I Was On Radio Leicester Yesterday!

Yes, it’s true – Radio Leicester came to Sound Cafe yesterday and recorded the whole thing LIVE!  Eek!  I hadn’t realised it was going to be live, so that made me twice as nervous – goodness knows how Helen was feeling, having to co-ordinate the whole thing, but it went swimmingly.  I love Sound Cafe – it’s a place where things are just allowed to evolve and where the ‘clients’ – horrible word which nobody uses so let’s find a better one – the people who come, shall we say – take charge and organise and produce work just as much as the official organisers.

The music’s coming along well: we’re practising about half a dozen songs to do for a January concert at the Cathedral when we will be a properly constituted choir.  I’m hoping there will be some poetry there as well, but for now it was enough to be on the radio.  I was full of admiration for Rupal, the presenter, as she had to juggle an evolving live situation without proper timings and slot in news, weather and transport; playing some records and holding interviews – and get it all into a two-hour slot.  That’s some feat.  She was followed round by an assistant carrying a timer on an electronic device, rather like those things they have at Olympic swimming events, to make sure she got the timings right.

And it was all terrific!  You can listen to it here – just click on the link.  Our bit kicks off at about 8 minutes in, and the poetry is about 40 minutes in, followed by an interview with me.


Kirk out

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Don’t Spike Till You’re Spoken To

I went to prison this afternoon.  It was quite an experience: not my first stretch, since I’d worked at Stocken Prison in Oakham years ago on a poetry project; this however was my first time inside HMP Leicester.  Leicester, as local people will know, resembles a castle from the outside.  From the inside it’s more like Stalag 51 with barbed wire and high fences inside the walls; gates which have to be double- and triple-locked and which can’t be unlocked at all when a red light is showing (ie when the outside gates are open) – and I was informed by the member of staff who showed me out, that sometimes staff finish their shift and can’t get out because there’s a lock-down.  I wouldn’t fancy that at all – in fact the poet whose gig it was told me that he’d once been locked inside a prison overnight.  Security trumps everything.

Anyway, as you will by now have gathered, this was a poetry performance, by a guy called John Siddique:


He was good: thoughtful and entertaining and he really engaged with the prisoners.  There were about eight of them; all young-ish men apart from one older Asian man, and all pleasant and witty.  They read some of their poetry afterwards and it was quite stunning.  Once again people without a stake in society prove that they can bring a clarity of vision and an honesty to their work.

This was followed by some short radio-plays which were based on testimonies by some of the prisoners: again these were touching and amusing.  Some prisoners spoke of their regret at the things they’d done wrong and how they wanted to have more control over their own actions in the future.

When I left there were families outside waiting for visiting time.

39,000 words today!  How are you doing?

Kirk out

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Compounding The Problem

Yesterday I cycled 16 miles!  No wonder I was knackered: I went over to the West End and back, then into town to catch the Nanowrimo meet-up where people were doing 15-minute sprints and getting stickers; then home again to have a shower and catch my breath before heading out for the inaugural Duffy’s Music Circle which attracted a reasonable turn-out considering it was a rainy night and the first meeting.  Whew!  It was hard work, especially as I ran into the rugby crowd twice; first as I went home and then as I was going into town.  I also got soaked in the rain.

I hope you all enjoyed Graham’s poem the other day.  It would be good to have some more comments, especially if you liked it: Graham has been writing for a long time now and like a true poet, carries a notebook with him wherever he goes.  His latest poem, which we’re working on at the moment, tells the story of how his working day begins and of how his commute is often interrupted by needing to write down a line or a few words which have come to him.

We all know what that’s like, as poets; having to write down an idea when it comes – because let’s face it, if you don’t, it’s gone.  I had a brilliant idea in the middle of the night recently, and because I didn’t want to get up, I told myself I’d remember it in the morning.

Nope.  There was no trace of it left – in fact I didn’t even remember I’d had an idea till later.  Poetry is most inconvenient; it really doesn’t know when to pick its moment, as Graham’s poem illustrates.

But what’s really obsessing me at the moment, apart from poetry, is the phenomenon of compound verbs.  I had a whole list of these but I don’t know where I wrote them and now the only ones I can think of are ‘to project-manage’ and ‘to open-carry.’  It’s that thing people are doing more and more often where, to avoid using a phrase (I managed a project) they contract it into a verb (I project-managed).  This is horribly ugly, but also can result in linguistic contortions if they add further details, such as ‘I project-managed a project with special needs pupils.’  Ugh!  Just stop it!

And in case you don’t know what ‘to open-carry’ means, here’s a horrid picture:

Ugh!  Stop that as well!  How can anyone possibly think that to open-carry is OK?  Everyone knows it should be ‘to carry openly’!!!

Just kidding.  I hate guns.

Kirk out

PS if you have a poem you’d like to see up here, send it to me in a comment.


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Today’s Guest Poem

As promised, here is today’s guest poem by Graham:

A Poem in Your Head Can Keep You From Your Bed

by Graham Gee Connolly, mentored by Liz Gray

When the lights go out, next thing I’m writing a rhyme

for it has to be in that moment of time;

if I don’t, the words go away -

write them down or they’ll be gone the next day;

my brain just works that way,

it’s just day after day.

Poems can be written from the past;

putting the words on paper they will always last;

poems can be instantly written

for words are never forbidden,

just seize the moment in time,

not recording them is a wasteful crime.

