Category Archives: Literature




No rest under the city light. The orange gloom

envelops casting shadow. Devils

are made from us all and in this way

we are equal. Midnight marauders

they cross paths, knowing there is no remedy

for the itch, knowing that the path

on which they tread leads to a place that is

all too familiar, knowing that knowing

means nothing at all, knowing there is

nothing in knowing this.


I stop and ask why must I roam these streets

of dead-end lines which never meet.

I find no satisfaction

Merely further suggestion


Under these skies there is no vantage point,

Weathered minds can’t escape this metropolis.

No peace for the wandering, no

consolation for the nights nomadic.

I tried to see myself under a different light

– It was fallacy. Packed up, wasted, flawed

but serene I continued on my way.

No answers at the bottom of that bottle.

There is no sleep under the city lights.

The orange gloom envelops casting shadow

and devils are made from us all.


Joel White is chief co-ordinator of the M20 Collective. Watch this space for more of his words…


Creative Corner… BECKIE STEWART

Two original poems by Beckie Stewart, poet and editor of Manchester borne literary journal, Black and BLUE.


Anchored in Cataluña


Sat on a bar stool east of Tàrrega when you could be
home by now and bored, a hot meal in you and a sleep
that would cure the late night city itch. Tonight I leave
voiceless pleas on your answering machine recording
the defunctness of your love.

You told me you kept dreaming of drowning on the shores
of Connemara, legs clamped in weeds lungs filled
with stones and sea glass. That was a few weeks ago.

I found shells in my pocket yesterday. You said death was in-
elegant and untrue. I asked what the view was like from up there
turning away from you.

Where you are the sidewalk is burning where are you
these houses are burning. Along the orange groves
roadkill taints the heat. You count the miles to home
and know your legs won’t take you there, know
a good sleep won’t save you, that the sea
stitches a space for a bitter moon
to grey the waves and keep you there.

Theo, it has been three weeks.

Tell me you still dream of stars that fall
like ash from the grate of our hearth
tell me you know your way home in the dark

because last night I dreamt an arc of Northern sky
an ice clear sea scratched gold and you blue
cold hands filled with reins of weeds
bridling that tide, and failing.

The difference now makes


Round and childish there was a time
your hands fit perfectly into mine, now
they get claustrophobic. Now
I’m on my back trying to sell the world
a trick selling myself the idea of you
as a fever. There were 6 dreams in a row
where you got to be the hero and
I wasn’t the villain just an observer
not even first person narrator.
I thought this would get easier.

I am wondering what it all means.

I thought I saw you on a bus in Old Town but
it was just a guy with bad posture chewing
his fingernails. I am trying to remember
all the shit that you’ve done but can only
think of German beers, bare legs in summer. Can
only remember you as half a person in my bath
at Easter. Can only see how I should still be
in love with you but can’t now. Your hands
they don’t fit in mine. Your hands are fists
and mine open palms of surrender. I am trying
to remember. Now you’re saying it can be us
just with the volume turned down
and I am wondering what that could mean.

Visit the Black and BLUE site at:

A Night at Verbose: The Pleasure of Poetry and Performance

Resident purveryor of all things poetic, Alex Webb, visits – and performs at! – the launch of Fallowfield’s Fallow Cafe’s new live poetry night, Verbose

On the 17th March, Fallow Café (previously Trof) launched their poetry and prose night, Verbose. I was unsure what to expect as I had not seen anything published about the night online and had only heard about it from someone working at Fallow. However, the night quickly proved that it is here to stay. Attracting a huge audience for a launch night, Verbose was, by all accounts, a success.

An interested audience is the best thing a performer can ask for and, unfortunately, something you have little control over. Luckily, Verbose attracted a vibrant, lively and insightful audience with conversations between performers and the audience being constant. It was a small community united by a common interest: spoken word. There were six performers in total, myself included, each bringing an individual and distinct style. With this came a wide range in performers’ ages and this showed the effect experience has on writing. The older members offered more intelligent, insightful pieces whilst the younger members were equally inspiring as they tried out a variety of styles, evidence of us finding our feet.

The standout performer was a young woman who translated writer’s block into a commentary on an orgasm that just will not come (excuse the pun). I made sure to thank her for her performance after the night and was surprised to find someone come up to me and talk to me about a piece I had done myself. This is testimony to art’s dialogical nature: it is something that demands to be discussed.

