection of old and new pieces with original artwork. It’s full of swearing and pain and would probably be an excellent Christmas gift for somebody you don’t like very much.’ We agree about the swearing and pain, but think it would work as an incredible gift for someone you like loads!

Side One (to use music terminology), Now There No More Love Songs is described as ‘an analogue catalogue by corporationpop’. Here’s what you need to know about it…

In 2017, corporationpop emerged as a result of Northern beat poet Elise Hadgraft’s late night drinking sessions in a suburban kitchen. Although she no longer drinks, she continues to produce and release music under the moniker of corporationpop.                                           A look back at ten years of procrastination, ‘Now There Are No More Love Songs’ is the closest Elise Hadgraft ever wants to get to a best of. It includes some notable performance pieces from an often volatile and divisive career, as well as a hodgepodge of corporationpop lyrics and a few long forgotten relics.

These are words for the down-trodden and pissed off – those who fight back one minute and sulk off and hide the next. For words that were meant to be accompanied by a tinny electropop backing-track that sounds like a synth played on an ironing board, these poems read incredibly well. The angry fragility contained within them is there for all to see.

You can download corporationpop back catalogue in all its suburban click-track glory if you follow the link:

https://corporationpopband.bandcamp.com

SAMPLE POEM

You Write Songs (From Now There Are No More Love Songs)

You write songs like I recite shopping lists
Staving off forgetfulness
With bread
And milk
And washing-up liquid
It’s your turn to do the dishes
Stretched as we are between
Sex, asthma and domesticity
Sex City citizens
So far from sexy
We’re constantly walking
Since public transport is a luxury we can’t afford this week
And wine
And cheese
Four pounds seventy on the meter to see me through until Tuesday
Even heat
Even heat’s a pipe dream.

You write songs like I boil kettles
Fill baths by the pint and buy
Only the essentials
And apples
And toilet roll
And soapbox Britpop singles
You write songs like I put clingfilm on windows
Well-honed dexterity
Three degrees above freezing
You write songs like sweets.
You write songs like sweets old ladies fed me
On suburban streets
In nineteen ninety-five.
You write songs like songwriters lie
You write songs like songwriters lie
You write songs like songwriters lie

[Perhaps the question is less have you seen this poet, but which poet exactly are we looking at?]

Side Two: Mount Olympus Is Empty, under the moniker of E.Hadgraft, is another beast altogether. 

Over to Elise again: ‘Started in the basement of a cult complex on the outskirts of Berlin and finished over a year later in a suburban terrace, Mount Olympus Is Empty is a brand new body of unperformed work by Elise Hadgraft. Influenced by half-remembered Greek mythology from her childhood, these pieces present a deeply personal insight into a mind struggling to rebuild itself after catastrophic collapse.’

The pain is still there in these poems, the swearing in semi-abeyance. But this feels like a much quieter probing of these noisy subjects – the imagery is so strong and replaces the sass with lines that stick without offending. Levels are delved, depths plummetted to, in words that possess a grissly beauty, rich enough to stand on and be lifted back up by. These poems can be read again and again, and each time more meaning is discovered, more feelings unearthed. These are not verses for a rowdy bar-room – they are for a library with the classics to hand, an empty lock-down semi with the mantle clock’s ticking the only noise. 

A – R – T

There are strong visual elements to these books too – Elise is an artist as well as a poet (don’t let her tell you otherwise!). Both covers are her own work, and she wanted images to feature heavily within the book too. With that in mind, she invited ace finazine artist godisanewt to provide a fanzine to finish Now There Are No More Love Songs off nicely.

Elise has also provided her own excellent artwork for the inside pages of Mount Olympus Is Empty. This is a multi-facetted work on every level.

SAMPLE POEM

Lunesta (from Mount Olympus Is Empty)

Hypnos brings me
Bad dreams,
A sleepless symphony
Of discomforts, he
Rolls us over in
Sweat-drenched sheets.
Our borrowed bed
Creaks.
With each movement,
I will you would
Stay still…
But we, a dishabille of
Ill-fitting limbs,
Lie restless.

