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A Magazine for Sheffield

Wordlife: Creative Writing: Mark Pajak / Warda Yassin / Theresa Lola

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Roger McGough

We have a bumper issue for you this month in celebration of the Sheaf Poetry Festival, which runs from 17 to 26 May. We've only got room to mention a handful of events below, so please check out the full listings at Other highlights include readings from Andrew McMillan, Imtiaz Dharker and Rommi Smith.

In other news, Sheffield-based publisher And Other Stories' recent novel The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes, has been shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. Huge congratulations to them.



Penned In The Margins: Rebecca Tamas, Raymond Antrobus & Kate Davis

Sat 18 May | 2:20-3:50pm | Sheffield Hallam Performance Lab | £10/£8

Penned In The Margins are a London-based publishing company. Check out a selection of their poets including recent winner of the Ted Hughes Prize, Raymond Antrobus.

Wordlife: Roger McGough, Buddy Wakefield & Stan Skinny

Tue 21 May | 7pm | Abbeydale Picture House | £15

Wordlife presents one of the UK's best loved poets, Roger McGough, alongside an all-star line up including American slam poet Buddy Wakefield and local hero Stan Skinny.

Verse Matters: Jaspreet Kaur, Vanessa Kisuule & Caleb Femi

Thu 23 May | 7:30pm | Theatre Deli | £3

Sheffield's intersectional feminist collective returns with another showcase of brilliant writers in a friendly, safe environment.

Spitting Distance

Near Edale, I find a live rifle shell

like a gold seed in the earth.

So I load it into my mouth

and go on walking, the sun

breathing down my neck,

the head of Mam Tor rising

and the path falling like a braid.

So this is what it's like to be a gun;

copper bleeding on the gums,

the domino click in the teeth.

At the blue summit, I look down

with my new perspective

on the warped floor of Derbyshire,

to where a village pools in a valley

and a chimney hangs from the sky

on a white string. And I watch

with hunger the red dot of a car

stop at a crossroads. I suck hard

on the blunt bud, drawing out

its deeper flavour of powder,

smoke down the barrel

of my throat. Then it hits me

that there's another side to this.

And I lay in the warm heather.

A body with a bullet

in its head staring at this sky.

Its clouds blown open.

Its sudden night.

Mark Pajak

Mark is the Sheaf Poetry Festival Poet-in-Residence and will read at the festival launch on 17 May, 7:30pm at the Upper Chapel, alongside Juxtavoices and Georgie Woodhead.

Weston Park

I found the photograph in the brown suitcase with the clipped passports,

grandfather's cassettes and those old red NHS log books.

Hooyo is wearing an oversized white T-shirt and her sinewy curls

scamper across her shoulder blades, jet black eyes dare the moon.

Later, she will tell me these were unruly days of impromptu photo shoots,

ankle deep in primroses, the loneliness of motherhood in Edward Street flats.

Aragsan's henna buzz-cut is the focus, turning everything bokeh,

even then ironclad, her smile reminding you why she married last.

One day, she will succumb to the community and gift her daughter with all

the ways to remain kind and good and modest. Then there's Abdisalam

who's only Abdi here. His face framed by a cloud of Afro, ebony skin stark

against a sanguine smile. Soon, he will learn to answer to a half-name

as he juggles a half life weekdays spent scolding sons for eyebrow slits

and fades; those Sundays longing to cut across his boyhood mountains.

Warda Yassin

Warda will read at the Poetry Business' New Poets Prize Winners pamphlet launch on 18 May, 1-2pm at Sheffield Hallam's Performance Lab.

Black Marilyn

In Lagos, a photograph of Marilyn Monroe watches me

in my hotel room as I scrub my body

like it's a house preparing for an estate agent's visit.

I think Marilyn wants to say something to me,

the way her mouth is always open

like a cheating husband's zipper.

My mind carries more weapons

than all war-torn countries combined.

Every day I survive is worth a medal or two.

I celebrate by buying more clothes than I can afford.

I must be rich; my void is always building

a bigger room to accommodate new things.

Today I woke up surprised I was still alive,

last thing I remember was my body swinging

from a ceiling of inadequacies.

In my head I have died in so many ways

I must be a god the way I keep resurrecting

into prettier caskets.

Marilyn's photographer, Lawrence Schiller, said

Marilyn was afraid that she was nothing more

than her beauty.

You can call me arrogant, call me black Marilyn,

come celebrate with me,

I am so beautiful death can't take its eyes off me.

Theresa Lola

Theresa will read at the Nine Arches Press showcase on 19 May, 2:20-3:50pm at Sheffield Hallam's Performance Lab.

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