Category Archives: creative writing

June Review of the Month (Part 2)

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Photo by Ruvim on Pexels.com

Read Part 1 here.

Week 3

After the Worcestershire LitFest I really needed a rest, but I couldn’t resist attending a few readings. Cafe Writers and Cheltenham Poetry Festival events started my week – I was looking for a few post-festival days off and I did manage to have a quieter – away from desk weekend followed by a WHOLE day off work. I didn’t want to miss Jill Abram or Rishi Dastidar at Cafe Writers – so even though I felt like I needed to be propped up like a scarecrow I went and had a brilliant night! A real feast of poetry.

However, I was really exhausted by the time I was home on Tuesday, after a great distance travelling for work. and could have gone to bed at 7 PM instead of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival. I didn’t know Christine Whittemore‘s work and I admire Angela France and Penelope Shuttle‘s work, so I knew it would be worth it! And it was. Felt like an age ago when I booked the ticket!

I received my copy of The Brown Envelope Book, I will be posting more about this important and necessary book edited by Alan Morrison and Kate Jay-R.

I had one of the worst medical appointments so far this year and worked the rest of the week. When I wasn’t in pain I was in online readings.

I went to a Verve reading which was brilliant – I had been looking forward to it. Sadly Annie Fan couldn’t make it but Cynthia Miller stepped in and gave us a sneak preview of her new collection Honorifics (Nine Arches), which I was looking forward to the launch of.

Verve Poetry Press presents Meryl Pugh, Anne Fan, Geraldine Clarkson with special guest Victoria Kennefick – Reading & chat.

Reading from and answering questions about their VERVE pamphlets with very special guest poet Victoria Kennefick. A short reading from each poet will be followed by a short chat.

Hosted by Verve publisher Stuart Bartholomew.

It was a great event and was the first zoom experience for on e of the poets – not that we would have known that. I managed to stay up late enough to be at the Summer Issue Launch for Paris Review.

I had a twisty day which started with a rejection (one I had been holding on for) and also an offer to facilitate more poetry workshops.

I finished the week with a special workshop provided by Ledbury Poetry Festival based on the Ghazal with Maryam Hessavi. Which was intense and wonderful – although I still have to polish my effort!

I had another poem accepted for an anthology which launches this summer, I am making a video performance to be shared on the night.

I spent an entire day asleep and one chasing my tail through to do lists. I managed to do most of a Walking Tour at the WWBPA with Andrew Rimby. It was the William Cullen Bryant Tour and we actually got to go inside the house!

Week 4:

I had an entire week of work booked in, which started well and then I got the call. The call used to mean OFSTED but nowadays it means Track & Trace or COVID. I am still waiting for all the admin to be tied up but it was a call from the agency. My mobile chose this day to freeze and stop working (later had to restore factory settings, losing all the numbers and all my photos).

Despite testing negative I completed my no-pay 10 day quarantine – losing all my potential wages. I am not only trying to keep head above water but never have an income for a few months over the summer, I try to earn/bank enough to stretch. We only have 3 weeks (more like 2 for us) left of the term so I am not going to make future pay for the summer. I just hope this is the last quarantine for me. It is proof that PPE and double vacs can protect you though. Thank goodness all the tests were negative. I missed 2 important family birthdays during these 10 days too! I may have something secured for the autumn though – which is a relief. And it meant I could attend a few workshops.

I went to a York Libraries event – Finding the Words, a reading from Rachel Bower, Hannah Hodgson and Maggie Mackay.

Rachel Bower is an award-winning writer based in Sheffield. She is the author of Moon Milk (Valley Press, 2018) and a non-fiction book on literary letters (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Her poems and stories have been widely published, including in Anthropocene, The London Magazine, Magma, New Welsh Reader and Stand. Rachel won The London Magazine Short Story Prize 2019/20 and the W&A Short Story Competition. She edited the Verse Matters anthology (Valley Press, 2017) with Helen Mort and she is currently editing an anthology with Simon Armitage (Faber & Faber). Her new poetry collection, These Mothers of Gods, will be published by Fly on the Wall Press in July 2021.

Hannah Hodgson is a poet living with life limiting illness. Her work has been published by BBC Arts, The Poetry Society and Ambit, amongst other outlets. She is a recipient of a 2020 Northern Writers Award for Poetry. Her first poetry pamphlet ‘Dear Body’ was published by Wayleave Press in 2018; and her second, centred around life with serious illness was published by Verve Poetry Press in Feb 2021. Her first full length poetry collection ‘163 Days’ is due to be published by Seren in 2022.

Maggie Mackay is an MA Poetry graduate of Manchester Metropolitan University with work in a number of online and print journals and anthologies. Several pieces have been shortlisted, commended in competitions, or nominated for the Forward Prize, Single Poem and the Pushcart Prize. Her pamphlet ‘The Heart of the Run’, 2018 was published by Picaroon Poetry and her full collection ‘A West Coast Psalter’, Kelsay Books, is available now. In 2020 she was awarded a place in the Poetry Archive’s WordView permanent collection.

© 2021 Explore York Libraries and Archives

I know Hannah and Maggie and have admired Rachel’s poetry since I first heard her read at the start of Lockdown. So I had been counting down the days to this event! I knew the readings would be incredibly powerful – and they were.

I did a Ledbury Poetry Festival workshop with Sara-Jane Arbury.

I caught up with family members on the phone – and attended Cynthia Miller’s wonderful book launch. I was truly excited when she shared the success of this first collection in the spring.

Cynthia Miller plus guest writers Khairani Barokka and Jenna Clake celebrate the publication of Honorifics.

Cynthia Miller‘s Honorifics is an astonishing, adventurous, and innovative exploration of family, Malaysian-Chinese cultural identity, and immigration. Poetry is interwoven with the words for all the things we honour; our loved ones and our ancestors, home and homecomings. From jellyfish blooms to glitch art and distant stars, Miller’s mesmerizing approach is experimental and expansive with longing: “My skin hunger could fill a galaxy”.

Cynthia Miller is a Malaysian-American poet, festival producer and innovation consultant living in Edinburgh. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AmbitThe RialtoButcher’s DogPoetry Birmingham Literary Journalharana poetryThe Best New British and Irish Poets and Primers Volume Two. She is also co-founder of the Verve Poetry Festival.

