Category Archives: A Writers Fountain

World Book Day – A Delve into my Childhood Bookcase

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

To celebrate World Book Day I decided to share books I loved as a child, where possible with the (now vintage) covers!

These are the stories that I have carried with me all my life, vividly remembered and still entice pure love when I think about them.

Stories have always carried my world.

I haven’t included links so the search can be part activity.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was the first book I remember loving and playing with, those perfect holes. It is a book I have shared with hundreds of children since and is my top present choice for new borns, as well as something squidgy and soft of course.

I used to love flip flap books, pop up books and this wonderful one with a finger puppet that turned into a butterfly.

My father is a bibliophile too and I was brought up on Book Fairs, not like the modern ones that come to schools with perfect displays, these were dusty, ancient, preloved, rare… an antique fair for book lovers. He also used to stuff his study cupboards with 10p -£1 library resales, books we would grow into, books written so far in the past even the library had no use for them. He’d read me books with very male themes, possibly because I was more receptive to stories than my brothers at the time. He showed me the wonders of a 2nd hand bookshop.

No amount of search engine can track down two books from my first fair.
One about a cow who made jelly not milk with black and white line illustrations and then swirly muted inky rainbow colour doodles (like you used to do as a child when you held several crayons together at the same time to draw). This was a picture book horizontal layout.
The other book had a vertical layout, a bright red cover and a dot, in fact I think have been called Dot and the whole book was dots and sticks and incredible things happened.

I also loved the Spot books, the little flaps to lift.

I had Annuals every year for Christmas (those were the days), I remember one of my early favourites was my Andy Pandy‘s annual. A favourite TV programme of my mum’s. I also love spots (not just Spot the dog), so I loved my early books by the covers too. In searching, I discovered the one I had was published in my birth year.

Obviously it isn’t as original as I thought to buy books for new-borns that aren’t age appropriate soft ones!

I discovered Beatrix Potter and loved how small the books were. I discovered a 70s staple (it wasn’t the 70s) in Shirley Hughes and Dogger, I think I mainly liked it because my little brother was called David and also had blonde hair like the boy in the illustrations.

Shortly afterwards I found Victoria Plum and later the Flower Fairies. I believe it may have been my Great Aunty who first introduced me to the pictures and when I discovered there were books my world exploded with stars! They had a deep impact on the 5-6 year old me.

Just as my baby book was not a book for babies around this time when I was still fairy tale bound, I was bought my first grown up book, my first novel. My copy is well thumbed was read by me for years of my childhood and is one of the few books I still have from back then. The Railway Children.

Enid Blyton became a favourite too and I read all the various series of books, some have stayed with me and some of my childhood copies (kept until I left for Uni and then donated to charity or sent to orphans) are so old I couldn’t find pictures of them.

I loved the Moomins books and the Worst Witch trilogy, I carried the, everywhere. There are now 8 in the set.

© Jill Murphy

I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books. I found Ballet Shoes and other dance school books. 

I loved The Water Babies and remember having that read to me over and over. My Great Aunty was in the Reader’s Digest Club, so I demolished all the classics. Then we all discovered Judy Blume, Super Fudge was my first, I remember Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing taught me about the American school system, we were still in classes and soon to be Year 1. I remember  Tiger Eyes.

A few more favourite pre-11 book choices are The Size Spies which is the first book I bought from a School Book Fair – independently and without adult approval, I loved it – the first bump with Crime Fiction at the tender age of 9. And I remember having The House that Sailed Away read to us in the last class of First School before we all moved up to Middle School and went to Book Fairs and started spreading our book cover wings!

Of course there are 100s of other books I could mention but these are the ones which immediately sprung to mind when I asked myself the question… what was I reading when…?

A note on Copyright:

The cover and merchandise images have been collected from Marketplace websites

and photos shared on social media platforms unless otherwise cited.

World Book Day 2021

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© National Literacy Trust 2017

4th March is World Book Day – and perhaps a day when Home-schooling parents in the UK breathe a sigh of relief at not having to find a last minute outfit, of course many schools may be encouraging the Home Learners to dress as favourite book characters and join in with the fun!

Many schools include activities to enhance the curriculum learning on Thursday. Here are some great websites and ideas from the UK:

World Book Day

Literacy Trust

Author & Illustrator Academy

It is the 24th year it has been held and is marked globally in over 100 countries.

Find out about the history of World Book Day here UNESCO on 23rd April 1995

In 2018, we were lucky enough to have Kevin Brooke as a Guest Writer at Inkspill. He writes for Young Adults and gave us a great workshop. Or maybe you have never read Kevin’s work and would like to buy a book.

Website: https://kevinbrooke.com/

Here’s Kevin’s You Tube Channel where you can listen to many extracts of his work.

You may want to write a story for the Worcestershire LitFest 2021 Competition, just 300 words on the theme of Gods and Monsters, entries are FREE. (Year Groups Y3 – Y12) Watch the video for more information.

Connect Dudley Reading & Exhibition Launch

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Last Wednesday we held a Reading to mark the Launch of the Connect Dudley Exhibition. It was a pleasure to have some workshop participants with us in the audience and to hear their reactions to the poems. Before the exhibition all the participants received copies of their own poems but hadn’t heard the others. Our source material was deeply personal and it was a true honour to work with the letters produced over 8 weeks of workshops during Lockdown 1.

It also served as a reminder to all about how challenging that time was. Such restriction imposed on our lives (and with good reason), a global narrative, the ins and outs of everyone as they experienced living diminished lives and loss and all the time an undercurrent of gratitude for still being here. For community. For the rallying of strangers.

