There were many exciting ventures this month including the second festival of the year. This time I had a festival pass (bought in November and reimbursed as a Christmas gift) and I intended to use it – and then use half term to recover.
There were also (as always) clashing events and those I missed out on. The dream of a helicopter, boundless energy and time or the ability to teleport, all somewhat in the future.
After the madness of end of month submissions and a 16 hour after work stint on the laptop, the month started with a rare night off (which I mainly slept through of course)!
Then Permission to Speak, the wonderful spoken word event and brainchild of Rob Francis. Everyone was excited about Ira Lightman headlining, unfortunately he couldn’t make it. The night that unfolded was the first (that I know of) without a headline act, swiftly repackaged as a ‘Free For All’ with performers allocated more time. As always we were treated to a wide selection of novel extracts, short stories, music and poetry. It was really enjoyable, relaxing and a great tonic after one of the hardest work weeks I have in a while. We all missed Ira and hope he will be able to book in at the Scary Canary in the future. He really should treat himself.
I spent my first writing day in a week, writing. I also caught up with family and almost burnt the midnight oil as a result. Two new poems, both need some time to bed down and then be mangled through edits, but I am happy with the initial results. It was a tense morning with an idling brain, so I am glad by the time my head hit the pillow, I had accomplished some work. I also discovered new opportunities, some marked for 2018 and some on my TO DO LIST – more on that in the future, especially if I am successful in my endeavours.
When my head hit the pillow I couldn’t sleep. So I treated myself to a poetry book. There are many in the queue and some were gazumped as I picked ‘Beginning With Your Last Breath’ by Roy McFarlane. I planned to only read a few pages. By page 3 my eyes started leaking surprise tears and by page 17 my breath was caught and I knew I would be reading this story cover to cover… and I did. Jolly glad I did too. I slept well afterwards and will be reviewing his debut collection shortly.
On Saturday Antony Owen had organised a Peace Vigil at Coventry Cathedral, where invited poets were performing 15 minute sets. I was disappointed not to be able to make it as I had a prior booking in Cheltenham. It looked like an amazing experience and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can be part of another one later this year. I did have a couple of poems read on my behalf. I think it was one of those unique, special events that would have filled heart and mind to abundant levels and I cannot wait to hear all about it.
Antony Owen was joined by invited poets: Mike Alma, Josephine Allen, Mal Dewhirst, Jacqui Rowe, Ruth Stacey & Janet Smith.
Antony said of the event it is an event for poetry to act as a witness to current world events and respond in acts of articulated remembrance.
Mal Dewhirst © 2017
Janet Smith © 2017
Saturday night I missed Hannah Teesdale’s Special Open Mic Event in Birmingham as my brain and body had had a full work out and my little car had already driven to Gloucestershire. Both events had a lot of positive social media coverage and it would have been great to reconnect and catch up with people in Birmingham.
And I FINALLY started to read Ash Dickinson’s latest collection ‘Strange Keys’, which I had promised myself would be my Christmas book. I read three Christmas novels over the fortnight and ran out of snug time with poetry. Have made up for that since. Mr G bought me a couple of books for Christmas and I have spent the first part of the year battling through a novel. Which in concept was perfect and I see why he risked the gift. It was hard going both in terms of subject matter and chronology. Now I am on a book break for a bit unless the book contains poetry. I am too busy to catch more than snatches of time and poetry is perfect for that. I thought I had better read the collection before I see Ash again next week. Then I can delight in him performing from it.
A conversation we had last month inspired an idea for a new poem that I managed to get to draft form this weekend. If I can work through it I think it will make a good performance poem. I love it when poets and their poetry connect to my mind in such a way that they just sow treasure. Plenty of wealth in my pad ready to go when I have a minute.
Was set to be a corker. Poetry Alight in Lichfield on Tuesday night with Ruth Stacey (who I missed at the Cathedral) and Ash Dickinson, HOWL on Wednesday in Birmingham with Bethany Slinn, Sean Cottelli and Luke Kennard and SpeakEasy on Thursday with Matt Windle. Followed by important deadlines and Writing West Midlands.
It was a corker indeed. I had one main writing focus this week and all my spare time went into it, most of Monday, late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning before work. I managed to hit the deadline and now am keeping my fingers crossed.
Poetry Alight celebrated a 5th birthday, Gary Longden hosted an extra night this year to celebrate the 5th and the event took place downstairs in the back bar which was lovely. It was brilliant to catch up with everyone and watch in awe as Ruth Stacey and Ash Dickinson performed their headline sets. See the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/poetry-alight-happy-5th-birthday/
I had a great time at Poetry Alight, fully absorbed and inspired to write more poetry and to edit the Funeral Pyre one.