Khairani Barokka is a writer and artist from Jakarta, based in London. Her work has been presented widely, in more than 15 countries. Among Okka’s honours, she was Modern Poetry in Translation’s Inaugural Poet-in-Residence, and is currently Associate Artist at the National Centre for Writing and Research Fellow at UAL’s Decolonising Arts Institute. Okka’s books include Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis; Vietnamese translation, AJAR Press) and Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (as co-editor; Nine Arches), Rope, and most recently Ultimatum Orangutan (Nine Arches).

Jenna Clake‘s debut collection of poetry, Fortune Cookie, won the Melita Hume Prize, received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors, and was shortlisted for a Somerset Maugham Award. Her second full collection, Museum of Ice Cream, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2021.

© 2021 Nine Arches Press

I know Jenna, Romalyn and Cynthia and I am delighted they are spreading their poetry wings as fully as they are. It was unfortunate that Romalyn couldn’t make it but Jane read a tender message from her. I always enjoy discovering a poet I have not yet seen/read so it was a treat to listen to the incredible work of Khairani Barokka.

I attended Food for Thought as I do every Friday , enjoyed a Sheffield Libraries Poetry session on Saturday and a poetry group on Sunday. I had a lazy recovery day, cleaned the house, facetimed for the missing birthdays (one was my mum)! Did a workshop with Sarah L. Dixon, organised book promotion had the Post Festival Committee meeting and enjoyed a night at Worcester, 42. I finished the month with a LPF Workshop, listened in to a panel at the Tamworth Literature Festival and FINALLY sent some submissions!

MASS Poetry Festival 2021 – Part 2

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MASS Poetry Festival 13th-16th May 2021

The difficulty with writing about a festival a month after you went (and have since filled the past 30 days with more glorious poetry) is things tend to get forgotten or blend as one. This is a sign of how stand-out many of the MASS PF events were. I only have to look at the title of the session and the event comes flooding back to me.

So, here for your pleasure is the 2nd part of my MASS Poetry Festival write up. After all, it won’t happen again for a couple of years.

Saturday 15th May

Ecopoetry: Words in Balance

As the rainforest burns and wildfires rage, as climate change threatens our world, poets can bear witness, reflecting on the intricate interconnectedness of humanity, our planet, and nature. We are nature. EcoPoetry offers us a lifeline to hidden worlds and reminds us of our shared reliance on nature. This session explores the role of the poet as activist, as chronicler of destruction, as truth teller. In this reading, poets Fred Marchant, Jennifer Barber, Deborah Leipziger and Myronn Hardy share their ecopoems and reflect on the power of EcoPoetry to transform and heal our world and ourselves.

Fred Marchant

Fred Marchant has authored five books of poetry, the most recent of which, Said Not Said, was named an Honored Book by the Massachusetts Book Awards. He has edited Another World Instead: The Early Poetry of William Stafford, and, co-translated (with Nguyen Ba Chung) works by several contemporary Vietnamese poets.

Deborah Leipziger

Deborah Leipziger is a poet, author, and advisor on sustainability. Her chapbook, Flower Map, was published by Finishing Line Press. Born in Brazil, Ms. Leipziger is the author of several books on sustainability. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, her poems have been published in literary magazines in four countries.

Jennifer Barber

Jennifer Barber’s new collection, The Sliding Boat Our Bodies Made, is forthcoming from The Word Works in 2022. Her book Works on Paper was published by The Word Works in 2016, and her two previous collections, both from Kore Press, are Given Away, and Rigging the Wind.

Myronn Hardy

Myronn Hardy is the author of five books of poems, most recently, Radioactive Starlings, published by Princeton University Press (2017). His poems have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Virginia Quarterly Review, the Baffler, Rhino, and elsewhere.

© Massachusetts Poetry Festival 2021

This was a generous event, introductory poems by other great poets and some wonderfully powerful poetry. The poets shared context for their poems and sometimes process. I could have listened to all four of them for hours! An incredible Q&A after the readings too. Great interaction with the audience.

My two main USA hangouts since Lockdown 2020 have been The Walt Whitman Birthplace and the Emily Dickinson Museum. Both organisations have offered amazingly creative online content. Emily Dickinson was my first poet. One I have loved the work of all my life. I started learning about her life as a teenager and have never let go. I can’t believe it took a Lockdown to get me searching online for the Museum. I have certainly made up for it since!

Walt Whitman didn’t hit my radar until I came back to writing in 2013, but swiftly found his place in my heart and bookshelf. There is something incredibly magic about words that last the centuries and are still relevant today.

I had booked on the Annual poetry walk before MASS PF released the programme – but it is great that it fell during the festival and was part of it.

“Called Back”: A Virtual Emily Dickinson Poetry Walk

Days before her death in 1886, Emily Dickinson wrote her final letter, “Little Cousins, / Called Back. / Emily”. On May 15, the 135th anniversary of the poet’s death, join the Emily Dickinson Museum for an engaging virtual poetry reading and “walk” through Amherst, the town she called “paradise.” At each stop, we will see historical and contemporary images of sites of meaning for Dickinson including her garden and conservatory at the Homestead, The Evergreens — home to the poet’s brother and sister-in-law; the town common; Amherst College; and more. Not a lecture, this program infuses place with poetry. At each stop contemporary poets share their Dickinson-inspired poems and volunteers read Dickinson’s own words aloud. The final stop is Dickinson’s grave in West Cemetery where we will share reflections and a light-hearted virtual toast!

Elizabeth Bolton has a PhD in Literacy Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She writes articles, essays and poems about the connection between writing and mental health. She grew up in northern California and now lives in Niagara Falls, Ontario with her husband and two daughters.

Lori Desrosiers’ poetry books are The Philosopher’s DaughterSometimes I Hear the Clock Speak, and Keeping Planes in the Air, all from Salmon Poetry. Two chapbooks, Inner Sky and Typing with e.e. cummings, are from Glass Lyre Press. She edits Naugatuck River Review, a journal of narrative poetry and Wordpeace.co, an online journal dedicated to social justice.

Hannah Baker Saltmarsh is the author of the poetry collection, Hysterical Water, published by The University of Georgia Press in March 2021. She has written a book of poetry criticism, entitled Male Poets and the Agon of the Mother: Contexts in Confessional and Post-confessional Poetry (Univ. of South Carolina P., 2019). She is the mother of three children, and lives with her husband in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she teaches and writes. 

