Category Archives: Books

Don’t Oil The Hinges Heather Wastie’s Book Launch

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Behind every Worcestershire Poet Laureate is a book and 2018 sees the launch of a new one. Heather Wastie was Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2015-16 and since passing her crown onto Suz Winspear (who in turned passed the crown to me), Heather has been busy touring Idle Women, writing a book of poems for The Ring Project and creating Nationwide adverts… so it is no surprise that this new collection (her 7th book) took a while in the making.

The beautiful cover is designed by Jess Silk.

I was delighted to attend her launch last Saturday 15th September at Park’s Cafe, Droitwich. Apt that we celebrated the launch in the very cafe that features the door which led to the poem/title of the collection. ‘Park’s Cafe Poetry Reading’.

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It was a delightfully fun evening which brought back lots of memories and people. Heather loves to collaborate and I found it particularly touching to see the amount of people in the room who were part of some of the projects touched on in this collection. There were also plenty of ‘Mouth & Music’ friends I hadn’t seen for a while and it lovely catching up and conspiring to do some one off event in 2019.

Knowing Heather and her poetry, I knew we were in for a treat… and I wasn’t wrong! The evening was filled with poetry and music, all of Heather’s Guests had appeared in the book in some way.

After brief introductions from Rod Griffiths & Polly Stretton (Black Pear Press) Heather shared poems from Don’t Oil The Hinges.

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Sharing with us details of where the poems came from, these context introductions are included in her book. She prefaced every poem with ‘I wouldn’t have written this poem if it were not for…’ and when that came round to Chaucer it had us all chortling!

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Heather’s first guest was Sarah Tamar who she used to host Mouth & Music with. We were all delighted to see Sarah again & to hear her poems.

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Then Heather’s Idle Women partner in crime Kate Saffin was next, delivering poetry used in the show (from the Idle Women book), delivered with aplomb. Kate blames Heather for getting her writing poetry. She is a talented Theatre maker and performer.

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Another feature of a Black Pear Press Launch is the author Q&A, hosted by Tony Judge. His wicked sense of humour left us all aghast as he asked Heather who her favourite collaborator was, we knew he was joking… it was a magical moment when Heather answered. We also heard about her writing process, other work she has been involved in and future plans.

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Following an interval we had music from Dave Sutherland, he had set Heather’s poem ‘Carrying the Evening Home’ to music – it was a great sing along and we got to hear one of his own songs too.

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Then Sunny Ormonde, an actor from The Archers performed Heather’s poem ‘Dad Was A Fan of The Archers’, which she performs in her one-woman show.

“Needing a poem about local life for my show at Bewdley Festival I discovered Heather’s wonderfully funny poems on line. Immediately smitten, I contacted her and was over the moon when she kindly offered to write a special poem for the show and Dad was a fan of The Archers was born. Nothing could have been more perfect—it was a huge hit and continues to be so.” – Sunny Ormonde

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Then Emma Purshouse closed the evening with a brilliant set including a poem she had written about the Canal for Heather & Kate to use in Idle Women. Her performance of it moved the room, we were all in that water. This poem will be included in Emma’s next book.

Exceptional!

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A well oiled (unlike Paul’s door) and relaxing evening. A most enjoyable launch and I now have my own copy of Heather’s latest book of poems.

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Find out more about this collection and treat yourself to a copy here https://blackpear.net/authors-and-books/heather-wastie/dont-oil-the-hinges/

black pearPublished by Black Pear Press.

Book Launch: Unable Mother by Helen Calcutt

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Described as a ‘violent grapple with our cosy notions of motherhood’ (Robert Peake)  this bold and breathtaking new book of poems exposes the painful and the beautiful experience  of becoming a new mother, torch-lit with violent and tender experience, sung from the body, and cast through a unique metaphoric lens.
This promises to be an unforgettable evening, celebrating themes of womanhood, transformation, and new life.

 

A much awaited Book Launch happened this month. Helen Calcutt’s first collection UNABLE MOTHER published by V. Press was launched at Waterstones, Birmingham.

I have heard Helen read from Unable Mother several times and was looking forward to getting my hands on a copy. The journey to Birmingham was epic with several issues that had occurred earlier in the day, trains were not running well. We waited on a platform for nearly an hour. By the time we arrived in Birmingham it felt like we should have least made it to Manchester!

I was delighted to see lots of familiar faces and the room was buzzing with pre-launch excitement. Helen had some 90s pop quietly playing in the background and everyone was settling in ready to hear some stunning poetry.

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The evening was hosted by Gavin, who is a Storyteller but he still treated us to a poem.

Helen invited Guest Poets Nellie Cole, Isabel Galleymore, Claire Walker and David Calcutt to read during the first part of the evening. Each poet read 3 or 4 poems which was enough to catch the flavour of their writing and leave the audience wanting more.

