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5 Reasons to Hit the Ode

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You Like Bad Puns (and Believe in the Global Reach of Art)
Yes, let’s get this out of the way: Hit the Ode is a groan-worthy play on “hit the road”.  Hopefully it sets the tone for an event which does not take itself too seriously, and helps the poems shine in comparison. But the name also points at the unique nature of UK’s only regular poetry night which features international guests every month as part of its format. We’ve had guest from five continents so far, and we’ve discovered that even for poets – especially for poets? – language is no barrier at all. Come and find out for yourself.

It’s A Really Good Time (And We Have Proof)
Just watch this, will you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtOJOGkyz-c&t=84s

We Have Three Incredible Guest Poets (Who Are Also Musicians)
From the Midlands, Soweto Kinch: the man who embodies the Brummie renaissance, a lyricist, playwright, poet, rapper and saxophone virtuoso in one tight package. http://www.soweto-kinch.com/

From outside the Midlands, Jemima Foxtrot: writer, theatre-maker, performer and musician, Jemima’s makes the distinction between song and poetry irrelevant. https://jemimafoxtrot.co.uk/

From beyond these Isles, Dizzylez: rapper, poet, percussionist, loop-pedal master, this French jack-of-all-trades creates layered narratives in front of your very eyes. http://www.dizzylez.com/

You Can Perform Alongside Them (You Know You Want To)
The open mic at Hit the Ode is one of the best things about the night. A mix between experienced pros and talented first-timers, it is an unpredictable quick-fire poetry roulette – and it is also, for everyone’s protection, time-limited. Best of all, it is really, really open – so for your chance at a slot, email Bohdan Piasecki (bohdan@applesandsnakes.org) and you might just get the chance to share your work with the world.

We’ve Been Around for a While (So We Know What We’re Doing)
Hit the Ode is now well past its sixth birthday, and it’s not too much of a stretch to say we’ve become a bit of a name here in Birmingham. With good reason: over the years, we’ve refined the formula. We know exactly what track to play to interrupt those who would test our time limits; we’re familiar with emotional health and safety procedures, and apply them liberally; our instant poet kits make for coveted raffle prizes. But most importantly, we know when to stop messing about and let the poetry speak for itself. We have good poems. Come hear them.

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Emma Wright on the importance of poetry for children

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Back in 2014, when Rachel and I decided to start publishing poetry for children, our general reasoning was that we’d always wanted to publish children’s books and that young readers of poetry were more likely to become older readers of poetry. We also conjectured that if young readers kept enjoying poetry into their teens then they were more likely to be able to transition into reading poetry for adults, instead of baulking at the jump between simple, straightforward poems aimed at 6-year-olds and more complex, knotty poems for adults. We felt politely passionate about it.

Since 2014, we’ve published three collections of children’s poetry (aimed at readers aged 8+) and run dozens of readings and workshops for children, including our Arts Council-supported nationwide Myths and Monsters tour in 2015. We’ve got our first collection of translated children’s poetry coming out in July, and Rachel is about to start teaching a course on writing poems for children at the Poetry School.

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 20.47.51And now I want to scream passionately into everyone’s faces: ‘Poetry is REALLY IMPORTANT for children and we NEED TO TRY HARDER to get children reading and writing poetry.’ I’ve learned more about children’s literacy and I’ve seen first-hand the empowering effect that creating a poem can have on a child. I’ve also thought a lot about who literature ‘belongs’ to, and how sad and unfair it is that some rich, wonderful areas of human endeavour might be ruled out for some people because they feel it isn’t ‘for’ them.

If we learn how to read and love poetry while we’re young, and we continue to have access to poetry which feels ‘ours’ all the way from childhood through school, we might just retain into adulthood the feeling that poetry is something we enjoy and can turn to when we feel like it or need it. I can’t say ‘Poetry will ease your way into positions of power and privilege’ or ‘Poetry increases the chances of home ownership by the age of 25’, but I can say that reading and writing poetry enhances our understanding of the possibilities of language and the nuances of human expression and communication, all of which feels very important for success and happiness in life – too important to be reserved for the privileged few.

