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Kamil Mahmood

Kamil Mahmood is a Poet, Spoken Word and Visual Artist born and raised in Birmingham His work explores identity, community, Islam, the British Pakistani Diaspora, masculinity and international activism. He combines contemporary commentary with narratives of the often overlooked and unheard, championing words as tools for change.

He has worked with organizations including Beatfreeks, Birmingham REP, Ummahsonic, Sampad, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and has perfomed with Out-Spoken, live on BBC Asian Network, at the Midlands Arts Centre, the Birmingham Hippodrome, Ikon Gallery as well as Cheltenham and Verve Poetry Festivals. He has been described as a wordsmith of the ages whose lyrics permeate the zeitgeist and a promising prospect for the UK Poetry scene.

Kamil’s thrilling debut collection, Mute Men articulates the author’s musings born on late bus journeys and silent morning car trips with his Dad.

Kamil focuses on narratives of the often side-lined, within the microcosm of the Muslim immigrant majority area that raised him as well as internationally, exploring the fallout of colonialism, war and displacement. The collection is a brutally honest collage of disconnect, of a boy stumbling into manhood; processing a strayed history whilst probing his place in the world.

‘A powerful and timely collection exploring the tension carries by many British South Asian men. Kamil’s poems are steeped in empathy and dazzling lyricism as he interroagets

race, masculinity and religion within his community. This is an important piece of British poetry.’ Caleb Femi

‘The equivalent of sitting in your nani’s kitchen, sipping chai, eating samoseh with chutney, chit chatting, reminiscing, debating, challenging, mind and mouth wide open, ready for the next morsel of knowledge to be handed down, His work is daring and unapolagetic, his style closely connected to his roots (Birmingham and Pakistan); his ideas brazen. At times difficult to digest, Kamil’s debut collection is one I will be coming back to time and time again.’ Nafeesa Hamid

Number 6

Doors slam themselves awake
knees scuttle steps tiptoeing insects.

I haste along the thick of it
pace to a place that’ll displace me
out of the routine.

White flag a bus to bring colour to this grey.
In mind’s eye spark hills, brooks and green halls.
surely the sullied hull of this ship will last
but touch wood the polaroids don’t develop too fast

I’m running
no faster than 30 MPH
amber lights contemplation
red lights meditation
vibrating laps and sweat clothed backs the sensation

This microcosm might cost 4.20
but this trip could be the day saver
Stay in your own lane
Poles and pockets

Foreign tongues wafting their scents
breeding the environment with their own
and in a split second it’s not a bus
It’s a boat or a PIA aeroplane
and it’s time share.

Hijabs and turbans and crucifixes
Masjids meet gurdwaras greet churches

Side by side in tessellation
Unknown in their piloted utopia

On a road that’s more like an aorta.

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Yasmina Nuny

YASMINA NUNY is a poet from Guinea-Bissau. She was born in Portugal and was brought up in different African countries before going to the UK for her studies.

She began performing in 2016 at open mic events around Birmingham and owes a lot to the second city for her development as an artist. She has since been featured at events like Heaux Noire (London), Funkenteleky (Birmingham) and the Verve Poetry Festival R.A.P. Party (Birmingham).

Yasmina has also had her poetry published in two other Verve collections –  The Poetry Jam Anthology Wild Dreams & Louder Voices (2018) and Nafeesa Hamid’s Besharam (2018).

Yasmina Nuny’s debut, Anos Ku Ta Manda, is as fresh and vital as her performance style. She writes both in English and Kriol, her mother tongue, to portray plural and untranslatable existences.

Her collection – so powerful – begins with an exploration of her country Guinea-Bissau, that remains accessible through language and family. Following this welcome into her home, Yasmina offers a more intimate reading of her musings and experiences of love and relationships. The final voice that we find in the collection is a political one, exploring both the trauma and joys of Black womanhood. Anos Ku Ta Manda is defiant and the experiences it explores are informed by Yasmina’s relationship with God.

This collection also feature guest poems from up and coming poets Darnell Thompson-Gooden and Ayo.



I have loved myself to this


To this state.

Enough to preserve when needed,

cry when needed,

war when needed.

Shave, regrow, rebirth

as needed.

Bloom where it is possible,

learn from all of it.

Unlearn to apologize for it –



We been there already,

done that already.

No longer at peace with disrespecting


like that.



