Sunday, 18 December 2011

My Poetry Top 20 of 2011

So, how was 2011 for you? I’ve had a great year in terms of performances and writing but from a personal point of view it was tinged with sadness as my father passed away towards the end of the year. After a time of concentrating on family matters, I’m now gearing up for next year.

I’m really optimistic about the future of poetry in spite of the continuing funding difficulties for artists and events. 2011 has been a year where new events and initiatives have continued to pop up as a result of individual’s passion to do something and it’s wonderful to see that infectious enthusiasm.

So looking back, here is an “end of term” report from my perspective. They say “write about what you know” so although there are many fantastic artists, festivals and events out there I’ve only included poets I’ve personally seen or events I attended. If I didn’t see you this year (and compiling this has made me realise who I didn’t get to see) please forgive me and I hope to get to more stuff next year.

So, here is my top twenty(ish) poetry people, organisations, events and experiences of 2010. I say twentyish as I’ve grouped some people and activities together as they were so closely related. Listing them separately might have meant compiling a top 50. I have also listed my personal choice of Top Five Poetry Acts of the Year and Top Five Poetry Experiences of the Year.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has written, edited, published, sold, bought, read, performed, promoted, watched or championed poetry and spoken word this year. Have a great break over Christmas and New Year. Come back refreshed and inspired and as its Olympic Year, let’s run faster, jump further and soar higher!

Keep writin’ and recitin’

Mark x

Mark Niel’s Poetry Top 20 of 2011

Aisle 16
Aisle 16 continues to stage excellent collective events but many of their individual talents have had a great year too. Tim Clare took his Poetry Takeaway to various festivals and one his man show “How to be a leader” did really well (Rapping as Maggie Thatcher was a particular highlight). Luke Wright had a standout show (Cynical Ballads) which garnered great reviews and award nominations and John Osborne made his mark on Edinburgh too. Look out for “John Peel’s Shed” on Radio 4 soon). Aisle 16 seems to have the difficult knack of penetrating the quality media to gain coverage which I think is great for poetry as a whole. They are setting the standards for progressive. challenging and entertaining spoken word shows.

Allographic/ Fay Roberts
Allographic is a new initiative from Fay Roberts. Fay is a Welsh-born poet who started performing poetry in Milton Keynes. Alongside poetry dynamo Danni Antagonist, they have made Poetry Kapow! essential events in MK presenting a unique blend of music, poetry, competitions, art installations etc. Fay now lives in Cambridge and has managed to keep all her links with MK alive. Fay has started Allographic (meaning other writing) to be a small press and support for writers who don’t get the attention of bigger publishers. As well as staging regular events , Fay is keen to record or video poets and offer support to the less techie to get their work out there. As if this wasn’t enough, Fay is a wonderful writer and performer often using song or rhythm to accompany her softly-spoken verse which greets you like a warm, velvet-gloved handshake.

The Antipoet/Rrrants Collective
The Antipoet must be one of the leading contenders for the title of “Hardest working people in poetry”. They gig, they play, they entertain, they organise they turn up, they publish, they put contemporary poetry books in school and most importantly they offer a home in the Rrrants collective for spoken word artists who don’t feel they fit in anywhere else. They are a poetry powerhouse combining the talents of Donna, (organising, front of house, merchandise) Ian (Double Bass, occasional vocals, perpetual roadie) and Paul Eccentric (writer, performer and wearer of Adam Ant’s back wardrobe). I’ve yet to see a gig they didn’t lift with their bass-backed beat poetry and for this reason I name them The Antipoet as one my Top Five Poetry Acts of the Year

Brewers’ Troupe
Brewers’ Troupe are Emma Purshouse and Heather Wastie and occasionally other people. Working in and around the Midlands, these two are poetry forces in their own right, frequently seen published, winning competitions and Slams or doing gigs. They seek to take poetry into venues that don’t usually host it and they have staged a few gigs under the “Three poets go into a pub” banner which also gives some open mic opportunities to locals poets. They also wrote and staged “Snug” a theatrical piece based in a pub bar that incorporated poetry into the text as it explored the lives of six regulars. As well as all that, they host workshops and are jolly nice people to boot.

Cabaret Clandestino/ Pete the Temp
Pete Bearder (aka Pete the Temp) ran a fantastic late night cabaret once a month in Oxford. He then filled a day at Truck Festival with the same formula. Pete plans a great mix of music, comedy and always highlights poetry. The audiences were fantastic and Pete is an excellent host. He can judge how “warm” an audience is and he works hard to get them to a state of readiness for performers. This is very important as spoken word can be difficult in a cold room and I’ve seen other events (which shall remain nameless) where the first act has been thrown on while the audience is still settling. Invariably they have struggled. This never happens with Pete. On top of all this, he is a lovely feller and a warm and engaging artist packing his sets with humour, energy entertainment as he educates about the environment.

Express Excess/ Paul Lyalls
Paul Lyalls has been producing shows with Express Excess for fifteen years now and he has hosted a great stable of talent the over the years. This includes Simon Munnery, Will Self and he has the distinction of giving stand up comedian Reginald D Hunter his first ever paid gig. Still going strong in his own right with material that works on and off the page, Paul is another excellent host and poet in his own right. He always brings warmth to the stage whether it be his one-liners, banter with the audience or performing his poems. Paul knows how to put together a great programmes for a good night’s entertainment.

Farrago Poetry/ Fran Landesman
John Paul O’Neill has been organising Slams in the UK since 1994 and is another leading candidate for the “hardest working person in poetry” tag. He teaches, organises and turns up to gigs to flyer as well and somehow finds time to write and perform. He’s given so many artists a stage and I have great respect for promoters with longevity as I know how tough it can be to keep events going. John Paul gave Fran Landesman a regular platform for the last ten or so years and what a talent she was. A lyricist featuring on top albums right through her career, she was also known the Poet Laureate of Losers. Fran became Farrago’s Poet in Residence and she sadly passed away this year. The memorial hosted on the Farrago stage in her memory was a triumph and John Paul managed to put it all together and host the event when emotions were running high. This was a fitting tribute to Fran and one of my favourite poetry nights this year. The first of my Top Five Poetry Experiences of the Year.

AF Harrold
Probably the nation’s most talented beard, I have seen Mr Harrold quite a few times this year and he has never disappointed. He has such fantastic range: from tender and moving love poems that work well on the page to comic verse in the best tradition of the English eccentric. One of my favourite moments this year was tuning in the radio just before I went to sleep to hear him on Radio 4’s “Wondermentalist Cabaret”. He writes for children, adults and all types of animals and I wish him continued success. If you haven’t seen him yet, this is probably your fault. Please try harder next year or we’ll have to have words! AF Harrold is another of my Top Five Poetry Acts of the Year.

John Hegley
What can you say about John Hegley that hasn’t been said many times over? He is a poet who has achieved that difficult crossover into the mainstream conscience and sustained it for many years which I believe is great for poetry overall. Whenever I see John perform, it is a master class in audience interaction and crowd control. John can take quirkiness, humour, wordplay and poignancy and get them to blend and rise, like a poetry soufflé: light yet with a depth of flavour (Sorry for that imagery. I may have watched too much Masterchef this year!). John’s sets are a joyous collective experience. His words are inspired and after a gig he always has time to talk to people which underlines his generous nature. John Hegley is the third of my Top Five Poetry Acts of the Year.

Richard Tyrone Jones
Another “hardest working person in poetry” contender and given he almost died from a heart condition who would begrudge him the title? Richard Tyrone Jones turned his experience of discovering a fir 30 year old had the flabby distended heart of an old man into a one man show which debuted in 2011 and he is taking on tour in 2012. Richard Tyrone Jones has a big heart won great reviews and a nomination for best spoken word show at the Buxton Fringe which is a solid foundation for an excellent tour. RTJ will be handing the reigns of Utter over to Cat Brogan but he will no doubt turn up at workshops and events over the year too. Richard has been a committed promoter who provided opportunities for others and people like him make the scene what it is. *Standing Ovation*

Latitude Poetry Tent
Bravo Luke Wright! Luke curates the Poetry programme for Latitude and he managed to bring together an awesome collection of poets from up and coming talents to Perrier award-winning acts. This just shows how closely he has his finger on the pulse of contemporary poetry. The range of poets and contributions couldn’t be rivalled anywhere else. It was great to play a small part in it and see an enthusiastic crowd welcome a non-stop line up of poets from midday to past midnight. This is another of my Top Five Poetry Experiences of the Year.