HOWL was my next poetry feast, Wednesday evening. It was great to see lots of people I haven’t seen in a while and to watch incredible sets from Bethany Slinn, Sean Colletti and Luke Kennard. The night was on fire and made me feel like I didn’t want to ever extinguish the flame. Leon Priestnall was celebrating too. Howl’s 2nd birthday!
Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/when-beat-poetry-howls-howl-8-2-17/
My poetry week was not done there, the following evening I went to Worcester for SpeakEasy, Matt Windle was headlining. The night was raucous fun. A wild enticing whirlpool atmosphere that in the end took everyone with it. Some great open mic spots and Matt Windle blew everyone away. He even brought a tear to my eye, a poem I had heard him perform before, moved me so much tonight. Again a delight to watch the audience who hadn’t seen him before, enjoy his work. Poet with punch indeed, as I said on social media ‘ a w e s o m e – if you look carefully enough you will find Matt between those letters’. He is this year’s Birmingham Poet Laureate and it is great to see him back on the circuit.
Read the full review here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/speakeasy-with-matt-man-windle/
To complete my writing week I worked with Writing West Midlands, Spark Writers Group in Worcester at The Hive, where a new Assistant Writer joined us for a one off session, thanks Mollie Davidson.
I also FINALLY read Fergus McGonigal’s first collection cover to cover. It is a great read and it has made me look forward to his next collection even more. Fergus is back on the Spoken Word scene and I hope to catch him soon. Buy your copy here.
Fergus McGonigal takes Ogden Nash’s notion of a poem being an essay which rhymes and targets the unsentimental truth about parenthood, pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness and pomposity, and what happens when the idealism of youth has given way to the disappointment of middle-age. © 2015 Burning Eye Books
Mr G’s birthday, Valentines and the much awaited (since the launch party in November) Verve Poetry Festival. Unfortunately the weekend clashed with an event at the Swan Theatre in Worcester facilitated by Ben Parker (Poet in Residence). I am hoping he will do a third event as I had to pull out.
I missed Matt Windle and a plethora of other Laureates at the Artrix on Monday as it was Mr G’s birthday and we were celebrating in Birmingham. There were other events but with submission deadlines and an all immersive 4 day festival at the weekend I felt the need to pace myself this week.
I also missed a night of poetry at Smokey Joe’s in Cheltenham.
Thursday couldn’t come soon enough! After work I made my way into the city on the train and arrived at Waterstones for a perfect opening night of the Verve Poetry Festival.
Read the whole story of the Poetry Parlour with Daljit Nagra and Hit the Ode here.
I would love to stay in the city, but home really is less than an hour away and I want some book spending money. I want to suggest a poet basement next year though. Sleeping bags at the ready! I had a great night with poetry friends and had to wait less than 24hours for the top up!
The top up came with a wonderful evening of poetry and a bizarre Dice Slam, I loved the concept of this slam. This is the kind of slam I would feel comfortable entering. You can read the full review of the Readings and Dice Slam here. https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/verve-poetry-festival-day-2-part-1-kim-moore-mona-arshi-and-katrina-naomi/
The weekend was immensely satisfying for my poetry soul and I will add more links when I have reviewed the events. An exciting opportunity arose from this experience too. I am writing a review for Sabotage Reviews. I have included events which I have not yet blogged about, this is another reason why I haven’t gone mad this week attempting to review the remaining events, that and I finally started work on the house. This needs to take priority this year, I will be busy as I started to organise events to perform at two festivals in January and this month took on some marketing/support for another two festivals.
I finally read ‘The Glassblower Dances’ by Rachel McCrum, bought at Hit The Ode in 2014, I am slowly working my way through my poetry bookcase! The good news for you is it is back in print, so you could have a copy for yourselves, if you need more persuading it won the Callum Macdonald Award in 2013.
http://www.kickingparis.bigcartel.com/ copies are just £6.00. I am hoping to write some proper reviews early summertime, so look out for those. I read some of it on the train to get my mind set for Verve.
A couple of treats to finish the month I was going to 42 in Worcester but I discovered Tom McCann (who hit the scene last September and is headlining in Stirchley next week), started a Spoken Word night in Kings Norton this year ‘Spoken Trend’. Jan Watts was one of the three headline acts and it has been forever since I saw her. She is busy producing her theatre performances of ‘Holding Baby’, widely acclaimed as brilliant and a must see. I headed over to Birmingham and performed on the open mic, alongside some well established poets and then sat back to enjoy the featured artists James Kearns, Clive Oseman and Jan Watts.
It was a superb night. A definite recommend.
