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Monthly Archives

January 2018

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Lauching the Verve Poetry Press

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It has been a discussion point regionally for years that Birmingham poets can sometimes struggle to find an obvious route onto the national stage and into being published.

When Cynthia Miller and I launched Verve Poetry Festival in February last year, this was one of the questions we were trying to answer.  As well as trying to address the questions of why big poets rarely came to Birmingham, why spoken word and page poets rarely appear together, and what city centre based poetry events should look like, we also wanted people from outside of Birmingham to see OUR poets, and gave slots to Amerah Saleh, Jasmine Gardosi, Helen Calcutt, Roy McFarlane, Bethany Slinn, to name a few and also had open mic opportunities at the festival for others.

We have been stunned at how popular this mixture has proven in terms of the festival and how happy people have been with our full spectrum of poetry approach, where beginners can rub shoulders with top name poets, where audiences, sexes and cultures mash and engage with each other. The festival worked, but one thing we thought might follow from the festival – namely more Birmingham poets (particularly on the performance side of things) getting recognition outside of the city and finding their work being published – hasn’t materialised. This is shocking when you consider the quality of the performance poets the city possesses – names such as Amerah Saleh, Jasmine Gardosi, Casey Bailey, Leon Priestnall, Aliyah Holder, Nafeesa Hamid, Rupinder Kaur, Sean Colletti – the majority also representative of the many minority cultures that add such vitality and energy to Birmingham as a city. So this year, along with co-founder Amerah, we decided that if the right things weren’t going to happen at any great speed, then we had to do it.

VPP logo

Verve Poetry Press launches this year, and our first book will come out on Feb 8th –  the wonderful Poetry Jam’s 5th Birthday Anthology. This book will contain a glorious mixture of poetry by Poetry Jam regulars, chosen by the community for the community. The book will launch as part of Poetry Jam’s 5th Birthday celebrations at Birmingham’s spectacular Town Hall, and will be available to buy at the event as well as from the Verve Poetry Press website and Waterstones in Birmingham (including at Verve Poetry Festival 2018). All profits from the anthology will go towards keeping Poetry Jam alive and thriving well into the future.

Poetry Jam

So what are we publishing? In April we will publish Amerah’s much anticipated first book of poetry (titled I am not from here) and a debut full collection from Casey – Adjusted. As these works move steadily through the editing process, it is already clear that these will be stunning books of poetry – thoughtful, moving, vastly imaginative. In June, we will put out Leon’s debut poetry book, sure to be another stormer, and a collection from Nafeesa which we are extremely excited about. Other discussions are taking place, with the aim of putting out no less than eight collections a year. We will publish a City Poems Anthology in February 2018 off the back of the Verve Poetry Festival competition, titled It All Radiates Outwards, and a Birmingham Poets Anthology in February 2019 to coincide with Verve 2019. We are also likely to launch an experimental pamphlet series in 2019.

Our Midlands Poets Series of collections, focussing heavily on the Birmingham poetry scene, will be new and fresh. We will invite important guest editors to edit a section of the work with the poets. (Casey was booked in for two days of editing input from none other than Raymond Antrobus in January.) We will feature a poem from each of three upcoming local poets picked by the poet in each collection. Like Verve Poetry Festival, our Press will have bright and colourful design and a glorious, vibrant look. All books will retail at £9.99 and contain 60-80 pages of wonderful, lively and challenging poetry.

Our poets are already wonderful performers, fully able blow you away with performances and readings of their work. Through Verve Poetry Press they will show that they can write too. 

So watch out poetry world! Verve Poetry Press is coming, and the world of poetry might never be the same again! 😊

Order Verve Poetry Press books here. 

Verve & Hit the Ode Tech Special

Verve & Hit the Ode: Tech Special

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Ahhh we’ve all been there. Stood behind the microphone at Hit the Ode, knowing you’ve been going now for about 4 and a half minutes. Your poem’s going really well and it’s about to get EVEN BETTER and the crowd are about to go mental for your simile about marmite and then-

If you were an automated poetry machine you would never make these mistakes. Never face the shame imposed by Bohdan and his accomplice DJ Grit and Grind for straying over your 5-minute open mic slot. Never had to bow your head and walk somberly off the stage to Foreigner’s ‘I Wanna Know What Love Is’. If you were an automated poetry machine your poem would have evoked the perfect balance of 87.3% melancholy peppered with the crucial 4% fear in your audience. Splendid.

