Category Archives: Charity

Flashback May: How to Grow Matches Book Launch

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

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Photo by Aris Ioakimidis on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews of HOW TO GROW MATCHES.

Review August 2018

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

Week 1: 

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).

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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).

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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.

 

https://www.poetrybooks.co.uk/products/all-a-cat-can-be

“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.

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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.

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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.

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COMING SOON!

And then I flew to Perth, WA.

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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!

 

Week 4

Was mainly jet lag and editing… not a workable combination.

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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.

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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.

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A soft spot for me as I started Spoken Word in the East Midlands in Leicester.

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https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/cheltenham-big-white-shed-brum/

And I tie August up nicely with a night at Stanza.

I cannot believe the summer holidays are nearly over!

Festivals, Dirty Laundry & #MeToo

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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.

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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.

© Nine Arches Press

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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.

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“…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.

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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

Diverse Verse 3 Charity Anthology Book Launch

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DIVERSE 3

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!

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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!

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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.

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Richard Archer

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.

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In the first section we heard 5 minute sets from these poets;

John mills
Liz mills
Mogs
Alison Reed
Mike Alma
Ian Henery
Matthew Cash
Martha Cash

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).

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So I settled down (cake on shelf) to open the 2nd section;

Nina Lewis
Jan Wilkes
Pauline Faulkner
Claire Sutton
Kristina Griffiths
David Wilkinson
Al Barz
Paul Elwell
Amy Carter

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Then another break, more coffee and a final readings from;

Richard Archer
Rik Sanders
Leanne Cooper
Jerry Peterson
Matt Humphries
Rachel Oram
Dale Parnell
Grace Dore

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.

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© 2018 MNA Express & Star (photo taken in the first shop premises) – Scott Carter

RELATED LINKS:

http://southcart.weebly.com/southcart

https://skaggythepoet.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/diverse-verse-2-sells-out-again-at-southcart-books/

April Review 2018

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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.

Week 1: 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Find out more about them here.

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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.

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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.

Idle Women is theatre/spoken word/poetry/music, read the review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/04/11/not-so-idle-women/

They still have tour dates in May, catch this show if you can. You will not be disappointed.

Week 2

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.

https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/poetry-exhibition-at-the-jinney-ring/

 

 

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!

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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. 

Week 3

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 Timejenna pullI 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.

Week 4

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.

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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).

Read more here.

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 researched the Nation’s Laureates for a post over at the WPL site for St. George’s Day. https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/2018/04/23/st-george-the-poets/

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.

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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.

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The following evening (events are like buses) I had the pleasure of being one of 5 artists involved in Bohemian 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…)

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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.

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https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2018/05/15/diverse-verse-3-charity-anthology-book-launch/

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!

 

NEXT MONTH:

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 Lauch 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!

 

Diverse Verse 3

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DIVERSE 3

Really interesting to find out about the cover. We have just celebrated this charity anthology with a Book Launch at Southcart books, more on that soon!

via Diverse Verse 3 cover reveal

 

Open Poetry for PIPKA

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PIPKA is a self organised refugee camp set up to help Refugees in Greece.

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Performers included:

Set 1
Mike Alma
Mickey Ali
Romalyn Ante
Suzan Atasu
Richard Archer
Elaine Christie
Ann Clarson
Tina Cole
Leanne Cooper

Guest: Helen Calcutt

Set 2
PIPKA Aurelie Blondeau

Grace Dore
Emily Galvin
Amanda Glover
Penny Harper
Jane James
Janet Jenkins
Gerald Kells
Nina Lewis

Set 3
Liz Mills
John Mills
Neil Richards
Janet Smith
Mel Woodend
Sue Wood

Guest: Christina Thatcher

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It took Mike and I an epic amount of time to get to Walsall – 2 hours (!) as there were motorway closures and traffic queues at stand still throughout the route, we did make it in time for the 2nd and 3rd sets.

It was great to see everyone again at the Arboretum, it feels like a long time since I have been there. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see Helen and Christina in action either. They were performing at Waterstones, which I believe has been postponed/rescheduled but was on a date I couldn’t attend. I was not expecting a buffet but was very glad of it – Mike and I had not eaten and were planning to grab lunch in the cafe before the event as we set off plenty early enough to do so.

Also, the main focus was to raise money for charity, so giving a donation to perform was all part of it too. If I had a valid passport I would go and do something too. Especially after hearing Aurelie Blondeau Calcutt talk about her experience with Helen out there.

