I’ve been lucky enough to live a number of different locations and take part in artistic/poetic/creative life in all of them. This has led to associations with different groups, publications, collectives over the years. Here’s a few I’m proud to have been a part of…



Punch is an Open Mic poetry and spoken word collective, run by the amazing Zeina Hashem Beck. We currently read in Dubai.

Punch is just a short way of saying “poetry bunch.” It’s also a pacifist way of punching back with words and language.

*Please note that we are pleased (as punch) that no violence or alcoholic cocktails were utilized in the making of this collective.



Paris Lit Up –

PLU is an awesome group of incredibly active people doing many lovely poetry and writing-related activities in that most heartbreaking of cities. They run a weekly open mic on Thursday at the home of French Slam, Culture Rapide. They also host weekly feedback workshops on Saturdays at Apparament Cafe and on the first Sunday of the month, a writing workshop at Shakespeares & Co. In addition to this, their website not only lists but in many cases provides reviews of other events arranged around Paris, such as Ivy Writers, Poets Live etc.

They foolhardily invited me on-board as one of the editorial team for the latest edition of their print mag, which will be coming out in autumn 2014. We’re very pleased to have such writers as George Szirtes, Sheenagh Pugh, Matthew Caley, Martin Figura and a host of others in our pages. More news to follow on the blog about launch dates and where you can actually buy the thing as it happens. But definitely check out PLU events if you are intending to visit Paris and are interested in all things literary.


The Prague Revue –

TPR’s been running since 1995 in many different incarnations. I was lucky to be invited onto the team as Poetry Editor by Shaan and Max when it moved online back in summer 2012. The mag has gone from strength to strength since then, with an amazing team of writers now contributing daily. They’ve also made a move back into print with the exclusive Samizdat series.

Adam Wiedewitsch has taken over the poetry but I still make the occasional contribution to the Stream. There’s an archive of my TPR pieces here:

Alchemy –

Alchemy open mic in Prague has been running for over eleven years. Hosted for a long time by the initimitable Ken Nash with many enthusiatic helpers, I took over with Sarah Borufka (until she abandonned me for Berlin… sob) between 2011 and 2013. The torch is still carried by Alex Went and Petra Antevasin. Readings usually take place first Monday of the month but double check before you go. The venue is the beautiful Napa Bar & Gallery in Mala strana… I’m almost in tears thinking about a nice cold half-litre of Jezek in their summer garden!


I’m not sure I could say I ever actually organised or edited anything during my time there, but I certainly did get around. It’s a while back now but I’ve reproduced here in a full a Facebook post which I wrote in 2010 after leaving. Hopefully it gives a little bit of a flavour of the scene at the time. I don’t know how many of these nights are still running, but I’ll try and look them up and post any that are still active on the links page.

London Calling: Four long years on the scene…

… actually 4 & 1/2. So since I moved to Prague I have been thinking a lot about all the poets and poems I heard throughout my time in London. Many I hope I will hear again of course but this is just a list of the ones which, for some reason or another stuck in my head, either because of exceptional skill or sometimes just sheer enjoyment! Or sometimes for utterly random reasons. For your reading pleasure (assuming anyone is going to read this) they are subdivided into various sections:


The night Touch Me I’m Sick was set up by my then boyfriend James O’Nuanain & his mate Kevin Reinhardt. It ran for a very long while in the upper bar of the Old Crown on New Oxford Street although I believe Kevin now only runs Bingo Master’s Breakout (London’s best karaoke poetry & bingo night ‘show me another and I’ll show you second best’) as well as of course being a member of the infamous Vintage Poison posse. They started it around the time Breaking Out was shutting down I think – or at least when James had handed the MC’ing over to Joshua Idehen (this was when PIP was just being formed and before the great Poejazzi, but more of that later). The TMIS regulars were all Unplugged regulars and I seem to recall there was quite naturally some beef with Niall over the fact they deliberately started it on a Tuesday night. It seemed to me to be pure mild bourgeios agitation and they did eventually change it to a Wednesday. However we had a number of decent nights in there with a number of decent poets. I believe the Old Crown still plays Monty Python, Bill Hicks and Teach Yourself Spanish in the toliets, whcih was one of the side attractions.

(in no particular order)

James O’Nuanain: The Pissing Poem
-> I can’t remember the title of this poem, only the first line ‘And then she pissed all over me’ and the last ‘but I couldn’t hear, because she said it with her tongue in my ear’. Later I subconsciously nicked this and used a variant elsewhere. I can remember it was a surprisingly good poem considering the subject matter but remember much more clearly the frequency with which I had to explain to new people (after having been introduced as his girlfriend) that it was not in fact about me. Thanks James, wherever you are…

Kevin Reinhardt: Almost Cured of Lipgloss
-> Reinhardt’s edgy whimsy at its most accessible

Robert Yates: Spitalfields Market
-> this was very famous amongst the crew as he finished by screaming ‘CUNT’, so was a popular performance request. But I do actually like the whole busy, grimy market feel of the poem. It makes me smell onion bhajis.

