Category Archives: Books

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival 2021 – Week 1 – Part 3 #SAHLF2021

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Welcome to the 3rd part of week 1 – these are just snippet reviews from some of my festival experience. Enjoy your bite of SAHLF 2021.

All the featured books can be purchased in the S@HLF Bookshop here.

Friday 30th – Cont’d

Rejection and Building Resilience

This was a fruitful session, as one may expect. I have been writing for 7 years (*I subtract 2019) and in that time have learned the art of resilience. We all experience rejection, my success to rejection is about 50/50 which I discovered is higher than the average. Of course if I sent more work out that would vary, maybe up – maybe down. Generally it stays about the same between a yes or no. I appreciate submitting poetry is different to finding an agent for your book.

I trained as an actress originally and if you want an artform to teach you how rejection feels – become an actress. It stood me in good stead for this life. But it never hurts to hear about building resilience.

For twenty years Jenny Knight kept writing, through industry close-calls and other brutal experiences. She finally secured an agent–but, even then, the near-misses kept piling.

Rejection is a painful, but unavoidable, part of every writer’s life. Join Jenny as she teaches the tried-and-tested methods – from utilising a writer’s “toolkit” to building a community – that have helped her and other writers cope with the inevitable. © S@HLF Programme

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

BIO: Jenny Knight is a prize-winning writer of short story, fiction and memoir and a contributor to Kit de Waal’s celebrated Common People anthology. Her writing on writing and the publishing world has appeared in Book Machine, National Writers’ Centre and Restless. She was selected for Penguin’s WriteNow 2018, a 2019 ACE/TLC Award, is a National Centre for Writing Case Study, has won or been listed in competitions including Bridport, Fish, Arvon, ACE/Escalator, Yeovil, Riptide and SWWJ and published in several anthologies. A freelance editor and copywriter, her publishing clients, including Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Routledge, and she assesses manuscripts for Jericho Writers. Her agent is Jo Unwin.

She’s also taught creative writing in prisons, for the UN/Comic Relief in Somalia and Kenya, spoken on panels and held workshops about writing, getting agents, rejection and resilience for PrimadonnaFest, Stay-At-Home-Fest 2020 and Litro. She has a degree in English Lit & Drama and studied Creative Writing at UEA. © S@HLF Programme

It was great to hear Jenny Knight’s story – the honesty of failing and eventually coming back to writing, reaching a point where she felt she could try again and hearing the results of strength (that comes from feeling your life has been totally destroyed).

It was interesting to discover the statistics of success rates and to hear Knight talk of rejection as an ‘apprenticeship for our writing’, which makes sense. Any writer who has just edited a manuscript or had to rework a failing one will inevitably write better. You only have to look at a piece of work you did 3/5/10 years ago to see this.

Refreshing to hear someone saying let yourself feel the pain of rejection. And also to acknowledge this pain doesn’t seem to lessen over time or experience, just maybe our learning of how to deal with it.

I could go on, but don’t want to spoil it for anyone who would like to watch the post-festival videos and I would encourage you to do so! Visit the festival YouTube and arm yourself with some new/fresh outlooks on rejection.

Blueprint Poetry Press Showcase

Blueprint Poetry Press, established in 2019, is the brainchild of poets Jo Colley and Julie Hogg. We believe that poetry pamphlets are a thing of beauty in their own right and not just a springboard to a full collection. We publish short, coherent sets of poems which may also include illustrations, from published poets. In 2020, we published Paul Summers (the dreamer’s ark) and Angela Readman (Cooking with Marilyn), and in 2021, Matthew Caley (Prophecy is Easy), Bernadette McAloon (A Queen of Rare Mutations) and Degna Stone (Mrs Stone’s Diaries). © S@HLF Programme

I remember Jo Colley from last year’s SAHLF talking about this new press, so it was great to see this year they were here with poets. This was a reading I was looking forward to, discovering some new-to-me poets.

\slight tangent/

I admire the Press point of view that a pamphlet is a thing of beauty, a body of work in itself. It is true, in 2018 when I submitted my last manuscript, I had been imagining it as my first collection (and there were enough poems to make it so), but I felt the subject matter in such an extended format would feel too relentless.

After careful consideration – it was submitted and published as a pamphlet, Patience, which came out at the tail-end of 2019. I will eventually carve time to update AWF to include it! Patience can be bought here.

Paul Summers – the dreamer’s ark

Paul Summers is a Northumbrian poet & artist who lives at the mouth of the River Tyne. He is currently obsessed with liminals & the littoral, making a daily pilgrimage to the river’s rocky shoreline almost every day since his return from Australia five years ago. His poems have appeared widely in print for almost three decades. A founding co-editor of the ‘leftfield’ UK magazines Billy Liar and Liar Republic, he has also written for TV, film, radio, theatre and collaborated many times with artists and musicians on mixed-media projects and public art. His latest book is straya, published by Smokestack Books in April 2017. Previous collections include: primitive cartographyunion (new & selected) Three Men on the Metrobig bella’s dirty cafe, cunawabi and the last bus. © S@HLF Programme

the dreamer’s ark features three of Paul’s beautiful artworks and is based on his daily walks to the beach, the changes over time. He talked about the magic of fog, this geographic region is not going to avoid bad weather, so it needs to be embraced. He talked about the act of collecting things on his walk and how the house has become filled with these. The affection Paul Summers shows for place was as captivating as his poems.

Matthew Kelly – Prophecy is Easy

Matthew Caley’s Thirst (Slow Dancer, 1999) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Subsequent collections are The Scene of My Former Triumph (Wrecking Ball Press, 2005), Apparently (Bloodaxe Books, 2010); his lost second collection, Professor Glass (Donut Press, 2011); and his fifth and sixth collection, Rake (Bloodaxe Books, 2016) and Trawlerman’s Turquoise (Bloodaxe Books, 2019). His work has been included in many anthologies, and he also co-edited Pop Fiction: The Song in Cinema with Stephen Lannin (Intellect, 2005). He lives in London with artist Pavla Alchin and their two daughters. © S@HLF Programme

Matthew talked about how the poems in Prophecy is Easy were written in a short space of time, in March 2020, he wrote in bursts and how at the time he couldn’t see the pandemic and lockdown in them. For me I was still being carried into more oceanic scenes (here in the Midlands many of us we feel the tug of the ocean, despite being or perhaps because of our geographical distance, we are the furthest distance from the coast of this island)!

The stories behind Matthew’s poems, the reference points were great to hear, as enjoyable as the poetry.