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Elaine Christie © 2017

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Helen Calcutt © 2017

Below: all photos by Elaine Christie, unless otherwise stated.

 

 

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Many people shared important poems about the refugee crisis.

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Janet Jenkins © 2017

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Christina Thatcher performed a couple of sets from her collection ‘More Than You Were’ a book about grief and losing her father. Emotive the exploration of a relationship that is far from perfect and no longer able to be reconciled. This is a hard and beautiful collection.

https://christinathatcher.com/

In July 2013, David Thatcher died of a drug overdose in America. More than you were was written by his daughter, to try to understand what came after. The result is a striking collection of poetry which explores addiction, family politics, childhood memories and grief. © 2017, Parthian Books.

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After the event Helen sent this message of gratitude.

Pikpa poetry was brilliant yesterday. Thank you everyone who came and performed for us. Listened to us. And donated. We have now raised £610 for Lesvos Solidarity – Pikpa. Nearly half-way there.

A special thanks to Christina Thatcher for travelling all the from sunny Cardiff to read from her new collection – stirring, compelling, brilliant. To Aurelie Blondeau Calcutt for the very positive, informative talk. And to Pop for putting it all on for us. Love to you all, it was a truly successful (and inspiring) afternoon.

Helen Calcutt © 2017

EC2 Elaine Christie © 2017

If you would like to make a donation you can do so here.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/pikpa-medical-uk

In May 2017, my sister-in-law and I visited PIKPA, a self-organised refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, providing support to the most vulnerable individuals seeking refuge. We were both inspired and saddened by what we saw. After speaking with Dimitri Ippioti, one of the two nurses on PIKPA, we decided to focus on crowdfunding for healthcare.

Helen Calcutt © 2017

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Review May 2017

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May was a busy month which included a mid-point glitch when we found ourselves offline and for a while lost all our resources from the laptop!

Week 1:

Sent some submissions, organised festival events and promoted Cheltenham Poetry Festival for Anna Saunders. There were several open mic events in Birmingham and Coventry that I didn’t make and a headline gig that was cancelled due to venue closure.

The team met for work on our show, 30-40-60. This was accepted in March for the Worcester LitFest and takes place next month on Sunday June 11th, 7pm at The Hive, Worcester.

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I was looking forward to Cheltenham Poetry Festival but due to work commitments was not able to make as much of the programme as hoped. I did, however, have a run of 9-10 days of events. Unless I am immersed in a festival, I try not to make bookings like this anymore as I appreciate the energy it requires.

My mini-tour started in Malvern with Carol Ann Duffy, I am so glad that I bought a ticket for this, it was a wonderful night of emotive, uplifting and hard hitting poetry. Last time I saw her, I bought books and although I love what the book co-operative are achieving I was fund poor, I had taken a copy off the shelf at home and hoped she’d be happy to sign. Carol Ann was and she didn’t mention nearly taking me out with the stage door at all!

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John Sampson was his wonderful self too. Loved his music this evening. Glad the Queen gave him away!

The following day I went to Stratford-Upon-Avon for a workshop with Angela France. It was lovely to reconnect with poets I have not seen for a while and the writing was fun. There are some nuts and bolts in my notebook ready to work on. I am finding writing hard at the moment. Maybe it is post-NaPoWriMo or just because I am busy that my mind has no time to settle.

I then went to Birmingham to see Rob Gee at The MAC. Rob and I were friends in Leicester, back when I was at university and discovering the Spoken Word scene for the first time. I have not seen him for nearly 20 years, (how did we get that old?). I met up with him before and after the show and it was as if there had been a gap of days not years.

I thoroughly enjoyed the concept of his show and the delivery. Enjoyed is a strong word as it deals with end of life/people in care. A dramatic framework that works so well and Rob (Pro) shows us how easy it can be to create multi-characters in one space.

ROB GEE

He first  produced this show a long time ago and has toured it internationally – I was so happy to catch it – and the best news for you? He is doing it again for Ledbury Poetry Festival. Go and catch it if you can – book tickets here 3rd July

Read all about it here FORGET ME NOT

As a student nurse, Rob spent three months on a Challenging Behaviour ward for people with late stage Alzheimer’s. Largely based on Rob’s experiences, many of the stories depicted in the show are true. Except the murders, obviously.

The show’s director Tara Gatherer has recently directed three acclaimed short films, Cafe des Fils de Putes, Self Portrait and The Group, the latter of which explored the theme of self-empowerment for older people. Forget Me Not is her first theatre show. © Forget Me Not

I was so wired after the evening. We are not leaving it 20 years until next time!

