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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.

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Rupinder Kaur

Rupinder Kaur is a Birmingham born Panjabi poet and biomedical science student with an immense love for South Asian arts. She sees writing and reading poetry as a way to liberate the soul. 

For Rupinder, writing, along with any other art form, should be azaad – free, free to express what the artist wants or needs to say, without any censorship.  Rupinder is known for speaking her mind and this is reflected in her poems.

In Rooh, her debut poetry collection, she takes us on a poetic journey that transcends borders and arbitrary boundaries.

Her work straddles English and Punjabi culture – fusing words from Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu and English. They look at love, religion, identity, politics, history, taboos, society – often questioning orthodox views, particularly around the roles that different genders are expected to adopt. Rooh has a grand scope, and stares unblinkingly at the world. It is a stunning first collection from this young, intelligent poet.

To reflect these concerns the poems in Rooh have been detatched from their own moorings, to become and single river of verse. A river that by turns widens and narrows, meanders and charges rapidly onwards, that is contained when it isn’t breaking its bounds. The poems move with the freedom that Rupinder wishes she could see in the world around her, and with this in mind this book can be read in one long sitting or can be dipped into and out of like a cold river on a hot day, as your own rooh or soul dictates.

Rupinder Kaur



o mereya jugni, jugni

o mereya jugni, jugni


jugni travels from Delhi to Amritsar

across to England


jungi; the essence of life, the spirit of life

comes inside my rooh


jugni comes and dances in my dreams

jugni makes me fly


jugni takes me across borders

taking me to Lahore


jugni removes the radcliffe line

and I see my five rivers flowing together


jugni sees me read and write poetry

jugni tells me to light the candle


jugni watches me apply kohl

jugni watches me paint my lips


jugni looks at me and smiles

jugni tells me to fall in love with myself


jugni is no kafir or fakir

jugni is azaad, jugni is azaad


and jugni makes me free

jugni sets my rooh free


the jugni becomes me…

and the jugni becomes me…


o mereya jugni, jugni…

o mereya jugni, jugni…

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Nafeesa Hamid

Nafeesa Hamid

Nafeesa Hamid is a British Pakistani poet and playwright based in Birmingham. Her work covers taboo themes such as sex, domestic violence and mental health, using personal experience as a basis for her writing.

Nafeesa has been writing and performing for 6 years at nights around the UK. She has featured at Outspoken (London), Poetry is Dead Good (Nottingham), Find the Right Words (Leicester) and Hit The Ode (Birmingham). She was invited to perform at TedxBrum 2016 (Power of Us).

Nafeesa Hamid

Nafeesa has also performed at Cheltenham and Manchester Literature Festivals as part of The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, a recent (2017) anthology publication by Saqi Books, edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. She is an alumni of Mouthy Poets and Derby Theatre Graduate Associate Artists. She runs Twisted Tongues, an open-mic only poetry night at The Station in Kings Heath.

About Besharam: Learning that your mind and body have been taken hostage is one thing. Learning how to take them back is another. What if those that are returned are different to the ones that were lost?

Cover of Besharam

Besharam – Nafeesa Hamid’s glorious debut collection – asks this and many other questions. When does a girl become a woman? When does her world allow her to become a woman? And what kind of woman should she be? The answers aren’t readily forthcoming.

As she treads the shifting line between woman and daughter, between Pakistan and the West, between conservative Islam and liberal, Nafeesa has almost had to find a new language to try to communicate the difficulties of her situation. And what a language! At times hard and pointed, at other times wonderfully and colourfully evocative, erupting with 

femininity, empowerment and rebellion. It is this language that makes Besharam such a pleasure to read in spite of the pain it contains – Besharam really is a magical first book of poetry

About Nafeesa and Besharam … 

‘Besharam is an outstanding collection from Nafeesa… I think her poems are very special.’ – Imtiaz Dharker

‘Love this collection and finding it deeply affecting. The fearlessness is astonishing. Bravo!’ – Roz Goddard

‘One of the best readings we’ve ever had in the shop challenging sexism, domestic violence and claiming autonomy for woman.’ Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottm.

‘I highly, highly recommend pre-ordering [Nafeesa’s] first book of poetry – Besharam – as this writer resonates on a whole other level.’ – Pam Reader


Nafeesa preparing to read - Five Leaves, Nottm by Anne Holloway of Big White Shed.