On Thursday there was a slam night in Dudley featuring Emma Purshouse and in Birmingham a reading at Foyles with Roy McFarlane & Gregory Leadbetter (which I had tickets for) and Wine & Poetry Evening, the second of its type, organised by Emma Press & Cynthia Miller. In the end I didn’t make it to any of them, my car has been poorly for 6 months and is now finally fixed. I spent the day helping family, by the time I hit home it was gone 6pm and I was out of energy and time.
And finally, I mentioned the Nuclear Impact anthology by Shabda Press in my January Review, now it is available for you to buy. It is an amazingly huge collection of poetry and has been a real labour of love for Teresa Mei Chuc. It is available for $25.00 and proceeds will be donated to charity. If you are in America, there are book launch readings taking place all across the country, Philadelphia, New York and in California, check those out.
|NUCLEAR IMPACT: BROKEN ATOMS IN OUR HANDS|
|NUCLEAR IMPACT: BROKEN ATOMS IN OUR HANDS $25.00 USD|
There are talks currently for a reading in the UK, I will keep you posted.
I am already organising two festival events for V. Press poets and my next headline is in Manchester in a fortnight, plus I am working on submissions and reviews and in addition to all this am now rallying the troops for another Arts Festival happening in early Summer. Oh, and I may be marketing for another MAJOR festival soon too. So my plate is pretty full and I still have 8 lingering poems from my weekend at the Verve Festival to work on, (as well as a house to sort – note for Mr. G.) and it is back to work, work next week too!
I am happy busy but busy all the same. Blogs posts will be low priority now (with the exception of review posts for Verve and promotional drops) for a while, but there is plenty of historic posting in these waters so go and fill your buckets!
So the Christmas adverts haven’t gone unnoticed and I realise we are fast approaching the end of November, (I realise this as I haven’t started seasonal shopping yet)! It has been a really busy Autumn, which is great as this is the life I wanted… it does mean that my blogging time has diminished.
I have some great ideas how to utilise this blog in 2017 that will fit into the ever-increasingly busier patterns I now exist in. I will save the big reveal for the New Year whilst I focus on the backlog!
REVIEW OF SEPTEMBER
September was the most exciting month of 2016 so far, my debut pamphlet ‘Fragile Houses’ made it out of editorial and to the printers and I was able to get my teeth into something I do well, organising the Book Launch event and promoting.
I was always a little unsure how soon to the end of the process the book had to be before the promoting could begin. Hard work after keeping it a secret for so long. Frustrating though the length of time it all took was, I am glad we launched in October because it is close enough to still being NEW at Christmas! So if, like me, you haven’t started shopping yet…
The rest of September wasn’t too bad either.
I finally managed to get back over to Permission to Speak, where Walsall Poetry Society had the headline slot. A collective of poets with a great range of work. Richard Archer – a poet from Walsall helped set this up. Richard has written 3 books of poetry and has performed his work on TV and radio. He describes his poems as a sideways look at life as he tries to dissect the world around him, failing or succeeding in equal measure.
Richard was joined by founding member Bryan Sydney Griffin a.k.a “LaGrif”, Marrianne Burgess, Paul Elwell, Ian Ward and Vicki MacWinyers.
I was also delighted to see Steve Harrison there, our paths haven’t crossed in a while. Busy poets that we are, with a few Counties of separation. It was a good evening and it felt like coming home. Rob Francis is always so welcoming and it is a great venue to perform in with one of my favourite stages (because it is made out of old school desks) and features in one of my poems. It was lovely to share the evening with Claire Walker and Ian Glass.
I missed the Fringe Festival in Digbeth, as I was out celebrating my birthday (yes! It was in August), I like to party! It was at the expense of missing several submission deadlines this month though. I try to be kind to myself when that happens but the inner voice is screaming ‘GET ORGANISED GIRL!’
I spent my time organising new term workshops for my Writing West Midlands group and sifting my way through the admin mountain.
I went to Waterstones to watch fellow V. Press poets David Calcutt, Kathy Gee and Claire Walker who have spent months planning ‘From Birth to Bone’, a scripted reading combining poems from all of their collections. I was a little gutted that Fragile Houses wasn’t out in time to participate, I have had conversations about collaboration for sometime. Still I have a few ideas to bounce around in 2017.
It was a fabulous night and their work blended well. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was a jolly good performance. The other thing I loved was the programme. Listed on it were all the poems and the relevant pages from their books.
What I did manage to do was speak to Stuart, as an Area manager and Poet himself he is fully behind events in Waterstones. I have over the year attended several, but from this point onwards the book shop becomes my second home! I confirmed my book launch was to take place in Waterstones ! Oh, my wake me up – I am dreaming!