Robert Yates: The Liverpudlian Poet Poem
-> very sorry Robert but I can’t remember the title of this one either. I do remember it for the way he read the line ‘or getting my head kicked in by a liverpudlian [pause] poet’ which consistently cracked me up. It was a poem about being a small person in a big crowd – I was still getting used to city life at the time and it struck a chord, as they say.

Gareth Lewis: Alien Boy
-> this may also not be the actual title. I have Gareth’s book (tho not in Prague sadly) which he published under the pseudonym Jacob Lewis. It’s damn fine. This poem makes me cry like a baby and is a fantastic example of his long narrative style. In the old days at the poetry cafe if the audience was not showing enough appreciation we used to yell from the back ‘clap like it’s Gareth Lewis!’ which gives you some idea of the esteem he was held in by his peers at the time.

Joe Campbell: Byronic
-> Alanis Morrisette rip-off. Joe never played this as many times as we all wanted, shy bastard.

Bertram Trotar (aka James Press): Tokyo
-> James was the first person to talk me to at Poetry Unplugged at the very first open mike I went to in London. Very friendly or very forward? You make up your minds 😉 James’ wonderfully camp alter ego Bertram (of whom there was going to be a sitcom – James where are you? Is the project still on the table?) had a stormer of a crowd-pleaser where ‘all the girls go ‘ooh lah lah, ohh lah lah, ooh lah lah’, now all the boys go, ‘Tokyon, yo! Tokyo, yo! Tokyo!” I have no idea if there was anything more to this but it was a hell of a lot of fun at the end of the night when you were wasted.

Toby Davies: My Wife & I
-> impossible not include something of the back catalogue of the Earl of Northumberland. This was the one about the ducks…

Later a lot of the same crew used to go along to Jorge at the George near Shadwell when Stuart Weir & co set it up. I loved to guitars hanging from the ceiling and the homemade soup was excellent. In terms of mixing the music and the poetry, Stu always seemed to make some good decisions. Unfortunately it also went the way of all flesh in time, sigh. Those days a lot of night seemed to start, run for a year (or less) and fade due to various logistical reasons. One of the very first as I mentionned earlier was Breaking Out, which Denise Atherley created way way back. It was at Breaking Out where I first met and heard the awesome Joshua Idehen and the no less impressive Musa Okwonga, King of the Couplets. Josh & Musa later went on to form Poem InBetween People clic, and the great band Benin City. Here’s a few of my favourites below:


PIP: This Is London
-> I think you can still hear this track on their myspace
It is, indeed, London. For a while I misheard Lagos as logos, which gave the whole thing a very different complex. I like the Sid Mercutio mix best, but you can make up your own mind.

Joshua Idehen: Cupid
-> never get tired of seeing Josh perform, this is one of his best.

Inua Ellams: Candy-Coated Unicorns
-> Inua’s 13 Negro Fairy Tales has been very successful, particular in schools. He is probably one of the sweetest guys you will ever meet and this is an equally sweet poem without being sickly – difficult to achieve given the candy-coat!

When they started up Poejazzi at Volupte (poetry in a burlesque bar?!?) from the start you could see it was going to be something special. Now with a gazillion accolades from places like Time Out it’s still going strong and constantly evolving. I hear their South Bank show last month was amazing, just sorry I couldn’t make it. They’re claiming it’s the Year of the Poet; I for one am totally behind that.

After a while I started to get to know more people and to learn more about how poetry and performance were changing in the wider sense of the UK literary scene. Of course none of the live events would be what they are if there weren’t people organising and mc’ing them. Particularly Roddy’s Broadcast nights, which generally involve large numbers of poets who have all written brand new poems on a theme (I believe the next one is 13th Feb?) are some of my favourite nights and must I’m sure involve some serious co-ordination. Also you do tend to hear these people read fairly regularly so some of their poems come to be as comfortable as putting on an old bathrobe. Er, but still really good. Like a silk bathrobe embroidered with big flying dragons. So the next section is dedicated to organisers & MCs (those not previously mentionned!).


Niall O’Sullivan: Greasy Spoon Cafe
-> I want to eat this poem when I am hungover. Seriously, the thing I love about it is NO ONE can read this poem and think that poetry is the preserve of the elitist, pretentious intellectual. Which is quite an achievement given Niall’s a very intelligent and well-read guy. He also managed the stunning feat for more than one year I believe of running two nights a week (Poetry Unplugged & the Cellar). Which is (given xmas breaks etc) at least ONE HUNDRED GIGS. Niall also gave me via Unplugged the whole Hollywood/Hardcore dichotomy which I now use in about a million different siutations. Cheers!