I’ve programmed some fantastic free readings and poetry-writing workshops at Verve next weekend (18-19th February), in addition to an open mic event for children (reserve places here!) and I hope that the children who attend will come away with the feeling that poetry is, or continues to be, for them.

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Calling all bookworms and budding poets!

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If you know of any know any children aged 6+ who love books, reading and writing, Verve Poetry Festival is the place for them this February half-term. We have a lively programme of children’s writing events at Waterstones Birmingham on 18 – 19 February.

On Saturday, 18 February and Sunday, 19 February, the best local and national children’s poets like Emma Purshouse, Rachel Piercey, Kate Wakeling, Sarah Crossan, Brian Conaghan and Richard O’Brien will dazzle, delight and inspire all those young Shakespeares and Byrons.

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 20.45.32They can listen to brilliant poetry performances, bring a poem to read at our Little Tyke Open Mic or join one our lively writing workshops and write a poem about space, aliens, myths or monsters, with plenty of prompts and feedback from our poets.

The best part? All children’s events are free! What better way to spend your weekend with your family? Places are limited, so book your tickets here.

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All events will take place on the dedicated children’s floor (Floor 3) of recently refurbished Waterstones Birmingham, a bright and cosy space perfect for curling up for a reading or scribbling away. The new Children’s floor opened in November 2015 and is chock full of children’s books for every age and taste. It has its own café and plenty of seating so you can drink and read to your heart’s content! Have you visited yet?

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These children events have been lovingly curated by The Emma Press, a poetry publisher that delights in making poetry fun and accessible to children of all ages. Verve Poetry Festival is Birmingham’s first poetry and spoken word festival that features a range of poetry, spoken word, unique performances, lively workshops, open mic opportunities and more.

There’s a new look to Sunday at Verve

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We have made some changes to our programme for Sunday 19th Feb at Verve.

Most notably, Melissa Lee-Houghton has had to pull out of the festival for personal reasons. This has left a hole in the programme, as Melissa was due to run a workshop in the afternoon as well as reading at the evening headline event alongside Penned In The Margins stable-mate and Birmingham based Luke Kennard, and excellent Bloodaxe poet Shazea Quraishi.

It is a hole we have been working hard these last few days to plug, and plug it we have. Shazea Quraishi was thrilled to be asked to run a workshop in Melissa’s place from 1-3 PM. While Melissa was going to be getting her workshoppers to focus on the idea of writing to, Shazea will instead focus on writing as.  Here’s the blurb…

Writing what you don’t know
In this workshop we will explore the endless possibilities that open up when the I in the poem is not you. Taking inspiration from persona poems by Carol Ann Duffy, T.S. Eliot and others, you will be encouraged to slip into someone else’s skin and imagine their truth. New poems will be generated through writing exercises.

We think this sounds like an phenomenal workshop and are so pleased that Shazea has come to our rescue.  There are still a couple of places left, so grab one while you still can.

For the evening headline event, we decided to ask to excellent Ruby Robinson to read for us in Melissa’s place, and we have to say we were thrilled to bits when she agreed. Ruby has had an glorious year on the back of having her first collection, Every Little Sound, published by Pavillion Poetry – being short-listed for the Felix Dennis Prize for best first collection and the T.S. Eliot Prize. Collette Bryce wrote, ‘Every Little Sound is an extraordinary first collection from a very gifted young poet.’ We are so excited to hear Ruby read and feel she has added something to our evening headline event that it didn’t possess before. It will be a wonderful reading.

Ruby Robinson

Here’s a little more about the newest poet joining our Sunday headline event: Ruby Robinson was born in Manchester in 1985 and grew up in Sheffield and Doncaster. She studied English Literature at the University of East Anglia and has an MA from Sheffield Hallam University, where she won the Ictus Prize for poetry. Her poems have appeared in The Poetry Review, Poetry (Chicago) and elsewhere. Her debut collection ‘Every Little Sound’ was published this year by Pavilion Poetry, an imprint of Liverpool University Press (edited by Deryn Rees-Jones) and was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection and the T.S. Eliot Prize.

