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
Well this is the first post this month online but August was packed, PACKED with poetry. I am still catching up on some blog posts from June-July and now will be adding August to the pile.
Here’s the month in snapshot!
Before Perth Poetry Festival I blanked my diary out as much as possible and missed some fine Midlands poetry events.
I did a lot of research for Perth Poetry Festival and signed up to an anthology which I was lucky enough to be online for when the thread was posted, a project that is so popular it has a reserve list (more on this later).
The main event this week was a Book Launch in Cheltenham for a charity anthology that I was fortunate to have the shortest poem (apart from short form) I have ever written included in it. The event at Hatherley Manor was dreamy and wonderful and the book raises funds for the cat rescue charity New Start Cat Rescue Centre, Huntley, Gloucestershire.
I will be creating a full blog post soon (and link back here when I am done).
This anthology ‘All a Cat Can Be’ was the brainchild of Sharon Larkin and I am privileged to be involved. It would make a great Christmas gift for any cat lover.
“This book is as gloriously varied as the beloved cats it celebrates. Here you will find poems which are witty, thoughtful, moving, and light-footed. ‘All a Cat Can Be’ offers something to please every reader, while helping cats desperate for a good home. And the photographs are irresistible!” – Alison Brackenbury
Edited by Sharon Larkin and Sheila Macintyre.
I also sent a poem to Lucy Dougan for her Monster Field Workshop.
Week 2 & 3
I started working on INKSPILL – annual online writing retreat right here on AWF. More on this soon. Secured this year’s Guest Writers and started research.
I worked tirelessly for a fortnight attempting to get the final issue of Contour Poetry Magazine live before flying off to the Southern Hemisphere. I was at this point still waiting for copy, so did what any good editor should do and contacted the poets who had successfully made publication and shelved the remaining editorial until my return.
And then I flew to Perth, WA.
Where I had an incredible time (lots of posts to follow). It was an amazing festival and I did as much of it as I could!
Was mainly jet lag and editing… not a workable combination.
I managed to get myself back into Birmingham – it has been too long – over 12 months I think. I went to the Big White Shed Brum night and it was packed with poetry – wall to wall and heart through heart.
I am going to write the evening up over the weekend if I have a chance but it was a special night. The fusion of East & West (Midlands). There is a cracking poetry scene in Nottingham and this evening was proof of fine work happening in the region.
A soft spot for me as I started Spoken Word in the East Midlands in Leicester.
Just home from a great night at The Blue Boar in Ludlow where Deb Alma Launched her first collection ‘Dirty Laundry’ published by Nine Arches Press.
This event was part of the Ludlow Fringe Festival.
Deb invited Guest Poets to perform: I read alongside Angela Topping, Roz Munro Derry, Holly Magill and Ruth Stacey.
I had not seen Angela since she launched Hearth (Mother’s Milk Books pamphlet written with Sarah James), it was lovely to catch up and also hear her read. I was particularly in awe of her final poem. Holly and Ruth both treated us to powerful new poetry, Holly’s debut pamphlet The Becoming of Lady Flambé is published by IDP. It was lovely to meet Roz, full kudos for her being brave enough to finish her wonderful set with her Me Too themed poem, written after Deb had created the anthology published by Fair Acre Press.
Deb Alma then took the stage after a great introduction from Jim Sheard. I thoroughly enjoyed the Launch in Birmingham and Deb’s reading here on (old) home soil was perfect too. Her set was a brilliant mix of all that Dirty Laundry offers and I admire her ability to perform some of the material in front of her family. It has been splendid watching Deb take off beyond her ever-amazing Emergency Poet work.
Deborah Alma’s debut poetry collection Dirty Laundry is raucous, daring and honest, drawing contemporary women’s lives and those of our foremothers into the spotlight. It voices bold, feminist songs of praise: of persistence, survival, adventures of sexual rediscovery, each reclaiming the space to speak its mind and be heard and seen. A perfect remedy for the heartsick and weary, Alma’s intimate and particular poems are resolute enchantments, a form of robust magic.
After an interval I was part of the #MeToo Anthology experience. These compelling performances have been occurring up and down the UK, at Festivals and Poetry Events. This book (sadly) is a necessary collection full of sincere and authentic poetry. This collection rallies against sexual assault and harassment.