On Sunday 7th it was the much awaited Book Launch of C.S Barnes, for ‘The Women You Were Warned About’. It was an amazing afternoon of words and cake, stories and poems.

Charley Barnes Book

I was lucky enough to read it a while ago, as Luke Kennard and I were asked to endorse the book. It was still magical to hear Charley read her own words and I didn’t revisit these women on purpose before getting a copy at the launch.

Charley asked Claire Walker, Alan Durham, Polly Stretton and myself to share poetry on women at her launch. I had fun writing a few poems specifically for the event and reworked some NaPoWriMo poems from April that featured women and worked well. I was stupidly nervous about this performance. the pressure not to mess the launch up.

I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and so did everyone else. You can read about it and buy your copy here.

Black Pear 

The Women You Were Warned About: Answers to Absent Questions,
is Barnes’s first full-length publication and, after having so much
fun with the women contained within these stories, she sincerely
looks forward to the possibility of working with such hideous
women again in the future. © Black Pear Press

cs barnes

Week 2

I booked tickets for the National Writer’s Conference. I attended in 2014 and decided that I needed to be further into my career to truly benefit. Tickets for this event are not cheap, but with lots of keynote speakers and a choice of seminars to attend it IS worth every penny. One major pull/benefit of being in Room 204 is you are gifted a ticket to the conference, so I knew back in the Spring that I would be going. So excited. Delighted they have released the information too, I am bad enough with menus and always at these things want to go to absolutely everything – the NWC is set up so you only take 3/9 sessions. Maybe I can bribe some of the cohort to swap notes.

I also spent my writing day working on the multimedia element of our show, 30-40-60. I spent the writing time tidying – I told you I have writers block!

In the evening, I finally made it back to Licensed to Rhyme, my most local poetry night which I have not managed since last year. Steve Pottinger was headlining and Brenda Read-Brown came back for a guest spot. The other guest spots and open mics were all top quality and it was lovely to share a night of fine words. Also fabulous to have Fergus McGonigal back on the scene. Plus it is light enough for me to walk there now so I was able to sample the bar. I also shared my NaPowriMo Bop written about the EDL in Birmingham. I was unsure of this poem, but it went down well – next stop, performing it in Birmingham.

licensed-to-rhyme

The next day I had hoped to make it to Cheltenham for Compound Poets with Gram Joel Davies  and Hannah Linden, it seems a large amount of poetry friends made it over. Work had left me sadly lacking in time and energy so I headed over to Kidderminster instead for the final bow to Mouth & Music. Sarah Tamar organised a one off event to raise money for the People in Motion Charity (helping refugees) and it was a chance for a reunion with Peter Williams (PTR), Tim and Pam Scarborough, Coz and Sarah herself.

It was attended by a writing group Sarah works with and there were a diverse range of performances. It was good to share some work that is harder to hear. I often feel guilty reading social/political poetry at events where people have gone to be entertained. I shared some activist poetry written for events back in 2014/15 and work from my pamphlet, ‘Fragile Houses‘ as it was MHAW (Mental Health Awareness Week).

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I had news about a project I hoped to be part of (Room 204). Last year Croome Court produced Plum Lines an exhibition/project involving many poets I knew. At the time I had a yearning to do something with the National Trust too… you know the universe picks up on this stuff, right? I saw a call out for poets to get involved in the next project ‘Adam Speakes’ which involves writers from 4 key places and an artist, previously accepted.

I am delighted to be part of the Writing West Midlands team working on this. Unfortunately, a pinnacle workshop has landed on a day I should be elsewhere. You know how much I hate not being able to do everything simultaneously. Things will be re-arranged.

I have also booked my day to Croome Court to start the exploration. This project will last until November, there will be a special event on the 25th. I cannot wait to get stuck in and I am sure I will keep you all updated.

I missed HOWL – which was legendary and a great, regrettable shame. Featuring Anthony Anaxagorou (who I missed at Verve), Casey Bailey and Anne Gill. I needed some downtime in amongst all this busy and work really was zapping me of strength and time.

I finally made it to Grizzly Pear – Sean Colleti/ UoB (University of Birmingham) Spoken Word event. this event clashes with SpeakEasy and has yet never fallen on a day I could manage. I wanted to see Inua Ellams, who I had missed at BLF Spring Edition. I was sad to miss Sue Johnson at SpeakEasy, but until I invent that cloning machine, had no choice. I also missed the Indigo Dreams showcase at Cheltenham Festival featuring Jennie Farley, Mab Jones, Bethany Pope and Anna Saunders, which was an event I had hoped to make it across for. Again work had not left enough of a margin to make the road trip viable.