The UK is currently in the 3rd Lockdown with the hope of gradual reopening over the next few months.

This project began in 2020 with Rick Sanders, it was his idea to bring the community together through writing. The bid was successful and Creative Black Country commissioned the work. A series of online workshops with a Lockdown related prompt were facilitated by Rick. The participants wrote letters to their future selves. The idea was to keep them and open them a year later. In the light of the fact we are still in Lockdown, those envelopes may remain sealed for a little longer! The letters created during this project also work as a social record of that time.

Rick wanted to connect people with an Artform too, so the 8 letters were used to compose bespoke poems as a gift for each participant. The original exhibition idea was to be held in real life. The project has been cleverly adapted to make it feasible during this 3rd lockdown. And as a result has reached over 300 people!

Rick and I were interviewed by CoLab last summer about the process and the outcomes. CoLab also interviewed the participants and lots of their feedback appears in the reported evaluation of the project and on the Launch video and exhibition posters. I was so glad to have this opportunity to work within such a rich community project. It has been a pleasure from start to finish.

I enjoyed the Q&A last Wednesday night, it was great to hear Rick Sanders talk about the other elements of the project. A video is available from Creative Black Country channel where you can find out more about the fantastic work they do.

Thanks to Creative Black Country and Kerry O’Coy.

If you are local to Dudley there is more to come so keep your eyes peeled and in the meantime, take a socially distanced /correctly protected walk to the High Street and have a read or a listen (QR codes – thanks to Overhear) for yourselves. There are 10 poems, so this display will change at some point over the next month or so.

RELATED LINKS:

CoLab Dudley

Connect Dudley Launch Event

Monthly Review February

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Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

February arrived and I could barely believe January was over! Another month fully booked and brimming with adventure… and more snow! After suffering several lack work years, work came like buses and I said YES to it all. So right from the get go I was aware of pacing myself. I worked full time for a couple of weeks, balanced deadlines with new ventures, took on a new role and celebrated Mr G’s birthday, Valentine’s and other family celebrations and finished the month off with a Poetry Festival! Perfect! This is certainly one of the longest review posts for a while, you may want to munch through it in several sittings!

Week 1:

The first day of the month threw treasure at me, I started a new course with Tawnya RenelleExperimenting with… it was inspiring as ever and started me in a new direction with some material I have been chewing over for a while. I even created a sketch! There is a shiny new website/platform and lots of resources to get my teeth into (especially now I have finished chewing)!

I also had some happy news hit the inbox, after a two year hiatus (health + pandemic) I am back with the DAN team supporting them with an online Poetry Extravaganza again. AND…. last year I completed the Poetry Renewed Project and my commission with Elephant’s Footprint to produce 10 animated Poetry Films. One of these, ‘Territory’ has been shown at the Reelpoetry Festival in Houston this month (24th Feb.) – the joy is abundant! https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2021/02/27/reelpoetry-festival-houston-tx/

I made some submissions with close deadlines and applied for more work. Which was time consuming and exciting. I had proof copies of Recoil 12 back from MullaMulla Press, I had a poem accepted by Literary Alchemy Press, an online magazine I discovered last year. They have taken a poem I wrote in an Angela France workshop and one I am particularly fond of. In addition to that, by publishing it they have become an International Press, which is brilliant for them!

You can buy a copy here.

Connect Dudley, (a project I was commissioned for back in May 2020 during the 1st Lockdown) is coming to the third leg. Rick Sanders facilitated community workshops where participants wrote letters over several weeks, in the 2nd leg Rick and I turned these letters into poems and shared them with the participants. We also completed an interview with the funders, CoLab and recorded audio of our work (which is connected to the High Street poems via QR codes).

CoLab – Connect Dudley

Rick is now in possession of some very shiny and graphically exciting posters of the poems which will go up in empty shops in Dudley’s High Street over the next 5-10 weeks and I am booked for a reading later this month which will be a webinar and Q&A. It was a wonderful project that has helped many people and I am honoured to have been a part of it.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2021/02/21/connect-dudley-launch-event/

I caught an interview with Casey Bailey – Birmingham Poet Laureate, on Midlands News, which made me happy and I had my final workshop class with Zelda Chappel. It was on Life and Death – so not a light subject but it was a wonderful few hours, I have loved being part of this group and the work we have covered has uncovered some of those poems that have been living inside me. Now the hard work begins to get them fully formed.

I would recommend Zelda’s classes they are great fun and she has a wonderful way of facilitating 2 hours of intense writing and reading in such a relaxed and caring way you leave in a state of cleansed tiredness, definitely lighter and happier and with ink that is worth page space. It has been a January/February highlight. You can book the full course of just choose a week that you feel pulls you in. Most of our group did all 4 sessions. I first met Zelda through Jo Bell’s 52 project back in 2014, we read at the same event in London and have been following each other ever since. Do check out her poetry. The Girl in the Dog tooth Coat by Zelda Chappel.

I had the pleasure of attending a Book Launch, Nature at a Cost a first collection for Annie Ellis. I was tired but I wouldn’t have missed this Launch for the world. I am delighted for Annie. It was a lovely to watch her excitement as Guest Readers shared some of their own poetry and read poems picked from new collection. Annie’s Special Guests were Ben Ray, Anna Saunders, Zoe Brooks and Ankh Spice.

I recently discovered we landed in poetry around the same time, when I first met Annie (back in 2015), I thought she was an established writer. Annie’s collection has been described by Ankh Spice as ‘a clarion call to find the edges we have forgotten’, and by Ben Ray as ‘a haunting love letter to the natural world’.

