The Walsall Hippo


Solitary concrete guardian of Walsall,
unmoving in your eternal vigil.
Never sleeping day or night,
uncaring what the elements throw at you.

The town’s stone Mona Lisa,
smiling enigmatically at passers-by.
Patiently posing for visitor selfies,
never complaining about pigeons.

I sat on your back when I was young,
now I bring my daughter to perch on you.
Hoping that in the future,
You’ll be here to help keep up this tradition.

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The fantastic Lost Haiku project, poetry in the wild


A good friend and talented writer and poet James Josiah has started a wonderful project on Facebook and Twitter called lost haiku. The premise is simple, members of the group write haiku, James prints them off and leaves them on his travels for people to find and enjoy.

Here’s James description of the project

I’ve written a load of haiku this year, like 50+ so far and I couldn’t really figure out what to do with them and I’m not really into the whole publishing my work thing any more (long story) So what I’m doing is printing them off, laminating them and then leaving them out in the wild for folks to find and… I dunno maybe share them or hide them elsewhere?
Now I don’t go very far so if you would like to help me disperse them that would be great. If you’d like to contribute a haiku or four that would be tremendous.
I’m on twitter as @losthaiku and will be using the hashtag #losthaiku as well (I’ve also written this info on the back of the ones I’ve left out thus far)

I’m a member and big fan of the project and I’m proud to say one of my haiku was recently released into the wilds of Manchester, where hopefully someone will find and enjoy it.

If this project seems like fun to you it’s easy to get involved, click here to follow lost haiku on twitter here

Or ask to join the Facebook group by clicking here

 

 

Awake at 3am a conversation with Leanne Cooper


I recently found time to have a chat with Walsall poet and storyteller Leanne Cooper following the release of her excellent debut collection ” Awake at 3am.” Leanne had lots of interesting things to say so I hope you’ll enjoy this talk with one of the rising stars in my local poetry scene.

Q. Awake at 3AM is a fantastic emotional roller coaster of a collection with some very personal poetry. How do you feel now it’s released and available and everyone can read your work?

A. Well, first of all I want to thank you for asking me to do this interview, and for yet again making me feel like a celebrity! Your support, and kind words mean the world to me, thank you.
If I am completely honest… I am terrified. I have always been scared of what people will say, and think of me as a person, and this worry is there with my writing too. I have had so much support from other people on the poetry scene – yourself included – which has given me the courage to put myself out there. My anxiety is crazy at the moment, and I am dreading my first bad review or criticism; but I have to remind myself that that is eventually going to happen… not everyone will enjoy my work and that’s fine… I can’t let it be a big deal, but instead take it on board, learn from it, and better myself.

 

Q. If you can pick one, what is your favourite poem from the book and why?

A. Haha.. Well … that would be like asking me which of my children is my favourite. I love them both equally, but for different reasons; the same applies with my poetry. Each piece holds a part of me, and brings with it deep meaning and emotion… I couldn’t name just one, even if I tried. Out of every poem in the book, Wynter, Jade, Belonging, Our Intricate Demise, J, and I Wonder are the ones that were fuelled by the most intense of my emotions, so I guess you could say I have a closer connection with those than some of my others.

 

Q. After reading the book I was quite shocked to read of some of the things you’ve been through and I applaud your desire to share these poems. How did you tackle writing when the topic is so emotive and personal to you?

A. I had to. When my emotions are at their extreme and most intense, I have no choice but to write. Not only is it something that I enjoy, and do for fun; it is also my therapy. I write myself out of my own head, and writing has saved me on more than one occasion. I am not ashamed to admit some of the stuff I have had to deal with over the years has been tough – unbelievable even – but I hope that through sharing my experiences, I can help those who are going through similar situations. Something that I am most passionate about, is supporting victims of domestic abuse. I went through over 7 years of hell and came out the other side. During that time I didn’t write, was ridiculed when I tried to, and told that I would never amount to anything. Although Awake at 3am doesn’t really represent that time in my life, and only slightly touches upon it, I feel that it has proved to some extent that I have moved on and demonstrated my ability as a writer.

 

Q. In your book you also included an excellent short story. How do you decide if an idea will make a poem or story and what is the difference between writing them?

A. I honestly do not know. It may sound crazy, but I don’t decide… the ideas form themselves, and lead me to where they want to go. Even with my poetry I don’t decide which style I am going to write in, if it will be spoken word, what metre etc. I will get an idea pop into my head – yes, that is usually at 3am when I am trying to sleep – and I’ll write it down…. the idea will just flow. The more I write, the more ideas will come. The short story ‘Why Doesn’t it Happen’ which is at the beginning of my book, came from listening to a song by a band called Bitch Alert. The song in my story is a real song, I just wrote about the nostalgia surrounding that song, and added some fictional scenes to it. By the way I highly recommend that people listen to the song (Loveson) to get a better understanding of my protagonist’s emotions.

