The WLF Team have been busy organising the first online Worcestershire LitFest – we launch on Sunday 13th and as we are hosting events on Zoom – the whole world is invited!
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.
Saturday, 19 May – Park’s Cafe, Droitwich. How to Grow Matches – A Live Lit Celebration.
Back in the Spring I was asked to be a poetry judge at Sarah Leavesley’s Launch for How to Grow Matches, published by Against the Grain Poetry Press. Following her Launch in London in March at the Poetry Cafe, Sarah had a local launch in May.
This is Sarah’s 7th poetry book and she made sure that this was a Launch with a difference. She used her Launch as an opportunity to raise money for St. Paul’s Hostel who help people through homelessness. The evening was filled with Poetry and Fiction, as Sarah was also launching her latest novella Always Another Twist.
Sarah’s Guest Poets/Writers were Jenny Hope, Liz Kershaw and Holly Magill, the evening was MCed by Charley Barnes, there was an Open Mic with prizes (hence the poetry judging). The prizes were amazing – bags of poetry books and poetry pictures.
The evening started with a translated reading by Sylv Coultier of ‘Matryoshka Portrait’, the opening poem in How to Grow Matches. Followed by Guest readings, open mic poets and readings from Sarah.
It was a lovely evening and thoroughly enjoyed. Appreciation and generosity were the feelings I took away from the evening.
How to Grow Matches was SHORTLISTED in the poetry category of the INTERNATIONAL RUBERY BOOK AWARDS 2018 and ‘His Secret Daughter’ from How to Grow Matches is Carol Rumens’s Guardian Poem of the Week
‘What immediately strikes me in Leavesley’s poetry is that sense of being spoken to directly, forcefully. The anger – at impossible advice, at the hidden and neglected work, at mere survival against the odds – is always balanced with craft and an impeccable sense of timing, and a vision which ranges from the orchestra pit to the research laboratory, via geopolitics, extinction and the recurring nested image of the matryoshka doll. An essential pamphlet.’
– Luke Kennard
‘Uncomfortable, powerful, and compelling, these poems demand to be read. And to read them is to ride a discomfiting turbulent current expressed in images of clocks with disparate rhythms, clouds that dissolve into “dark angels of rain”, piles of spent matches that might make a bonfire. And burning is what these poems do: searing through skilfully controlled anger at the invisibility of women, their lack of a powerful role model to follow, they are ready to burst into flame, urging women to “reclaim their share”.’
– Gill McEvoy
You can buy your own copy here againstthegrainpoetrypress.wordpress.com/shop/
Reviews of HOW TO GROW MATCHES.
It is that beautiful time of the year again when Cheltenham Poetry Festival reveal the programme and tickets go on sale!
Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2018
18 – 30 April, venues throughout the town
Visitors to Cheltenham Poetry Festival will have the chance to fight the power, at least with a pen – this Spring.
The Festival, which has been described as ‘ A poetry party with a healthy dose of anarchy’ by the Guardian offers a jam packed programme of readings, performances, cinema, music and socially conscious workshops all inspired by a theme of ‘power’.
On offer this year is a workshop with poet Peter Raynard called Fight the Power and plus David Punter, Professor of Poetry at the University of Bristol talks about anarchy, capitalism and political poetry.
The Eighth Cheltenham Poetry Festival celebrate the power of words in a programme of exciting live literature events, challenge the abuse of power in a series of outspoken readings, empower lives with inspiring and innovative community activities and powder keg your poetry with our potent workshops.
Highlights of 2018 include BBC Radio 6 Music’s Poet in Residence Murray Lachlan Young – ‘A rock ‘n’ roll poet of our time’ (Chrissie Hynde),‘Chap hop’s leading exponent’ (The Wall Street Journal) Professor Elemental, Salford rising star JB Barrington, hip hop artist TrueMendous, ‘the missing link between Jarvis Cocker and Roger McGough’ (Irish Times) Vinny Peculiar, internationally acclaimed writer Amir Darwish, ex judo champ turned poet Owen Lowery and TS Eliot Prize winner Jacob Polley.