Read all about the Launch here.

The weekend saw more events and workshops with Redwing, Rakaya Fetuga & Sarah L. Dixon. Nine Arches Press celebrated the launch of Jacqueline Saphra‘s One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets. I watched the conception of this back in 2020 and have read a good number of Jacqueline’s sonnets, several poets joined her but most managed 80 something sonnets. This is not just another collection of Lockdown thoughts and poems, these are sonnets that in years to come will form a historical record and someone suggested may linger in our heads like lines of Shakespeare’s sonnets. It was also a treat to hear her Guest Poets: Anja Konig, Miriam Nash, Jacob Sam-La Rose and video readings from Ian McMillan & Naomi Shihab Nye.

If you missed it you can treat yourself now.

Sunday saw a warm gathering for Live from The Butchery and some stunning performances by: Annie Freud, Jane Burn & Anja Konig. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and it felt like the perfect end to the weekend, except there was more!

I have a few favourite landing places in America that I’ve discovered throughout the lockdowns and many offer free events. I am lucky enough to be working again but after the past 2 years the surplus spends are absorbed by previous bills so I am still not in a position to pay booking fees let alone ticket costs. Which is a great shame as there are lots of opportunities around at the moment – including a workshop with Carolyn Forché at the Kendal Poetry Festival. A festival I will get time to write about soon as I’ve spent an amazing 9 days with Clare Shaw and Kim Moore to complete the month!

I spent an inspiring night with Carolyn Forché & Lori Soderlind, thanks to Hudson Valley Writers Center. It was a deeply moving and inspiring event and I loved both readings. I have become a big fan of Carolyn’s work over this pandemic year. I received an order for In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020) for Christmas and it should be arriving next week!

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2021/02/16/an-afternoon-with-carolyn-forche-lori-soderlind/

Carolyn Forché is an award winning author of poetry and prose. Renowned as a “poet of witness,” Carolyn Forché is the author of five books of poetry. Her most recent collection, In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020), is a tenebrous book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death.

Lori Soderlind is author of two memoirs: The Change (My Great-American, Postindustrial, Midlife Crisis Tour) and Chasing Montana (A Love Story). She is director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College. Lori began her career in print journalism, working as a reporter, editor, and freelancer for newspapers and magazines across New Jersey and New York. Her latest book, The Change, was the fruit of a long drive she took with her dog Colby, setting off to find “the most depressing places I could find in the country,” Lori has explained, though she only had time to scratch the surface. © Hudson Valley Writers Center

I loved discovering Lori and the story behind her work.

Week 2

I wrote a proposal which took a lot longer than I expected. I’ve written a few applications this year and one of these was for Mass Poetry Festival in May. I was keeping my fingers crossed for a positive outcome on this and gathering some of the poets together again. Unfortunately it was rejected via a very kind email. Four years ago I started my Laureate Legacy Project (2017), a Transatlantic poetry exchange with Worcester, UK and Worcester MA, A Tale of Two Cities. You can read all about it here. And read the publication, Special Issue of Contour here. Many of the poets have gone on to republish their poems in other anthologies and collections.

In the UK we launched the project at Droitwich Arts Festival 2018 as part of the Poetry Extravaganza event, USA had an event at The Sprinkler Factory in September and then in 2019 it was part of the Evesham Festival of Words. I had hoped to role out a lot more with this massive project, there were plans but due to health issues and then COVID nothing has happened since. Evesham was booked in the summer of 2018 when I was 100% fit and not expecting an operation, it was only through the support of friends that I managed to get to the Festival and undertake the organisation of the event. So when I saw the call for MASS Poetry Festival I thought it was destiny! The application took some time, I was delighted to obtain a reference and all was well. I have been checking the inbox for a while. Maybe more opportunities will present themselves. Due to the pandemic I am back in touch with the WCPA who provided the rich American pool of poets for this project. So maybe when I am less busy I can organise something myself.

I missed the Cafe Writers Competition Winner Readings with Helen Ivory (Judge), I thought I had booked a ticket, I had registered interest in the event but not got a ticket. I was a actually double booked so would have missed the start of it, but kicked myself for not keeping tabs. This is overwork tiredness. It continued the next day. I had booked for a presentation (one which was recorded) and decided by the time I made it home I was too tired for any screen time. I forgot I have a Tuesday night class at 9PM (in USA) and was asleep before 7:30 pm. This week I have been putting the finishing touches together for Mr. G’s Lockdown birthday and Valentine’s Day as well as working on projects, writing applications and advertising copy.

Midweek I managed to attend Sheffield Libraries workshop, it was a writing week filled with food. Tawnya’s Experimenting with… class on Monday was Food and this Recipes and Memories workshop, facilitated by the wonderful Central Librarian, Claire Walker, links to a project later in the month. I spent a couple of hours in good company recollecting all sorts of stories that were decades thick in dust. It was inspiring and I hope to write up a couple of poems. It was also nice to see some of my 52 Poetry friends at the workshop and everyone shared such inspiring memories that many of us left with pages and pages of notes after the 2 hour workshop finished. At Midnight there was a USA reading, but I was asleep long before then.

On Thursday it was Worcester SpeakEasy, it was a wonderfully tender and entertaining evening, which included an impromptu ‘hat off’, bountiful love, valentine and non-valentine poems and we had a band too! I finished working full time and celebrated with Wolverhampton Literature Festival, Food for Thought poetry cafe, Poet’s Cafe featuring Corrupted Poetry a collective of writers, Nic Stringer, Michelle Penn & Fiona Larkin.

