Archive for the ‘Performances’ Category

I’m performing at London Literature Lounge @ the Poetry Cafe on Thursday 18th July. It’s a special evening for me, as it’s not only presented by Anjan Saha who hosted my book launch, but I’ll be reading alongside Sundra Lawrence, the poet who, many years ago, gave me my first taste of working in the ‘poetry world’.

London Literature Lounge: Covent Garden Nights

With Miriam Nash, Sundra Lawrence & Phil Lawder

Thursday 18th July 2013

Hosted by Anjan Saha and Jason Barnett

The Poetry Café (The Poetry Place) 8pm – 10pm

22 Betterton Street

London WC2H 9BX

Tel (venue): 020 7420 9888

W: www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/cafe/



Author bios:

Sundra’s poetry has been described as “warm, visceral and witty”. She is published in numerous anthologies and journals including the Los Angeles Review. Starchild was her first chapbook.  She has performed her work widely, including Soho Theatre, the Bristol Poetry Festival, BookSlam, De Paul University, Chicago, Jazz Café, Prague and also on television and radio. She has two young children and lives in North London.

Phil Lawder juggles and occasionally drops two careers, writing, performance poetry, a family and a cat. He is currently working on creating the 36 hour day. He has no ambition to write the great British novel but is part way through writing several average to fairly good ones. His work is a wry and often insulting commentary on what he sees around him, the stumbling relationships and hollow hopes of London and beyond.

… & me.

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Poetry Loves Company

One of my favourite memories from 2012 so far, Jacob Sam-La Rose‘s Poetry Loves Company evening at Woolfson & Tay, captured here in a beautiful short film by Danielle Shaw (I make a small appearance!)

Poetry Loves Company 01/12 from Danielle Shaw on Vimeo.

For more work by Danielle Shaw visit: http://danielleshaw.co.uk/

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In March I was invited to perform at the Shuffle, but when the organisers, audience and performers turned up, the poetry cafe was mysteriously closed. So instead I’m performing there tonight. Expect poems on the big bang, tree climbing, cupboards and coins…

7.30pm on Saturday 29 May at The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9BX. Tickets £5/£3.

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It’s always lovely to be asked back to an event. This time last year I performed a short set at The Shuffle, an acclaimed night at the Poetry Cafe, run by one of my favourite poets, Jacqueline Saphra and others. This Saturday I’m one of their featured poets, along with John Citizen and Rachel Smith. If you feel like a bit of poetry of a Saturday night, it’s a good place to be.

The Shuffle starts at 7.30pm on Saturday 27 March at The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9BX. Tickets cost £5/£3.

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I had a very unusual Saturday. Together with Dzifa Benson, Jacqueline Saphra and Dominic O’Rourke, I took part in a poetry performance at Tate Britain as part of the Tate’s Going Public event series. Our piece, In The Undergrowth, was a response to David Hockney’s Bigger Trees Near Warter. We performed in front of the artwork itself – or rather, inside the artwork. The whole piece is a room hosting three images of the same enormous painting: a copse of sycamores in rural Yorkshire.

As we performed our poems, the paintings became backdrops and we became characters: experiencing, creating and interpreting the trees in our different ways. The audience responded brilliantly – some reading along with the In The Undergrowth pamphlet we published, which features ten poets from The Vineyard poetry collective.

It was wonderful to perform together in such an evocative setting. I particularly loved watching the children who came to the performance. Because I work mainly in secondary schools, I rarely get to perform for younger children, so seeing their mesmerized faces throughout the day will stick in my mind. It was also an exercise in stamina – we performed six times during the afternoon, and had to give everything of ourselves to keep the energy high. But that was what made it work so well. Each performance was different and by the end of it, I felt I’d learnt so much about performing, about the artworks themselves and about communicating with an audience in a dynamic setting.

I would love to see more work like this being commissioned. A gallery can make a powerful performance space. One of the best comments I heard from the audience was that our performance brought life to the paintings, and that as we spoke they perceived more and more layers to the images. A creative way to engage with and respond to art – well beyond the confines of the gallery lecture!

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One of my poems appears in the new edition of Magma. I’ll be reading at the magazine launch on Monday 8 March at The Troubadour in Old Brompton Road.

The theme for this issue is ‘Hunger’. Although it often means more work, I like submitting to magazines with a theme. Rather than trying to guess what an editor will like, based on previous issues, you can spend your time experimenting, trying to cook up an original approach to the topic – more thinking, playing and writing and less banging your head on the desk (potentially). I also think having a theme creates a more varied selection of poetry that hangs together as a whole. I’ve definitely found that in previous issues of Magma. As well as pieces written to theme, they accept poems on any topic, but a common thread runs through each magazine, making it interesting to read.

My poem, ‘Love Poem to Hunger’, is inspired by Catherine Pierce’s series of ‘love poems’ to objects, emotions and experiences in her chapbook, Animals of Habit. If you’d like to hear it, you can come to the launch, or alternatively, pick up a copy of Magma for yourself :)

The Magma Launch starts at 8pm on Monday 8 March at The Troubadour, Old Brompton Road, SW5 9JA. Penelope Shuffle and Anne-Marie Fyfe will be featured, as well as other poets published in the magazine.