As ever the Festival welcomes some of the UK’s most important contemporary poets to the Festival. They include Jonathan Davidson, Martyn Crucefix, Sam Willets, Costa- Prize winner Jonathan Edwards, Rishi Dastidar, Pat Borthwick, Gill McEvoy, Peter Raynard, Tom Sastry, Wayne Holloway Smith, Cora Greenhill, Adam Horovitz, Jane Commane, Chrys Salt, Nina Lewis, Rachael Allen, Patrick Mackie and Ben Wilkinson to name just a few!
Also on offer are poetry film showcases from Elephants Footprint, a screening the critically acclaimed film Love Somehow – a poetic re- telling of Caitlin’s Relationship with Dylan Thomas (staring Griff Rhys Jones as the voice of Dylan), Scarestories – a multi-media dystopian vision of the western word featuring poetry from David Clarke and the chance to explore local history with Angela France’s praised poetry show The Hill.
Read more www.cheltenhampoetryfest.co.uk
‘ A poetry party with a healthy dose of anarchy’ – the Guardian.
‘Talks, walks, workshops and lots of lovely poetry take the streets of Cheltenham to a higher plane for this yearly celebration of all things lyrical’. METRO UK
‘One of the foremost poetry festivals in the country’. Hamish Wilson
Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2018 (18 Apr 2018 – 30 Apr 2018)
The biggest and best yet!
Yes, it is me!
Pictured – Suz Winspear Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2016/17, Nina Lewis & Steve Wilson – County Arts Development Officer.
Kieran Davis © 2017
Review of October
Following advice I was trying to not be too busy pre-book launch but after a week off events I took my writing group for Writing West Midlands, watched all the poetry coverage on BBC2, missed another writing deadline and decided that I would drive to Cheltenham to Buzzwords and catch David Clarke and Cliff Yates (another new-to-me poet).
Buzzwords was great, I realised I hadn’t been for over a year. I had a fabulous evening and do not regret it, despite it being the night before my launch. I read my latest poem – a work on tribal philosophy and have some poetry drafts from the workshop to work on when I get a chance (Christmas holidays maybe).
I had imagined I would spend Monday getting ready for the evening – but in reality I missed writing deadlines, overslept, did everything I could to reduce the nervous anxiety of what if no-one turns up and finally at about 2pm started to get organised.
I am going to write a full post about the launch and some follow up posts about the organisation aspects, as there is a gap of relevant information in this area.
Waterstones Book Launch for Fragile Houses in Birmingham with Guest Readers – Roy McFarlane, Antony Owen and Claire Walker. It was a cracking night, the next morning I woke up to go to work and it felt like a dream.
The following evening I headlined at Stirchley Speaks. I have been headlining since Autumn 2014 but this is the first time I had a book to sell. I did leave home without them and had to turn back to grab the bag, I knew there was something I had forgotten. Since this night I have started using a large event handbag and always carry a couple of copies.
Stirchley Speaks was a great night and I sold lots of books, I realised at this point I had underestimated how many I should order. Taking advice from Jane Commane back in 2014 who said that audience doesn’t necessarily convert to readership. I was aware not everyone I know will buy the book. I have a list of people who want a copy next time I see them too.
It was good to catch up with everybody in the P Café and it was an incredible night of poetry.
The next day I contacted my publishers and ordered another box.
I hadn’t submitted any poetry for a while and had news of one of my poems being published in the USA. More on that when it happens.
I treated myself to an evening off and a little rest before National Poetry Day, which is fast becoming one of my favourite dates on the calendar.
I collected my new batch of books and went to Suz Winspear’s NPD event in Worcester. As Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Suz is working hard this year in the city and found a brand new venue for the NPD Event. Berkeley Almshouses was the venue and some of the residents came to enjoy the event. It was a great evening and the old chapel had fabulous acoustics and suited Suz very well.