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Katrina Naomi

Katrina Naomi

It’s wonderful to be able to welcome the amazing Katrina Naomi to our poetry family! Her reading at the first every Verve Festival was incredible and we have been in touch ever since! We knew something amazing would come out of her Arts Council funded trip to discover the poetry of Japan, but never thought we would be publishing the resulting pamphlet! Needless to say, it is more than equal to the high standards she has set in her previous work (incl our favourite, The Way the Crocodile Taught Me).

Katrina Naomi is a powerful poet based in Penzance with two collections and three other pamphlets to her name. In 2018 she received a BBC commission for National Poetry Day. Her poetry has appeared in The TLS, Poetry London, The Poetry Review and The Forward Book of Poetry 2017, as well as on BBC TV’s Spotlight and Radio 4’s Front Row and Poetry Please. Her latest collection, The Way the Crocodile Taught Me (Seren, 2016) was chosen by Foyles’ Bookshop as one of its #FoylesFive for poetry. Katrina was the first writer-in-residence at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in W Yorks. She has a PhD in creative writing (Goldsmiths) and tutors for Arvon, Ty Newydd and the Poetry Society.

Katrina Naomi at Verve '17

In 2018 she spent six weeks in Japan – funded by the Arts Council and the British Council – walking in the footsteps of haiku master Bashõ and immersing herself in Japanese poetry. The result is a beautiful chapbook titled Typhoon Etiquette.

The poems inside at once depict Japan, its traditions, its customs with great enthusiasm and some puzzlement. Katrina doesn’t pretend she is an expert but prods and questions not only what she finds but also herself. 

Also included are Katrina’s translations of Haiku by two Japanese masters, which have previously been published in Modern Poetry in Translation magazine. Altogether, this is Katrina trying something new, but with the quality, the wonderful way with words that characterises all her work.


Sample Poem: In a Plum Grove

The plums are from all over Japan
I won’t eat them
but admire their shapely leaves
which are clinging on
in this typhoon
I also admire a stream surging through
Kenrokuen Garden

Umbrellas hurry past
the typhoon hasn’t truly hit yet
this is only a taste
By tomorrow there’ll be more
umbrellas on the ground
than plums


Get in touch:

Twitter: @KatrinaNaomi

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Claire Trevien

Claire Trevien

We are honoured to have esteemed poet Claire Trevien as one of our experimental poetry pamphlet authors. Her Penned In The Margins collection, Asteronyms, is a real favourite of ours. Her idiosyncratic poetic vision, in English pulled from the depths of a French mind, is often gobsmacking, painfully entertaining.

Claire Trevien

Claire Trévien is a British-Breton writer currently living in Brittany, France. She is the author and editor of several poetry and non-fiction books including The Shipwrecked House, which was longlisted in the Guardian First Book Award, and the remarkable Asteronyms. She was the recipient of a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship in 2018. Trévien founded Sabotage Reviews and the annual Sabotage Awards, which under her guidance has become the single most important prize celebrating the activities of Indie Publishers and Events Organisers in the UK.

Her new pamphlet, Brain Fugue, is as inventive and playful as we’ve come to expect from this glorious poet. Claire can bring concepts, ideas and feeling to life with phrase after startling turn of phrase. She can play with form to create new and exciting ways of placing words on the page. 

But as with much play, things can quite easily tip into becoming a more serious kind of struggle. The struggle to feel settled – to understand – and finally, the struggle to find some kind of inner peace. Because lively energy and brilliance can also speak of the frantic attempt to find solutions that are never quite within reach.

This complex, multi-layered pamphlet of poems speaks of the complexity of the human mind as much as it does the complicated mind of this poet. Brain Fugue is an astonishing piece of work. Order your copy here>>>>>>

Sample Poem from Brain Fugue:

Brain as City

As the sky drawstrings to darkness,
                your buildings wake
– raise their skirts out of the gutter
                with an unsteady focus;
the park uproots itself,
                swings to the right,
its eyes two horses on springs,
                its mouth of sand empties.
The river abandons her bed
                tips out into the street,
(which itself has unlocked its jaws,
                the crossroad crumples into
the alley, headlines procreate
                with street signs, “STOP CHICKEN”,
                Now, the Ladbrokes rolls out
like a rubber band ball,
                accumulating house numbers.  
They lurch forward: bus stops,
                compost bins, roofs of clay, slate, and grit,
 doors united into a leg
                (windows leave
 the most curious prints behind),
                and they sink deep, and then deeper,
 into the mushrooming ground,
                not a spire left
 to periscope.


Claire’s incredible film poem Interpunct.

Twitter: @CTrevien

Instagram: ctrevien

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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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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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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.

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