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Evrah Rose

Introducing Evrah Rose: We are thrilled to announce that Evrah has agreed to let us publish her debut poetry collection this coming Autumn. Evrah Rose is making big waves in her native Wales and beyond, speaking passionately into camera on BBC SESH and kicking up a storm with her ferocious and energetic live performances. On the page, she is able to reproduce this energy (and her unblinking determination to depict difficult subjects) wonderfully. We look forward to supporting this powerful poet as she propels herself further into the poetry stratosphere. Keep your eyes peeled for further announcements.

Evrah Rose is an injustice driven poet and spoken word performer. Hailing from Wrexham, North Wales, Evrah delves in to taboo subject matter, unafraid and unapologetically. Using a mix of her own experiences and perspectives of others, Evrah confronts issues such as rape, mental health, addiction and domestic violence to evoke conversation. Evrah began writing poetry when she was just 9 years old to enable herself to rationalise her experiences. As a result, she became socially conscious and passionate about breaking silence. 

Just this year Evrah was commissioned by the BBC to write and create spoken word films and has had her work publicised by BBC 2, 3, 4 and BBC Wales. Evrah has headlined various spoken word events around the North West and has also performed at including Apple’s and Snakes DiVerse #7. As a music lover, Evrah combines both music and poetry to create a contrast that both stimulates and inspires and has subsequently been aired by BBC Radio Wales as part of BBC Introducing. 

Evrah’s work is a fusion of no nonsense realism, social injustice and hard hitting truths offering her audience a thought provoking experience that leaves them awakened.

Find Evrah:

Facebook: EvrahRose

Twitter: @evrahrose

Instagram: @evrahrosepoetry

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Helen Calcutt

Helen Calcutt’s introduction to the anthology she instigated in aid of a cause so very close to her heart demands to be read. It eloquently and passionately states her reasoning behind and hopes for this unblinking but hopeful collection of poems and some of the background about CALM’s fight to raise awareness around this important issue. As such, we have decided to reprint it here in its entirety. Read, digest, and then please help by buying this incredible book. Help us help CALM. And most importantly of all, help yourself. Verve Poetry. 

A few weeks after my brother Matthew died, my daughter told me she could see his face in the moon.

Days later, when she spied its silver disc in the window again, she said, that actually, it wasn’t just his face she could see. Everyone who had ever been sad was up there.

The moon changes, and so too, do all the people in its glow.

And that was when I realised ….

    We all suffer. There’s this idea that the personal blow of death, or a trauma, can’t be relatable. And with society’s insufferable ignorance to human vulnerability (especially male vulnerability) it’s difficult to see how this could ever change. But I feel it can, if we stop the bullshit. If we accept the reality of the human condition – that it’s a diverse, beautiful, troubled, elated, mish-mash of a being – and if we live by its natural demands, we can influence what is considered ‘normal’ behaviour. What currently stands as such has been working against us for generations, and ultimately, brought us to the mental health crisis we find ourselves in today.

   There are other factors to this issue – foremost, lack of funds to mental health services. But change starts with the individual, and this is one of the reasons I created this book. I received little-to-no help from any authority or public service after my brother killed himself. The doctor signed me off for three weeks and I was offered pills. What does this do? This response, though an initial kindness, had no relevance whatsoever to the patterns of my complicated grief, and this signalled a twisted understanding of it, or worse, a normalised ignorance to my vulnerability, in all its ugliness and truth. It also exposed a desire to sweep the problem under the carpet. As was the police’s response after my brother was found. Male dead, domestic tragedy. Tick the box. Move on.           

     It’s my understanding that, at present, society is shaped to deny us our defining human quality: our complexity. To be human is to be vulnerable. It is also to be aggressive, quiet, commandeering, violent; it depends on the circumstance you find yourself in. But these are all naturally existing, powerful sides to us. For whatever reason, society encourages an over-simplified existence, thus generating accepted ‘norms’ to our behaviour. We live, we die. We weep, we laugh. We suffer, we feel joy. It would seem we’re only ready to acknowledge and celebrate three of these six crucial human emotions. 

And the desire to live up to this warped standard of being has sadly become greater than the desire for truth. 

    Women cry, men do not. Men hit women, women don’t hit men. Both examples of what we would consider a socially accepted norm, denies either party their natural complexity. Women do hit men, and though a violent and harmful act, it also highlights a particular type of vulnerability (perhaps a trauma too) that needs addressing. Men weep. It’s probably one of the deepest, moving sounds I have ever heard. Denying this as a normal attribute to male behaviour, almost refuses them the basic right to grieve, to shed a skin – to let it out. Grief isn’t just about death either. The effects of grief and trauma are very present in the body and mind of someone who has suffered divorce. The loss of a life we love, either from sudden house eviction to an extra-marital affair, can take 12 months at the very least, to overcome. We can even grieve, deeply and with absolutely profundity, the loss of our former selves in the wake of any personal travesty.        

    Not acknowledging the many possibilities, the many realities, to inner turmoil, is damaging. It represses and confuses us. Suicide rates are through the roof in the U.K. Male suicide stats are particularly devastating. 84 men kill themselves a week, my brother being one of them. The reasons why he did it, are complicated. And unknowable to us in many ways. But I will say, that the pressures of a society largely unwilling to accept the anxiety and despair of a ‘man’s man’ (holding down a job, a mortgage, child-care) will have had something to do with it.

     The more we work to a fixed behavioural and emotional ‘standard’, the more we squash the natural intricacies of the broader human condition—not honouring or respecting who, and what we are. It’s time we changed that. After putting out the call for submissions and contributions to this anthology, I can see I’m not alone in my thinking. 