I was glad that I managed to see Inua and his brave acceptance of audience offering key words. His set was then built up from poems linking to that context. Tukaiisloveletter – I had seen at Verve and it was terrifying (in a good way) to see his dynamic, highly emotive, actioned performance. It was good to talk to him about it afterwards too.

I shared my EDL poem, which was responded to well.

The following morning I was not bright eyed or bushy tailed (after the late night gig, I had forgotten how this time frame does not affect the student population) for our 30-40-60 meeting, in fact I was still eating breakfast when we set to work.

It was exciting to see the programme in print for the first time. It was released earlier in the week and since Tuesday had seen lots of teasing photos like this one! WLF © Holly Magill

We worked on our scripting and rehearsed the show. Later on our laptop died after an automated update and took all our files with it. Friday night’s plans changed as we desperately ranted to Microsoft support via the Kindle and attempted to back up everything off our computer. We entered OfflineLife.

The next day I was working for Writing West Midlands, Spark Young Writers group in Worcester with our new Assistant Writer, Rick Saunders. It was a great session on journalism and was embraced well by the group. I got my hands on Worcester LitFest programmes and started distributing.

Following this I went to Cheltenham for John Hegley ‘New and Selected Potatoes‘, which I missed at The MAC last year. It was great to see him live again and another master showing me in this age of ‘you have to do more with your poems’ that actually just being on stage with them should be enough. He had us in stitches and was a joy to watch.

hegley©ents24.com 

LINK TO FOLLOW

The following day I was back over in Cheltenham for my 2nd Hegley Workshop, completely brilliant. Followed by walking to Waterstones in conversation and watching a delighted public as he hit the shop floor with poetry and his mandolin, *Steve, as fans will know.

It was a superb day.

I also had poems Anchored and Hallmarks up for MHAW on Sarah James’s website. They are now archived in the 2015/17 ‘With You In Mind’ Anthology. Read more about this project here. https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/mental-health-awareness-week-with-you-in-mind-anthology/

sl © Sarah Leavesley 

Week 3: 

I joined a Screenwriting course online, with UEA and Future Learn. It has been brilliant, although somewhat challenging completing most of it on the Kindle. I have discovered that I know more than I thought I did. I have also been playing with a few ideas banked for the future.

I worked on the film element of 30-40-60 and missed both events I had pencilled in. A book launch for Nigel Hutchinson at Waterstones and HIT THE ODE. Rather disappointed with myself but I came home from work on Thursday and hour later than I should have with barely time to make it to the city. By arrival time I had gone to bed and slept right through to Midnight! I needed the rest.

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I also spent a day online (now that I mended the internet) at the Hay House World Summit. Back in 2015 I took every seminar and film going. This year, I have been more selective and currently have a notebook filled with 12 of the programmes available. It is free to sign up and a real annual blessing as far as I am concerned.

I spent the weekend organising festival events and reading. It was beneficial to take a break from performing and recover from the busy schedule last week.

I felt re-energised ready for the final busy push of May.

Week 4

I booked a workshop with Helen Ivory and Martin Figura, completed the UEA Screen Writing course,

4 tutors

and booked tickets for a book launch in July.

On Tuesday I went to Poetry Alight in a new venue in Lichfield to catch poetry from Roy Marshall and Jane Commane. It was a brilliant (if not extremely hot evening). The new venue is lovely. It was great to catch up with Roy and Jane.

Photography by Ben Macnair

royjane

I missed Kathy Gee headlining at Poetry Bites – that was also a wonderful evening so I have heard.

On Thursday evening I missed a Book Launch, Ali Oxbury – we met on the Writing For Children course in 2013 has had her poetry collection published. I would have loved to have been there – I have also spent the past 4 years wishing for bookings. You can’t have it all.

I was booked to perform alongside Kevin Brooke, Holly Daffurn, Kieran Davis and Alan Durham for the Poetry Salon. This was my 2nd year for Worcester LitFest & Fringe, I have lost count of the Poetry Brothel/Salons I have participated in… I think it may be 5 or 6. It was an enjoyable evening, concluded with a wonderful open mic. A precious evening for poetry organised and hosted by Charley Barnes.

poetry salon

We had our final editing meeting/rehearsal for our 30-40-60 show. It is going to be great. I have since finished cutting the film and Kathy has created a good looking program of the acts. We have all our open mic-ers signed up – a publisher, a Laureate, published poets and a festival poet! It is going to be fun and happens in just 11 days time!