Kate Godin lives in Western Massachusetts, where she tends to the writing needs of a small liberal arts college, a tween and a teen, a vigorous anxiety. She is a graduate of Bates College and the New School for Social Research.

Bonnie Larson Staiger is a North Dakota Associate Poet Laureate, the recipient of the ‘Poetry of the Plains and Prairies Prize (NDSU Press, 2018) and the ‘Independent Press Award: Distinguished Favorite’ (2019) for her collection, Destiny Manifested. Her second book In Plains Sight, is forthcoming from NDSU Press in 2021.

Robin Long is a queer poet and writer from Austin. She is expanding her fiction thesis on Emily Dickinson. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, 2020 National Poetry Month Editor’s Pick, and a digital poetry performer with FEELS Zine.

Siri Palreddy is a first-year at Amherst College, hoping to study both English and Neuroscience. An avid reader, she first discovered Emily Dickinson in high school, and has loved her work ever since. Apart from poetry, Siri enjoys writing creative nonfiction and is compelled by stories that navigate one’s identity (or identities) and roots. When not reading or writing, you can find Siri spending her free time volunteering, laying in the sun, or rewatching her favorite comfort shows. 

Peter Schmitt is the author of six books of poems. “Emily Dickinson and the Boston Red Sox” appears in his new collection, Goodbye, Apostrophe (Regal House). A graduate of Amherst and The Iowa Writers Workshop, he lives and teaches in his hometown of Miami, Florida.  

Don Skoog is a freelance musician, writer, and teacher living in Oak Park, Illinois. He plays Classical percussion and Jazz drums, as well as Latin American, Arabic, and Persian instruments. He authors books and articles on exploring culture through music—the latest, in Arabic, for The University of Chicago’s Majala magazine—and has written four novels (not all of them published yet). The poem Amherst, is from Adventures in the RhythmVerse, his first chapbook. 

Rebecca Starks is the author of the poetry collections Time Is Always Now, a finalist for the 2019 Able Muse Book Award, and Fetch, Muse (forthcoming from Able Muse Press), and is the recipient of Rattle’s 2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. She lives in Richmond, Vermont. 

Abigail Price is a 24 year old English poet, writer and Undergraduate student studying Criminology, Criminal Justice and Social Policy at the University of Wolverhampton in England. Most of Abigail’s work is inspired by her past and significantly, nature which aided her recovery from mental illness in her early teenage years. Abigail is an avid writer & reader and her dream is to influence social change through British politics alongside writing beautiful poetry to leave people a little bit better, than when her poems found them. 

© Emily Dickinson Museum

www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/annual-poetry-walk-2021/

This tradition has been ongoing for 37 years it was initiated by a group of Amherst based Dickinson enthusiasts and was adopted by the Emily Dickinson museum. And today it continues to draw new and returning devotees each year we’re so thrilled that you’re here with us.

© Emily Dickinson Museum

A deeply celebratory event, one you can watch on the website link above. On the virtual poetry walk we visited six locations significant to the life of the have Emily Dickinson. Ten contemporary poets and volunteers read the poetry as we had the full text shown on screen, along with archive resources and photographs. Lots of historical information cleverly weaved through the event. It was beautiful.

It was one of those events which fully absorbs you! The laying of daisies towards the end was extremely emotional especially because of the pandemic and all those lives we have lost. A toast and choral reading at the end made us all feel connected across the world too.


After the event we were able to sign the virtual Guest Book.

A beautiful poetry walk to take with you all at teatime in the UK. Lovely choral reading to toast Emily and finish the event. Felt very connected, glad you could be part of the MASS Poetry Festival. Very excited to hear more about the restoration too. Carpets from England.
For what are Stars but Asterisks
To point a human Life?

(FR 1673)

A magical experience.

My final MASS PF event of the day was the Headline reading. I am a massive fan of Naomi Shihab Nye’s writing and always enjoy watching her readings. They have been a big part of my 2020+ Lockdown.

Headline Reading with Porsha Olayiwola, Tyehimba Jess, and Naomi Shihab Nye

Sponsored by The Grolier Poetry Book Shop

Porsha Olayiwola

Black, futurist, poet, dyke, hip-hop feminist, womanist: Porsha is a native of Chicago who now resides in Boston. Olayiwola is a writer, performer, educator, and curator who uses afro-futurism and surrealism to examine historical and current issues in the Black, woman, and queer diasporas. She is an Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and the artistic director at MassLEAP, a literary youth organization. Olayiwola is an MFA Candidate at Emerson College. Porsha Olayiwola is the author of i shimmer sometimestoo forthcoming with Button Poetry, and is the current poet laureate for the city of Boston.

Tyehimba Jess

Tyehimba Jess is the author of two books of poetry, Leadbelly and OlioOlio won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, The Midland Society Author’s Award in Poetry, and received an Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. It was also nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN Jean Stein Book Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Leadbelly was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. The Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review both named it one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2005.”

Jess, a Cave Canem and NYU Alumni, received a 2004 Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and was a 2004–2005 Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. Jess is also a veteran of the 2000 and 2001 Green Mill Poetry Slam Team, and won a 2000–2001 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Poetry, the 2001 Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award, and a 2006 Whiting Fellowship. He presented his poetry at the 2011 TedX Nashville Conference and won a 2016 Lannan Literary Award in Poetry. He received a Guggenheim fellowship in 2018. Jess is a Professor of English at College of Staten Island.

Jess’ fiction and poetry have appeared in many journals, as well as anthologies such as Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American PoetryBeyond The Frontier: African American Poetry for the Twenty-First CenturyRole Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and ArtBum Rush the PageA Def Poetry JamPower Lines: Ten Years of Poetry from Chicago’s Guild Complex, and Slam: The Art of Performance Poetry.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow (Library of Congress). She has received a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, the Robert Creeley Prize, and “The Betty Prize” from Poets House, for service to poetry, and numerous honors for her children’s literature, including two Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards. In 2011 Nye won the Golden Rose Award given by the New England Poetry Club, the oldest poetry reading series in the country. Her collection, 19 Varieties of Gazelle, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her work has been presented on National Public Radio on A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac. She has been featured on two PBS poetry specials including “The Language of Life with Bill Moyers” and also appeared on NOW with Bill Moyers. She has been affiliated with The Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin for 20 years and also poetry editor at The Texas Observer for 20 years. In 2019-2020 she was the editor for New York Times Magazine poems. She is Chancellor Emeritus for the Academy of American Poets, a laureate of the 2013 NSK Neustadt Award for Children’s Literature, and in 2017 the American Library Association presented Naomi Shihab Nye with the 2018 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award. In 2018 the Texas Institute of Letters awarded her the Lon Tinkle Award for Lifetime Achievement. She was named the 2019-2021 Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. In 2020 she was awarded the Ivan Sandrof Award for Lifetime Achievement by the National Book Critics Circle. Nye is professor of Creative Writing – Poetry at Texas State University.