My 2nd proposal written and sent a week ago was acknowledged with an incredibly kind rejection email. They have kept my contact details and had over 3000 applications, they said my detailed pitch was well written, so some upskill desk time & pitching if nothing else. It’s a shame as it sounded like an exciting project to be involved in. Hopefully it has future-paved something!

This weekend was Mr G’s birthday and Valentine’s so I originally avoided booking anything in, until a conversation made me realise that 48 hours with me was not the way he planned to mark the weekend (harsh), so I booked a few bits into the last days of the week. On Saturday I went to Rakaya Fetuga‘s workshop and then the Annual Lucille Clifton Celebration: Today We Are Possible. It was a moving event full of tenderness and power – the best combination, stories and poems and memories of Lucille.

I was glad not to miss Charley Barnes‘ Book Launch for her Poet Laureate Collection, Lore. A collection which feeds more than her obsession with flowers and footnotes. I will be adding a post about this soon.

WEEK 3:

The Worcestershire LitFest competitions opened and I spent several hours web-building. This week was marked to work on one main project. I managed a few last minute submissions and was looking forward to Cheltenham Poetry Festival who had Kim Addonizio & Christina Thatcher booked. It was an incredible event. Epic in the truest sense of the word. I will be writing February blogposts long into March!

I had a project (which has been postponed) booked in for this week so hadn’t filled the diary. I am spending most of the week working on a manuscript which is due to be submitted. Looming deadlines are always a good reason to set to work. I have been working on this since last year, but decided not to sub it out in the end in the Autumn as I had originally planned. The poems involved have been written since 2019 and I am keeping my fingers crossed. It feels strange as in pre-pandemic times there would have been bountiful events to sell my previous book Patience and I am aware I have stock upstairs, I have sent any interest since March 2020 to the publisher website.

I recently discovered these lunch time readings, PM for UK. A lovely way to finish a day of one workshop, one class and one group. Jennica Harper tender poems touched us all deeply and listening to Frances Boyle force with nature, family, grief was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to these two Canadian poets. The Q&A was interesting, I love listening to the poet’s process.

Frances Boyle’s first poetry collection, Light-carved Passages was published by Buschek Books in 2014, and her second, This White Nest, by Quattro Books in 2019. She also writes fiction and has published a collection of Short Stories and a Novella.

Jennica Harper is the author of three previous books of poetry: Wood (Anvil Press, 2013), which was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay prize, What It Feels Like for a Girl (Anvil Press, 2008), and The Octopus and Other Poems (Signature Editions, 2006).

I often miss Cafe Muse nowadays due to work, Canadian events tend to be on in the early hours here in the UK. But I was still awake so I went to listen to the reading series Poets Vs the Pandemic. And I was glad I did, because I got to hear some great poetry from all three poets. Some of the poems were amazing.

Grace Cavalieri is Maryland’s Tenth Poet Laureate. She’s written 22 books and chapbooks of poetry; and 26 produced short-form and full-length plays. Her newest poetry publications are What The Psychic Said (2020;) Showboat,(2019;) and Other Voices, Other Lives (ASP Pub. 2018.) Her latest play was “Quilting The Sun,” Theatre for The New City, NYC, 2019. Grace founded and still produces “The Poet and the Poem” on public radio, celebrating 44 years on-air in 2021. The show’s recorded at the Library of Congress and transmitted via Pacifica Network.

Diane Wilbon Parks founded The Write Blend collective in 2018. She is a visual poet and artist who has published two collections of poetry, and has read widely as a featured poet, radio show guest poet and interviewee on The Poet and the Poem national broadcast from the Library of Congress. Her artwork has been displayed widely. She lives in Prince George’s County, MD.

ROSE SOLARI is the author of three collections of poetry, The Last Girl, Orpheus in the Park, and Difficult Weather, the one-act play, Looking for Guenevere, and the novel, A Secret Woman. She has lectured and taught writing workshops at many institutions, including the University of Maryland, College Park, MD; St. John’s College, Annapolis, MD; and the University of Oxford’s Centre for Creative Writing in Oxford, England. Her awards include the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, an EMMA award for excellence in journalism, and multiple grants. In 2010, she co-founded Alan Squire Publishing. Rose Solari lives in Bethesda, MD.

RELATED LINKS: http://www.gracecavalieri.com/poetLaureates/featuredpoet_dianewilbonparks.html

https://www.pgahc.org/diane-wilbon-parks

You can find a couple of poems from Grace Cavalieri on the Cafe Muse website.

I attended the On This Day She Book Launch, which was a wonderful hour.

A fantastic event – read all about it here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2021/02/19/25121/.

I booked tickets for Rita Dove and Terence Hayes and fell asleep before Jane Hirshfield‘s event Poetry and the Wild with the Natural History Institute. I caught up with a recording of it, another event which deserves an entire blogpost. It’s on the list!

I received some very sad news about our Poets In Motion teacher Celena Diana Bumpus, who passed away along with her mother, Shirley Bumpus. It has been an honour to have known Celena for almost a year, she was a creative person full of light and such a connector in these difficult times. Memorials have been organised. Words are the only fitting way for me to remember her and her generous spirit, spreading love and vision, globally. Her emails bore the signature ‘Be the inspiration the world needs‘. At the end of month I was reunited with classmates via email and we’ve decided to complete the collective unity poem Celena was working with us on.