Ian McMillan and his Orchestra
I saw Ian with his Orchestra for the first time at the Wenlock Poetry Festival (more of that below) and they completely blew me away. Ian McMillan (the Bard of Barnsley) by himself is funny, engaging and an excellent communicator but the addition of folk instruments and sympathetic musical arrangements elevated his words to a whole new level. They had the sold out audience in the palm of their hands from the first to last note. One of the many highlights was an improvised poem with music based on audience suggestions. This was poetic alchemy at its best as Ian wove a tale of humour and intrigue featuring Beards, Doncaster Rovers and the Alternative Voting System. It had flow, rhythm and rhyme and brought the house down. I can’t recommend Ian highly enough if he’s near you and particularly with his talented orchestra. No surprise that they are another of my Top Five Poetry Acts of the Year.

Nuneaton Poetry Day
Warwickshire Arts Team facilitated a day where poetry was literally taken out into the market place. With the support of the local Market Traders and the council, various poetry stops were posted around the market and lots of different events and activities took place. We also included (what we believe to be) the world’s first outdoor Sixty Second Slam competition. Mal Dewhirst blogged poems that he wrote throughout the day and the day ended with an Open Mic session in a local pub. We left with a warm afterglow of having succeeded at bringing an idea to fruition in a short space of time with support from many quarters. This was a wonderful idea, smartly executed by a great team.

Poets and Promoters Forum
Now this may be seen as a hugely egotistical move naming one of my own events but I genuinely enjoyed running the Forum. The idea was simple: to bring together poets, promoters, small presses, producers and others interested in poetry outside of the confines of a gig. We delivered updates from organisations in bite sized pieces and let the delegates meet, mingle, network and put dates in diaries for the year ahead. It included “Speed dating for poets” organised sessions but people could also network naturally. I was thrilled the pilot worked and I will be taking the idea forward for funding to make it bigger and better in 2012. It was a pleasure to see performances, collaborations and support for events and projects as a result of contacts made at the Forum.

Rum Punch
I had the honour to play the Rum Punch birthday gig in July run by Saran Green and Comfort Cydelle. The packed basement crowd in Rudy’s Revenge in Holborn were treated to a great line up and they loved it. “Partnas in Rhyme” have established a great event here over the last three years. The audience are enthusiastic and welcoming and know how to show their love to the singers, poets and comedians that take part. They make this event special and the atmosphere generated is second to none. So thanks to them and Comfort and Saran for making this another of my Top Five Poetry Experiences of the Year.

Scribal Gathering
Scribal need to careful as they keep outgrowing venues in Stony Stratford and soon will have nowhere to go! Now a regular fixture in the town calendar, the team have established this as a great night out for poetry and music artists and fans. Richard Frost expertly hosts an Open Mic format featuring two special guests (one music based, one spoken word) and the night is filled with lots of local talent and goodwill. They also managed to win backing from the Town Council to inaugurate the “Bard of Stony Stratford” and at the first annual competition in January; Ian Freemantle emerged as the winner. They have gone on to host stages at other festivals and venues and they continue to give opportunities for musicians and poets.

Spiel comprises the talents of Marcus Moore and Sara-Jane Arbury. They run a full programme of slams, workshops, writing retreats as well as schools work and performances. Their poetry slams at high profile events such as the Cheltenham Literature and other Festivals are always immaculately organised, expertly hosted and great entertainment. I haven’t seen as much of them this year as I would have liked but I hope to put that right next year.

Wenlock Poetry Festival
Wenlock held their first poetry festival in 2010 and this year they built on that success delivering a wonderful weekend of poetic goodness. The line up included Carol Ann Duffy, Andrew Motion, Jo Shapcott, Ian McMillan and John Hegley to name but a few. Workshops, events, reading, slams and performances all made this (in my opinion) the best poetry weekend available in the UK this year. Praise is due to the organising committee and the Friends of the Festival who deserve enormous credit for pulling the whole thing together. I was there for the whole weekend this year and saw how many people played their part from front of house to hospitality and made this Festival so special. Next year is a special year for them because of their association with the Olympics and the dates for your diary are 13 to 15 April. You will no doubt have guessed I name Wenlock Poetry Festival as another of my Top Five Poetry Experiences of the Year.

Indigo Williams
I have only seen Indigo Williams once this year at Rum Punch (see above) but boy, did her electrifying set live long in the memory! Indigo is a true spoken word artist and her slight frame belies the stage presence, passion and impact her poetry brings to the mic. As I sat amongst the audience they were at times, literally breath-taken. Gasps greeted the strength of her message and her eloquence and poise allows her to finesse the points she wants to make. The audience were absolutely absorbed in every word. Indigo has great range to her poems and though her stand out piece of the night used necessarily strong language it was entirely appropriate and this was as fine an example of a poem bringing a message home with pure artistry as I have seen. Indigo is the last of my Top Five Poetry Acts of the Year

Word 4 Word (Newport News, Virginia, USA)
On holiday this year in the US, I was determined to seek out an opportunity to take the mic. This has been the first time I’d tried doing such a thing and I enjoyed the experience of making new friends through poetry. I was keen to see how my poetry would be greeted by an American audience; would the humour and cultural references translate and would the poems have the same impact? I have to thank Ann Shalaski, the audience and the poets for a taste of a US Open Mic night and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and their hospitality. This night was more reading than performed and I can’t thank them enough for their generosity, company and above all laughing in the right places! Word 4 Word completes my Top Five Poetry Experiences of the Year

That's it. Have a great Christmas and New Year

Mark x

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Radio Silence Broken

You may well have noticed that I’ve been quiet for a while. I’ve had a period of silent running on social media and updating the blog and website etc. My father fell seriously ill toward the end of the year and sadly his condition deteriorated rapidly and he passed away on 1 November. Arrangements, legalities and being with the family have naturally taken up a lot of my time and attention but I’ve honoured most of the gigs I had in my diary. I’m starting to get back into planning mode for next year as I’d like to make 2012 a year that counts.

So I haven’t made it to as many gigs as I would have liked and I’ve not seen as much of my poetry friends. I hope to put that right next year. Apologies to you for the gigs I missed and the events I had to cancel. I am in the middle of compiling my Poetry Top 20 for 2011 and I hope to post that next week. In the meantime, here’s a little poem for Christmas which I’ve written in my capacity as Poetry Laureate for Milton Keynes and I hope you enjoy it as well.
Love and best wishes

Letter to Santa

Dear Santa, I don’t want an X box
Kinnect or DS2
DVDs or MP3s
Are not what I want from you

Tell your elves to take a break
Their list is one name short
But I’ll still leave Rudolph a carrot
And you a glass of port

I promise I have been good this year
Don’t think this my confession
It’s just the commercialisation of Christmas
Seems perverse in times of recession

And I’m really not bothered about presents
That’s not what Christmas means
So keep your Ben Sherman and Ralph Lauren
And even True Religion jeans

Give your gifts to the more deserving
The poor and homeless and needy
I’m blessed with most things a man might want
And any more would just be greedy

Instead please send me patience
And love and understanding
Help me be a better person
In days that are so demanding

Give me time, to spend with family
Goodwill, to share with friends
Peace and compassion for the human race
And charity that never ends

You see, presents in the absence of love
Bring only short-lived cheer
So help us all take the spirit of Christmas
And make it last all year

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A Wonderful Day in Nuneaton

This weekend saw the start of a very busy period and it couldn't got off to a better start than the Nuneation Summer Poetry Day. This was the first such event and it was the culmination of weeks of planning involving Mal Dewhirst as Festival poet building a blog and online presence. Mal wrote and tweeted poems during the day and commentented on the various "Poetry Stops" in the Market, shops, churches etc. Nuneaton is the home town of Gerge Eliot and it was great to see traditional poetry read and celebrated alongside modern original verse. There were also art projects that encouraged participation and engagement with poetry. In short, a tremendous collaborative effort delivered a huge amount in a mere few weeks lead up and the Warwickshire Arts Team deserve a lot of credit.