Come morning,
I will forget this.

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About the Team

Publisher/ Editor – Stuart Bartholomew

Stuart Bartholomew is Director and Programmer of VERVE: a Birmingham Festival of poetry and spoken word, which returns for its fifth year in February 2022. He is also Publisher at and Co-Founder of Verve Poetry Press – an independent press that focusses on publishing poets from Birmingham and beyond who share the festival’s ethos. His programming and publishing vision is to celebrate the full breadth of quality poetic activity in Birmingham and the UK – whatever the style or source – in colourful and exciting ways.

Marketing Manager – Kibriya Mehrban

Kibriya Mehrban is a poet living and working in Birmingham. They graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2018 and have spent most of their time since working for various literature festivals and organisations, and also performing themselves. In 2019 they were were accepted onto the Hippodrome Young Poets and was part of their collaborative anthology ’30 Synonyms for Emerging’ (Verve Poetry Press, 2019). They’re currently enjoying being part of the team behind the Overhear app. 

Our Advisory Board – Cynthia Miller, Amerah Saleh, Roy McFarlane, Helen Calcutt

Our board members meet with us at least twice a year to help us evaluate our strategy going forwards, and review our current performance against the aims and promises we have been making.

They were selected due to their strong connections to our city and the festival, to their embodyment of the values which we stand for, and most importantly, for their honesty and likely contradictory view-points.

Cynthia Miller is a Malaysian-American innovation consultant, poet and festival producer living in Edinburgh. She is one of the co-Founders of the Verve Poetry Festival and a former Trustee of the Forward Arts Foundation. Her poems have appeared in Ambit, Rialto, Butchers Dog, and harana poetry, among others, and a pamphlet length collection of her work appeared in 

Primers Volume 2 (Nine Arches Press, 2018) edited by Jane Commane and Jacob Sam La Rose. She is currently working on her first full collection.

Amerah Saleh is an internationally acclaimed Muslim Yemeni poet born and raised in Birmingham, releasing her book I Am Not From Here (Verve Poetry Press, 2018) and closing the Commonwealth Games Ceremony from Goal Coast to Birmingham live to 1.4 billion people. Winner of Overall Youth Excellence Award 2015 and named Brum 30 Under 30 in 2018. She is the Co-Founder of Verve   

Poetry Press, Board Member of Birmingham’s only producing theatre: Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the UK’s Spoken Word organisation Apples & Snakes. Her passions include engaging young people in change that affects them, Italian food, writing poetry and shaking up organisations. 

Roy McFarlane is a poet and former community worker. He has held the role of the Birmingham Poet Laureate, been the Starbucks Poet in Residence and is currently the Birmingham & Midlands Institute Poet in Residence.

His debut collection was Beginning With Your Last Breath (Nine Arches Press 2016).  Roy’s second collection The Healing Next Time

(Nine Arches Press 2018) was nominated for the Ted Hughes award, longlisted for the Jhalak Prize, a Poetry Book Society recommendation and selected by the Guardian as one of the best poetry titles of 2018.

Helen Calcutt’s poetry and critical writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Huffington Post, the Brooklyn Review, Unbound, Poetry Scotland, Wild Court, Envoi, The London Magazine and others. Her debut pamphlet, Sudden Rainfall (Perdika, 2014) was a PBS Choice. Her debut collection, Unable Mother, was published by V.Press in 2018. She is the editor and creator of Anthology 

Eighty-Four (Verve Poetry Press, 2019) which was a Sabotage Best Anthology short-listed title, and a Poetry Wales Book of the Year, and raised money for CALM’s prevent male suicide campaign. Her latest work is the pamphlet Somehow (Verve Poetry Press, 2020) and her second full collection is currently in preparation.