I went to SpeakEasy in Worcester where the featured artists was a three piece, ‘Threezacrowd‘ – Michael Thomas on words and Campbell and Jan Perry on music. SpeakEasy tends to be poetry so it was different to have some music and singing. Mike Alma and Pip Barlow brought us guitar and voice the month before.
Photograph – Mary Davis
The photo is from the August SpeakEasy, where I read some of the canal poems (still in draft form) from our poetry trip. I was wearing my Tiller Girl badge and Alan Durham wore his pirate badge.
Photograph – Mary Davis
I spent the rest of the week planning and promoting my Book Launch, working for Writing West Midlands, wrote endorsements for ‘Birth to Bone’ and my pamphlets became real and reached the editor. I still cannot believe I waited to pick them up for several days as our schedules weren’t matching.
They were published in time for the London Book Fair, which was exciting.
Following some summer preparation, I started organising INKSPILL – our online writing retreat. Sending emails and making contact with writers was fun and in the process have pretty much organised next year’s Guest Writers too.
It was also the first ‘Licensed to Rhyme’ – my most local poetry night! Finally my hometown can offer something and what a something it is. Maggie Doyle and Fergus McGonigal ran SpeakEasy for a couple of years and both took retirement from it earlier in 2016. Maggie and Fergus worked hard finding the perfect venue and pricing and all the millions of behind the scenes work, we never really consider.
Spoz co-hosts the event with Maggie Doyle once a month. This first evening was a great success and because the venue is an Arts Centre (Artrix) we have professional sound and sound engineers to boot. We walked on to ‘James Bond theme music’ and the atmosphere was electric. Which all helps performers to perform well. I had a 10 minute Guest Spot and Maggie mentioned my pamphlet was to launch in a few weeks too.
Even more exciting was finally meeting Dreadlock Alien, a man people have constantly spoken about since I hit the circuit in 2014. I knew some of his poems and have seen him perform online but to meet him was thrilling and it was lovely to see a lot of the Birmingham crowd over here too.
I also worked on (for hours) a professional writing website where people can find me, book me etc. A space I can keep for promo and work. And guess what? I found the only web space that doesn’t link to SEO on Google searches etc. which means unless I send the direct link – you cannot find me. I am limited by free webpages at the moment and many of these need you to install all sorts. I am tempted to use WordPress and as I bought ‘A Writers Fountain’, 16 years ago, I know I can do it again, when money flows a little better.
I still haven’t sat down to work this out but will spend those post-Christmas moments on it, ready to hit 2017 hard.
Come and see it anyway – http://ninalewis.webs.com/ – save it to your favourites, it may be the only way to find it again!
This is the week term started and for this half term I faced a new challenge, I have taken on a 3 day week. Okay, that doesn’t sound a lot but they are full paced and challenging days in a block and I am still on medication. What it will mean is I needn’t worry about not having enough work and it will give me a chance to build up skills with individuals, which is half the battle at the chalk-face or whatever it is called now we are all fully interactive.
It was also super busy with Poetry Events, such as Roy McFarlane’s book launch for his collection ‘Beginning with your Last Breath’- Nine Arches.
A superb event that took place in Wolverhampton at the Arena Theatre. This was a night I did manage to blog about in real time and you can read the post here.
Hit The Ode was the next evening and I was just too exhausted by then to get myself back to the city, fortunately in a move of pure genius Carl Sealeaf was providing LIVE streaming, which was no way as good as being there – but was much better than missing it all. It also meant I had time for 2 hours worth of research and some book promotion work.
I also started to write properly again, something I haven’t really been able to do whilst the pamphlet was still in editorial.
I booked guest poets for my book launch; Roy McFarlane, Antony Owen and Claire Walker. Delighted they all agreed to read.
This week didn’t stop. On Friday I went to Kenilworth to see a Poetry Reading at the Talisman Theatre, curated by David Morley. Just in the foyer alone I was excited to see so many people, many I had seen just a couple of days earlier at Roy’s book launch. By far the most exciting sightings were John & Liz Mills, I had no idea they were coming, we have already decided to make a reunion of it next year, treating ourselves to pre-show dinner, after show drinks and a hotel. They had booked a hotel, I live a little nearer so opted for a night drive.
I also saw Julie Boden and that was a treat. So glad that she made it to the show.
The show itself was mighty fine. I loved meeting and hearing new to me poets – Luke Kennard, who I have missed every time the opportunity has arisen, Sarah Howe who writes beautiful, honest poetry and Claire Trévien, who loves language and was a joy to watch/listen to. I enjoyed the sets from the poets I do know David Morley, Jo Bell, Jonathan Edwards too. They promised a special evening – and it was!
I really wish I had blogged about it at the time, because so much has happened since, it was a wonderful evening and I remember it fondly.