These changes, we feel, have had a minimal impact on the calibre of our Sunday programme. We still have excellent showcases from both Burning Eye Books and Nine Arches Press; Podium Poets slots from slam genius Jasmine Gardosi and poets’ favourite, Geraldine Clarkson; workshop opportunities with Clive Birnie and Jane Commane and a drum and beats poetic happening with Antosh Wojcik. Not to mention our Brum Stanza breakfast and a morning performance from some local up and coming poets courtesy of our friends at Beatfreeks. There are great value Sunday passes still left, but they are going fast – why not grab one and come and see it all!?  

One last change on the Sunday to mention is our decision to replace the 9-11pm Anti-Slam event with a Verve Poetry Festival after party. We have done this for a number of reasons, the main one being that for many such a late final event on the Sunday was proving difficult to attend. We learned this lesson and have taken action accordingly. All who are still with us after the Kennard, Quraishi and Robinson reading are welcome to join us in the store cafe bar for an hour or two to toast what we hope will have been a successful festival, listen to some music and have a good old poets’ chin-wag. We hope you are keen to join us.

Verve is less than two weeks away. We can hardly wait!

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Jenna Clake on Verve

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I’ve lived in Birmingham for about four years, during which the ‘poetry scene’ in the city has grown exponentially. When I moved to Birmingham as a student, there were a few spoken word events around the city, and they mostly drew regular crowds. I grew up in a small town in Staffordshire, so poetry events were a completely new experience for me, as were open mic nights.

At university, I was learning how to write poetry, and learning that poetry wasn’t just this outdated form of expression written in the eighteenth century. At spoken word events, I was learning that rhyme could be used elsewhere, not just in rhyming couplets, and that there were people who were passionately trying to make modern poetry exciting for everyone (not those just studying it). And so things continued to tick over in a way, with spoken word being Birmingham’s primary focus, it seemed.

And then came along the new Waterstones. Poetry fans across the city (and nearby counties) had been waiting for their bi-/monthly events, but Waterstones has made poetry readings and open mics available at least every fortnight. That means poetry lovers can actually, at last, have a calendar full of poetry events. I’d been commenting that having the new Waterstones and its events was like living in a constant literary festival, and then Verve was announced.

Birmingham’s own poetry festival has been a long time coming. The city has its own literature festival and film festival, so why not a festival for the medium we’ve been championing for years? But what can Verve offer? Rather than a nod to spoken word with poetry slams or the odd spoken word performer, Verve is equalling the playing field between ‘traditional’ or ‘page’ poetry and spoken word. I’ve long held the opinion that a good poem is a good poem, so it should be written and performed well, whether you wrote it to be performed or on a page. Being a poet means that you have to do both. I’m hoping that Verve will help to blur the binary between spoken word and poetry.

Combining the two is undoubtedly part of Verve’s aim to bring poetry to the masses in an exciting way. I was at a poetry event the other week and another attendee said that she had been in Waterstones earlier in the day, had seen a sign advertising the event, and despite the difficult logistics of getting home and back again, had told herself she couldn’t miss it. I find it difficult to contain my enthusiasm when I think of several people doing that during Verve, the people who might wander into Waterstones and take their children to one of the children’s poetry events, or discover poetry for the first time, or continue to support Birmingham’s poetry scene.

I’m very fond of Birmingham and the opportunities it’s given me. I hope that Verve attracts a large audience like other poetry festivals do. I also hope that the audience that attends Verve is different. It’s inarguable that Birmingham has a diverse population, and a part of that population already loves poetry. The point of another poetry festival isn’t to just have another poetry festival: it’s to attract new audiences, make more people love, buy, write and see poetry, and make people feel that poetry is for them.

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Poetry Surgeries with Robert Harper

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Guest blog by Robert Harper

The whole Verve Festival enterprise is such an exciting thing for the West Midlands. It’s on next month and I can hardly believe my luck, like the best belated Christmas present or a perfect addition (or antidote, depending on your way of thinking) to Valentine’s week.