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Nellie Cole

I first heard Nellie at Stirchley Speaks a few years ago and thought how confident she was back then, how grounded her work is. I am delighted that I have heard some of the poems in her debut pamphlet in genesis form. I find it fascinating following the progress through to end results. ‘Bella’ is published by Offa’s Press.

http://offaspress.co.uk/poets/nellie-cole/

Nellie is from the Black Country and started writing poetry when she studied at Birmingham University.

Bella is … a work which blends factual evidence with folklore, superstition, hearsay and the imagination, these poems explore the Worcestershire murder mystery ‘Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?’

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The book table at Helen’s Launch generously featured her Guest Poets, I needed more than my train fare and money for Unable Mother. I had hoped to catch Nellie performing at Permission to Speak on the 12th but due to work commitments was not able to make it. Bella is a book destined for my reading pile.

You can grab yourselves a copy here http://offaspress.co.uk/shop/

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Isabel Galleymore

I was really excited to hear Isabel’s set as I had not heard her read before. I have read her work, several poems are published on the Poetry Foundation website. She also won the Eric Gregory Award in 2017.

Isabel shared a beautiful set, her poetry draws the listener in. I definitely wanted to hear more.

Isabel’s first collection ‘Significant Other’ will be out next year (March 2019) published by Carcanet. Until then copies of Dazzle Ship published by Worple Press can be found here.

http://www.worplepress.com/dazzle-ship/

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Claire Walker

Claire Walker is a poet I know well, having met her on my first adventure as a poet back in September 2013, she is a good friend and a fellow V. Press poet and it is always a pleasure to listen to her work.

Her debut pamphlet ‘The Girl Who Turned Into a Crocodile’ (V. Press 2015) has sold out, but the poems in those covers remain strong. I was so glad she shared ‘Teaching Your Daughter to Crack Eggs’. Claire’s second pamphlet ‘Somewhere Between Rose and Black’ (2017) published by V. Press was available on the book table.

You can get a copy here http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.com/2017/12/launching-somewhere-between-rose-and.html

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David Calcutt

Three marvellous sets by three amazing poets and I thought it would be Helen next. Then we were introduced to David Calcutt who after his set was then to introduce Helen.

I had not expected David to be reading and was very happy when I discovered he was. It was a captivating set. He read from his latest collection ‘The last of the light is not the last of the light’, published by Fair Acre Press which launched earlier this year. https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/06/30/a-night-of-light/

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You can buy a copy here https://fairacrepress.co.uk/shop/david-calcutt-the-last-of-the-light-is-not-the-last-of-the-light/

 

 

 

 

As a daughter of a musician (and an ‘in the shadow of’ musician) I understand the need for a daughter of a writer/poet to want to feel she has established herself without standing on the shoulders of her father. Helen has definitely done that and I was touched by her metaphorical sigh of relief. Her first collection now published she could confidently invite David to be part of the Launch.

Even if David was aware he may be sounding like Father of the Bride in introducing us to her.

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Helen Calcutt

Like Claire, I have known Helen for a while and always enjoy listening to her work. I had the pleasure of hearing a set from Unable Mother at David’s Launch back in June and had heard some of the poems from the collection at other events. But this evening I was buying my own copy.

Hearing some of the poems for a second or third time works for me, because like a good film you notice something else. Something new. When I read poetry books it is not unusual for me to read a poem twice. Of course, in an extended set Helen shared more poems than I had heard and also the stories woven into the poems. How poems written for one thing take on significant and different meanings because of her experiences since.

She even shared the stories behind the magnificent cover.

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Helen Calcutt

It was a very moving set and left a few of us in tears. Helen trusted us enough to expose parts of her life on a soul level, it was painfully honest. The poems speak this honesty, this undoing of secrets, uncovering the things we don’t talk about, the experiences we hide – it all holds importance.

As Robert Peake says in his endorsement: “This work challenges our abstract and cosy notions of motherhood with a brutal and vulnerable delve into the psyche.” 

Helen’s set was brave and touching.

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An excellent evening and a wonderful book launch and a fine celebration with cake, wine and book signings afterwards.

Unable Mother Calcutt 978-1-9998444-0-0 You can buy a copy here

http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.com/p/unable-mother.html and also read a sample poem and hear Soundcloud audio of a selection of poems from the book.