My role as as "Minstral Poet" was to man one of the Poetry Stops and to run (what we believe is) the World's first open air live sixty second slam competition. Five plucky poets wrote one minute poems and in a blitz of poetry Gary Longdon emerged as the worthy winner.

On top of all the daytime activities, I MC'ed an evening open mic session in a pub and it was a great way to cap off a busy, thrilling and satisfying day.

A special mention to the poets at the George Eliot statue who had to compete with a butcher who used a pa to shout out his offers. This led to some interesting soundscapes as poetry and special offers merged!

Here is my poem about it.

Have a great week. Keep writin' and recitin'


Have a Butcher’s

At the George Eliot statue
Our poets bravely compete
With a mic’ed up butcher
Declaring the virtues of meat

It’s hard to be a poet
While someone shouts about chops
People want to rush on by
And make their way to the shops

But our plucky little poets
Battled for all their worth;
Made the most of them opportunity
Despite their offal berth

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The American Dream

Hi Y'all!

I'm currently on holiday in America so that will explain the recent lack of posts. Here is a quick round up.

1 It's been VERY HOT! Over 100  degrees F with high humidity but the weather is more comfortable now.
2 We've enjoyed meeting old friends and making new ones in Virginia.
3 We've had five days in Lexington and we're currently in Williamsburg.
4 I can now legitimately say I am an International poet after performing in Newport News. Thanks to Ann, Mike, Aromas Coffee House and the folks at Word 4 Word who were so great to listen and perform to.
5 The first part of an interview with me is now up on Please give it a look.

See you soon


Friday, 3 June 2011

Hymn for a Northern Dad

Bus Driver, Preacher and Engineer.
Never showed “a morsel of fear”.
Loved his wife for many a year.
Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad.

Sturdy, like the English oak
He can fix anything that’s broke
Still cracking the same old jokes.
Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad

Mum was queen, he was the king.
Has an opinion on EVERYTHING.
Taught me what it means to sing.
Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad

Gave me a craving for sweets and sugar.
On occassions a stubborn bugger.
Typical northerner (not a big hugger)
Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad.

He’s a fortress of northern pride.
Walks the moors with a manly stride
Never calls, unless someone’s died
Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad.

Always one for talking straight.
Eh up son, have you put on weight?
Ruled the roost like a potentate
Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad.

Won’t give houseroom to cress or rocket
Uses terms like flange and sprocket
Keeps his wallet in his pocket
Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad.

He drinks life from a cup, full to the brim
Has never once been near a gym
I’m proud to say I bloody love him
Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad.

A veteran of good old Music hall days
And though he has some funny ways
This is my fervent hymn of praise
Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A little FIFA poem

A Limerick for FIFA

FIFA operates without gray matter.
They ignore the scandal and chatter.
Common sense has defected,
the president elected.
I can’t believe it’s not Blatter!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

A busy start then....nothing!

So the world didn't end.....which is nice. Especially as I have a holiday coming up and I don't think my insurance covers acts of God. Last weekend was really busy. I had the pleasure of performing at the Rickmansworth Festival courtesy of my good friends at then we headed to a friend's birthday party (See my previous post for my poem about David).

On Sunday I has a nightmare journey to London as the high strength winds blew trees on the track. I ended up driving to a station on a different line to get there. I was late for my course on "Writing satirical Comedy" but thankfully didn't miss too much of it. I really enjoyed it and I have to say, if I lived in London, I would ALWAYS be on a CityLit course. It's a wonderful resource.

Following the announcement last week of my appointment as Milton Keynes' Poet Laureate, I was on the BBC local radio Breakfast show and I had a piece in the local papers. The irony is I probably won't be performing here for a few weeks though I'm busy elsewhere.

I'm a frequent contributor to BBC 3 Counties and  I normally write a poem for them when I go in. This week's is below and the best thing is, I can recycle it in six months when the rapture doesn't happen again on 21 October.

Best wishes
Keep writin'and recitin'

Link to Poet Laureate story below

Apocalype? No!

So the world didn’t end
As some religious folk were warning
And I have to face the disappointment of
Another depressing Monday morning

You see, thinking the world was checking out
I made a few rash decisions
And when they become public knowledge
I’ll be the object of shame and derision.

I called up all my exes,
Told them they were whores
And that their sisters were prettier than them
And then, what is more

I youtubed a certain video
Of one wild and frantic bedding
Then sent the link to her fiancé
The day before their wedding.

On Friday I insulted my work colleagues
I really caused affront
I let management know what I really think
And called the boss a ..very bad name.

I’ve borrowed money from loan sharks
Thinking I’d never pay it back
And I blagged a hundred grand
By selling my council flat.

So the police will be after me
The situation’s getting urgent
Today I either face the music
Or find a good plastic surgeon.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

40th birthday poem for David

There’s a maxim used on occasions like these
By both the humble and the haughty
You’ll hear it said a thousand times
“Life begins at forty”.

Let me tell you I’ve passed that milestone
And those who said it were naughty
I’ve found the opposite is true
Your life is over when you’re forty

You start to get tired and lose your zest
Your body less athletic and sporty
Soon you’ll need a Zimmer frame
Because you’re almost dead at forty

Hairs fall from your head but sprouts out of your ears
Your skin becomes wrinkled and warty
When you look in the mirror, your Dad’s face looks back
So kiss goodbye to your looks now you’re forty

Sex used to be twice nightly now it’s yearly, nearly
Spicy talk rarely ever makes a fresh sortie
Yes, ironically your sex life is screwed
Now that you’ve turned the big forty

But is not all bad news, Alzheimer’s awaits
Soon your mind will be thought-free
So you won’t remember all these negative traits
So drink up and celebrate being forty.

Friday, 20 May 2011

A Poet Laureate for Milton Keynes

This is the text from a Press Release sent out today.

Milton Keynes has joined a growing list of towns, cities and counties in the UK by appointing their own official Poet Laureate. Outgoing Mayor Debbie Brock awarded the title to Mark Niel in recognition of his efforts to promote poetry and local poets through his work with Tongue in Chic as well as representing Milton Keynes at performances across the country. In addition Mark was a key contributor and judge for the Mayor’s recent Royal Wedding Poetry Competition. The Laureateship is an honorary title which will support the Mayor’s ceremonial role at various civic events throughout the year. The announcement was made at the Council’s Annual Meeting on 17 May, 2011 by Debbie Brock. Debbie said,

“Mark is a great ambassador for Milton Keynes and a brilliant poet, he engages with many schools and groups across the city. I look forward to reading about Civic life in the future represented in verse”.

A delighted Mark responded,

“This is a great honour which took me completely by surprise. I’ve always been proud to represent Milton Keynes and now I can do so officially, that’s a wonderful feeling. I hope to encourage others to read, write and listen to more poetry and continue to find opportunities to showcase the wealth of talent from our town”.

Mark is a home grown talent who only took the stage as a poet for the first time three years ago. Publication in local magazine “Monkey Kettle” encouraged him to take his first nervous open mic at Madcap for the “Poetry Kapow” event. Since then, Mark has done over 200 gigs, and won many “Poetry Slams” including the Camden Crawl as well as Bristol, Wenlock and Ledbury Poetry Festivals. Now establishing himself as a headline act and a poet for people who don’t like poetry, Mark has graduated to headline performer and started to make appearances at leading Festivals. In July, he will make his debut at the prestigious Latitude Festival. Mark was chosen to represent the South East region on the Apples & Snakes “Public Address” Tour last year.


“Beautifully performed” Miriam Margolyes

“A bravura performance” Buxton Fringe Festival

Friday, 13 May 2011

Big in Bangalore!

It's been a great week for another side of my writing. Although I have concentrated on poetry recently, I also write sketches, sketches and comedy murder msyteries. Some of these are available through Lazy Bee Scripts I occasionally find out that scripts have been bought to be performed and as a result, some of my sxcripts have been performed all over the world, generally in schools or by amateur companies.

