Featured in The Poetry Shed

A ShedAbegail Morley has kindly featured me today on her excellent website The Poetry Shed.

I was lucky enough to catch her attention at the Troubadour Poetry Prize Reading last year, and not long after that she invited me to read at the Royal Academy as part of the Ekphrasis project. It has been a pleasure to get to know Abegail — one of those people diligently and unassumingly going about the business of doing good things in the world of poetry.

She mentions the history of our acquaintance, along with a lovely nod to Transatlantic Poetry on Air, and reprints two of my poems on her site.

Do check it out, and the many other interesting poets she has featured over the years. You’ll no doubt want to find your way back to the Shed again soon.

Troubadour Poetry Prize Reading

OwlI made my way to Earls Court on Monday night, to participate in a very special installation of Coffee-House Poetry wherein I was awarded one of twenty commendations in the 2013 Troubadour International Poetry Prize. These were selected, along with first, second, and third prize, by George Szirtes and Deryn Rees-Jones from more than 3,300 entries this year.

Particularly special for me that evening was being asked to also read the third-place poem by Tim Nolan of Minnesota. I found his poem, “Red Wing Correctional Facility”, about teaching poetry to young men in prison, very moving, and was honoured to be able to lend it my voice that night on my countryman’s behalf.

In second place, Mona Arshi’s “Bad Day at the Office” was a funny and affecting surrealist romp through the domestic details of a very bad day indeed. To accept her first-place award, Hideko Sueoka joined us from Tokyo. Even as her poem, “Owl”, deconstructed the sounds of English, gradually reassembling them into the language of owls, so too did Hideko herself seem to transfigure before us.

It was a great pleasure to hear Deryn Rees-Jones and George Szirtes read their own work in the second half. As George was reading, I was reflecting on our Transatlantic Poetry broadcast in August, and thinking how nice it was to be able to hear him read without having to worry myself with any of the technical details. At that moment, one of the stage lights blew. In any case, it was a pleasure to shake his hand — something not possible over the Internet.

Congratulations to everyone involved, and to Anne-Marie Fyfe for seven years running of this notable international poetry competition and the delicious evening that goes with it.

Read all of the prize-winning poems at Coffee-House Poetry.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123059513?secret_token=s-PG0u7″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]<a href="https://soundcloud.com/peakepoetics/still-life-with-bougainvillea" target="_blank">Click to hear an audio recording of the commended poem "Still Life with Bougainvillea"</a>

Reading from The Silence Teacher at The Troubadour

“In the dangling conversation / and the superficial sighs / are the borders of our lives.”

-Simon and Garfunkel, “Dangling Conversation”

Robert Peake on stageI just got back from a memorable evening at the Troubadour Cafe in Earls Court. It was my first time reading poems from The Silence Teacher since it came out earlier this year.

Even my persistent cold could not keep me away tonight (though it made one audience member think I was Scottish). The audience was receptive as ever, and I sold out of books.

It was a pleasure to read alongside the robust Hannah Lowe, tender Fiona Moore, hilarious Hilda Sheehan, polished Alison Brackenbury, thoughtful Matt Bryden, reflective Angela France, and inquisitive Kate White. Plus, we had a special appearance by Australian poet Michelle Cahill, and Henry Fajemirokun performed one of my favourite Simon and Garfunkel songs.

Heartfelt thanks to Anne-Marie Fyfe and her team for wonderful evening.

Magma Poetry Launch Reading at The Troubadour

“Many of us became writers because we were silenced in some way, and the written self on the page speaks more authentically than we do as individuals”

-Polly Clark, “Speaking the Poem’s Voice” from Magma Poetry 52

The Troubadour is a small cafe in Earls Court with a basement stage that played host to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in their day. Last night, I squirmed my way through the crowd and took to the glossy black stage to read a poem as part of the launch of Magma Poetry 52. The standard of poetry, and audience — both quality of attention and sheer numbers — was remarkable. Unlike readings I have attended in America, where often the audience is composed mostly of poets and their friends, the crowd that assembles fortnightly in this cultural dungeon seems deeply committed to taking in poetry as a way of life.

Perhaps in a culture where one often does not say quite what one means in polite company, poetry serves an even more necessary function, propelled forward by two equally intense desires: to express authentically, but resist sentimentality. Poetry, then, speaks for those who gathered last night from all walks of life and crowded around tables like a rush-hour train, hoping to be taken somewhere wonderful. I was. And I am grateful to those who planned it, those who read, and those who listened for making last night something special.

Poem in Magma Poetry 52

I was delighted to receive my contributor’s copy of Magma 52 today, brimming with good poems and interesting articles. I was also pleased to discover that my poem, “The Argument” is available as part of the online sample of the current issue.

I will also be reading this poem as part of the official launch on Monday, March 5th at 8PM at the Troubadour in London. If you happen to be in the area, it would be great to see you there!

Single issues and subscriptions are also available on the Magma Poetry website.