This year’s theme was messages and I certainly sent a few texts whilst trying to track down the entrance to the venue. Great sets from everyone and I got to catch up with Math Jones (up from London) and Ruth Stacey. I even sold a book!
I spent the weekend Fri- Sun at Swindon Poetry Festival, it was 2nd year there and much as I loved it last year, this year was EVEN better! It deserves a full post and as I pretty much did everything on the programme, will certainly need one. A great way to finish an exhausting, fantastic week in my poetryskin!
Other great news was Matt Windle became Birmingham’s new Poet Laureate and by the end of the week I had sold over 50 copies of my book!
Started with a recovery day. I started to create Poetry Films, something I have got hooked on. Last year Sarah Leavesley kindly tutored a group of us in the art of production and I was inspired by the Poetry Films I had seen at Swindon. There are several poems in my pamphlet that I will rarely perform. These are all now Poetry Films.
On my recovery day I spent some INKSPILL admin time and rehearsed a set for Licensed to Rhyme. Roy McFarlane was headlining. It was a great night and I was allowed to sell my pamphlets, they had a table and everything.
The next evening I went to Ledbury to the Poetry Salon where Deborah Alma was reading and finally got a copy of her book, ‘True Tales of the Countryside’, a beautiful Emma Press pamphlet.
I unexpectedly performed in the open mic section. Fragile Houses reached Ledbury. It has since reached Palestine, Malta, Holland and Australia to my knowledge. It was a wonderful, rich evening and great to see Ledbury folk again.
This week was also Birmingham Literature Festival and due to work commitments and events was the first time since coming back to writing (2013) that I missed it. The night after Ledbury Liz Berry and Benjamin Zephaniah were performing and also Gregory Leadbetter had his book launch for ‘Fetch’ (Nine Arches) at Waterstones, Birmingham with Angela France and Jo Bell reading.
I was gutted to miss both these events but with working and poeting I had no energy and if I remember rightly was asleep as soon as I had finished tea.
The following night Luke Kennard was performing in Birmingham and I missed it because it clashed with SpeakEasy, where I was already performing. Roy McFarlane was the feature and it was a joy to listen to him twice in one week.
Fragile Houses received a Chez Nous Review which I was delighted to discover came from Gram Joel Davies. He actually chose some of my favourite foods – go and have a read.
By the end of the week I was run down with illness and missed Holding Baby a play by Jan Watts and the rest of the Book to the Future Festival (again for the first time since 2013). I hope to catch the show another time, I have heard nothing but good things about it.
It was great to finish the week with a Madhatter Review http://www.madhatterreviews.co.uk/books–e-books.html
Fragile Houses has positive reviews on Amazon and Good Reads.
I was asked to do something that I am really excited about, more on that next year. I spent days preparing for INKSPILL in shifts of 8 – 12 hours.
Mr G and I went to London to see Woven Hand.
I was too tired to manage Hit the Ode and Smokestack Poetry Evening event clash), both in Birmingham, both top nights. I also missed the Dylan Thomas Festival, running for the first year in Cheltenham. Unfortunately it clashed with INKSPILL this year.
I signed up to an online course ‘Arts for Health’ and performed poetry for ‘She Speaks Her Mind’ Woo Feministas – alongside Suz Winspear, Charley Barnes, Claire Badsey & Holly Magill.
Then of course it was INKSPILL with Gaia Harper, Roy McFarlane and Deanne Gist. This was the 4th year for us and it was a success. I already have Guests and plans lined up for 2017.
The Magnetic Diaries – which I saw in it’s infancy in Hereford last year was on at the MAC and although I couldn’t make the show I did make Sarah Leavesley’s workshop ‘Pain to Poetry’. I have some poetry notes and one poem so far from this and it was a challenging (emotionally) but not unpleasant experience. I also got time to reconnect with many poetry friends I have not seen in a while.
