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 a non-member and would like to attend an online event, please pay £3 using the PayPal button on the right, and email before the event, to give us your name. We will email you the Zoom link. There are usually Open Mic slots available, to read a single short poem (max 40 lines).

If you would like to attend a live meeting, simply turn up on the night, and pay £3.

Meantime, we are also going ahead 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 (

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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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Signed poetry collections on sale at Tunbridge Wells Oxfam Bookshop during the 2022 Poetry Festival

An exciting collaboration with the Tunbridge Wells Oxfam Bookshop and the Tunbridge Wells Poetry Festival.

During the Tunbridge Wells Poetry Festival in June, we’ve teamed up with the Oxfam Bookshop in Chapel Place, Tunbridge Wells, to display and sell signed copies of poetry collections by Kent & Sussex Poetry Society members.

20 members of the Society have kindly donated signed copies of their published collections for sale by Oxfam during the festival period. It’s first come, first served, so although we’ve managed to rustle up around 60 books in the collection, don’t hesitate!

Even if you don’t want to buy one of our members’ books, the Oxfam shop is a veritable treasure trove of poetry, old and new, throughout the year. If you’re in Tunbridge Wells, go down and take a look!

And while you’re about it, how about signing up for one of the Festival events on the Eventbrite site.

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Doppelgänger, by Clive Eastwood

3rd prize in this year’s Members’ Competition was won by Clive Eastwood, once of Kent and now of Suffolk, for his poem Doppelgänger.


The ghost wears blue trousers.

Pale blue. And a red pullover;
not scarlet or burgundy
but a considered mid-red.
Her hair is white and she leans
a little to the right
as she scans the shelves
in our small supermarket.

As if there were a pebble in her shoe.

Or as she sailor-walks to the checkout,
handbag slung diagonally
from her sloping shoulder.
Yet she’s only a ghost from behind,
head-on she’s someone else.

And only when
she takes you by surprise
as you’re hurrying to find
something almost forgotten.

I once rushed outside to meet her
as planned in the market
but of course she wasn’t there.
Nor is she ever in the garden
dead-heading roses
as we drive towards the house.

Or clattering pots in the kitchen.
Or sitting by the light and at last
handing over the crossword
with only two solutions left to be found.

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Snow Monkey Goes to Heaven, by Jess Mookherjee

Second prize in our Members’ Competition this year was awarded to Kent-based poet Jess Mookherjee for Snow Monkey Goes to Heaven.

Snow Monkey Goes to Heaven

On the bullet train to Kurukawa
Onsen, we take a bag, a map of the lines

on your hand, an axe, a shrunken head.
I follow you, frost- bitten, try to hold you,

Don’t touch, it hurts all over, you say
and the chill’s unwritten on my fingers,

I keep them moving and our plans on ice.
I try to read your face, it’s a tangled hell

in stone cold kanji. I lose you round
the corner of my eye. You chant it’s summer

and we’re just sitting, spending time
with each-other
. You mumble It’s OK,

we’ll change together, when we catch
our connection at Minami.
My skin’s off-peak,

out of season and you stop shivering.
I take an ice pick, break you open,

say don’t fall asleep, we’re going to make it.
My teeth glass-chatter as I kneel, watch you

burst, the cracks are lotus shaped.
Scents will take us as we melt in Kurukawa.

It’s too cold to talk any more and our journey
widens in a shatter of heated springs.

You turn blue as we stop at Minami,
and whisper This Heaven is such a simple thing.

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Wake, by Amal Garnham

First prize in our Members’ Competition this year went to Canterbury poet Amal Garnham for her Villanelle, ‘Wake’.


Your love lived buried under what you drank
I learnt that change always lay out your reach
My desire to get close to you soon shrank

We spoke and my mind always drew a blank
The bottle seemed deadly like a leech
Your love lived buried under what you drank

The liquor meant your breath normally stank
After being with you I’d run home, screech
My desire to get close to you soon shrank

Beneath the heartbreak I hopelessly sank
You struggled playing schools, letting me teach
Your love lived buried under what you drank

Bad memories consume an entire tank
The tension made me feel I was besieged
My desire to get close to you soon shrank

All burdens aside I need to quietly thank
You dad for caring, erase hurtful speech
I know you loved me even when you drank
You died, and my laments dissolved and shrank

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2022 Folio Winners

In addition to our annual Open Poetry Competition, we also run an annual competition for our members. This year it was judged by well-known writer, poet and editor David Caddy, who this week announced the following winners:


1st place Wake by Amal Garnham

2nd place Snow Monkey Goes to Heaven by Jess Mookherjee

3rd place Doppelgänger by Clive Eastwood

Highly commended

Gap Year – Caroline Franklyn

Love in the Time of Corona – Marion Hobday

When She Smiled – Mara Bergman

Miss Evans Takes on the World – Jill Munro

Driving Past Things I Might have Missed – Sarah Salway

Congratulations to all. Their poems, alongside another 16 commended poems from Society members, will in due course be published in our printed Folio, along with the winning poems from this year’s open Competition.

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David Caddy and Folio Results

On May 17th., David Caddy is our welcome guest on Zoom.

David is a poet, essayist, critic and literary sociologist from the Blackmore Vale in north Dorset. He was educated as a literary sociologist at the University of Essex. He founded and organised the East Street Poets, the UK’s largest rural poetry group from 1985 to 2001. He directed the legendary Wessex Poetry Festival from 1995 to 2001, and later the Tears in the Fence festival from 2003 to 2005. He has edited the independent and eclectic literary magazine, Tears in the Fence, since 1984. He co-wrote a literary companion to London in 2006, has written and edited drama scripts and podcasts, and regularly contributes essays, articles and reviews to books and journals. David also offers critical appraisals of writers’ work.

Recent books include  The Bunny Poems (2011) & So Here We Are (poetic letters 2012), from Shearsman. Interiors and Other Poems is due next year.

David will announce the results of our members’ competition and read from his own work.

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