I missed Jo Bell’s workshop on Saturday as I was going to Worcester Music Festival to see The Anti-Poet, after missing them at WLF (Worcester LitFest) in the summer. I loved it! It was a total nightmare to park, but well worth the agro.
After this I finally COLLECTED my PAMPHLETS!
It was also London Book Fair and although I couldn’t make it this year and missed the opportunity to perform Ambiguous Answers for Paper Swan Press,
my book did make it and I got to follow it all on Twitter.
And FINALLY on Sunday I headed out to the MAC where I watched the new version of Ten Letters. The original last year was crowdfunded, a project that was the brainchild of Lorna Meehan and Spoz. This year they have a few new performers, lots of new writing and media and have been funded by the Lottery and Arts Council.
I was also asked to appear on a panel of writers on Radio – which I was jumping about over, until I realised it was a work day and I wouldn’t be able to get to the studio. However, I have been booked to do this in January. Which hopefully will be an easier month on the calendar and I will be all fresh and ready.
This is the week of the Poetry Festival in Stratford-Upon-Avon and I was gutted to miss every event I had hoped to get to. After typing week 3 for the past hour, I can see why I didn’t have the energy to work, play and drive all over the place. The final performance from all the resident poets, ‘Unexpected Encounters’ was something I really wanted to see, but had booked (way back in August) my final birthday meal with friends, where we got to cook our food on hot volcanic rocks and this was something that couldn’t be undone. It was a great night!
It was also Leicester Shindig and I hadn’t realised Claire Walker was featuring there, missed it completely. Leicester was the city I came out as a poet in and performed spoken word for the first time.
I had several invites to events I missed this week – it was hard enough to stay awake and work without going out in the evenings. I was getting in and falling asleep. I did admin tasks, promotion online and booked tickets for Swindon Poetry Festival. I also managed to get to the local Stanza meeting as well as taking a Headline booking for Stirchley Speaks next month, the night after my Book Launch. I also took my first booking for 2017 and booked up October.
On Sunday I read at Open Poetry in the Arboretum, Walsall and promoted my forthcoming pamphlet. It was a lovely afternoon.
The last 5 days – no wonder this month seemed so long!
I continued Market Research, promoting and organising the Book Launch (1 week to go).
I missed some submission deadlines.
Took pre-orders for the pamphlet.
Missed Poetry Bites and the Open Mic at Waterstones, 42 and a Scratch Night. I was attempting to take my editor’s advice and take it easy the week before the launch. Which I managed ALL WEEK and then at the weekend (with 48hrs to launch) I broke my promise to myself.
MORE ON THAT IN THE OCTOBER REVIEW.
My book is now a week old and what a busy entry into the world it has had.
On Monday I was joined by the lovely poets; Roy McFarlane, Antony Owen and Claire Walker to launch Fragile Houses at Waterstones, Birmingham. It was a fabulous night that deserves a blog post of its own, (on the TO DO list).
On Tuesday it was treated to a night out at Stirchley Speaks, where I headlined alongside Lydia Scarlett, who stepped in to fill the mighty shoes of Carl Sealeaf.
On Wednesday I gave it a night off.
On Thursday it celebrated National Poetry Day in Worcester, sharing the space with new poems all about messages. ‘Linger’ is a poem about messages, so that made it to the set, but the rest of the book was available to buy.
Then… da, da, daaa… the book went to Poetry Swindon. Hilda Sheehan let it share tablespace with the big boys, which was generous as most of the writers/publishers represented on the book stall were also on the bill. It sold well. Having rested on the book table isn’t as exhausted as me.
I am hugely grateful to everyone for their support. If someone had told me 3 months ago I would launch a book at Waterstones and have a copy with Daljit Nagra and another copy in Palestine, Bethlehem I would not have believed it. The latter have happened through the generosity of two poets who probably want to remain nameless. Let me know if you don’t – as I will gladly sing your praises!
I have seen both Angela France and Jean Atkin in person and was able to thank them for endorsing my debut pamphlet.
And it has been made into a film… well, not quite. I made a poetry film with ‘Journey’, one of the poems in the pamphlet. Now hosted on my YouTube channel.
WHAT A WEEK IT HAS BEEN!
Buy your copy here £6.99 (including P&P) – UK
BOOK LAUNCH Wednesday 14th September
Beginning With Your Last Breath
By Roy McFarlane
PUBLISHED: Nine Arches Press
Roy McFarlane is a gentle man of poetry. He is really supportive of work other people are doing and loves to collaborate. This year has been a busy one for him. He is currently the Poet in Residence at Shakespeare’s Birthplace and has just released his debut collection with Nine Arches Press, ‘Beginning With Your Last Breath’. I was fortunate enough to be at his book launch in Wolverhampton Arena Theatre last Wednesday *thanks to Kathy Gee for the lift.
