Saturday, 23 May 2020

Seeking Lez Reid

Leslie Trevor Reid (1964 - 1991) - known as Lez - was a poet, singer, filmmaker and artist from Oxford. He lived most of his life in Oxford but spent several months in Columbus, Ohio and briefly took classes at Ohio State University.

When Lez died suddenly in 1991 he had just joined a band and music was his focus. But he was a gifted poet who had been active in Oxford scene and Bloomin'Arts for a number of years.

From 1987 until his tragic death in 1991 Lez had collaborated on several projects with Bridget Khursheed of p&g including performance poetry, video and crunch band PPP. His last unpublished collection was called Poems from the Housebuilder making reference to Lez' years as a bricklayer often working with his father.

p&g has been trying to locate his two sons Joseph and Duncan for several years to share a poetry collection and artwork - you can see our previous calls in and

What we have previously not revealed is that Lez and Bridget also made a film Celtic Pagans in Columbus. This has previously only ever been launched at a curated event in Columbus itself in 1990. We are seeking some help to get this restored and made available. After 30 years, it's time.

Please help in any way you can.

not really missed at all
I am a million fragments of light
and yet, I have only perceived a fragment of myself

Review: PASSION, PAIN and DEMON SLAYIN by Nick Igbokwe

The collection trilogy PASSION, PAIN and DEMON SLAYIN describes itself as written "through the heart, from the heart and for the heart". But it operates through the senses too in a visceral TikTok vision: anything can be resampled and welded together to create the new.


My dish is made of a recipe
of sugar, spice and everything nice;

This is a lengthy collection of three often overlapping sections each themed with a nod to Kid Cudi's 2016 release of the same name. In the original Kid Cudi collaborates on tracks with artists ranging from Andre 3000 through Travis Scott to Willow Smith. And in the book, poems bounce off each other in what the author describes as a “plethora of contributions”. Lines are samples, song themes riffed and artists walk though as characters; a mashup of singers, thinkers, film dialogue, quotes from poems, texts, tweets, jazz, lyrics; there's even a shout out to Danielle Steele.

Reimagining is key. A Mike Posner sample highlights this with its self-referential echoes of the meetup with Avicii that led to I took a pill in Ibiza: itself a remade encounter put into words and then remixed before the track found success. Intertextual hints question versional reality: who owns the truth here? The lyricist, the singer, the remixer, the fan? The reporter?

[Interlude: Mike Posner]
Avicii died, and little homie calls me up, and he's crying. (Drip) I told him, "I'ma be honest
with you, if you don't get your shit together, you're next." And the truth is, by the time you
hear this song, I don't fuckin' know if he's gon' be alive or not. This is all compounded by
the fact that she and I do not speak anymore. I mean, am I the only one here who doesn't
know what the fuck is going on?

Earlier extract from WHAT ARE WE

...Took a long long walk
down a street in Ibiza.
Thoughts of flashing lights,
you on my arm
The other arm in a sling and cast.

Plaster o. Plaster of Paris.
Everything was rosy
till you took a trip
and I thought it was a bright idea
to sneak my side piece into our night stand....

The reader needs to work at times - has to be surefooted - to see where the poet and the sample connect (as direct quotes although usually attributed are often given different presentation as shown in the Molasses sample below). The text sample is a different beast to its music counterpart; the poet has to be vigilant on the reader's behalf to avoid confusion.

p&g can envision this book filtered into 45 minutes of live music, spoken word and video but in its present state this collection is a whole performance in a book. We look forward to seeing what comes next from Nick Igbokwe and the Mans Way Of Seeing Things collective. PASSION, PAIN and DEMON SLAYIN is published by The Blueprint Ng and you can find out more here @_nothingnobody @thoughtsbyman 

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Review: witness by Jonathan Kinsman

witness describes itself as taking the gospel back to its radical roots in a time that has whitewashed its message: a story of "a man executed by the state for saying things they didn’t want to hear" strikes an immediate attitude.