© Massachusetts Poetry Festival 2021

It was a great introduction (for me) to both Porsha Olayiwola’s work and Tyehimba Jess. Olayiwola’s reading focused on social poetry, historical commentary and current issues facing black women. It was a totally enthralling and powerful set. She is a woman who harnesses poetic courage and uses it well.

Tyehimba Jess was fantastic – I could have listened to him for hours. So many hard hitting, grabbing lines.

‘What I know good starts with a brick and ends with a book

and bleeds in between,’

Jess bridges Slam and Academic poetry, I could hear the Blues influence in the rhythm of is work, the feel of it.

And as for Naomi Shihab Nye – wow. Generous and endearing as always. Quietly getting her point across. Passionate and dedicated to the work of poetry. The way she can approach such difficult subjects with complete gentleness is beyond me. She started with sharing her reasons for admiring MA poetic history, the poets who have come from this part of the world and she read a poem by a young Californian poet she knows, Emily Ligron. The MASS PF as a whole seemed to be very proactive in promoting unsung voices and the work of other famous, important poets from the area.

A fantastic day at the festival!

Part 3 COMING SOON!

MASS Poetry Festival 2021 (13th-16th May) Part 1

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13th-16th May

MASS Poetry Festival was amazing, I am so glad that I was able to attend the hybrid event, it is a Biennial event and the programme was huge, extensive & creative. They had over 50 events featuring over 100 poets. This was the first festival since the 10th Anniversary in 2018. Headline poets included: Victoria Chang, Jos Charles, Martín Espada, Tyehimba Jess, Patricia Spears Jones, Lang Leav, Khadijah Queen, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ariana Reines, Dara Wier & more.  

It was a joy to spot some of the Worcester MA (A Tale of Two Cities Project) poets on the bill and often in the audience too. It was a busy weekend – because, (as with all festivals) there was a clash, I was attending events for what felt like the whole 48hrs – it wasn’t!

What I also liked was the website booking system which enabled you to keep track of your own festival schedule, very handy. Especially when not in real life with a paper copy in your pocket.

The time zones meant much of the programme was quite late for BST (UK) and I was working unexpectedly out in the real world too, so it was a juggling act to hang onto all the event bookings. Sadly I missed the finale but as Mr. G hadn’t seen me most of the weekend it seemed only fair. I felt jet lagged by about 6pm Sunday!

Thursday 13th May Mass P

Headline Reading with Victoria Chang and Khadijah Queen

I was excited to see Victoria Chang reading after recently reading her poetry in April (NaPoWriMo) and getting obsessed with OBIT and how she handles the hardest subjects in the most beautiful poetry.

The reading was opened by the winners of MASS PF First Poem Contest: Samn Stockwell, Samantha DeFlitch, and Emily Joan Cooper.

Khadijah Queen was the other headline act on the Opening Reading – I absolutely loved this reading and was glad to catch Khadijah later in the festival too.

Khadijah Queen is the author of five books of poetry, most recently I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On (YesYes Books, 2017), a finalist for the National Poetry Series, which was praised in O Magazine, The New YorkerLos Angeles Review, and elsewhere as “quietly devastating,” and “a portrait of defiance that turns the male gaze inside out.”

Victoria Chang’s new book of poetry, OBIT, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2020 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, longlisted for a National Book Award, as well as longlisted for a PEN-Voeckler Award. OBIT was also named a TIME Magazine, Publishers WeeklyNPRBoston Globe Best Book of the Year, and a New York Times Notable Book.

As well as a diverse range of events, there were other things happening – some in real life some online. Such as the online Ekphrastic Gallery – which of course I enjoyed.
Work by twelve amazingly gifted student artists from Montserrat College of Art, paired with bespoke poems by the winners of our Ekphrastic Gallery contest.  This gallery was created thanks to the amazing work of Montserrat Faculty Members Colleen Michaels and Dawn Paul.  

And the Improbable Places Walking Tour – another highlight.
An audio tour highlighting some of the most memorable stops on The Improbable Places Poetry Tour has been made for your listening pleasure.  The Improbable Places Poetry Tour, a reading series organized by Colleen Michaels of Montserrat College of Art, has run for over a decade around Beverly, Salem, and the North Shore bringing poetry and the community together in unexpected places. Yes, even in a swimming pool. This audio tour version will feature stops around the Massachusetts North Shore and can be enjoyed either with a day trip or virtually.  

© Massachusetts Poetry Festival 2021

Friday 14th May Mass PF

My Friday schedule started with this powerful reading.

New Elegies: How do we turn grief into song?

Four poets read from new collections that wrestle with the bounds and opportunities of the American elegy. Readings with Sumita Chakraborty, Rebecca Morgan Frank (who I have being enjoying over 2020/21), Erin Carlyle & Jessica Guzman.

Followed by an enjoyable/relaxed workshop with Kelly DuMar: How Pictures Heal.

In the midst of our shifting daily realities, I believe this one experience remains a constant: We all take and treasure photographs of the people, places and things that bring meaning and beauty into our lives. – Kelly DuMar

The Thing With Feathers: Poetry of Witness to Serious Illness and Trauma

Contemporary poets discuss their own poems dealing with serious illness and what they reveal about hope, what Emily Dickinson called “the thing with feathers”.

I have been writing trauma and illness recently, so was interested in this reading and discussion. It was really hard to decide as some of the events I wanted to go to clashed – decisions had to be made.

Oliver de la Paz (I discovered Oliver’s work in the 1st Lockdown), Jennifer Franklin (who hosts many of the Hudson Valley Writers events I have attended and who I heard read at the Emily Dickinson Museum), Fred Marchant (who was also part of the EDM reading) and Justin Wymer.

I am glad I made the decision to attend this reading, a rich discussion between poets and some heartening poems. As the programme stated: Sometimes, however, the poet finds hope, even in a factually hopeless situation. What is it in us that persists in singing, regardless of how dire the facts?

