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’