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Episode 26: Paul Chambers – Mastering haiku

meadowsweet
notes of a blackbird
after rain

Paul Chambers

Haiku may be short but the best are finely crafted with no excess words. Award-winning poet Paul Chambers has made this succinct, beautiful and often misunderstood form his specialty.

On this podcast he explains how the form works and shares some of his own haikus as well as explaining why it took three years to write the haiku above. He also offers a masterclass to get you started writing haiku. See below for details.

Paul’s haiku writing exercise

I think it is important to centre your focus primarily on the subject, and not on form or syllable-counting. Haiku poetry is the sharing of a sensory experience, usually set against the backdrop of the seasons. This exercise allows you to explore this:

Write the words ‘summer night’ at the top of the page. In your mind, place yourself in a familiar location on a summer night, such as your garden or on a beach. Then create a bullet-point list of everything you can experience through your senses (see, hear, touch, taste, smell) in that place on a summer night. Begin with obvious things, such as waves crashing or the moon shining, and then start to notice the smaller things, such as the taste of salt on the breeze, or sea fleas running over stones. Then, using ‘summer night’ as the first line of your haiku, write lines two and three using imagery from your sensory list. Such as:

summer night
sea waves crashing
through moonlight

summer night
sea fleas running
over moonlit stones

You can repeat this as many times as you like, and you can explore different seasonal settings too, such as ‘winter morning’, or ‘departing spring’.

As always do share your haiku for possible inclusion on the podcast or blog. Please send submissions here.

Thanks to Le Pub in Newport for providing a quiet, Covid-secure venue for the first face-to-face recording in over six months.

Paul Chambers is an award-winning haiku poet and the Editor of the Wales Haiku JournalTo date he has published two full-length collections of poetry, and has had work appear in some of the world’s most prestigious journals and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, Presence, Frogpond, the Heron’s Nest, the Atlanta Review, and the Red Moon Anthology. A selection of his haiku has also been published in the celebrated North American poetry series, A New Resonance.

Paul’s haiku has been described as ‘a poetic spell’ (Modern Haiku), and he has contributed creative and critical material to the Times Literary Supplement, the BBC, NHK World, the Arts Council of Wales and the Wales Arts Review, as well as national Japanese newspapers, the Mainichi and the Asahi Shimbun.

He has won the Museum of Haiku Literature Award, the NHK Haiku Masters Award, the Golden Triangle Haiku Award, and has been shortlisted for both the Haiku Foundation’s Distinguished Book Award and Distinguished Poem Award – the most prestigious prizes in the field of English-language haiku. 

www.paulchambershaiku.com

Paul Chambers – Haiku

river bridge the distance of my prayer

Paul Chambers

This week’s podcast guest is Paul Chambers. Paul is an award-winning haiku poet and the Editor of the Wales Haiku JournalTo date he has published two full-length collections of poetry, and has had work appear in some of the world’s most prestigious journals and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, Presence, Frogpond, the Heron’s Nest, the Atlanta Review, and the Red Moon Anthology. A selection of his haiku has also been published in the celebrated North American poetry series, A New Resonance.

He will be be discussing this ancient and often misunderstood poetic form and offering a simple exercise to help anyone write a haiku. Here is a selection of his work:

freeing itself
of itself
the thawing stream

magnolia scent…
sunlight in the hairs
along my son’s ear

pre-dawn stars…
plumes of breath
from a cattle truck

morning coolness
the meadow holds the shape
of a deer

convalescence…
autumn revealing
the river

blue hour…
the day’s heat lingers
in lilac scent

www.paulchambershaiku.com


Poem: Pencil Boys by Nigel Kent

Nigel Kent responds to John McCullough’s prompt to write a poem using stationery as a metaphor. For a chance to be featured, send poems inspired by one of the prompts on the podcast here.

Pencil boys

We are the pencil boys
not the posh propelling ones
but the shitty bookie’s kind
you find on our estate.

We never bring pens to lessons
yet our teachers don’t lend us theirs:
they think ink’s too permanent
and pencil’s easily rubbed out.