30-40-60

Over the Bank Holiday weekend I attended the Book Launch for Diverse Verse 2, an anthology compiled by Richard Archer. It was a fantastic turn out at Southcart Books and lovely to see the new shop. A good few hours of immersive poetry & a buffet. Sadly the M5 was crawling at 30 m.p.h and I was delayed. I got there in time for the start but missed coffee (much needed) and a chance to buy the book (I have since ordered it). Wonderful that they sold every copy and a lesson to myself to ask for a reserved copy in future. The proceeds are for Charity and it has already raised lots.

https://skaggythepoet.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/diverse-verse-2-is-launched-and-ready-to-buy/

https://willisthepoet.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/no-not-the-one-in-poland/

diverse verse 2

http://www.lulu.com/shop/richard-archer/diverse-verse-2/paperback/product-23201198.html

It was good to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.

The Extra Days

I organised to write a review for a topnotch poetry magazine, received news that I am one of three finalists for the Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2017/18 competition. Which happens next Friday, 9th June – the start of the LitFest. I am delighted by the news, excited and as nervous as can be!

https://worcslitfest.co.uk/2017/05/30/and-the-worcestershire-poet-laureate-finalists-are/

WLF&F logo concepts

Last night was one of the most clashing for events- Charley Barnes was headlining at Cafe Grande Slam, Matt Windle at Spoken Trend, 42 in Worcester (my regular Wednesday night feast) was also happening and way back in April, I booked tickets for Stourbridge Library to go and see Jo Bell & Roy McFarlane.

I was an incredible evening & a pleasant way to finish the month.

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Blog Void

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I promise I will do better (next year), well we all need a resolution don’t we. I realise that I have committed the ultimate sin, I haven’t abandoned this blog (I never will… slightly concerned about what happens when all the data is used up, but am WAY off that eventuality), however, it looks abandoned. So I started to rectify this by listing all the posts I owe the blog and promised to people. These will be posted by the end of the month.

In the meantime here is a whistle-stop breakdown;

October End

Post- INKSPILL (which was our amazing online retreat) I needed some time to recoup energy. During this weekend I was also scheduled to perform and attended a deeply moving workshop.

I had a week off work where I tried to catch up with real-life, family/friends, chores etc. Worked on writing projects, having only just found the ability to write returning after working on the manuscript for 18 months. I also performed and workshopped, took bookings for 2017, raised money for charity at a Quiz Night, celebrated family birthdays and entered some poetry competitions.

November

Started working on a new project, performed poetry, entered a competition, completed research, took writing groups, missed birthday parties, had a bonfire party, went to a gig, wrote new poetry, had work published, bought poetry books, met new to me poets, went to readings and had a few exciting invitations/ opportunities.

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Over the next few weeks I will blog about lots of these things. In the meantime, I share an interesting article written by Sarah James. Reblogged here Reaching Your Audience

 

Feminist Poetry Night for Refugee Action

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I am always on the look out for something different, this month I found it. Milly Morris was looking for artists to help with her fundraiser. A very brave decision as she didn’t know us or our work and had no idea what a great bunch of performers were in attendance.

Basically (I say basically, as I have never run a marathon before), David Parfitt and Amelia Morris are running the Vienna Marathon in April to raise money for refugee action. This fundraiser was to start off their donation pot and Milly raised nearly £500 which is fabulous. As with all organisers Milly was worried that no-one would turn up, performers would let her down and no-one would come.

Well Birmingham will never let you down when it comes to poetry or/and charity, ever! I guarantee that! Get students from the university involved and you guarantee an audience.

Milly needn’t have worried it was an amazing night.

ORT CROWD 19th February

The venue – The Ort Café was packed, standing room only for many. Our names were written on lolly sticks and picked at random, which is a pot of fairness idea from the classroom but made it apprehensively exciting. Even if it did mean I was one of the last to perform.

My poem about Annie Edson Taylor (the first woman over Niagara Falls in a barrel, survived and took her cat) went down well. My set was all about strong women, despite thinking I had probably penned feminist poetry – turns out I haven’t, yet!

 

If you are feeling generous and want to give to a worthy cause they have a JUST GIVING PAGE REFUGEE ACTION