Yesterday I listened to incredible poems from George Szirtes, Moniza Alvi and Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese at LIVE at The Butchery. Their poems will sit with me for a long time.
During the event Jacqueline Saphra dropped a link to the Fundraiser which happened in London on Mother’s Day, 30th March.
A fundraising, awareness-raising, spirit-raising day of poetry in solidarity with the people of Ukraine at this time of great peril and suffering.
Poets for Ukraine, in partnership with The Society of Authors, The Poetry Society, The Poetry School and JW3 held a Poem-a-Thon here at JW3 where sponsored poets read in relay for up to five minutes, some in person and some virtually.
Special guests include:
Juliet Stevenson, Jessie Ware, Meera Syal, Sophie Ward and Nick Hytner Naomi Shihab Nye from the USA Headliner poets from the UK, including former Scottish Makar Jackie Kay Former National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke Imtiaz Dharker who holds the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry This year’s Costa Book Prize winner Hannah Lowe Forward Prize winner Fiona Benson Former Poet Laureates Carol Ann Duffy and Andrew Motion Poet in Residence for Radio 4 & 4 Extra Daljit Nagra Veteran actors Harriet Walter and Bill Paterson They will share the spotlight with Ukrainian poets appearing on video both from the frontline and the diaspora.
All proceeds to our chosen charities, Goods for Good and Hope and Aid Direct.
The links for giving are available under the video.
Whilst the war on Ukraine rages, it is hard for us to feel okay about posting other things. In times of crisis artists do what they can in the way they do. I can donate, I can help, I can promote others doing the same.
Art itself can help raise spirits, many of you will have seen the footage of the brave young singer in the basement or the man playing Imagine for the refugees crossing the border.
Musician Davide Martello, 40, lives in Konstanz, southern Germany.
There will be many local fundraisers for you to get involved with. Here are some coming up in my region and beyond.
Fundraiser In Ledbury For Ukraine
Saturday 19th March, 10.30am – 10pm,
The Poetry House, The Barrett Browning Institute, Ledbury HR8 2AA.
There will be: Drop-in Art Workshops with artist Jeanette McCulloch10.30am – 12.30pm Make a beautiful Ukraine inspired folk art greeting card Poetry Clinic 11am – 5pm Receive individual feedback from poet Lesley Ingram. Minimum donation £20 for 20 minutes. Open Mic 2pm – 5pm Read a poem by a Ukrainian poet. Or any poem of your choice. Drop-in. All welcome. Poets and Musicians for Ukraine! 6pm – 10pm Live performances from Elvis McGonagall, Connie Gordon, Jonny Fluffypunk, Mark Stevenson, Amy Rainbow, Nick Trigg, Sara-Jane Arbury, John Rose and Steve Rooney. Minimum donation £10.
It took a pandemic for the world to wake up to all sorts of issues, mental health is just one. There’s hope that in the future mental health will be as accepted as physical health. Today there are many events for World Mental Health Day. Whatever you do, or don’t – be gentle on yourselves and others.
Here are some helpful websites:
I encourage anyone (but especially young people) to Journal for health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental health. Some groups, including health and other frontline workers, students, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions, have been particularly affected. And services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders have been significantly disrupted.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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’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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
November finally saw a return to work after 8 months, an anxious time but also a great relief! It was a busy month on and offline. I had more medical appointments and another hospital appointment. But the balance was a month packed with Poetry / Literary Festivals!
At the end of October and beginning of November I enjoyed Dodge Poetry Festival and the packed programme of poetry. I shared a sea theme poem at Wirral Poetry Festival at an evening featuring Philip Gross, watched Andrew McMillan at Todmorden Book Festival, saw Padraig O’Tauna read several times. Watched Sandwell Stories, enjoyed Ankh Spice back in action at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, HAY had a WINTER Festival Weekend. I joined the final weekend of Culturama.
I had the opportunity to watch Heidi Williamson in action again at The Oxford Centre for Life Writing, Worcester University have also brought part of the Creative Writing Readings online and I managed to catch Hannah Lowe in action (it has been many years since I last saw her read). I caught an event at the Uni of Oxford with Rishi Dastidar on The Craft – a book he wrote a few years ago.
I enjoyed the tail end (dog pun) of Matt Black‘s Book Launch – ‘Sniffing Lamp-posts by Moonlight’ A fundraising book of dog poems.
I did a workshop with Lansing Poet Laureate, Laura Apol, I attended more Creative Conversations at Glasgow University, I enjoyed events at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, continued with Ledbury Poetry Festival workshops, Poets in Motion and Food for Thought and Grief workshops, we had an open mic to celebrate the end of the Hybrid Experimental Memoir with Tawnya Renelle – a relaxed and fun affair!
