Tag Archives: performance poetry

Poets prefer marmalade

An anthology that states it publishes the ‘best’ poetry written today publishes the best poetry written today. There are a range of poetry awards corresponding to the range of poetry being written. It is necessary to categorise poets. All good young poets win Eric Gregory awards.

Black poets are usually performance poets. ‘Performance poetry’ has become a derogative term. ‘Innovative’ poets are usually male, white and sardonic. Poets who use the lower case i are pretentious. ‘Mainstream’ poets are snooty. All poets listen to Radio 4.

If you’re not a white poet you should send your work to a specialist publisher. If you’re not a white poet then you are writing for a niche market. Poetry festivals programme a diverse range of poets. Poets wear sharp suits.

There are as many critics of poetry in performance as there are of poetry on the page. Poets who mostly perform are as respected as poets who mostly publish. Poets who write for the page are bad readers of their work. Poets who learn their work for performance are more interested in performance than in writing. Poets who read are giving priority to the page above performance. Reading is not performance. Performance is not reading. Poets eat shredded wheat.

Rejection after rejection results in poets losing confidence in their own voice. Rejection after rejection breeds ambitious, bold poets who write just the way they wish to. Rejection after rejection results in poets adjusting the way they write in order to be accepted. Rejection after rejection stops poets writing poetry. If you want to get published make sure you write poems that look like poems. Poems look like dandelion clocks. You can learn a poem by blowing its fluff to the wind.

Mentorship is offered to all poets of promise. There’s money in poetry. If you want to be a poet you should do an MA in creative writing. Poets have dodgy knees.

Poets are thick-skinned and dislike freckles. Poets have good dress sense. Poets are middle class. Poets know when to use apostrophes. Working class poets write short, funny poems about their lives.

Publishers shape the poetry that is written in this country. Publishers shape the poetry that is published in this country. Censorship is an inevitable by-product of selection. Small, independent publishers sell as many books as Faber & Faber. Poets have regular haircuts.

There is no ‘mainstream’ poetry. The fact there are several ‘streams’ enriches the poetry scene. British poetry is more conservative than American poetry. Experimentation is actively discouraged. The labels we use to catagorise poets have more positive than negative associations. Poets can hold their breath underwater for ages.

Poems written for performance rhyme and are easily understood on first hearing. Poems written for performance are often political. Poems written for performance sprawl and have irregular line lengths. The spoken word scene is diverse because there are no gatekeepers at its entrance.

Poems written for the page are formally tight. Poems written for the page need to be read several times. The craft of writing poems for the page is superior to the craft of writing poems for performance. ‘Mainstream’ poetry often references Greek mythology.

You can tell that ‘Innovative’ poets don’t believe in the poetic ‘voice’ as they write by cutting up books and instruction manuals and inserting the word ‘Derrida’ now and then. Poets do press-ups.

A poem that works on the page will work in performance. A poem that works in performance will not always work on the page. A poem that works in performance but not on the page is not a good poem. To perform is to be fake. Performance poets are shouty. Poets are typewriters.

There is an equal split of male to female poets writing poetry in the UK. There is an equal split of male to female poets being published in the UK. There is an equal split of male to female poets publishing poetry in the UK. Poets (particularly the innovative ones) can never find the scissors.

Poets self-publish their work when it’s not good enough to be accepted by a publisher. Publishers publish poetry that is good. All good poetry is published. ‘Good’ is not subjective.

There are too many poets. There are not enough poets. Poets wear red shoes. Poets prefer mittens to gloves.



Commissioned by the Broadsheet, launching the Exeter Poetry Festival. I’m performing/talking on the 4th October at an event exploring tribalism in poetry, the supposed borders between different sorts of practice and the usefulness or otherwise of labels such as ‘mainstream’, ‘experimental’ and ‘performance’.



Filed under Poetry

Norwich Poetry Club

Hannah with chin up

Off to Norwich next week to see my Grandma and perform some poems…

Tuesday January 24th, Norwich Poetry Club at the Bicycle Shop. Featuring headline act Hannah Silva, plus Martin Figura and John Osborne. £5 on the door, 7.30 pm.

From Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/306112706099284/

Hello, hello, it is us you’re looking for?

Probably. We’re Norwich’s premier boutique poetry event and we’ve had a month off so you’re probably gagging for a big top-notch word action curtesy of some of the UK’s best poets.