The night allowed for repeat performances and what was most interesting, for me, was the change the poets had between their two performances. After getting the nerves out of the way with the first performance everyone was much more relaxed as they took to the microphone again. The second time around my style was much more humorous and I felt ready to perform some of my more blunt, sexual pieces. The night had liberated me. Tonight, I was a spoken word poet.

Despite the pricey drinks, as a venue Fallow is brilliant, the food is excellent and the top floor is a well-decorated and welcoming environment. If you are interested in taking part or even just sitting in the crowd, head on down to Fallow every first and third Monday of the month. Fall into the world of spoken word and the Manchester poets will catch you with open arms.

Like/follow Fallow Café on Facebook and Twitter for updates about the brilliant events that they put on including any future Verbose nights:

– Alex Webb

An Introduction to… Spoken Word

Alex Webb discusses the rise and rise of spoken word as a poetic form, and introduces us to some key figures doing the speaking rounds on the internet…

For me, spoken word is the original way poetry was meant to be presented. Like I’ve said before, reading a love poem makes you understand the poet’s heartbreak, but hearing it brings the love affair into the room. To deprive yourself of this experience is to hide yourself away from the raw and intricate potential of our language.

Having reviewed Rudy Francisco’s Getting Stitches, I was inspired to write a dummy’s guide to spoken word poetry. Before going further I must note that spoken word is different for everyone, there are a huge variety of performers bringing different kinds of poetry and literature to the table. Finding your style in this relatively unknown genre is just an hour’s YouTube-ing away. For the mean time, however, I’ll introduce you to what can be best described as the political and love spoken word.

Some key names to get used to in this area are Sierra DeMulder, Alex Dang and the previously mentioned Rudy Francisco. These three artists are my main sources of inspiration when the proverbial “muse” has gone away for a few days. Alex Dang’s pieces are so powerful as they come directly from his personal experiences. He writes what he lives and this is a powerful tool in a spoken word artist’s kit. I found Dang through his ‘Times I’ve Been Mistaken for a Girl’, a heart-breaking commentary on gender roles and homophobia. Dang effortlessly gets into your head and makes you sympathise with his story, he is baring his life – and demands that you listen.


On the theme of homophobia, Denice Frohman tackles the same issues from a lesbian’s point of view to much effect in her ‘Dear Straight People’. Whilst I am not a fan of her aggressive tone, Frohman’s powerful voice will make you re-consider your attitudes when she exclaims ‘I don’t like closets, but you made the living room an unshared space/and now I’m feeling like a guest in my own house’. But Frohman is not about telling people off: she speaks in order to discourage people from making ignorant remarks that can upset your gay friends and colleagues without you realising. When you listen to her words you can sense the years of oppression the LGBTQ community has faced and are continuing to make a stand against.

Sierra DeMulder is my personal favourite both in print and on stage, her ‘Paper Dolls’ is one of the most powerful spoken word pieces I have ever heard and offers something similar to Francisco’s ‘Monster’. DeMulder’s works include a variety of political poems that confront the skewed views of a society that does injustice to a lot of communities. In the aforementioned ‘Paper Dolls’, DeMulder evaluates the attitudes we have towards rape victims, noting that “the person who did this to you is broken/not you”. When she states that one in three girls will be sexually harassed in their lifetime, and that she is one of three daughters, you can feel the pain and fear in her voice. Listening to this piece makes clear that rape is something that can happen to anyone, it is everyone’s duty to fight against it. The contrast between DeMulder’s political pieces and her love poetry is shocking, my favourite poem of all time, her ‘Unrequited Love Poem’ will have you ready to cry as she preaches “I dream of you/more often than I don’t/my body is a dead language/and you pronounce/each word perfectly”. Her voice embodies empathy in this piece and, regardless of your relationship status, you become DeMulder in this piece. You wear her experiences as if they are your own and they become realities that most of us do not want to face.


