“A poet of fantastic inversions.” Poetry London

“Multifaceted, mega-fabricated, louche architecture.” Magma

“Voraciously experimental, precociously accomplished.” Poetry International

BBC Proms Extra


Last month I was on the Proms Extra bill, performing alongside the John Garner Quartet, a roving band of dexterous young jazz musicians. We were up at the Albert Hall, in the Elgar Room, doing a one-hour set just after the main Proms performance. This was subsequently edited down to a 45-minute radio show, which may or may not be available for streaming at the time of writing. Will the link even work? Who knows.

Part of the show was collaborative, in that we rehearsed mixing two poems with musical effects and inflections: the violin as wailing wind, snare as thunder crash and so on. It’s a shame one of these was cut from the pared-down broadcast, presumably either because the producers were sensitive to the need to keep my four ‘between-element’ poems as a set, or else because they noticed one of the collaborations, ‘Lightning Conductor’, is just an over-extended pun.

I’ve written about some of the poems I performed in this set before – here, if you’re interested – so I don’t really want to bang on about them. But it was great to get the chance to do Steam, Mud, Dust and Ash all one after the other, since they’re designed to have an overall structure and pattern that makes the sequence more than the sum of its parts – also because I hope it did a little (just a little, maybe, perhaps, hopefully) to dispel the notion that contemporary poets don’t do rigorously controlled rhyme and meter anymore.

I was interviewed part way through the show by Georgia Mann, the presenter, and I feel like I should give her a load of credit for (a) doing her research, and (b) asking questions about interesting things, like voice, collaboration and the cross-over between games and poems, rather than going through the usual ‘interview with a poet’ motions: what are your influences, is poetry enjoying a revival etc.

The John Garner Quartet were a warm, easy-going bunch who fused jazz with other disparate influences. I recommend their song ‘Tiny Grass is Dreaming’ in particular.

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