This month we have Hannah Silva who in 2008 was named as one The Times’ top 10 literary stars. She’s experimental, edgy and absolutely captivating. There is NO ONE like her on the poetry scene and you will not want to miss it. She lives in Plymouth (or somewhere down there) so we’ve done a bloody good job even getting her to the wilds of Norfolk, don’t miss it folks.

Supporting we have the sublime Andy Mac, he of Dark Aunt fame. We’ve been told he is bringing one Dark Aunt with him, so our little club can experience he trademark blend of dark, sweet words and strange, dark melodies.

Martin Figura, our resident ex-military man has some new stuff. The chances are it’ll be great, it usually is. John Osborne is going to compere and be all forceful and organisy (not a word) which will be exciting. He’s also got new stuff to read to you.

It all starts at 7.30pm sharp. It costs a fiver. It’s in Norwich. Don’t be a wally, come.

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Plymouth gets poetic

Spread the word about poetry

Plymouth’s wannabe wordsmiths are being invited to unleash their inner laureate and get writing.

The Poetry School – which aims to provide high-quality teaching programmes for adults to develop their poetry – has opened a class in Plymouth.

The course is designed to inspire, motivate and get people to have fun with words and is being hosted by Plymouth poet, Hannah Silva.

Hannah said: “If you like playing with words – this is just for you. This is not about studying sonnets and forms, but having fun with the ideas that come into your head – and if ideas don’t come into your head, I’ve got loads of tricks to help tempt them out.

“Poetry is enjoying huge popularity across the country with poetry slams and evenings. Here in Plymouth a performance-poetry evening ‘Forked’, run by Apples and Snakes is packed out at the B Bar and word is spreading that poetry is not po-faced – it can be funny and entertaining as well.

“People are often intimidated by the thought of a poetry class, but it’s very informal and friendly.  We get people who’ve not written since school, students who like messing with words and people who just want to be a bit more creative.”

A past student said: “I’ve become more confident, more imaginative. It has given me ideas and I find time to write daily – and that’s to do with the confidence that Hannah brings out”.

Hannah, who was described by the Times as ‘one of the most ambitious and entertaining poets in the country’, performs internationally and has recently toured the country with Apples and Snakes.

She is a regular at the London Word Festival, and has featured on Radio 3’s The Verb. She has a background in music, choreography and theatre and is currently artist-in-residence with the Arts Unit, Plymouth City Council. She also runs courses through the Plymouth Adult and Community Learning Service.

There are still places available on the course which is open to new members at any stage. The fee is dependent on how many sessions are left and there’s a generous discount for students, over 60s and concessions. Anyone interested in enrolling should get in touch with the Poetry School by emailing administration@poetryschool.com or calling: 0207 582 1679. For further information check out their website at www.poetryschool.com

Hannah Silva on tour with Apples and Snakes. photo Nina Donagh

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Carrot Theatre 503 by Ben Ockrent, directed by Nadia Latif

Had loads of energy, cast were fantastic, perfect for the festival audience and theatre tent. Fantastic writing, loved the direction. Brilliant. Audience loved it too.

Seven Angels The Opera Group by Luke Bedford, libretto by Glyn Maxwell

Really enjoyed the unusual experience of Opera at a festival. The music was not mind blowing, but it was good. The story was perplexing, pity it needed explaining to us beforehand, I’d have appreciated the challenge of interpreting the action my own way.  It was a little strange to have such a strong book/information metaphor in the staging when that wasn’t in the libretto…I think it didn’t quite hit it if the aim was to create a new myth, maybe needed more Paradise Lost connections…but I enjoyed it. It kept my interest. It took some risks.

The Flooded Grave Bush Theatre. Written by Anthony Weigh, dir. Hannah Dickenson

– initially for a lighting-less Bush Theatre apparently. It was performed outside by ….? Can’t find his name. He was great. So it really felt like a ghost story, in the dark. Great example of how a monologue can be dramatic. I love Anthony Weigh’s writing.

Tim Key in the Poetry Arena

was hilarious and put us poets on the side of poetry not comedy to shame. Hmm.

Tim Clare

did some great poetry/songs but I was hoping to hear more of his work as I’m curious about his how ‘How to be a Leader’ at Ed Fringe. Might be a bit like mine. (?)

Camille O-Sullivan

This Irish Jazz/folk singer is bloody brilliant. Theatrical, slightly nuts. Wow. The mic blew up in her hand and she sung a capella. Audience loved it. And she had a bird cage, a xylophone and kept taking off her shoes.

I think she’s at the Edinburgh Fringe…? Must check. Incredible.

