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Well, that went by quickly. Verve Poetry Press has completed it’s first full year as an indie poetry publisher for Birmingham. And what a year it’s been! We have published so many wonderful poets this year. Here’s the list: Matt Abbott, Casey Bailey, Jenna Clake, Nafeesa Hamid, Rupinder Kaur, Luke Kennard, Polarbear, Leon Priestnall, Amerah Saleh, and Hannah Swinger, as well as anthologies with Beatfreeks Poetry Jam, Verve Poetry Festival City Poems and Lunar Poetry Podcasts. You an read all about these wonderful poets and books via

Our year end bash at Glee Club Birmingham was an absolute blast, featuring performances from all our poets and wonderfully hosted by poet with the mostest Leon Priestnall. The pics above are from this event. It was wonderful seeing our whole year of publishing alive on the stage and the sense of family this created. And we had a wonderful turnout too, which made us feel that people were glad to have us (which is a lovely feeling indeed).

The next six months ahead looks equally exciting for us, with books planned with incredible local poets Jasmine Gardosi, Kamil Mahmood, Yasmina Silva and Scarlett Ward – pamphlets due from the incredible Katrina Naomi, Ben Norris and Clare Trevien and two important books coming first thing in January – Eighty Four: Poems on Male Suicide, Vulnerability, Grief and Hope, edited by Helen Calcutt and in aid of CALM – and A FLY Girl’s Guide to University by Lola Olufemi, Odelia Younge, Waithera Sebatindira and Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan. Believe me, you don’t want to miss either of these books. And with more wonderful books to announce for the Autumn soon, you can see we are in for another exciting year!

I hope you are all as excited as we are! We have been so well received as a brand new indie poetry press and would like to take this opportuniy to thankyou, our readers, our audiences, for all the support you have shown us in these last twelve months. We don’t deserve you but we strive to earn your continued support. 

We’d also like the thank the bookshops who have taken the trouble and leap of faith required to stock some of our books when there are so many books available to stock – you are many and we are so thankful for every order, but we’d like to mention in particular, Waterstones Birmingham (essentially our home store), Blackwells Oxford, Pages of Hackney and Five Leaves Nottingham, for support beyond anything we could have expected in terms of both stocking of books and putting on events – thankyou! 

The poets and I are so, so very grateful to all of you! Look out for more news from us in the new year and have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas Season. With all our best wishes. VPP! 🙂

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‘We are real!’ – Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan on why The Fly Girl’s Guide to Cambridge needs to exist.

Three years ago during my final year studying History at Cambridge, me and three of the most wonderful, fiery, radical & brave women I know – Lola Olufemi, Waithera Sebatindira and Odelia Younge – decided to write a book documenting our experiences as women of colour in an institution that so violently erased our realities, histories and sometimes our very existences; in fact an institution which ideologically and financially was rooted in and flourished on the concept and consequences of slavery, racism and colonialism.

We all 4 initially met at “FLY” – a group founded before we arrived, specifically as a space for women and non-binary people of colour. In that space was the first time I found the truth of my experiences at Cambridge validated and recognised, and I found I didn’t have to be weighted down by the experience of white supremacist patriarchy but that I could funnel my feelings into anger and creativity! It sparked my engagement with radical politics, poetry and decolonial feminism ever since.

The book, of course, was not something anyone wanted to publish. One publisher actually told us it would have been better if it were fiction – a reminder that it is easier to empathise with women of colour when we aren’t real.

However, alhamdulillah, this year @vervepoetrypres listened to our vision, heard us and recognised that this book needs to exist. IMHO we don’t particularly need a best seller or big recognition.

. I am excited solely because this book is a testament to the experiences that never get heard and thus are never accepted as real. But we are real. Our experiences are real and this book is a testament to us and every woman of colour struggling to articulate how it feels to be in spaces built for others.

We publish in January inshaAllah (and you’re all invited to the launches! Dates tbc!) but you can pre-order RIGHT NOW by clicking on the book cover illustration on this page.

Above all I hope our FLY GIRL’S GUIDE can be a testament, a refuge and a friend to anyone who needs it. I am so thankful for all the WOC in my life and ultimately, always, to Allah.