Bernadette McAloonA Queen of Rare Mutations

Bernadette McAloon is the recipient of a Basil Bunting Award and the Flambard Poetry Prize. She works as a creative arts therapist and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne. A Queen of Rare Mutations is her debut poetry pamphlet. Her work has appeared in many magazines: Butcher’s Dog Magazine; Drifting Down the Lane: Art and Poetry Explorations edited by Harriette Lawler, Agnes Marton (Moon and Mountain); Flambard Prize Winners’ AnthologyMslexia MagazineOfi Press Online Magazine; One Planet, Newcastle University’s Alumni Online Anthology; Rowing Home, Cruse Bereavement Care Anthology and The Rialto Magazine. © S@HLF Programme

It was a great reading from Bernadette, her poems cover an array of themes and reach deep levels with ease. History, memory, lives and love all heard in the few poems she delighted us with. Bernadette didn’t talk much about the poems, reading them was enough – allowed us the space around them we needed and they deserved. It was beautiful.

Degna Stone

Degna Stone is a poet and editor living in the north east of England. She shares her home near the River Tyne with her husband, two teenagers and their chihuahua. Her work has appeared in The Book of Newcastle (Comma Press), Ten: Poets of the New Generation and A Mighty Stream (Bloodaxe), Writing Motherhood (Seren), Urban Myths and Legends and Some Cannot Be Caught (The Emma Press), Crossings (Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts) and Filigree (Peepal Tree Press). © S@HLF Programme

Degna’s pamphlet (The Port in the Darkness*) is forthcoming from the press. These poems came from a traumatic experience and hold power beyond words. Unflinching and honest poems, that capture the hopelessness and helplessness of the situation. These were poems Degna Stone wrote without thinking they would be seen/read. To write brutal truths masterfully is extremely hard, this award winning poet has certainly done just that.

*This title may not be accurate, I can’t read half of my scribbled notes from this session and haven’t been able to confirm with online searches.

Writing Happiness Workshop With Elspeth Wilson & Rachel Lewis

In this workshop, we will be exploring how we can write about joy and happiness to develop our own writing and support our wellbeing.‘ © S@HLF

This event was held in partnership with Middlesbrough Libraries and 50% of donations were split between charities Saheliya and Beat.

Saheliya (a specialist mental health and well-being support organisation for black, minority ethnic, asylum seeker, and refugee women and girls in Edinburgh and Glasgow) and Beat (the UK’s eating disorder charity. Their mission is to end the pain and suffering caused by eating disorders.)‘ © S@HLF

Rachel Lewis

Rachel Lewis is a poet, facilitator and editor. Three Degrees of Separation, her debut poetry pamphlet exploring joy in recovery from mental illness, won the 2019 Wordsmith Prize and was published by Wordsmith HQ. She is currently working on a second pamphlet on her Jewish family history. She regularly facilitates writing workshops, and is a member of the Wriot poetry collective and Covent Garden Stanza.

Elspeth Wilson

Elspeth Wilson is a writer, researcher and poet who is interested in writing about health, disability and sexuality. Their work has been shortlisted for Canongate’s Nan Shepherd prize and Penguin’s Write Now Editorial programme. Elspeth is currently working on their debut novel and also regularly facilitates accessible creative workshops. When they aren’t writing or reading, they can usually be found near the sea or spending time with their elderly dog. – © S@HLF Programme

Last year I attended Elspeth’s SAHLF Nature writing workshop and it was great, so when I saw she was doing another one this year, I knew I wanted to be there.

A series of short writing exercises were delivered in turn by Elspeth and Rachel, there were take-aways and future ideas generated and all in a fast paced yet comfortable atmosphere. It was freeing – no pressure.

I felt uplifted by the noticing where we can find happiness and as well as feeling good I got some writing done to mine for threads later.

Look out for Week 1 Part 4. COMING SOON!

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival 2021 – Week 1 – Part 2 #SAHLF2021

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Welcome to the 2nd part of week 1 – these are just snippet reviews from some of my festival experience. Enjoy your bite of SAHLF 2021.

Thursday 29th

All the featured books can be purchased in the S@HLF Bookshop here.

Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils

This was my introduction to David Farrier, he is an award-winning author and Professor of Literature and the Environment at the University of Edinburgh.

In 2017 He received the Royal Society of Literature’s Gules T Aubyn award for non-fiction. Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils has been (or is in the process of being) translated in seven languages.

I admire Robert Macfarlane‘s writing and was excited to watch David Farrier discuss his book with Esa Aldegheri. We saw a short promotional video about the work the book covers and then an in depth interview covering everything from how will we be seen as ancestors by our descendants to future fossils, single use plastic and the attempt to imagine that which is actually beyond our imagining.

Footprints is a book which deals with how we get a sense of what our impact is going to be in the very long term on the planet and the people who will come after us, which is an issue that has entered global consciousness during the pandemic. Ironic when you think of what all the scientists, environmentalists, conservationists, ecologists and Eco activists have being telling us for decades. Finally people can see the result of human impact on our world. The planet has shown us.

Many of us see these issues from our present moment but in the opening paragraphs of his book Farrier writes: the fact that we also inhabit the flow of very deep time and he also references Percy Shelley (and Aristotle). Any author who cites a poet wins me over instantly.

Later in the conversation Aldegheri mentions the enjoyable use of poets being quoted in Footprints -Alice Oswald, Derek Walcott and Shelley. Farrier teaches English Literature and knows poetry can help us make sense of things that seem too big for our comprehension, poetry can change our perspective, give us multiple meanings.

I got a real taste of this book from this presentation. The Q&A included some brilliant questions from the audience and we got to hear about Farrier’s sabbatical research.

Creating The Perfect Page Turner

Thriller writers Penny Batchelor and Louise Mumford as they reveal the tips and tricks they use to keep readers obsessively turning those pages.

This was another great session, thoroughly enjoyed listening to the conversation between these two authors. They covered the usual ‘What If’ Pitch and 3 Act Structure, then went on to discuss how to use misdirection, characters and the art of keeping your reader engrossed. It was a joy to listen to and Batchelor and Mumford also generously threw in some book recommendations.

Penny Batchelor

Penny Batchelor is an alumna of the Faber Academy online ‘Writing a Novel’ course. She is a freelance journalist, a former BBC content producer and website editor for various educational institutions.

Her journalism has appeared in numerous publications including The Knitter, Vintage Life, Mollie Makes, Travel Africa, The Simple Things and Pretty Nostalgic magazines; and BBC Ouch!, money magpie.com, welovethisbook.com and The University of Warwick’s Knowledge Centre websites. She is the editor of her award-winning knitting blog A Woolly Yarn, which is now solely social-media based on Facebook and Instagram.

Author Interview – Yorkshire Times

Louise Mumford

Louise Mumford studied English Literature at university and graduated with first class honours. As a teacher she tried to pass on her love of reading to her students (and discovered that the secret to successful teaching is… stickers! She is aware that that is, essentially, bribery.)

In the summer of 2019 Louise experienced a once-in-a-lifetime moment: she was discovered as a new writer by her publisher at the Primadonna Festival.

Her debut thriller, Sleepless, was published by HQ on 10th Dec 2020.