 

Q. As someone who is making a name for themselves on the local open mic circuit what advice do you have for anyone thinking of performing their poetry for the first time?

A. Do it. Just go for it. I had panic attacks for days before, and after my first performance, but I am so glad that I forced myself to go for that very first time. Yes, it is scary, but it is so worth it. If you are in the West Midlands area, the Walsall poets are such a supportive group, and along with some of the poets from Cannock, and Stafford; it is like a family of like-minded people, who encourage and believe in each other. It is a very positive and up-lifting vibe… definitely a safe space in which to introduce yourself. Not only have I been given the opportunity to share my work with a wider audience, and further my career; I have also met some extremely talented people (who I am still very much star struck by, even now), and I have made some amazing friends. I definitely feel that my writing and appreciation for poetry has improved too. From seeing other poets perform, and listening to their words, I have learned so much more already, and have been introduced to new ways of writing and performing – spoken word, for example… I didn’t really get that before, but now I am quite into it, and aspire to write some of my own spoken word pieces to perform at open mics in the future.

 

Q. Now your book is out what next?

A. I am already working on my second and third books! Haha! So yeah, I have 2 more poetry books which I am working on that will delve even deeper than Awake at 3am did. The one will be exclusively about the darker side of love… an alternative romance if you will… the second will be exploring the effects of mental illness – depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia etc. Again, these will be poems which are personal to me and entirely about my experiences with the subjects. Other than that, I have 2 novels that I have been working on for a few years now, so I am hoping to finish them as soon as possible! I am, however, the self-proclaimed queen of procrastination so who knows when I will actually finish them. I also hope to be attending a lot more poetry events and open mics across the Midlands, which I am really looking forward to!

 

Q. Where can folk find you online?

A. I have numerous social media accounts now, but the main places to find my work are Facebook, and WordPress. From these sites you will also be able to access my Instagram, and Twitter. I am not really into twitter, so I do apologise for not having a big presence on there. Please come and find me on Facebook, I would love to hear from people and get some opinions on my work!

Facebook.com/LeanneCooper.Author

LeanneCooperAuthor.Wordpress.com

Buy Leanne’s book Awake at 3am via Amazon by clicking here

Are you a local author with a book to promote, please contact me if you’d like to feature on this site.

Help support Southcart Books


Recently my local bookshop Southcart Books have come close to closing due to no fault of their own, after a successful online petition the shop has been granted a short reprieve. Here’s the latest news from owner Scott Carter…

***SHOP CLOSURE UPDATE***
we have managed to secure a short reprieve from our landlords if we can hit financial targets they have set us ( better than being kicked out friday ) , what that means in real time is that over the next 6 weeks we have got to sell a mighty amount of books(good job we have 1000s in stock) , so please think of us for your book buying needs either in the shop itself or via our online buying platform , please visit our eBay store below , this is a slight weight off our shoulders but now the real hard work begins

http://stores.ebay.co.uk/southcartbooks/

or you can kindly donate directly via this link

paypal.me/southcartbooks

Sign and share the petition to save the shop and show your support by clicking here

I would like to add myself that Southcart is a huge supporter of the arts in my home town, hosting free poetry and authors events. I’ve launched books at the shop as have others and I can honestly say that without the shop the town and the artistic community they support will lose out. Please help if you can.

Bullet Verse an interview with Matt Humphries


Matt and Bullet Verse

Walsall poet Matt Humphries is set to release his new collection of poetry “Bullet Verse” on Saturday 24th February at Southcart books. The event is part of a triple book launch including my own book and one from poet and author Paul Morris, so with that in mind I thought it might be fun to sit down with Matt and get some more details about what we can expect from his new book and more.

Q. Tell me about your new book, how did you come up with the title and concept?

Well the title was given me by another poet (Ian Davis) who when I asked him to describe my poetry said “It’s short and punchy,” he then said he thought “Bullet Verse” was a good title. I agreed and absolutely love the thinking behind the books name.
My concept was that I had written a book previously but rushed it and as a result wasn’t proud of it. I am extremely proud of Bullet Verse. I have a theme of trying to provoke thought throughout, I’m no Mike Skinner but I believe some of my work captures an experience a lot of readers won’t have lived. If I can make one reader think then Bullet Verse will have been a success.

