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Crosswords Open Mic

Crosswords Open Mic

Crosswords is a fab little Nottingham-based spoken word open mic night with plenty of open mic slots and a featured poet every month! In April, we have Aoife O’Connor, Emericana Desouza and Jo Lewis from She Speaks as our special guests!

She Speaks UK is a monthly performance space in the East Midlands hosted by Aoife, Emericana and Jo. It’s an inclusive and supportive safe space promoting and platforming female, trans, non-binary & femme-identifying artists. Events are female-led but not female exclusive with an open mic for all genders and an open audience. The co-founders are proud to hold a space where first-time performers are warmly encouraged, yet perform alongside well-established headliners.

She Speaks was founded in 2017 with the tagline “Art Is Our Liberation” and has since collaborated with organisations including International Women’s Day Festival Derby, LGB-QWERTY, Artcore, Furthest From The Sea, Nottingham Contemporary and Derby Women’s Centre. She Speaks has hosted as part of the Derby Poetry Festival in 2017, featuring the Trinidadian poet Shivanee Ramlochan and again in 2018, featuring Bristol based poet Vanessa Kisuule.

In 2018 the collective began reaching out to more groups in their community through facilitating workshops including creative writing & performance skills for young people as well as craftivism for women & girls.

Arrive at the Cock and Hoop from 7:30pm on the night to put your name in the hat for a short open mic slot. We like poetry, prose, storytelling, a cappella singing, and monologues! Or you can just come along to listen – everyone’s welcome! Entry is £2 per person and refreshments are available.


The She Speaks Founders, Jo, Em and Aoife.

NB. There are twelve steps to access this venue.

Crosswords Open Mic

Crosswords Open Mic

Crosswords is a fab little Nottingham-based spoken word open mic night with plenty of open mic slots and a featured poet every month! In February, we’re really excited to welcome Christopher Lanyon as our guest poet!

Christopher is a mathematician, poet and trash-human. (His words, not ours!) Originally from Cornwall, he is slowly making his way northwards and hopes to be freezing to death in the North Sea by 2025. He has supported Holly McNish, Mark Grist and Luke Wright and run and hosted events as part of the Nottingham Poetry Festival. He runs Psst., a poetry summer series in Nottingham and also hosts Clickbait, the University of Nottingham Poetry and Spoken Word Society’s poetry night. His favourite things are coffee and feelings and sad guitar music and noses and heartwarming father-son redemption narratives and polysyndeton.‬

Arrive at the Cock and Hoop from 7:30pm on the night to put your name in the hat for a short open mic slot. We like poetry, prose, storytelling, a cappella singing, and monologues! Or you can just come along to listen – everyone’s welcome! Entry is £2 per person and refreshments are available.

Christopher Lanyon

NB. There are eleven steps to access this venue.

Crosswords Open Mic

Crosswords Open Mic

Crosswords is a fab little Nottingham-based spoken word open mic night with plenty of open mic slots and a featured poet every month! In December, we really excited to welcome Nafeesa Hamid as our guest poet!

Nafeesa Hamid is a British Pakistani poet and playwright. She is an alumnus of Mouthy Poets and Derby Theatre Graduate Associate Artists. She has performed at Cheltenham and Manchester Lit Fests as part of The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, a recent (2017) anthology, edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. She was a BBC Edinburgh Fringe Slam finalist in 2018. Nafeesa’s debut poetry collection ‘Besharam’ (2018) is now available from Verve Poetry Press.

Arrive at the Cock and Hoop from 7:30pm on the night to put your name in the hat for a short open mic slot. We like poetry, prose, storytelling, a cappella singing, and monologues! Or you can just come along to listen – everyone’s welcome! Entry is £2 per person and refreshments are available.

NB. There are eleven steps to access this venue.

Poet and Playwright, Nafeesa Hamid
Crosswords Open Mic

Crosswords Open Mic

Crosswords is a fab little Nottingham-based spoken word open mic night with plenty of open mic slots and a featured poet every month!

In November, we really excited to welcome Ioney Smallhorne as our guest poet!

Ioney is a writer and poet based in Nottingham. When performing she’s occasionally funny, at times vulnerable, tends to blend the political with the personal – but she’s always Ioney. When not writing poems, she’s failing her motorbike test, growing vegetables, travelling and trying to learn Italian. Currently studying a MA in Creative Writing & Education at Goldsmiths University London, Ioney is a First Story workshop facilitator, a film maker and enjoys translating her poems to the screen.

Arrive at the Cock and Hoop from 7:30pm on the night to put your name in the hat for a short open mic slot. We like poetry, prose, storytelling, a cappella singing, and monologues! Or you can just come along to listen – everyone’s welcome! Entry is £2 per person and refreshments are available. There are eleven steps to access this venue.

For more information, check out our facebook event page:

Crosswords Open Mic

Crosswords Open Mic

Crosswords is a fab little Nottingham-based spoken word open mic night with plenty of open mic slots and a featured poet every month!

In October, we’re teaming up with We Shall Overcome, a fantastic grassroots movement that raises money and awareness for anti-austerity causes. We’ll be raising money for Inspire Nottingham – a fantastic charity that supports adults with learning difficulties in the greater Nottingham area.