The Circle meets Black Mirror in a thrilling, plausible and gripping debut. Frighteningly inventive.’ John Marrs, bestselling author of The One

Friday 30th

Remember me telling you in Part 1 I wasn’t going to bed down at the festival this year? Well, by the weekend I was dragging my sleeping bag in! So much so, I am even reviewing an event I didn’t manage to catch…

I was gutted to miss Dogged: Working Class Women with Emma Purshouse after being treated to a short extract a week ago at Paul Francis’ Book Launch where Emma was a guest reader. I know Emma and her work well and am delighted that she has successfully transitioned that broad water between poetry and novel.

Aside from face to face work during the first 3 months of Lockdown 3, I stay in. I take an occasional nature walk, a weekly supermarket drop in and the odd trip to the Drs/hospital or petrol station. And on Friday I braved the world and met a friend in her garden for a coffee and a catch up. This is the first time since December I have been out.

I had hoped to be back for Emma’s Midday event, but had a second cup (this was the first time since December I’d been out – and once out…) and on the way home had a run in with a huge silver van on single track country lane, delaying me further. Those of you who read AWF regularly will know that my poor laptop is struggling on and so even though I hoped to catch the second part of this event, the tech took another 20 mins to log in and clear itself onto Zoom, I missed it!

I know Emma will be doing more readings and promotion for this book and I will look out for those.

Set in the city, Dogged is the story of two working-class women in their 70s. Funny, warm, dark, and beautifully written, the novel has received rave reviews and has been described as “unputdownable”.

Emma is a working-class performance poet and writer, and the current poet laureate of the City of Wolverhampton. She was part of the ‘Common People’ anthology, edited by Kit de Waal, and is also part of Portopia which is a brand-new writer development project set up to increase working-class representation in screenwriting.

Emma Purshouse

Thanks to Ignite Books I did find this recording of an extract. Enjoy!

BIO: Emma Purshouse is Poet Laureate for the City of Wolverhampton. She is a poetry slam champion and has performed at spoken word nights and festivals across the UK – Cheltenham Literature Festival, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Latitude, and WOMAD, among others – often using her native Black Country dialect in her work. Her most recent poetry publication, Close, (Offa’s Press, 2018) was shortlisted for the Rubery Book Award in 2019, and her children’s poetry collection, I Once Knew a Poem Who Wore a Hat, won the poetry section of the same award in 2016. In 2019 Emma was one of writers included in ‘Common People’, the anthology of working-class writing edited by Kit De Waal. Her debut novel, Dogged, (Ignite Books) was launched early in 2021, to critical acclaim.

The Millstone and the Star: Mental Health, Mental Health Problems and Writing

Mental Health and wellbeing (and writing through it) has always been important to me. Not least of all because I came back to writing (after a 15 year gap) after suffering from clinical depression. It is something I live with and know well the power of writing out.

This was an interesting presentation, an honest, brutal (at times, we were warned) and necessary. Sadly a fallout of pandemic life is people have experienced isolation on a level as never before and the loneliness and lack of human contact has increased mental health concerns globally. So this field is even more essential than it ever was – and it always was.

Somehow I had it in mind that this was a workshop, so I was surprised by Anna Vaught’s presentation, but it was /felt interactive and soothing to hear another person’s experience and learn about the work she does and of course the Millstone and the Star.

The programme demonstrates the positivity Anna Vaught searches for and despite the subject, this was an uplifting session to be part of.

How might writing help boost our mental health, and how might we write about and draw on the experience of mental health problems and mental illness in our fiction and non-fiction work? Sometimes, we carry a heavy weight and perhaps we cannot ever be mended – that is the millstone. Yes this does not mean we cannot nurture our creativity and produce fine writing; create something beautiful: there is the star. – © S@HLF Programme

BIO: Anna Vaught is a novelist, poet, essayist, short fiction writer, editor and a secondary English teacher, tutor and mentor, mental health advocate and mum of 3. 2020 saw the publication of Anna’s third novel, Saving Lucia (Bluemoose) and a first short story collection, Famished (Influx). Anglo-Welsh, she splits her time between Wiltshire, Wales, and the Southern US. She is currently editing a new novel, writing a novella and working on her first non-fiction book & a second short story collection. Anna’s essays, reviews, articles, and features have been featured widely online and in print. She is represented by Kate Johnson of Mackenzie Wolf Literary Agents, in New York City.

Part 3 COMING SOON!

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival #SAHLF2021

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Last year the The Stay at Home! Festival/S@HF was one of the early highlights of Lockdown.

Schools were still open and the UK was not on Lockdown when the festival’s initial conception happened on Twitter, (great festivals start this way, Verve is another started by a conversation on Twitter), I missed the call outs for events as I was working full-time (and good job too because the following 10 months have been beyond rotten). I fortunately discovered it was happening before it started and was proud to be a Showcase Poet along with Kate Simpson, Sophie Dumont and others.

S@HF 2020: 145 events, 220 authors,
15,000 attendees!

An Incredible Experience

By the start of the festival, we were in Lockdown, which meant we had to STAY HOME – but it also meant I could overindulge in the programme (and there were a massive 145 events)!

I basically attached the laptop to my body for a fortnight, (which is one of the reasons I didn’t have time to blog it until afterwards). It was great to see and attend workshops with many Literary folk, some of whom I know and some I met – which is always a festival highlight. It’s where I first came across Cath Drake who also had a big part to play in the first Lockdown.

Somehow, Carolyn Jess-Cooke & her small team really made the online festival work on so many levels: it was a really positive, friendly space to be involved in. Many attendees acknowledged that it was like attending a festival in person as far as the positive feelings it created in us, both in events and that buzz of after – and that is no mean feat online!

Photo by Mudassir Ali on Pexels.com

Zoom was still new to many of us, despite being used by the business world since 2011. My first 3 Lockdown notebooks were full by the end of the festival. And I managed to balance the first 11 days of NaPoWriMo happening at the same time. In fact I remember there were several online offerings happening in April/May 2020. The Stay at Home! Festival itself made a slight name change this year and I suspect this may be because a Stay at Home Festival which is music based existed and was in flow shortly before the S@HF 2020 took off.

Following the S@HF 2020 a long succession of incredible festivals and programmes hit our screens as many of the writing community took technological strides into a new online space. A year on we are all hoping this gives rise to Hybrid events where global access is still viable. Anyone who went, has spent the past year hoping there would be another S@HF.

Dee Daaa – and there is! S@HLF 2021

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival 2021

There was a call out that I didn’t miss this year but was working in the real world and like many other spring deadlines it whooshed past. Delighted the team have managed to get AC Funding and sponsorship this year and have created another fantastic programme for us all to enjoy. This also means they have been able to offer it FREE of charge and keep it really accessible. Of course donations are always welcomed.

So here we are #S@HLF2021 – 26 April – 9 May 2021.