The new pamphlet from Jonathan Kinsman doesn't lie. The god word ends its dedication and then almost immediately snaps into the poems themselves. I think this word has to be dealt with first. This is a book about witnesses and it speaks through the stories of the followers of Jesus to refire the new testament. Let's just say it: this single word could stop a lot of people off buying the book and that would be a great shame.

Confession: I am a vicar's daughter. It is probably the very last thing I want to tell people. Like Theresa May and Kevin Rowland & thank goodness the Brontes. As a teenager I erased it. 

Yet this book reclaims a space I perhaps like many others gave away too willingly. The baby with the bathwater so to speak. The poems focus on the decisions, the mundane pain, the potential ignition:

so when god walks amongst you in those ramshackle streets
...whispers blessed is every last one you say
give me a gun, lord

That's the first thing to get out of the way; god is here in witness. The only weapons are words. Get used to it the poet says. Let this speak to you. And a word about the language; the poems need to be heard - I hope there are plans for a performance video. I read the poems out loud at the first reading spontaneously:

it begins outside , under the orange glow of a
lamp post while god smokes like he has been doing it
since fifteen. your ted baker suit a black stain  in
a crowd of charity shop jumpers and hand-me-down
boots. they're saying what, him?

and god says yeah, him.

There's a sense of purpose to each character's poem: both in a discreet biblical reference and their immediate currency. The witnesses tell their experience in the context of their social network: a world of pain right though to pornstar martinis, foodbanks, racism, brexit, cheap wine, transition. There's no separation in struggle. The retelling of the the loaves and the fishes was shortlisted of the Leeds poetry prize but comparison is invidious; Simon Peter is interrogated by Paxman; even the tabloid sting of Judas is a reclamation:

                                                       your tears are
hot on your face like molten silver and the barrel sits heavy on
your tongue, tastes like blood. (they asked you the price of
a kiss. you didn't know it.)

Whether this book makes you rethink the gospel or whether you think that is a place you will never go, this is a book to savour from a poet of great honesty. This 14 poem sequence repays study of its alert, suggestive narrative and bold, reclaimed space. You can buy the book here and for more follow @manykinsmen

And compliments to Burning Eye Books for their tactile emphatic cover.

Review: Genre Fluid by Dan Webber

Genre Fluid is described on its cover as a "study into labels in everyday life in the arts and the LBGTQ+ community". The pun is funny and provocative; that play on duality is specifically defended in the book and permeates its content. Dan Webber put Genre Fluid on as a show and here is his dilemma - the first of several oppositions explored - is he a comedian? or a poet? Can a funny comedian even coexist with a serious poet? It's a dilemma not unfamiliar to poet & geek. The issue centres on how we define comedians and poets - which of course is a million miles away at times from how people with these professions actually are. (Poets can't drive for example!). And how people of all types see and read us based on what they think they know.

Confession: I love the way the book is set out - PowerPoints, snippets of text conversations and use of the Courier font immediately delight me.

The book follows the show but with no hecklers; were there hecklers?  The poems are arranged in 5 sections. My very first comment written in pencil on the text is "nice bit of Courier" - I did warn you! My next comment is to immediately respond to Dan's use of rhyme - this is spoken word that needs to be heard. In the poem "Moobs" - on the subject of taps aff being A-OK compared to breast-feeding (the very word is so serious and the slang version would be tits oot well you see the problem):

Who are these anti-tit hypocrites?
Who sit on commitee and ban the titty?
More's the pity

Dan Webber is a close observer - a skill useful in both of his professions - here he describes the eponymous date in the bitter sweet poem Thief.

The patterned bag
The beaten docs
The slightly hipster woven top
The half drunk can of gin and tonic held discreetly by your side
Underneath the no drinking sign...

There are a lot of dates described in the poems seen through the prism of dating apps like Grindr. These details are read; a semaphore memorable and contradictory. Dan is a bear he thinks and like comedian and poet and emergent or mid career this label shapes how he can interact and how he can be seen. Crossing codes is dangerous and it hurts sometimes. The pain sharpens the poems but it is a strong mirror on how we relate today.

I gather that you're horny yes but I'm not feeling this
No worries, he sends
And blocks me, like I've done something wrong.

This confessional style to the poems is funny and bleak; Dan Webber is prepared to go there.