This week however, when I checked I was amused by the juxtaposition of two script sales. One was to a school in Surrey and the other was to a professional theatre company in Bangalore. I was slightly bemused by the second as you can imagine. "Human Relations" is based in a restaurant where a couple are having dinner. She thinks it's their one year anniversary but he works in HR so treats it like an annual review and hilarity hopefully ensues! The feedback from Bangalore has been really positive as the IT industry employs so many people and the companies are western to the HR processes are familiar to them. My script was one of five short plays put together to make a themed evening featuring skewed relationships under the title "Together in the City". The good news is Tortilla Theatre Company hope to repeat the show across India.

The other bit of good news is that one of my one act plays is being staged as the first production of a new professional theatre company at the Buxton Fringe Festival. The poster has just been produced and it is here below for your pleasure! If you're planning to go to Buxton in July, please go see it!

Keep writin' and recitin'

Mark x

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Some days are just sad

One of the good things about Facebook is that people remember anniverseries. Today is the 10th and 30th anniverseries of the deaths of Douglas Adams and Bob Marley respectively. Two very different people who meant so much to their fans and both sadly missed. It led to this poem which took me places I didn't expect to go so it's below.

I've enjoyed a good week so far. On Saturday night, I was part of the Whose Turn Comedy Impro Team that did a slot at Cabaret Clandestino in Oxford. It was great to see a new poem to me, Chris Redmond for the first time who was excellent.

I took a slot at Scribal Gathering last night which continues to go from strength to strength. Tomorrow I plan to go and see the wonderful Tim Clare in Northampton. My next gig is next Wednesday at Kings Heath when I headline "Rhymes" in Birmingham alongside Donna Scott, Fay Roberts and Danni Antagonist, hosted by Lorna Meehan. It's at 8pm at the Station Pub in Kings Heath on Wednesday 18 March.

Have a good week

Keep writin' and recitin'

Mark x

Nostalgia is a lot smaller than I remember it

I want things to be the way they were;
the way I like them.
I want Bob Marley,
Douglas Adams and Kirsty McColl back.
In exchange death is welcome to
Simon Cowell, Ann Widdicombe and
everyone who has ever been on “The Apprentice”.
I’d also throw in every professional footballer
who doesn’t understand
what a lucky bastard they are
or how long it would take to earn
their weekly wage
working in a call centre.

I want the roasting barbecue summer of 1976,
ice creams on Scarborough beach
when penny slots actually cost a penny.
I want to watch the sun shuffle West for the night
and be shushed asleep by
soft breaking waves on the shore.
I want breakfasts that now would bear a
Government health warning:
Bacon, sausages, fried bread and eggs,
toast cut fresh from a cottage loaf and
tea you could use to stain window frames.
When gyms were for boxers
and not for the public.

Before Thatcher,
when Britain made things
instead of outsourcing them to Asia.
When building societies were mutual,
not privatised and owned by Spaniards
and watching television was
as simple as one, two, three.
You knew when to sleep
because the TV turned Cinderella
at midnight, morphing into
a simple analogue dot
and the verb spin had just one meaning
and headaches never lasted beyond the day.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The euphoria subsides (a little)

Well the big wave of euphoria has abated somewhat as the routine of the day job kicks in but I still have little ripples of pleasant memeories kicking in from the weekend.

I have a fairly quiet week except for hosting a charity quiz  on Friday evening and doing a turn at Cabaret Clandestino on Saturday night as part of Comedy Impro troupe Whose Turn?

I need to do some adminy things like re-order postcards and pamphlets from the printers and think about booking gigs for the summer./

In the meantime, a little silly stanza for you

Keep Writin' and Recitin'


Sad Chef

Our Italian restaurant chef
is an incredibly morose man.
You can taste it in the food he cooks
Even his pizza's dead pan!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Wonderful Wenlock

I have spent the most fabulous weekend at the Wenlock Poetry Festival. It has been a real delight to experience and be part of the Festival so here are my potted highlights of the weekend.

Denise and I arrived on Friday afternoon (after Denise had watched the Royal wedding on TV) and we settled in with our hosts for the weekend (Many thanks David and Jen) while I went to check in with the Festival office and books tickets for that evening.

We went to see Ian McMillan and his orchestra which was a fantastic experience. Ian was on top form and this was the first time I'd seen him with his five musicians backing him. It was simply a highly enjoyable 90 minutes. Ian was sharp, funny and obviously relished a full house and the wonderful acoustics of The Edge theatre. The skill of the musicians were showcased and they produced a wonderful sound which seemed to be much bigger than the sum of their parts. What seemed obvious was how much Ian and the musicians enjoyed themselves and the audience certainly did too.

The highlight of the show for me was the improvised piece by Ian and the band based on suggestions from the audience which were beards, mathematics, Doncaster Rovers Football Club and Alternative Voting. The rhyming story that emerged was a premier league conspiracy to keep Doncaster out of the Premiership using AV taking into account the number of female bearded fans. It was a polished evening of words perfectly married (appropriately enough).

We then made a mad dash down to the Priory Hall which hosted this year's Slam. I was the inaugural Champion last year (which led to the invitation to be part of the Festival this year). I did a quick poem to allow the judges to deliberate ( one of the judges was Miriam Margoyles who described my poem as "Great and beautifully performed"). In a hard fought contest, Emma Purshouse deservedly emerged as this year's winner. That rounded off Day One.

Day Two and I went to see John Hegley doing his children's show "Animal Alphaboat". John is a consumate performer and communicater whether his audience is adults or children and this show was no exception. John has a demeanour which brooks no hecklers and yet he can encourage an audience to join in when needed. He expertly talked to children without talking at them them or above their heads and there were plenty of laughs for adults as well as the children.

After lunch, I went to run my Performance Poetry Workshop which I really enjoyed. After this, we rested until the Friend's Party in the evening where it was a pleasure to mingle with some of the key supporters of the Festival, Committee members and other poets.

Day three was the day of my show "Poet in Motion" at the Pottery. The show tells my story of coming out as a poet at my first open mic less than three years ago (actually three years ago this very day) and the 200 gigs since, winning Slams and finding a niche of the poetry circuit. The Pottery is a lovely venue and the room was comfortably full with a receptive and appreciative audience it was a real pleasure to perform for. I really enjoyed playing the gig and I was pleased to receive some lovely feedback from the audience. After that, I went to be part of the "Poetry takeaway" a brillant idea from Tim Clare. You can order an original poem freshly written by a team of poets on any subject. Tim and his team have a mobile "burger" style unit now and poems are can be "open" or "wrapped". It was a challenge to work quickly and to a specific brief but it was great to write poems for birthdays, wedding days etc. After that, time for a final cup of tea before we headed home.

Wenlock is a small but perfectly formed poetry Festival spread over one long weekend. All the venues are walkable from each other and the quality of the line up was exceptional: Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Jackie Kay, John Hegley, Ian McMillan, Jo Shapcott and many more. It's also great that Performance Poets are represented and they include a Poetry Slam. If you can, put next year's dates in your diary now! (13 to 15 April, 2012)

Keep writin' and recitin'


Saturday, 30 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 30/30

Ta-dah! 30/30. In Your. Face.  April. I'm really pleased to have taken part and posted each day. It's been a stimulating challenge and I'm pleased with the work that has come out of it. Well done to all those who made it through. Even though it's over, keep writin' and recitin'. ;)) Mark x


It’s quiet here.
Time to think and
time to write and
time to breathe.

Only nature to talk to
and it would seem churlish
not to converse
when she has so much to say.

She’s animated now;
booming tones and
loud colours shout
the story of Spring.

Life in all its palette
screams for your attention
singing electric and neon and yet,
it’s quiet here.

Friday, 29 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 29/30 My apologies...

Nearly at the end so well done everyone. However,an apology: I'm sorry. I really didn't plan to write anything about the royal wedding. I've done a lot of that for the Mayor of Milton Keynes as I helped run her competition and for local radio. But a small detail of commentary from the radio caught my attention. This was written as the wedding took place.


Two simple chairs
in a side chapel
among the dead,
set aside for William and Harry.
A moment’s pause;
a comma in the long day’s sentence
as the world watched.