The Story Behind S@HLF

This video showcases founder and SAHLF director Carolyn Jess-Cooke in discussion about the origin of the festival.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke is an award-winning poet and novelist published in 23 languages. Her fiction is published under CJ Cooke, and her latest book in THE NESTING (HarperCollins [UK], Penguin [US] 2020). She is Senior Lecturer at the University of Lecturer, where she convenes the MLitt Creative Writing by Distance Learning. In 2020, she founded the Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival.

SAHLF relies on the ongoing support of our audiences and donors to bring readers and writers together, telling stories, sharing new perspectives, and celebrating writing in all its forms. If you’d like to make a donation, please visit: https://www.stayathomelitfest.org/don…

26 April – 9 May 2021

And if this is the first you’ve heard of it – it’s not too late – it goes on until May 9th. Find out more and look out for some new blog posts soon. Book on through Eventbrite.

Find out about the festival here.

#SAHLF2021

Inclusivity and diversity have been important to this festival and this year the research continues. The events are mainly webinar which offers better security for users and many are also live streamed on the S@HLF You Tube channel, all events are subtitled. They are also using Instagram Live and IGTV, Instagram Reels, TikTok and Soundcloud are also being used.

Recordings of some of the events are available on a catch up service on a pay-what-you-can donation basis.

And for those with no access to the internet:

The Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival is committed to accessibility, inclusivity and outreach, and this year we’re partnering up with many wonderful libraries to ensure that the festival is experienced and enjoyed by as wide a community of people as possible. © Stay-at-Home! Festival

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 6

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Day Six Click here to read the full post.

Our featured participant for the day is woodyandjohnny, where the container-based prompt for Day 5 gave rise to a poem full of strange language and tonal shifts . . . which might not be surprising, given that it was based on a poem by the Serbian avant-garde poet Vasko Popa!

Today’s featured reading is pre-recorded. It features the poet Nikki Giovanni reading at Emory University back in February of 2020.

Finally, here’s our daily prompt. Our prompt yesterday asked you to take inspiration from another poem, and today’s continues in the same vein. This prompt, which comes from Holly Lyn Walrath, is pretty simple. As she explains it here:

Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.

Happy writing!

©napowrimo.net

PROCESS NOTES including a rabbit hole or two!

I started at the participant’s site and read the poem. I found the intentional surrealism difficult, following the context was hard on first read. I was interested to see if they had pulled from the theme of the original content as stimuli. We are not going to understand everything we read, nor like everything, poetry is subjective. In Writing Development wide reading is encouraged, be in contact with both poetry you are drawn towards to and that which is challenging or beyond your personal taste and read poems over and over. Revisit them.

I was interested to see the original and am unsure I have found it here as the lettering doesn’t match, this may be because the poet has a different translation, I have the wrong poem or the poet has amended/erased some lines / played with the constraints, all of which are fine. I checked another site and found the same translation. So my guess is the poet chose to amend/cut lines or the Charles Simic translation is different. I have always enjoyed poetry in translation, the bends in the language it produces.

As I read and re-read the poem the shape of it revealed itself. I picked up on the possibility this was a bi-lingual poet and also thought there may be a nod to the original in as far as Vasko Popa was a Serbian Avant Garde poet. Hallucinated Ambush certainly has some surreal qualities. Barbara may be a fan of French surrealism. The poem has a narrative and definitely created a scene in my mind. There may be some call to Eve and the Snake. Some of the lines were beautiful:

fish-eyed

asps curled in bracken shade

thoughts fragment half-cut jewels

dust binds dubious truthes

another ache a splinter borrowed

I did a bit of a tour of the website intrigued by my earlier realisation that I mistook the site name as part of the title (I hadn’t slept much, I even copied Day 5 NaPo not 6 this morning) and searched not for Race but for Woody & Johnny took Race by Vasko Popa, which worked for me as a title. Many bloggers do not reveal identity or use an alias, when I started blogging I was the same, I linked wordpress to the non-named account and kept identity concealed then after a while I realised people searched for me and this place wasn’t linked to those searches and at some point (probably in the promotion of poems, used my own name). Part of me is detective, (Mrs Marbles, is one of many of Mr. G’s nicknames for me – see what I mean about concealed identity…) anyway, it was easy to discover this site belonged to Barbara Turney Weiland (Home button profile & comments < in case you want to be detective too).

I discovered a second blog barbara turney wieland poetess, I am considering this my first NaPo rabbit hole (even let my coffee go cold)! I explored the second site and discovered Barbara is an artist who had, at the time of posting, been writing poetry for 5 years, I read her published work and thoroughly enjoyed these two poems published in Shadow Kraft – a Bilingual Literary Webzine.

UPDATE Day 20

I have to consider closing the Detective Agency or rebrand as a Tech Editing Co. instead. Johnny got in touch (the same day) to explain the process and it is wondrous what Woody and Johnny have achieved.

So just to clear it up I will leave this note here for you to read as I go and hang up the Trilby and shades (YES! Miss Marbles had retro style).

All we took for our prompt on Day 5 was the first letter of each line and noted the shape of the poem. The poem was written by Woody & Johnny before the translation by Simic was read.

Really appreciate your thoughts on our tandem writing though! Thank you. Johnny (of Woody & Johnny).

I watched today’s reading. I spent some time online at Emory University this year at events. They have had some amazing poets read… just listen to the introduction. I have also read some poems by Nikki Giovanni since Lockdown. I have discovered lots of incredible American Poets in this Pandemic year. 

Acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni Feb. 22, 2020, at the Schwartz Center on the Emory University campus.

Giovanni is known for her activism poetry, especially concerning race, gender, self-pride, and love. Giovanni has been an English professor at Virginia Tech since 1989 and has been a university distinguished professor there since 1999. She has received an honorary doctorate from more than 27 colleges and universities. The event was hosted by the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library as part of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series, now in its 15th season. The reading was sponsored by the Hightower Fund, with support from Emory Library and Information Technology Services (LITS), and the Creative Writing Program at Emory.

© Emory University

This video is very much an address, if you want to hear more poetry, listen to this too. It is not a perfectly clear recording, but the vinyl crackle is authentic and won’t worry some of us from the pre-digital age.

The prompt is one I have tried before. Like yesterday’s prompt it give rise to poems which are different to your natural voice. Which is always fun. I was excited for the results of today’s write.

In the full instructions Holly Lyn Walrath considers the issue of plagiarism;

The truth is, it’s a common practice in poetry to draw off of other’s work. Using other people’s work in this way is a time-honored tradition. It’s been debated recently but it’s obvious that as far back as Christopher Marlowe, writers have been referencing each other.

Holly also mentions a Jericho Brown workshop (which I was lucky enough to attend) and the mirror prompt is definitely worth a try – if you fancy writing more than one poem today! There’s always the Golden Shovel a form devised by Terrance Hayes in response to a Gwendolyn Brooks poem. So you actually get two extra prompts from this page. Worth adding I discovered the poetry of Jericho Brown through NaPoWriMo a couple of years ago. Count how many new favourite poets you have at the end of these 30 days. Treasure.