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After two months of writing, walking and (I won’t lie) luxuriating in Geneva, March will bring me back to London. On Sunday 14 March, I’ll be performing at Jazz Verse Jukebox, Jumoké Fashola‘s poetry and jazz night at none other than Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. Jumoké is an award winning broadcaster and singer, and a truly inspiring lady. HKB Finn, Tshaka and Voice will also be featured, as well as Jumoké’s own band. It promises to be a great night.

Jazz Verse Jukebox starts at 8pm on Sunday 14 March. If you’re a jazz performer or poet, you can enter the ‘jukebox’ for a chance to perform. Tickets are available on the door and it’s only £6.

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This autumn I was hugely privileged to be given a sponsored place on Pascale Petit’s Poetry from Art course at Tate Modern, courtesy of the wonderful London literature organisation Spread the Word. Over the past six weeks I’ve been part of a dedicated group of writers exploring poetry in relation to installations and artworks in the Tate Modern galleries, from Baldessari’s strange, pulsating Braincloud to Tracey Emin’s retrospectives in the current Pop Life exhibition. I’ve been writing poems in response to art for some time now, playing around with ‘ekphrasis’. As someone who’s done quite a lot of personal writing, I find it a particularly good way to step outside of myself and venture into new and often unexpected territory. The course has been a great way to develop this practise – Pascale has challenged us to approach poetry in new ways, responding not only to the artwork, but to other art-inspired poems and to each others’ stories and thoughts, as a way to feed our writing.

Tomorrow night (Monday 23 November) I’ll be taking part in a reading to celebrate the end of the course, in the Baldessari exhibition at Tate Modern. Here’s one of the poems I’ll be sharing, as a sneak preview…

Head Space
After Baldessari’s ‘Braincloud’

My grandmother hid her brain
in a cupboard, behind stacked plates.
She brought it kitchen scraps
fed it stories, gossip, TV facts
her daughters’ phonecalls, forecasts
foreign words, whole chapters
out of novels, recipes for love wounds
or smoked mackerel, once
an erotic letter, pulsing under breath.
Her brain inhaled these gifts
as moisture swells to raincloud.
Eye pressed to hinge, I watched
as, camouflaged within white china
it grew to the size of a sky.

You can read more about the event, and book tickets HERE although word on the street says it’s sold out.

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We are all expertsOn Friday, I got to do something unusual. As part of WE ARE ALL EXPERTS, a new series of events run by Raw Canvas at Tate Modern, I was invited to talk for five minutes about piece of art of my choice to a room full of young art-enthusiasts and random passers-by.

My favourite way to engage with any kind of art at the moment is to sit down and write about it creatively, to see what happens. For this event, I chose a piece of sculpture by Miroslaw Balka, descriptively entitled 480X10X10. It’s a long string of soaps hanging from floor to ceiling. The soaps (all used) are threaded on to wire and are all different colours, sizes, textures and shapes. They look like stones or beads or even chewy sweets.

A close-up of a soap-chain by Miroslaw Balka

A close-up of a soap-chain by Miroslaw Balka

At the beginning of my performance I asked everyone in the audience to think of a word in response to the soap-string. Here are some of the words people came up with: collection, sea, beads, necklace, coral, holocaust, clean, upset, mundane, eat-me. Between each section of the poem I pointed at different people in the audience for them to say their word. So the audience composed a ‘list poem’ in response to the artwork, which became part of the poem I’d written.

I had some great reactions to this, including the best kind of audience comment: “I’m usually skeptical about poetry, but I really loved your piece…”.

Here’s the poem. It was difficult to hear all the audience’s words as the acoustics weren’t great, but I’ve inserted an approximation:


I used to love collecting.
To see a family of things connected
A string of beads
A line of coloured stones
Bones curved in a spine.

I collected pebbles.
The beach was my museum
one by one I’d turn them
rinse them in the shallows
till they gleamed, moss green
slate grey, a grainy darkness
between red and black.
I’d press them in a snake
across the sand, run tiny fingers
wet, along their shapes
as smooth as soap, they smelt
of the places they’d washed.
They could have been anything.


I want you to shrink this
to the size of your pocket
take it with you, hold it
lick it, wherever it’s touched.
Let smell connect to memory:
lavender, white musk
a whiff of Imperial Leather
your grandmother’s bathroom
soft hands on your skin
lather and bubbles and snow
building worlds out of foam.
I want you to look beyond
meaning. To make it your own.


I used to love collecting
to see a family of things connected
A string of beads
A line of coloured stones
Bones curved in a spine.
I wonder what things you collected.

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11I’ll be performing at the launch of the latest Daydream Magazine on Thursday 23rd April at 33 Marshal Street W1 at 7.30pm. The theme of this edition is ‘Back to Basics’, which prompted me to write a poem about candles and power cuts on the island where I grew up. I recently got to perform this poem to torchlight in the Poetry Cafe during Earth Hour. 

The literary side to Daydream, which is also a visual arts mag, is the brainchild of poet and editor Inua Ellams. Other performers include Gemma Weekes, Awet Sarah Yohans and the wonderful Naomi Woddis, who seems to be becoming my performance partner – this is our fourth in a row….

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