“This work challenges our abstract and cosy notions of motherhood with a brutal and vulnerable delve into the psyche. Calcutt grapples, sometimes violently, sometimes with aching tenderness, each hard-won line ‘like squeezing / flesh and fruit from the bone, / this terrible love’. Yet these poems reach even further, into the rent world, and the remarkable kinds of beauty to which poetry alone can allude. This is an intimate book, the kind that comes in close to your ear to whisper dark secrets and unavoidable truths. These poems are spare, careful, insistent–and devastatingly good.” Robert Peake

“Helen Calcutt’s poems are full of surprising and intricate moments – they unfold like origami, deftly packing and unpacking themselves into new forms and presenting the reader with confidences, secrets and insight, the tender words for the things that are hard to say. In their explorations of motherhood, loss and discovery, Calcutt’s poetry is steeled with precise language, always finding clarity forged in the heart of experience.  These are intimate poems which are felt in the body, and written with a keen physicality – ‘love is meant to live on in the body’ writes Calcutt, ‘My flesh making heaven of it.’ In their makings and re-makings, each poem here reveals this to be a remarkable and potent debut.” Jane Commane

https://helencalcutt.org/

 

Stuart Bartholomew Waterstones Regional Manager is a huge supporter of Poetry (as well as co-director of Verve Poetry Festival and Verve Poetry Press) and he made sure this evening was smooth and possible, so I think he deserves some poetry thanks and praise too!

Flashback May: How to Grow Matches Book Launch

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I have a whole page in my TO DO List book of missing Blog posts from May – July. Over the next month I am attempting to plug the gaps. So look out for more Flashbacks.

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Photo by Aris Ioakimidis on Pexels.com

Saturday, 19 May – Park’s Cafe, Droitwich. How to Grow Matches – A Live Lit Celebration.

Back in the Spring I was asked to be a poetry judge at Sarah Leavesley’s Launch for How to Grow Matches, published by Against the Grain Poetry Press. Following her Launch in London in March at the Poetry Cafe, Sarah had a local launch in May.

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This is Sarah’s 7th poetry book and she made sure that this was a Launch with a difference. She used her Launch as an opportunity to raise money for St. Paul’s Hostel who help people through homelessness. The evening was filled with Poetry and Fiction, as Sarah was also launching her latest novella Always Another Twist.

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Sarah’s Guest Poets/Writers were Jenny Hope, Liz Kershaw and Holly Magill, the evening was MCed by Charley Barnes, there was an Open Mic with prizes (hence the poetry judging). The prizes were amazing – bags of poetry books and poetry pictures.

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Sarah launch  The evening started with a translated reading by Sylv Coultier of ‘Matryoshka Portrait’, the opening poem in How to Grow Matches. Followed by Guest readings, open mic poets and readings from Sarah.

It was a lovely evening and thoroughly enjoyed. Appreciation and generosity were the feelings I took away from the evening.

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How to Grow Matches was SHORTLISTED in the poetry category of the INTERNATIONAL RUBERY BOOK AWARDS 2018 and ‘His Secret Daughter’ from How to Grow Matches is Carol Rumens’s Guardian Poem of the Week

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‘What immediately strikes me in Leavesley’s poetry is that sense of being spoken to directly, forcefully. The anger – at impossible advice, at the hidden and neglected work, at mere survival against the odds – is always balanced with craft and an impeccable sense of timing, and a vision which ranges from the orchestra pit to the research laboratory, via geopolitics, extinction and the recurring nested image of the matryoshka doll. An essential pamphlet.’
– Luke Kennard

‘Uncomfortable, powerful, and compelling, these poems demand to be read. And to read them is to ride a discomfiting turbulent current expressed in images of clocks with disparate rhythms, clouds that dissolve into “dark angels of rain”, piles of spent matches that might make a bonfire. And burning is what these poems do: searing through skilfully controlled anger at the invisibility of women, their lack of a powerful role model to follow, they are ready to burst into flame, urging women to “reclaim their share”.’
– Gill McEvoy

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You can buy your own copy here againstthegrainpoetrypress.wordpress.com/shop/

Reviews of HOW TO GROW MATCHES.

Flashback May: ‘Cutting the Green Ribbon’ Book Launch

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I have a whole page in my TO DO List book of missing Blog posts from May – July. Over the next month I am attempting to plug the gaps. So look out for more Flashbacks.

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Photo by Aris Ioakimidis on Pexels.com

Friday 18 May, 6pm in the Studio at The Hive

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Back in May I was fortunate enough to attend Katy Wareham Morris’s Book Launch for her debut collection ‘Cutting the Green Ribbon’. The collection is published by experimental, Bristol-based publisher, Hesterglock.

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Katy is a writer and lecturer in Media and Culture, based in the West Midlands, UK. She has a particular interest in gender and queer studies, identity politics and digital humanities. Her debut pamphlet was a poetry duet entitled, Inheritance published by Mother’s Milk Books and was launched at Ledbury Poetry Festival (2017). It went on to win ‘Best Collaborative Work’ at this year’s Saboteur Awards.

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Her poems have also featured in the webzines I am not a silent poet and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Katy is also the Birmingham, UK Branch Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, of which she was a founding member.

cutting 2Hesterglock specifically asked for feminist poetry in the submission call and Katy gave them that and more. Here is what she says about the ‘Cutting the Green Ribbon’.