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Verve Poetry Press 2021 Releases

 

Verve is beyond proud to announce that we will be publishing 21 new pamphlets and collections in 2021 from accomplished and new voices. No matter your taste in poetry, you are bound to find a new favourite.

See our list of releases below:

 

Continue reading Verve Poetry Press 2021 Releases

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Leah Atherton

Leah Atherton is a linguist, poet and runner based in Birmingham, UK. She had poems about her adventures featured by iRunFar and Porridge magazines and Brum Radio Poets. Elsewhere, her work has appeared in Birmingham Art Gallery and on BBC Radio WM, and was included as  part of the Beatfreeks Collective anniversary anthology, Wild Dreams and Louder Voices (2018, Verve Poetry Press)

She believes in strong coffee, campfire whisky and the power of muddy shoes.

A sky the colour of hope is the debut full collections from this incredible cross-country poet who writes as she runs – wonderfully.

Part memory box, part prayer, a sky the colour of hope charts the journey of a young woman navigating loss in its many faces, as she learns to choose her own road. Heavily inspired by her 2018 solo fastpack of the South West Coast Path in memory of her father, this collection is by turns light and aching, bitter and joyful as she moves through landscapes forever changed by the people she met along the way. A truly wonderful collection.

You can read Leah’s poem there is only one constant which was featured in the wonderful Porridge Magazine, HERE 

SAMPLE  POEM:

 

SUNDAY

Let’s dance, you and me.

Leave the straight lines and the rules in the parking lot

and dare the wind to play catch up.

 

We’ll barrel our way down root-choked paths

and take corners too tight for our talent;

slog up climbs like we’re chasing redemption on every hilltop

 

And swear we find hope along every single-track we follow

where unanswered prayers make voltage pylons of our bones

and our legs start to buzz with the pent up wire and static.

 

Let’s fly into the wind until the rain makes our faces numb

and we will laugh and let the ice melt baptise the wrong out of our pasts

write our penance in mud track and shale

 

We’ll scrape ourselves raw and scoop ourselves out;

turn valleys into confessionals, thermos tea into communion wine

and make jack-o-lanterns of our haunted hearts to light our return.

 

You and I know that a house of healing

doesn’t need four walls or a roof when you have your feet in the cloud,

this thorn-scrape-peat-stain-hunt-grin cathedral of shadows and light

 

Come on let’s stand, you and me, on the shoulders of giants,

leave behind pieces of questions beat out on hillsides

so far apart only God can read them without skipping a line

 

Recited out by stubborn feet and tempest wills

we’ll follow the music over moor and fell, read answers in contours;

code-lines so far apart maybe God was the one who left them there

 

Let’s dance to the rhythm and drum and the reckless reels

of a landscape that sings to us in a language unwritten

until maybe, at last, we can follow the wild song back.

 

Let’s run.

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Jemima Hughes

Jemima Hughes is a multi-slam winning performance poet who hurried on to the Birmingham poetry scene in March 2018, and swiftly hurried off again after showcasing five minutes of her ongoing mental health battle.

Previously an international trampo-linist and coach, Jemima strove to always support her participants emotionally as much as competitively. As reality hit that she was in need of support herself, she stepped away from her sport and lifelong passion to focus on her mental health. During her most conflicted days, she turned to writing poetry to express herself at a time when her verbal commun-ication was minimal, consequently finding a new passion. These days, Jemima has found her voice again, 

mastered timing and rhythm, and has travelled across the UK and Ireland to headline multiple spoken word events. She now hopes that reading this book will help others in some of the ways that writing it has helped her.

Due out in July 2020, Unorthodox  is Jemima’s lond awatied debut collection. As a perfomer she has been compared to a tornado –  her words lifting you, spinning you around, her rhymes connecting with each other across space and heightened emotion. The lively poems in this work move you in similar ways, as Jemima leads you into a whirlwind of love and heartache, where struggle and abuse and paralyzing mental health issues are foreces to be reckoned with, subside momentarily, only to rise again. We are thrilled to have been able to pin these words down long enough to be consumed. 