Richard O’Brien © 2016
It was an amazing night, that filled me with inspiring thoughts. I often scribble away at events, comfortable in the fact that people think I am making notes for the blog. I filled 6 post-it notes, which doesn’t sound a lot, but as I was attempting to be 100% present in the moment – is quite a lot.
Roy filled the evening with so many talented friends and collaborators, all neatly hosted by Chester Morrison. It was a pleasure to be there and feel part of the magic in the room.
Reis Taylor Dixon started events, an exceptional Pianist and composer. Denzil Fletcher has kindly granted permission for us to use the video, unfortunately WordPress have changed video policy and I need to upgrade to include it. Here is a link to the video on Roy’s social media, scroll down to find it.
Reis was joined on stage by Phil Simpson Poet. Later on we watched Steve Tromans Pianist & composer & Lydia Gianville Percussionist have a total blast accompanying Roy’s poetry and discussing the finer points, which was a real treat. Serena Arthur, Birmingham Young Poet Laureate (who will have to hang up her hat next Month, which is well timed as she is off to study at Oxford University), gave us a confident performance and wowed everyone who hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing her before and those of us who had.
Richard O’Brien © 2016
The beautiful evening of Jazz and Poetry was topped by Roy performing a set from his collection, accompanied by a soundtrack. This was not just poetry, this was theatre.
This book comes from a deep place and some of the poetry is still raw for Roy, despite this he was brave enough to perform one of those pieces for us. Connections were made.
As if all this wasn’t enough… we even saw Roy dance!
I have yet to find the space to sit and read the collection, but I would recommend it without hesitation.
This debut collection of poems by former Birmingham Poet Laureate Roy McFarlane explores love, loss, adoption and identity in powerful, precise and emotionally-charged poetry. From bereavement comes forth a life story in poems; the journey of sons, friends, lovers and parents, and all the moments of growing-up, discovery, falling in and out of love and learning to say goodbye that come along the way.
Themes of place, music, history, and race interweave personal narratives, with poems that touch on everything from the ‘Tebbitt Test’ and Marvin Gaye to the Black Country, that ‘place just off the M6’. Distinct and memorable, McFarlane’s poems are beautifully crafted, intricately focused, moving their readers between both the spiritual and the sensual worlds with graceful, rapturous hymns to the transformative power of love.
Nine Arches Press © 2016
Praise for Beginning With Your Last Breath
‘There’s something I need to tell you, says a voice in the first poem of Roy McFarlane’s Beginning with Your Last Breath, which opens with a deeply personal and moving account of the discovery of an adoption. But the need to tell resounds throughout this collection – moving through lost love and friendships, the politics of place, race and culture and the salvatory power of music. The writing is always evocative, with a great care for the detail. These are poems of great power.’ – Hannah Lowe
‘So many of these poems have a novelistic power to hold the reader through their tense interior domains. This is a riveting poetry about loss and recovery, about pride, about boxing, basketball, Norman Tebbit and sex, though not all at once. I love the tight yet welcoming lines of each poem and McFarlane’s ability to concentrate the image, my best was perhaps the reference to ‘a stomach filled with cage birds’. Disturbing yet uplifting verse!’ – Daljit Nagra
Nine Arches Press © 2016
In May, Kathy Gee celebrated her debut collection ‘Book of Bones’ (published by V. Press), with a launch in the Long Room at Avoncroft Museum (historic buildings).
A perfect venue for Kathy, who is an archaeologist by training. Kathy has had a long career in museums and heritage and is a Trustee at the museum.
It was a wonderful evening filled with poetry and guest readings from many local poets; Claire Walker, John Lawrence, Maggie Doyle, Ruth Stacey, Ian Glass and Heather Wastie.
I always enjoy Kathy’s work and now I can read my copy with her voice firmly in my head.
BUY your copy here http://vpresspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/p/book-of-bones.html this link also includes a couple of Soundcloud poems.
So why was there only one blog post this month? Mainly because I have been training myself to learn to love the editing process as much as the writing one… although, I am certain this will never happen.
I have taken a real backseat with performing too. We are entering the summer festival season and despite looking through brochures and deciding I would like to attend many events, I have been held back from doing so as I am time poor and poor at the moment.
I haven’t submitted anything other than edited manuscripts for ages and writing new material has been a no go zone too. Due to the long summer break I have been taking on as much work as possible and I am also busy trying (and failing) to arrange birthday parties and mini breaks. June is also a ‘real life’ busy month with birthdays, celebrations and events, not to mention the hours consumed watching programmes about Britain leaving the EU. The REMAIN/LEAVE campaigns were something not many of us understood prior to June and I needed to be sure of my stance and understand the impact before voting.