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan @thebrownhijabi

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Lola Olufemi, Odelia Younge, Waithera Sebatindira, Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan

Lola, Odelia, Waithera and Suhaiymah
Cover art design by Sheena Zhang

A FLY Girl’s Guide to University is a collection of memoirs, essays, poetry and prose from four women of colour who studied at the University of Cambridge. It is a multifaceted calling out of the wrongness underpinning their shared experience at Cambridge, and the experiences of others in similar institutions throughout the UK. But they describe it best: ‘The purpose of our book is simple: we believe that our lives, our experiences, and our voices matter, especially in a place of power, pervasive whiteness and exclusivity. Our voices not only deserve to be heard but must be because the ‘Cambridge experience’ of a middle-class, white, cisgendered, able-bodied man is not the only one. Ours cannot be silenced.

We came together through FLY, a network specifically by and for women and non-binary people of colour at Cambridge. As members of FLY, we were all vocal and active in feminist and anti-racist politics, as well as adamant about intersectionality – whether in education, research, creating spaces on campus or in our campaigning. Through meeting there, hearing one another and experiencing our absences elsewhere, we decided to write this book. Writing gave us a language and space that we were not often afforded and a chance to live beyond the niches carved out for us by others. This book exists as a testament to our existences in a place we were often made invisible, and stands as a demonstration of the fact that we have the power to validate ourselves.

We believe our book itself to be a form of activism in its fearless sharing of our experiences and in contributing to the provision of previously silenced truths. In some ways, the importance of what we say is almost as important as the fact we say it at all because the power of this book is borne from the desire to continue a legacy of recording lived experiences of those whose stories often go unpublished. We want our work to act as a disruption, a hope, and a symbol that though marginalised in many ways and many spaces, we are very much alive, evolving and powerful.’

This wonderful book needs to be read, discussed and understood, in Universities, but also in government offices, businesses and anywhere that people are made to feel excluded, estranged and exposed because of their heritage, their religion or their appearance.

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan is a writer, spoken-word poet, and educator invested in unlearning the modalities of knowledge she has internalised, disrupting power relations, and asking questions around narratives to do with race, gender, Islamophobia, state violence and decoloniality. She did her BA in History at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and MA in Postcolonial Studies at SOAS. Alongside a wider education from the epistemology of Islam and work of women of colour and anti-systemic thinkers from across the world, Suhaiymah regularly speaks and workshops on racism, Islamophobia, feminism and poetry across the UK as well as writing about those topics at her website, Her work has been featured in The Independent, The Guardian, Al-Jazeera, BBC, The Islam Channel, ITV, Sky TV, TEDx conferences, music festivals, US slams and British Universities. She is trying her best to destabilise accepted narratives and disrupt the tendency to fall into binary explanations, insha’Allah.

Waithera Sebatindira

Waithera Sebatindira is a Law graduate from Trinity Hall and recently completed her MPhil in Multi-disciplinary Gender Studies at the same College. While facilitator of FLY, and with the indispensable support of its founders and a group of committed women of colour, she expanded the group’s membership and reach. During this time, Waithera developed a black feminist ethic that continues to be informed by the work of inspirational women she reads and meets – especially this book’s co-authors. She went on to become the first woman of colour to hold the position of full-time Women’s Officer on the Cambridge University Students’ Union and, during her tenure, campaigned on behalf of woman and non-binary students on campus while coordinating decolonial efforts across campus.

Lola Olufemi
Lola Olufemi is a black feminist and organiser from London.  She graduated from Cambridge with a degree in English Literature in 2016. She facilitated FLY, the group for women and non-binary people of colour at Cambridge from 2015-16 and held roles on the BME and Women’s Campaign. She was the Cambridge University Students Union Women’s Officer from 2017-18. During her time at university she was heavily involved in student activism, working on, amongst others: the establishment of support for survivors of sexual violence, decolonising the curriculum and opposing the marketisation of higher education. She is currently the NUS Second Place on the NUS Women’s Campaign & sits on the National Executive Council. She is a masters student in Gender Studies who is interested in black feminist thought as a vehicle for thinking about the self and others and disrupting systems of power. She is currently writing a book on reclaiming feminism for young people which will be published by Pluto Press in 2020.