BBQ guy from Torquay in the performance area

kept talking instead of cooking. Just give us the food dammit. 🙂

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Latitude Festival Set


Getting ready to perform at Latitude Festival in Suffolk (where I grew up). There’s lots of interesting things…I’ll be mostly hanging out in the Theatre Arena….looking forward to Tim Crouch, The Opera Group and meeting all those new writing theatres that reject my plays : )

– It’ll be interesting to see ‘Seven Angels’ composed by Luke Bedford (writer Glyn Maxwell). It came out of a fellowship with Aldeburgh/Jerwood. I’m on the Aldeburgh/Jerwood Opera Writing Foundation Scheme at the moment. I’m working with Joanna Lee, who specialises in extended vocal techniques. The piece below includes extracts from the libretto I’ve written for her. (showing in Aldeburgh in a couple of weeks).

LATITUDE: I’m on 16:40 on Friday and 20:40 on Saturday in the Poetry Arena.

Got a bit of a crazy piece lined up…(as well as an extract from Opposition) Haven’t figured out what it should look like on the page yet…It starts with an old one ‘Puffer Jacket’…here’s the score…includes real letters to Abyss [Real Doll company -please don’t sue me I’ll take them out if a problem]

I’m a woman in a puffer jacket
I’m a woman in a puffer jacket with a corset on top
I’m a woman in a puffer jacket with a corset on top standing
on Oranienburger Strasse
I’m a woman in a puffer jacket with a corset on top standing
on Orianienburger Strasse wearing a lot of make up
I’m a prostitute on Oranienburger Strasse in the East of Berlin
giving a handjob outside a club making small talk
I am everything you are looking for in a woman in a puffer jacket
because it’s cold with a corset on top and very blonde hair
contrasting nicely with my fake tan
I’m a doll but I’m real for sale for one night I could be yours
love me pay me fuck me
I will always be there for you
except when I’m with someone else
I’m trying to be a doll dressed like a Barbie but I’ve failed
because I’m alive and I’m just a woman in a puffer jacket
with a corset on top and you want
a doll for life

articulated articulated articulated tctctctctctct
skeleton skeleton skeleton tktktktktk
articulated skeleton articulated skeleton
skeleton skeleton skeleton

A completely articulated skeleton that allows for an/atom/ically correct positioning an exclusive blend of the most expensive silicone rubbers for an ultra flesh like feel we’ll build a plastic partner custom made to order from body type to face type all the way down to fingernail colour if you’ve ever dreamt of creating your ideal woman you’ve come to the right place.

Very soft and stretchy lips
ultra soft tongue
soft silicone teeth

Oh Yes Baby Yes
I bought a Real Doll on the net
Dressed her up like my Ex
Hung her from the ceiling (for better penetration)
What a cool sensation!
Her soft and stretchy lips
provide my morning fix.
She can’t make coffee
but her completely articulated skeleton
was great value for money.
I’m buying a world that’s danger free
and packaged for me
I’m gonna consume
The Fantasy.

flawless formless faceless sell us

smile    s s   s  split spill      slip  lip        tears     tears                ears

chic  cheek        eyes   Yes!    nose   No

face deface erase      deface erase efface

This season’s look is         faceless          

Dear Abyss,

My RD2 seems to be getting softer over time and feels ever more lifelike…
If you look at the pictures it may tell you that it is almost a waste to use her for her genuine purposes.
Finally the instructions were easy to follow and the cleaning kit as well as the adhesive have been much needed

nip it lick it zip it tweak tuck it fuck it perfect ctctctctctctct fit t t t t t

–       She photographs
–       Extraordinarily well
–      To the point of actually
–       Seeming alive
–       Even without a face
–       It’s easy to imagine
–       Her personality titty!

Dear Abyss,

What a companion she is! A joy to care for and emotional support!
It really is getting better and better. The things you discover… The things you can or must do: go shopping for her, taking care of her (washing, powdering), dressing her up, moving her… Kissing her, caressing her, cuddle her, laying next to her, holding her hand, brushing her wig… too much to mention 🙂

Anyway, to continue the feedback:  I don’t see them as replacing real women but they do come close.  The level of detail is exemplary, down to the toes!

I look in the mirror
I looked like this yesterday
so I change
Change is good.

We Salute
Smock mock

Dear Abyss,

I want to say that getting a RealDoll is the best present I have got myself and wish I could buy one every year since they keep getting better (like cars or computers).