We’ll have a headline slot from brilliant Yorkshire-based poet and activist Henry Raby. Raised on a steady diet of punk music, his poetry is a combination of angry and unruly verse on feminism, anarchism and protest movements mixed with tender insights into community, friendship and the tricky art of growing up. His performance style is an anarchic and energetic tumble from cartoons and comics to politics and dinosaurs. His first poetry collection, Nerd Punk, was released through Burning Eye Books in April 2018.

Henry has gigged across the UK at spoken word nights, festival stages, cafes, libraries and living rooms. In 2015 he was commissioned by Apples & Snakes as part of their Public Address Tour. Henry is Artistic Director of Say Owt, a spoken word-promoting organisation, and is co-director of Vandal Factory Theatre Company.

Arrive at the Cock and Hoop from 7:30pm on the night to book your short open mic slot. We like poetry, prose, storytelling, a cappella singing, and monologues! Or you can just come along to listen – everyone’s welcome! Entry is £2 per person and refreshments are available.

Henry Raby being awesome
Just Another DIY Night At The Maze

Just Another DIY Night At The Maze

Review of DIY Poets Showcase At The Maze May 10th 2018

by Jake Wildeman and Martin Grey

‘Just another DIY night at the Maze’… there’s two things wrong with that phrase. The first being ‘just’. This venue is a deeply special place, one of the most intimate you might find in Nottingham. Whether you’re here for music or poetry, you’ll find that there’s no barrier between performer and audience… it’s a wonderful feeling. The second problem is ‘another DIY night’. That makes it sound terribly unassuming. In fact, this was our thirtieth quarterly gig at the Maze, and rather a standout in my humble opinion. Opened warmly by the lovely first time compere Gwen Smith, it was underway.

Martin Grey

Martin Grey was the first poet called on and, much in the spirit of celebration, he revealed that five years ago to the day was his very first open mic performance, at this very event no less. He happily brought the audience into his initial piece, ‘The Night Beelzebub Went to the Pub’, asking for our participation before launching the poem itself. To surmise, it was traditional Martin… this is a man who I am not afraid to call punny as hell, but it was also a deliciously relatable and humanising look at the devil you know. Following up from that came an improvised poem titled ‘A History of Love’, which was without a doubt both skillfully crafted and shockingly affecting as much as it was entertaining, and a fine argument for more improvisation in poetry.

Next to the stage was the incredible Alistair Lane, who stepped straight into his opening poem. Here, Al was at his most romantic, weaving beautiful lines expressing almost painful longing, “My spark that jumps the synapse wants to jump to yours”, and ending on the affirmation that “love means making that connection with one, poetry with the many”. Naturally, it was then time for something completely different. ‘How Rude’ was a delightful piece with plenty of warm humour and just enough edge to appeal to everyone, serving as the middle ground between Al’s heart and his wonderfully comedic mind. He closed with the single greatest animal-focused title/refrain that you will ever encounter: ‘My Cat’s a Sexy Motherfucker’. Just try to argue with that.

After Al came a first time performer at the Maze and a recently inducted member of DIY, Jesse Freeman. This amazing young woman’s set was punctuated by her beliefs as an outspoken anarchist, and all the more powerful for it. First came ‘To Vote or Not to Vote…’, then ‘JC or Tory?’, both staggeringly even looks at modern politics and how the strings are being pulled on our “Pinnochio parliament”. Her third piece, though, was perhaps the longest and most impactful of the night. Titled ‘The Fucking Rant’, and initially started as a joke, this piece carried into a legitimate tirade against all the injustices of the world. It was proof that something seemingly meaningless can become all-encompassing, and that wisdom need not be eloquent… especially not with all those f-bombs!

Clare Stewart

Following Jesse was the delightful Clare Stewart, who began with what she described as ‘a very depressing poem’. It was indeed bleak, containing the absolutely agonising refrain “he drove in silence”. Doubling down on misery with her second piece, she went on to present a crushing portrait of a man whose dreams of writing simply cannot become real. To close, however, she chose ‘Oil Rig Woman’… a new-ish piece, with a delightful narrative and some wonderful imagery, focused on pool swimming conventions and respect for an immovable object. Having heard it a few times, I can safely say that it stays just as amusing.

To finish our first of three halves was Andrew Martin who, unusually, chose to do a non-political set but, as is his natural law, was wearing a waistcoat. The piece he chose, and indeed it was just the one, was titled ‘Nuclear Family’, and remained in his well-honed stream-of-consciousness style yet covered issues I’ve never heard from him before. Playing like a poetical autobiography, it was truly a beautiful shift from my expectations and was deeply touching to behold.

The warm atmosphere continued to thaw out the cup cakes that “might still be frozen” according to the aforementioned Clare Stewart, whose daughter Miranda had kindly baked them for us. Thirty cakes for the thirtieth gig at The Maze were now going fast.