Photo by MOHAMED ABDELSADIG on Pexels.com

I recently discovered Live Canon’s Lunchtime Reading Series, I went to the 4th one (I missed the 5th one, which had a great line up as I was at work). I am hoping there may be more in the future. They are just an hour and a perfect poetry lunch. I listened to with Adham Smart, Robin Houghton, Gillie Robic and Laura Theis

Friday night saw the Launch of Kendal Poetry Festival, a fabulous reading from Bernadette Mayer, followed by listening to the winning poems from the Pre-Ralphaelite Society.

The weekend saw the beginning of 9 days of early morning light workshops alternating between Clare Shaw and Kim Moore. These have been wonderful and productive. This weekend saw the first one with Clare followed by a morning with Kim on Sunday. I had a rehearsal for Connect Dudley. I went back to Kendal Poetry Festival for a Workshop and two readings: Hafsah Aneela Bashir, who I discovered last year through the Jerwood Arts events and Jackie Hagan who I have had the pleasure of watching LIVE several times before. Both were incredible events and will appear in my KPF post when I get around to working through the February list!

I finished my Saturday night with Rakaya’s weekly workshop and the Oystercatcher reading, which I was especially pleased to be available to attend as I was missing Vahni Capildeo at KPF. It was a powerful night of work with: Lee Duggan, Zoe Skoulding & Vahni Capildeo.

Sunday saw me back at Kendal Poetry Festival for the early morning writing session with Kim Moore and a reading from These Are the Hands the NHS anthology which came out last year. I will write more on this event. I spent the day building websites, workshops and going to Claire Dyer‘s Book Launch of Yield and trying to squeeze every last drop of freedom from the night. Then that was my week off work, gone.

Week 4:

I was back at work, missed deadlines, completed a week at Kendal Poetry Festival, made a performance/event video (not done one of those for a while), did some classes, had an emotional Worcester 42 in tribute to Kieran Davis, we all shared some of his poems and our memories of him, it was a moving experience. By Wednesday it was all I could do to stay awake after work, I had a fun reading event with Rick Sanders to launch the Connect Dudley Exhibition and had an animation shown in the REELpoetry Festival the same day.

On Thursday I managed to get to a Finding the Words, to hear readings from Gaia Holmes, Natalie Rees and Miles Salter.

It was a great reading and I listened to some inspiring, humour filled and new (to me) poetry which I loved. Kirsten Luckins also had her Book Launch with Guest Readers, it was a real treat to see her in a real book shop!

After work on Friday I managed to get to a panel discussion at Kendal Poetry Festival – Rising to the Challenge: Poetry in the Age of Covid, which was brilliant. I had a workshop and a reading cancelled and was relieved as I needed some time away from the desk. Saturday and I FINALLY made it back to Australia to the Perth Poetry Club – that had been a long time coming too. It will be no surprise that most weekends involve waking up later than 6 AM and so I often miss these by the time I surface after a late Friday night (or even an early one). Still just to wound off the month perfectly, I made it! After a great morning of poetry I joined Kim Moore for her final KPF early morning write. I spent most of the time offline and popped on for Rakaya Fetuga‘s workshop and to be WOWed by the UoB Slam Team! More to follow.

Sunday marks the last day of Kendal Poetry Festival and I got up to write (for the final festive writing) with Clare Shaw. I have a workshop this evening and plan to spend the rest of the day as Sunday’s should be! Feels like I need a big lie down in March! I am taking a more relaxed approach to filling the diary as it is already full with a desk schedule I need to keep and the last month of contracted work.

REELpoetry Festival, Houston TX

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This post brings me joy! In 2019/20 I was commissioned by Elephant’s Footprint to produce 10 animated poetry films for Poetry Renewed. Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron are currently on the panel at REELpoetry and they have taken lots of their work to show. Also worth checking out is the Poetry Film work of Kathy Gee and Lucy English.

I was delighted when Helen told me they would be showing Territory – one of my favourite animations and also one of my most liked recovery poems. It was shown on the 24th February on the opening day of the festival, as part of the Short Segments programme. The good news? You can still watch the festival videos until 6th March, ticket details and information can be found here. http://www.publicpoetry.net/#SE

Huge gratitude to Helen and Chaucer for the opportunity to do something creative with my failing body and for taking Territory on a road trip!

Territory is one of the three poems published in an up and coming anthology The Brown Envelope Book – Caparison Books in collaboration with Don’t Go Breaking Our Arts and Culture Matters, edited by Alan Morrison. It is the first time anything from this body of work was submitted for publication, so I am delighted they took all three!

Connect Dudley – Launch Event

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In lockdown #1, Connect Dudley held a creative writing programme over 8 weeks, connecting people through the arts across the West Midlands. As well as writing for themselves, the group had two professional poets respond to their writing with poems.

This was a fantastic Community Project in the 1st Lockdown, back in Spring/Summer 2020. It was an honour to read the letters generated by the workshop group Rick Sanders facilitated and then to collate the ideas and emotions into personalised poetry for the attendees.

These poems along with QR codes to scan for audio versions, are currently exhibited by CoLab Dudley at 201a High Street and here is your invite to take a virtual look at the first exhibition being held in this space.

On February 24th from 7:30pm, Nina Lewis and Rick Sanders will be sharing the Connect Dudley poems with you, together with a preview of the exhibition and details of how CoLab Dudley is working to shape the High Street of the future.