I have come across Holly Lyn Walrath and her medium.com site before today, worth a read. In having a read-about today I fell into my 2nd Napo rabbit hole! I read many, many articles following links all around the internet. The funny thing was a website I found last year entered my mind and I found it this morning through one of these adventure links!

Eventually I went off to find my line and start my poem. I took a line from the first book I plucked off my shelf and settled down to free-write, the poem came out quickly.

I feel like no extract from Shush will give you a feel for the lamentation I have written today. I played with white space and changed some of the word order. Trying to format even a few lines to WP platform is a challenge. Definitely needs a screen shot! I let the poem free write itself out and as NaPo is not about editing just placed it/ pegged it to the page. But it is marked as *one to go back to in the summer. So one day you may see it in full.

I writhed in the agony

>

>

of not

>

……………………………………..knowing

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 5

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Day Five Click here to read the full post.

Today, our featured participant is color me in cyanide and cherry . . ., where the liminal prompt for Day 4 led to a wonderfuly dreamy-spooky poem, and taught me a new word, too!

Our featured reading is a live event that will take place tomorrow, April 6, at 8 p.m. eastern daylight time. The poets Mairead Case, Kenyatta Rogers, Erika Hodges, and Israel Solis, Jr will all be reading as part of the Open Door Series, sponsored by the Poetry Foundation.

And now for our prompt. I call this one “The Shapes a Bright Container Can Contain,” after this poem by Theodore Roethke.

This prompt challenges you to find a poem, and then write a new poem that has the shape of the original, and in which every line starts with the first letter of the corresponding line in the original poem… Any poem will do as a jumping-off point, but if you’re having trouble finding one, perhaps you might consider Mary Szybist’s “We Think We Do Not Have Medieval Eyes” or for something shorter, Natalie Shapero’s “Pennsylvania.”

Happy writing!

PROCESS NOTES:

Yesterday I spent some extra time with NaPo – inspired by the featured participant poem, I wrote a poem from the 6 words drawn from the Universal Deck prompt (Day 3), which involved some planetary research – again this is a theme I explored in poetry a few years ago so felt like familiar territory. The poem explores the disconnect between creative and scientific and stories we believe. It was surprising – as any poem resulting from the deck prompt is bound to be.

I attended the Sandra Beasley and Teri Ellen Cross Davis reading, read several Ocean Vuong poems.

I read the featured poem Waldeinsamkeit, this is the chosen image. An incredible, wondrous poem grew from this prompt.

Source @SpaceLiminalBot

Waldeinsamkeit – I knew this was a German word, but haven’t studied the language since I was a teenager, when I looked up the meaning I discovered it loosely translates as: solitude of the forest/ the feeling of being alone in the woods. Wald (“forest”) +‎ Einsamkeit (“loneliness”), which I think you get from the poem anyway but it does put the forest ensemble in context.

When I read this poem I was struck by many lines:

handing out tea-cups of air
to a stuffed forest ensemble
seated around the table –
You watch but do not drink,
not even of the sunlight

will not breach through my eyes
that reach with the hunger
of the treetops,

the nightbound places of my roots;

I was absorbed into this poem of body and wood, of devil and soil, of observation and being watched (or not). I had a wander around the blog and read other poems by Mirjana M, Inalman.

Ralph Waldo Emerson also wrote a poem of the same title (published in 1858), just in case you want to absorb a little more nature today https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/waldeinsamkeit/.

I often use the Poetry Foundation website, I hope to attend this reading series but it is 1-2AM BST and I am in a late night event which finishes at 1 AM already and in a month when I was attempting to cool the number of readings I attend. The laptop is on its last legs and I have work to finish. It is in the diary but may be missed. I discovered the NaPo reading from yesterday was also LIVE/available to watch on You Tube, so maybe the PF one will be too, although looking at their You Tube channel there is no evidence of this.

When I read today’s prompt I felt my mind twist with the implication for the resulting work. I was happy to try something I haven’t done before. I never did the ‘mimic’ poem/poet stage as a developing writer and although prompts like this can throw up some incredibly original work I worry about the link to the original and the closeness of forgery. I guess if the poem I create is ever submitted I would just cite ‘After…’ and the original source. I know the copyright laws/infringement vary greatly between the US and UK. I did a lot of research when I was editing the Transatlantic Anthology for the A Tale of Two Cities project, from which many poets have gone on to publish their work, which is a joy. (Another anthology of Worcestershire poetry ‘The Poetry of Worcestershire’, published by Offa’s Press featured a great many poems local poets had written during my Worcestershire Poet Laureate projects too.) Spreading the poetry love!

As I was unsure about creating from an already created source, I decided to use one of the referenced poems (which probably means there will be millions of almost couplet poems starting with O-W-I-I-W lines), but never-mind, that is the fun of Napo, just to play and create. We are not writing for publication right now.

For all the years I have done this writing month I have a handful of decent/reworked/edited/workshopped Napo poems in print, there are a few in both my own collections Fragile Houses (2016) and Patience (2019) as well as various magazines and anthologies. But right now, if you are feeling like me… just breathe and DIVE IN!

When I extracted Natalie Shapero’s “Pennsylvania” the first thing I noticed was the amount of repeated letters, I know there are differences between UK and US poetry too and was unsure whether this would result in a good poem at first. But remember rules can always be broken and already I feel this ‘mimic form prompt’ will possibly be rendered down to create a different end-poem, I got down to the writing anyway. After all, NaPo isn’t about worrying whether the writing is any good and even our rubbish writes take us somewhere.

Do not be afraid and if a prompt scares you that can be a GOOD thing, NaPo for me is all about writing poems which would not otherwise have been written.

Another tip would be: Choose a poem you aren’t familiar with, don’t read it. Strip it for the parts needed to complete this prompt – write and only when finished read the original poem. Then you know for sure you have copied nothing but the initial letters and form. (Number of stanzas, lines etc.).

Mimicry is actually a recognised part of writing development it appears in many workshops and academic classes. Remind yourself you are not doing anything wrong here.

The start of my creation looked like this.

It took a surprisingly long time to create a poem, mainly because the idea forms of what it is you want to say and then you have to find a word starting with a specific letter to fit that, but this is the gold dust of this prompt – by following the constraints of the rule you finish with a poem worded in a way you wouldn’t naturally have written it.

I didn’t worry too much about the ten syllable counts, or matching line lengths to the original, I just wrote what felt right.

After I finished I read the original and copied and pasted the poems side by side. Several of my lines were longer in places so I changed the size of the font to make them carry the couplet form, (obviously not necessary when just looking at my poem alone). I was intrigued to find that I started with the idea of the world still turning, carrying on without you and the original Natalie is talking of death and new life, the circle of life;

the whole of the globe turning

off for a moment, then shuddering

back, the same as it was,

Covering the same concept because when you are ill in hospital or cut off by grief you feel this sense of no longer being part of the world, and yet everything around you carries on despite your world being forever changed. Other than that the poems are (I am happy to say) completely different. And the common ground is a universal experience which has been written about for hundreds/thousands of years. My troublesome title came right at the end, I had a selection of P words, but Prognosis only entered my head as I was typing the penultimate couplet.

