Double act : me and Andy Blackford and the Sentinel Poetry Collection competition

Andy has twice been a guest poet on the cobweb. I wrote about him then:

“I taught Andy Blackford when he was a super-smart 6th former in Middlesbrough, round about 1968. He was not only clever and subversive, but good company, and funny. He was also, even then, a pretty good guitarist…he almost, but not quite, persuaded me to feel enthusiastic about Cream. He went to Oxford to do PPE, subsequently toured for three years,supporting Genesis in his band Spreadeagle, and, in about 1973 I met him again in a hotel in Gateshead, on his way to Amsterdam to start (I think) a job in the music industry.

Anyway, that was it until, after a gap of 40 years, thanks to the wonder that is Facebook, we met again. In May 2013, I went up to Staithes where he has a holiday home, and spent a day with him and his wife, Sandra. 40 years simply melted away. Nothing had changed and everything had changed, and all was well.

In December (2013) he emailed me to say that the film director Louis Bunuel had been in the habit of meeting a fellow artist each Monday to exchange and critique a new work of art. He proposed that, via the magic of email we would do the same. We would exchange new poems every week for one year. It would become GAP YEAR. And so we did. We started awkward and tentative and apologetic, and there was still a residue of that teacher/student relationship. But we became happy to give each other’s poems a good kicking.

We enjoyed ourselves, and there it stood, more or less, despite abortive attempts to ‘market the product’ (Andy used to work at Saatchi’s). And then,out of the blue, earlier this year Andy asked me if we might submit a selection of our stuff for The Sentinel Pamphlet Competition. I thought it would be nice, and Andy would get some of his work ‘out there’ however tenuously..he’s had a lot of books of all shapes and sizes published, but never any poetry.

Remarkably, our mini-collection (called GAP YEAR, natch) led to our being asked to submit a full collection, which joined a shortlist of six, and subsequently won First Prize, and will be published some time in 2017.

Just how good is that. One of the great things about being a teacher is watching the successes of your pupils, who so often go on to outstrip yours, whatever they might be. But to share that success, and know that none of it would have happened without Andy’s enthusiasm and enterprise, is beyond special. Thank you Andy, thank you Roger Elkin (who judged the competition) and thank you for reading x

Here’s all the details. Because me and Andy are feeling pretty happy, and cannot forbear to share it.

First Prize
Gap Year
Andy Blackford and John Foggin

This collection of questioning and explorative poetry is offered not as a master-pupil construct, but as a collaborative joint venture – “a harmonious duet” as the submission sample proposed – each poet inspiring the other in a mutual appreciation and understanding of an individual take on the world. And what a wide-ranging read they offer, from the natural world with detailed observation particularly of bird-life, the skies and seascapes, to education and the arts, especially music and painting; to family members and neighbours; to issues central to life, such as love, suicide and death; and to matters spiritual, centring on Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, and the Padmaloka retreat. Occasionally, these worlds of now and beyondness (enigmatic yet centring on the immediate) are transformed into something approaching a nightmare reality in which the concrete is made disconcertingly abstract, and vice versa. Similarly, several poems employ the strategy of using negatives (sometimes cataloguing them) and transforming them to positive commentaries on the human predicament. However, the application of an almost Metaphysical wit, leavened by touches of humour, serves to make the writing subtle and nuanced: sometimes gently lyrical in its musings; and at other times hard-edged and disturbing in its raw perceptiveness. Both states are explored via a wide range of structures; a palette of richly-appropriate diction which luxuriates in colour; startling imagery; and skilful lineation. This is a candid and honest poetic partnership. Its fruits are of the highest order. I look forward to reading more.   

The winners of the SPM Publications Poetry Book Competition 2016 have been informed and we are now in discussions to publish their collections in the first quarter of 2017.

7 thoughts on “Double act : me and Andy Blackford and the Sentinel Poetry Collection competition

  1. This is weird. I’ve just been leafing through a bio of the animals by an Andy blackford in Oxfam books in huddersfield. Is it the same one? They’re open until 5 if you want it. Neil. X


    1. Jude Neale and SPM Publications Publishing Director, Nnorom Azuonye, met up in London on 14th of April prior to the release of her book, Splendid in its Silence which has recorded good success in Canada and now beginning to enjoy sales in the United Kingdom and the United States. This seminal collection is available here:
      and also via amazon, barnes and noble and other book stores.


  2. Gap Year by Andy Blackford & John Foggin | SPM Publications Poetry

    Published by SPM Publications Gap Year, winner of the SPM Publications Poetry Book Competition 2016 is available to buy from John Foggin’s blog, from the SPM Publications Shop, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other bookstores.


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