The Guest Poets joined Deb in reading their own and other’s poems from the anthology before a group performance of Pippa Little’s Spartaca. A moving end to an amazing evening.
#MeToo Anthology was a Saboteur Award Winner earlier this year. All profits go to Women’s Aid and Refuges & domestic and sexual violence services can apply for a 50% discount on the cover price.
“…Something was released and given a space within social media. It was easy to add our voice to the rising shout of #MeToo. We felt the sisterhood. Many women felt emboldened by this to share more difficult stories, more details; the lid has come off this box and now cannot be forced back on. I’m a poet, and an editor, and someone suggested we collect these stories somehow and it was obvious to collect them as poems. It was what I could do. I am very proud of this book, proud of the poets for sharing their stories and for putting their names to their words…These poems are painful, angry, often difficult to bear, but the result of these voices singing together is one that is beautiful, full of sisterhood, strength, and recovery…” (Deborah Alma, Editor)
My own poem ‘Ripped’ was shortlisted. Many of the shortlisted poems appear on Vik Bennett’s Wild Women #Us together.
voices from the #MeToo movement
In collaboration with the creators of the anthology, Wild Women Press have created an online platform for some of the additional submissions sent in response to the #MeToo call for poems. This platform is a place to celebrate the courage of the women who have shared their poems — voices that join together across counties and countries, in strength and sisterhood. #MeToo #UsTogether #NoMore
Richard Archer produced the first Diverse Verse (2016) before I happened upon his charitable project, I made sure that I was on board when he did it again in 2017 and after creating Diverse Verse 2, he has done it again!
I am proud to have a rather strange poem written during NaPoWriMo 2017 included in this publication. Proceeds go to Cancer Research UK.
Richard Archer commented on how the collection affords an opportunity for first time publication, which I think is great – you never forget the feeling of the first poem published.
The books are certainly diverse with a mix of known, novice and up and coming poets from all over the world, bound together in a perfectly formed paperback!
Scott and Amy – owners of Walsall and the Black Country’s only independent bookshop.
The Launch took place in Walsall at SouthCart Books on 28th April and was great fun. There may even be a write up in a Midland Arts Magazine soon. I will keep you posted. Rick Sanders, myself and Richard Archer were interviewed and offered insights into the project and the writing process/life of a poet.
There was a relaxed atmosphere throughout the launch and as ever Scott and Amy put on a generous spread and served hot drinks to keep us caffeinated, wine was available but I was driving.
The event ran from 11 – 3 PM and was divided into 3 readings with plenty of time to catch up, socialise and browse the Bookshop between each set. It was great to catch up with poets I have not seen for ages and to promote the last Laureate opportunities to them.
I also love the fact Southcart Books is open, so sometimes customers come and have a listen or just come to browse the shelves above your head as one guy did in the 3rd Reading.
In the first section we heard 5 minute sets from these poets;
Many performed the poem they had in the anthology alongside other work. Some sets were deeply moving and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting back for a listen.
Then we had an interval, food, mingling – lots of love in the Bookshop.
There is a poetry chair people to read from (a tradition in the Bookshop).
So I settled down (cake on shelf) to open the 2nd section;
Then another break, more coffee and a final readings from;
A really superb launch and a great anthology. You can buy a copy here
Diverse verse 3 is a poetry collection full of the finest poems from across the globe.
Within its covers are words that will send hearts soaring with joy or just as easily bring them crashing back to earth. Turn a page and find yourself on the wrong side of an argument, lost in a fantastical city or battling with malevolent inner demons. Read on and live vicariously through the words within.
Diverse Verse 3 is sold to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
This month saw a return to full time work and as a result I missed a fortnight of poetry I had planned. Which I still haven’t really forgiven myself for.
Started with the Easter weekend and some time offline. I registered AWF on napowrimo.net and spent most of my time organising the long overdue exhibition at the Jinney Ring of our Sculpture workshop poems.
I am also involved in a Shakespeare Birthplace Trust project with local schools in Stratford-Upon Avon and received letters from two children who I then wrote a peace poem for. I made that sound easier than it was, the one child requested a humorous poem. I have a repertoire includes about 20 funny poems (which sounds a lot, but I have been writing for 4 years now)! I had a 6 day deadline and the poems had to be received by post. I managed 2 poems which I am proud of and hope that they are excited to be working with a Laureate.