Frank McMahon

There was only one person to kick off the second half, the only one of us who’d been to all thirty shows, Frank McMahon, who was in a good mood after seeing Wolves promoted back to the Premier League. “Jesus Saves”, inspired by a placard he saw in their celebration parade, told of how Jesus can save for a house deposit but for most of us it’s like turning water into wine. Using cycling, hot air balloons and Jude the Obscure, his poems meandered through gender inequality, the fear of performing from memory, real friendship and an episode of The Detectorists where they found a Status Quo badge.  A back of the net performance.

Daron Carey gets better every time you see him. With his shoulders spread wide and a voice that would project all the way to Finland, Daron confidently strode through two great poems. His fixed faced members of a travelling circus, the “Circus Symposium”, were a metaphor overload of struggle, harmony and living off gratitude, from the first fish to walk to Constantinople to Santiago the Serbian chef. For his second poem we spent time with two men, one his destiny, the other who he wants to be, and a childhood soaked in parallax. Daron’s words grabbed you and didn’t let go, we hope he comes back soon!
Jake Wildeman was next, our self proclaimed “poetry goblin” and a young guy with words well ahead of his years. His first poem took us into the minds of humans who don’t try to be human, where emotions are prohibited and imperfect urges threaten their rationality. Men with scythes and cheques who ride different coloured horses filled his second piece, “Horsemen”, a vivid allegory of our continual destruction of the world. Jake performed with a real humanity that contrasted with the lack of humanity depicted in his poems, delivering a set with real emotional depth.
John Merchant always improves your mood and tonight was no different. His poems often come in pairs, a secular version and a Christian version, tonight’s pair exploring the essence of our moral compass and faith. “For If” gave advice on how to find your peace of mind and then help others find theirs, while “Face It” told us how getting over problems will lead to better things and that most fears will never come to pass. John’s staccato lines and frequent rhymes were a real pleasure to listen to, leading to a fine performance all round.
Our final feature act of this half was Fay Deller, a strong female voice, which we like very much here at DIY Poets. In a very personal and powerful set, “Empire Windrush” told of her Windrush generation partner being coldly informed of their deportation in a citizens review, how after being integral to the rebuilding of the country they’re now told their welcome has been exceeded. Using direct references to the “No Irish, no dogs” days of yesteryear, she left you with a strong sense of injustice in your mouth. Her second poem, “Chances”, beautifully captured what can go through your mind when you have suicidal thoughts. Fay’s words made you really glad you were there to hear them, it was a great performance.
We also like an open mic at DIY Poets and were pleased to see a mix of nine new and regular performers ready to take to the stage. Laura kicked off with “Baby to Be”, a lovely little poem about two friends who will soon be first time mothers. Lolly Dean followed with a heartfelt tale of how kids don’t always bounce back as well as it’s claimed they do, with vivid images of getting bullied for receiving a free dinner and taking the longest way home from school expertly laced through the poem. She finished with “Parents”, about parents who wanted to have their kids taken away. A very touching, personal and relatable set. Then it was Ros, with a stage entry and mic freeing in one seamless motion, whose high energy hit you like a whirlwind and whose poem about recording bipolar disorder on a scale blew right into your social conscience. “I’m a six today, it must be the Prozac”.
Joy Rice brought the Nottingham dialect to the stage in “Bath Time in Basford”, when bath time was watching TV in a tin bath in the living room before drying out on an old Evening Post (now Nottingham Post). She then told us how her husband didn’t want to go on a cruise, so they compromised and went to Southwold instead. It were reet funneh midducks and nobody had a cob on afterwards.
Gwen Smith
Gwen Smith then celebrated how maths books look to complex universal questions in “Higher Maths”, then read a lovely little poem about how we change as birthdays pass, from our skin and teeth to our perspectives. “No more misery, please!” then shouted John Humphreys, referencing his recent forays into very dark poems. Instead, he offered us “entertaining misery” in his best Southern American drawl, about a fading devil riding hell’s lost highway and sinking the whiskey of the lonesome. Marvellous stuff.

Light and dark was Hazel Warren’s theme, first pondering how the darkness makes you feel and how to hide yourself within it, then pondering what happens to the fridge light when the door closes and how its glow makes you feel in “Midnight Snack”. Alex, aka Motormouf, said it was great that DIY Poets were still doing their thing after so long, then preached peace over guns with some excellent rhymes. It felt like he was only on stage for a moment, but his energy, support and positivity were very welcomed. Tish Tunbridge closed our open mic with two tiny poems, firstly about an old camper van that used to be her freedom, then a playful take on how we gather. “We gather our treasures near us, we gather we can make a difference.” Short and sweet poetry that hit the spot.