Unorthodox truly is a remarkable and powerful book of poems.

ABOUT JEMIMA:

“Jemima is a tour de force when it comes to spoken word poetry. She pulls no punches and is brutal yet beautiful in equal measure. Now she’s brought her work to the page. Treat yourselves. Read this collection and catch her live if you can.” – Giovanni “Spoz” Esposito.

“Storm Jemima is a surge of intensity gathering on your horizon. It is a tumbling of sentiments and sincerity of message, getting harder to ignore, always ready to drop. Nothing looks quite the same after it hits.” – Jasmine Gardosi.

“One of the most extraordinarily talented performers I have had the pleasure of seeing.” – Clive Oseman.

SAMPLE POEM:

DUST
You were created in this universe and you want to fit in?
Brewed in the heart of an explosion. Stardust.

A potential five hundred million planets
capable of supporting life, and we can’t all support each other on one.
A single quality (and I do mean quality) receives hate,
when 99.9% of species are already gone.

You are a black body.
A star,
absorbing all radiant energy,
emitting much more by far.

They believe they are the Sun,
which is to say, you are bigger and brighter.
The human eye factors in surrounding colours, so the appearance is whiter,
but the Sun is a green star.

A jealous ball of raging fire.

Your light breaks through turbulent atmosphere
illuminating the way for others,
the twinkle in your eye reveals every deflection,
causing a change of intensity in your colours.

They move like the billions of lifeforms on their skin
feast on champagne and caviar,
swim in oceans accommodating two hundred thousand different viruses,
but won’t gaze upon the beauty that you are.

Scared.
Scared they’re going to catch on,
catch themselves viewing rainbows in black and white.
Supernovas brought elements essential for survival,
and you are essential for this world to get survival right.

If someone looks at you like they want to fix you,
they will fall through the cracks,
not all star systems are binary,
and the cosmos exists naturally, it does not have to apologise for the way it acts.

Are you a galaxy?
With a black hole at the centre of you?
Black holes are very, very cold,
but galaxies will not be consumed.

Gravitational attraction pulls in matter,
this force works to ground you,
try to keep a stable orbit
until this force of nature is through.

One hundred and forty billion (or so) galaxies,
you’re not alone in this gloom.
And you’re about to be on fire
because when a flame is at its hottest, it appears blue.

13.8 billion years old
and getting more interesting by the day,
your age adds to your wonder,
it doesn’t take your worth away.

A teaspoon of neutron star weighs
about ten million tonnes,
and your weight, or size,
doesn’t dictate your levels of attraction.

More than twenty-four time zones means
you and your anxiety made it on time,
when you look into the starry sky you’re looking deep into the past,
so your punctuality after sunset is sublime.

Outer space is open to interpretation
and your silence is of tremendous value,
needing spectacles doesn’t make you a spectacle
when 95% of the universe is still out of view.

Survival on Earth is unnecessarily difficult,
and lives are so good at ruining lives,
but if we judge those who judge us we resolve nothing,
accepting our self is how we survive.

You see, you stand out against the back drop of this universe,
and almost all ordinary matter is empty space,
if someone struck a match on the moon, astronomers could spot the flame,
the right people will see you and your qualities will be embraced.

Finding flaws in someone else doesn’t make our own less visible,
throwing shade won’t change the shade of someone’s skin,
if you touch two pieces of the same type of metal together
in the vacuum of space, they will fuse.

And rainbows have always created a happiness within.

The static of a retro television
displays the Big Bang afterglow,
we won’t always have the correct channel of thought,
but the reason is bigger than we know.

The Sun rages, but it can still bring warmth and light,
and space has enough space for us all to progress.
At the bare bones of it we are all the same,
and if we are all simply dust, shouldn’t we clean up our mess?

 

From We’ve Done Nothing Wrong. We’ve Nothing to Hide: The Verve Anthology of Diversity Poems. Selected and Introduced by Andrew McMillan

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I am enjoying the inhale after the great exhale that was ‘ache’ – Scarlett Ward tells us what she went thought when putting together her debut collection ‘ache’ last year, and what she has been doing since.