 

Q. What can readers expect to find inside your collection?

Most people who know me will say I’m friendly enough but not very confident, my poetry reflects this in a lot of respects. You will find attempts at humour, social commentary, travel and adventures, along with one of my life long passions mental health. Having been through the mental health system as a patient I found myself sitting on the other side of the table while I was working for Mind as a Recovery Worker. I truly believe to quote Eleanor Longdon “That recovery is not only possible, but it is inevitable”. In many respects mental health has been my life’s work.
For the reasons listed above my poetry is often the odd one out. I’m not sure if I write this way deliberately but it’s how it turns out. It’s a reflection of self with a theme of hope running through. Least I hope that’s what it is.

Q. If you had to pick a favourite piece from the book, what would you choose and why?

Can I choose two!! My most successful poem is “Walls,” which took me to the glitzy Great Western Hotel in Peterborough to perform in the final of the Poetry Rivals competition. I didn’t win but it was an amazing experience.

We build walls, we build walls,
We build walls so high
That they nearly reach the sky
When all we really need to do is reach out.

The second one is the Reception which is about a wedding reception, not my own I might add. I wrote it straight off as a bit of a laugh but whenever I read it people seem to like it.

Brothers and sisters conspired to get wasted
Teenage couples planned to get naked
G&T and lager washed down with pork pie.

Q. Can you give readers a glimpse inside your head of your writing process, how do you put your poems together, what inspires you to write and how long does it take you to put a typical poem together?

I think that writers are insecure in lots of ways, I’m no different to that despite my bombastic character. I am writing all the time, on the bus, in the office, in the shower I’ll be thinking of poems, all the time, for me it’s a constant process. Without trying to sound dramatic, in a lot of respects writing was my saviour, since my mom parked on Bath University when I was eight I had am ambition to write. The only lessons I tried in at school were Cooking and English. If I haven’t written anything for longer than two days I feel lost so I’ll just write anything.
I don’t really have a set process, because I’ve always got a lot going on in my head and I work in the community I find inspiration everywhere. I can meet someone with a nice turn of phrase and they might spark an idea for a poem. I’ve always had a burning anger at injustice so will often write about events in wider society. I read but not enough, and certainly not enough poetry. A lot of my reading material is set in youth sub cultures but I find I get so many ideas from this reading matter.
The time it takes for me to put a poem together varies, sometimes they will almost write themselves and other times they will develop over a course of time. I’m still revisiting two or three poems that nobody has seen or heard but I don’t think they are right yet. I admire poets who can produce really polished, thought-provoking work, I aspire to it but I’m not that poet. I’m more get an idea, jot it down, quick edit then post it somewhere.

Q. After the launch what are your next creative plans?

I am currently in the process of writing my first novel set in the week of the 1990 World Cup semi-final. It’s had a lot of incarnations since I first started it in 2010 but I’m working with a Developmental Editor on this version and obviously I’m a very different writer in 2018 to the one I was in 2010.
I’ll be hoping to attend a few more open mics although reading my work petrifies me and I’ll be supporting Walsall Poetry Society in any way I can along with Southcart Books and I’ll probably be posting on Facebook. I would also like to develop my website further and reach a wider audience. In addition I enter quite a lot of competitions, no wonder my wife says I don’t pay her enough attention!!

Q. Where can folks find you online?

You can find my poetry on the book of face here
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012793715638

Or on my WordPress website Extra Pages here

STOP THE PRESS – As I was preparing this post Matt has told me his book is has reached the final of the Words Matter Publishing book writing contest!

Come back next week for a chat with Paul Morris about his new book.

 

Postcode Lottery


We don’t have much choice on where we’re bought up,
We’re forged by bricks, mortar, schools and pubs.
It’s a real postcode lottery,
And it was WS1 that raised and nurtured me.
WS1, just two letters and a number,
What it stood for I often wondered.
I found out it was supposed to be for Walsall South,
Or what a smeghole, the jury’s still out.

WS1 it’s where I learned to ride a bike,
Where I learned to fight kids I didn’t like.
Where I learned how to wag from school,
Where I learned how to play the fool.
It’s where I first fell in love… with Doctor Who
It’s where I first drank cider and also spewed
It’s where I first broke my arm , my nose and my toe
It’s where I first realised I hated Black Forest Gateaux.

Now I must quickly interrupt this poem to point out that although it seems trivial to hate Black Forest Gateaux it was the Seventies there was a lot of it about. Vienetta my saviour was many years away.

Then we moved away to WS5,
The suburbs, where folk seem more dead than alive.
It was a place to escape too if you could afford the cost,
It was a place where I felt completely lost.
The streets were litter free, birds sang,
To me it was like living in a foreign land.
A land of sunshine and blue skies,
A land which was really a graveyard where pensioners came to die.