Nigel Kent

Pushcart Prize nominated poet, Nigel Kent, has been shortlisted for several national competitions and his poetry has appeared in a wide range of anthologies and magazines. In 2019 Hedgehog Poetry Press published his first collection, ‘Saudade’, following the success of his poetry conversations with Sarah Thomson, ‘Thinking You Home’ and ‘A Hostile Environment’. In August of this year Hedgehog Poetry Press published his pamphlet, ‘Psychopathogen’. Website: www.nigelkentpoet.wordpress.com Twitter @kent_nj 

Episode 25: Jonathan Davidson – A Common Place

Jonathan Davidson has been writing poetry for 30 years. He also likes to read other people’s poems for entertainment and inspiration and share the joy they bring. His latest book a Common Place is more than just a poetry collection. It contains favourite poems by other poets, a commentary, gazetteer and lots and lots of footnotes.

In this interview Jonathan talks with passion about poetry and his other interests including apples and bricks. He is generous with his advice from his long writing career.

The podcast is in two parts. In the first Jonathan talks about one poem from the book Printing. He explains the background and his writing process and invites listeners to take inspiration from other technological processes: “Identify a technological process – it could be ancient like windmills or recent like open heart surgery – and write a poem in response to this process but about your own life.”

Jonathan recommends learning about the process you’ve chosen and the language around it and build some of this language and knowledge into your poem.

In the second part Jonathan talks about A Common Place and why he chose to break with convention to produce a poetry collection with various other bits added in. He also shares a couple more poems from the book.

As always it would be great to read the technological poems you write and share them on the blog or podcast. Please submit them here.

You can find out more about Jonathan Davidson via the link below and you can buy A Common Place here.

www.jonathandavidson.net

Picture: Lee Allen

Jonathan Davidson – Father

Picture: Lee Allen

Jonathan Davidson is the next guest on the podcast sharing poems from his latest book, A Common Place. It is a collection of Jonathan’s poetry and much more. There is a commentary, a selection of influential poems by other poets, a gazetteer with all the places mentioned in the book and footnotes – a lot of footnotes!

You can find out why Jonathan chose to publish in this unusual format on the podcast as well as hearing a few poems. He will also be offering valuable advice and inspiration from a writing career of more than 30 years.

Father

I walked with my invisible father
out into the fields on the edge
of town. But they are gone now:
new roads, new names, new people.

Dad, stay here for a while, I said,
and I’ll go and find out what
has happened to our lives.
He sat
on the newly installed bench.

And when I returned, furnished
with stories of change, I found him
utterly dead, his cold eyes
on the cold world closed. So

many years he had lived here
and then this: his roads re-named,
his fields built over, his people
now coming into view as strangers.

By Jonathan Davidson, from A Commonplace (Smith|Doorstop, 2020)

Episode 24: John McCullough – Stationery Poems to Move You

John McCullough

John McCullough discusses his poem Stationery from the Costa Award shortlisted collection Reckless Paper Birds. He talks about the various elements that influenced the poem: From his love life to social media posts. He invites listeners to write a poem using items of stationery as metaphors for life and relationships.

www.johnmccullough.co.uk

Write a stationery poem

“Though the voice of ‘Stationery’ is quite anxious and manic, the poem is subtly structured not only through the jaunty, indented stanzas like steps but also through a series of images taken from the world of stationery. I’d like you to write a poem which uses one or more items of stationery as a metaphor for either a relationship or for society at large. What does it mean to be written in pencil rather than ink or to be stapled? There’s inevitably immediate potential for humour here but I’d also like you to think about how this strange perspective might be used to probe deeper territory, how adopting this unusual angle might allow you to investigate the different ways that people interact with each other.”

Pick up your pen and notebook and see what inspires you. Send your poems here and you could be featured on the blog or in a future podcast.

Check out Reckless Paper Birds and John’s other books published by Penned in the Margins.