I spent the early part of the week writing. I entered a few free poetry competitions. I took some bookings for next year and exchanged pamphlets with J.V Birch through the post. She is a childhood friend, now living in Australia and has also become a poet at the same time as me. It has been exciting to map and mirror each other’s journeys through this new world.
I dressed up for Halloween as a ‘Cereal Killer’ and went off to perform at the Halloween Special 42 in Worcester. Where (due to the wig) people didn’t recognise me. It was a fabulous night and a great excuse to dress up. Fantastic sets from everyone.
photos by Liam Cortintias
The next day I had to do my best to get all the make up off and go to a workshop run by Angela France, the theme was Fairy Tales and I had a thoroughly enjoyable day and even sold a few books.
I listened to poetry on Radio 4 and missed my Stanza meeting to take part in a Charity Quiz night. All teams of 8 and due to circumstances we ended up with just 4 in our team. We were going for the Booby Prize but decided it was hard to share a bottle of wine and so started to get answers right. We came in 5th not too shoddy, somewhere in the middle. Over £1000 was raised for MacMillan.
I hoped to go to Lania Knight’s workshop, having missed her last one due to a crash on the motorway, but this weekend we celebrated a special family birthday.
This morning I decided to watch a TEDx talk whilst eating breakfast. I have spent a couple of weeks in a dip and am lacking motivation and belief. In under three years I am already uttering those vile, monstrous, self-destructive words, ‘what’s the point?’ Not only has the question entered my mind, it has been playing on a slow loop and worse still I have started to take it as fact that the answer is – ‘there isn’t any.’
All of this is completely ridiculous, however, in the short time I have been back in my writing life I have discovered not only do all writers feel this way from time to time but even really famous authors and successful writers fall prey to these self-sabotaging words.
The point is;
your unique voice, out there for people to read.
this is your chosen career.
you have to stay highly motivated as you have no boss to answer to and some days probably don’t even get dressed before lunchtime (if at all).
you write, but no-one writes 24/7.
this was a choice, still is, but don’t let one bad week/month/year dissuade you.
So here I am in the doldrums (despite several ongoing exciting projects), this lingering feeling has been unsettling me for over two weeks. Today, I thought this is ridiculous, I need to spur myself on.
Hence the breakfast with a side order of TEDx.
It was the 2012 Olympics which reignited my ambition to become a writer. I am basically taking 4 years at a time as an over-arching period as a writer and allowing myself four Olympics to get to GOLD. I am hoping in the light of my writing life after 3 years that it won’t take the whole 16 years to achieve my ambition.
The Universe Steps In
You know how the universe conspires in putting exactly what you need at that given moment in front of you – well the talk suggested something about the Olympians which I vaguely remembered hearing before, indeed a quick search gave me the data and a BBC report on the medal response.
The concept is that Bronze medal winners feel better than Silver medal holders.
Gold is great – you won – on top of the world.
Bronze is – yippee I was placed, I have a medal, so close.
Silver is – shucks I haven’t won.
Research has shown that silver medallists feel worse, on average, than bronze medallists. (Gold medallists, obviously, feel best of all.) The effect is written all over their faces, as psychologists led by Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University found out when they collected footage of the medallists at the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona. Gilovich’s team looked at images of medal winners either at the end of events – that is, when they had just discovered their medal position – or as they collected their medals on the podium. They then asked volunteers who were ignorant of the athlete’s medal position to rate their facial expressions. Sure enough, the volunteers rated bronze medallists as consistently and significantly happier than silver medallists, both immediately after competing, and on the podium.
By Tom Stafford
Copyright © 2015 BBC
Read the full article here http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120810-olympic-lessons-in-regret
Just with this in mind (because I was obviously aiming for Gold and actually feeling bad that I hadn’t even made Silver and the people on the podium weren’t even in the race when I started), my mind shifted. I realised I need to appreciate what I do have – and I have pages of it in The Write Year to look back on.