Well, whilst Hit the Ode‘s Tech Special may still occasionally embarrass you with out of context pop songs, it will not – thankfully – be showcasing Apple’s new range of automated poetry machines. We at Verve have real, live poets with thoughts, feelings, poems and no aptitude for calculating audience reaction in percentage form.

Our three featured poets for the event – Tomomi Adachi, Yomi Sode & Hannah Silva – all use technology in their performances. These poets bend technology to their will, using it to inform, enhance and warp their words. They achieve what Tomomi Adachi describes as ‘an intermediary between poetry and music, and it doesn’t mean poetry plus music, its something in between.’ Take a listen below.

There are eight open mic slots available on a first-come, first served basis. These will be allocated by our in-house Time and Attendance Bot. If you still need to bag yourself a ticket, then take a wee digital trip across the ether and talk to our ticking man – Mr. E. Vent-Bright. He will be happy to provide you with a ticket for what he considers to be a very reasonable rate: £6 / £4.


‘Infrared Sensor Shirt’ – Tomomi Adachi 


‘Prosthetics’ – Hannah Silva


‘Okay Not to be Okay’ – Yomi Sode 

Announcing the Verve Poetry Competition 2018 winners!

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We are delighted to announce the winners poets of the 2018 Verve Poetry Competition, as judged by celebrated poet Luke Kennard. Congratulations to all our winners and a huge thank you to everyone around the world that entered the Verve Poetry Competition this year!

First Prize (£500)
Consuelo Marshall – ‘Myself as Playboy Bunny’

Second Prize (£250)
Jacqueline Saphra – ‘Shoreditch’

Third Prize (worth £100)
Claire Trévien – ‘Brain as a City’

Judge’s statement:

“I think I’ve read for around ten poetry competitions over the years, but this is the first time I’ve judged something with a specific theme, and that made it quite a different experience. It was more like reading a vast, 600 page anthology, grappling with ideas of the city, experiences within it, personal histories both in celebration and lamentation. The poems had all the noise and stimulation of the city, and it was a privilege to be let in to these thoughts and stories, especially the more idiosyncratic. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the topic there was an unusually refined grasp of sensory detail, of the local as the universal, of one’s story honestly told being an act of intellectual generosity. On the first read through you’re really just absorbing everything, allowing the poems to work on you in whatever way the author intended or didn’t, gratefully receiving new perspectives and insights from an exciting range of voices. The more painful part comes when you have to start selecting, forming piles of Yes and Maybe, leaving some behind and taking others to the next round. You start to wonder who exactly you are to be entrusted with such a task. An attentive reader, I suppose, and I suppose that’s enough. I’m delighted with the winning and commended poems, as difficult as it was to choose so few from a field crowded with talent. Each time I return to them I find something else to admire; am struck again by the freshness and persuasion of the tone; the sense of an imagination as alive, as crowded, as joyful or poignant as the cities they conceive.”

Our City Poems event on Saturday morning has SOLD OUT but you can still buy tickets for other fantastic readings at the Festival here.



Nymphs and Thugs at Verve 2018 #3

Nymphs & Thugs at Verve 2018: Salena Godden, Matt Abbot, Maria Ferguson and Jamie Thrasivoulou

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Sunday sees Nymphs & Thugs visit Verve with some friends. They present Salena Godden, Matt Abbott, Maria Ferguson and Jamie Thrasivoulou; four vital performers all rattling with the sense of urgency that makes the UK spoken word scene so exciting at present.

Thunderbird’s Red on piers. 1987. UK Garage. Train yards. Silicon smiles. Bombastic chasms of self-destruction. Foot-soldiers and witnesses. Fair-weather friends of sin. Flat caps, camel coats and dogs. Cigarette burns on desolate benches. Oranjeboom 8.5. Hot water bottle life rafts. Mushroom cloud worshippers. The years of the suns and the moons.

For poets which talk about such a diverse range of things, their style and execution never seem to waver. These are writers which wrap their words around you like tendrils, stirring that sense of nostalgia and passion which has always attracted me to spoken word. I can safely say that, for me, this is one of the most exciting events at Verve this year.

But enough hype and sub-standard bodging of their words into a blog, here is a selection of some favourites. I am going to put a link to tickets for the event here, so you don’t frantically break your mouse / injure yourself whilst trying to find one, after watching the videos. Enjoy, reflect, stay safe.

‘Where Everyone Knew the Krays’ – Maria Ferguson 

‘Under the Pier’ – Salena Godden

‘The Best of a Bad Situation’ (A Sound Collage of Four Poems)  – Jamie Thrasivoulou

‘Roy of the Rovers’ – Matt Abbott