John McCullough – Soulcraft

John McCullough is the next guest on the podcast talking his Costa Book Awards shortlisted poetry collection, Reckless Paper Birds published by Penned in the Margins. Here’s one of the poems you can hear him read and discuss.

www.johnmccullough.co.uk

Soulcraft

It’s true: there is a light at the centre of my body.
If I could, I would lift aside a curtain of this flesh
and demonstrate, but for now it is my private neon.
It is closest to the air at certain moments,
like when buttercups repair a morning’s jagged edge.
Other times, a flock of days descends
and my soul flickers, goes to ground.
Without light, I’m all membrane; each part
becomes a gate. I pour across each margin
and nothing has enough hands to catch me,
my teeth knocking so fast I daren’t hold any piece
of myself near in case I start a banquet.
I’m only eased by accident. On the drenched path,
I pick up snails and transport them to safer earth
then feel a stirring. I watch as rain streams
from lopped-back elms, my face teeming with water
and―hello stranger―my soul glides to my surface
like it, too, belongs there; like a bright fish rising to feed.

John McCullough

John McCullough lives in Hove. His first collection of poems, The Frost Fairs (Salt), won the Polari First Book Prize in 2012 and was a Book of the Year for The Independent. This was followed by Spacecraft (Penned in the Margins, 2016) which was a summer read in The Guardian and shortlisted for the Ledbury-Forte prize. His latest book of poems, Reckless Paper Birds (Penned in the Margins, 2019) was recently shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award. The judges said “This collection – hilarious, harrowing and hyper-modern – offers a startlingly fresh insight into vulnerability and suffering.” 

Surreal, joyful, political & queer – John McCullough's Reckless Paper Birds from Penned in the Margins on Vimeo.

Episode 23: Listeners’ Poetry

This podcast features a selection of poems sent in by listeners. We have heard many talented and accomplished poets in the last year. But Poetry Non-Stop was always intended to inspire everyone to write poetry and give new poets a platform.

This episode features poetry from:

Sarah Davies
Ann Walton / Kelley Allen
Ray Dunlap
Alex Blustin
Patrick Sheil
And music from Moth Conspiracy

It was particularly pleasing to receive poems in response to some of the prompts provided by guests. There are also a few inspired by prompts from the Poetry Non-Stop book which you can buy here.

Poetry Non-Stop is always open to submissions of poems inspired by writing prompts on the podcast. You can submit poems here and you could be featured on the blog or a future podcast.

Poetry of Angela Platt

This month Newport poet Angela Platt sadly passed away. I knew Angela through the local Poetry Society Stanza group she ran. She welcomed a small group of poets into her home each month where we would enjoy conversation and discuss each other’s latest work in relaxed, homely atmosphere.

Angela always lived life to the full and her wealth of life experience came through in her poems. She remained active right to the end publishing her final collection Crossing the Bloodline with Cinnamon Press this year. She had hoped to record a podcast for Poetry Non-Stop but unfortunately this wasn’t possible.

It is however a pleasure to share this reading from an event I held in Cardiff back in 2016.

www.angelaplattpoet.com

Episode 22: Alexander Rhodes – One Foot in the Rave

Alexander Rhodes found his way into the poetry scene through a combination of chance, hard work and raw talent. He has performed up and down the country and taken his award-winning verse play One Foot in the Rave to the Edinburgh Fringe and on tour. It tells the story of how he was thrown out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and became a rave DJ.

In this podcast he talks about how he became a poet and performer in a conversation rich in anecdotes and great poetry.

For a writing prompt Alexander responded with:

Transhumanism for dummies

“I like the subtle inferences of those words, and also we are accelerating towards Superintelligent AI with very little discussion among the artistic community – so now would be a good time as any.”

You can hear how Patrick and Alexander responded to this topic, and it’s an area Alexander is researching for a forthcoming novel. Do share your own responses to the prompt here or in the comments for possible inclusion on a future podcast or on the blog.

Alexander will be touring One Foot in the Rave again when lockdown is lifted and has a new show due to start touring in 2021.

Twitter @joineduppoetry
Instagram @AlexanderRhodes-poetry
alexanderrhodes.me.uk
onefootintherave.co.uk