I did a Nevada Hall of Fame workshop and a personal highlight of the month was the George Szirtesworkshop thanks to Artful Scibe, Mayflower 400 Celebrations in Southampton.
I got involved writing for the Rebellion series with Sheffield Libraries and Nik Perring and started work on his Dear 2020/21 project in association with the BBC/Novels that Shaped Our World and Sheffield Libraries. More news to come. Room 204 provided a special workshop with Thomas Glave, in which we reflected on 2020.
I forgave myself for the deadlines whizzing past and focussed on the successes.
I was a featured poet at Virtual Voices Offa’s Press (10th Nov.) alongside Kenton Samuels, Keith Rogers, Santosh K. Dary and Jeff Phelps. I read at the Reimagine Festival (USA) as part of Redwing’s Poetry for Healing group.
I ran a series of Workshops for The National Star Centre, my gratitude to Ruth, Paul and the team in Cheltenham and to Cheltenham Poetry Festival. These were rewarding mornings where inspiration travelled in both directions!
I was published in the BLER Light Anthology (Black Light Engine Room), had two poems published in Corona, an Anthology of Poems – Edited by Gayl Teller in USA (more on this soon), I had a Renga accepted for a collaborative project in the US, I had two poems published in Geography is Irrelevant – Stairwell Bookshttp://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/product/geography-is-irrelevant/. This anthology includes International Poets who were active online at events in the UK during 2020. More on this soon and a poem accepted for the Dear 2021 Pamphlet produced for the Year of Reading/BBC/ Novels that Shaped Our World with Nik Perring.
Like many of us I wrote about the pandemic in the end (resistance was futile, especially as I self-isolated and had a limited palette of outside life experiences) -not that inspiration was lacking, with all the workshops and 5 notepads of ideas… anyway, I wrote Covid poems and didn’t submit them to any of the Lockdown projects or websites collecting such things. I am grateful that there were a few options left at the end of the year, places to to share them. Now, like the rest of 2020 they can be released!
It has been a long while since I was on top of blog updates. I have a lot of news to share. I am finally (as much of any of us are able to this year) back in the flow.
I read some of the 2019/20 posts I managed last night and was reminded of my Annus horribilis, but the truth is we all have them and for those lucky enough to escape them, this year we had a pandemic that shook the whole world.
When I mention in those posts I was off the meds, I was referring to morphine, I am still on daily tablets for both the neuropathy (which is unlikely to improve beyond what it is) and the chronic illnesses. But that’s the difference. They are this way now forever, this is me. From a life of daily medical appointments, physio and 27 tablets to one of 5 daily tablets and quarterly consultations. The pain is less intense and is liveable. Life is precious, 2020 taught everyone that. So like a bad relationship, I have to put it all behind me and move on.
I am starting a string of posts to fill the gaps of 2020. This pandemic has been the worst thing most of us have ever experienced and I still feel guilty writing about the year in a positive way when so many have lost loved ones.
It gave us time to slow down and although I should have been more productive (I have a house to sort out) and could have made up some of the lost income by selling online (I have a lot of never worn/pre-loved clothes, books that I have read but are in perfect condition and size 5 shoes to offload, if anyone is interested) – and that’s on top of bags sorted for charity (but then not dropped off as they were all inundated with donations/ lockdown – shut them/ and now I am not sure they are taking donations yet). I could have worked systematically through my to do list…. could/should… tough thoughts when you think about what we face, just staying okay and not dipping into depression and anxiety is hard enough for us. So forgive yourself right now if (like me), you didn’t bake sourdough, exercise daily, read every book on your shelf, redecorate every room. You hung in there. Gold stars all round!
At the beginning of it all I was very concerned (still am) but learning to live with it and feel less anxious. Not less cautious though, no Christmas bubble going on here! I disappeared into a year which has become my learning year. Which has been incredible, thanks to the generosity of many creatives who gave their time and expertise to provide so many of us with valuable options.
I have not been in a position to buy anything, I am far luckier than many I have some work again, I have a home etc. but I have also not lived this thinly since I was a student. I arrived in 2020 with the debt of not working for a year and then lockdown. But people have been very generous and I am very grateful and I will pay it forward when I can.
I have always been a fan of the pretty notebook, who isn’t? This year I unpacked them all and started using them. I have filled many books (approx. 14) with notes/writing/ideas. I finally started submitting again and managed to complete several projects / commissions and applications (the latter were unsuccessful). And I started to work again after 7 months of lockdown (I stayed self-isolated pretty much), that has been an adjustment!
And today (one year since the launch of my 2nd pamphlet Patience), my new website went live! I started it back in April 2019 – but wasn’t properly back at the desk until late summer so it became a lost project.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
‘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