But at the end:

It's like puberty take two.
Forgive me , cause I'm still finding boundaries.

And in the end there is a kind of new definition hinted at; or a redefinition of how we can see ourselves

Teenage boy, applying lip gloss in a supermarket mirror
"So, then he called me queer and I was like, yeah and?"
His friends giggle like it's no big deal
Stealing from the samples, they trade eye liners
And ever so slightly, the world changes.

This book made me look forward to the next and especially to catching the show live.

Dan Webber is modest about his performance and poetry skills - this is a deft exploration of labels with a soft, disarming and wry heart. The book is published by Big White Shed with an impressive array of funding source brands on its back cover. You can buy it here and enjoy Dan on Twitter @Dan_Webber_poet

Monday, 11 May 2020

Impressions of Poetry Wales Stay at Home special issue launch

A great pleasure attending the Poetry Wales virtual launch; a full crowd with familiar faces and poets new to me, not to mention audience members joining from Shetland, Norway and perhaps even more distant places. I had wondered how an event like this would work but I was won over by the banter before we started immediately "off to milk the cat"! The atmosphere was very welcoming and, once the readings began, it was joyful too to be able to hear live poetry again.

Poetry Wales Stay at home Special Issue Launch Monday 11th May 7.30pm via Zoom

I made some notes as we went along and apologies if I misquote or misname - as everything was necessarily done by ear. Jonathan Edwards the editor at Poetry Wales was a deft and informative host who mc-ed the readings with great ease and clear structure. I have been facilitating online group calls for many years and that task in itself is harder than you might think; Jonathan made it look easy. 

The evening started with Rae Howells reading Wood thinking - we went in the order of the magazine; this was a beautiful contemplation on trees and growth born out of a railway journey view; a re-imagining that dug out "dark fists of roots...a long ear horned into the ground" coming to a resonant conclusion "the world scrabbling and wormy". I can only quote fragments here and throughout as couldn't make notes any faster.

The lack of visuals meant we missed the shape on the page of Alan Kellerman's sound poem Ornithology; an added bonus for which you need to buy Poetry Wales. Alan won me over by saying he would have to sit still to avoid his chair creaking; the sound world of Zoom didn't intervene however. The opening line "A single thrush an obsession developed into the resonant and playful; I wrote down "a franchise of finches" but I was enjoying it too much to try and write it! Neetha Kunaratnam's forensic romp through Rotten fruit and veg made an elegant paring, its humour shone darkly in current times and I noted sparked an audience member to pick out the exact line that especially delighted me "jazz apples excessive scat".

Irish poet John McAuliffe's poem Green made me think of the links course in Newcastle with my grandad  - myself exploring the gorse while he played and, in my case, hardly understanding how a golf course could be there by the sea. John described the golf lesson, with self-deprecating humour, as so unsuccessful it took him thirty years to make something of it but what a thing he made; in the poem his attention wanders and strays through the landscape "No one's beach, nun's beach - concentrate or it could be anywhere". The final line confirms an endless re-vision "Now swing, follow through, try again."

Further readings followed by Suzannah Evans who shares my love of robots but contemplated it at a whole new level - "a robot for every kind of loneliness"; and the treat of two poems from Sheenagh Pugh contrasting in her first poem Definitions of Absence, the things that aren't there "the meaning that lodges between words" and in the Aldgate Potter, the things that are - "not every epitaph or monument belongs to mastery". A  fascinating collaborative pairing of subjects from Mari Dunning and Natalie Holborrow came up next which I am glad to say is being developed into a longer sequence - the re-seeing of Rapunzel "when she shouts I drop it...a full grown woman swinging my hair like an ape...not once does she ask if it hurts" was contrasted with the darker Gothel; and the theme continued with Matthew Francis reading his mesmeric retelling of Aschenputtel again a taste of a fascinating series. Briony Collins brought proceedings to a close with great effect with her first published poem. Only Roddy Williams was missing from the line-up.

On this showing I would really recommend you download this issue FREE (wow!) or as Jonathan Edwards put it if you subscribe here and Poetry Wales can print more pages. And go to all virtual poetry! It's great.