Every open micer was great and we hope to see them all again soon! We then came to our featured poet of the night, the incredible Sue Allen. What can I say about Sue Allen? Well, she is quite simply one of the most wonderful human beings I have encountered… so full of life, so terrifically and, I dare say, terrifyingly vital… she lives, exists and puts everything she has into existence. That is my summation of this amazing woman, and I’ve nothing but admiration towards her for that. She covered Sting, walking us across the face of the moon with a singing voice that wasn’t perfect but was undeniably real, human and made the words all the more genuine for it. She then moved into a mix of new and old works that could only be pinned together by the fact that they were very much ‘Sue’. ‘Monkey Mind’, with it’s fittingly foul language, ‘Meg’s Arse’, a hilarious show of storytelling that was short but honestly needed to be no longer, ‘About Growing Old’, which had a terrific flow and genuinely fearsome threat that she’ll “turn you into a slimy toad”!  Her newer poems, or at least those I hadn’t heard before, tended towards a more surreal bent. ‘Interruptions to a Quiet Night In’ was a stellar display of imagery, both unusual and disturbing, while ‘Inspired by My Garden’ painted a vibrant picture of an unholy shrubbery and a demonic rabbit. Seemed rather Pythonesque to me. Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention ‘The Nine-Fingered Knife Jugglers of Derby’… let’s be honest, you only need hear the title to be intrigued. Her final few pieces were very much classics, including what I consider a trilogy: ‘Inflatable Man’ with it’s singalong segment, ‘Plastic Man’ with it’s loving contrast to the former, and the closing ‘Mankini Man’ filled with cringe-inducing pictures you can’t help but laugh at. All in all, Sue Allen was Sue Allen… the finest poet to’ve ever emerged from the depths of Mansfield, and perhaps even the only.

After that last assault on my status as a member of the male sex, we welcomed our musical guest… the poet Frank McMahon! Frank played us some beautiful instrumental pieces on his acoustic guitar, engaging with the audience between each to speak on his influences and provide context for the works he covered. It was the perfect way to close the DIY celebration, with a DIY musician.


Derby Poetry Festival 2017 – A Blast

Derby Poetry Festival 2017 – A Blast

The first Derby Poetry Festival took place in November organised by Derbys Wordwise promoter, Jamie Thrasivoulou and DIY member, Trevor Wright. With support from Derby News and Derby City Council, it featured a variety of poetry workshops, open mics , junior and adult poetry competitions and headline poets.

Writing East Midlands and Derby Live kindly supported an afternoon of refugee poetry at the Guildhall where the excellent anthology Riding on Solomons Carpet was launched, from the Write Here Sanctuary project, featuring poetry from participants in Derby, Leicester and Nottingham. Thanks to Leanne Moden for organising a special afternoon.

Tony Walsh Headlined the first night at the Quad with people who hadn’t booked tickets unfortunately being turned away as we had reached capacity. Cathy Grindrod headlined the Friday night with a couple of DIY’ers in the open mic and Shrivanee headlined the She Speaks Sunday night. Young Joe won the junior poetry competition with Dwane Reads winning the adults- both receiving book voucher kindly donated by Derby Waterstones.

Saturday’s headline at the Venue was Linton Kwesi Johnson, supported by Anthony Anaxagourou with Ioney Smallthorne and Miggy Angel. It was a sell out with people travelling from as far away as Brighton and Lancaster. Linton did an authoritative hour set and received a standing ovation from the 240 capacity crowd. He also admitted over a late night curry to being both a Strictly and West Ham fan!

Thanks to everyone who made the effort to attend. So it made a small loss. So what. It was a blast and will be back bigger and better in November 2018.

DIY Poets At the Maze 10th November 2016

DIY Poets At the Maze 10th November 2016

First half reviewed by John Humphreys:

Slightly disappointing audience numbers were more than made up for by the quality of the poetry on display. Opening with Lytisha who announced she had no politics and miserable poems the first called Anxiety and full of “what ifs”. Last Biscuit had a perfect economy telling of brothers being naughty but always missed. Of the other poems, one set in a library with a ‘chid in a big chair on her own private island’ was sprinkled with magic, a great set, proving misery can also be beauty.
Andrew our host gave us a bad joke so moving on to Kevin wearing a striking mohair protest jumper (sometimes you have to mention the clothes) he graced us with striking imagery in his anti-war poems. Life’s a Memory had its ‘sun starved colour’ while others ‘froze in charcoal’ and White Stretched in Stone had its ‘ceremony of tears’ whilst in Back to it ‘young faces march out to die again’. It is not the necessarily the familiar events that move us but these striking images that linger as new paintings in the mind.
Martin Dean gave a fresh take on Guy Fawkes, appropriately describing him as “the only honest person to enter parliament”. Great images and lines abound again with ‘I’m going to write a fire’ and where ‘November breath hangs like wool in the air’. This was followed by a medical text poem set “within the golden chamber” with the ‘journey of a golden tear’ and ‘tattered skeleton orphan song’, very stirring stuff that highlights Martin’s winning streak with words.
Next up is Gwen A relatively new and very welcome new female voice to DIY who writes of gardening and cutting off stem heads as metaphor for the rituals and intimacies of human relations, then ‘Blowhole’ and the stuck life of her mother in Herne Bay where “you know you’ve been beached”. Then to return to the garden for what Andrew rightly described as a “mesmeric account” of more ritual, revisiting the same characters of her first poem. Hurrah for these refreshing new perspectives from an obviously talented poet.
Then for something completely different with Martin Grey and friend AKA From The Word Go where its all in the hat and a clever, funny checkout riff where the machine has its own voice ‘disapproval needed’ – you had to be there I think I’d need to say at this point. If I say the set had a tale of a kitchen vigilante and another with a washing machine, including the line ‘tumble when its dryer’, you get the sense of the madcap comic antics at play. Definitely a crowd pleaser.
Last but never least in the first half was Claire starting with a favourite of mine in ‘Peace-nick’ with its ‘blossoming anger’, then moving into dreams and nightmares held in the forests of childhood with Terror. Bob Dylan’s misogyny was the flip side to his Noble Prize for Literature for the man with wives and mistresse in ‘the harem of the God’ – ouch! A new one ‘He drove in Silence’ unleashed the difficulty of father / daughter relationships to devastating effect and then more of this with ‘Sisters in Recovery’ hoping and wanting for a sister. As always it’s her slow detailed observance of everyday life that packs such a big punch.
An excellent first half full of quality in all its varied guises and alternative voices from such distinctive and distinguished poets.