Odelia Younge

Odelia Younge is an educator and writer based in Oakland, California. In her life and work, she centers discussions about blackness and resistance. Odelia earned a B.A. in history and literature from Harvard and an MPhil in politics, development and democratic education from Cambridge. Her research has focused on black women collectives, historical memory, transgressions and resistance, and black male youth identity within spatial theory, critical youth studies, and radical black feminist theory. Odelia also has a background in peace education and children’s rights, developing programs in places such as Miami, Florida and the Greater Accra region of Ghana. She has led work across the United States on transforming education, decolonising systems, and building out spaces for black writers, while also organizing spaces for creative expression. Odelia is driven by her faith, radical black love, and the concept of creating yourself to freedom — forgetting what your oppressors have told you is the truth, and building anew. Odelia is the co-founder of Novalia Collective, which focuses on storytelling, community building, and cultivating spaces that vanquish fear of uncertainty and the unknown. She takes immense pride in being the editor and compiler of A FLY Girl’s Guide to University.

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‘My Spoken Brummie Saga’: all about The Second City Trilogy by Polarbear

Polarbear AKA Steven Camden

I fell into spoken word before I really knew what it was. Speaking stories and playing with rhyme was something we’d always done, without any designs on stages or gigs. 

Once I was introduced to this thing, these events, where people stood up and spoke their words to an audience, I ran mouth first, straight into it. The freedom and openness of it grabbed me. The fact that I could play with spaces and silence as well as the patterns of speech, descriptions, repetitions, all felt like this magical mix of music and chemistry.

Once I started finding my voice, I felt the itch to play. That meant longer pieces. That meant more risks. More layers. Things I wanted to learn.

I was lucky enough to get support to develop my first feature length piece from Birmingham REP. If I Cover My Nose You Can’t See Me. In that one I played with rhyming and not rhyming. Narrative devices. The dance of rhythm and the definition of character voices. All combined with a Batman infused slightly surrealist noir story about a boy following his future self. It felt great.

On the back of that I wanted to push further.  My spoken word pieces all felt like short films to me as I spoke them, so I asked myself. Challenged myself. Could you speak a full film?

Polar LIVE!

RETURN is just that. A combination of shot descriptions and dialogue. An experiment in conviction and simplicity. My hardest performance piece to speak (and arguably to listen to), but a massive benchmark for me personally in terms of what I could do with words and my mouth.

After that I played with lots of ideas for a while until I came up with the final piece to what had become, in my mind, a definite trilogy. If I Cover My Nose was all about leaving Birmingham. Breaking the cycle of my life at the time which had gotten stale and uninspiring. RETURN was all about the desire to come home and realising how much I love Birmingham and it’s influence over my new creative life.

Polarbear - final publishing announcement of 2018!

The final piece of the puzzle became a celebration of the mess between what I was and what I’d become. The origins of my new life and the fractured sense I’d come to make of it. A melting pot of form, voice, memory, fantasy and realism. OLD ME was born and the perfect third instalment to my spoken brummie saga. 

I am so proud of these pieces and how they map my journey as a spoken word artist trying to craft his own voice whilst also trying to gather a sense of who the hell I am.

They have helped me find myself. And my heart. 

And they, just like me, belong to Birmingham.

Speaking to Stuart about Verve and the work they are doing with the festival, events and printing collections, I got stupidly excited about being part of their list. I’d spoken to other people about releasing stuff before and always felt like it wasn’t the right thing for these words. Verve is the right thing. A Birmingham press, offering me the chance to share my Birmingham trilogy with the world in print? Yes please. I said. Thank you I said. Chuffed.

I cannot wait for this book to come out and let people read, speak and 

play with the stories that have shaped my life. The Second City Trilogy is my creative time capsule.

Nice one Stuart. Nice one Verve.

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Polarbear AKA Steven Camden is a writer from Birmingham who moved to London for a girl.

His debut young adult novel ‘TAPE’ was published worldwide in January 2014 by HarperCollins to rave reviews and his second novel, ‘IT’S ABOUT LOVE’, published in June 2015, was Book of the Month for The Guardian. His third novel ‘NOBODY REAL’ was recently published in May 2018.

His collection of spoken word stories ‘EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE’ was published by Macmillan in July 2018. 

Under his performance name Polarbear, he is one of the most respected spoken word artists in the UK and has performed his work from California to Kuala Lumpur, via 

AKA Steven Camden

Glastonbury, Latitude, Camden Crawl and pretty much every festival going.