This collection is a collage of womxn’s voices, attempting to call time on the ‘female’ identities attributed to women by patriarchal  culture. The poetry is personal, political and provocative.

I am incredibly proud of this collection, which I have been working on for some years now. It is informed by my own love of poetry, which began with the Romantics -Wordsworth, Keats and Blake – when I was a child, to the Modernists, particularly HD, and the Beats, namely Diane di Prima whom I discovered as part of my Undergraduate and Postgraduate degree courses. It also reflects my appreciation of pop culture and the research I have undertaken in gender studies and identity politics. There were many times when I thought this poetry was too controversial or risky to ever be published. I persevered to prove to myself, if no one else, that womxn can fight for an equal place in this society, and that we have many different, equally valuable stories to share. © https://katywarehammorris.com/

Katy was joined by Guest Poets Kathy Gee, Holly Magill & Claire Walker.

WP_20180518_002It was a terrific, uplifting evening and a warmly received launch. There are striking poems in this collection. See for yourselves – order a copy here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Flurry of Poetry – Open Mic, Workshop, Stanza

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As I am gearing up for Australia I am winding down other poetry activities apart from the desk-bound art of actually writing.

There are however, a few events still in the diary and the end of July saw Poetry Bites, a workshop in Stratford-Upon Avon and a Stanza meeting before it ground to a halt – where I had blanked out days to ensure that all my paperwork, adventure shopping, packing and performance/workshop preparation is in place.

I thoroughly enjoyed Headlining the bi-monthly Poetry Bites event in May and was looking forward to seeing Holly Daffurn and Jonathan Edwards perform.

It was a wonderful evening in a packed out Kitchen Garden Cafe. I am always delighted when friends discover poets I know and hear/see how good their work is.

As a Costa Award Winning Poet Jonathan Edwards wowed the room. (Some of us already knew he would.)

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Holly Daffurn Headlined with a POWER set! She went on to win the Oooh Beehive Slam at the Blue Orange Theatre in Birmingham a couple of nights later as well.  WP_20180724_004.jpg

It was a fabulous night and my final open mic before I whizz off around the world.

Remaining photos © Elaine Christie

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Maggie Doyle

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Then our first headliner – Jonathan Edwards

 

 

Matt Nunn and Elaine Christie have done a sterling job taking over Poetry Bites from Jacqui Rowe. It is always lovely to see the venue full and this evening certainly pulled the crowds in.

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The evening ended with Holly Daffurn Headlining.

It was definitely an action packed poetry evening, sometimes it can feel overwhelming listening to this many acts, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

 

Following this event my next was a workshop where we looked at Travel – an apt theme, especially as I plan to work on a book during my 20 hour lay over! Which is fortunately on the return journey. That’s the thing with travelling so far you lose 4+ days just getting there and back!

 

I finished my poetry diary with a Stanza meeting which was a great evening. Lots of exciting news to come from this.

 

The final, FINAL poetry outing is the  4th August for the Cat Rescue Anthology Launch. Then Australia… I am coming to see you!

Review July 2018

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July

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Week 1:

July – the season of Festivals. Ledbury Poetry Festival (30th June – 8th July) kicked off with a weekend of events I had hoped to manage. Work has been exceptionally busy and I have grabbed any time I can at the weekend to just recoup a little. My Ledbury Saturday (which was also a reason I couldn’t make this year’s National Writing Conference) was much diminished.

Sunday saw the morning at Evesham Festival of Words and Polly Stretton’s final Poetry Walk Event. It was lovely that she acknowledged those of us who have managed all three of these. It was also great that I had time to stay for the extra reading which takes place in the Almonry Gardens after the walk. http://www.almonryevesham.org/

Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/evesham-festival-of-words/

I booked events for the Autumn and promoted several current projects. I also started firming up plans for Australia and the Perth Poetry Festival in August.

On Tuesday I went to Ledbury to the Homend Poets – who were launching the 11th anthology and a small collective of PoARTry poets promoted the Launch (11th) by reading some of our exhibited poetry. It was a great night – slightly soured by the M50 slip roads being closed for Roadworks and adding time onto my journey home. I had recorded the match (World Cup) and had to avoid using the radio and sadly, the 1.5 hour round the rigging route home meant I was met by revellers leaving the pub and rather giving the result away! I did witness an amazing sunset with the Malvern Hills which I would have missed if the roads had been open.

I managed to secure at least one musician for our Launch event. Bonus.

Much as I wanted to go to Ledbury for Pascale Petit and Tishani Doshi*  I had no energy after work for a mid-week jaunt across for an hour. *Tishani was part of the inspiration behind one poem in my debut pamphlet ‘Fragile Houses’.

I also wanted to go back the following evening to see Martin Figura –Dr Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine. I spent a few days buckling down promoting events and organising shows and magazines from my desk in the evenings.