Register in advance for the event link https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_FzQIiDpPSyqQlz1oJ3UPhQ?fbclid=IwAR09iQYKmAPDPyV-Pu_N6iY_UblLJ4JeYCg6WZQj2ME15DiblrY0r00vr7g

On This Day She… Book Launch

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On This Day She… Book Launch with Tania Hershman, Ailsa Holland & Jo Bell

Hosted by Five Leaves Bookshop

On This Day She… puts women back into history, one day at a time.

This book comprises short pieces about 365 women who have made history but are not necessarily in the history books. It is an inspiring collection that shines a light on incredible women who were never given the acknowledgement they deserved. Ailsa, Jo and Tania will read from the book and discuss how it came about and why it is needed.

I am fairly absent on Twitter (I originally got the account to communicate at an Eddie Izzard gig), and so I had missed the movement of this project completely, in fact the first I heard of the book was a couple of weeks ago when I dipped into Facebook and saw a link to extra tickets. It’s great that they needed extra places to be allocated. It shows the commitment and interest into women in history. Follow @onthisdayshe on Twitter.

I knew this hour would be a real treat and I was not disappointed. Each author chose a selection of women to read to us. Tania Hershman started the conversation, talked about positive priming and gave us an overview of the book layout. A woman a day (as suggested by the blurb citing 365 women), the entries are linked to a specific date/ or time that was important to the featured woman. There are short introductory articles at the beginning of each month and the hope that you will research further any woman you are particularly drawn to.

What surprised (and delighted me) was the serial killer and the conversation around including all sorts of women – not just the inspirational ones, ‘women not as muse. We are human, complete with flaws’. They believe it is important to represent women, including the bad ones (it isn’t just bad men in history). Being a Science Journalist (in a former life) Tania shared some of the Scientists.

Ailsa Holland talked about a Joanna Russ book ‘How to suppress Women’s Writing’, which she first read at University. This led to a whole chat conversation and one on screen between Holland, Hershman and Bell about the writing of History.

Women being left out of Literary History and history itself. History traditionally written by the victors, reflecting on people like themselves and was written by those with the time (and finances) to research and write it. Not those ‘too busy staying alive’. We often read history and take it as fact, but it is a story created and constructed like any other. ‘Defined as much by what is left out than what is put in’. History shapes our knowledge of the past and expectations of the future.

Jo Bell (an archaeologist in her former life,) went on to talk to us about more inspirational women from the book. Some of the women started their journeys to greatness when they were older (65) and I particularly enjoyed hearing about the first female cellist. And the first woman she picked, Poly Styrene (Marianne Joan Elliott-Said), celebrating the foul mouthed and unruly haired women!

Also the spy in the 1640s, her mission to save the King failed despite smuggling gold into Oxford in barrels of soap. The failing was due to His Majesty not measuring the window properly! It is important to celebrate the failures too, the unsuccessful activists of history. So much about life is down to luck, or measuring twice!

I also enjoyed hearing about Margaret Harrison and her act of anti-nuclear protest. Which led to a conversation about acts of protest, organising peaceful opposition. These are often movements led by women, the unsung heroes.

“It’s so important for busting the myth that women didn’t do anything for centuries – women have always been doing!” – Attendee.

The Q & A was great, a real insight to how the project became a book and how many astronomers they had to cut from the manuscript! It started as a Twitter account, as a social media project. They talked of how many extensions this project could offer, for them as well as the reader of their work. Aisla had received a calendar of people in history and there was a severe lack of women which was the impetus for the Twitter account.

They all appeared in their Venus of Willendorf t-shirts (RedBubble), shown off several times during the launch and Jo Bell declared people who bought this book (or perhaps more than one copy) were to be known as Willendorfs. And aware of tired zoomers they packed it all into and hour thus avoiding zoom fatigue. AND there was a quiz! I am rarely lucky with raffles and prizes and this evening proved no different but it was fun (made funnier by people offering male artist names as answers on a quiz about a book of women) and I was delighted I knew 2 of the 3 answers. The prize was a copy of this book – which you can get here:

Listen to an Audio sample https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8ElhjunADo there will be an Audio Book available soon.

On This Day She : Putting Women Back Into History, One Day At A Time

Format: Hardback

Publisher: John Blake Publishing Ltd

Published: February 18, 2021

ISBN: 9781789462715

432 pages

Country of Publication: UK

The tried and tested ‘On This Day in History’ format has elevated the stories of many people and their impact on the wider world. However, of those considered noteworthy by the Establishment, just a fraction are women. But this is not the whole story – not by half. Our past is full of influential women, many of whom have been unfairly confined to the margins of history. Politicians, troublemakers, explorers, artists, writers, scientists and even the odd murderer; these women have shaped society around the globe. From Beyonce to Doria Shafik, Queen Elizabeth I to Lillian Bilocca, On This Day She sets out to redress this imbalance and give voice to both those already deemed female icons, alongside others whom the history books have failed to include: the good, the bad and everything in between – this is a record of human existence at its most authentic.

An Afternoon with… Carolyn Forché & Lori Soderlind

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Photo by Eliza Craciunescu on Pexels.com

I have always read American poetry. When I came back to writing in 2013 I read many American poets. Editing A Tale of Two Cities project 3 years ago, I grew to appreciate the differences between English and American poetry. During this pandemic, the borders (were there ever any?) of our digital world have diminished and many events are global. I haven’t done the statistics but I probably have an equal UK to International dip in events over our Lockdowns.

