Monthly Meetings: Some still on Zoom, but increasingly face-to-face

As COVID-19 seems to be receding, we are gradually moving back to holding live events on the third Tuesday of every month, after two years of zoom. However, some of the meetings that were already arranged, will still be on zoom. Details of which events are on zoom, and which are live, can be found on the Meetings With Major Poets page of this website. The details are also added as a short post to this page of the website, usually a week or two in advance. Most will be held at the Royal Wells Hotel at 8 pm (but please check here first as occasionally they will be held elsewhere.)

If you are not a member and would like to attend a live meeting, simply turn up on the night, and pay £3 at the door.

Meantime, we are also continuing with our monthly peer-to-peer workshops (for members only) on the first Tuesday of each month, also by Zoom. Members interested to take part should contact Marjory Caine (macaine@hotmail.co.uk).

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Julia Webb at the Royal Wells Hotel, Feb 21st

We look forward to welcoming Julia Webb to read her poems at our next meeting, Tuesday 21st Feb at 8 pm.

Julia Webb Poet

Julia is a poet, editor and teacher from Norfolk who has published three collections, most recently The Telling (Nine Arches) in May 2022.

Julia lives in Norwich where she is a poetry editor for Lighthouse, teaches online and real world poetry courses, mentors writers, runs Norwich Stanza and works for Cafe Writers. In 2012 she was awarded a TLC free read, which you can read about here. In 2011 she won the Poetry Society’s Stanza competition and in 2018 she won the Battered Moons poetry competition. Her poem “Sisters” was highly commended in the 2016 Forward Prize. In 2016 she spent a month as writer in residence on Norwich Market.

This will be a face-to-face event at The Royal Wells Hotel in Tunbridge Wells.

Non-members are always welcome, for £3 payable at the door.

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January 17th: Three Kent & Sussex Poetry Society Members read from their own work

As usual, our January meeting this year features three members of the Society reading their own work.

This year we will be treated to Siân Thomas, Kevin Scully and Fred Ball, each reading two sets of their highly accomplished poetry.

Starts at 8 pm.

Venue: Royal Wells Hotel in Tunbridge Wells.

The even will also be zoomed for members who can’t make it in person.

  • SiânThomas is Poet in Residence for Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. Her pamphlet Ovid’s Echo and collection Ashdown are published by Paekakariki Press. She is a founder-member of The Muse Agency and presents The Poetry Bath on Wildhart Radio
  • Fred Bell from Rusthall works as an English teacher in Bromley, though has also lived and worked in France, Italy and Russia. Inspired to write poetry by David Morley and Stephen Knight, Fred is considering doing an MA in creative writing. He also enjoys playing jazz and funk with his band, Lateral Flow.
  • Kevin Scully’s poetry has appeared in Theology, Saccharine Poetry, Poems In Praise of Libraries, Second Chance Lit and some small journals. He is Poet in Residence for the Cuckmere Pilgrim Path in Sussex. www.kevin-scully.com

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Amy Key

Our guest for the 20th. December meeting is Amy Key. The meeting is on Zoom and starts at 8.00 pm with an Open mic (one poem each, maximum 40 lines, ideally less) – seasonal themes particularly welcome, but not mandatory.

Amy grew up in Kent and the North East, and now works in London. She writes poetry, essays and non-fiction. Her debut poetry collection Luxe was published by Salt in November 2013. Her second collection Isn’t Forever was published by Bloodaxe in June 2018 and was a Poetry Book Society Wild Card choice. Her debut non-fiction book Arrangements in Blue will be published in the UK by Jonathan Cape in Spring 2023, alongside publication in the US (Liveright) and Italy (Rizzoli).

A strong influence on Amy has been Joni Mitchell, especially the album Blue: “I had always thought that in Blue Joni had taught me about love, about being in love and losing it. Now I think it’s more that Joni taught me about longing. About the gap between what you want and what you have, and what you have and what you had wanted.”

Some reviews praising Amy’s poetry:

‘As for poetry, I fell hard for Amy Key’s Isn’t Forever, a gorgeous, sad box of delights about intimacy, bad bodies, sorrow… Key is adept at linguistic surprises, charting women’s lives with a savage delicacy.’ – Olivia Laing, The Guardian (Best Books of 2018).

Isn’t Forever, is playful, surreal and enchanting but also rooted in brutal emotional honesty. She is writer of a rare and strange magic.’ – Sarah Perry, The Guardian (Best Summer Books 2018)

‘Amy Key does for verse what Phoebe Waller-Bridge, writer of Fleabag, is doing for television, wrenching laughter of shock and recognition from line after line.’ – Susannah Herbert, The Observer

Amy’s poems have been published in various magazines and anthologies including PoetryThe Poetry ReviewBest British Poetry 2015Love Poems (Faber & Faber) and The Poetry of Sex (Penguin).

She co-edited the online journal Poems in Which and an anthology of poems on friendship between women, Best Friends Forever, published by The Emma Press in 2014. In 2016 a pamphlet, History, was published by If A Leaf Falls Press.

We hope you can join us, with Amy, to celebrate the magic of poetry at our December meeting.

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Sean o’Brien

Image by Gerry Wardle

Our November meeting, welcoming Sean O’Brien, will take place on Zoom, on Tuesday 15th November, at 8pm.

Sean is a major poet on the contemporary poetry scene, as well as a critic, playwright, translator anthologist, broadcaster, novelist and editor. He has been winner of the TS Eliot prize,  the Eric Gregory award, the Somerset Maugham award, the Cholmondeley award, and, three times, the Forward Prize (1995, 2001 and 2007). He is Professor of creative writing at Newcastle University, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

He has published many collections of poetry, and his latest, Embark, is published next month by Picador. Copies can be pre-ordered here: https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/sean-obrien/embark/9781529096859 

What better way to spend a dark November evening than in the company of this illustrious writer.

