Happy Whan That Aprill Day!
A few days before April 1, 2018…
I took part in a brilliant Chaucer Day at Arizona State University (thank you, Richard Newhauser). High school pupils were invited to hear Kim Zarins and me read our Canterbury Tales retellings, then taken on a tour of the campus including some rather delicious original manuscripts in the library. Very warm weather and Chaucer, what more could one wish for?
Been meaning for some time to do a USA retrospective since I’ve had the good fortune to be invited to several universities the past few years to celebrate all things Chaucer. Special greetings to LeVostreGC for recommending Telling Tales to all his Twitter followers, plus Jonathan Hsy and Candace Barrington of the Global Chaucers Project. It’s a whistle-stop tour so hold on tight while I take you back in time…
to my mini-tour, November 2017, when I read at Vasser College (thank you, Dorothy Kim) and got to handle some original Edna St Vincent Millay; (followed by a day trip to New York for the first time which was exciting and apologies to SUNY for not dropping in, there just wasn’t time but didn’t we have a great session in London that summer!); then Boston College (thank you, Eric Weiskott and James Smith) where I met some wonderfully keen students, one of whom wrote a review
and further back to October 2016, just BEFORE that US election, when I had the pleasure of taking part in a medieval symposium on the concept of Refuge at George Washington University; where I read The Refugee’s Tale from the Refugee Tales anthology; experienced the great felaweshipe of my wonderful hosts Jeffrey Cohen, Jonathan Hsy et al.; and took a stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue…
Looking forward to University of Southern California this Autumn or Fall, if you prefer. In the meantime, fellow Chaucerians, enjoy the yonge sonne…
On 1 May it was announced that Telling Tales has been shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2015 (Roland Mathias Poetry Award). I’m in the wonderful company of: So Many Moving Parts, Tiffany Atkinson (Bloodaxe Books) and My Family and Other Superheroes, Jonathan Edwards (Seren). Fastforward 8 minutes in to hear the poetry discussion.
I was in Port of Spain at the time, reading at Bocas Lit Fest and it was lovely to wake up to the video. Things have come full circle: I was introduced to Chaucer studying A’ Level English at Eirias High School, now Ysgol Eirias, Colwyn Bay. Hearing Welsh alongside English on a daily basis broadened my linguistic perspective. I fell in love with Middle English, began my poetic apprenticeship and forged my page-stage poetics right there.
I’m delighted to be shortlisted for the 2014 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. Like Chaucer’s original, Telling Tales was primarily a book written to be read, but also listened to and viewed live. Last year’s tour comprised mostly solo readings but on May 21 at the Albany in Deptford (on the original London-Canterbury route), Apples and Snakes and Renaissance One hosted a staged slam featuring several poems from the book. Here’s a preview:
I hope these short extracts make you want to hear more from that very enjoyable evening, which also included unique performances from Pete the Temp, Dfiza Benson, Shane Solanki and The Speech Painter. Watch this space for the full video.
When I remixed the Prioress’s Tale as a rap (Sharps an Flats) in the voice of a 21-year old Black man from Southeast London, I hoped the lyrics would inspire someone to reinvent it, make it their own.
And it’s happened: Cynthia Turner Camp at UGA English Department (in Athens!!) introduced Telling Tales to her students. The talented King Atakpa has remixed my remix. Like the original, not for the fainthearted. I cried when I watched it, because it gets to heart of the piece in a totally different style to my own performance, because it creates beauty out of pain, as all art should.
Slam at the Albany, Deptford
I have a lovely reading coming up Friday 16 May at Lyric Sheffield. Not part of the official tour but a translation workshop where I talk about what I did with the original Chaucer followed by an evening performance with the supremely talented Sinead Morrissey.
Then Lo Deptford! Wednesday 21 May, a gig very close to my heart: the Albany staged slam. Eight carefully selected poets performing Telling Tales poems in their inimitable styles. When I wrote the work I imagined a huge range of voices from ‘every shires end’ and that’s what you’re going to get. This event is the embodiment of the book. ‘May the best poet lose, as the saying goes…’
The Litel Boke
Today is the official publication day for Telling Tales. Hooray!
The photo was taken by the wonderfully talented Lyndon Douglas at The George Inn, Southwark. It’s the previous version of the cover but I think it looks rather good if I say so myself. Credit must go to the Canongate inhouse designer, Peter Adlington.
Below is the link for the first of a sequence of films to celebrate the creation of the book. As you will see, the camera chose to freeze on a particularly poetic grimace. The featured poem, Sharps an Flats, isn’t mentioned in this film but it gives you a flavour of one of the many voices in the book.
To celebrate #Whanthataprilleday I don my medieval hoodie and read the opening of the Book of the Tales of Caunterbury. The birds are singing in the trees, the blossom is out and my hay fever is raging. But I am happy to lose myself in the mellifluous Middle English, to pay homage to my favourite poet, Chaucer, who inspired Telling Tales. Happy Whanthataprilleday everyone!