When Stuart Bartholomew first mentioned Verve was happening, and that he’d like Bare Fiction and myself to be involved in some way, I got a tingle. A poetry and spoken word festival in Birmingham! All in the delightful and newly renovated Waterstones store? Double tingles. Over a few phone calls and emails, Stuart and I banged our heads together to come up with the best way for Bare Fiction to support the festival. Since BF is just myself and the festival already had a great line up of poetry workshops for people to attend we thought offering a few one-to-one sessions over the weekend of Verve would be ideal.

It’s always such a pleasure to sit with someone and talk about a poem; discuss what is working and what might not be, how a reader might stumble and how best to approach rewriting a line here or there. So, that’s what I’ll be doing between 10am and 12pm on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th February, in the comfort of the wonderful Waterstones café (I’m sure the cake will be as good as always too). The slots are half an hour each and they’re all FREE! Click this link to sign up for one of the eight available slots and bring along a poem you feel needs a little tender nudging in the right direction. See you then (and at lots of other brilliant events throughout the festival).


Robert-Harper-online-poetry-surgery-759x500Robert Harper founded Bare Fiction Magazine in 2013 at the same time as he began his MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) & Pedagogic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University. After completing his first full collection under the guidance of Jean Sprackland, later this year Robert is on track to commence a PhD in poetry with a combined critical & creative research project on American Poetry of the mid 20th Century. He has taught creative writing in Shropshire for the last 4 years and has edited anthologies and collections for several poets.
His own poetry has been published in journals such as The Interpreter’s House, Prole, Acumen, The Lonely Crowd, Ink Sweat and Tears, And Other Poems, New Welsh Reader, and in anthologies such as ‘#2PoetryAnthology’ (Vanguard Editions), ‘Fathers and What Must Be Said’, ‘A New Manchester Alphabet’, The Every Day Poet, and ‘An Anthology to Seamus Heaney’, and was Highly Commended in the Poetry Book Society Student Poetry Competition in 2014. He regularly reads his work at events across the country and, having been an actor for 25 years, often gives workshops on vocal and performance skills.

Food and drink at Verve

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All that listening, reading and writing is sure to make you hungry. If you fancy stretching your legs between performances or grabbing a bite to eat, we put together this blog of some of our favourite spots in the city.

If you haven’t been to Birmingham in a while, I’m sure you’ll find that the city has changed drastically. There are more new pubs, restaurants, bars and quirky cafes than you can possibly imagine. Since Waterstones is right in the heart of the city centre, most of these are within an easy 10 minute walk of the venue. If you’re not sure where to go, grab a Verve volunteer who will be happy to point you in the right direction.

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COFFEE
Tilt – Tucked away in a side street near Waterstones, Tilt has coffee, a selection of craft beers and, surprisingly, a lot of vintage pinball machines.

Faculty – You won’t find another cafe that obsesses over coffee like Faculty. Small but perfectly formed, swing by this cafe in Picadilly Arcade for a quality latte. 14 Piccadilly Arcade, B2 4HD.

Yorks Bakery Cafe – Cosy and inviting, Yorks serves up fantastic coffee, tasty treats and a delightful brunch menu that will set you up for the day. 29/30 Stephenson Street, B2 4BH.

Edwardian Tea Rooms – A true hidden gem. Located in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, this is the perfect spot for a cuppa and people-watching. Chamberlain Square, B3 3DH.

 

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(Image credit: Independent Birmingham)

LIGHT MEALS
Waterstones Cafe – Serving up hot drinks, coffee, pastries, soups and sandwiches, there are two bookseller-run cafes in the store.

4023 – Quite possibly one of our favourite lunch places in the city, 4023 does a roaring trade in delicious grilled Mediterranean wraps. 34 Stephenson St, B2 4BH.

Sixteen – (Pictured) Right next to Faculty in the Picadilly Arcade, Sixteen has beautiful cakes, light sandwiches and salads in their one-stop-lunch-spot. Menu changes daily.