An extract from Prognosis:

encode the hours between meds and cups of tea.

Accept this bed, this broken body

prophesize your release.

RELATED LINKS:

I knew of Natalie Shapero, but had not read this particular poem. It sounds like a spectacular collection, read about it here:

Copper Canyon Press, 2021

ATG Book Launch Chaucer Cameron and Cheryl Moskowitz

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Against the Grain Press present In an Ideal World I’d Not Be Murdered by Chaucer Cameron and Maternal Impression by Cheryl Moskowitz

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of being one of many (126 attendees), at this book launch. It was lovely to see people I know and spend a few hours listening to and celebrating poetry.

I have known about Chaucer’s pamphlet for a while and was able to celebrate the publishing contract with her (virtually, of course) in 2020, I saw her International Guest Reading and have heard many poems from this pamphlet. It is a difficult and necessary subject and I am delighted for her that ATG picked it for one of the 2021 Pamphlets.

This was such an amazing event, I am struggling to put my feelings into words. It will take a while for my mind (and heart) to settle. It was remarkable, a phenomenal reading of poems from four skilful poets. The subject matter of much of the work had my emotions staggering, I was prepared for In an Ideal World I’d Not Be Murdered but I hadn’t readied myself for what I have just experienced. I don’t think I could have.

As far as Book Launches go, we all witnessed something so much more. I felt we had been churned by a rough sea voyage and sprinkled with the relief of a shower after a long, muddy trek. We were taken to some incredibly dark places and also bound to cherished, unconditional love.

I feel like I spent the afternoon in some sort of immersive performance piece. These books carry stories which are difficult to read. As humans it is always hard for us to be open to the truth of what we do to each other, our potential to harm and destroy. They are also mighty pamphlets brimming with monumental poems.

Abegail Morley introduced the event and Cheryl Moskowitz. Cheryl introduced us to her Guest Poet, Isabelle Baafi, who gave us an incredible reading from her pamphlet, Ripe which was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice: Spring 2021 Selections. I can see why it was selected.

“Ripe is a pamphlet which draws on the mundane to forge beauty, using sensual tones to deal with and address harsh subject matter. Baafi’s poems are great inventions in terms of their use of form. Throughout this book, her use of language is never laboured in its endeavour to draw the reader’s attention. […] Overall, Baafi’s poems often step outside the rational and waking consciousness in order to investigate other realms, be that paranoia, dream states etc. […] Through her lyric poems, prose poetry, erasures and much besides, Baafi offers us a complex world worth savouring, as she revels in language both sacred and profane. This is a pamphlet to enjoy and a poet to watch.”
— Nick Makoha and Mary Jean Chan, PBS Pamphlet Selectors

Her work is wonderful, powerful and honest. Stunning poems. Something special. Isabelle’s work spoke to Cheryl’s work well. And was a perfect set.

PHOTO BY SARAH KIKI NYANZI

Cheryl Moskowitz shared work from Maternal Impression. Cheryl’s work was both enthralling and epic. She talked generously about the inspiration behind the poems and some of the places, narratives and people featured throughout her work. Cheryl also shared an astonishing film poem produced by her filmmaker son for ‘A Son Awake’.

“Every time I have heard Cheryl Moskowitz read “The Donner Party”, strange things have happened – a bell has rung with no-one at the door, candles have guttered in a church setting, and shivers always run down my spine. Moskowitz’s poetry summons spirits and spills beyond the words on the page into a mystical space where we are all connected in body and mind. These are poems that once read or heard, leave their mark. Mesmeric, soul-feeding, uneasy, I come back to them again and again for reassurance, admonishment, and recognition of what it is to hang onto the maternal in our collective journey. Maternal Impression is a call to arms – maternal arms – and all that implies in the Anthropocene. It has a beating heart that needs to be heard, felt, and heeded.” – Lisa Kelly

“Reading Maternal Impression is to have the feeling of walking on nails with bare feet, with the assurance of trust. I go tenderly where these fine poems take me, knowing they will advance my pleasure, my empowerment.” – Daljit Nagra 

Jessica Mookherjee introduced Chaucer Cameron, both poets spoke highly of their editing experience with ATG. Chaucer talked about an interview with Jeffrey Sugarman ‘Voicing our Silences‘ about the impact of prostitution and trauma on the body. Chaucer introduced Lucy English as her Guest Reader.

The Book of Hours

Burning Eye Books

This book has recently become a filmmaking project with 27 filmmakers involved. Lucy wanted to create it in three-dimensional form. You can discover more and watch here.

Lucy shared some of her Lockdown writing, after expressing how difficult creativity has been at this time. Her poetry was brilliant, cinematic, microscopic, the specific and this new work captured the feeling of being trapped well.

Chaucer Cameron read an epic set, strong, brave, vulnerable poems which hinge around characters in the industry, including Crystal. It is an incredible body of work and like nothing I’ve ever read. As Chaucer says ‘the characters have their own reasons for being in the industry and only they know where they stand at any given time‘.

In an Ideal World I’d Not be Murdered is part memoir/part fiction and is Chaucer’s debut pamphlet. The poems explore the impact of prostitution.  

“These poems ring out like gunshots in the night; they will wake you from your sleep. Yet despite its distilled directness, this book is lifted by both mystery and surprise. Listen for the songs emerging from the dark centre of this transformative work of experience and survival.’  Jacqueline Saphra.  

Chaucer also shared a film poem made by Helen Dewbery ‘Hooked (with internal song)‘. Another amazing work.

Both poets spoke of their connections to each other having never met they discovered amongst other things, giving birth to their children in the same hospital.

Every reading was outstanding! I love being introduced to new-to-me poets and Isabelle Baafi and Cheryl Moskowitz are now both on my reading list. It was a joy to watch two new poetry films. ATG asked for our questions and plan to produce blog content with the Q&A. It was such a rich and full afternoon of content I am glad they didn’t add a Q&A on. As audience we were stunned and needed time to sit in the sensations we felt. I look forward to reading the Q&A from the ATG poets soon. Instead we heard extra poems from Cheryl and Chaucer.

There really are no words to express this Book Launch, those lucky enough to have been there, know.

BUY the books here.

Arrival at Elsewhere – Cheltenham Poetry Festival

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I was lucky enough to be at this Reading, hosted by Cheltenham Poetry Festival at the beginning of March (4th). It was incredibly moving and the whole time I was thinking what a powerhouse of a project it was, what an undertaking. Although, in the Q&A Carl Griffin (curator) brushed it off as not being overly complicated. Many of us feel we wouldn’t have known where to begin. He started with a kitchen table and some cut up pieces. Carl looked for pattern and he was certainly able to orchestrate that. It was interesting to hear about the process of the book coming together from the initial idea to the finished product. I am still amazed at the seaming of 100 voices into one book length poem.

