There was a fantastic mix of words and music at Verse Matters in October. Shelley Roche-Jacques kicked off the evening with a lovely reading which explored the historical role of women writers.
This was an apt opener, given the continuing inequalities in publishing, particularly for women, and for Black and Asian writers. In 2005 the Free-Verse-Report asked why so few Black and Asian poets have been published in the UK. This led to the Complete Works – a mentoring scheme for advanced Black and Asian poets. It is good then, to see some changes afoot. Claudia Rankine‘s fantastic collection, Citizen won the Forward Prize this month. Citizen is made up of ‘lyrical essays’ which address racism in the US. There is much more to be done though, and I’m keen to hear from people about how we can work together to challenge the continued inequalities in publishing. I hope that Verse Matters is a start. The event exists to address these inequalities, and to provide a supportive space in which talented artists can share their work.
The featured musicians were wonderful. Everyone was captivated by Gemma Gray’s beautiful voice and guitar, and by Hervé Perez‘s improvised set, which included the saxophone and his home-made Shakuhachi (a Japanese bamboo flute).
Sarah Thomasin performed a sparkling set as always, which included her fantastic new three-part poem about the problems of defining gender in binary terms.
There were also some fantastic open mic performances, including poems from Amy Kinsman, poetry and fiction from Katie Wood, music and words from Kworyl, poems and songs from Rachel Garner and poems from Janet Garner.
Thanks to everyone for providing such a supportive atmosphere, and also to everyone who brought along donations for the S2 Sheffield Foodbank.