He came to prominence as part of Apples & Snakes Exposed tour 2007 and has since written and performed three feature length theatre pieces; If I Cover My Nose You Can’t See Me (Birmingham REP), RETURN (BAC and mac) and Old Me (Roundhouse) on national and international tours.

These three long pieces from Birmingham born Polarbear AKA Steven Camden are his first printed pieces for adults. We are over the moon that he has chosen Verve Poetry Press to release them for him.

The three long pieces, poetry meets performance, are what he describes as his ‘spoken brummie saga’ – and are what we describe as his ‘portrait of the artist as a young poet.’ Steven again: ‘I am proud of these pieces and how they map my journey of a spoken word artist trying to craft his own voice while at the same time trying to gather a sense of who the hell I am.’

The language of these pieces is typical Polarbear – rhythmical, arrestingly simple, every word laden with a great weight of meaning until a spell is cast over the reader or listener and magic begins to happen. The sometimes humdrum setting of brothers’ rooms or sofas in flats and houses in Birmingham suburbs, of Co-ops and buses and passenger seats, sparkles in these pieces. The tight lipped conversations are all this poet needs to communicate a world of feeling, loyalty and deep seated affection.

These pieces absolutely need to be read, and if they can be, listened to too. They are the journey that delivered the man, the evolution of the spirit of the bear.

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Hannah Swingler

Hannah Swingler

Hannah Swingler is a poet, teacher and artist, born and bred in Birmingham. She calls a forward roll a ‘gambole’.

She was the winner of CoachesSLAM 2018, as well as coaching the University of Birmingham’s uniSLAM team to victory. She went on to represent the UK at CUPSI in Philadelphia.

Hannah’s ‘haunting yet hopeful’ storytelling spans themes such as female identity, relationships and mental health. Luke Kennard observed, “her work finds the beautiful and the lyrical in the everyday with the wisest, self-deprecating heart and intuitive wit and humanity.”

Hannah At Kenilworth Arts Festival '18

Did you know? – as of 18/3/19 Hannah is the new face of Nationwide. Her wonderful poem, High Street Romance, can be seen on prime time ITV!!! You can see it below…

She has performed across the country: with Tongue Fu, featuring at Howl, Grizzly Pear, Verve Poetry Festival, Cafe Grande Slam, Stirchley Speaks, and at REP Birmingham, BOM, the Old REP, Ikon Gallery, Upstairs at the Western, Derby Theatre, Oxjam Fest, Birmingham Weekender and mac, amongst others.  She featured on BBC radio discussing the importance of poetry for young people.

Hannah is an alumnus of both the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and Beatfreeks YSC.

She believes good things come to those who make.

Hannah describes her incredible debut collections of fresh and original poetry best.

‘I struggle to throw things away. Used envelopes, mostly. This is not only my debut collection of poetry, it is my hoard, my memory bank, my adventure into the known.’

This dress has pockets exudes the feeling of finding a dress that fits in a charity shop for only £4.50 and it has the functionality of pockets that are deep enough to carry unsent love letters and conkers and those memories that you wish you could binge watch, or tape over.

It is ethereal but memorable, surreal, but familiar, like a dream you weren’t able to keep hold of. It is what it means to remember, what it means to grow up storing your thoughts close to you, in pockets of dresses that make you look alright until you sit down in them. Now is your time to dance in it, now is the time to empty your pockets and spin.

We are thrilled to be bringing you this poetry dress with its many marvellous pockets. We encourage you to peer deep into them and be amazed!

Sample Video: High Street Romance

Sample Poem: Freddie Mercury

When I am nine, my parents move us to the countryside, away from bus routes and gang wars. The house they buy is bigger, too cheap for what is offers and their deliberation doesn’t last long. They don’t think to look at the old wiring; block out the sound of the motorway at the bottom of the garden.

Financial recklessness is hereditary.

We continue to go to school in the city, work in the city: be city dwellers that must sleep where we can see the stars clearer. Thirteen miles there, another thirteen back: the car becomes our living room, our bedroom, our home.

It doesn’t have a CD player, so my brother makes jukebox cassettes, one song per family member then repeat. I choose Jesus of Surburbia by Green Day because it is nine minutes and seven seconds long and I crave the attention.

Fields, trees, abandoned farm buildings, hair pin bends, blind junctions, I know the landscape better than the opening to my favourite movie.