Carl Griffin talks more about the process here.

This book is more than a chronical of our times.

Money raised from book sales goes to NHS Charities Together. The link below the book cover will take you to the ordering page. £11.99 incl P&P to UK/ £13.99 to the rest of the world.

You can watch an extract/ film poem by Karen Dennison.

This was originally posted on movingpoems.com

You can read an excerpt from the book here.

As well as sharing work from Arrival at Elsewhere the poets shared some of their own work. George Szirtes treated us, revealing some new poems from his next book.

Abegail Morley

Julian Stannard

John Glenday

Graham Clifford

George Szirtes

Here is the information from Cheltenham Poetry Festival about the event and the Publisher (Against the Grain Poetry Press) promotion.

A reading from the epic, pandemic-inspired book – Arrival at Elsewhere( Against the Grain Press).

Arrival at Elsewhere is a ground-breaking, book-length poem, curated by Carl Griffin, in which poets from across the world speak in one voice in response to 2020’s life-changing pandemic.

Arrival at Elsewhere symbolises the fact that all people, no matter our differences, are equally vulnerable, and this rich and eclectic joint voice is a made up of a multitude of individual experiences.

This book-length poem contains lines from T.S. Eliot Prize winners (Philip Gross, Sean O’Brien, George Szirtes), National Poetry Competition winners (Linda France, Beatrice Garland), and a Pulitzer Prize winner (Yusef Komunyakaa), alongside several newcomers and overlooked veteran poets, and seeks to raise money for NHS.

The book is edited by Carl Griffin. Carl Griffin lives in Swansea, in South Wales. He has written extensively on Welsh poetry and poets, in the form of reviews and essays. Though born in Stockton-on-Tees, in 1984, he has spent most of his life living in each of the Welsh cities, and these are the places that inspire many of his poems.  His poetry collection, Throat of Hawthorn, was a winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize and was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

Readers at the event include  Abegail Morley, George Szirtes, John Glenday, Julian Stannard and Graham Clifford.

© Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2021

In this book-length poem, curated by Carl Griffin, poets from across the world speak in one voice in response to 2020’s life-changing pandemic. Not a definitive voice, nor an authoritative one. But a contrasting, contradicting, confused voice, set both in the UK and everywhere else, represented by one narrator who, just like the rest of us, is made up of a hundred different people. A narrator cohesive only in his/her/their contemplation of Elsewhere.

Elsewhere has arrived…

to everyone affected by the Covid-19 pandemic – in aid of NHS Charities Together

PUBLISHER NOTE

When the idea for this book was pitched to us it was still fairly early in the global Covid-19 pandemic. We were all still probably in a state of shock. All locked down, uncertain what was happening – we certainly felt we had landed in a new place. All three of us, like many poets, were unsure how to creatively assess this new situation. That’s why we wanted to support this book. A collaboration of sorts, a creation of a road through all the work of poets who contributed to its making and a maker who has sensitively crafted this winding path of a poem from all our tongues. We are happy to support this work and its intention to support the NHS.

Abegail Morley, Karen Dennison and Jessica Mookherjee
Against the Grain Poetry Press

© Against the Grain Poetry Press 2021

International Women’s Day 2021

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There are many online events marking IWD – there are always Spoken Word and Poetry events that mark this day, the joy of this year was discovering the Creative Profiles on the main IWD site include poets.

Almost too many choices happening this evening, but you will find there are events throughout the week for IWD. I booked a ticket for an event tonight a long time ago, so haven’t even explored other events as I know I won’t be able to make them and then that just makes me feel frustrated.

All information and images below are ©International Women’s Day/IWD2021 (unless otherwise stated) and the text is from the official website.

IWD 2021 campaign theme: #ChooseToChallenge

A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.

We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.

From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.

#IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge

For full information on Women Creatives click here.

Firstly, a poet I was lucky enough to meet and hear during the first Lockdown, Sharena Lee Satti. She has been snapped up by Verve Poetry Press.

Sharena Lee Satti is an independent spoken word artist, author and workshop facilitator who writes with her emotions to the fore, her heart at the centre, and a power that can leave peopple breathless. 

“My poems are real, raw and honest – addressing issues like survival, cultural-identity, life’s battles, self-love, body dysmorphia and many subjects people struggle to speak out about,” says Sharena.

Writing has never been optional for Sharena Lee Satti. Like eating and breathing, it’s something integral to her existence. Everyday she is thankful to be able to make a small difference to society, sharing something she is deeply passionate about.

©www.sharenaleesatti.com

When you choose to challenge… through spoken word poetry

Anisa Nandaula is a very talented spoken word poet, play writer, educator and published author

Spoken word is one of the most powerful forms of poetry because it passionately expresses the poet’s deepest thoughts while simultaneously engaging and inspiring listeners. So, spoken word poetry seems a perfect medium to reinforce and amplify this year’s International Women’s Day #ChooseToChallenge theme. Spoken word poets from around the world are stepping forward in solidarity to choose to challenge. 

Anisa was born in Kampala, Uganda and later moved to Australia at the age of 8. Growing up in Australia, Anisa observed the vast distinctions between these two countries and the fundamental difference in living standards sparked her passion to use her voice to articulate her thoughts on social justice. Her poetry explores issues of race, feminism and politics – while employing her talent and wisdom to educate and engage people to have difficult and challenging conversations. Her often controversial work explores the complexities of being a child of diaspora, history and the importance of philosophical questioning. Anisa’s soulful and passionate performance style is incredibly moving.

Some of Anisa’s most influential poems see her confrontationally and powerfully explore concepts of identity, violence and worth.

Anisa has received a multitude of accolades, appeared at numerous high-profile events, and performed upon many prestigious stages including at the Sydney Opera house.

Anisa discusses her passion, struggles and inspiration

“I guarantee there are going to be moments where you want to give up – where you don’t think that you’re good enough or your ideas are good enough – but you have to be resilient enough to keep going…There are going to be days when no one believes in your idea but you, but you have to have belief in what you can see and what you can be in yourself,” says a young Anisa.

Aminah Rahman is an award-winning British-Bangladeshi poet and spoken word artist

Aminah Rahman is a 17-year-old award-winning published poet and spoken word artist born and raised in Cambridge, UK. She is a third-generation British-Bangladeshi with over 60 years of family history in Cambridge. She has been writing poetry since she was eight years old. Most of her poetry focuses on fighting racism and celebrating who we are as individuals. 

To support the International Women’s Day #ChooseToChallenge​ theme and to call upon further spoken word poets to step forward and use their voice to influence positive change, Aminah crafted an inspiring poem “Changing the Future”.