So eventually I left there and moved back to WS1
Back to where it had all begun.
I gradually lost my hair so I grew a beard,
I had a daughter , every day she tells me I’m weird.
I flick the V’s when I walk past my old school
I started writing poetry – so I still play the fool.
I returned as they say to the scene of the crime
And I’ll try not to make the same mistakes this time.

Though I make no promises.

 

The Diverse Verse 3 poetry anthology is now open for submissions


My last successful poetry anthology, Diverse Verse 2.

UPDATE – THE SUBMISSION WINDOW IS NOW CLOSED

Diverse Verse 3 the poetry book from Walsall with an international reach is ready to accept submissions.

Here’s how you can get involved and see your poem in print

All you need to do to be involved is to email me a poem to the email address below and it will be considered for the book based on the following rules. Please note entry is free.

  1. All poems must be the authors own work, please don’t submit something that isn’t yours.
  2. Poems are welcome from anyone, anywhere in the world.
  3. Please submit no more than one poem.
  4. A submitted poem must be in arial font in a format free word document. If you are unable to do such then just paste your poem into the body of your email.
  5. Poems on any subject and theme are welcome, however sexually explicit poetry and poems with extreme bad language will not be considered.
  6. Poems should be no longer than 400 words approx.
  7. Previously published poems can be submitted as long as the writer holds the copyright.
  8. When submitting poems please include your full name for inclusion in the book’s contents, an alias is acceptable.
  9. Email your poems to Diverseverse@aol.co.uk
  10. The book will be published via Lulu the online publishers.
  11. Closing date for submissions is 31st December 2017.
  12. Anyone who is in the book will be notified after submissions close.
  13. Poems that do not conform to the guidelines will be rejected automatically.
  14. The copyright of any poem selected remains with the author.
  15. If you are fortunate enough to be selected for the book there will be no complimentary copies as this is a charity anthology

I hope to have the book out in 2018 by the spring at the latest, money raised from sales of the collection will go to Cancer research UK.

Diverse Verse 1 in the press

The launch of Diverse Verse 2.

Buy a copy of Diverse Verse 1 by clicking here

Buy a copy of Diverse Verse 2 by clicking here.

 

Books are my Bag


When I was a child there was a way
To make my little face light up.
That was simply to let me enjoy
Reading one of my favourite books.
From toddler to balding parent
From big books to small.
I’d while away any spare time
Trying to read them all.
Sadly as I got older I became fickle,
My love of print began to dwindle.
I fancied a new cheap thrill,
So I began an affair with a Kindle.
She was willing I have to say
We’d be at it every night.
My eager finger tracing her slim lines,
As we frolicked in her dim electric light.
But flings like this never last,
I longed for something finer in my hands.
My forgiving books welcomed me back
I knew they would understand.
They didn’t care I’d been unfaithful,
That for years I’d not given them a look.
I swore we would never part again,
As I was reunited with my books.
So from that day forward,
Though I don’t really like to brag.
I’m doing a book a day or more,
At last books again are my bag.

Support your local independent bookshop, I’m supporting Southcart Books.

Happy Black Country Day


 

Happy Black Country Day, and what better way than to celebrate than with a poem about my home town of Walsall which is a proud part of this great region.

 

My Roots are Showing

Air cushioned souls
descends a cobbled hill.
Worn stones with tarmac patches
wind past a church that
casts a shadow
over a town built before it,
But now living in it.

A town built on
lime and leather,
saddles and soot,
an arboretum and an art gallery,
Highgate mild and pork scratchings.
Foundations built to last.

A town where we’re not scared
to roll up our denim sleeves
to show our tattooed hearts.
A town I joyfully bounce through
pen in one hand, pasty in another
trying to capture its soul

Diverse Verse 2 sells out again at Southcart Books


It seems I just can’t print copies of Diverse Verse 2 fast enough because as soon as I get them to Southcart Books they’re sold out and I have to order some more. I shouldn’t complain though as that’s more money plus what will be made this month in digital sales that can be donated to Cancer Research UK.

Part of this success story is due to Southcart itself, this is a shop that supports local authors, writers, musicians, photograhers and more. They have a local author table and shelves full of great works by talented folk from Walsall and beyond plus they hold a regular open mic. ( Last Saturday of the month but the next one’s on the 1st July.)

If you’re a local author, poet etc with a book or CD out then you can’t go wrong getting in touch with Scott and Amy who run the shop (southcart@outlook.com) and see what they can do for you. Even better why not pop along with your books to the next open mic and give everyone a taste of your work. You’ll be glad you did.