I am learning and I think that’s what it’s all about. The writing process takes an incredibly long and frustrating time is a new lesson. It is an important one. I have learnt how the polishing is important, how not to jump the gun (sending work out too early with ragged edges). I will train harder and seek support. Being a part of a team is much more comfortable than the solitude of your garret where you are out on a limb.
Of course, ‘I am Bronze’ – is in itself a winning mindset – my Olympic year falls next year and I will see how much ground I have covered and how 2016 pans out, I am hoping it ends with a medal around my neck. (Just maybe not silver!)
So my best advice for an attack of the writing doldrums – is claw yourself back out, make a list of all your highest achievements, stick it somewhere you will see it everyday and keep up the good fight. Today may not have been yours – but who’s to say what tomorrow holds? You get a new chance daily, send your darlings out and keep smiling!
One day victory will be yours! Cue manical laughter.
Shot Through The Heart Poetry Film Competition:
‘Rolling Frames’ by Katie Garrett.
The inaugural 2014 Shot Through the Heart Poetry Film competition received entries from all over the world. Inspired by Southbank Centre’s Festival of Love, we asked poets and film-makers to create poetry films that explore the joy of first love, the pain of lost love, the confusion of displaced love, the purity of platonic love, or any other kind of love.
National Poetry Day is a great day for poets. There are always plenty of things to get involved with. Every year I get ‘Christmas excitement’ when I find out all the wonderful things that people have been up to and social media is flooded with poets sharing their events, stories and of course, these wonderful posters.
This year my preparation for NPD started in the summer when Heather Wastie, Worcestershire’s Poet Laureate approached Suz Winspear and myself (as runners up of the PL competition) to work on a special commission. Part of Heather’s remit for winning PL was to organise a NPD event and she did a wonderful job, it was a great evening of celebration and poetry.
Suz and I met Heather at the Carpet Museum in Kidderminster (where Heather had been a Poet in Residence) and she talked us through the vision for ‘Light & Shade’. We had an opportunity for research (I had already visited the museum on August 15th to research for the NPD WLF (Worcester LitFest) competition, which was also organised by Heather as part of the NPD event.
Then Suz and I went away with our remits and worked on crafting a poem each. The next rehearsal we discussed how to blend these into a performance. Heather had organised readings before and after this element and was clear she wanted it to be theatrical/dramatic, a little different – as it was billed as ‘a touch of theatre’. We all worked well together and soon crafted a performance, dividing the poems as you would a script and working on the character of the piece.
On NPD I was forced to do the day job and infiltrated as much poetry as possible and Heather herself was drastically busy promoting poetry in person and on the radio, whizzing from one event to another. So there was a frazzled energy about us to begin with. The staff had set the venue up and were organised and ‘swanlike’ – they had had a busy day ‘one of those days’ as well, you would never have guessed. They busily got our event ready as well as hosting a regular group downstairs.
Suz and I rehearsed and took some last minute directorial advice from Heather and then drooled over the refreshment buffet and got ready.
Costume wise we had decided to represent Light (morning) and Dark (shade/night) by wearing white and black, this may not have been picked up by the audience, it was a good idea as it made us feel a little in character. Especially as Suz is famous for her wonderfully high, wedged, gothic black boots and had the most pretty kitten heels on. (This is why Liam took a photo of her feet).
Suz Winspear & Nina Lewis Post Performance ‘A little touch of theatre’
The museum took photographs throughout the night and I hope to be able to share some in the future.
Then came the NPD competition poets, Charley Barnes, who won the people’s vote online from the four shortlisted poems, mine was also shortlisted. Her prize was a poetry book, Todd Swift (Eyewear Publishing) generously provided books for the winners.
Then the finalists Brian Comber, Jenny Shaw & Claire Walker performed their NPD poems, which were a delight to hear.