Second half reviewed by Kevin Jackson:

John Humphreys started the second half with a bang, confronting the theme of citizen v the state in a heartfelt poem called “Not waving but drowning”. This poem cast a painfully sharp light on the battle for benefits on behalf of his brother summed up in the line “stripped naked in the headlights of the world”.
John followed this with an intensely personal poem called “Invisible”. Built of 3 sections featuring legendary monsters, hawks and rocks the poem conveyed not so much an individual feeling invisible as an entire world slipping out of sight, “almost extinct”, vanishing under “silted layers of time”.
To buy John’s outstanding poetry collection The Day I Swallowed the World, please contact him via DIY Poets.
The next poet was John Merchant. John’s first poem “Mind Existence” begins with the oft-quoted “we are what we eat”, teases out the implications of this idea and ends with the characteristically witty “which sort of turns the mind of its head”.
John concluded with the poem “Health Wealth” which uses the theme of money to focus on our values: “Where your heart is, that’s where you spend”. The poem ends with a direct appeal to individuals and politicians: “Consider us, make it fit”.
Frank McMahon, DIY Poet’s inspiring founder, was the next poet up. Frank took us through a pacy set of short poems, linked through their use of fantastical imagery. “Alcohol”, “Behind the curtain” (using a Wizard of Oz image to explore real friendship), “Spiderman versus Superman” and “The Hulk” (a look at masculinity gone wrong). In “Jack and the Beanstalk” the poet surveys childhood disappointments, concluding wryly: “The beanstalk was all talk”. Transience/aging was the theme of “Elastic Bangle”, (? not sure of title….), told through a collection of once-prized bangles drying out, breaking.
In “Dr Who Childhood” Frank shows a child’s view of parental arguments, including the chilling line: “She may as well have been screaming exterminate, exterminate”
The set ended with “House of Sweets”, a thoughtful look at addiction using the Hansel & Gretel story: “In no time at all there was no road to follow”.
The next poet Trevor Wright began with a topical poem “Ode to Donald”. Using the theme of brick-laying (“tamp it and tamp it until it’s flat”), Trevor revealed the hidden cost of building walls between us: “Bastard wall, encasing our hearts”.
Trevor followed this by reading a powerful poem by Brian Bilston called “America is a Gun”.
The next poem, gloriously titled “Today’s rain becomes tomorrow’s spirit” wove a number of themes including storms and story-writing to encourage communitarian values: “Together we can weather these storms”… (but) “first we have to write ourselves a greater story”.
Stephen Thomas, stalwart of the Leicester poetry scene and co-host of Nottingham’s Poetry’s Dead Good, fired into a wonderfully energetic set with “You’re Awesome”.
A real life-affirming, high-energy poem, “You’re Awesome” reminds us “You were born a champion” and no matter what they throw at us “you’re the best version of you that says thank God I’m alive”.
In “Muddled Man” Stephen takes a sharp look at men who can’t take care of themselves: “You could charge 5p for those bags under your eyes”.
“Alphabet Spaghetti” is a book in progress comprising crisp, highly alliterative poems on each letter of the alphabet. V “Vote Vlad” imagines a vampire seeking our support. T’s “Twitter Troll called Tony” turns out to be 12. Watch this space for news of the book launch!
“For the record” celebrates all things vinyl (a passion of this reviewer), the romance of the record. It does so brilliantly by turning the tables, being written from the turntable’s viewpoint: “Entire cultures of people I’m moving”, ending “For the record, I’m for the record”.
For more of Leicester’s spoken word scene check out House of Verse
Andrew Martin of DIY Poets was Featured Poet for this night. Opening his set, Andrew shared that “standing on stage you bare your soul” and told us that he wrote his first poem 10 years ago about a soldier killed in Iraq.
“Trump et cetera” launched the set using a children’s song to bring Trump down to size. “Time” developed chain-like to explore the personal and social aspects of time, moving from seasonal change via time travel to industrialisation requiring a standard definition of time. “Food Fight” wittily charts the decline of supermarkets like Tesco “Marmite jars are missing”. “Rhapsody of Realities” looks at those faiths which “mission” by giving out booklets, picturing these as a version of junkmail and warning “There’s no such thing as a free last supper”.
Andrew continued with “Badger Culling Trial” a sober poem viewing the countryside as a courtroom in which the badger is on trial. The poem probes the subject, posing many questions “Is it a black and white situation?” In “Two by two” the poet ranges over many situations where people operate in pairs including police on the beat (perfectly pointed by Andrew sporting what appeared to be a old-style police helmet that actually said Not Polite”). The poem ends darkly looking at prisoners: “Silent sentences throughout each long hour”.
“BHS British Hopes Stalled” takes Philip “Greed” to task with more of Andrew’s trade-mark rhetorical questions: “When did greed become fashionable?” “Mohammed Ali” explores Ali’s long and complex history as a fighter for social justice and the link between fighting and poetry.
“I Daniel Blake” takes its inspiration from the Ken Loach film to remind us of what it should mean to be a citizen.
Andrew rounded off a magnificent headline set with “Poet’s Day”, a survey of workers and working pondering the significance of Friday as the start of a weekend’s rest.
Andrew’s poems are vigorous, democratic not preachy, making statements, asking questions, highlighting patterns to which the listener can react.