Sc sc sc oop neck k k
V v v v V Neck k k
Ha ha ha ha Halter Neck
Ba ba ba ba Bateau oh oh Neck k k k
Bo oh oh oh Boat t t t Neck
Cowl Neck
Crew Neck
No neck
neck and neck
less            br   th less         n       k  less
bre    the less
ne  ck   less s s

Summ mmm mm mm
Summ mmer’s
a breeze!
in an easy wear
wardrobe of florals
and brightly coloured silks
Change is g g g g g g

With nanotechnology we’ll rearrange our atoms
Put in our parts and take them out at leisure
There is so much undiscovered pleasure!

Dear Abyss,

The realism of the doll depends a lot on your life and your experience with real girls. She’s just a doll, but as I never had a real close relationship, she’s a bit more, somewhere in between a doll and a real girl…

Well, it seems like I ended up as a lonestar, and somehow I could never get this beauty goddess I always hoped to bump into some day…but you gave me this doll, the closest thing to my ideal female beauty. This one will even allow me to kiss and hug her, to even have sex with her. As I lack the comparison to real girls, for me it’s the best sex I ever had.

Some may laugh at me or throw peanuts at my head, I don’t care (I like peanuts, yummy!). Dolls can alleviate loneliness quite a bit. This stupid urge to find Mrs Right at all costs is gone…..I will find her one day….or not. Until then….

very soft and stretchy lips
ultra soft tongue
soft silicone teeth

–       Height:
–       1550 millimetres

less man I mate quin ult oice oice f f f lex
–       Bust:
–       830 millimetres

less mann e quins are the ult I mate   mate!
–       Waist:
–       630 millimetres

ch ch ch oice f f or flex ibility
–       Base diameter
–       1 point 380 millimetres
Head less mann equins are the ult i mate choice for flex ibility  titty!

choice less head less face less the ultimate the ultimate the ultimate the ultimate the ultimate ultimate ultimate

if you’ve ever dreamt of creating your idea woman
Very soft and stretchy lips
I’m a woman in a puffer jacket
even without a face it’s easy to imagine….
Change is Good
We’ll build a perfect partner
I look in the mirror

–       She is a very popular
–       Womannequin
–       Durable
–       Affordable
–       Natural
–       White matt finish  sh

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Final night Opposition, Exeter Fringe

Hannah Silva in Opposition. Photo Eileen Long

It’s over! Two performances at the Bike Shed Theatre for the Exeter Fringe. Done. From David Lockwood’s blog on the Fringe

The Bike Shed Theatre hosted the most technically skillful show that I’ve seen so far at this year’s festival. Hannah Silva’s Opposition looks and sounds beautiful as she uses live music, audio looping and a gorgeous lighting design to explore political rhetoric, global finance and power. Hannah is an incredible performer, both physically and vocally; this show is worth watching for the technique alone. And it is great to see a performer offering us a challenging view of the status quo.

I loved performing the whistle part. Playing the eulogy for a past that has gone, a time when politicians spoke about what it means to live, a time when they weren’t afraid of metaphor and using more than a basic vocabulary.

& the audience interaction was fun too – especially when it gets turned around towards the end of the show and ‘I’ talk about manipulation. How easy it is to get everyone to –

All start to do exactly the same thing at exactly the same time

Exactly the same thing at exactly the same time

the same thing at exactly the same time

same thing at exactly the same time

thing at exactly the same time

at exactly the same time

exactly the same time

the same time

same time



As a performer – I did everything right….I think I nailed the end…my voice was there, more embodied…but I’m not 100% happy with my performance. Maybe the piece is so hard to perform that I’ll never be completely satisfied…I felt that I wasn’t completely ‘present’… I didn’t have the usual performance adrenalin…  parts felt insincere, which is a funny one, as some parts are insincere…that’s something I’m playing with. I think I was fighting between wanting to pull the audience into my world – as I usually do with my poetry…….and pushing the work out there….being huge…taking it to the audience…which is what this piece demands most of the time. The U. S section has to be massive, has to encompass the whole space, as the U.S does….

During the rehearsals before Edinburgh I want to go through the piece and find images to work with for the different sections – the way Phillip Zarrilli worked with us when I was doing my MFA.

& I have an idea that I think will make the final section  – the silent gestures – very exciting…

I think it’s really important to have the live Twitter section too – we didn’t manage to set it up at the Bike Shed as get in time was so limited.

I’ll have new photos and video from the show soon. & I hope to do a small showing in Plymouth before Edinburgh…get in touch if you’d like to be there!

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Filed under Exeter Fringe, Opposition, Rehearsing Opposition, Theatre