Next the audience made their way upstairs to an area not usually open to the public where you can look down on the looms and machines.
Then it was our turn to perform Reading Threads and Carpet Days and Nights. The audience enjoyed the experience of our performance and we hope to repeat it again next year at one of Heather’s events. It seemed a shame to do all that work for just one performance and other people want to see it – so hopefully those busy poets who were elsewhere on NPD will get a chance to see it in 2016.
After the interval (in which many great conversations were had, but no Lemon slices were left) we returned back downstairs to the gift shop to hear the winner of the competition announced and Maggie Doyle (Poet Laureate Emeritus) and Chloe Clarke (Young Poet Laureate) performed sets, the night was drawn to a close by more poems from Heather.
The winner of the NPD Competition was Claire Walker, who won free entry for a YEAR to SpeakEasy & Mouth & Music, a poetry book and I believe free entry to 2016/17 Poet Laureate competition, where she will be a firm favourite.
Brian and Jenny also won books thanks to Todd Swift, Eyewear Publishing.
PHOTO CREDIT© Sarah Gillam 2015, Museum of Carpet
It was a wonderful evening and I was filled with Poetry happiness.
A funny week this one because it included a major poetry event, the Worcester Poet Laureate Final. I spent most of the week as a bundle of nerves swinging between trying to manifest positive thoughts or not think about it at all!
After my poetic adventure at Cannon Hill Park, I felt fairly worn out. To be fair it was the fifth event of last week. This week I had work, two open mics, clothes shopping, appointments for Opticians (who messed up the lenses in my new specs) and at the Hair Salon (dread), as well as tutoring, attempting some writing and learning my poems by heart.
I was unfortunately too tired to get to Mouth & Music. At the beginning of the week I was working full time, Monday was a 16 hour day! I rarely do those anymore, unless it involves a desk and my laptop. Both Monday and Tuesday I went straight to bed and slept for a couple of hours. I wanted to get to the ‘Comedy themed’ night and have heard that it was great fun, I was just too tired. Tough call, but as I fell asleep before 10 PM, the right one.
I did manage HOWL – Leon Priestnall’s amazing night of poetry in Birmingham. It was a full audience and a fantastic, lively event.
Howl provides a space for the best spoken word artists in Birmingham to speak freely, no restraint, express themselves, provide food for thought, rock the house and entertain.
© 2015 Murdock Ramone Media
Unhindered Reign are one of the leading spoken word duo’s on the Birmingham scene. Featuring at Spoken word Brum staples such as Level Up and opening for US slam champion Buddy Wakfield at Hit The Ode. With both top Knotch writing and performing styles- tackling issues both social and personal- Luci and Sipho, who make up Unhindered Reign, are two artists not to be missed for anyone who wants to see the best of what UK spoken word has to offer.
The man, The moustache, The myth…. You’re never quite sure what he’s going to pull out the bag- or even which of his alter ego’s is going to show up on the night. Rest assured you won’t mistake him in a line up!
Jess Davies is a Midlands based artist who dabbles in both the contemporary arts Scene and the Poetry scene. She was recently commissioned to write a poem for the museums at night tour at the local pen museum. Her writing is personal, heart wrenching, observational, heart wrenching, surreal and humorous. She currently runs Stirchley Speaks at the P Cafe in Stirchley
All headline acts were fab, I particularly liked Unhindered Reign (Luci Hammans and Sipho Eric Dube), as I hadn’t seen them before, I have seen both poets on the circuit but hadn’t seen either perform – together they are… legendary! Currently work for the BBC and George the Poet.
The open mics were filled by;
Timothy Scotson, Frankie Ryan (Ryan Murray), Nicole Murphy, myself – Nina Lewis, Abbie Foster (who it was a pleasure to meet), Anna Higgins (who has been around poets forever and finally made her debut performance- powerful indeed), Lexia Tomlinson, Leah Atherton, Oakley Flanagan, Tom Crossland and more.