The world knows the story since… seems strange that when David Cameron resigned as Britain’s Prime Minister it was only the 3rd most important story of the day.
And of course when the future is in the head of a poet, it guarantees that there isn’t much room left for poetry.
Here is a review of what I managed and sometimes what I missed in the world of poetry this month.
I totally missed Cheltenham Poetry Festival, but the month started with a personal invite to a workshop. Unfortunately there was a tragic accident on the motorway in the morning and the only other route to Cheltenham was blocked by overflow traffic, so I didn’t make the workshop. I felt guilty feeling sad about it when there were some poor people who hadn’t survived the day.
I spent my break editing and haven’t managed a writing day since.
Jenna Plewes had a book launch at the local library on the 6th June. Her latest collection ‘Pull on the Earth’ includes lots of poems about her travels. It was an enjoyable launch.
Pull of the Earth is published by Indigo Dreams and is available for £8.99 + P&P BUY your copy here
See blog post for more details https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/book-launch-pull-of-the-earth-by-jenna-plewes/
June saw Jess Davis hosting her final Stirchley Speaks. The monthly poetry night held at the P Café will be hosted by Callum and Jessica Bates from July. This is a full circle for them as they were one of the three headline acts appearing at the first Stirchley Speaks one year ago.
I was lucky enough to perform, it was a great night.
Unfortunately it clashed with David Hart appearing at The Works’ Canteen. I had hoped to make it back to this night held at the Black Country Museum, hosted by Dave Reeves. David Hart meantime, waits on my list of must see.
I also missed HOWL as I was still editing.
I performed at the 42 Festival Special as part of WLF (Worcester LitFest), an enjoyable night themed around the Last Stop on the Worcester Night Tra.
I also had a slot at WLF SpeakEasy which was hosted by the ever delightful Myfanwy Fox and headlined by Angela France. It was great to catch up with both of them and Angela gave me a good Ledbury tip off.
Lit Fests & Workshops
Worcester LitFest kicked off on the 10th June with the Poet Laureate Final (I remember the nerves from this time last year), not good memories as far as emotions go. Traumatic in actual fact. This year saw a new venue at Worcester Race Course and instead of 3 finalists being picked from 6 performers, they had 3 finalists striving for the accolade. A wise decision was also made with regard to the amount of other ceremonial achievements celebrated beforehand, making it a shorter event and allowing the poets to suffer less palpitations. I didn’t manage to support in person this year but I am delighted to announce that this year’s Worcestershire Poet Laureate is Suz Winspear!
Positive Images Festival
On June 12th I headed over to Coventry for a ‘The Atomic Sun’ workshop with Antony Owen, Patron of CND Peace Education UK and Award Winning Poet. Antony and I have poems in an anthology due out later this year published by Shabda Press entitled ‘Nuclear Impact Broken Atoms in our Hands’. It was a deeply moving experience which I will post about separately.
Gary Crew is an Australian Author of YA Fiction. His picture books for KS2+ are brilliant and ‘The WaterTower'(1994) formed part of the mantle learning at one of the schools I work at.
As part of his time here in the UK (mainly London and Oxford) he was also able to catch a train up to the Midlands and workshop with some very eager children. As part of his contract he had to deliver something to academics (funding), so I was one of about 40 teachers treated to a session with him after work.
I will add a post of information about his writing. It was inspiring for me and I bought a book of his I have not read as poetry instantly sprang to mind, we will see where that leads (after I have finished this first manuscript maybe)!
Quiet Compere Worcester LitFest
Friday 17th June I was lucky enough to be part of the QC Event at Worcester LitFest, Sarah Dixon returned for another wonderful night of poetry at The Hive. A different format this time she had featured poets, guest poets and some open mics, pre-booked (like mine) or signed up on the night. Link to follow.
Midsummer Poetry Brothel Caged Arts
Heidi Murphy hosted her 2nd Poetry Brothel at P Café on the 22nd June to celebrate the solstice. I had missed the Solstice Walk (Festival Fringe event), due to family celebrations clashing so it was useful to be able to blow the dust off last year’s solstice poems. No time to pen anything new, but I did have time to raid my wardrobe for florals; trousers, flower in the hair… it was my 3rd Poetry Brothel (am I forming a habit?).
Writing West Midlands
From September the Junior and Senior groups are amalgamating, so I spent an entire Saturday at the library being Jenny Hope’s assistant and then taking my own final session for this term/year in the afternoon. I had hoped to attend A Night at the Museum, WLF event in the evening but after working two groups and with a few hours of limbo, I decided I was too tired and left the city for home.