The final event I attended on Friday was the Headline Reading.

The second headline reading of the Festival, featured Lang Leav (who I recently discovered and then enjoyed a workshop she facilitated on prose poetry) and Dara Wier, with an opening reading by National Youth Poet Laureate Meera Dasgupta.  

Meera Dasgupta is the youngest United States Youth Poet Laureate appointed in the history of the country. She is also the first U.S. Youth Poet Laureate to have been appointed from New York (as well as the Northeastern region) and the first Asian-American Youth Poet Laureate of the United States.

Novelist and poet Lang Leav was born in a refugee camp when her family were fleeing the Khmer Rouge Regime. She spent her formative years in Sydney, Australia, in the predominantly migrant town of Cabramatta. Among her many achievements, Lang is the winner of a Qantas Spirit of Youth Award, Churchill Fellowship and Goodreads Reader’s Choice Award.

Dara Wier’s books include In the Still of the Night (Wave Books, 2017), You Good Thing (Wave Books, 2013), Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2009), Remnants of Hannah (Wave Books, 2006), Reverse Rapture (Verse Press, 2005; 2006 Poetry Center Book Award), Hat On a Pond (Verse Press, 2002), and Voyages in English (Carnegie Mellon, 2001).

© Massachusetts Poetry Festival 2021

Part 2 COMING SOON!

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival #SAHLF2021

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Last year the The Stay at Home! Festival/S@HF was one of the early highlights of Lockdown.

Schools were still open and the UK was not on Lockdown when the festival’s initial conception happened on Twitter, (great festivals start this way, Verve is another started by a conversation on Twitter), I missed the call outs for events as I was working full-time (and good job too because the following 10 months have been beyond rotten). I fortunately discovered it was happening before it started and was proud to be a Showcase Poet along with Kate Simpson, Sophie Dumont and others.

S@HF 2020: 145 events, 220 authors,
15,000 attendees!

An Incredible Experience

By the start of the festival, we were in Lockdown, which meant we had to STAY HOME – but it also meant I could overindulge in the programme (and there were a massive 145 events)!

I basically attached the laptop to my body for a fortnight, (which is one of the reasons I didn’t have time to blog it until afterwards). It was great to see and attend workshops with many Literary folk, some of whom I know and some I met – which is always a festival highlight. It’s where I first came across Cath Drake who also had a big part to play in the first Lockdown.

Somehow, Carolyn Jess-Cooke & her small team really made the online festival work on so many levels: it was a really positive, friendly space to be involved in. Many attendees acknowledged that it was like attending a festival in person as far as the positive feelings it created in us, both in events and that buzz of after – and that is no mean feat online!

Photo by Mudassir Ali on Pexels.com

Zoom was still new to many of us, despite being used by the business world since 2011. My first 3 Lockdown notebooks were full by the end of the festival. And I managed to balance the first 11 days of NaPoWriMo happening at the same time. In fact I remember there were several online offerings happening in April/May 2020. The Stay at Home! Festival itself made a slight name change this year and I suspect this may be because a Stay at Home Festival which is music based existed and was in flow shortly before the S@HF 2020 took off.

Following the S@HF 2020 a long succession of incredible festivals and programmes hit our screens as many of the writing community took technological strides into a new online space. A year on we are all hoping this gives rise to Hybrid events where global access is still viable. Anyone who went, has spent the past year hoping there would be another S@HF.

Dee Daaa – and there is! S@HLF 2021

The Stay at Home! Literary Festival 2021

There was a call out that I didn’t miss this year but was working in the real world and like many other spring deadlines it whooshed past. Delighted the team have managed to get AC Funding and sponsorship this year and have created another fantastic programme for us all to enjoy. This also means they have been able to offer it FREE of charge and keep it really accessible. Of course donations are always welcomed.

So here we are #S@HLF2021 – 26 April – 9 May 2021.

The Story Behind S@HLF

This video showcases founder and SAHLF director Carolyn Jess-Cooke in discussion about the origin of the festival.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke is an award-winning poet and novelist published in 23 languages. Her fiction is published under CJ Cooke, and her latest book in THE NESTING (HarperCollins [UK], Penguin [US] 2020). She is Senior Lecturer at the University of Lecturer, where she convenes the MLitt Creative Writing by Distance Learning. In 2020, she founded the Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival.

SAHLF relies on the ongoing support of our audiences and donors to bring readers and writers together, telling stories, sharing new perspectives, and celebrating writing in all its forms. If you’d like to make a donation, please visit: https://www.stayathomelitfest.org/don…

26 April – 9 May 2021

And if this is the first you’ve heard of it – it’s not too late – it goes on until May 9th. Find out more and look out for some new blog posts soon. Book on through Eventbrite.

Find out about the festival here.

#SAHLF2021

Inclusivity and diversity have been important to this festival and this year the research continues. The events are mainly webinar which offers better security for users and many are also live streamed on the S@HLF You Tube channel, all events are subtitled. They are also using Instagram Live and IGTV, Instagram Reels, TikTok and Soundcloud are also being used.

Recordings of some of the events are available on a catch up service on a pay-what-you-can donation basis.

And for those with no access to the internet:

The Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival is committed to accessibility, inclusivity and outreach, and this year we’re partnering up with many wonderful libraries to ensure that the festival is experienced and enjoyed by as wide a community of people as possible. © Stay-at-Home! Festival

Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe 2021

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A brand new website for Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe. Find out about all the 2021 competitions, join in with virtual open mics at SpeakEasy (9th April) and coming soon announcements for Worcestershire LitFest 2021.

YOUNG WRITER COMPETITION

7-17 years old/ FREE entry/ International

FLASH FICTION COMPETITION

300 words £4 or £10 for 3 entries/ International

And if you are a resident of Worcestershire, for £5 you can enter the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition.

World Book Day 2021

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© National Literacy Trust 2017

4th March is World Book Day – and perhaps a day when Home-schooling parents in the UK breathe a sigh of relief at not having to find a last minute outfit, of course many schools may be encouraging the Home Learners to dress as favourite book characters and join in with the fun!

Many schools include activities to enhance the curriculum learning on Thursday. Here are some great websites and ideas from the UK:

World Book Day

Literacy Trust

Author & Illustrator Academy

It is the 24th year it has been held and is marked globally in over 100 countries.