The evening will begin with an Open Mic, followed by Sean’s reading.

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Dai George

Our guest on October 18 is the writer Dai George, and this will be a live performance. A brief AGM will start off the evening and be followed by Dai’s reading. The meeting will begin at 8 o’clock.

Dai George was born in Cardiff in 1986 and has studied in Bristol, New York and London. His poems and criticism have appeared in The Guardian OnlineThe Boston ReviewNew Welsh ReviewPoetry Review, The White ReviewThe Lonely Crowd, and many other magazines and anthologies. His first collection, The Claims Office, was published by Seren in October 2013, and was an Evening Standard Book of the Year. He works as Reviews Editor for Poetry London and teaches widely, in universities, schools and adult education. His first novel, The Counterplot, came out as an Audible Original in December 2019, narrated by Harry Myers. It is a work of historical fiction about the Gunpowder Plot, with the playwright Ben Jonson as the central character. Dai’s fiction is represented by Georgina Capel Associates.

What better way is there to spend an autumn evening than by enjoying some excellent poetry with this versatile and compelling poet.

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Our 2023 Open Poetry Competition is now open for entries

Our annual Open Poetry Competition is now open to entries. All poems entered will be read by this year’s judge, the award-winning poet and editor Jonathan Edwards.

The deadline for entries is 31 January 2023. All entries are by email, at a cost of £5 each, or £4 each for entries of three or more poems.

As in previous years, we offer seven cash prizes:

1st Prize: £1000

2nd Prize: £300

3rd Prize: £100

4th Prizes: 4 x £50

Further details on the rules and how to enter are given here.

Good luck!

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Yousif M. Qasmiyeh

Yousif is our first reader for the autumn season of poetry in 2022 and will be with us on Zoom, as this was arranged before we went live again. And as the evenings close in, what better way to spend a Tuesday evening than in company with poets. And we are clearly in for a special evening this month.

YOUSIF M. QASMIYEH is a poet and translator. His collection, Writing the Camp (Broken Sleep Books, 2021), was The Poetry Book Society’s Recommendation for Spring 2021, was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize and was Highly Commended by the 2021 Forward Prizes.

Writing The Camp is an exceptional, essential collection drawn from the poet’s experience of the Baddawi refugee camp in Lebanon. The poetry moves beyond the observational into a philosophical meditation on the existential nature of place. Qasmiyeh asks “Where is time?”, crossing footprints of Derrida, “To experience is to advance by navigating, to walk by traversing”. Writing The Camp is a brave and beautiful work, one which will surely be of historical importance.” (PBS)

We will start the meeting with Open Mic, followed by a reading by the acclaimed Yousif.

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Matt Haigh

Matt Haigh

Next Tuesday, July 19July, is our July meeting with Matt Haigh.

Matthew Haigh is the author of Death Magazine (Salt, 2019) and Black Jam (Broken Sleep Books, 2019). He is the co-editor of Hit Points: an anthology of video game poetry (Broken Sleep Books, 2021). Death Magazine was longlisted for the Polari first book prize in 2020. His work has been highly commended in the Forward prizes, commended in the Winchester Poetry Prize, and published in journals including Poetry Wales, The Rialto, Magma, Fourteen Poems, The Guardian and Poetry London. Further work has featured in anthologies from The Emma Press, Bad Betty Press and Sidekick Books.

He has performed at a number of festivals including Cheltenham and Gloucester Poetry Festivals, Swansea Fringe, Poetry in Aldeburgh and the European Poetry Festival. In 2021 he was a judge for the Poetry Wales Pamphlet Competition and interviewed for Edge Magazine on the relationship between poetry and video games. A new pamphlet, Vampires, is published with Bad Betty Press in 2021.His collection Death Magazine has been described as “a neutropian vision of our soundbite, snippet-obsessed, digital and print magazine culture. It employs the Dadaist technique of cut-up to produce poems that range from the blackly comic to the surreal, from the nonsensical to the prescient.” He experiments with modernist forms as well as producing a range of free verse poems more traditional in form. “This monster hybrid of styles, of fact and fiction, aims to replicate the untrustworthy, hyperbolic stream of media that absorbs our lives every day.”

Before his reading there will be our usual Open Mic, starting at 8.00 p.m.. One poem per reader, max 40 lines. Then Matt promises to entertain and stimulate with the variety of mood and style in his unique brand of poetry.

Once again it will be on Zoom – as many but not all of our meetings will be for the rest of this year, as they were set up well ahead, when we were still in lock-down.

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Maria Taylor in person on June 28th.

Maria Taylor.jpeg

the poet

Maria Taylor is of British Cypriot origin. She was born in Nottinghamshire, raised in London and now lives in Leicestershire. Her debut collection, Melanchrini, was shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Prize. More recently, she published her pamphlet Instructions for Making Me with HappenStance. Maria’s writing has featured in a range of magazines, and she is Reviews Editor for Under the Radar. Her new collection, Dressing for the Afterlife, came out from Nine Arches Press in September 2020.

This month’s meeting will take place on 28 June, to enable our first “in person” meeting for a long time and hopefully the first of many. It will also be broadcast through Zoom for those who can’t be there in person.

the venue

Royal Wells Hotel, upstairs room.

Get yourself a drink at the downstairs bar, if you like, before the meeting which starts at 8.00 pm.

Hooray for a real live poet in the room! Enjoy it!

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2022 Folio winner receives the Keith Francis Bowl

Amal Garnham, winner of this year’s members’ competition for her poem Wake, receiving the Keith Francis Bowl, which she will keep until next year, from Society Chair David Hensley.

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