BrewDog – Next door to The Stable is famous punk brewery Brewdog – stop here for excellent beers and bar snacks.

Anderson and Hill – Our favourite deli is located in the beautiful Great Western Arcade by the Cathedral. Admire the various meats and cheese on offer, and pick up a gourmet sandwich or salad box for lunch.

LEON – London’s favourite healthy fast food restaurant is now in Birmingham, serving up salad boxes, wraps, treats and drinks. Grand Central/New Street Station.

 

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SOMETHING MORE SUBSTANTIAL

Original Patty Men – (Pictured above) There’s a reason they have a cult following. Located in the railway arches by Moor Street, these are hands down the best burgers we’ve ever had. Ever. Krispy Kreme donut burger anyone? 9 Shaw’s Passage, B5 5JG.

Tonkotsu – Step inside Selfridges’ Food Hall for a big hearty bowl of ramen that will warm you up on a wintery February evening.

Yakinori – Head upstairs in Grand Central to this independent for delicious (and reasonably priced) Japanese food. Limited seating in their impossibly tiny open-air shop, but they do a killer £5 lunchtime takeaway option. Grand Central, above New Street station.

Pure Bar – Gastropub and brewery serving up a range of tasty, tasty beers and pub classics with a twist. If you haven’t tried their mac and cheese, you haven’t lived. 30 Waterloo Street, B2 5TJ.

The Stable – 30 seconds walk from New Street, The Stable is a friendly place famous for great pizzas, pies and ciders. 115 John Bright Street, B1 1BE.

Turtle Bay – Further along from BrewDog is this jamming Caribbean bar and restaurant. Go for the tropical cocktails, stay for the goat curry. 81-91 John Bright St, B1 1BL

Bodega – If you can wrangle a table, their South American food and lively atmosphere is well worth the wait. 12 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham B2 5RS

Lost & Found – Quirky cocktails and British classics done well, in a beautiful former bank building. 8 Bennetts Hill, B2 5RS.

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Verve workshops: write, edit and perform with confidence

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Verve isn’t just about showcasing the best of the best of UK poetry. We want the festival to be a creative, welcoming space for writers of all ages and levels to be inspired to take their poetry further. That’s why we’re offering workshops and masterclasses to help you do just that.

Maybe you’ve been scribbling verse in secret. Maybe you’ve been writing for a while but find yourself craving inspiration and structured feedback. Maybe you’re an established poet that wants to work with other brilliant poets. Maybe one of your 2017 resolutions is to dedicate more time to your own writing. Whatever your reason, you’ve come to the right place.

Our workshops with Sarah Howe, Katrina Naomi and Kim Moore may have sold out already but there’s still time to grab tickets for five other fantastic workshops. Whichever workshop(s) you attend, we promise you they will open your brain to new ways of thinking about poetry, writing, editing, performing and the entire creative process. You’ll find new approaches to coming up with ideas and learn from the best working poets how to improve your poems and style in a friendly environment. All workshops and masterclasses are just £15 (£10 concession). Buy your tickets here.

Out-Spoken Masterclass
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This masterclass packs two in one. Join award-winning writers Anthony Anaxagorou and Sabrina Mahfouz for a two part workshop. The first part is all about delving deep into your imagination to write heartfelt poetry with literary technique. The second part focuses on performance, and is perfect for those who want to learn how to be calm and confident when reading poetry. Two poets, two workshops, two hours – all just for £15/£10.

 

Clive Birnie/Burning Eye Books Workshop
Clive Birnie
Poetry and technology are fundamentally opposed, right? Every poet starts with a blank notepad and a fancy fountain pen, right? Nope. In this unique workshop with Clive Birnie, Editor in Chief of Burning Eye Books, you’ll use your smartphone to unlock creativity and explore the magical intersection where page and performance, digital and analogue connect. Using techniques like cut up and montage, you’ll walk away with brand new tools for the modern day poet.