Anthony Anaxagorou, Nick Makoha, Carrie Etter, Salena Godden, Katrina Naomi, Ian Patterson, Andrew McMillan, Mario Petrucci, Abigail Morley, Joelle Taylor

The many poems I received, felt ready-made. Like they had been waiting at the bottom of a draw for the perfect opportunity and place to speak. I’m glad those who submitted felt this was it. The poems published here, and the adjoining blog, have given this book the truth it was seeking, showcasing humanity in all its vulnerable beauty. From the baby in the bath who knows that daddy is gone, to the woman whose father haunts her like a wolf through the window, anthology Eighty-Four gathers an exquisite collection of voices, singing completely different hymns, but together creating a sincere and authentic piece of music. From well-known poets, to new voices, there’s a glittering strength of character to this volume, because of the honesty from which its poems have been created, courageously and delicately embracing human complexity in all its forms.

    I knew immediately the title would be ‘Eighty-Four’. Inspired by the success of the #MeToo anthology, I wanted to create something for a specific cause, that honoured and supported Project 84, by the charity CALM (campaign against living miserably) and drew attention to an issue in the only way I knew how: through poetry. But, for me, this number represents more than a devastating statistic. 84 men lost to suicide a week isn’t a simple black and white problem. And the problem itself, isn’t a symptom of any single cause. It’s part of a wider dilemma, acutely connected to our almost pathological denial of human fragility (connected perhaps, to our fear of immortality and death). If you’re reading this, you may not feel an immediate emotional connection to male suicide. But you can understand the prevalence and seriousness this number holds. You might also start to understand what it means for us as a society, and share in asking the crucial question: how shamefully oppressive have we allowed the world in which we live, to become?

     Together, with the creative minds at Verve Poetry Pres, CALM, and my wonderful father and co-editor, we have created a book that, in opening its doors to the devastating theme of male suicide, has inspired a river of additional sub-themes and contexts: all relevant and connected to the central theme. At one stage, I considered grouping the poems under different chapters. But with time, I saw this wasn’t necessary. Anthology Eighty-Four has taken on its own life and shape, with each new phase of reading, though distinct, somehow aligned and in harmony with the one before it. There are poems here that sing to each other. Words and images that relate, yet with their altered backdrops, offering new perspectives. There are clear changes in voice and tone: the angry man, to the angry bereaved. This kind of opposition (or ‘balance’ as I like to call it) gives this anthology the emotional range it deserves, and is an authentic reflection of the overwhelmingly diverse, and sustained affects of suicide. Each poem conducts its own careful truth, told with searing conviction. Light and shade.

     This book is for every single person who has ever felt silenced. For anyone who feels uncomfortable talking about trauma or grief, to those currently suffering from grief-by-suicide, or who want to learn more about mental health issues. Let this be your touch-stone. Not only does it prove how powerful poetry can be in bringing our injured worlds into view, it also exposes a new, hopeful reality. Saying to you – start talking and keep going. Live through and voice your vulnerability. Speak and live your humanity.

    This book is also for Matthew. The older brother who was always giving. The first one to call me and tell me everything was going to be okay when I was pregnant. Whose laughter filled the room and infected every single person in it. Who was honest about not liking poetry. Who listened, and reserved judgement. Who was open and giving to every other human flaw, right to the end. Just look how this generosity has inspired others and lived on.

Helen  Calcutt (December 2018).

Full list of poets included (A-Z): Anthony Anaxagorou, Romalyn Ante, Casey Bailey, Abie Budgen, Lewis Buxton, David Calcutt, Helen Calcutt, Louisa Campbell, Diana Cant, Garry Carr, Stewart Carswell, Gram Joel Davies, Michelle Diaz, Glyn Edwards, Carrie Etter, RM Francis, Alan Girling, Salena Godden, Emily Harrison, John Hawkhead, Martin Hayes, Alastair Hesp, Shaun Hill, Paul Howarth, Rosie Jackson, Janet Jenkins, Helen Kay, Asim Khan, Charles Lauder Jr, Hannah Linden, Jane Lovell, Nick Makoha, Liam McCormick, Andrew McMillan, Abegail Morley, Katrina Naomi, Antony Owen, Isabel Palmer, Ian Patterson, Mario Petrucci, Zoe Piponedes, clare e.potter, Peter Raynard, Brenda Read-Brown, Victoria Richards, Belinda Rimmer, Bethany Rivers, Stephen Seabridge, Richard Skinner, Caroline Smith, Janet Smith, Joelle Taylor, MT Taylor, Christina Thatcher.

 

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THE END OF A WONDERFUL FIRST YEAR FOR VERVE POETRY PRESS!

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 https:vervepoetrypress.com/shop

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

Suhaiymah, Odelia, Waithera and Odelia
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.

This item is also available as an EPUB download. To order this, please go HERE

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, www.thebrownhijabi.com. 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

Polarbear

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!

This item is also available as an EPUB download. To order this, please go HERE

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.

 

CONTACT HANNAH:

Twitter: @HannahSwings
www.facebook.com/hannswings
https://hannahswings.com

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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. 

 

DID YOU HEAR?

Jemma’s second collection has been announced and is due in 2021 from the wonderful Bloodaxe Books. Congratulations Jenna! 😉

Jenna Clake (happy)

SAMPLE POEM BY JENNA

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.

QUOTES:

‘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
www.mattabbottpoet.com
www.nymphsandthugs.net