News, views and a cure for the summertime blues

‘The heat in Harlem is the heat of the soul,’ sang Graham Parker and The Rumour. Things are pretty hot for poetry, arts and culture here in The Potteries, and it’s not just the temperature inside the bottle kilns (oh, alright, the modern, Clean-Air Act equivalents.) …

Firstly, there’s some good news for Gabriella Gay who used to be a regular at The Stoke Stanza at The Leopard pub, Burslem. Gabriella has been appointed local Poet in Residence for the Roundhouse Presents Voices Nationwide project. The London arts/music venue The Roundhouse is collaborating with The Nationwide Building Society to promote regional spoken-word events to present the untold stories of communities up and down the land.

For details of the exciting events Gabriella’s got planned see her Facebook page.

Leopard regular Phil Williams is also organising the poetry competition for this year’s Nantwich Words & Music Festival. With a deadline of Monday 4th September the competition offers prizes of £150, £75 and £50 and free tickets for a reading by Roger McGough on 11th October. Winning poems will also feature in an anniversary anthology.

Click here for entry details and get those poems over to Phil! Poems will be judged by a panel led by former Cheshire Poet Laureate John Lindley.

Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, The Nantwich Words & Music Festival has an impressive line-up including performances by Therapy?, Tom Robinson & Band, Thea Gilmore, Seth Lakeman, Little Comets and many more.

Phil’s got a poem in this year’s High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature anthology, alongside fine poems by regional poets, some of whom have read at The Leopard. You can find details of the anthology here and read Phil’s poem below:

VISITORS | Phil Williams

I met the Satyr in my garden, sat
on the stone-bench beside the pond,
gave him my spare set of shorts
for when we went to town.

I bought him a skinny latte,
a bowl of olives, asked him
how he’d arrived here undetected:
all muscle on the bench presses
and bar-bells at the gym,
hair and horn and woolly thighs,
hoof beats on the pavements trotting.

He drew out his double-flute, grinned,
began to play a reedy drone,
soon set us all to dancing –
the woman with pushchair and toddler,
the man cornered with dreams, debt and laptop,
surly teenagers, Facebook silver-surfers
all dancing.

Trip-trap, trip-trap.
We clicked our fingers, felt the tap
on the off-beat chiming, the precinct’s reel
and pull as we wound outside – thank goodness
for his shorts – where we stepped and jogged,
foot to foot, heel to toe, sleek handbags slung
on chair-backs, dancing.

The Centaur joined us from the Turf Accountants,
all rippling flanks, a mean tambourine.
Drivers left their cars, cyclists propped
their bikes on railings, peeled off lycra.
We skipped and sang through selfie flares,
Ocado horns, police sirens wailing.

You can find details of the full collection, Crossings Over, which includes an exceptionally fine winning poem by Cheryl Pearson here on the University of Chester website.

John Williams (F J Williams), no relation, who runs The Stoke Stanza at The Leopard has been gigging upstairs:


The old gods haven’t left us, they’re upstairs
playing hip-hop through Strauss amps and wah-wahs.
It beats the pig farm in Bohemia where
I picture them, solar gods with guitars.
They punish my laths and beams, laced in black
corsets, eyebrows heavy, somewhere between
sex and scorn. They waited for the call back
to give us Wifi, sweatshops and the rock scene.
So they love the Max knob and the butt strut.
One has a bothersome twisted body
from the sculptor. Another, Eve’s haircut.
The third’s down to four husbands. Her hobby
gave us our first man-made light, the lit rush.
She watched what we did with the burning bush.

So, if you’re anywhere between Stoke, Stone and Stafford, Congleton and Crewe, the Moorlands and the meres, the Mercian heartlands of hoards, marl-pits and the last bus home … why not get along to The Leopard for the next Stoke Stanza? You’ll be very welcome and won’t have to suspend yourself between chain-rhyme and terza-rima, between ‘sex and scorn’. Just bring 15 copies of a poem to share with the rest of us or feel free to listen and take it all in.

Next session: 7.30pm Tuesday 22nd August upstairs at The Leopard Hotel, 21 Market Place, Burslem, Stoke on Trent ST6 3AA.

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About theleopard66

I am a member of the Stoke Stanza of The Poetry Society and run a bi-monthly Poems & Pints event in Alsager.
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