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December 2016


First stop, a podium, next stop the poetry stratosphere: who are the Verve Podium Poets?

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We wanted Verve to be able to feature a whole range of poets, from those just starting out to those already arrived. And of course, we still wanted to include the full range of poetry makers, from performance, to page and everything in between.

The idea for Poets on a Podium came about because there are a number of poets in the area who quite simply had to be included. They don’t yet have collections out (although some are very close and have pamphlets in print). But they are poets of such calibre that we just know they are heading places. They are the West Midlands equivalent of The Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation Poets!

We wanted to give these poets a platform at Verve – a chance to show the festival audience what they can do – an individual showcase if you like. So each of them have been given their own 15 minute slot, in an intimate space at the back of our main festival floor, in pockets of time that sit between the main festival stage events we have going on. These solo readings show us what’s next for poetry, not only in the region, but nationally too, because they will have national impact, these poets.

There is limited audience space for these special events, with seat numbers limited to a cosy 30. And to make things worse, we have halved the entry price too, to a stupidly reasonable £3. So book early! You don’t want to miss these wonderful and intimate events! Buy your tickets here: vervepoetry.eventbrite.co.uk.

A little more about each Podium Poet

Helen Calcutt (2.30-2.45pm Saturday). I first saw Helen reading at The ORT café in Balsall Heath as part of Richard Skinner’s travelling Vanguard series of poetry nights. Her pamphlet, Sudden Rainfall, is full of gloriously evocative poems which really stay with you (it was shortlisted for the PBS pamphlet choice award), but she performs so well too, bringing a strange quality of peace and deep meaning with her into the space. Her first full collection is in preparation now, and I fully expect it to land with explosive intensity when it finally arrives. You don’t want to miss this.

Amerah Saleh (5.00-5.15pm Saturday). My first encounter with Amerah was when she kindly stepped in to interview Kate Tempest for us at an event we had with her at Waterstones. But I’d heard what an amazing performer of her poetry she is, and managed to catch her soon after supporting Polar Bear at the wonderful Howl Spoken Word Night in Moseley. She didn’t disappoint in the least – combining languages and performing with such focus and charged emotional impact – she is an absolute must see for poetry lovers at Verve.

Jasmine Gardosi (2.30-2.45 Sunday). I saw Jasmine perform in the strangely intense setting of the Birmingham Laureate audition process, and her performance, even in that confined space, was spell-binding. You can see straight away why she is a multiple slam champion. She has such confidence as she performs, and each word lands with perfect precision, on and off the beat. Used to larger stages than the one we are providing her with at Verve, come braced to be blown clean off your seats by this excellent poetry show-woman.

Geraldine Clarkson (5.00-5.15 Sunday). Geraldine is everywhere at the moment – a regular winner of national poetry competitions, and her pamphlet, Declare, is a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. I saw her read earlier in the year as part of Nine Arches Press and The Poetry School’s inaugural Primers selection of poets – her poem, Love Cow, has stayed with me ever since. She is that rare breed of poet who sees things from angles nobody else does and by doing so enable us to understand things a whole lot better. Her collection, currently in the making, will make vast poetic waves when it hits.

In many ways, these four poets picked themselves for Poets on a Podium. I’m thrilled that we have them to show you at Verve. You will get very different things from each of them, but you will leave feeling that poetry, in the West Midlands and beyond, is in excellent hands!