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The week finished with a rehearsal for our poetry show 30-40-60. Which was brilliant and made the three of us want to do this show again. None of us can quite believe it has been a year since the premiere event at Worcestershire LitFest 2017!

 

Week 2

Much as the first week of the month work kept me busy with report writing and assessments. I received an exciting invitation for November, more news on that once plans get firmed up.

My main focus was PoARTry at Ledbury. We had our launch night on Wednesday 11th July (another England World Cup game… this time slightly given away by the raucous cheers from the pub next door)!

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It was a great event, mainly the Artists and Poets attended but some of us brought guests so there was an audience. The Exhibition itself did really well.

A more detailed review can be found here.

Thursday saw Ben Banyard Headline SpeakEasy in Worcester, a poet (from our 52 gang) who I wanted to meet and hear in person. It was a great evening in a new venue and the first time this event has been hosted outside. The garden was set for a wedding the next day and was beautiful. It was a fun night! Read more here.

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Friday saw a staff meal (nice to be invited) and then Saturday there was a workshop I wanted to attend in Walsall but after a full week of work and 3 nights out on the trot I needed a breather before Charley Barnes’ Book Launch in the evening.

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I was delighted to be a Guest Poet alongside Claire Walker, Sarah Leavesley and Holly Magill. As it fell during Droitwich Artsfest they advertised it as an Artsfest event. It was well attended and an exceptional evening. A pleasure to welcome Charley to the V. Press family. Read more about this sparkling evening here

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/a-z-hearted-guide-to-heartache-by-charley-barnes-book-launch/

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I had the day off on Sunday – except I didn’t – I spent 6 hours sorting and editing film for our 30-40-60 performance. As well as working on a current Stanza project, sorting Issue 4 of Contour and organising paperwork for the trip to Australia.

 

Week 3 

On Monday night I spent another 5 hours in the cutting room, editing the new film for our event the next day.

On Tuesday 17th July Kathy Gee, Claire Walker and myself performed 30-40-60 in St. Andrew’s Church as part of the Artsfest. We had a small but mighty audience, it was a wonderful evening and lovely to hear people on the Open Mic and see poets visit Droitwich for the first time. Lots of people commented on the venue and of course the show.

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Read more about it here.

Also if you missed it – there is a review here. With thanks to Mad Hatter Reviews.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/30-40-60-performance-review/

One of the exciting things about an International Guest Poet is I get to attend plenty of workshops throughout the festival. I have had the schedule for a few months but now the programme is out was able to book into them. I am as excited about this as I am about being part of Perth Poetry Festival!

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I also had more exciting news – again under wraps for now.

Work finished – another splatter of excitement after a 3 month lock in! It was lovely working with such a great team. As everyone met in the pub to celebrate I stayed in and got an early night because my weekend was a wild one! Poetry WILD that is!

ArtsFest traditionally have a poetry day and for the past 2 years I have had the honour of organising it!

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We started at 2 PM with Poetry in the Square – my guests this year were John Mills and Liz Mills, two poets I met through 52. They put me up for the night before Stafford Festival – it was a welcome return to Stone for me – I lived there for a few years – and we have been friends ever since!

They are also brilliant poets and between us we managed the 2 hour stint in town.

Then I rushed off to Worcester to Guest Poet at Kieran Davies’ Book Launch for Legacy, published by Black Pear Press. Which was a great event, a true celebration – read more about it here.

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Then back to Park’s Cafe for Poetry Extravaganza and the first UK reading of ATOTC. It was a delightful evening of poetry.

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Read about it in full here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/artsfest-2/

 

Week 4

At this point my diary suggested (because I pencilled it in – in May), taking the first 2 weeks of my summer holiday off from poetry events and prepare for Australia… to a certain extent I have missed events I would have otherwise attended, but as always there were some which slipped through that I couldn’t possibly miss.

The week started in Ledbury collecting work from the Exhibition. PoARTry was a great project and I know I will be staying in touch with my artist, Molly Bythell.

I got everything organised for my trip except money and mini-toiletries! It took a while to find cabin luggage small enough for the airline restriction and a while longer after that to choose just 1 piece! I also invested in a large but extremely lightweight suitcase… mine date back to when wheels were first introduced and the handle extends only 6 cm from the corner… they work like a supermarket trolley with a wonky wheel and have mainly been used for storage. Travelling with soft bags and backpack ever since! However, I am not backpacking and the last time I used that on Long Haul it caused a few problems, so decided to do the respectable suitcase thing!

Tuesday saw Poetry Bites at the Kitchen Garden Cafe with Jonathan Edwards and Holly Daffurn headlining. 

Thursday I was in Stratford at a workshop and Friday I went to Stanza, where there was even more exciting news.

