Seven Stories/Late Shows followup

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Its been such a busy few weeks that I’ve barely had time to take stock, but I’m very happy with how the event went. It was a real evening of discovery, with pop-up performances from the wonderful Doug Garry, Jayne Dent, Rowan McCabe, Rosie Calvert & Will Finn.

I still can’t quite process how great it was they were also keen to get on-board and delivered such killer performances. And nothing went wrong! No angry parents who heard their children being exposed to metaphors, and no keyboards dropped in the Ouseburn river. I’m so relieved, and so grateful to Seven Stories and the Culture Lab for making it possible.

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For a more detailed behind-the-scenes look, check out my course blog posts here and here, or watch some video clips from the event itself here! I wish I more time to write (i.e. enthuse endlessly) about this, but for now life is still coursework mayhem. Really interesting coursework mayhem – Creative Arts Practice is a wonderful course that has given me the chance to get stuck into a lot of cool things – but still. Maybe soon (-:

 

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Uprooted

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I uprooted a shrub at my grandmother’s today
and it really didn’t want to go.

It had the resilience of wood, yes
and the tenacity of a planted heart
(fibrous veins pump more slowly)
but it was also more resourceful
fighting back more coarse and forceful
than I ever expected from a vegetable.

It rallied every trick of nature.
Fought against me root and claw
old branch, new shoot, prickle-leaf and more.
Attacked me with its nettle neighbours,
trip-slip-stung me to the floor
aching
and knowing absolutely what the mud must think of me.

Its defences ran deep, see
but I was determined too.
Siege-ready they were, my forces
well-trained in the art of undermining.

I planted foot on trunk and pushed it
I planted foot on spade and shunted
down
I planted foot on spade and hand on trunk
and pushed and heaved and grunting, sunk
until I rip-tore it with a cracking;
pebbles, worms from the soil a-bleeding
crumbling
a knotted trophy in my workshop glove.

A prize
ripe for re-planting.

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My Nan’s Book Group Could Beat Up Your Nan’s Book Group

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Something’s up in Little Dudley
where the local book group meets
there’s a tension at the bowling green
there are whispers in the streets.

See, this has always been the Woolf Pack’s town
since a time before my birth
when my Nan and Mrs Dalloway
drove the Grandmothers Grimm off their turf.

But there’s a new threat on the scene these days
at the lakehouse in the park
where, with graffiti cans in wrinkled hands,
the Milton’s Angels left their mark.

So Nan’s going round to Josephine’s
and calling up Brigid as well
so they can gather up the posse
and send those basic biddies back to hell.

“Bring To the Lighthouse and Orlando
and A Room of One’s Own will be critical,”
she says to make sure that those crotchety crones
are gonna choke on their Werther’s Originals.

So its handbags at dawn
for a literary war
they’ve got their hatpins
got their letter-openers drawn
spitting vitriol
and witty quotations
spun cleverly into threatening prognostications
not lost on their brimstony foes
(they’re pulling hair, they’re stomping toes)
a hellish host of demon dames
with a hundred late fees to their nefarious names.

But at last the Woolf Pack wins the day
and may all OAP book groups know
that my Nan is better than your Nan
and your Nan can come have a go.

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Photo credit: Monty Python

 

Celebrant

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When the whale
– it was a flying fish in life –
dies, crabs and gulls will flock to it
hollowing out a temple on the beach
for you to live in for a while.

There will be a salt-gash.
It will tear
from your stinging eyes
to your churning guts
to the pit of your stomach
where the harpoon is still
firmly
lodged.

You will be visited by a wise woman
to discuss the gash and the service,
tailor your drowning to the one who threw you ice-cold into it.

She will invite you to dig deep
to find the ambergris
used in the balm of another person’s sleeping
wearing concrete slippers.
She knows how to make useful things
from the corsetbone and baleen
and blubbering.
Call it ballast
to keep you stable through the ceremony
call it a life raft
to keep you afloat in the turbulent wake of

passing.

 

 

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Art by Elena Purlyte.

Middle Spirits

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Exciting news – I made a thing! A physical thing that exists, in collaboration with the excellent Elena Purlyte. Its a collection of illustrated poems – my poems, her art – that has been in the works for a good long while now. Check out some preview images below!

The title is in reference to the way people used to understand fairies and household spirits and pagan gods before they got bundled in with everything else that was either satanic or imaginary. I could go on about this idea at length (and maybe I will, in another post), but the gist is that they’re something ‘between’ heaven and hell. Supernatural, but still earthly. The pamphlet is essentially a collection of flights of fancy, some lighthearted, some darker, so the title Middle Spirits seemed like a good fit!