Diy Poets at The Maze 31st August 2016

Diy Poets at The Maze 31st August 2016

Diy Poets report for Gig at the Maze, 31st August 2016

Written by Lytisha and Clare Stewart.

Our regular evening of three halves began with Andrew Martin doing a sterling job of the nerve wracking role of compering the first half. Our first act was:

Martin Dean:

Martin kicked the evening off in great style. He opened by considering how salad would be, if presented in a modern art style. He Curated Salad, conjuring many tasty images, including watching as ‘Camels criss-cross cous cous dunes’. This great opening poem was followed with a poem he’d written with his wife. She, like many of her generation, had been a typist and practiced the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Then Martin took us through several permutations which ranged from the ridiculous to the surreal. In the next poem Martin considered what it would look like to see someone else’s memories tied up in a parcel. Would you unwrap it for a peek? He concluded with a Haiku that asked What do willow herbs think? Much food for thought in our opening act.

Jeff Marshall:

Jeff, as the timer for all the other acts, had the difficult task of timing himself, but he seemed to finish before the need to shine bicycle lights in his own eyes.  He read three poems, the first about all the fun of the fair that can be experienced at music festivals.  NOT.  Mud, toilets, getting lost, rain, snoring strangers, tripping on tentlines, flies, heat and waiting in queues.  Mmm, can’t wait.   Then a poem about hating shopping with a certain ‘she’ – I guess Jeff’s wife/partner – who apparently loves shopping, or does it quite enthusiastically anyway.  As someone who also hates shopping, I can’t help but side with Jeff on this one, but also can’t help wondering why he puts himself through it!  And third, an anti-fracking poem.  I found this a really interesting poem with some oomph packed in and good poetic force behind the message.

John Merchant:

This was John’s debut at the Maze with Diy Poets. He treated us to a fine set of four poems. The first, Pressures, looked at all the pressures society imposes and how we can recognise and react to them. The Second, Be Careful, explored the ideas of mis-understandings. In Clutterbuck, John looks at timing. And suggests the interlude is ‘not now, later, no later still…’ sounds like me writing to a deadline! On that note, John reminded us all in his final poem that it’s all about Timing. Maybe now ‘is the time to take stock’. Taking stock of John’s inaugural performance, I think we have a lot to look forward to in the future.

Kevin Jackson:

Kevin sported a very fetching stag t-shirt.  And gave us a lovely poem about David Bowie, ‘Starman filling us with stars’.   Then a very tender portrait of his mum with a refrain that she likes growing orchids, but is not able to do it these days.  Uses a great image about the ticking clock that Kevin must have been hearing most of his life being like his own twin, sprung tight.  And finally, keeping within the allotted five minutes, Kevin read a beautiful poem that conjured up lots of images of trees and their sap and their roots, that we’re all gifted and have the potential to fly out from the tops of the trees.

Phil Deakin:

Phil introduced his three poems, all of which seemed to have self reflective themes. The first, Anonymous Anemone, makes us consider the anemone, as see its’ spiky behaviour in a more sympathetic light when we remember that although ‘it has no mortal enemy’, it is still lonely as it hides away at night. The second poem was an homage to his home district. Phil dedicated it to all the East Side Massive represented in The Maze. Netherfield, in all its flawed glory was brought to life and the ‘maelstrom of people’ were conjured by Phil’s descriptions. He concluded; ‘perfect it may never be, but Netherfield is my home’. For his final piece, entitled Walking Contradiction, Phil had to translate some street talk for some of us old farts, introducing the concept of ‘fleek’. (I’ll let you discover it for yourself, if you don’t already know). He then went on to tell us about his experience with facial hair fashions and the resultant experience begs the question: facial hair fleek or eek?

