It was such a joy to launch my collection of love poems Camille, at Shakespeare and Co in Paris, this Valentine's Day. As always it's such a pleasure to be in Paris. The shop was founded by George Whitman in the 1950's at the same time his friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti opened City Lights in San Francisco. The shops have always been twinned.
The shop is now run by George's incredible daughter Sylvia. Sylvia has been such a champion of my work from the very beginning, I am incredibly grateful to her and Shakespeare and Co has served almost as a compass to my career. Sylvia invited me to read at Shakespeare and Co right after I self published my first collection Rocking Underground, my first reading there was 26th January 2015, with the lovely Heather Hartley.
with Silvia Whitman
My second reading to launch my second book, The Lock And The Key was on the 4th July 2016, that night Nathan Loceff read too. My third reading was June 2018 for my third collection Zoreh which was a blast as Salena Godden read too.
So this was my fourth reading at the shop to launch my fourth book, Camille. It was very special and emotional. As always the shop was packed, I read first, I was ready, excited to read some of these new poems in front of an audience for the first time. The energy I got back from the audience was incredible and spurred me on.
During my reading at one point I thought about how William Burroughs had started writing Naked Lunch upstairs in the shop, how Anais Nin had stayed in the bedroom, where Allen Ginsberg had also stayed and wrote and read. Fast forward to today, great contemporary authors, such as Zadie Smith and Jeanette Winterson have also read at Shakespeare and Co.
Jenni Fagan followed me and read from her book "The Witch in the Word Machine". It was a pleasure to hear her. After our reading Jenni and I sat and signed our books for audience members who had bought them. I found it fascinating hearing different peoples storied of how they had come to Paris, wether they were living, working or just on holiday, and what Shakespeare and Co meant to them.
It was a truly magical evening, you can listen to it on SoundCloud below:
I'm so excited to announce my fourth collection CAMILLE.
It isis a collection of 47 love poems, including 5 new poems: For Jack, Hiding In Plain Sight, Lilith In The Midheaven (new and extended version), And My Lungs Fill With Ecstatic Song, and A Prayer To Hands. These poems in the collection show the soaring joy of true love, a new relationship, and sexual passion.
But CAMILLE also features untraditional ‘love’ poems which show the destructive, obsessive side of love and infatuation, and how easily love can veer into hate. This is a book for everyone, if you’re in a relationship there is a poem you can read to your girlfriend/wife/boyfriend . Equally, if you are single, if you took the courageous steps to end a relationship that was dragging you down and robbing you of your self esteem, there are poems in ‘Camille’ that will make you smile to yourself, and give yourself a pat on the back.
‘The Secret History Of The World’ was published in 2007 and became a New York Times Bestseller. It’s author Mark Booth has attended several of my poetry readings and requested to use a line from my poem Euphoric Kiss (featured in my second collection The Lock And The Key) for the reissue anniversary edition ‘The Illustrated Secret History Of The World’.
It is available now and the line from Euphoric Kiss is ‘Surely Gods here at play...’ and it is featured on page 400 under a photograph of Aleister Crowley.
I was very proud to have two new pieces of work published in the latest issue of Violet Book magazine. Violet Book is a biannual British art and fashion magazine launched in 2014 by Leith Clark. Clark, who'd previously worked for British Vogue, and continues to work as a stylist, serves as both the founder and editor-in-chief of the magazine. She created the publication as a reaction to "the way youth is over-celebrated' and made it a part of the mandate of the magazine to commission work from female creatives feeling that the female gaze is lacking in creative fields.
For my first piece I sat down and interviewed the beautiful and brilliant Editor in Chief of Bloomsbury Publishing Alexandra Pringle. We spoke about the power of beauty, racism, travelling to Palestine, and flirting with Ted Hughes. It was such a pleasure to discover more about a woman I was already fascinated by. For the piece Alexandra was photographed by the wonderful Laura Bailey.
For my second piece I had the pleasure of interviewing poet Anne Waldman. I'd seen her perform at the Cooper Union in New York in 2017 with PEN, so it was a pleasure to have a one on one conversation. Speaking to me from her home in Colorado we had a very energising two hour conversation. We discussed political action and apathy, spirituality, her close friendships with Allen Ginsberg and how they came to found the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets, what it was like growing up on MacDougal Street, New York in the 50’s and 60’s, touring with Bob Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Revue, singing Hare Krishner with Mick Jagger, and her brilliant new book ‘Trickster Feminist’. Anne was so engaging and vibrant.To accompany my interview with her Anne was photographed in Colorado by Siggi Kinski.
This is Violet Book's tenth issue and the cover features actress Rachel McAdams who is also interviewed by playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz.
It was such a pleasure to open up Beat Scene: After Hours exhibition at The Troubadour last week. I gave a a poetry reading, the set featured my new poem ‘For Jack’ ( Kerouac, obviously) . The exhibition is on at The Troubadour till November 30th and features unseen photographs by Magnum photographer Burt Glinn of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Gregory Corso. Peter Harringtons are exhibiting Beat ephemera: a copy of On The Road inscribed by Jack Kerouac in red crayon to a friend, a signed vinyl of Allen Ginsberg’s poem Kaddish to Robert Lowell... It's an incredible exhibition.