I started the long process of editing and digitally compiling the Special Edition of Contour Poetry Magazine. Proof copies were sent out in March and now I have to fix edits and complete the desk top publishing, due to work commitments I know that it will be May before this issue is live. I had hoped for an April release originally.
I have worked on ATOTC A Tale of Two Cities since July 2017, one of the first long term Poet Laureate projects, it has been an amazing project which saw poems exchanged between UK and USA partners throughout 2018, all copy was back on my desk by March and after all the hard work of the 47 people involved I want the issue to be the best that it can be. I would rather take more time over it than hash it out this month, I simply no longer have time scheduled for it as other items, events and work have to take priority.
Even when these magazines are seemingly ready they have historically eaten another 14+ hours in the end process of conversion and upload.
I worked on the Suffragette Anthology – now live over at the Worcestershire Poet Laureate site Suffragettes Anthology.
I had a workshop in Stratford with Angela France, we wrote about trees and it was warm enough to sit in the garden, unfortunately a sunny day + Easter break saw Stratford full of tourists and this meant our usual haunt was not available for lunch. Sitting on a wall opposite the river chatting with Angela was a bonus though.
The following day I was facilitating a workshop with the Basement Project, I booked 3 with this charity back in November as part of my local Laureate work. The charity support young people 16-25 who are or are at risk of becoming homeless. It is a great team there and I have already established work with them post-Laureateship, which is great.
I started NaPoWriMo and over the weekend took some of my Napo poems for editing treatment.
I finally got to see Idle Women on tour – it had been nearly a fortnight since I inhabited the world of poetry, due to tiredness I missed 42 at the end of March and had not been out to a poetry gig since Earth Hour.
It was the 2nd time in as many weeks I had had the pleasure of going out with my mum, we saw the ROH ballet at the Artrix the Tuesday before and then shared Idle Women.
They still have tour dates in May, catch this show if you can. You will not be disappointed.
I continued to write a poem a day for NaPoWriMo.
I took the Sculpture Poem Exhibition to the Jinney Ring. It is now on display in the restaurant near the entrance, an entire wall of poetry. They are able to keep it up for the next month and this means that when we have our Hanbury Reading at the Church in May, the poems will still be at the Craft Centre for visitors to go and see. Also I am hoping that this will in turn promote the next Sculpture Trail workshop in September 2018.
I started to write copy for the Worcestershire LitFest Festival Programme, the Poet Laureate Review, traditionally this has been half a page, I requested a full page and still edited out over 200 words! I had a lovely evening out with poetry friends.
I had my final workshop at the Basement Project planned and got up early to prep for it, unfortunately it was cancelled as some of the mums who had booked their children onto it were unable to make it. I will hold another Junior workshop in October half term.
I wanted to go to Scary Canary for Permission to Speak as Natalie Burdett – a poetry friend from 2014/15 who is now doing a Phd in Manchester and has just had her pamphlet published by the Poetry Business. http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/natalie-burdett I missed her set and the entire evening as Mr. G was on a course in Worcester and I met up with him afterwards for a Cinema date, we weren’t home in time, plus we had just been on a date. ‘Lovely date, thanks darling – just going out poeting now.’ wouldn’t have gone down too well!
I missed SpeakEasy which Tony Judge was headlining due to a backlog of work. I am currently writing an evaluation for the WMRN and was prepping for poetry festivals and working on ATOTC.
I am also involved in a poetry/art (PoARTry) project in Ledbury which is being led by Rick Sanders, it is his 2nd time running this project. He partners poets and artists – like the football pools, I was paired with Molly Bythell, a talented young graduate who creates amazing collages and paints in oil. Her work screams story and it has been a great collaboration so far. https://mollybythell.com/
I missed Stanza for the 2nd month (my poor unedited poems) as I was too tired and was actually asleep by 8 PM which would have been rather impolite on someone else’s settee!
I spent my final weekend of freedom with Mr G. and did some work on the house and a little editing on ATOTC.
Full time work (my first time in 5 years) arrived kicking and screaming on my doorstep.
I continued to write a poem a day for NaPoWriMo.
I missed the Me Too event at The Hive, Case Bailey in the Jewellery Quarter, and Sean Colletti at Dear Listener.
Most of my free time in the evening was spent recouping from the day. Emotionally and physically! I managed to write a review for BMAG on the Hackathon experience and started writing my Verve Review for Sabotage. I was also asked to do a Poetry Surgery at the Anchor Gallery in Birmingham as part of the work Nellie Cole is doing there.