Find out about the history of World Book Day here UNESCO on 23rd April 1995

In 2018, we were lucky enough to have Kevin Brooke as a Guest Writer at Inkspill. He writes for Young Adults and gave us a great workshop. Or maybe you have never read Kevin’s work and would like to buy a book.

Website: https://kevinbrooke.com/

Here’s Kevin’s You Tube Channel where you can listen to many extracts of his work.

You may want to write a story for the Worcestershire LitFest 2021 Competition, just 300 words on the theme of Gods and Monsters, entries are FREE. (Year Groups Y3 – Y12) Watch the video for more information.

Monthly Review February

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Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

February arrived and I could barely believe January was over! Another month fully booked and brimming with adventure… and more snow! After suffering several lack work years, work came like buses and I said YES to it all. So right from the get go I was aware of pacing myself. I worked full time for a couple of weeks, balanced deadlines with new ventures, took on a new role and celebrated Mr G’s birthday, Valentine’s and other family celebrations and finished the month off with a Poetry Festival! Perfect! This is certainly one of the longest review posts for a while, you may want to munch through it in several sittings!

Week 1:

The first day of the month threw treasure at me, I started a new course with Tawnya RenelleExperimenting with… it was inspiring as ever and started me in a new direction with some material I have been chewing over for a while. I even created a sketch! There is a shiny new website/platform and lots of resources to get my teeth into (especially now I have finished chewing)!

I also had some happy news hit the inbox, after a two year hiatus (health + pandemic) I am back with the DAN team supporting them with an online Poetry Extravaganza again. AND…. last year I completed the Poetry Renewed Project and my commission with Elephant’s Footprint to produce 10 animated Poetry Films. One of these, ‘Territory’ has been shown at the Reelpoetry Festival in Houston this month (24th Feb.) – the joy is abundant! https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2021/02/27/reelpoetry-festival-houston-tx/

I made some submissions with close deadlines and applied for more work. Which was time consuming and exciting. I had proof copies of Recoil 12 back from MullaMulla Press, I had a poem accepted by Literary Alchemy Press, an online magazine I discovered last year. They have taken a poem I wrote in an Angela France workshop and one I am particularly fond of. In addition to that, by publishing it they have become an International Press, which is brilliant for them!

You can buy a copy here.

Connect Dudley, (a project I was commissioned for back in May 2020 during the 1st Lockdown) is coming to the third leg. Rick Sanders facilitated community workshops where participants wrote letters over several weeks, in the 2nd leg Rick and I turned these letters into poems and shared them with the participants. We also completed an interview with the funders, CoLab and recorded audio of our work (which is connected to the High Street poems via QR codes).

CoLab – Connect Dudley

Rick is now in possession of some very shiny and graphically exciting posters of the poems which will go up in empty shops in Dudley’s High Street over the next 5-10 weeks and I am booked for a reading later this month which will be a webinar and Q&A. It was a wonderful project that has helped many people and I am honoured to have been a part of it.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2021/02/21/connect-dudley-launch-event/

I caught an interview with Casey Bailey – Birmingham Poet Laureate, on Midlands News, which made me happy and I had my final workshop class with Zelda Chappel. It was on Life and Death – so not a light subject but it was a wonderful few hours, I have loved being part of this group and the work we have covered has uncovered some of those poems that have been living inside me. Now the hard work begins to get them fully formed.

I would recommend Zelda’s classes they are great fun and she has a wonderful way of facilitating 2 hours of intense writing and reading in such a relaxed and caring way you leave in a state of cleansed tiredness, definitely lighter and happier and with ink that is worth page space. It has been a January/February highlight. You can book the full course of just choose a week that you feel pulls you in. Most of our group did all 4 sessions. I first met Zelda through Jo Bell’s 52 project back in 2014, we read at the same event in London and have been following each other ever since. Do check out her poetry. The Girl in the Dog tooth Coat by Zelda Chappel.

I had the pleasure of attending a Book Launch, Nature at a Cost a first collection for Annie Ellis. I was tired but I wouldn’t have missed this Launch for the world. I am delighted for Annie. It was a lovely to watch her excitement as Guest Readers shared some of their own poetry and read poems picked from new collection. Annie’s Special Guests were Ben Ray, Anna Saunders, Zoe Brooks and Ankh Spice.

I recently discovered we landed in poetry around the same time, when I first met Annie (back in 2015), I thought she was an established writer. Annie’s collection has been described by Ankh Spice as ‘a clarion call to find the edges we have forgotten’, and by Ben Ray as ‘a haunting love letter to the natural world’.

Read all about the Launch here.

The weekend saw more events and workshops with Redwing, Rakaya Fetuga & Sarah L. Dixon. Nine Arches Press celebrated the launch of Jacqueline Saphra‘s One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets. I watched the conception of this back in 2020 and have read a good number of Jacqueline’s sonnets, several poets joined her but most managed 80 something sonnets. This is not just another collection of Lockdown thoughts and poems, these are sonnets that in years to come will form a historical record and someone suggested may linger in our heads like lines of Shakespeare’s sonnets. It was also a treat to hear her Guest Poets: Anja Konig, Miriam Nash, Jacob Sam-La Rose and video readings from Ian McMillan & Naomi Shihab Nye.

If you missed it you can treat yourself now.

Sunday saw a warm gathering for Live from The Butchery and some stunning performances by: Annie Freud, Jane Burn & Anja Konig. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and it felt like the perfect end to the weekend, except there was more!

I have a few favourite landing places in America that I’ve discovered throughout the lockdowns and many offer free events. I am lucky enough to be working again but after the past 2 years the surplus spends are absorbed by previous bills so I am still not in a position to pay booking fees let alone ticket costs. Which is a great shame as there are lots of opportunities around at the moment – including a workshop with Carolyn Forché at the Kendal Poetry Festival. A festival I will get time to write about soon as I’ve spent an amazing 9 days with Clare Shaw and Kim Moore to complete the month!

I spent an inspiring night with Carolyn Forché & Lori Soderlind, thanks to Hudson Valley Writers Center. It was a deeply moving and inspiring event and I loved both readings. I have become a big fan of Carolyn’s work over this pandemic year. I received an order for In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020) for Christmas and it should be arriving next week!