This was wise counsel.
I remember those moments
of stolen solitude from our day.
This allowed the occasion to
seep into the dermis,
a marinade
to season us for life.

There are discordant voices.
Those who don’t care or resent
the taxpayer’s pound spent
on such opulence.
My two pence?
I’d always rather fund weddings
than war.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 28/30

Sixteen Lines

It is too easy
in days of rough torn waking
to lose yourself in
tumbled dreaming;
feel yourself slipping
to invisibilty
or a place of
tangled forests.

Never worry
or be afraid.
This I promise,
I will always find you.
I will bear your weight when weary,
cool your brow when fever strikes
Call to me in the darkness
and I will be candlelight.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 27/30

Per aspera ad astra

Her hand in his
felt like silver sand in a timer
ever slipping away
the firmer he grasped.

She said he clutched words
as if they were happiness
to his chest while she drowned
 in liquid silence.

With only nature for a soundtrack
they melted together by the river
until frosted moonlight
took bites from their flesh.

She placed a kiss in his palm
for later as she always did
before pointing her
conflicted feet home.

He laid back, trying to be one with the world.
Too late he found his words
and spoke away all his happiness
to the stars.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 26/30

Some men

Some men can’t help fighting.

Who would notice them
if all was peace?
So arguments that are settled
ferment in their souls,
imagined injustices
are fanned into flame
until they strike
when their opponent least expect it.
This is cowardice and can be found
anywhere, most days.
But sometimes,
the targets are so soft and the
cowardice so asinine
you can’t help but notice.
Bombs delivered to football managers
and prominent fans is the latest.
I don’t suppose bomb-makers read poetry
so this is probably howling in the wind
but if your argument
needs cowardice on this scale,
your argument is lost.
Some men can’t help fighting.
Without it,
they don’t exist.

Monday, 25 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 25/30

Descent from Brunate

We were as gods
looking down on Como
as if we could decide its fate.

Pasta served as ambrosia
on that clearest and cleanest
of frizzante days.

One last look at the
snow-capped giants guarding
mirrored waters

before the fall
of the funicular
joins us to Icharus,

another who flew
too close to the sun
then met the earth

with popping ears
and fresh memories
of heightened love.

It is too soon to say
whether compliment
or insult is meant

if you
call me

Sunday, 24 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 24/30

Simon and Garfunkel were right

I can’t tell how
or when
it happened.

It has sneaked up
ninja quiet
with feathers for shoes.

There was something in
the heaviness of the clouds
that spoke of this day.

Threes lines scratched in the sky
could have been a sign
from a Mayan spirit

or ancient wisdom
from different gods
hidden in plain sight.

In a time when voices
deafen the world, words
cross the planet in an instant

I have finally
made friends
with silence.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 23/30

Dog eat Dog

The morning is fresh.

A raw bite to the day’s breeze
greets my skin
like a drunk auntie
underneath Christmas mistletoe.

A morning haze
promises heat
to warm me
in an afternoon park.

These days
of refracted light
and hopefulness
hint at happiness
the only natural predator
of the poet.

Friday, 22 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 22/30

Kew Gardens, Good Friday 2011

Today, I have overdosed on green.

From the palest tinges
that could pass for
cousins of gold in candlelight
to bold, verdant shades
that would give Robin Hood
sleepless nights.

It has also been a day of lilac and
magnolia petals strewn like
yesterday’s confetti;
explosions of azalea colour
that steals breath from
unsuspecting lungs,
but mostly green;

shades and tones that
speak of life and
preach sermons;
the quiet lullaby of nature
sung in the storm
of a city.
Colour that stills the soul,
revives hope and
dares to hint of optimism.

When it is my time,
I shall return,
hide in the boughs
of a friendly oak at closing time
and gift myself back to nature
knowing I’m already one step
closer to tranquillity,
dreaming in myriad hues of one colour:

Thursday, 21 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 21/30

But I know what I like

I’m sorry I ignored you.
Day after day since winter
I have cut you twice dead:
leaving and arriving home.

You kept
a dignified silence
even as the snows
crowned you with whispers.

In the warmer weather
I have shed my layers
just as you have started
to re-clothe.

And now you stand
commanding my attention;
solid and handsome,
sassy and proud.

I watched your leaves unfurl
like open palms
ready to applaud the sky
and demand an encore.

You took chartreuse and
rusted mahogany, let
each pollinate the other
the way artists never would.

Critics would not rate you
or debate you
but you are
objet d’art
to me.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 20/30

The end of Lonely Street

I am the keeper of Heartbreak Hotel.
Hope just checked out so we have a room.
You’ll be next door to desperation and
down the corridor from depair.
Confidence stayed here once but
jealousy and malice beat him up
after an all-nighter at the bar.
Pride and self-respect
daren’t show their faces here
since anger and disgust
drank them under the table.
You’ll soon settle in.
My name? Fear
I’ll be looking after you
for the foreseeable future.

NaPoWriMo 19/30

Day 19 and still keeping pace :))  Well done if you are too. The Easter weekend will present challenges as I will be away for part of it and having come so far, I do want to stay the course.


Night Talk

The moon and I talked last night.

I could tell by the way
it politely hovered
and listened but didn’t listen
to our conversation.
I dropped you off and drove home.
Still the moon kept polite counsel
as I stole quizzical glances.

I turned the key to kill
lights and ignition,
listening to pinks and tinks
of the cooling engine
knowing it was etiquette
for the moon to speak first.
It was worth the waiting.

I wish I could tell you
all the moon said
but I am sworn to secrecy.
I am at liberty to say this:
in our lifetime we only have
three chances
to speak with the moon.
Remember to look up
on cloudless nights,
dress warm and
be prepared for truth.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Day 18/30 NaPoWriMo 3x3 Poems

Introducing 3 x 3 Poems

I don’t know if this is an original concept or not but, I don’t recall seeing them anywhere else. Today I have written what I am calling “three by three poems”. Three stanzas of three lines; each line is three words long.

Here are my first couple of attempts and feel free to experiment with your own. Best wishes and keep going, You are now sixty per cent of the way there for NaPoWriMo!



Play for love
of the game
not the outcome.

Write to taste
words not wine
at literary launches.

Live to add
your voice to
the world’s chorus.

For Jude

Peace, light, comfort:
I wish them
all for you.

If time could
be rewound as
easily as watches,

I would walk
you back where
you feel safest.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

17/30 NaPoWriMo Worcester

I had the pleasure of running a Workshop in Worcester for some very lovely and talented people today. I drove because it was impossible to get a train there on a Sunday in time for the start of the workshop. It was a beautiful day to drive through some lovely countryside. The Radio Four news however reminded me that the world still has it's problems. I put Worcester in the title as a tribute and reminder of the workshop. Thank you all who came and thanks for having me.

Worcester Welcomes Careful Drivers

This is the season of hopefulness;
of new life, powder blue skies
and new broom breezes.

A Sunday for driving to scenes
that Whistler and Turner
would duel to the death to paint.

This is middle England
dressed in Matins best
when Grandma comes to visit.

In the car, charcoal,
two shades darker than it needs to be
sketches the world’s portrait.

Slavery, corruption, murder,
rape as warfare and
disaster victims hitch a lift.

I will mix Paynes Grey
into my vocabulary;
clip optimism’s wings.

I shall relearn my mother tongue
two shades darker
than it needs to be.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

16/30 NaPoWriMo No Apologies

No apologies for this one. They can't all be profound or beautiful and issue based. This was inspired by a gentlemen at the gym who was wearing shorts from the seventies and there's no excuse for it.

Short Shorts

His shorts are too short
They don’t really fit him.
His shorts are too short
To wear down the gym.
And shortly his shorts
Run the risk of ripping
And his too short shorts
Will reveal too much skin.

His shorts are too short
They’re far too revealin’
His shorts are too short
For the rowing machine
His shorts are too short
And he’s headed for the weights
Damn, too late!

His shorts are too short
Now we can see half his back
And in short, his shorts
Are revealing his crack
You appeared foolish before
Now you look so moronic
And as if you’re prepared
To receive a colonic.