Niall O’Sullivan: Barcelona
-> forgive me if again the title is not correct, I couldn’t afford to bring my entire library out here. But you all know the poem I mean? Where we get to join in on the flavour of the mussels? All together now, 1, 2, 3…

Tim Wells: Ashnar Takes Her Boyfriend to Topshop
-> …because he’s worth it. Miss Sarkar will be popping up later incidentally. It was hard to choose only two of Tim’s poems because I really like his stuff (not just saying this to get into the next edition of Rising ;-)) and I really like Rising too. What Tim does really well is just look at the city around him and tell it like it is, with all the comedy inherent in a Englishman’s contemplation of the scene. He is also incredibly supportive of young poets – not in any formal way (apart from the adoption of Miss Sarkar – all legal now right??) but he’s been a real help to me and to others I know. As a drinking partner if nothing more…

Tim Wells: Epsom
-> because it cracks me up, even more so than his usual poems. Except maybe the one about Roger McGough’s, erm, Richard. Or the one about the Greek mafia assassination…

Roddy Lumsden: The Young
-> kind, no nonsense, exceptionally and diversely talented, beautiful soft lilting voice, fantastic teacher, likes a few beers, works tirelessly to promote poetry particularly in younger writers. Roddy is just generally a legend and a champion also. I heard a lot of his collection Third Wish Wasted whilst it was being written – one of things I love about these gigs is that you do hear work in progress prior to publication. I like The Young because like so much of his work it has a sense of fierce yearning – the poem glitters like a sequin miniskirt yet it has an iron strength of feeling which the subject matter lacks.

Roddy Lumsden: Quietus
-> from same collection, the titular poem. quite simply beautiful.

Salena Godden: Hastings
-> the awesome Salena Saliva is coming off the back of an incredibly successful year with Book Club Boutique, literature poetry & damn fine music. Sadly Dicks bar is no more but the new Saturday salon at Blacks is sure to produce gems of equal calibre. Hastings I love because I’m a small town (in fact small village) girl myself – there’s a very personal sense of being an adult and going back to the place where you grew up, but also a wider picture of these kind of decaying seaside towns where you know it’s more advantageous to ‘sleep with bouncers, not the band’.

Salena Godden: The Good Cock
-> bawdy poetry when done as well as this is almost Chaucerian in its magnificance. A less consumate performer couldn’t get away with it but Salena is nothing if not that. Going to Standon Calling with the BCB crew was an education – in more ways than one, lol! but particularly because it was a really good bunch of performers. Even now I miss the tepee…


Tamsin Kendrick: The Gin Poem
-> it makes me want to drink a lot of gin and dance on the table at the Blues Bar. Actually I think we drank red wine, then danced on the table at the Blue Bar. Maybe it was just the floor but I had vertigo. Her book Charismatic Megafauna proves her as a page not just performance poet, but I love this poem, also I love how she tries to get me to wear her scarlet lipstick whenever she sees me.

Rhian Edwards: Screaming Like Foxes
-> it’s about girls kissing. Say no more… x

Jon Stone: Computer Sestina
-> Jon & Kirsty run the awesome Fuselit. They are also coincidentally awesome. Altho probably not coincidentally. I heard Jon read this at Bingo Master’s Breakout, like the best sestinas it sounds nothing like one and stuck in my mind as probably the most innovative marriage of form and modern content I’ve ever heard.

Luke Kennard: My Friend
-> do you know anyone who doesn’t like the poetry of Luke Kennard? no, neither do i. oh wait you do? shall we go and hit them over the head with steel-reinforced copies of Migraine Hotel? yes. yes i think we shall.

Ashnar Sarker: The Rape Poem
-> again I am very sorry that I can’t remember the title. I remember the poem and it was seriously bloody good, you will know the one I mean when you hear it. Ashnar is Crown Princess of the realm of Poetry, long may she reign in tiara & ripped fluorescent tights. She broke my heart in whisky bar, dirty old town etc.

Mark Waldron: Bears
-> going swoosh in the snow. I first heard this in one of Roddy’s classes and was very pleased he put it in his book. I was less than pleased when my friend Peter stole it and refused to return it on the basis that this was a brilliant poem and Mark Waldron is a champion, nay a legend.

There are a lot more poems and poets which I’ve seen over these years – probably some of them better, certainly some of them more successful but these are the ones that stuck (tho unfortunately not all the titles have). It’s funny but I can remember more individual poems from the earlier years, whereas there are many poets who I enjoy a hell of a lot but couldn’t necessary pick out a particular poem – or a particular poem that meant something to me in the context of London poetry specifically. London is an incrediby exciting place to write and perform poetry. Over four and a half years I went to probably more than a hundred sparkling, dizzying, beer-sodden, smoke-laden, gossip-ridden (let’s be honest here) nights of some of the best spoken word and verse you could ever ask to hear with some brilliant talented slightly crazed unbelievably fascinating people, both performers and punters. It was more fun than anyone should be allowed to have in one lifetime and I fully intend to have it again 🙂


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