So there is June in rather a big nutshell – and of course, I am still writing NaPoWriMo poems (from April prompts)…
Happy writing! x
MALIGNED SPECIES PROJECT
I first found out about this project in September 2015 when it was launched by Nadia Kingsley of Fair Acre Press, I waited patiently for the podcasts and website to develop to get an understanding of what they were after and then… I waited… until my pen was pressed up against the deadline nearly 5 months later. With a last minute push on social media, word spread and the competition was fierce.
With lots of entries to sift through and chose from the e-books were organised to be released in a cannon throughout February. It was certainly exciting waiting for the results and discovering who shared the virtual pages.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Find out more details and access some of the research work here-species-project
We are supporting, through this project, the following ecology organisations:
I am delighted to share the news that my poetry appears in both the Spider e-book and the Grey Squirrel book.
Other collections are the Nettles Anthology and Frogs, all e-books are available for £2.99 and all packed with commissioned and published poems of a great standard.
Each book raises money for an associated charity.
It was wonderful being part of this project and the e-books are lovely reads.
Over the past week I have been busy writing new poetry, making submissions, working through my action plan chronologically and editing my manuscript. I have managed just one full day of writing (my 1st this month) on the 18th and I filled it with working on poetry and research.
I have made three submissions this week, written over eight new poems. This is great because by the end of last year I felt creatively drained and found writing new poetry an impossible task. Now I am back in the game, I can feel the desire to write return and have already thrown away two pens when they ran out of ink! Fortunately I have started the house de-clutter, so I know I have hundreds of pens AND I know where they are. Despite the rush of this creative spell, I have just spent over 40 minutes this morning trying to create a title for a romantic poem I wrote for last night’s Stanza meeting. It now has a title, although I think it may be a temporary title.
I have taken this week off from performing to concentrate time and focus on my writing, I intend to repeat this monthly as 2016 is the year I have to focus on writing the words. Real work has been busy too, spending the majority of my week with three year olds has been an eye opening, now I am thoroughly exhausted and looking forward to a restful weekend.
Work – Pyjamas – Poetry, has generally been this week’s theme.
I had an exciting invite last week to Daniel Sluman’s Book Launch for his new collection ‘the terrible’, which we have been promoting here on the blog since 2015. Naturally the book launch clashes with another event that I had already committed to performing at, but with my new SatNav (thank you Mr G), I hope to manage both events before collapsing in a heap the next day.
I also discovered last week that Liz Berry is performing locally as part of the celebration for National Libraries Day. I grabbed some tickets and scribbled this February date straight into my writing diary. It will be a pleasure to watch her again in the new venue, doubly delightful as it is local and involves zero car miles.
Back to my desk now to write a few more romantic poems and then onto the next project.
My overall aim this week is to finish and resubmit my manuscript. I have finally (after two months of searching) decided on a new title for the collection and I cannot wait for my editor to read the strengthened version of poems. I look forward to posting updates about this soon.
Keep writing x
I made it to Ledbury Poetry Festival this year for Poetry and Cider with Ruth Stacey, Lesley Ingram and Sarah James
From the brochure;
Three poets based in the West Midlands celebrate the launch their new collections. Ruth Stacey’s Queen, Jewel, Mistress gives voice to every English/British queen from Anglo-Saxon times to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Lesley Ingram’s Scumbled is ‘A haunting collection (which) explores the brackishness of human relations, the kinship we crave with the non-human, and our desire to trade flesh for something less encumbering’ (Damian Walford-Davies). Sarah James’s The Magnetic Diaries takes the form of a narrative in poems, loosely based on the characters and storyline of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Sarah James also has a collection plenty-fish with Nine Arches Press.
Ledbury Poetry Festival Programme © 2015
It was a wonderful evening in Burgage Hall, which was packed out with poets supporting these three great women. A great atmosphere and touching readings. What was particularly special was the gratitude Ruth showed Ledbury Festival, over the years she has gained lots from being involved in the programme and appreciated the input from workshops and coaching she has had, as well as previous opportunities to perform at the Festival. It is lovely and authentic when poets take a moment to acknowledge and thank people, for what they have done and how they have influenced and helped.
There is no greater feeling for the poet than to know you are supported and mentoring and guides are priceless treasures.
The event was a great success, it was lovely to hear Lesley perform her poetry and Sarah James too. I enjoyed sharing the moment with Ruth Stacey and her glee was mesmerising and contagious! I don’t think I have ever seen her look so happy. A magical night in Ledbury.
You can buy your own copy of this great collection from the following places;
Now it is my turn to thank Ruth for one of the sweetest messages I have received at a signing. Thank you.