The final spoken word artist, Rudy Francisco, is by far the most talented of those discussed here. Last a few seconds into his videos and you will fall in love with his voice and be ready to spend hours listening to more. Francisco’s ‘Honest’, mentioned in my review of his collection, comes to life on stage and when he says “Dear hands, I know you like writing poetry/but you can’t bring a metaphor to a gun fight” you can see the weakness in his eyes. Francisco challenges a lot of assumptions, both in regards to politics and love and, even if it is just for a second, you will re-evaluate your opinions. In ‘Scars/To the New Boyfriend’, everyone who has been dumped and quickly replaced will hear this piece as gospel as he crawls into your head and captures your feelings perfectly. If you only listen to one poet mentioned here I beg you, make it Francisco. He’ll make you want more.


If you are interested in seeing spoken word in the flesh, check out Manchester’s spoken word talent for yourself and head down to M20’s new Free Verse night every other Thursday. This night is focused on showing off the musically influenced side of spoken word and offers a fresh interpretation of spoken word as a whole.

Overall, spoken word is a beautiful art and has been underappreciated in recent years when it is so readily accessible. If you have read poetry and it has not taken your fancy give it one last chance when it is spoken to a crowd with the artists wearing their hearts on their sleeves. It is a phenomenon you will not want to miss.

-Alex Webb

Other brilliant spoken word performances and artists worth checking out:

Mike Rosen: ‘When God Happens’

Rachel Wiley: ’10 Honest Thoughts On Being Loved by a Skinny Boy’

Tonya Ingram & Venessa Marco: ‘Khaleesi’.


Alex Dang – ‘Time I’ve Been Mistaken for a Girl’:

Sierra DeMulder – ‘Paper Dolls’:

Rudy Francisco – ‘Honest’:

Denice Frohman – ‘Dear Straight People’:

Mike Rosen – ‘When God Happens’:

Sierra DeMulder – ‘Unrequited Love Poem’:

Review: The Poetry of Sex, ed. Sophie Hannah

Alex Webb takes a look at Sophie Hannah’s assembly of poetry in the language of love…

Sex poetry is something that I had never really thought about before.

I’ve read sex poems but as a sub-genre I was ignorant of the style. Sierra DeMulder had formed my prior knowledge with her When The Apocalypse Comes blending blunt, emotionless “shagging” with desperation to make love and having meaning thrust into her. When I saw Sophie Hannah’s collection in the local bookshop I decided that it was time to try it out properly; losing my sex-poetry virginity I guess you might say. Expecting something similar to DeMulder’s take on this style, I thought I had prepared myself for what this book had in store, but I was surprised to say the least.


The first chapter of the anthology, So Ask The Body, seemed to bear no reference to actual sex and I thought I was going to be let down by Hannah’s latest offering. However, after a slow and, frankly, dull first section the collection quickly picked up. I understood Cavafy’s He Asked About The Quality as a narrative about the gay handkerchief code, itself something interesting at a time where being gay was still taboo. This poem highlights the intricacies of courting a gay man and the intimacy that comes along with it. It was one of the collection’s highlights as it offered an interesting, and successful, take on ‘sex poetry’. Whitworth’s Love & Sex & Boys In Showers was a captivating piece whose meaning is still lost on me, even after numerous re-readings. However, it is this that made me engage with the piece and want to understand it.

Holland’s Anal Obsessive paints a jealous woman who was warned by a past lover that he would hurt her and leave her for another woman. The bitter words spoken by the narrator translate well and highlights the belief that ‘old people have boring sex’ held by a lot of our youth.  The standout poem of the whole anthology was Leo Cookman’s Haikus To Fuck To which presented a blunt and brutal take on sex that was very persuasive: I believed everything Cookman had to say. It showcased the crude nature of sex and, in my opinion, this is the true embodiment of sex poetry. If you had asked me for one reason to buy Hannah’s collection, it would have been this.

Overall, whilst Hannah’s book did not really help me understand sex poetry I do not think this was its aim. As she says in her comical introduction she presents her audience with a wide range of material that can be considered ‘sex poetry’; and this mimics the variety that we, as humans, have in our own sex lives. However, as I found it hard to relate to a lot of the content I would say don’t pick this one up if, like me, you want to understand more about this art.

-Alex Webb

(reference: Hannah, Sophie; The Poetry of Sex; (England, Penguin Books, 2014).

Review: The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh

Alex Webb reads and reflects on ‘The Pillowman’, a Pinter-esque play by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh…

Sit down and I will tell you a story. This one is about Katurian, Tupolski and Ariel, one, a writer, and the others, policemen, who interrogate the former about a recent bout of murders. McDonagh’s The Pillowman is a children’s story not to be missed. However, do not expect a story about little pigs and friendly giants, although these all feature, because this script is about children, and the death of them.