His shorts are too short
No one can relax
He could go down the market
Or to T K Maxx
And his too short shorts
Could be resolved at the shops
Where they could also introduce him
To the concept of Tops.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Halfway House 15/30 NapoWriMo

Halfway through NaPoWriMo. Today's poem is inspired by a saddish story. "Gay men removed from Soho Pub for kissing". See for full details. Just when you think we're making progress in becoming a fully enlightened society...

Fortunately I've had an uplifting experience this evening as I've  in performed and co-hosted a wonderful charity concert of talented people raising money for the Japan Tsunamis Fund run by the Red Cross.

House Rules

"I’m ain’t bigoted but…
please either stop or leave.
You’re upsetting the customers
I don’t care what you believe...

Yeah in theory you have equal rights
but not in this Soho street pub.
We don’t find it acceptable;
this ain’t Heaven or a similar nightclub.

What you call love, we call obscene
it’s disgusting and fills us with fear
‘cos being gay might be contagious
so sling both your hooks out of here".

If it had been boy and girl, no-one would blink
though you say you’d have thrown them out too.
But I can detect the ghost of a wink
as your spokesman gives the company view.

But what if, it was two girls that kissed?
Watch the change in males' attitude.
"Look at the girls, film their boobs; put it up on Youtube,
That's a floorshow we can spare latitude".

Twisted vistas of sexuality
driven by ignorance and fear of all things pink.
They’re here, they’re queer, that’s the reality
I know which camp I’d rather buy a drink.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Day 14/30 NaPoWriMo

The world looks better from a blanket

Perhaps the stars aligned
or magnetic fields
whispered to northern lights
that now was the time to shine.

It seems the sky is too perfect,
too photogenically sharp
for an England spring evening
given recent years.

Could a conspiracy of ley lines
have recruited radio waves
to make blossom explode
spectacular on the bough.

Lying here, as I last did
in childhood summers
I am faced with the enormity
of simple truths.

I celebrate
another circuit round the sun
as nature, left to itself
once more leaves me stunned.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

13/30 NaPoWriMo

Insalata Mista

The smell of a just-struck match
in a Tuscan piazza
brings back electric green
memories of a half dreamt girl.

A slender silhouette
spun of silk,
turns a moonlit corner,
in a dress that moves like smoke.

I follow the scent of
jasmine and abandon
down nameless streets
that hide secrets.

A smile of promise
and forgotten summers
melts into mist
as I make the jump back.

“And for main course sir”? asks the waiter.
I don’t know but I will answer
with more certainty than when you ask me
“What were you thinking”?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

12/30 NaPoWriMo

Once upon a time in Suburbia

Now is the time of smaller things;
of side-stepping big questions
and giving parents
answers they don’t want to hear.

This is a season of listening
to unspoken truths
that only nature and
a rested soul can divulge.

A sojourn to self
where mirrors are covered
to tame lightning
and lullabies are softly sung.

So fold me away for quieter times.
Wrap me in fresh brown paper,
or cover me in straw and
lay me down with the tortoise.

We will meet again at Awakening,
drunk again with the beauty of life.
There will be a jubilee
and you shall be crowned its Queen.

Monday, 11 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 11/30

Just a quick hello from me in my lunch hour to post the latest poem. Havea great day, then a great week and keep writing and posting.

Mark x

Easy Lover.

I woke this morning
to find once more
you had left in the night.

An emptiness of
bedraggled bedclothes
spell out this
week’s episode
of heartbreak and

a note or word of apology
but you’ll breeze back
in a few days
all nonchalance and
“Never look back babe”.

I should store up this
pit churned exasperation
for the next time,
unload both barrels of bile
in your happy-go-lucky face
I know I’ll just crumble,
to see you again.

I’ll forgive you,
make plans and embrace
even though
you will leave again
and our relationship
can never be permanent.

Love asks such
sacrifice and compromise sometimes
and perhaps you too
die a little
when we’re apart.

I love you
and feel myself reviving as
I count down with the clock.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Day 10/30 NaPoWriMo

So this means we are a third of the way through the challenge and I'm really enjoying it. I hope fellow poets are too and the readers. I have a potential sticky patch ahead this week as I have to go into hospital for a minor surgical procedure on Tuesday as a day patient but I hope to work round that. The Doc seems confident I'll be back at work in a couple of days so I hope that is indeed the case. You never know but sedation and drugs might put me in a trippy place which might help me!

Have a good week and keep spinning words into webs of wonder.


Mens sana in corpore sano

Fitness and writing
are my current twin obsessions.
The gym is still a foreign county to me.
I don’t yet understand the
customs and language
but I try to be friendly.
I am learning it is not
how fast you run or lift or cycle.
True fitness is measured by
your speed of recovery.
I am slowly reading gym's moods.
Once, a gazelle wandered in
to our land of sweating heffalumps.
I have never before felt such
latent animosity.
Unspoken hive mind hatred
swelled; warm air turned frigid
in a heartbeat.
I haven’t seen her since.
Will improved physical fitness
help my writing
as I run after inspiration and
stretch metaphors?
Perhaps the true test of a poem is not
how quickly you write it, but
how long it takes you
to recover.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Busy, busy

I'm just sneaking in before midnight as a result of a very busy day which included doing a Improvised Comedy show tonight.I should be more in control tomorrow.


“A ticket to anywhere”,
said the man at the front of the queue.
The ticket clerk
looked up in brittle bemusement.
No training role play had
covered this situation.
“Sorry sir”?
“A ticket to any town of your choice,
don’t tell me where,
just tell me which platform”.
The queue quivered with curiosity.
After a second’s hesitation
“The customer’s always right”
instinct kicked in
and she selected his destiny.

As he walked away
a tsunami of psychic respect
followed him
as we wished we could be as brave.
I made my mind up
if I got the same clerk
I would say “same as him please”
I have a fifty/fifty chance
and don’t know which
fifty I’m rooting for.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Day 8/30 NaPoWriMo

So I've got through the first working week and I'm really enjoying the sense of community and challenge. I have no idea where this one came from but I'm very pleased with it.

Keep writing


Quercus Alba
It was a simple grave,
garlanded with two lengths
of splintered oak
we hoped would speak of England.

This Tommy, actually called Tommy
would joke no more
when scared witless and shitless
by another whistle of airborne death.

“You’re the one they’re firing at”
we said to keep him sane.
Well now they’d got him,
perhaps we could all pack our bloody bags.

Covered in foreign soil, tears and sweat
we couldn’t bring ourselves to pray,
and the King
could save himself today.

We split his rations,
found the letters we promised to post
that would bittersweet Christmas
and those to come.

We drew straws for his hipflask
then all took a nip.
We didn’t mourn his passing but
the life he’d never have.

We pledged to see his Mother
and speak well of him;
it seemed a fitting penance
for getting out alive.

It was just me in the end.
Tea in the best china
one Sunday in
that saddest Spring.

I wept
and couldn’t find the words to tell her
it was because her table
was made of oak.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 7/30 Addict!

Here's the latest poem in the Poem a Day challenge.


It was the rough boys at college that got me into it.
I walked into the toilets and as I
did the soft shoe shuffle of the interloper,
they danced the busted tango.
“It’s only a hit of……Maya Angelou”.
“Poetry? Are you mad?”
They tried to get me to do a line with them.
I declined but they rolled a haiku for me to try later.
It stayed in my jacket for weeks
until I tried it one midnight
to impress a girl.
It was a gateway poem and I was hooked.
I tried quatrains, limericks;
sonnets, villanelles and sestinas followed.
And just when I thought I’d explored the limits of form…
That led me on to the hard stuff:
Auden, Eliot, Bukowski.
So here I am
hopelessly, hopelessly hooked
and like all addicts
living my life by fractions.
Some junkies live for the next eighth,
I just want to score
my next thirtieth.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

NaPoWriMo 6/30

It is that time. Two weeks after the shift
of light, something from childhood ambushes.
Last year, it was the smell of earth, the sun’s
diluted ember falling dappled through
leaves that snared; pulled me through a wormhole to
my second favourite den by the woods and
within earshot of water. It always
seems to be Thursday, almost suppertime
marked by the mist-soft shimmer of streetlights
sparking to life. Each year I edge closer
home. One day, I will have the courage to
crack open the kitchen door and see Mum
again, vital and cheerful and all she
ever was to me. She will ask me what
I’ve done all day. I will answer “nothing”
and mean it. I will quietly take her
hand and this time I shall not forget. I
will whisper “I still miss you” and mean it.