I write birthday cards leaning on headrests without curving a line.

            I can apply a full face of makeup using the rear view mirror from the backseat.

                        I learn to change outfits without flashing the driver.

                                    I devour books like they will be burnt at the end of the day.

My brother falls in love with a girl who lives opposite our school. He stays overnight on a camp bed in her living room, I think. He stops making mix tapes.

I am given an ipod for my birthday and spend the mornings staring out of the window pretending I am in a music video.

My mother only drives when my Dad is already home. At night, she turns the lights off on roads without cat eyes and we scream in the seconds of darkness, before we flash back to visibility. One night, we drive passed a man in drag walking in the road towards us. Two weeks later, the local headlines talk of a “decapitated tranny” who got hit by a car on her way home from a dinner party.

My Mom stops turning the lights off after that.

                        Mornings mean minus six degrees and the heater breaks.

I fall in love with a boy who lives opposite my school in an adjacent road to my brother’s girlfriend. I can see my art room from my bedroom window. I stay overnight on a camp bed, sometimes.

I’m not sure whether the reason I love him is because I get an extra half an hour of sleep in the morning.

We resurrect Freddie Mercury on a thunder filled October night through dramatic, unrehearsed yet surprisingly harmonised word-perfect rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. We congratulate each other on hitting the high notes, swerve to miss a pheasant and hit a tree instead.

When I graduate – after thirteen years of thirteen miles there and thirteen back – my parents move to the road my brother’s now fiancée lives on. I can see my old room from my bedroom window. I get an extra half an hour of sleep in the morning.

There are bus routes and gang wars and no blind junctions.

We do not make mix tapes.

We do not resurrect Freddie Mercury anymore, but I can still apply liquid eyeliner travelling over potholes using the rear view mirror from the backseat.



Twitter: @HannahSwings

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Jenna Clake

Jenna Clake (serious)
Cover for Clake/Interview for

We are thrilled that prize-winning poet Jenna Clake has agreed to let us produce her first published pamphlet, Clake/ Interview for, which follows on from her stunning debut collection, Fortune Cookie (Eyewear, 2017). #2 in our Experimental Pamphlet Series, this wonderful work consists of two long poems only. But what glorious long poems they are!

In Clake, a central character, as likely to be the author as any other central character, moves through the unexpected absence of a loved one in a scarily ordinary domestic setting in which cakes become threats, and cats have opinions and give mixed-quality advice.

Told in fifteen short prose poems that will charm and unsettle in equal measure, Clake is a powerful and masterful work.

In Interview for, unnamed characters move through a setting that is half reality, half television show, while voiceovers and interviewers chip in with questions and comments which are only sometimes helpful and rarely accurate. Pages are traversed, but stasis rather than progression is the dominant state.

Both of these masterful works are written in Jenna’s trademark deadpan, wide-eyed, wonderfully observational style, in which her humour is evident but always seem to be engulfed by a deep and undisturbed sadness. These poems will bear reading multiple times, and each time something new will be communicated. Wonderful, wonderful work!

Jenna Clake’s debut collection, Fortune Cookie, was awarded the Melita Hume Prize and shortlisted for a Somerset Maugham Award. In 2018, she received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. 

Jenna Clake (happy)


Wooden City

I build a wooden city of all the places I have been with my love. I build the train platform where we met. I build a miniature version of our house, complete with our car sitting out the front like it is waiting for a date. I build all the hotel rooms we have ever stayed in, and put them on a street next to each other. I build all the restaurants, all the evenings our dinner burned when we forgot about it, too busy doing something better, all the clothes we have swapped so that we can no longer remember what is truly ours.

I work on the wooden city every day. I clean the inside of our little wooden house with a paintbrush. My love comes home and asks me how the city is coming along. He touches everything lightly when I hold it up to him, tells me he has never seen anything so magnificent. Before he comes to bed, he stands over the wooden city and studies it, then switches off the light. He kisses my forehead. I feel the walls of the wooden city expand around us.

There is a street for our arguments. It is an alleyway, tucked far away from the centre of everything. There is always a way out of it: a gate into a garden, or a taxi rank, and then home. When my love sees the alleyway, he says, Do you see me like that? and I spend the whole night ripping it out.