I try to go back to sleep

but my brain has been working for week after week

I go to JCB: my brain is tired -

I wonder if my brain’s retired?

I pretend to keep my mind on the job

I have to be professional: I can’t be a slob

I have to be at JCB all of the day

that’s how I earn my monthly pay.

Write the poem out of my head

it can be adjusted, then read.

Poem’s just like a machine,

it can run like a dream;

flow of the engine will show

enjoyment of the poem will grow

if you don’t put the words on paper it’s a wasted rhyme.

(c) Graham Gee Connolly, 2014

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The Poetic is Political

Wow!  What an amazing meeting of the People’s Arts Collective on Tuesday night!  It was a slow start going through the minutes of last meeting and a rather unfocussed discussion, but then during the second half Cliff gave us some of his poetry and all of a sudden the thing came alive.  He started by reading from the page and I asked if he could pause to give us time to digest; and then he started to speak the poems – and oh my god, what a difference!  He is a total natural; not quite a rapper but with something of that energy and feel for the voice and how it connects with people.

There’s something of this coming through in Sound Cafe, too – Paul, one of the regulars, has been inspired to write and presented me with a sheaf of poems.  He uses rhyme and assonance in a very rap-like way, too, and I tried to reflect that as I read them out.  Rapping is not easy!  It’s not my style at all and it gave me more respect for the way rappers make it sound so natural.

I have been a busy bee this week: first, the organising-group meetings for next year’s Clarendon Park Artbeat (we’re going to have a poetry breakfast called ‘Poetry on Toast’ as well as guerilla poetry in the streets) then the People’s Arts Collective on Tuesday and Sound Cafe on Wednesday after which I had to rush home, make pizza and then write my talk as it sizzled in the oven* before charging off on my velocopede (as my music teacher used to call it) to the Secular Hall for a very positive Left Unity meeting in which I gave a talk on the place of poetry in politics.  I may put some of that on this blog.

On Tuesday night I also did my poem ‘Spike’ about the anti-homeless spikes and the statue of Christ on a bench (see previous post)


and Andrea, who is new to the group, joined in with some drumming.  It was terrific and we’re going to do that again at the Twilight gig, coming up at Embrace Arts.

So that’s us up to date.  Tomorrow there will be another guest poem by Graham Gee Connolly, called ‘A Poem in Your Head Can Keep You From Your Bed’ – so stay tuned!

Kirk out

*the pizza, not the talk.  Although possibly the talk as well…


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Ready, Shreddy, Go!

I haven’t blogged for a few days, what with NaNoWriMo and all the other stuff that’s going on, not to mention the shredding.  Oo!  Did I tell you about the shredding?  I have an ever-growing pile of cuttings and prunings at the bottom of the garden and no idea what to do with them, so I went on Streetbank


and asked to borrow a shredder – and lo and behold! some kind soul who turned out to be the gardener from the Martyrs offered to lend me theirs.  They even brought it round – so on Sunday I got it out and fired it up.  It started for about a second and then stopped and refused to do anything.  ‘Oh, no!’ I thought.  ‘It’s the lawn-mower all over again!’


but then I opened it up and saw that a wedge of wood (not Wedgewood) was stuck in the blade, and having freed that, Bob was well and truly my Uncle.  It’s very satisfying getting branches and twigs, sticking them in the top and seeing them vanish as they are chewed up and spat out the other end as mulch.  Lovely.

Back at the laptop-face, I have been keeping up with my Nano word count and I’m now up to 23,700 words; about fourteen chapters.  I’ve had a court case, an artists’ meet-up, a political meeting and a bust-up with a friend, so I’m quite happy.

What do you think of the new profile pic?  In some ways I prefer the old one, but I chose this one for the Mslexia blog.  I was going for highly intelligent and slightly scary.  Does that work?

In other news, my bid to run a workshop at Embrace Arts has finally succeeded.  It pays sometimes to ask people why they’ve rejected you!  And last night I went to a meeting of the literary caucus of the planning group for next year’s Clarendon Park Artbeat.  This is a (very) local arts festival and was terrific this year: next year I am leading a poetry performance workshop, organising a poetry breakfast called ‘Poetry on Toast’ and setting up guerilla poetry on Queen’s Rd.  All good stuff!

Kirk out

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It’s Mostly Happening!

I’ve had a couple of bits of good news lately, one of which is quite exciting: I had an email from Mslexia magazine today to say they loved my pitch to be one of their bloggers and they’d like me to start next month!  My pitch was that I’d be blogging about Mark and his gender dysphoria and how living with this has affected me and my writing.  Finally, gender dysphoria pays off!  I get paid for this too – not a fortune, but something; plus it will raise my profile and that of this blog.  So watch this space…

I’m up to 14,000 words in my NaNo journey, which is bang on schedule.  I realised if I’m going to make 17k it has to be over 3,000 per day so I was falling a little behind.  I’ve also been getting a poetry collection together, mentoring Graham in his poetry journey (there’s one of his coming up in a day or two) and signing up for a gig at Embrace Arts.  This is the start of a series of Twilight Performances which involve music, poetry and storytelling and begin at 5.30 in the evening.  So if you work in town and want something to help you wind down that’s SO much better than alcohol, come along.  I can’t upload the flyer, sadly, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.  More on this nearer the time…

Back to the laptop-face…

Kirk out



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