Written in 2003, this Irish play has you enter an interrogation room, just as ignorant as Katurian, who could be considered the main character. The basis of the narrative is that you find out what is happening as Katurian, a writer, does, with intriguing results. It would be an understatement to say that The Pillowman is simply “chilling” as you’re taken on a journey where you meet characters such as “The Little Jesus” and the title character who all have darker twists than you’d imagine at first glance. If there is one moral to take from this drama it is this: just because someone tells you something, it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Creating a tense atmosphere from the start you learn about Katurian’s sickening stories that have the characters, and the audience, asking “what sort of criminal is worse than a rapist or murderer?”. It is through these questions, the tales related to them and the character’s responses that McDonagh’s characterisation shines. Showing phenomenal skill in such a short story, spanning just over one-hundred pages, you will be ready to re-read it as soon as you put the book down. If I had to criticise this text it would be the shallow plot that could be so much more, but needn’t be. Based in one setting: an interrogation room, McDonagh’s engaging narrative is more than enough to have almost anyone read it cover-to-cover wanting more.


Overall, I cannot praise this play enough, from the moment I put it down it had shot up to become one of my favourite books and within half an hour I had already recommended it to most of my flatmates. Even if you are not one for reading, I beg you to go to your nearest bookstore and pick up this drama. Whilst you may be disgusted, you will not be disappointed.

-Alex Webb

(reference: McDonagh, Martin; The Pillowman; (Faber and Faber Ltd., London, 2003).

Review: Getting Stitches by Rudy Francisco

Alex Webb guides us through Getting Stitches, the first published collection from super talented San Diego-born slam poet/spoken word artist, Rudy Francisco…

In a world where physical books are becoming less and less popular we have turned towards technology to read and explore the limits of our language. Poetry is no different in this sense with the rise in popularity of the spoken word. Rudy Francisco is someone that can bring the art of poetry slam into the public eye and gain the recognition it deserves through sites like Youtube. Having spent over a year mesmerised by this poet’s command of the English language I decided to try and find out if he had any published works.

I was surprised that he only has one, Getting Stitches, published in January of last year. Featuring sixteen poems, some of which I’d heard read aloud, I was excited to get into this very short but intriguing collection. One of the first entries, ‘A Few Things I Believe’, was an interesting insight into Francisco’s mind. Through this piece you are introduced to a commentary on “macho” men: ‘I believe masculinity is a wet fish that most men are just/trying to hold onto’. The fourth poem, ‘The Body’, sees Francisco write individual, personalised letters to different parts of himself. Each of these is either an apology or a warning written to make himself a better man. This is best done when he tells his brain: ‘You’re such a good listener/but you give terrible relationship advice’ – a concept I’m sure many readers can relate to.

Something that let down the publication as a whole was the lack of professionalism. There were numerous spelling mistakes in the pieces that took away from the magic Francisco weaves and, in some cases, entire words were missing. Whilst the latter may have been a use of “artistic license”, it was done to no benefit. However, looking past these, this collection is a solid entry into the world of poetry. One of the strongest poems in the book was ‘How to Look Like a Stalker’, which presents a parody of how one might go about stalking someone. Controversial in nature but overall harmless. ‘Monster’ is one of the most emotionally engaging pieces which sees Francisco confront rapists and their mindsets. ‘I carved galaxies in the back of my throat/just to make your world easier for me to swallow/but I can’t stand the taste of your behaviour’ shows desperate efforts to sympathise with an unwanted, horrific for part of our society. It is in this poem that Francisco’s ability really shines through. Making powerful statements meld with his beautiful verse is something Francisco does better than most. In realising this I found what I was looking for in this collection. Beauty and power in literature is something rare and Getting Stitches brings this to the table.

Overall, Francisco presents a brilliant collection that I think anyone could engage with. If you are interested in sampling Rudy Francisco’s talent for yourself you can find his poetry slams on his YouTube channel. One word of warning: once you’ve entered the world of spoken word, you might find yourself stuck there for hours.

-Alex Webb

Getting Stitches Image

Reference: Francisco, Rudy; Getting Stitches; (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013).