I managed to get to Jenna Plewes Book Launch, it was a sunny evening and very pleasant to spend an hour or so listening to her poetry from her new V. Press pamphlet Against the Pull of Time. I will be writing a review of the Launch in May.
I had my Sparks Young Writer group (WWM) at The Hive on Saturday which saw the welcome return of members to the group and we were also witness to a group of Librarians helping move a gigantic fish through the ground floor of the library. There was a procession of some sort down to the river, elements of which found there way into our writing.
I finally got the European Twin Town project between Droitwich Spa and Voiron off the ground. I had been working on this WPL project since July, mainly at a committee level and like with all these projects it was a slow start, but perseverance pays and by the beginning of 2018 I had a french contact who put me in touch with a poet, Alain Graiz. Alain helped me find other poets from Voiron and by February/ March I had communicated with all involved. Again I had hoped to get the exchange up and running by March.
I am happy to say that it is now in full swing, some poems have already been exchanged. It is a much smaller project than ATOTC and the full collection of poems should be live before the end of my Laureateship (10th June).
I received news of my Grant Application but have so far been locked out of the system. So I have no idea if my bid was successful yet or not.
I spent the week preparing for Cheltenham Poetry Festival and Bohemian Voices and getting incredibly nervous over the fact I have not performed poetry for a month! That must be the longest length of unintentional abstinence ever! But what I have learnt is it is hard to facilitate projects, write new poetry, edit magazines, teach and still find the time to perform! I needn’t have worried. What I did is over rehearsed and then I don’t think anyone would have thought – she clearly hasn’t read for a month!
I have been doing NaPoWriMo throughout this whole month, occasionally falling behind a few days and playing catch up. To produce 30 poems in a month in no mean feat. I am also working on something more too.
I missed the Bare Fiction Launch and 42 (for the 2nd month running). I wanted to save my energy for Cheltenham Poetry Festival and the last fortnight at work has been exceedingly hard going, so I had little energy to spare to travel to events.
Cheltenham Poetry Festival arrived, funny when you are booked so far in advance it seems forever in the diary as coming up… then suddenly one week it is days to go. I was slightly gutted that I had been invited to do Stablemates with Jill Abram in London and missed it because it was on the same night. Sarah went in my place and it sounds like they had a great time.
Cheltenham Poetry Festival was excellent, as it always is. Just a shame work meant that I wasn’t able to get to much other than on the day I was booked. Cheltenham Poetry Festival I made it for the Indigo Dreams Showcase which was at the same venue before my Fragile Houses reading. I will write a full review post next month.
The following evening (events are like buses) I had the pleasure of being one of 5 artists involved inBohemian Voices, organised and MCed by Steve Soden, he used to run these events in London and the experience at the Jinney Ring was probably as far from his original nights as you can imagine. It was a great night and I will link the review back to this post. (That goes for all the promised reviews of…)
I had a fantastic evening and was delighted by the surprise appearance of my mum and Aunty.
With little time to recover from a 2 night fix of poetry (which certainly made up for missing a month of it), I had a Book Launch.
This weekend also saw Birmingham Literature Festival Spring Edition, which I totally missed due to bookings and other commitments.
The Book Launch on Saturday was in Walsall at Southcart Books for Diverse Verse 3, a charity anthology edited by Richard Archer, it was a beautifully relaxed event with plenty of opportunity to catch up with friends and Richard, myself and Rick Sanders were interviewed for the West Midlands Magazine, more on that soon I hope. Click the link for the full review.
I finally finished the month with a submission – not sent any poems anywhere since March!
I also had to write Q&A for Australia – Western Australia Poetry Festival – for the promotion and marketing and complete my review of Verve Poetry Festival and my evaluation for WMRN. That is a lot of midnight oil after a day at work!
Priorities in May include: Finishing WPL projects, tying up the reviews for WMRN Reader Residency for Warwickshire Libraries, organising poets for Artsfest events, performing and discussion at Midland Arts Institute, possible participation in a Heritage Project, a workshop with Ash Dickinson, a poetry judge at Sarah Leavesley’s Book Launch for How to Grow Matches, being a poet at the Living Library, Headlining Poetry Bites (my first Headline for a while) and more, including new writing and Ledbury Poetry Festival – oh, yes and work!