Lytisha :

Lytisha was feeling jolly, having just finished her dissertation, and wanting to put it behind her, a little bit, she read older poems that didn’t have anything to do with that work.  Lytisha shows us what she sees with her magnifying-glass-vision as she gazes and ponders on the insubstantial, the small, the detail.  Curious, quirky, we saw, with the sluggish and detached vision of someone bereaved watching their own hands, how a cloth dries a pot that then gets put away.  And then, another poem, how, when looking at moving lights, on closer inspection, it’s not the lights moving but the trees waving about in front of the lights – these tiny misunderstandings that temporarily confuse and blur the mind and contribute to a feeling of general vertigo.  She also brilliantly showed us a blank page called Forgetfulness, a poem she’d forgotten to write…  And a poem about the Olympics that she hadn’t been able to see for tears of admiration.  And then some random-sounding poems, an exercise in first lines, intriguing and surreal.

After a short refreshment break, our second of the three halves was neatly compared by Hazel Warren. The first act she introduced was:

Jamie Thrasivoulou:

Strong rhythm and strong rhyming schemes, and loud, a bit reminiscent of Attila the Stockbroker, as well as our own dear Eagle. Jamie is new to Diy but certainly not new to performing.  We were regaled with a poem about police corruption, especially when it comes to dealing with people with mental health problems, and even worse, black people with mental health problems.  Then an angry Brexit poem, shouted enviably from memory, again about corruption at the top and pointing out that us down here are generally very humane.  Then a poem calling on all us creative souls to lead the fight against prejudice, we have a responsibility, because of our unique ability to communicate, we can, we should unite people.

From the Word Go:

From the Word Go are a performance collective including regular Diyer, Martin Grey, with Julian, freshly returned to Nottingham, and ably assisted by Kira. They gave a us a visually as well as aurally exciting set. We saw: goldfish in a bowl, spinning plates, guns, mirrors, and movement in a opener that got us thinking about who calls the shots. The second piece, which was spoken and accompanied by djembe, saw us ‘battling over that piece of peace of mind,[ …].the rain outside my window, the pain outside my soul’. The metaphor reflecting the turmoil of the mind was engagingly delivered.  Great to have Martin back on stage and the team From the Word Go will. I’m sure, have much more to entertain us with.

Richard C Bower:

Richard’s meteoric rise seems unstoppable now as he trips down to London in November.  Good luck with that.  He found poetry relatively recently and has felt its therapeutic, cathartic muscle.  His first poem this evening was about this, of finding poetry on the ocean bed, of how it transforms the poet, it’s a ‘playground for disaffected philosophers’.  His next poem, ‘Flying on Shadowless Wings’ about ‘hanging on the edge of reality’ and says that it is possible to turn disaster into something beautiful.

Clare Stewart:

Clare treated us to a trio of tales which were inspired by her time working in a nursing home and reflecting on the changes as we age. Mr Lawson was the eternal optimist, as he waited in vain for his son at the door, coat on ready for the off at a moment’s notice. Then we heard how one lady used her limited language during her slow recovery from a stroke. ‘Okey Cokey, Cokey Cokey’, words that imply an inherent good humour, trapped in a body that had to take time to relearn and recover. Clare’s final poem, Old Man in a Bath again shows the spirit inside. ‘Old man soft’, yet his mind was still dreaming of the sensuous side of life. A delightful trio of portraits, reminding us all of the individuals we all are. And that although our bodies may age, inside we remain the same; and many of us are mischievous kids.

Andrew Martin:

Andrew M, relieved of compering duties in the second half of the evening, read a poem commemorating Ken Barry, creator of Postman Pat.  Andrew used the rhythm and sense of the Postman Pat song to tell us about Mr Barry, ‘perhaps a mail sack will serve as a shroud’, and the Last Post will play in mourning.   His next poem was about the renewal and the extending of the laws about badger-culling, denouncing the new rulings because it doesn’t help eradicate TB, and it causes suffering to the badgers, the justifications for the cullings is a load of bull – Andrew uses puns throughout his poems, poems often seem to trace his meandering thoughts as he’s on a bike ride or walk.  His last poem was a beautiful description of one of my favourite places, the Hope Valley (Oh, why don’t we all live in Hope?  Sorry, that’s my own, not Andrew’s…).

John Humphreys:

Aka Jollity John for this evening. John was in a good mood. I know that, because he told us. Buoyed by his recent trip to Edinburgh festival, and not even troubled by forgetting to bring the copies of his book that he would’ve promoted had he had any, John set off on one of his customary rambling introductions that entertained us at length with twists and turns and references to Lady Di Tartan. Eventually embarking on the new poem inspired by an incident that occurred in Edinburgh. John, despite missing the award winning performance that he’d booked, had a special tale of his own. Stewart Lee stole my chair! After examining the miserable expressions on the faces of the comedy glitterati, John concluded by reminding us that ‘poetry is much cheaper than therapy’. I would also add to that, much more entertaining too.

Featured Poet: Eagle Spits:

Eagle, the inexplicable, the anarchic, the punk haired, and the shouty, our featured poet of the evening.  Disappointingly, he didn’t wear a kilt, but only wore some trousers with a bit of tartan down the front.  Eagle’s been in diy for a couple of years maybe, and we are glad to see him well and back on the scene again after a bit of an absence.  Well, has Eagle ever performed a quiet poem?  Well, yes.  But, generally, it’s hard for a poor reviewer to keep up and my notes have sure got erratic here but thankfully, Rachel thought to film some of his set him and put it up on FB.  Go look.  Fantastic!