Day 5 NaPoWriMo

Ok, so we're at day five. Do you feel yourself settling into a rhythm or making up rules you have to stick by? Weird eh! This one is sentimental in nature. No apologies, deal with it!

Keep going fellow poem fans!

Mark x

PS. The rug behind my main picture is the rug in question. Sorry you can't see the pink and scarlet.

Threads and Motifs

Pink has always been your colour;
a colour northern males
view with unsettled suspicion.
It took me thirty-two years to wear it
and feel comfortable
while you expanded your palette
chameleon-like and thrived.

When Spain disappointed
with rain that one May week
(we should have listened to Henry Higgins),
we took a trip to Nijar,
famed for its handicrafts;
an activity northern males
view with unsettled suspicion.

The haystack of rugs,
textile and tactile became
overblown page-turner novel,
plot written in warp and weft.
We searched for our Cinderella,
to take home and promote
from floor to wall hanging.

When we saw the strip of
hot pink above a scarlet stripe,
we both felt the slipper fit.
I paid, (another activity northern males
view with unsettled suspicion)
feeling a shiver of synchronicity;
some things are meant to be.

I’m grateful you are
the hot pink stripe
to my cool calico ways;
a sparkling rosé blush
bringing colour,
effervescence and tang
to my plain vanilla days.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Day 4 NaPoWriMo

Day 4 of 30 in the NaPoWriMo Challenge and I promise that not every poem from here on in will be inspired by the news! However, the basic sentiment here is one I genuinely hold. Another “star” does something spectacularly dumb that will probably attract derision when they actually need help. There is still a fellow human being at the centre of the carnage.

Rage against the MaSheen

Most of the time
I avoid
“celeb” stories
pretending to be news.
They are wolves
wearing Grandma’s bed shawl
hoping to devour
intellect and integrity.

But big time public
unravellings of the psyche,
where actions become
estranged from
common sense
move me:

Britney Spears
shaving her hair;
George Michael
driving into Snappy Snaps;
that sort of thing.

The latest is Charlie Sheen
finding out (the hard way)
a blue collar audience
can distinguish between
real talent and a freak show
in just fifteen minutes.
Turns out they DO know
shit from shinola.

I want to take their hand,
lead them from the world
of artifice and cheap sparkledust
to a calm English tea room
where Earl Grey and oak panels
can talk sense into them.

Let them eat cake laced with
love, understanding,
St John's wort
and home spun wisdom
until their inner compass
finds magnetic north again.

If that didn’t work,
I’d leave George and Charlie
to get on each other’s nerves
and argue over the bill.

Britney, I would take aside
hoping she’s the kind of girl
that seeks solace
in Father figures.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Weekends are easy, the real challenge starts tomorrow.

3/30 of the NaPoWriMo Challenge.  Ok, it's going to get tough now because of the Day Job! They do insist in me working 8.30 to 5 in exchnage for my salary. So apologies if I end up posting towards the end of the day. I don't know if I should try and stock pile ideas if I get them or be prepared to raid my notebooks. Is this against the spirit of the challenge? I'd like to think that I can write something each day freshly minted and captured but we'll see. Here is today's poem.


I woke up this morning

My radio shares news
in many hues
of one colour:

“Wage war to stop war”.
“Kill to halt the killing”.
“Bomb to prevent bombing”.
“Casualties are the price of freedom”.

I lose count
of the casualties reported
in the time it takes
to make toast.

A myriad faces and voices
defend choices
saying “fight fire with fire”

A philosophy
no sensible fire-fighting service
has ever adopted.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Day 2, Poem 2

OK Second day and I had to write this early as I'm off to Peterborough to perform and judge at the final of the Poetry Rivals competition from 3pm to 9pm.

A big shout out to my fellow poets taking the NaPoWriMo challenge!

Let's do it!

Mark ;))


She doesn’t walk, she flows.
Each step is like an ocean swell,
each turn a wheat field
Swept by the wind.
She was born to be in
perpetual motion,
grace and precision
found harmony
in her frame.
Every movement measured,
from hair that falls like ribbons
gift-wrapping her face
To the perfect point of each toe.
her eyes


Friday, 1 April 2011

And we're off!

First Poem 1/30 in the NaPoWriMo

Don't know where this one came from but there's no rule says they have to be uplifting is there?


Daily Grind or Grinding Day?

Wake. Rise. Wash. Dress.
Coffee. Juice. Breakfast

Coat. Bag. Travel. Work.
Phones. PC. Clients. (Jerks).

Boredom. Stress. Banter. Jokes.
Gossip. Bitch. Girls. Blokes.

Memo. Email. Letters. Calls.
Teamwork! Dream! Achieve! (Balls!)

Sandwich. Walk. Bank. Afternoon.
Lunch. Over. Too Soon.

Meet. Consult. Ignore. Write
Corporate. Buzzwords. All. Shite.

Leave. Gym. Change. Sweat.
Home. Shower. Kitchenette.

Eat. Drink. Go. Out.
Pose. Preen. Strut. Pout

Pull. Home. Bed. Sex.
Never. Know. What’s. Next.

Feel. Nothing. Empty. Sorrow.
Repeat. Actions. Again. Tomorrow.

It’s surprising suicide isn’t more popular.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Aarrghhh! I am rubbish!

No excuses, I really am rubbish at the discipline of writing a blog. I could give excuses, even some genuine reasons but if I'd reallywanted to, I'd have made the time. Sorry, can we start again?

To try and be better, I am going to try and take part in National Poetry Writing Month which entails writing a poem a day for the month of April. They may not be the finished article, but I'll try it.

Since my last blog I've done my first day in a school as a poet and I'm in the middle of a busy period of gigs, running workshops and festivals. I'm most excited about the Wenlock poetry festival at the end of April where I'll be running a workshop and performing. More later!

My website IS up to date (thank you Steve Clark) and full gig details etc are there. See

If you're in the Cambridge area tomorrow, I'm doing a slot at the very Wooly Carnival of Fools at the Frank Lee Centre on the Addenbrookes Hospital site.

Whatever you do, don't be fooled tomorrow!


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

February: So few days, so much to go to!

This was another busy week filled with wondrous poetic experiences so here goes.

On Tuesday 1st February, I had the honour to host Utter Sickness which featured Niall Spooner-Harvey, Fay Roberts and a debut reading of Richard Tyrone Jones' first show. In Richard Tyrone Jones has a Big Heart he tells the story of encountering heart failure at the age of 30 and the devestating effect it had on him. While this doesn't sound like a happy hour or so, it is positive, yet frank account with great touches of humour. You can find a link to a fuller review at

Then I had a busy Saturday as I supported the Friends of Stony Stratford Library in the National Library Read in day. I was commissioned to write a poem and I also did a little song as well. Other local writers and authors kindly supported the event and there was a great turn out. We all hope for as positive outcome for the library.

Then in the evening, I was guesting at the marvellous Cabaret Clandestino in Oxford. A late night cabaret showcasing comedy, music, spoken word and ending with more music and dancing. Pete Bearder has built an enthusiastic and savvy audience and it was a pleasure to do an extended set. Many thanks to all for a great night.

This week I'm off to see Luke Wright on his national tour and competing in the East Midlands Slam which is part of the Leicester Comedy Festival on Saturday night (12th starts at 7pm at the Y theatre).

Have a good one yourselves. Keep writin' and recitin'


Monday, 31 January 2011

My summary of Poetry scenes and a Bard Day's Night

Well it's been a great week or so since I last posted.

On Tuesday I had the honour to be the head of the judging panel to elect the inaugural Bard of Stony Stratford. After a wonderful night's entertainment Ian Freemantle was crowned the new Bard and a good job I think he'll go too. He'll be in office for a year and a day.