‘Yesterday I read and was deeply moved by NafeesaHamid’s debut, Besharam. Thank you Nafeesa for articulating so deftly and elegantly such complex material. I know I’ll return to this book often. And big up VervePoetryPresS for publishing this important work.’ – Ruby Robinson

‘You know those times you pick up a poetry collection and read right the way through because every page is a grenade? … Besharam is powerful, rebellious, tender and bold. I could not put this ‘woman’ down.’ – Hafsah Basheer

‘I love Nafeesa’s vibrant, original and refreshingly original poems.’ – Josephine Corcoran

Sample Poem from Nafeesa

How to tell your parents you’re dating a white atheist

  1. Reassure them you are still Muslim.

  2. Wait for their bodies to relax.

  3. Wait for their faces to tense up as they realise the coming-out is still to come.

  4. Don’t tell them you’ve been dating for however many years.

  5. Leave the exit doors open. Wide open.

  6. Do not try and explain atheism to them.

  7. Do not expect them to smile.

  8. Do not try and touch them.

  9. Do offer them a helpline.

  10. Hardest blow first – “He’s an atheist.”

  11. Do not try and explain atheism.

  12. Carry on – “He’s a white atheist. He’s white. A white atheist. White. Atheist. Atheist.

  13. Hopefully, they will have understood by now.

  14. Imagine various scenarios where they hug you with you relief and declare through sweaty brows, “Gosh, phew! At least it’s not…”

  15. In reality your dad is the one that is crying and your mother is threatening to bury both you and her honour in the back yard.

  16. If you are the reason for your father’s first heart attack, turn to God and apologise profusely.

  17. Maybe don’t tell your parents.

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Leon Priestnall

Leon Priestnall is a Poet based in Birmingham. He has performed his poems up and down the country, headlining at The Door in the Birmingham Rep and performing spontaneous verse on BBC Radio. He is also host and founder of Birmingham spoken word night Howl. Bennetts Hill Blues is his first collection of Poetry.

Leon Priestnall Close-Up

ABOUT BENNETTS HILL BLUES: The Leon we meet in this debut collection is something quite rare on the Spoken Word circuit – a romantic, a lost soul, with so few of the right answers and so many of the wrong ones. His poems are full of questions, not solutions, or even a step further back from that – are asking the question of what questions to ask. In his work, he isn’t setting himself up as any kind of answer – he is as wrong as he is right, behaves badly as often as correctly. Often too confused to be able to move – beyond lighting another cigarette, taking another drink, running for the door – or speak. Often trapped inside the circle of his thoughts, which are a riot of possibilities and recriminations, what-ifs and why-nots.

Cover of Bennetts Hill Blues

That he is out and trying to engage at all feels like some kind of triumph. And he is out, in the locked throng of weekend bar-life, amidst the shouts and the laughter, the thrum of music, the night-life characters that appear and disappear like ghost-train skeletons, there as large and loud as life, until they are suddenly gone. He is out, trying to join in somehow. Either that or trying to forget.

Leon on the Mic
Leon in full flow

The other triumph is the language and energy of these hopeful no-hope poems. The lines sparkle like sharpened knives under the reflected light of glitterballs. From Johnny, the ‘flat out scoundrel rat/ with a scowl, prowling round your council flats,’ to Taxi Girl; ‘a rock n’ roll Marilyn Monroe … waiting for a sunrise myth-busting insomniac,’ – from ‘the narcissistic weight of a post-modern baby Hitler with a twitter’ to Leon himself, wishing he ‘was unhurried, mild, unafraid, perhaps colder, not so wild,’ myriad characters are brought to life with single breath-taking phrases, before the night, still young, but grown oh – so old, takes them off on their way again.

The upshot of all this is a glowing collection of wild and passionate verse, full of rhythm and urgency, from a poet with a glorious way with words. Leon is such an incredible performer – all heart and agitation and countless voices – the worry was always that we would struggle to stick him to the page. This book puts those worries well and truly to bed. Hopefully they won’t ‘wake up the following morning/ next to some pricky pick up artist/ who knew how to seduce his way/ into [their] low self esteem…’ – We are very proud of this first collection from Leon.

Leon’s performance style needs to be seen to be believed. Described by Jasmine Gardosi as ‘a one-of-a-kind performer … a master of onstage rhythm and personality,’ the video below will give you an idea of how he appears on stage.

SAMPLE POEM : Simple And Plain

Whilst others are taking flight
and not returning home.
I’m torn between writing a treatise of great philosophical insight
or a cliché break up poem.

Whilst others are breaking the mold,
taking hold of art
and redesigning it in their name,
I’m simple and plain –
still startled by a song lyric that mentions rain.

As the political order collapses
beneath the narcissistic weight
of a post modern baby Hitler with a twitter –
the world ending
not with a bang or a whimper
but with a hipsters ironic wink –
I just sit and think
about how I have too much time to sit and think.

Jealousies, ambitions, decisions, indecision,
hits and misses, misses the point.

Aching joints, broken hearts,
taking the piss, art,
kisses, is’s and ought’s.
I find a momentary spark,
upon giving up the pursuit
of finding the reality behind my thoughts.