(I realise all this sound a bit pretentious and high flown, but that was pretty much the opposite of the point – I wanted to use poetry to express imagination in a way that *doesn’t* require you to understand metre or have read Wordsworth)

We’re most at the end of what was essentially a ‘trial run’ of printing and selling them, largely on a personal basis, which we did to get an idea of what they would look like and how much it would cost to get them made in that particular way (we used a website called Inky Little Fingers, if you’re interested). There are a few copies left from the first run, but essentially we’d like to figure out more properly how we’re going to sell and promote them before we print any more. If you’d be interested copy, drop me an email at allstar.lewis@gmail.com and I’ll see what I can do – if nothing else it will give me an idea of how much interest there is.

The two of us have a few different ideas for what might come next, potentially accompanying the first ‘proper’ print run. Prints, perhaps. Buttons, maybe. Tote bags, potentially (if only because me and Elena really want our own ones). And maybe even a second, shorter collection with a tighter focus. But in the meantime, it just feels so good to have something I can hold in my hands. Hype!pamphlet-selfie-cropped

 

Edinburgh Horror Festival & Hocus Poets

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Its no secret that I like horror. A lot. Probably too much. Welcome to Night Vale, Coraline, Darkest Dungeon, Until Dawn… Alright, not many of those things are scary in the same sense that Paranormal Activity and the Blair Witch Project are scary. But they have such an unsettling vibe to them. I love it.

That’s why I was pretty hyped when I found out about the existence of the Edinburgh Horror Festival, happening this weekend. There’s film, comedy, cabaret and most importantly (to me, anyway) spoken word – featuring prominently one of my all-time favourite poets – Matthew Macdonald. His standout show Something Wicked This Way Comes is running again, as is a new show in collaboration with Richard Partridge-Hickes. Its called Book of the Jubilation, and promises to include occult horror, hideous truths and sanity-eroding books from beyond the ken of human minds. Sounds right up my street (-:

And not only do I get to soak up the Edinburgh Horror Festival, I’m also performing this weekend! I’m performing this Saturday as part of Loud Poets’ Halloween event Hocus Poets which has to be the best (read: most shameless) pun title they’ve done yet. I’m really looking forward to performing in Edinburgh again, and catching up with the whole scene. Happy Halloween!

Top image: Richard Partridge-Hickes (left), Matthew Macdonald (right)

Spoken Word Adventures

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This’ll be old news to some people, but it happened during a time when I was snowed under with coursework and all sorts of other nonsense so I haven’t had a chance to write about it until now. Long story short – Edinburgh University won Unislam 2016! Unislam is a nationwide student poetry slam (i.e. uni-slam, rather than un-Islam as google search suggestions keeps insisting). I went down to Leicester with the amazingly talented Doug GarryCatherine WilsonJyothis Padmanabhan and Rachel Rankin to represent our university, and we won!

It was a brilliant night, with the highlights being feature set from Hollie McNish and the wealth of great student contributions Manchester Metropolitan and Goldsmiths University of London especially. Every time I think back to the quality and excitement of that final, I find it harder to remind myself that we won. But we had a great team, and we pulled it off! What’s more, Edinburgh as won Unislam for the third year in a row now, which I think stands as a testament to the quality and life of the Scottish spoken word scene at the minute.

But wait, there’s more! Not only did Edinburgh get to keep the shiny trophy for another year, but we as a team got the chance to represent our university at the 2016 College Union Poetry Slam Invitational in Austin, Texas! This turned out to be both a great opportunity and no small undertaking, and the next few months were spent frantically fundraising. In the end we managed it, with the kind help of the university, the City Cafe, the Writing Squad, the Widdrington Trust and many more people.

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So we headed out again, this time with the inspirational Toby Campion as our coach and quite a lot further to travel. But we arrived in Texas, and spent the best part of a week getting to know the city and the university. It really was something to immerse ourselves in a totally different kind of poetry scene – a different culture altogether, really – and see some wonderful performers too. Other highlights included the Nerd Slam (Pokemon + Steven Universe + Poetry = so much yes) and getting to hang out with Jesse Parent. It was a lot of fun.

We didn’t make it past our first heat, but we did have the pleasure of supporting the University of California, Los Angeles team in the subsequent heats (they were robbed!). And we didn’t go home empty handed – we won Spirit of the Slam award! So, through it all, despite the nerves and the deadlines and the jet-lag and the distinctly un-Scottish sweltering heat, we survived. And it was incredible.

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