Aminah Rahman

Aminah’s mission is to break down any barriers that could stop people from reaching their potential, and she hopes to connect to the souls of many people who draw comfort from her words.

“I believe that it is important to be there for one another. I remember when I wrote my first rap ‘Accept Me Please’, after hearing stories about tackling racism. I ran up the stairs, taking two steps at a time as so many ideas came flooding in to me, and then I put pen to paper,” she explains. “I had never written so quickly! It was an incredible feeling knowing that I had my first rap right in front of my eyes. Poetry has enabled me to learn about the world around me and most importantly who I am as an individual.”

Winner of prestigious awards and accolades

Aminah wrote her first poetry collection Poems by Aminah in 2016. She then wrote Soul Change, her next collection of poems about social issues that affect humanity today. Five of Aminah’s poems have been published in Young Writers UK anthologies. Aminah is featured in the June 2020 edition of Writing Magazine, the UK’s biggest and bestselling magazine for writers, where she talks about her passion for poetry. Aminah was also recognised as one of the ‘Top 6 Most Influential Muslim Youth’ in Hayati Magazine, Nigeria’s #1 Muslimah fashion and lifestyle magazine.

She was the winner of the Young Muslim Writers Awards Key Stage 2 Poetry category in 2015. In 2017, she was the joint winner of the Cambridge News and Media Education Awards: Pupil of the Year award. She also took part in the BBC Upload Festival 2020, a festival that showcases talent from across England and the Channel Islands. Aminah represented Cambridgeshire with her poem ‘Please’. She has spoken at numerous events, actively promoting inclusion and diversity.

Using poetry to understand the people and the world

Aminah Rahman

Poetry can be a powerful mechanism for change. For Aminah, it is the heartbeat for change.

It helps her to understand and appreciate the way the world is today. Poetry is a form of expression that helps her to process her thoughts and feelings. Writing and reading poetry helps her to see things from a different perspective.

For Aminah, words are the best reflections. “Poetry helps me to empathise with others and it leads us to love. It also helps me to understand my own identity. My journey has helped me to discover my own voice. Poetry is a powerful gift because it addresses feelings which can be hard to describe. Poetry brings us together,” she adds.

©International Women’s Day/IWD2021

I will be celebrating with some women I know this evening.

And I couldn’t post IWD without a link back to one of the many anthology collections I edited/curated as Worcestershire Poet Laureate in 2018. This one came from a Mini Workshop I facilitated in The Hive, based on the wonderful exhibition they displayed to mark 100 years of votes for women/ the Suffragette Movement. Those women certainly chose to challenge! #ChooseToChallenge.

Suffragettes Anthology – Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2018

I was the 7th WPL and the 4th woman to take the role, my plate was very full 3 years ago, so for IWD I created this call out IWD which resulted in this brilliant post all about female poets and inspirational & influential women. Many listed are friends of mine and poets I know, I have now (in the past 3 years read all of them), maybe you will find a new read somewhere in there and they are all STRONG women!

I couldn’t quite leave it there – I created this post with the former female Worcestershire Poets Laureate – Maggie Doyle (2012-13), Heather Wastie (2015-16) & Suz Winspear (2016-17) celebrating their work and influential women in their lives.

It’s IWD – it can’t pass without another watch of Amanda Gorman!

And, from the power of performance through words of wisdom, we reflect on that moment when our spirits were ignited across the world by the stirring call from Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman who delivered her poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. An American poet and activist, Amanda Gorman’s work focuses on issues of oppression, feminism, race, and marginalization. © International Women’s Day 2021

#IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge

I have always been a letter writer, at 13 I had 33 International pen-pals and many of us wrote well into our 20s and have since found each other via social media! Lifelong friendships. I used to love receiving post… nowadays it is mainly business and bills but occasionally someone sends me gold. I was overjoyed to see this… although (typically) it is a no-post day for me. A wonderful gesture from the Royal Mail.

Millions observe Royal Mail’s significant #ChooseToChallenge awareness raising efforts

Thank you to the UK’s Royal Mail for celebrating International Women’s Day, raising community awareness, and amplifying the call-to-action to #ChooseToChallenge. ⁠

Royal Mail’s special #IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge postmark is being applied to millions of stamped mail items over three days of the International Women’s Day period. 

Important support for women’s empowerment

Royal Mail’s special moment-related postmarking provides an important opportunity to amplify key messsages, mobilize positive action, and engage communities.

Not only will women appreciate the organization’s support in reinforcing equality, but the #IWD2021 #ChoooseToChallenge postmarking is relevant to all genders inviting people to courageously step forward and call out stereotyping, bias and discrimination. 

© The Guardian 2014

An iconic organization where women choose to work, Royal Mail is one of the oldest organizations in the world, and can trace its origins back over 500 years to 1516.

They are also one of the UK’s largest employers and mantain a solid focus on diversity and equal opportunity within its workforce.

Royal Mail Group has a strong community engagement focus which provides an important opportunity for its people to interact and build relationships with the communities they serve – and this is of benefit to both parties. The organization’s ongoing commitment to community engagement is significant.

© Alison Evans @artsyalisondesigns

Typography From the Creatives IWD.

Alison Evans is from Sacramento in California, USA and her design focuses on challenging and calling out gender bias and inequity. ” I love the empowerment in the message and knew I had to create something that not only celebrates the day, but shows solidarity with the mission,” she says.

“I like to serve up positive, uplifting art with a side of feminism and pop culture. The main focus of my work is based on my own personal experiences with mental health, feminism and being raised by the television screen. While most of my work is focused on illustration, my main inspiration and motivation is typography, lettering and calligraphy.” 

“My concept behind my IWD design is that I really wanted to embody the celebration of women’s achievements and promote a sense of inclusion and togetherness. Hands are something I gravitate towards illustrating, so I thought that holding hands would be a perfect depiction of that idea. I also wanted to incorporate the international symbol for women, and decided to include that with the background pattern.”

“For the process, the program I use for all of my lettering/typography/illustration is Procreate. I started with the message: ‘Happy International Women’s Day’ and decided I wanted to have that as the biggest element in the design. I sketched the lettering out first and realized that I had a blank spot underneath the lettering portion. As mentioned, I enjoy drawing hands so I thought this would be a perfect addition to the design at the bottom. I sketched those until they fit how I wanted them to, then went back and lettered the writing, and designed the ribbon-like texture to it. After that, I finalized the hands and colored them in. I always have a problem selecting colors, so that part took a long time, but I finally settled on a darker background so that the messaging popped.”

“When it comes to IWD, I believe that as a society we need to celebrate women’s successes and stand up for gender parity in every aspect of life. Although I would love if everyday could be International Women’s Day, it is nice that we can set aside one day where we can focus our efforts on raising awareness about equality and come together for a common cause to celebrate the achievements the world has made in the goal of gender equity and inclusion.”

© International Women’s Day 2021

And finally pop over to this post to read some inspirational quotations from more authors.

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.