I was looking but couldn’t find it.
I’m incredibly simple minded
and seemingly out to self destruct,
allowing myself to be bothered
by the actions of personas
we knowingly or unknowingly construct.

I wish I was unhurried, mild
unafraid, perhaps colder, not so wild.

Instead I’m thirty years old and still a bullied child.

Speaking philosophical wisdom
as I watch the codeine fizzle
but I like that I’m still startled
by a song lyric that mentions drizzle.

Should I write an essay of momentary importance
as if there’s nothing else to do?
Or should we discover whether I
is just another name for you?

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Amerah Saleh

Amerah is a British Yemeni poet from Birmingham. She has been writing and performing for 10 years across spoken word and theatre. She has taken her poetry all around the world to share messages with young people. She is a Board Member at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Co-founder of Verve Poetry Press and a Producer at Free Radical as part of The Beatfreeks Collective.

Amerah is well known in Birmingham as one who encourages and develops a love of poetry and its possibilities in young people. She has had a massive impact on the local scene.

Did you know? Amerah recently performed at The Birmingham Commonwealth Games Handover Ceremony on Sunday April 15 2018 which was broadcast live to the world!

I Am Not From Here has been a long time coming. It is a collection that twists and turns through the complexities of being Birmingham born but of Yemeni decent and culture; of being Muslim in a city of mixed faiths and in a country of little faith; of spending time in Yemen only to find that as a result you are refused entry to other countries and have forgotten how to live in yours; of losing loved ones too young (and when are we ever old enough for that?); of being split between the language and words of two tongues, and often finding that neither has the words you need; of facing hatred for acts that were none of your doing.

This book contains and engages with all this. That it doesn’t burst is down to the unique and unifying voice of Amerah’s poetry. Brimming with emotion, anger, frustration, grief and love – the beauty of the imagery, the often breath-taking turns of phrase, the soaring imagination, the gently woven structure, all help to turn the torments and confusion of a fractured experience into something unique and compelling. Amerah, against so many odds, has achieved something whole here – a complete and vibrant piece of work.

Amerah is a wonderful performer – catch her live if you can. This super video of her wonderful poem Fire-Eating Butterflies, gives you an idea. Filmed by the Beatfreeks Collective.


TWITTER: @Voiceofthepoets

INSTAGRAM: voiceofthepoets

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Casey Bailey

Casey Bailey is a writer, poet, spoken word performer, rapper and secondary school senior leader, born and raised in Nechells, Birmingham. He provides social commentary and analysis through his poetry, lyrics and articles.

In the last year Casey has been commissioned nationally, by the Local Government Association and locally, by the Birmingham Civic Society. Casey’s work as a writer has been recognised by Writing West Midlands who have offered him a place on the prestigious ‘Room 204’ project. Casey’s contribution as a writer, as an educator and dedicated member of his community have been recognised by the Birmingham Mail’s ‘Birmingham Live’, leading to him being named as one of Birmingham’s ’30 under 30’ of 2018.

Casey released the short poetry collection Waiting At Bloomsbury Park with Big White Shed in 2017.

Did you know? Casey recently had two videos of his work filmed and broadcast by BBC3, each amassing over 200,000 views on Facebook.

Order Adjusted here...

About Adjusted: It seems like Casey has been adjusting all his life. Adapting to the harsh realities of his Nechells upbringing – the drugs, the weapons, the lost friends, the lost hope. Finding ways to assimilate and swallow injustices and ways of being treated that no-one should have to tolerate. Finding a way to make meaning of his life – a way to contribute. And to some extent, he succeeded. He made the moves he needed to make and began to find his place. And then 2017 happened – when within a year he lost his mother and became a father and was forced to deal with extreme loss and joy, pride and pain, as life-sized as they get and all at the same time.

Adjusted is about Casey’s journey, and is an attempt to tell the story of this last tumultuous year, when sky-high highs and lows as low as ocean beds combined to form something else entirely; when a whole new raft of adjustments, bigger than any he’d made before, were asking to happen.

You can find lots of Casey’s videos on YouTube and at his website. Here is one of our favourites, filmed as part of the Black Country Broadsheet project being organised by Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists.



It’s June 13th 2017
tomorrow is my Dad’s birthday
today you are 4 weeks old.
I reflect on the lessons
he taught me,
consider how I’ll share them,
do I need to share them?
Will you need to hear
about oppression and inequality?
Will it help you?

I am fighting to build
you a future that rises above
the issues of my childhood.
I don’t know if you’ll need
to appreciate the struggles
that I have seen. Why show
you then? Why protect you
from suffering just to introduce
you to it anyway? Do you need
to know? Do I need to tell you?

Is it possible to eradicate
the inequalities of society?
Is it possible to make them

In 12 hours a fire will start
at Grenfell tower.
In 12 hours a flame
and combustible cladding
will answer my questions.



TWITTER: @MrCaseyBailey