I’m always honoured to be asked to take part in Anne-Marie Fyfe's Coffee House Poetry readings at The Troubadour. I did an intense 10 minute set and loved every second. It’s always great to be back in the crowded basement of The Troubadour. It's always fascinating to hear work from the other poets Anne-Marie has invited and I particularly loved the poems read by Fiona Larkin and Lady Poe.
After my poetry reading at City Lights with Janaka Stucky in March to launch my latest collection Zoreh, we chatted with members of the audience and signed books for them.
One person who came up to talk to me, was Chris Porter and he said he was establishing a festival in Lowell, Massachusetts to honour Jack Kerouac. Lowell was Jack Kerouac's hometown, and the festivals name The Town And The City is the title of Kerouac's first novel.
Chris wanted me perform, so last Friday I found myself reunited with Janaka Stucky at Christ Church United in Lowell. Poet Andrea Gibson was also on the bill.
For the reading I performed a selection of work from Zoreh and The Lock And The Key. I also read a new poem in memory of Jack Kerouac, that I had written especially for the event. It will be in my next collection.
It was wonderful to be able to see Janaka Stucky perform again, he gave us some poems from his 2015 collection The Truth Is We Are Perfect published by Third Man Books. It was my first time seeing Andrea Gibson perform and it was interesting to see her in action and meet her prior to our show.
Earlier in the day, I had the great pleasure of going into the local WCAP Radio station Lowell. Chris Porter and I explained how we met, and Chris, who had grown up in Lowell, spoke about why he wanted to start the festival. I spoke of how inspiring I have found the Beat poets, particularly Kerouac.
As it happens, the Copper Kettle a bar next door to the radio station had been a regular haunt of Kerouac's in his day. It was surreal to be treading the same pavements he would've done. WCAP Radio was established in 1951 and their studio had photos of Lowell in the 50's and traditional recording equipment and records.
I felt so welcomed by them and all the people I met Lowell, it's an inspiring place, rich in history and I'm looking forward to being able to return soon.
It was a pleasure to be interviewed by Tony Moore for his Saturday morning program on Soho Radio. We chatted about inspiration and my new collection Zoreh, I read Fifth Circle of Hell from that collection. I also read my poem "Ocean" from The Lock And the Key.
On Monday night I returned to the historical Atlantis bookshop, to give a reading of my new work Zoreh. It had been a year and a half since my last reading at Atlantis in March 2017. So it was great to be able to share new poems with them such as Elegy, and Lilith in the Midheaven. It was packed with over 50 people present who gave me such a warm welcome, creating a lovely energy for the reading. Atlantis is an independent bookstore, family run. It is so valuable to the community and carries real history, with D.H Lawrence and W.B Yeats frequented the shop regularly.
Also that evening at Atlantis, artist Jeanie Laub's exhibition opened. I find her work very interesting, and it was very powerful to see a large collection of work hanging in Atlantis.
Byline Festival is an annual four day Festival, held in Sussex over the last weekend of August. The festivals aim is to promote independent journalism and free speech. Headline acts and talks this year were given by Pussy Riot, Bonnie Greer and Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie.
Scarlett with poet Oakley after their performance
The wonderful Salena Godden was Poet Laureate for Byline Festival, she received a standing ovation for her headline performance at the festival on Saturday night. I was honoured to be one of her selected poets to perform in the poetry tent on Sunday night. I must confess this was the first festival I've ever been to. I gave a fifteen minute set, beneath a full moon and a very receptive crowd of people, creating a lovely atmosphere. I was so blown away by the other poets Salena had invited, particularly Oakley. It was a wonderful evening.
Salena Godden performing onstage at Byline Festival
Last year I had the honour of being nominated for a Jerwood Compton Poetry grant. It was a pleasure this year to be invited to speak at the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship Roundtable talks.
We spent a wonderful morning discussing the topic of "Professionalism or die". We chatted at length about life as a poet in the world today. Pictured here with the wonderful and lovely Joy Francis who is Project Manager.
I first met Benjamin Aleshire in Paris at Shakespeare and Company in 2016. I was there to give a reading to launch my second collection The Lock And The Key. I'd noticed him sitting outside Shakespeare and Co with a typewriter and a handmade sign that read: "Poet For Hire". Sylvia Whitman urged me to commission him, saying she's given him the topic of motherhood and he's given her the most profound poem in which he had expressed how she felt about motherhood. So i approached Ben and gave him a few sentences about the night of my first ever poetry reading on the 12th November 2013. The result is the poem "Worlds End" which is very dear to my heart. In addition to touring the world as a troubadour, Ben was recently featured in The Times and his broadsides and books are archived in the Special Collections of Yale University, the University of Vermont, and St. Lawrence University. He was awarded a Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council, as well as the Chighizola Poetry Prize from the University of New Orleans.
So, when Ben contacted me and said he'd like to do a reading with me whilst he was in London I happily agreed. I was curious to hear how his words that worked so beautifully on the page would sound when he recited them. He gave a great reading and has a strong presence. He also shared a segment from his memoir. It was a pleasure to be in front of an audience at The Troubadour again, and share my new poems from my new collection Zoreh. It was truly a wonderful reading and I look forward to the next time I am reunited with Ben, whichever country it may be in.