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John Dorsey, poet

John Dorsey, poet

Prizewinning US poet, John Dorsey at Bookbusters (and literary events from 29 October 2019)

‘Do you need tickets?’ somebody asked at the door of Bookbusters as she peered into the crowded shop. But no, you didn’t. For a donation of a couple of pounds you could listen to the poems, read your own and have a glass of wine. Time out from the grey drizzle for two or three hours as Tim Barton, the shop owner, and Pete Donohue, the host, made everyone warmly welcome. The guest of honour was the prize-winning American poet, John Dorsey.

Pete Donohue, poet

Pete Donohue, poet

Well before the six o’clock starting time, the place was packed. All the chairs were occupied and people (many) and dogs (two) stood between the bookshelves, anywhere they could find a space to get a good view and listen to the poets. Right on time, Pete Donohue started the evening by welcoming all the audience and poets both old- and new- comers. It’s probably worth going just for the pleasure of being made to feel so welcome. Pete wraps everyone in a warm blanket of ‘how good to see you here’ as he reaches out to each person who has come. He’s a fabulous host (and so is Tim behind the scenes, making people comfortable, serving drinks…).

All the way from the USA, John Dorsey sat in the corner looking perfectly at home (of course, I was not surprised because he was in Bookbusters). He is the author of several collections of poetry (details below). His work has been nominated for several prizes including the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize and he won the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. Pete introduced him to us and then started the evening with two of his own poems. The first one was tommy two guns, a moving poem. These are not guns, they are needles. Tommy dies and although we should have expected it, we didn’t. We are still smiling at the thought of him, and then the man is dead.

Alice Denny, poet

Alice Denny, poet (& Brian Docherty, poet)

Local poets took the floor. Zarir Sethna read Scarecrow Eye and phrases lodged in my mind… “Your blood is spiked with secrets…… perhaps you have a storm inside…” I shall have to find a copy of the poem. Lovely Alice Denny with her green, green hair was up next, moving and inspiring us with the words of her poetry (yet more poems that I have to find copies of) and then Brian Docherty, widely published and recently returned from running poetry workshops in San Francisco.

Tom O'Brien, poet

Tom O’Brien, poet

Tom O’Brien, an Irish writer, came next and I read an interview about him to find out more. He writes both plays (Down Bottle Alley) and novels and I was interested to read his description of the difference between the two art forms: “Books are about thoughts, plays are about words” (from Write on in Hastings: Tom O’Brien). I’m still thinking about that. The poem he read that most caught my attention was The crows know your address – “I could murder a crow and they know where you go…..” and so it went on – another poem I have to find again. I am fascinated by crows. One turned up in the (as yet unpublished) novel I’ve just finished writing. I was surprised when it appeared and became important to the story. Strange birds, crows.

After that, there was John Briggs with poems about money and Lawrence Homewood dressed in purple. “You look like a bishop..” Pete said to him and Lawrence obliged with an appropriate poem and then two more. Melissa was a newcomer with poems about sitting in Bottle Alley, poems that took you there, and after these feasts of words, it was time for John Dorsey to take the stage.

John Dorsey, poet

John Dorsey, poet

John Dorsey was a true star – he was ‘ordinary’, he was gentle and he didn’t show off at all – but his poetry did. His poetry shone. I couldn’t find the words to The ballad of Harry…. that he started off with, but I did find some of his other poems online. There are three poems that I read and loved – Poem for Kristen, The Ballad of Pegleg and Double Stamp and Free as a bird. You can read these Three poems on the South Broadway Ghost Society website – and please do. Please go and read them, they are moving.



There is plenty more to say and a lot more excellent poets including Dave Hempshall, Martin Appleby and Carol Segal, who came, as ever, with her dog Buster. Buster is a dog who barks his appreciation to the extent that he has become known as the Busterometer – the louder he barks, the more appreciation he is showing for the poem (and he does it for music, too).

Tim Barton of Bookbuster

Tim Barton of Bookbuster

The next Sheer Poetry is at Bookbuster on the third Thursday in November (21st) (see events below) so put it in your diary. It will, no doubt, be another memorable occasion for which we have to thank Tim Barton, Pete Donohue and all the marvellous poets who come to perform.

for further information, please see
Tim Barton, Bookbuster –
Best Bookshops – Bookbuster, Queens Rd, Hastings
Pete Donohue, poet and literature editor at Hastings Independent Press
New Poetry from HIPs Pete Donohue
Contact details: Facebook: Pete Donohue; Twitter: @petedonohuepoet; Instagram: petedonohuepoet; email:
John Dorsey – Goodreads: John Dorsey
US Poets at Bookbuster Sheer Poetry on 24th October –

photos by Paul Way-Rider


Bookbuster 39 Queens Rd, Hastings
Thursday 21 November 6 – 8 pm (and sometimes later) £2 entry Sheer Poetry: An open mic poetry night
Go to Bookbuster’s Facebook page and see more.

Printed Matter Bookshop 185 Queens Rd, Hastings TN34 1RG
Jan 2020: Book launch of Paul Anderson’s Suedeheads & film screening of Horace Ove’s ‘Reggae 1970’ at The Electric Palace Cinema, Old Town.
Please see Facebook page for details of other events.

The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards
Come and look at the Bookkeeper Bookshop Facebook page to see more.


Don’t forget it’s National Novel Writing Month in November. You can sign up with this link – it’s free and has all kinds of useful resources for writers. Nanowrimo

Well, folks, that’s it for this week. I hope you’ve all had a good week and that your projects are going well. Are you getting ready for Halloween? Switching to music for a minute (which is never far from stories and poems), Paul and I are hosting a playaround – singaround folk and blues night at the Stag Inn on Thursday October 31st starting at 8.30 so do come and join us – it will be a great night.

For an update on my writing life, please see: Overcoming fear.

For a selection of other posts on my writing journey, please see

Thanks for reading and happy writing.

Angela J. Phillip


Posted 09:00 Tuesday, Oct 29, 2019 In: Hastings Bookchat

Also in: Hastings Bookchat

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