At one of the many online festivals I have attended I discovered Carolyn Forché and immediately connected to the spirit of her work. I went on to watch several readings and read a selection of her poetry. As you know, the past couple of years have been difficult and financially I am unable to spend, so the things I really loved in 2020 went onto Birthday and Christmas Lists. Carolyn’s book In the Lateness of the World was one of my Christmas orders. I want to dip in and out, but fear I may devour it! You can hear Museum of Stones and Boatman here.

When I saw the Hudson Valley Writers Center had lunchtime readings and Carolyn was reading on the 7th February, I was very excited. There’s a lot in the diary, all carefully colour coded and occasionally I find myself counting down to an event, this was one of those. Equally I love discovering new to me poets and not knowing Lori Soderlind’s work, I looked forward to hearing somebody new. This afternoon (or evening for us in the UK) was too good not to share.

Enjoy!

Carolyn Forché and Lori Soderlind read from their most recent writing plus Q&A.

Carolyn Forché is an award winning author of poetry and prose. She is the author of the 2019 memoir What You Have Heard Is True (Penguin Random House), a devastating, lyrical, and visionary book about a young woman’s brave choice to engage with horror in order to help others. What You Have Heard Is True was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award.

Claire Messud writes, “In this searing, vital memoir, Carolyn Forché at last reveals the dark stories behind her famous early poems: she brings alive the brutality, complexity and idealism of El Salvador in the late 1970s, a time of revolution that echoes all too painfully in the present. What You Have Heard Is True, a riveting and essential account of a young woman’s political and human awakening, is as beautiful as it is painful to read.” And Claudia Rankine notes: “What You Have Heard Is True is as much an enthralling account of a life marked by an encounter as it is a document of a time and place. Carolyn Forche’s urgent and compelling memoir narrates her role as witness in an especially explosive and precarious period in El Salvador’s history. This incredible book shapes chaos into accountability. It marries the attentive sensibility of a master poet with the unflinching eyes of a human rights activist.”

Renowned as a “poet of witness,” Carolyn Forché is the author of five books of poetry. Her first poetry collection, Gathering The Tribes (Yale University Press, 1976), won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. In 1977, she traveled to Spain to translate the work of Salvadoran-exiled poet Claribel Alegrí­a, and upon her return, received a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, which enabled her to travel to El Salvador, where she worked as a human rights advocate. Her second book, The Country Between Us (Harper and Row, 1982), received the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and was also the Lamont Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Her third book of poetry, The Angel of History (HarperCollins, 1994), was chosen for The Los Angeles Times Book Award. Blue Hour is her fourth collection of poems (HarperCollins, 2003).

Her most recent collection, In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020), is a tenebrous book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death. Forché’s anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, was published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 1993. In 2014, her new anthology, The Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500-2001, was published. Her translation of Claribel Alegria’s work, Flowers From The Volcano, was published by the University Pittsburgh Press in 1983. In 2000, Curbstone Press published a new book of her translations of Alegrí­a, entitled Sorrow.

Lori Soderlind is author of two memoirs: The Change (My Great-American, Postindustrial, Midlife Crisis Tour) and Chasing Montana (A Love Story). She is director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College. Her writing has appeared in anthologies and journals; her essay “66 Signs” is included in the Norton Anthology of Best Creative Nonfiction. She has reviewed books for the New York Times and elsewhere. Lori began her career in print journalism, working as a reporter, editor, and freelancer for newspapers and magazines across New Jersey and New York. After earning an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, she worked as a city editor at the Times Union newspaper in Albany, NY, and taught writing at SUNY’s Albany campus. She was also an adjunct professor at Columbia University and Western Connecticut State University and a professor of journalism at Norwalk Community College in Norwalk, CT, before taking her position as director of the Manhattanville College MFA program.

Regarding her love of carpentry, Lori was torn between being a writer, a carpenter, or a rock star for much of her early life and finally settled on a career in the area where she felt she might actually have talent. This did not stop her from pursuing her other passions; she has been attempting and sometimes succeeding at renovating houses and barns for much of her adult life and is now practicing scales on her electric bass in earnest, hoping music might regain a place in her creative universe.
Lori studied English in college, then followed her father’s footsteps into journalism—a field where she was able to actually earn a living writing about unusual bar mitzvahs, parachuting grandmothers and the weather. She briefly quit the newspaper world to work in a book store and in a wood shop and, when they fired her there (mainly, she thinks, for being a girl), she set off on the western adventure that would become her first book. Her latest book, The Change, was the fruit of a long drive she took with her dog Colby, setting off to find “the most depressing places I could find in the country,” Lori has explained, though she only had time to scratch the surface. Colby died peacefully at home shortly before his sixteenth birthday. Lori now lives in New York City with her Portuguese water dog Graci. 

©2020 Hudson Valley Writers Center

Listening to Lori’s reading sparked so many thoughts in my mind. It was a joy to listen in. Carolyn read many poems I have heard/read before which always gives an opportunity to listen deeper. The Q&A was generous. I loved seeing how touched Lori was to read with Carolyn and hearing the stories behind her work. Both look at troubles and divides (that’s putting it lightly). The whole event filled my heart. And you missed it, right? Well no fear… have a watch for yourselves. The UK person Lori mentions at the beginning is not me.

Wolverhampton Literature Festival 2021

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12-14 February
Showcasing the very best of writers, speakers, performers,
thinkers, activists and artists from across the UK.

The Wolverhampton Literature Festival is already howling away. Enjoy a weekend of Literature online. See the full programme here. https://wolvesliteraturefestival.co.uk/index.html

Wolverhampton Literature Festival returns for its fifth year in February 2021. Hosted by City of Wolverhampton Council the festival aims to amplify the voice of authors, poets, writers, storytellers, puppeteers, podcasters, vloggers, publishers across the UK. Celebrating our creative communities living and from the Black Country and further!