 

Come Rhyme With Me Masterclass
Come Rhyme With Me
If you’ve always wanted to stand up and perform your poetry with confidence, this is absolutely the workshop for you. Work with renowned poets Dean Atta and Deanna Rodger to craft your writing and learn the key skills you need to own the stage. With only 20 places available, this is a fantastic opportunity to invest in your own development as a poet and performer.

 

Jane Commane Workshop: Editing for Publication
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Once you’ve written poems you’re happy with (perhaps in our previous sessions!) take them along to this workshop. Jane Commane, editor of the formidable Nine Arches Press and Under the Radar magazine, will give you invaluable guidance on why titles and line breaks matter, among other topics. For only £15, benefit from Jane’s razor sharp eye and warm, insightful editing style. Perfect for poets of all levels, this workshop is packed with essential advice on how redraft and polish your poetry for publication.

 

Melissa Lee-Houghton Workshop (SOLD OUT)
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Don’t miss this remarkable opportunity to workshop with a ground-breaking poet who has been shortlisted for both the Forward Prizes and Costa awards. In this two hour workshop, Melissa will help you explore how your writing is shaped, inhibited or enhanced by our concept of the reader. (Now sold out!)

Which workshop catches your eye? Don’t forget to book early and tell your friends, places are going very quickly.

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Penned in the Margins at Verve Poetry Festival

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Guest post by James Trevelyan, Sales & Marketing Co-ordinator at Penned in the Margins

In May 2015 we were invited into the generous and welcoming new Waterstones Birmingham to give Luke Kennard’s fifth collection Cain its first public airing. In introducing Luke to a packed house and spending time in store, I found a committed and passionate poetry audience the size and like of which I’ve rarely seen elsewhere. It was incredibly exciting then to be asked to suggest authors to perform at a brand new poetry festival at the same location, and to now have the programme land on my desk shows what incredible promise Verve Poetry Festival has.

We are truly grateful to the organisers for showcasing so many of our artists in this inaugural year. It will be a pleasure to bring some of our big-name poets alongside genre-bending performers to Birmingham, which I hope will go a long way in demonstrating the range of work we are happily involved in producing.

Of course Luke Kennard – one of Birmingham’s and the UK’s very finest poets – will be again be performing to his home crowd, and we are very excited to have Melissa Lee-Houghton joining on the same bill. Melissa’s third collection, Sunshine, published in Autumn 2016 is a stunningly powerful and important work on mental health, love, sex and austerity that made both the Forward Prize Single Poem and Costa Poetry Award shortlists. They will be joined by Shazea Quraishi, a Bloodaxe poet, whose ethereal work on loss and family makes this event probably the best value £6 in poetry!

Hannah Silva, another former Birmingham resident, will be bringing an extended excerpt from her one-woman show Schlock! to the festival. We produced the show and are just off the back of a three-week London run that garnered a four-star Guardian review. Expect visual and linguistic fireworks in which Hannah rips up Fifty Shades of Grey (in every sense), demanding answers of its vocabulary of submission and offering it up alongside the work of punk feminist Kathy Acker. In a similarly experimental vein, we are really pleased to bring young performer Antosh Wojcik’s first solo show to Verve. Mixing spoken word and live drumming, Building a Voice Percussion Gun to Kill Glitches in Memory is as unique as the title suggests, investigating dementia and memory loss, family and relationships, through an electric drum kit and a charismatic and engaging vocal performance.

Having grown up in the Midlands myself, without being aware of much of a poetry scene, it will be an especial privilege for me to come back to introduce these acts and experience many more. I hope to be sneaking my way into events across the weekend, especially to see Raymond Antrobus, Fran Lock and the other poets involved in the Out-Spoken Press Showcase. Chatto’s Saturday evening event will be a stunner as well, featuring two of the most exciting and lauded new voices of the past few years in Helen Mort and Sarah Howe, and Kayo Chingonyi whose debut next summer Kumukanda is undoubtedly my most eagerly awaited book of 2017.

Oh, and I’m hoping not to be the only adult lurking at the back of The Emma Press children’s poetry events running across the weekend: the perfect mix of engaging and entertaining from excellent poets and an innovative publisher. Perhaps I’ll see you there…?

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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!