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This weekend I received my copy of Hex – by Jennie Farley, published by IDP Indigo Dreams. Jennie was kind enough to ask me for an endorsement. It is the third book I have endorsed and it was a pleasure reading it. It is a mesmerising collection and I look forward to the official Launch in December!

Hex – Jennie Farley IDP

I also approached Guest Writers for this year’s INKSPILL online writing retreat and both have confirmed (exciting), so I spent a little time on this promotional film to encourage you to book it into your diaries NOW!

Find out more INKSPILL 2018.

I am now spending the rest of the month working on 3 writing projects, editing and organising myself ready for Perth!

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A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache by Charley Barnes – Book Launch

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Sometimes in the writing world you have to keep secrets, occasionally even official embargo’s are placed on you. I knew Charley Barnes was joining V. Press and I was delighted (but wasn’t allowed to announce my joy)!

So when Charley asked me to be one of her Guest Poets I felt doubly honoured. During the evening Claire Walker and I discovered just how influential we had been supporting Charley’s dive into the publication of poetry. It is wonderful when you realise the impact you have made on someone’s writing goals. I am in debt to those who have helped me realise mine and know how it feels. There were nearly tears!

So let’s backtrack a little. Charley has just published her debut collection with V. Press ‘A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache’ and it is a fabulous pamphlet, full of life, love, difficulties and lessons.

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It was released on the 11th July and the Book Launch took place on the 14th. Charley’s Guest Poets were myself, Holly Magill, Claire Walker and Sarah Leavesley.

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It was a fantastic celebration of life and poetry and all took place (as many V. Press launches do), at the wonderful Park’s Cafe in Droitwich. It was made extra special by falling into the Artsfest and being advertised as part of the Festival programme.

Which also meant Rhys Jones (Droitwich Arts Network) was in attendance with his camera to capture some spectacular moments throughout the evening.

All photographs © Rhys Jones Droitwich Arts Network, unless otherwise stated.

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After an introduction which nearly made me blub I was the first Guest Reader. I had compiled a set which was my own A Z-hearted Guide through heartache and hoped that Charley enjoyed it. I did think (afterwards) that I should have done some of her favourite poems of mine. Hindsight…

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My set included a brand new poem and some I had not performed before.

Next was Holly Magill who treated us to a set from her own debut pamphlet, The Becoming of Lady Flambé’, published by IDP Indigo Dreams. Another strong collection of Poetry.

the becoming holly magill More information here. The book was published in June and Holly’s official launch happens later this summer.

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Then Charley treated us to poems from her NEW book!

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Before an interval of book sales and signing! Although I had plenty of opportunities to buy the pamphlet, I made myself wait until the launch. It is a bit like waiting for Christmas and is something I tend to force myself to do whenever possible!

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You can buy a copy for yourselves here and can also read a sample poem from the collection.

“The poems in A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache will make you re-think your relationship with pizza, garlic bread and your mobile phone. These sharp, sad and wry observations – on the reality of living with mental illness and disability, the heartbreak of the everyday, and perseverance despite everything – capture what it is to be twenty-something, in love, and healing through food. This is an exciting debut pamphlet from a new and honest voice.” Jenna Clake

“In her debut pamphlet, Charley Barnes examines the reality of heartbreak and its different forms, highlighting how aspects of modern society can play – often brutally – on our insecurities: the wish to be prettier, more popular, more lovable. These poems deftly explore the bitter, lasting sting of loss and how it shapes us. Yet there is also the tenderness of possibility at play – a sweetness to offset the sharpness encountered by a young woman trying to navigate her way; a knowing, self-deprecating humour that shines through, even in dark experiences. There is a wisdom of the importance of nurturing here, accompanied by the will that, whatever happens, ‘you have to keep going, don’t you?’ (‘The lie my mum told me’).” Claire Walker

Then came the second half of the evening with Guest Poet, Claire Walker. I always enjoy listening to Claire’s work and those hindsight fairies made it to her door, as she delivered a set including some of Charley’s favourite poems.

Additional treasure came from her recount of the love her girls have for Charley… or Charley Barnes as they call her.

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It all starts with an acorn‘, a poem in Charley’s pamphlet will reveal a little more to you.

Sarah Leavesley a prolific poet in her own right and editor/publisher at V. Press was the final Guest Poet. It was good to hear some poems from her latest collection again, having recently enjoyed her own launch of How to Grow Matches – published by Against the Grain Poetry Press.

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This collection was shortlisted for the  International Rubery Book Award 2018.

The evening concluded with another wonderful set from Charley, who had mainly shared her more lighthearted work in the first half and waited for the end to take our breath away with the more serious poems in her book.

A true gift of an evening. Thoroughly enjoyed by us all, as captured here in this group shot!

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© Harriet Barnes – whose direction made this photo what it is.

A fantastic night – five poets on a high for sometime after the Launch!