An invigorating evening of poetry and an eclectic mix of styles and performances.
Worcester Lit Fest
Worcester Lit Fest started on Friday 12th June with the Launch & Poet Laureate final, in which I was placed 3rd. Delighted! Here are links to posts about this event.
Saturday there were several events I wanted to attend. It was Caldmore Carnival and a few months ago David Calcutt started working on a group poem using our workshop poetry. We rehearsed a choral reading, sadly I was never able to go as it clashed with the last WWM meeting of the year, an important one in which I said goodbye to Ian MacLeod, the Lead Writer. I take over the group from September.
Evesham is also hosting the AsparaWriting Festival at the moment and Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, a well respected local author had organised an afternoon of poetry. It was Heather Wastie’s first official appearance as Worcestershire Poet Laureate and sounds like it was a great success.
Heather Wastie current Poet Laureate, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn & Fergus McGonigal, Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2014-2015
Writing West Midlands
The goodbyes were harder than I thought they would be. After spending a year and a half as an Assistant Writer for the Worcester Senior group, I am now taking over as Lead Writer. Read all about it here WWM
Worcester Lit Fest
Last night I went to an event ‘A Night at the Museum’ at the Royal Worcester Museum. It was a poetry book launch, to mark the end of Ben Parker’s Residency and celebrate the new Poet in Residence, Dr. Todd Swift, taking up his position. Chloe Clarke, Worcestershire’s Young Poet Laureate was also performing.
This book launch marks the conclusion of Ben Parker’s tenure as poet-in-residence at The Museum of Royal Worcester.
Ben Parker will be reading from a collection of poems produced during his residency, which will be available for purchase for the first time. This event also marks the beginning of Todd Swift’s residency at The Museum, and Todd will be reading from his highly acclaimed poetry.
Ben’s poetry has appeared in a number of magazines, including The White Review, Under the Radar and Oxford Poetry, as well as Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam. His debut pamphlet, The Escape Artists, was
published by tall-lighthouse in October 2012 and shortlisted for the 2013 Michael Marks Award.
Todd is a Briti…sh-Canadian poet, publisher, critic and editor. He is the editor of numerous anthologies; and has published eight full poetry collections. His poems have appeared widely, including in Poetry Review, and Poetry
In 2004 Todd was the Oxfam Poet-in-residence. He blogs at ‘Eyewear’ and runs the indie press Eyewear Publishing. Todd’s PhD in Creative and Critical Writing is from The University of East Anglia (UEA). He was born in Montreal, Quebec.
I saw all three perform at Ben’s Book Night at The Hive and was looking forward to relaxing into a chair and listening to them again. Great venue, inspiring art and beautiful words.
Last night was the Launch of Worcester Lit Fest at The Guildhall. It was such a rainy, muggy day, the only thing missing was the forecast storm. I had my hair cut* in the morning and by the afternoon it was ruined with the humidity and had been straightened 3x by the time I left for the city! Strangely no-one mentioned the metre I had chopped off!
* I have a phobia when it comes to Hair Salons! My last cut was so long ago, you have seen photos, the condition of my hair wasn’t brilliant and let’s face it when you’re entering some major competition you need to be armed with every confidence boosting trick.
It hasn’t stopped raining since, it was so torrential last night we heard things coming down the chimney, things that sounded like falling bits of chimney and I didn’t think the conservatory roof was going to take the constant pressure.
It was a rainy evening which is not good for attracting audiences or poets, what a shame all brollied and waterproofed up, at least I had bought a new ‘holiday mac’ so I looked fresh in the rain. Mum came as my +1 and kindly drove as I was not in any fit state with nerves, it gave me a chance to just sit, cool down and chat, almost took my mind off the night. I had spent the day with raging butterflies, despite trying all sorts of calming techniques my heart was racing. In the end (and due to a late night) I decided sleep was the best avoidance technique and had a siesta.