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2021/02/16/an-afternoon-with-carolyn-forche-lori-soderlind/

Carolyn Forché is an award winning author of poetry and prose. Renowned as a “poet of witness,” Carolyn Forché is the author of five books of poetry. Her most recent collection, In the Lateness of the World (Penguin Press, 2020), is a tenebrous book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death.

Lori Soderlind is author of two memoirs: The Change (My Great-American, Postindustrial, Midlife Crisis Tour) and Chasing Montana (A Love Story). She is director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College. Lori began her career in print journalism, working as a reporter, editor, and freelancer for newspapers and magazines across New Jersey and New York. Her latest book, The Change, was the fruit of a long drive she took with her dog Colby, setting off to find “the most depressing places I could find in the country,” Lori has explained, though she only had time to scratch the surface. © Hudson Valley Writers Center

I loved discovering Lori and the story behind her work.

Week 2

I wrote a proposal which took a lot longer than I expected. I’ve written a few applications this year and one of these was for Mass Poetry Festival in May. I was keeping my fingers crossed for a positive outcome on this and gathering some of the poets together again. Unfortunately it was rejected via a very kind email. Four years ago I started my Laureate Legacy Project (2017), a Transatlantic poetry exchange with Worcester, UK and Worcester MA, A Tale of Two Cities. You can read all about it here. And read the publication, Special Issue of Contour here. Many of the poets have gone on to republish their poems in other anthologies and collections.

In the UK we launched the project at Droitwich Arts Festival 2018 as part of the Poetry Extravaganza event, USA had an event at The Sprinkler Factory in September and then in 2019 it was part of the Evesham Festival of Words. I had hoped to role out a lot more with this massive project, there were plans but due to health issues and then COVID nothing has happened since. Evesham was booked in the summer of 2018 when I was 100% fit and not expecting an operation, it was only through the support of friends that I managed to get to the Festival and undertake the organisation of the event. So when I saw the call for MASS Poetry Festival I thought it was destiny! The application took some time, I was delighted to obtain a reference and all was well. I have been checking the inbox for a while. Maybe more opportunities will present themselves. Due to the pandemic I am back in touch with the WCPA who provided the rich American pool of poets for this project. So maybe when I am less busy I can organise something myself.

I missed the Cafe Writers Competition Winner Readings with Helen Ivory (Judge), I thought I had booked a ticket, I had registered interest in the event but not got a ticket. I was a actually double booked so would have missed the start of it, but kicked myself for not keeping tabs. This is overwork tiredness. It continued the next day. I had booked for a presentation (one which was recorded) and decided by the time I made it home I was too tired for any screen time. I forgot I have a Tuesday night class at 9PM (in USA) and was asleep before 7:30 pm. This week I have been putting the finishing touches together for Mr. G’s Lockdown birthday and Valentine’s Day as well as working on projects, writing applications and advertising copy.

Midweek I managed to attend Sheffield Libraries workshop, it was a writing week filled with food. Tawnya’s Experimenting with… class on Monday was Food and this Recipes and Memories workshop, facilitated by the wonderful Central Librarian, Claire Walker, links to a project later in the month. I spent a couple of hours in good company recollecting all sorts of stories that were decades thick in dust. It was inspiring and I hope to write up a couple of poems. It was also nice to see some of my 52 Poetry friends at the workshop and everyone shared such inspiring memories that many of us left with pages and pages of notes after the 2 hour workshop finished. At Midnight there was a USA reading, but I was asleep long before then.

On Thursday it was Worcester SpeakEasy, it was a wonderfully tender and entertaining evening, which included an impromptu ‘hat off’, bountiful love, valentine and non-valentine poems and we had a band too! I finished working full time and celebrated with Wolverhampton Literature Festival, Food for Thought poetry cafe, Poet’s Cafe featuring Corrupted Poetry a collective of writers, Nic Stringer, Michelle Penn & Fiona Larkin.

My 2nd proposal written and sent a week ago was acknowledged with an incredibly kind rejection email. They have kept my contact details and had over 3000 applications, they said my detailed pitch was well written, so some upskill desk time & pitching if nothing else. It’s a shame as it sounded like an exciting project to be involved in. Hopefully it has future-paved something!

This weekend was Mr G’s birthday and Valentine’s so I originally avoided booking anything in, until a conversation made me realise that 48 hours with me was not the way he planned to mark the weekend (harsh), so I booked a few bits into the last days of the week. On Saturday I went to Rakaya Fetuga‘s workshop and then the Annual Lucille Clifton Celebration: Today We Are Possible. It was a moving event full of tenderness and power – the best combination, stories and poems and memories of Lucille.

I was glad not to miss Charley Barnes‘ Book Launch for her Poet Laureate Collection, Lore. A collection which feeds more than her obsession with flowers and footnotes. I will be adding a post about this soon.

WEEK 3:

The Worcestershire LitFest competitions opened and I spent several hours web-building. This week was marked to work on one main project. I managed a few last minute submissions and was looking forward to Cheltenham Poetry Festival who had Kim Addonizio & Christina Thatcher booked. It was an incredible event. Epic in the truest sense of the word. I will be writing February blogposts long into March!

I had a project (which has been postponed) booked in for this week so hadn’t filled the diary. I am spending most of the week working on a manuscript which is due to be submitted. Looming deadlines are always a good reason to set to work. I have been working on this since last year, but decided not to sub it out in the end in the Autumn as I had originally planned. The poems involved have been written since 2019 and I am keeping my fingers crossed. It feels strange as in pre-pandemic times there would have been bountiful events to sell my previous book Patience and I am aware I have stock upstairs, I have sent any interest since March 2020 to the publisher website.

I recently discovered these lunch time readings, PM for UK. A lovely way to finish a day of one workshop, one class and one group. Jennica Harper tender poems touched us all deeply and listening to Frances Boyle force with nature, family, grief was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to these two Canadian poets. The Q&A was interesting, I love listening to the poet’s process.

Frances Boyle’s first poetry collection, Light-carved Passages was published by Buschek Books in 2014, and her second, This White Nest, by Quattro Books in 2019. She also writes fiction and has published a collection of Short Stories and a Novella.

Jennica Harper is the author of three previous books of poetry: Wood (Anvil Press, 2013), which was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay prize, What It Feels Like for a Girl (Anvil Press, 2008), and The Octopus and Other Poems (Signature Editions, 2006).

