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A Magazine for Sheffield

Collated by Helen Mort.

Guest editing Word Life feels like slipping my feet into shoes far too big for them, then tiptoeing around in the snow. It's a daunting, exciting task when there's so much going on in Sheffield poetry. February has seen even more new events springing up, including The Word Smack Cabaret in Rotherham, featuring John Hegley as its first guest.

Read on for reports of a snowy night at The Fat Cat with Longbarrow Press and new poems from Alan Buckley and Sarah Thomasin. Alan comes from Oxford and his debut pamphlet Shiver was published by Tall Lighthouse Press, while Sheffield's very own Sarah is the host of Slam Bam Thankyou Mam, which last month featured Kate Tempest in a slam with a difference: a poetry blind date. Entrants performed each other's work, doing their best to win first prize for their blind date, rather than themselves.

Please get in touch with [email protected] if you have South Yorks literary news or poems to submit.


Winter Songs.



Longbarrow Press opened the new year with Winter Songs, a specially curated evening of readings by Angelina Ayers, Matthew Clegg, Andrew Hirst, Chris Jones and Fay Musselwhite in the intimate (and, on this occasion, snowbound) setting of The Fat Cat.

The readings were presented in three themed 'movements' - home, landscape, and journey & exile. The readers alternated with each poem, producing dynamic shifts in tone and pace - Hirst's sparse, guttural phrasing contrasting with Musselwhite's rhythmic push-and-pull - while continually renewing and deepening the evening's focus. Departing from familiar formats created interesting and often unexpected associations between poems - for example, the institutional ambience of Ayers' 'Walking the Ward', in which a former nurse is re-admitted to hospital as a patient, mixing with that of Jones' 'Name', a poem for a prisoner 'ghosted over the fence'.

The resourcefulness of the poets was matched by the attentiveness of the capacity audience, making for a remarkable atmosphere as the 'journey' reached its end. A great start to 2013.

Poetry Listings.

16th March, 12-5pm / Electric Works / Free.

Join established and brand new zinesters for a day of DIY workshops, zine stalls, exhibitions, readings and spoken word. Check the website to see who's tabling and get tickets for the afterparty.

12th March, 8pm / Havana Whites, Chesterfield / Free.

Special guests plus open mic. All welcome. Free entry.
Email [email protected] for more info.


A new message from Paris: It's 4 am.
I've made a raw food chocolate mousse
from avocado, cacao. Why did I do that? Now
my heart's beating fast. It's a cryptic organ,
with a language all of its own. I guess
you wanted to know what it had to say;
and, in a curious inversion of the Brit
abroad, asked it to speak more loudly.

It's daybreak here, the sunlight so pure
it's illicit. My heart's racing, and I can't
translate what it says any better
than you. Its tone is insistent, though.
All I can do is allow that impulse;
the one that led me, as a child, to place
my hand in an adult's, familiar or stranger,
believing that no harm could come.


Vincent's Olive Orchard.

A field
And sunlight.
This ought to be
A pastoral scene:
Summer in the country.
But the sky is turbulent
But the branches writhe like serpents
But the ground lurches beneath his feet.
So he takes his brush and tries to show us
The way his nightmares infiltrate the day.
He mixes his too-vivid colours
Feverishly tries to show us
How his world won't stop moving:
Nothing is ever still
And there is no peace
Not even here
In sunlit



Next article in issue 60

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