SpeakEasy Worcester With Ben Banyard

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Back in 2014 I was invited by Jo Bell to take part in her 52 project – a poem for a week, for a year. Aside from being a marvellous project to be involved in (my publishing record is about 50/50 rejection/acceptance… every 52 poem I have submitted carries a 100% success rate), it was a year where over 500 poets formed friendships and connections.

It gave many people the confidence to call themselves poets and saw established poets (and famous ones) working alongside emerging newbies and early career poets. It was a medley of talent and made us all READ a lot of good poetry, poetry that differed to the our tastes and both those factors are heavily recommended for any writer! It was also a great platform for learning how to edit and critique. I think we all improved over the 12 months. Certainly lots of collections followed.

Along the way I have made virtual friends with a lot of the poets involved in 52 and July’s SpeakEasy featured one of these poets. Ben Banyard – who says 52 was the turning point for him taking his writing seriously.

I was incredibly excited to meet him and hear his work.

Back in early 2016 Ben’s first pamphlet ‘Communing’ was published by Indigo Dreams Press (IDP).

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Find out more and buy a copy here.

Fast forward 2 years and Ben’s first full collection ‘We Are All Lucky’ is published by IDP.

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More information can be found here. This is the collection we enjoyed in his Headline set.

As if all that was not exciting enough – SpeakEasy was in a new venue – Wayland’s Yard – a lovely Coffee Shop (although it is really more than that), near the station, handy for visiting poets/audience.

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To top it off we also had the WLF Slam Winners for Poetry and Flash Fiction primed to perform.

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The first post-festival (WLF) SpeakEasy is always brilliant. Suz Winspear was our MC for the evening,  this was her first night back in that role, it has since been announced that Charley Barnes is stepping down from hosting.

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© Nina Lewis

For the first time EVER we were outside and it was a warm summer evening, the outside of Wayland’s was dressed for summer (well actually, a wedding) and it was perfect! Pom poms, fairy lights and bunting!

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© Nina Lewis

The Slam Winners were both presented with their awards and then I kicked off the evening with a 6 minute set.

Photographs © Charley Barnes WLF.

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Kevin Brooke Flash Fiction Slam Winner Worcestershire LitFest 2018.

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Io Osborn Poetry Slam Winner Worcestershire LitFest 2018.

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Kevin Brooke

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Claire Walker

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Rod Griffiths

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© Nina Lewis

Charley Barnes performed from her new pamphlet ‘A Z-hearted Guide to Heartache’, published by V. Press.

 

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Daniel Burton – who launched his debut collection last Saturday in Worcester and is now taking it on a mini tour of Loughborough, Leicester & Coventry.

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After an interval Chloe Clarke kicked off the second half.

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Chloe Clarke (former Young Worcestershire Poet Laureate)

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Kathy Gee

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Io (Cass) Osborn – Slam Champ Poet

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SpeakEasy over the past few years has had lots of newcomers, which is great for an established Poetry Night, here’s Michael Wheatley.

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James Burr

Then Ben Banyard Headlined.

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Ben’s poetry was life-affirming and I loved a lot of his work. ‘Pineapple as a metaphor for life’ was a particular favourite of mine. It was a joy to hear his set.

‘What strikes me most about Banyard’s poems is his affection for humanity, grounded by his wry humour. His imagination allows him to empathise with people he encounters. He has the gift of finding pleasure in the everyday, in all its seediness and tawdry beauty. He has the true poet’s gift of noticing details others miss.’
Angela Topping

‘Ben Banyard writes accessible poems about the real world, with its triumphs and disasters, tragedies and comedies. I like them for their humanity and warmth, for their sense of humour, and for the way Banyard often pins down just the right details to bring a piece vividly to life. This is an enjoyable collection.’
Geoff Hattersley

‘There is an impressive range here and, whether writing about childhood memories, being a father, cataracts, spit hoods or Birmingham, this poet displays a sureness of touch and an ability to precisely capture a vanished world or the exact tone of a voice. Ben Banyard is a poet with a sharp-eyed yet affectionate view of the world. I very much enjoyed this confident and varied collection.’
Carole Bromley

SpeakEasy was a well attended event with plenty of audience members as well as performers and an enchanting one at that!

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© Nina Lewis

A Night of Light

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

I had the pleasure of attending a Book Launch on Thursday night. It had been an exceptionally long and somewhat emotional day at work and then I had to dash off for more work before heading across to the suburbs to catch a train into the city. My train was delayed with a 15 minute wait in between stations, déjà vu to my last post-Book Launch ride home, which took the best part of an hour (three times the journey). I managed to arrive just in time, but not looking too fresh after all my whizzing around!

I am so glad I made it though as it was a most special evening. Part of me knew it would be because – it was David Calcutt’s Launch.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

I know that some of the poems in this new collection The last of the light is not the last of the light, published by Fair Acre Press, are going to be a hard read, tissues on stand by and I was worried that I may fall apart during the launch but the set David chose suited us celebrating his poetry perfectly.