Every day, my love takes a train into a real city. I can see the train station from our bedroom window. When he leaves, I spend another hour in bed. If I dream, I dream I am inside the wooden city. Last night, I walked into our house. I felt the papered walls, the bumps like bubble wrap, tripped over my love’s many pairs of shoes.

My love wakes me up in the middle of the night, crying. He says he doesn’t remember anything from the first few months of our relationship. The top left section of the wooden city is a new territory to him. I hold him and tell him it is okay, that I understand. Over breakfast the next morning he is silent. I try to smile at him, orange juice clinging to my lips.

I dedicate the wooden city to my love. I put his name on the surrounding walls. I send him a picture of it while he is at work. When he comes home, he asks me to make dinner. He throws his warm, worn shirt over the city, and leaves it there all week.

I build a new section of the wooden city: our first and only holiday together. I build the moment we talked about getting a bigger real house, the way the sky seemed to turn a light orange when he said it was something he couldn’t think about right now – maybe in a few months? I build the moment as thick as his alcoholic milkshake.

When my love leaves for work, I pretend to be asleep. He says I am working too hard on the wooden city. I lie in bed and think about how much attention the wooden city needs. For many years I dreamed of building a wooden city. Now every day I take care of it. When my love gets to the train platform, he forgets about it, and thinks of something else.

I dream that I am cleaning our wooden house with a paintbrush, as always, but the walls fall apart in my hands. When I look down, I am standing in the middle of the wooden city and I have crushed the buildings with my feet. My love comes through the front door and says, I am starving.

I take a week off from the wooden city. All day I lie in bed and hide my head under the duvet. When my love comes home, I say that I am building a new section of the wooden city; he’ll have to wait for the grand unveiling. He goes straight to the fridge.

I dream I am inside the wooden city. I walk into our wooden house. I feel the papered walls, the bumps like bubble wrap, trip over my love’s many pairs of shoes. Then I set it on fire, and sit down.

My love stops coming home from work, stays late and gets the last train home. I take out the wooden train station from the wooden city and move it right to the edge. In its place I build a garden. I plant real parsley and basil.

I start to move things around in the wooden city. I cut things in half, split them up so that our timeline is scrambled. I make more room for gardens, let them grow over the walls. The wooden city now takes up most of the spare bedroom of our real house. I look out the window for my love.

When I water the plants in the gardens of the wooden city, I pretend that it is raining on me and my love, and that we must run across the city to find each other, since only one of us has an umbrella.

I look out the window for my love, and find him standing on the real corner of our real street. On the day we moved in to our real house, we sat amongst our boxes and ate chips. I told my love about my plan to build the wooden city. He said, It will be the most wonderful thing about you. I washed my hands and started building.

I meet my love on the corner of our real street. I try to smile at him, sweat clinging to my lips. He says, You are not coping well with building the city. You should stay somewhere else for a while. I think, I would build this moment underneath our house. I go inside, to the wooden city. I pull the plants out of their gardens and place them in a plastic bag. My love stands at the top of the stairs. He doesn’t say goodbye.

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Matt Abbott

Matt Abbott

Matt Abbott is a poet, practitioner, producer and activist from Wakefield. He first began performing spoken word in between musical acts at Yorkshire indie gigs in December 2006, shortly before his 18th birthday. From 2007-2013 he fronted alternative pop act Skint & Demoralised, which included a stint with Universal Records as well as national and international acclaim.

Since returning to spoken word in 2013, he has toured the UK frequently; appearing in theatres, at festivals, at community and political events, and on stage with bands – his first love. In spring 2015 he formed the spoken word record label Nymphs & Thugs.

His work fuses socio-political commentary with kitchen sink realism and is presented in a dynamic and engaging manner. Matt captures a lot of his activism in his poetry, and always looks to focus on the human aspect of politics.

Matt is Poet-in-Residence at the National Coal Mining Museum for England, lead creative writing practitioner at The Hepworth Wakefield, and an ambassador for Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, Trinity Homeless Projects and CRIBS International.

Matt Abbott

He was also commissioned to write a collection as Poet-in Residence on a project with Efficiency North, a social housing enterprise based in Yorkshire. This was published in July 2018.

Two Little Ducks Cover

Matt was volunteering at the Calais Jungle refugee camp when his native Wakefield voted 66% Leave. Why did so many working-class communities like his support Brexit so strongly? How can the UK ignore a humanitarian crisis just 22 miles from Dover? And does anything ever actually change for people like Maria?