Eagle appeared on the stage first with a little robot that couldn’t stand up straight.  His first poem was about being beat up for being a punk…

Eagle pointed out that political poems have a sell-by date as events move on, but read a poem about D Cameron anyway.  ‘Hey Mr Cameron, God’s camera is on you, recording all your evil’ and Death will catch up on you, just as he did Faustus.

Poem about corruption at the BBC, and how it doesn’t work for us, or represent us.  ‘Freedom of the press is freedom to ignore’.

The one he did last time about the meanness and unfairness of council posters telling people not to give money to homeless people in the street.

A protest song about the refusal or unwillingness to help refugees.  Rachel joins in this one with her lovely deep folky voice ‘The poor are my family, my siblings, my kin, Open the borders and let them all in.’

Poem about the enemy being the state.

I was a bit responsible for the next poem, or my rubbish satnav is, aided by an RTC somewhere in Basford, that Eagle wrote whilst waiting for a lift, and I was late.  A sweet and hopeful poem, describing the end of all this fascist, moneymaking, bombdropping warring.  At the end of our nightmare, we’ll realise our dream – ‘children and kittens and food that is fresh’.  A quiet Eagle poem.

Eagle then berated his poor little robot for looking pissed.  Leave it alone, yah bully!

Slightly misquoting Philip Larkin, Eagle’s next poem began ‘They fuck you up the Tory cunts’.  A general anti-Tory poem.

Another favourite, protesting against the very cowardly drone bombs that murder civilians indiscriminately, in a sanitised way, that means no whites of eyes are ever glimpsed, no hearing of screams, no chance to check you’re even killing the person you meant to kill.  Can’t believe it really, who dreams up these things?

‘The first casualty of war is truth.’  Eagle here protesting about state-sanctioned murder and how angry he is.  (No kidding.)  ‘People are starving, murdered by greed.’

Lastly Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier who leaked films and info to WikiLeaks about the Iraq war in 2013 ‘Like a leper with a candle, I want to feel the pain’, a wanting to feel alive even if it hurts, just so long as it’s open and honest and truthful.  And I guess that says it for Eagle, a yearning for peace and compassion but not at the sacrifice of truth.

Finally our third half was the music brought to us this evening by Dog Explosion

Dog Explosion are Oliver, his laptop, and a stuffed dog wearing glasses. Oliver performed a set of his own work, covering a range of topics as diverse as memes, dreams, self delusion and relaxation. He writes and records his own music tracks and accompanies himself by sing over them live.

At times reminiscent of the sound of ‘80’s German band Kraftwerk in his delivery, Oliver regales us with tunes including Talking, Fire Power, and Relax and Enjoy.  We explored themes of memes, and when reality is confused with online presence. He also sung of fighting ‘this disease called sleep’, I have to say, as diseases go, that’s my favourite! In Talking a cynical voice tells us ‘I’ll believe in anything, if it gets me what I want..’ as the idea of religion is explored.

Thanks were sent to all involved, the writers and poets, the musical act, Jon for doing a fine job on the sound desk, staff at The maze and the fine audience for joining us. That concluded our Summer gig at The Maze.

A great evening of wordsmithery, with music, juggling, and fairy lights for good measure.

See you all same place, Thursday 10th November. In the meantime, keep an eye out for more Diy Events.


Lytisha and jeff-marshall john-merchant Diy Poets at The Maze 31st August 2016



DIY Poets At Southwell Festival

DIY Poets At Southwell Festival

DIY Poets At Southwell Festival
Are We In Southwell or Suthall?

A Weekend Of Poetry

Last weekend your very own DIY poets were invited to bring their brand of poetry to The Gate To Southwell Festival. Starting on Saturday festival-goers were treated to a two hour showcase of their talents with honorary member Shaun Moore joining them from Glasgow. The subject matter was wide ranging, swinging from the hiding place of Charles I to the search for Earth-like planets, from dancing to pubic hair.

Sunday – another day and another delight. A damp and mud-splattered crowd flocked to The New Stage to be treated to the Southwell festival’s first ever poetry slam, where audience members were asked to vote for their favourite act. The accolade of ‘Bard of Southwell’ eventually went to Hazel Monaghan with a veritable tour-de-force. Congratulations to Hazel, but also to everyone else who shared their work (including Andy Szpuk with his creative use of ‘The Hendrix Technique’). Judging by the audience reaction the event was a great success.

The Poets

MC Leanne Moden
Our MC And Organiser Leanne Moden
Poet Kevin Jackson
Kevin Jackson
Trevor Wright
Trevor Wright
DIY Poet Richard C. Bower
Richard C. Bower
DIY Poet Lytisha Tunbridge
Lytisha Tunbridge
Poet and Writer Di Slaney
Di Slaney
DIY Poet Martin Dean
Martin Dean
Poet Andy Szpuk
Andy Szpuk
Poet Shaun Moore
Shaun Moore
Poet Hazel Warren
Hazel Warren

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