There was music from Glen Buglass, poetry from Nadia Kingsley, Roz Goddard, Helen Calcutt and even a Harmonica, cakes, Prosecco and BOOKS.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

We were in the Art Room, which is where I had my own Book Launch back in 2016. The evening was hosted by Jonathan Davidson and the room was full of poets, friends and family. With the talented work of photographer Wayne Fox, whose images will hopefully capture something of the experience for you. Thank you to Wayne for allowing me to use his work in this review.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

Despite knowing I would write a review, I really felt that not taking notes was important. I wanted to be 100% present. The evening began with music from Glen Buglass , it ended with music and in between we were treated to some fine poetry.

Nadia Kingsley was the first poet to take a spot, as Editor of Fair Acre Press this was a fitting start. Nadia and David have a working relationship that stretches back years. I loved Nadia telling us that the initial seed for their collaborative work started through a conversation they had a poetry festival whilst waiting in a queue to buy books! I saw them perform together in Kidderminster and bought both books Roadkill and Through the Woods. Nadia writes a lot about Nature, and treated us to a set of superb poems and spoke about David and the opportunity and pleasure of publishing this collection.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

Helen Calcutt read poems from her forthcoming V. Press collection ‘Unable Mother’ which launches in September. She told us she was honoured to be one of the Guest Poets and had not expected it. Her set took us through womanhood, motherhood, nature and loss.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

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© 2018 Elaine Christie

Following on was Roz Goddard who read some poems from her Flarestack Pamphlet ‘Spill’ and others. She lifted me with her poem about the joy of Buddhism. Another beautiful set.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

 

Then we had an interval of books, cake and Prosecco. I had planned to mingle like mad, but with so many people in the room I wanted to talk to, this was impossible. I barely made it from my seat, I managed to catch up with five people – although hugging with Prosecco & cake hands is a fine art!

Sadly, I missed a chat with Helen (who flew off to teach Dance) and wasn’t there at the end when I managed my mingle.

The room was a hive of activity and it took professional shepherding to get us all back to our seats.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

Before Jonathan introduced David, there was more music.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

David shared just six poems, although true to his impromptu style changed his mind on at least one, I wasn’t counting – he may have added or substituted. Whatever he did, it was magical to hear. I think most people bought the collection so we will be able to read it for ourselves, it is always memorable to hear the poet read their own words.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

I was grateful that the light was very much present throughout the evening and in David’s set. And to finish the night- we were treated to a musical duet. I don’t think I have ever heard the musician David Calcutt and it was a treat. I was certainly transported to Mississippi, lost on dreams of travel I thoroughly enjoyed this highlight.

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© 2018 @waynefoxphotography

It was great to catch up with friends and Birmingham, to find pockets of time to catch up with Stuart Bartholomew and to buy the book. I had a good mingle after the event and managed to catch up with most people.

 

A thoroughly enjoyable Book Launch with a relaxed atmosphere. A perfect evening.

calcutt  If you click the cover you can buy a copy for yourself.

“This is a collection full of grace, at once deeply authentic and heart-felt, a set of beautiful lyrical poems.”

 

RELATED LINKS:

https://www.waynefoxphotography.com/

When You Miss Something BIG!

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On Friday night I had hoped to make it to Birmingham Waterstones for the Verve Poetry Press Book Launch of Leon Priestnall and Nafeesa Hamid’s Debut collections.

Sadly I was up to my eyeballs with assessment data/report writing and test marking at work and by the time 6 PM arrived I was asleep on the settee. I have heard it was an incredible night and I was looking forward to reconnecting with the city and seeing these two perform.

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Some photos from the evening.

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Leon Priestnall is something quite rare on the Spoken Word circuit – a romantic, a lost soul, with so few of the right answers and so many of the wrong ones. His poems are full of questions, not solutions, or even a step further back from that – are asking the question of what questions to ask. In his work, he isn’t setting himself up as any kind of answer – he is as wrong as he is right, behaves badly as often as correctly. Often too confused to be able to move – beyond lighting another cigarette, taking another drink, running for the door – or speak. Often trapped inside the circle of his thoughts, which are a riot of possibilities and recriminations, what-ifs and why-nots.

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Learning that your mind and body have been taken hostage is one thing. Learning how to take them back is another. What if those that are returned are different to the ones that were lost?

Besharam – Nafeesa Hamid’s glorious debut collection – asks this and many other questions. When does a girl become a woman? When does her world allow her to become a woman? And what kind of woman should she be? The answers aren’t readily forthcoming.

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I am sure they will both be busy on the circuit promoting these fine collections, I am still not forgiving myself for missing the launch. I am sure I will, eventually.

If you ever get a chance to see either of them perform grasp it with both hands and be ready to stomp your feet!