Over a three-day period, taking place on the 12-14 of February, our programme of events features a variety of entertainment, which consist of talks, performances, readings, and practical workshops. We provide a high-quality experience for visitors by delivering engaging, exciting and thought-provoking events within our spectacular venues across and the city and, for 2021, online.

Our programme this year, will be providing something for everyone to enjoy, engage with and feel empowered by. Re-lighting Wolverhampton through the power of literature. Copyright © 2017-2021 City of Wolverhampton Council

I was lucky enough to be part of the Wolverhampton Literature Festival in 2018, the region is bursting with talent and I loved the arty/creative outlook of combining the arts and how much was centred on Family. Since then it has gone from strength to strength. This year they are navigating through an online feast with lots to choose from and many FREE events, some are Live streamed and can be watched later. I have just enjoyed readings from R. M Francis & Helen Calcutt.

Celebrating their recent publication successes, R. M. Francis and Helen Calcutt will read from their most recent poetry collections: Subsidence (Smokestack Books) and Somehow (Verve Poetry Press). Their collections deal with issues of loss, grief, anger and love, both in terms of the personal and communal, so this reading will be a chance to explore the difficult, often unspoken aspects of sense of self and sense of place.

R. M. Francis is a lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton where he completed his PhD. He’s the author of five poetry pamphlet collections. His novel, Bella, was published by Wild Pressed Books, and Smokestack Books published his poetry collection, Subsidence, in December 2020. In 2019 he was the David Bradshaw Writer in Residence at the University of Oxford and is currently Poet in Residence for the Black Country Geological Society.

Helen Calcutt’s poetry, journalism, and critical writing features in publications such as the Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Brooklyn Review, Poetry London, Poetry Scotland, Wild Court, and The London Magazine. Her first pamphlet ‘Sudden rainfall’ (Perdika, 2014) was a PBS Choice. Her second, ‘Unable Mother’, was published by V. Press in 2018. She is creator of poetry anthology ‘Eighty-Four’, produced in aid of the male suicide prevention charity CALM. It was a Poetry Wales Book of the Year, 2019, and was shortlisted for the Saboteur Awards, Best Anthology 2019. Helen’s newest pamphlet, ‘Somehow’ was published by Verve Poetry Press in September 2020. © 2017-2021 City of Wolverhampton Council

Book Launch Nature at a Cost by Annie Ellis

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Annie is a much-loved member of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival team and her Book Launch was hosted by them. Presented by Howard Timms. Annie’s collection has been described by Ankh Spice as ‘a clarion call to find the edges we have forgotten’, and by Ben Ray as ‘a haunting love letter to the natural world’.

It was a pleasure listening to all the poems, a delight to watch her excitement as Guest Readers shared some of their own poetry and read poems picked from her first collection. It is always exciting to hear your words coming from the mouth of another. Something magical about that process. I was touched when several readers shared poems written especially for Annie or inspired by poems in this collection. Annie’s Special Guests were Ben Ray, Anna Saunders, Zoe Brooks and Ankh Spice. In addition to these four powerful poets, Annie had asked other members of the poetry community to read a poem from the collection.

It was an honour to be there, to listen, to watch, to see. The witness and kinship. Annie’s poems bring nature in until it becomes us (as it should be, as it is). We are, after all part of it, we are it, it is us. As more people (through Lockdown Nature) are realising and we’re all bearing witness to the proof of our ecological impact.

About the Book

Nature at a Cost is a collection of poems essentially focusing on the interaction between humans and the environment. Poet Annie Ellis explores the impact that our way of life is having on other species that share our planet, offering a unique perspective on the disturbing situation we are currently creating. Her words send a powerful message to all of us to protect rather than exploit the natural world, to bring harmony and balance for a better future.

Extracts from the testimonials for Nature at a Cost 
A collection of vivid and beautifully observed poems by a writer who loves nature in all its manifestations – from the jack-of-all-trades to the king of the pack, all the creatures in this charming collection are depicted with awe and delight.
Anna Saunders, CEO of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and poet

A raw, real and honest update on the Romantics’ odes to the natural world, Nature at a Cost is an engrossing and challenging collection which flows from the page as naturally as the rivers and forests it describes – a haunting love letter to the natural world, which stays with the reader long after the final stanza.
Ben Ray

‘Nature at a Cost’ beckons you to step beyond your comfortable human skin and allow your boundaries to be repainted in a wilder shape. Ellis’s poetic gift is for suspending time on the wing, on the hoof, the claw, or the branch – she offers vivid moment after moment as a series of natural Attenborough-esque observations, still moving as we watch – or better still as we step in with the poet to channel our consciousness into her global family of flora and fauna, weather and wile. In this time of disconnection from the deep and intimate living our own animal experience could, and should, offer us, this collection is a clarion call to find the edges we have forgotten, and to redefine what we notice and protect as valuable.
‘Because of you I want to keep living’ realises Ellis in ‘Wolf’, and it is truly that simple. We are in the quietly clamouring presence of every reason to persist in symbiosis, not at odds, and every beast captured by this poet’s keen and tender lens shows us how – from revelling ladybug to nursing doe to goats on the edge. This collection is, in every sense, a vital one.

Ankh Spice, Co-Editor of Ice Floe Press.

– Source Cheltenham Poetry Festival

You can order a copy of Annie’s collection here.

Congratulations to Annie Ellis.