Next, an intriguing question was posed by Zena Edwards on her Facebook page: How many poetry scenes are there? I dashed off a list and it is reproduced below. Please excuse typos etc. What do you think?

This week I'm hosting Utter for RTJ with a brilliant line up that includes Fay Roberts, Niall Spooner-Harvey and Richard giving the fist outing to "Richard Tyrone Jones has a big heart". It at the Green Note Cafe in Camden. Come early to get a seat!

See you next week. Keep writin' and recitin'


How many Poetry "Scenes" are there?

I don't have the same experience in terms of years on the scene(s) but I have done over 150 gigs in the last two years so here's my take on the different strands of types of poetry events (The following list is not exhaustive as I'm thinkin...g of the top of my head).

1a Readings. Events where poetry is mostly read and tends to be more serious, thoughtful and contemplative in nature. Guest poets have several collections published and /or have won a prize or award or or up and coming have have a first collection out. Poets are applauded at the end of their reading and not after each poem. A genteel, mainly white middle class audience in my experience.

1b High end "elite" readings. These are nights (mercifully few) which terrify and intimidate me and stopped me getting up on stage for many years. What the man or woman in the street think poetry still is. Translations of 18th century Chilean poets, white people performing in West Indian patois, four people who have all been together in an insular capsule so long there all sound like each other. They occasionally write in the voice of Ahmed the orphaned Iraqi child when they themselves have never even left their county.

2 Regular Slams. Poetry in Competition with higher energy performance which tend to (sometimes unfairly but not always) favour comedy and / or the "but then you f***ed someone else" poem and / or poems with a message

3 Festival Slams:  As above but with more chance of a "first look" audience. Comedy and / or literary parody favoured here. Sometimes you here the penny dropping that poetry can be entertainment as well as art. Sometimes people want to burn you as a witch.

4 Open Mic nights. A democratic experience where there's no special guest and everyone gets the same mic time. You generaly have a mixed bag of page and stage and sometimes musical backing. They can be awesomely brilliiant or tediously dull and most have elements of both extremes each time.

5 Open Mic with guests. As 4 except half the night is open mic but there is one or more special guests who take extended feature spots.

6 "Named" or" Branded" Performance Poetry events. They have an identity and each time you know the sort of poet you'll be seeing although the lineup may change. May incorporate some open slots or a small slam but most of the mic time is given over to booked guests

7 Theatre or Arts Centre type performances. Unless your name is on the poster you won't be taking the stage. Poetry as performance to engage the audience, convey a message, make they think or just enthrall them . God I wish I knew how to do this. May use visuals, music and other elements of multimedia. May have a theme or narrative.

8 Stand Up Poetry (for want of a better term) In the same environment as 7 but will have jokes, banter, patter inbetween poems. 98.7% of the time, the gig ends with a song

9 Bardic expressions. Nights and writers that invoke the spirit of Awen. Lyrical poetry dominates here often written to a theme such as "new life" etc. Music will be evident. Bongos will often be played, whether you like it or not.

10 Cabaret/Burlesque. Poetry is just one strand of a mixed evening of entertainment featuring comedy, music, sketches, dancing girls etc. The poems tend to be about sex.

11 Poetry Club read arounds. The poetry club sit in a circles and read poems on a theme. They could be original or previously published.

12 Well paid poetry. A mythical form of poetry that lives in the same spirit realm ar the Yeti, unicorms and Shergar.

As I say, this list is not exhaustive, but I'm exhausted so someone else can have a go

Mark Niel

Monday, 24 January 2011

Some say it was historic.....

It's been a busy couple of weeks.

Firstly, a big shout out and thank you to Lorna Meehan and the Brummie massive for a great night as Rhymes held their annual Slam. I am honoured to be their new Champ for the year and I have taken the metaphoric mantle from poetry legend Spoz (He could have washed it first).

Then it was the exciting inaugural Poets and Promoters Forum in Wheatley near Oxford. A full report is below and thanks to everyone who attended and made it such a special day. Happy reading!


The first Tongue in Chic Poets and Promoters Forum took place on Saturday 22 January at the Railway pub, Wheatley, Oxford.


The concept was to stage a networking event for poets and those who promoted spoken word events whether live, in print, radio etc. The Forum would give attendees a chance to renew established contacts; make new ones; talk about their plans for the year and put dates in the diary for readings etc. This pilot event was put together at short notice to gauge interest and see if the idea had genuine merit.


Forty attendees came together from a wide geographical spread: Hastings, Brighton, Southampton, Petersfield, Bath, London, Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Aylesbury, Birmingham, Leamington Spa and Bangor North Wales were all represented. A further dozen expressed interest but were unable to attend on the day.

The audience was made up of poets, event organisers, reps from spoken word organisations such as Apples & Snakes and Hammer & Tongue as well as small publishers of magazines, pamphlets, radio show producers etc and some members of the public who loved poetry and wanted to see what it was all about.

The Programme

The day consisted of a series of “Flash” (as in brief) presentations from attendees representing events, organisations and publishers so that the audience could identify contacts that would be of interest to them. These were in sets of three and then led to times of informal networking. There were also two sessions of formal networking opportunities which we called “Speed Dating for Poets” Attendees paired up with someone they didn’t know and each had two minutes to explain who they were, their area of interest and other details about themselves. After two minutes, the other person had their turn. Then you found someone else you didn’t know and started the process again. These were not compulsory but participation levels were good and many found them a useful starting point. The idea was to help people actually network
rather than stay in the comfort zone of talking to people already known to them. All the delegates had submitted short biographies for inclusion in a Forum Directory so each attendee had all contact details to hand.

We also included a short debate open to the floor on “Promoting the Art Form and Respecting the Artist”.


The verbal feedback and “buzz” on the day was overwhelmingly positive. (Happily, people started talking to each other even before registration and didn’t stop all day). There are feedback forms to be evaluated and at a brief glance, many classified the event as Excellent or Very Good. No doubt improvements can be made for future events but the core proposition of holding regular Forums seems to be sound. Many found it useful and beneficial as shown by the selection of delegate’s comments below. It was also very encouraging to see evidence of new found contacts inter-acting on social networking sites in the days after the Forum. I intend to organise more Forums in the future (Perhaps 2 per year), ideally moving the location to different towns or cities.


“…thank you for an event unique in my experience of the poetry scene (since the mid 90s)”

“Ever had the feeling you were part of something rather historic?”

“The Oxford event was brilliant”

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

First of the year

I don’t really believe in New Year Resolutions but I will try and be a better blogger this year. Well, a more frequent blogger in any case. I was delighted to receive a positive reaction to my last post: a round up of 2010 including my poetry top 20. This inspired a number of people to make their list and many thanks to my friends in the East Kent area who re-posted the link.

So how’s 2011 working out for you? I’m pleased to say mine has been great so far as I won the Best Performance by a UK Poet category at the Farrago Zoo Awards. Many thanks to all who voted for me and congratulations to all the winners. It was also a pleasure to see Rachel Pantechnicon grace the stage and it always lifts my spirits to see her perform.

I took part in Pure and Good and Right’s Open Mic in Leamington last night and this featured special guest Bohdan Piasecki. I’ve seen Bohdan perform a few times but only one or two poems at a time. So it was a treat to see an extended set of real quality and a polished performance. (I didn’t mean that as a pun when I first wrote it but I’m claiming it now).

Tonight I’m visiting the excellent Scribal Gathering in Stony Stratford then I will be concentrating on preparing for the first Poets and Promoters Forum in Oxford on Saturday 22 January. I felt there was a need for poetry people to get together at the start of the year, share their plans and put dates into the diary. So this is a hastily arranged pilot event to see if others feel the same and if so, we can arrange more in the future. The Forum will feature Flash Presentations from Promoters, Speed dating for Poets and a Forum Discussion as well as lots of opportunities to network.

To register, please email me at with your contact details and a 50 word biography for the Forum Directory (£3 registration fee payable at theforum) by Wednesday 19 January. The Forum will take place from 3pm to 6pm with networking over drinks/a meal from 6pm to 8pm. (Please indicate if you wish to stay for a meal).

Best wishes and make this your year! Keep writin’ and recitin’