I practised my poems, I was up against stiff competition and decided to go for it 100%. To be honest I hadn’t envisaged going for Poet Laureate yet and with such well known and talented poets in the back of my mind I never won it, despite all my positive thinking. The one thing I did want to do was my best. Apart from mixing a couple of words up, I did.
We had the air con on and when I stepped out of the car the heat hit me. I had already struggled with flustering getting ready so by the time I arrived at the Guildhall I was a mess (physically). Mum is a great calming influence as I don’t recognise the ‘hyper’ bit myself.
It was lovely to see everyone, especially Tessa Lowe who stuck around before catching her train to wish me luck and will be very glad that she didn’t stay as it was a late finish!
The rest of this review is how it honestly felt as a participant, it is no reflection on the WLF team who work incredibly hard programming and organising events for the festival. Every volunteer and committee member did their best, it is just the nature of an evening where so much is packed in before the final of the poets.
I found it difficult to cope with friends in judging roles – who all had to be very distant with us, but were relaxed (thank goodness) after the results. Proceedings were started at times different to advertised, which when you are sitting in a hot room with fully charged adrenaline, nerves and a stadium’s worth of butterflies is not good.
Finally we started and some of the evening was brilliant, like the Children’s Story Writing Competition, they all performed their stories brilliantly. The Mayors and Town Council Reps were all in attendance – there was a certain element of ceremony about proceedings. Flash Fiction Prize winners were announced and some awards for local students at Worcester University, none whom could attend as they were all sitting exams. Finally, at I didn’t even look at the time – it was the 6 Finalists for WPL, our turn.
Names had been drawn from a hat and I was to perform last, which scared me so much I verbalised my disappointment. I quite liked getting to see all the other performances first but I felt by the time my turn came the audience were wiped out. Hot, tired and poeted out on the previous 10 poems! So I kept my introductions very short and possibly lost some scores for this. But it was difficult performing to a group of people who appeared so tired. Let’s not blame the audience – it was difficult full stop. I was a wreck, attempting to remember 2 poems I hadn’t practised for over 4 hours and had only managed to get perfected the day before.
I don’t think the outcome would have been different no matter what I did and the person I thought would win, did. So afterwards I felt silly for having all that nervous energy, for taking the day off work in an attempt to remain calm etc. etc. but the flipside of all that mental preparation and rehearsing was I DID DO my best.
The judges took forever with the tough decision, which order to place the top 3. I think at one point we probably each sat in poll position in the discussion. A page width apart – which is a sliver. They meant the edge of the paper not the width of the sheet!
I am delighted to share the news that I came 3rd place! When my name was called I didn’t know if I was meant to go up to the stage or not. On the way up the steps, one of my new pink shoes came off (MY TRUE CINDERELLA MOMENT) – the people on stage congratulating and presenting awards couldn’t see my shoe on the step and wondered why I was running away so soon! Unfortunately, my mum couldn’t see me, once I was on the stage for the LITFEST banner on stage. I never got to see her face.
2nd place went to Suz Winspear and the winner this year was Heather Wastie, who will be a great Poet Laureate.
All six finalists were brilliant and competition was tough, especially for non-competitive poetry types. Looking back it was a fun night, I can honestly say I didn’t start enjoying it until the judges had disappeared for their ruling, which was about 3.5hrs after we started. Even then there was a edge of a flurry of butterflies constantly raving as we had no firm idea of the results. It was exciting.
It was the most highly anxious occasion I have ever attended. I have not felt such tension since waiting for graduation/ degree results and that is done from the comfort of your own home and you know the day and rough time so you don’t rinse yourself out for 24 hours beforehand! My heart was younger then too!
I need to give it some recovery time (my heart). It has 3 hours before I am off out for the final WWM session of this year. Actually it has a 5 day break before I perform again! It was almost as if I have booked a holiday!