Scarlett Ward’s incredible debut collection ache was published last year, and quickly became one of our best selling titles of 2019. With the launch of an eBook edition (which you can find HERE ) and an upturn on poetry purchasing generally during lockdown, ache has been soaring once more. it seemed like a good time to catch up with Scarlett and see what she feels about the collection know and what she has been up to since.

It’s been a year since you handed in your finished manuscript to us so that we could produce your wonderful book ache. Lots of poets are quite quick to outgrow their work. How do you feel about the collection now?

I remember what a wonderful feeling it was to finally hand it in after working on it for so long! Some poems I find quite difficult to return to, especially ones that deal with my sexual assault and mental health problems, however over time I’ve found that the more freely I can revisit them the less they haunt me. 

What’s nice is being able to revisit my poems and perform them from a much stronger place. I feel that I’m constantly maturing and evolving, but these poems were absolutely authentic to my experiences and the way I wanted to deliver them and I’m still very proud of what I produced.

Instagram question from Hannah Marie: How does your work change from first draft to final book? Also what is the editing process like?

In the beginning I was writing as much as possible and it was only when I felt I started to develop a theme and a tone within my poetry that I felt ready to start bringing a collection together. That’s a really important step actually, because the way in which your poems interact with one another in a collection influences the impact and understanding of the entire book, so I spent a lot of time with print-outs littering my living room floor agonising over what would be the right order for my book.

I think the editing process is as important as the creation process, and I actually cancelled a lot of social plans because I was so thoroughly consumed by my editing for a long time. As agonising as it is, I really love the process! Jo Bell said “cut the last two lines of your poem” and whilst you must obviously take that advice with a pinch of salt, it has actually served me extremely well! “How To Be A Poet” by Nine Arches Press taught me a lot about editing and the importance of making every single word “earn” its place in the poem. 

I never trust someone who tells me that they don’t edit and only preserve the raw first draft. Surely we mustn’t be that arrogant to think we are above improvement!

Instagram question from Hayden Robinson “did you find it helpful to research a publisher?”

Oh yes absolutely. I always knew I wanted to submit to Verve Poetry Press and that was because of what I had seen from them. My first encounter with Verve was being selected to have a poem published in the anthology celebrating the 5 year anniversary of Beatfreeks. I saw how this community of diverse and electrifying voices was being represented and I knew it was something I wanted to be involved in. I read Amera Saleh’s I Am Not From Here and Casey Bailey’s Adjusted and loved the quality of the books being produced. It’s really important to read books coming from the publisher you’re considering. I was dying to be part of the exciting and lively scene that Verve was building in the Midlands and took steps to put together a manuscript with Stuart’s help and guidance. My advice would be to research into and get to know a publisher and what they like to print, and see whether you would be a good fit together.

What are you busy with poetry-wise in lockdown?

At the moment I am busy working on my online workshops and editing services. I found that I have a real passion for the editing process, which I think originated from my day job as a copywriter, and then was exacerbated by my own personal experience publishing ache. The past few months I’ve been taking on clients who are looking for guidance, advice, proofreading services and general help with putting together their own collections.

I put the workshops on my Patreon, a subscription platform through which I can provide members with together writing prompts, exercises, wider reading and open submission recommendations. I’m finding it really fulfilling, and if anyone wants to sign up my shop is www.patreon.com/swbpoetry .

What are your plans for afterwards and where do you think you’ll take your poetry next?

I feel like my poetry is maturing all the time. I’ve always been an avid reader but at the moment during lockdown I am consuming books quite ferociously and I think this is one of the best ways to develop a critical perspective of the landscape of poetry to which we are currently contributing and being influenced by. I’m currently enjoying writing freely for various anthologies or competitions. I don’t think I’ll release another collection for a while as I am just enjoying the inhale after the great exhale that was ache.