Matt’s one man poetry show, Two Little Ducks, is a powerful, personal and political spoken word show from one of UK poetry’s rising stars. He channels the human side of politics to look at national identity, preconceptions, class and anti-establishment anger. Poetic flair and storytelling, with a unique insight into the summer that changed everything.

To accompany the show, Verve Poetry Press has produced a book containing the full and final version of Two Little Ducks, along with a selection of the stand-alone poems Matt composed during the time of writing his show. Together they form a collection that gives a full and inspiring taste of this poet’s pin-point way with words and great concern for common people – their complexity, their great unpredictability.

The book also includes a selection of the standalone poems that wrote during the time of writing Two Little Ducks. Altogether, this collection is representative of three years of frenzied and focused writing and performing from a poet at the top of his game.

Two Little Ducks is Matt’s first collection.


‘A joy to read and an instant counter culture classic.’ – Salena Godden

‘Matt Abbott is the voice of the UK in uprising. Powerful, empathetic and necessary.’ – Joelle Taylor

‘An artist with something to say, who knows how to say it.’ – The Scotsman

Sample Poem:

Overnight Megabus

Where denim and leather sit side by side
and strip-lights sabotage slumber.
Strangers stretching blurry eyed,
non-nocturnal minds encumbered.
Not through choice but desperate need:
the overnight Megabus, London to Leeds.

Where minutes match the miles on the motorway.
The strip-lights are surrendered,
leaving cricket scores in the Evening Standard
semi-censored by midnight’s mask.
The old man squints,
with nothing but the Butterscotch glow
from Finchley Road
to illuminate his wickets.

Bare feet stick out in aisles.
It looks like a cross between a bingo hall
and a morgue on wheels.
The stuffy air stands
behind the shoulders of your lungs,
forcing them to work for every breath.

The toilet
is out of order.
The stench floats just above your nose,
like the Baileys in a Baby Guinness.
Whenever you lean back to rest your head
(which is fairly often at 2am),
it cackles and catches you unaware.


And then you snooze for a bit,
with jacket between head and shoulder.
Trick your brain into thinking there’s a duvet and a mattress,
until the booze morphs a mouth
that’s munched a month’s worth of crackers.

The hot air stifles and your forehead pounds,
but still…
three quid from London to Leeds!

Look around: we’re winning at life.
We drop off at Rugby, and Leicester,
and Loughborough and Sheffield.

Sunlight creeps like a magnifying glass
on a coach full of ants
being dragged from the capital.

The particles of shit from the blocked-up bog
form a Morris dance pattern ‘round your nostrils.
The Services are always twenty-five miles away.
Jesus still loves us.
This billboard is still FOR SALE.

The cricket scores in the Evening Standard
have fallen to the floor.
The picture of the crease all creased by his sandals.
The strip-lights fight for attention,
but they’re long since a formality.

The overnight Megabus. London to Leeds.

Blurry eyes now bloodshot.
Strangers carry awkward familiarity.
Snoring and sighs, stretches and yawns:
cash is the Queen,
and we
are the Pawns.

@MattAbbottPoet | Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube

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84 – A New Anthology on the Subject of Male Suicide – Submissions Details

84 is a new anthology of poetry on the subject of male suicide, as well as sub-themes of mental health, vulnerability, grief, and hope. You can read about our campaign to raise awareness and money for CALM with this book HERE.

Published by us, and edited by Helen Calcutt, the anthology will feature a host of male and female voices sharing their experiences of suicide, mental health, or grief – from those who have been on the brink of suicide, to those who have lost a loved one, or been moved by the campaign. We see this anthology as both an uncensored exposure of truths, as well as a celebration of the strength and courage of those willing to write and talk about their experiences, using the power of language to openly address and tackle an issue that directly affects a million people every year.

This book will be for everyone – from those who have lost a loved one to suicide, to those who want to support the call for action, and deepen their understanding of the crisis.

Submission Guidelines

-Submissions will open on Saturday 15th September 2018, and close on Monday 15th October 2018, midnight GBT.

-Up to three poems per poet (with none exceeding 40 lines) will be considered.

-Two works, including one short and one long poem (exceeding 40 lines) will also be considered.

-There is no limit to how short a poem can be.

-We are afraid that previously published work cannot be considered.

-Please include your name and contact details in the body of your email. Your personal information mustn’t be anywhere on the documents containing your poems.

-All work must be single spaced, with a title. If you poem does not have one, please give it an ‘Untitled’ heading.

-Please entitle your submission POETRY followed by the title of your work/s.

-Every single poem submitted will be read carefully by the editor.

-The editor’s decision is final.

-Please send your submissions to:   Only submissions sent to this email will be considered.

Please note that all submissions will be read very carefully, and with the utmost respect and sensitivity. If you want to share your story, but aren’t ready to share your identity, we accept anonymous submissions or those under a preferred pseudonym.


Note from the Editor:  ‘I am looking for work that is direct and unflinching. That is in each way unique to the poet and bright with clarity and precision. I prefer writing that turns the world on its head – as with translated works when English is brought to you fresh, I enjoy poems that are an experience. Taut with energy, and bold with musicality, lyricism & intent.

The translation here, however, will come directly from your experience: let this be your touch-stone.Sing your work from the body and mind. Play with voice, physicality, and landscape – internal and external. Be as honest as you think you can be, and as open as you feel you need. I’m not strictly looking for confessions, or songs of sorrow. There can be hope too, and words from another perspective. I admire work that dares to say ‘I suffer’ – but also that which looks to a new dawn. Be honest, take your time.

Thank you again for all your support during the early stages of this project. We’re excited to be taking this forward, and delighted you’re with us on the journey!

Warmest Wishes,

Helen Calcutt (editor), Stuart and The Verve Press team.

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Luke Kennard

Offical and quite dull biography beneath an offical and strangely happy and lovely picture: Luke Kennard is a poet and novelist. His books have been shortlisted for the Forward Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the International Dylan Thomas Prize. He lectures in the School of English at the University of Birmingham.

Unofficial and more exciting biography beneath a picture that we feel gets much nearer to the reality of the poet – edgy, troubled, slightly short-sighted: Thinking as we do that all of Luke’s poems are strictly autobiographical and not, as he maintains, wild leaps of imaginative fiction, Luke Kennard was both bullied and horrifically spiteful as a child and has very little grasp on the realities of modern life or the responsibilities he has within it. He would much rather be eating sweets, petting strange dogs, smoking cigarettes with no filter at all and tying himself in knots with deep and contradictory thoughts about very shallow literature than fathering his children in a responsible manner, working hard to earn a decent crust and educating his students well beyond their means. The little things – old phone-numbers on crumpled post-it notes, an unusual knot in the wood of his bedstead, a new freckly – are the things that entertain him most. 

To be serious for a second, we are thrilled and honoured to have LUKE KENNARD’s first pamphlet since 2012 – Truffle Hound – to kick of our new experimental pamphlet series this year. More resolutely prose than any of his previous books of poetry, here Luke allows his childhood (imagined or otherwise) to flood into the foreground, while his present (factual or fake news) distorts and fractures as if his life were being directed by a strange Gilliam/Lynch hybrid. Dogs, cigarettes, children and pills shouldn’t really be permitted to mix should they? Here they are a heady mixture indeed!

One of the shorter among some quite long prose poems in TRUFFLE HOUND


This is a story about a geyser of untranslatable thoughts. But it starts with a Ratpack B-side called If You Can’t Translate a River, How You Gonna Translate the Sea? and from there things get “worse” which is to say “ ‘worse’ ” and the protagonist is a man who forgets all of his body parts so he has labels attached to all of his body parts and labels attached to the labels to remind him what labels are and why he needs them and a tertiary set of labels with caveats. Do the children run from him as he rustles by or point and laugh? Let’s be honest. Nobody points and laughs. If I saw someone pointing and laughing I’d point and laugh at them. I remember at the age of 6 I was trying to write the word treasure and I asked my teacher how do you spell zh? She said It’s entirely dependent on context and I said What’s context? You know when you accidentally hug someone too hard and there’s a moment where they struggle or say oof. What are you trying to do? On my shelf I have a copy of a journal from the 80s called Poetic Comment only it’s just poems – and they’re not great – no comment whatsoever, go figure. Go tell it on the mountain. If I tried to italicize the way I feel about you the letters would lean so far to the right they’d be invisible.