I often miss Cafe Muse nowadays due to work, Canadian events tend to be on in the early hours here in the UK. But I was still awake so I went to listen to the reading series Poets Vs the Pandemic. And I was glad I did, because I got to hear some great poetry from all three poets. Some of the poems were amazing.

Grace Cavalieri is Maryland’s Tenth Poet Laureate. She’s written 22 books and chapbooks of poetry; and 26 produced short-form and full-length plays. Her newest poetry publications are What The Psychic Said (2020;) Showboat,(2019;) and Other Voices, Other Lives (ASP Pub. 2018.) Her latest play was “Quilting The Sun,” Theatre for The New City, NYC, 2019. Grace founded and still produces “The Poet and the Poem” on public radio, celebrating 44 years on-air in 2021. The show’s recorded at the Library of Congress and transmitted via Pacifica Network.

Diane Wilbon Parks founded The Write Blend collective in 2018. She is a visual poet and artist who has published two collections of poetry, and has read widely as a featured poet, radio show guest poet and interviewee on The Poet and the Poem national broadcast from the Library of Congress. Her artwork has been displayed widely. She lives in Prince George’s County, MD.

ROSE SOLARI is the author of three collections of poetry, The Last Girl, Orpheus in the Park, and Difficult Weather, the one-act play, Looking for Guenevere, and the novel, A Secret Woman. She has lectured and taught writing workshops at many institutions, including the University of Maryland, College Park, MD; St. John’s College, Annapolis, MD; and the University of Oxford’s Centre for Creative Writing in Oxford, England. Her awards include the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, an EMMA award for excellence in journalism, and multiple grants. In 2010, she co-founded Alan Squire Publishing. Rose Solari lives in Bethesda, MD.

RELATED LINKS: http://www.gracecavalieri.com/poetLaureates/featuredpoet_dianewilbonparks.html

https://www.pgahc.org/diane-wilbon-parks

You can find a couple of poems from Grace Cavalieri on the Cafe Muse website.

I attended the On This Day She Book Launch, which was a wonderful hour.

A fantastic event – read all about it here https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2021/02/19/25121/.

I booked tickets for Rita Dove and Terence Hayes and fell asleep before Jane Hirshfield‘s event Poetry and the Wild with the Natural History Institute. I caught up with a recording of it, another event which deserves an entire blogpost. It’s on the list!

I received some very sad news about our Poets In Motion teacher Celena Diana Bumpus, who passed away along with her mother, Shirley Bumpus. It has been an honour to have known Celena for almost a year, she was a creative person full of light and such a connector in these difficult times. Memorials have been organised. Words are the only fitting way for me to remember her and her generous spirit, spreading love and vision, globally. Her emails bore the signature ‘Be the inspiration the world needs‘. At the end of month I was reunited with classmates via email and we’ve decided to complete the collective unity poem Celena was working with us on.

Photo by MOHAMED ABDELSADIG on Pexels.com

I recently discovered Live Canon’s Lunchtime Reading Series, I went to the 4th one (I missed the 5th one, which had a great line up as I was at work). I am hoping there may be more in the future. They are just an hour and a perfect poetry lunch. I listened to with Adham Smart, Robin Houghton, Gillie Robic and Laura Theis

Friday night saw the Launch of Kendal Poetry Festival, a fabulous reading from Bernadette Mayer, followed by listening to the winning poems from the Pre-Ralphaelite Society.

The weekend saw the beginning of 9 days of early morning light workshops alternating between Clare Shaw and Kim Moore. These have been wonderful and productive. This weekend saw the first one with Clare followed by a morning with Kim on Sunday. I had a rehearsal for Connect Dudley. I went back to Kendal Poetry Festival for a Workshop and two readings: Hafsah Aneela Bashir, who I discovered last year through the Jerwood Arts events and Jackie Hagan who I have had the pleasure of watching LIVE several times before. Both were incredible events and will appear in my KPF post when I get around to working through the February list!

I finished my Saturday night with Rakaya’s weekly workshop and the Oystercatcher reading, which I was especially pleased to be available to attend as I was missing Vahni Capildeo at KPF. It was a powerful night of work with: Lee Duggan, Zoe Skoulding & Vahni Capildeo.

Sunday saw me back at Kendal Poetry Festival for the early morning writing session with Kim Moore and a reading from These Are the Hands the NHS anthology which came out last year. I will write more on this event. I spent the day building websites, workshops and going to Claire Dyer‘s Book Launch of Yield and trying to squeeze every last drop of freedom from the night. Then that was my week off work, gone.

Week 4:

I was back at work, missed deadlines, completed a week at Kendal Poetry Festival, made a performance/event video (not done one of those for a while), did some classes, had an emotional Worcester 42 in tribute to Kieran Davis, we all shared some of his poems and our memories of him, it was a moving experience. By Wednesday it was all I could do to stay awake after work, I had a fun reading event with Rick Sanders to launch the Connect Dudley Exhibition and had an animation shown in the REELpoetry Festival the same day.

On Thursday I managed to get to a Finding the Words, to hear readings from Gaia Holmes, Natalie Rees and Miles Salter.

It was a great reading and I listened to some inspiring, humour filled and new (to me) poetry which I loved. Kirsten Luckins also had her Book Launch with Guest Readers, it was a real treat to see her in a real book shop!

After work on Friday I managed to get to a panel discussion at Kendal Poetry Festival – Rising to the Challenge: Poetry in the Age of Covid, which was brilliant. I had a workshop and a reading cancelled and was relieved as I needed some time away from the desk. Saturday and I FINALLY made it back to Australia to the Perth Poetry Club – that had been a long time coming too. It will be no surprise that most weekends involve waking up later than 6 AM and so I often miss these by the time I surface after a late Friday night (or even an early one). Still just to wound off the month perfectly, I made it! After a great morning of poetry I joined Kim Moore for her final KPF early morning write. I spent most of the time offline and popped on for Rakaya Fetuga‘s workshop and to be WOWed by the UoB Slam Team! More to follow.

Sunday marks the last day of Kendal Poetry Festival and I got up to write (for the final festive writing) with Clare Shaw. I have a workshop this evening and plan to spend the rest of the day as Sunday’s should be! Feels like I need a big lie down in March! I am taking a more relaxed approach to filling the diary as it is already full with a desk schedule I need to keep and the last month of contracted work.

Connect Dudley – Launch Event

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In lockdown #1, Connect Dudley held a creative writing programme over 8 weeks, connecting people through the arts across the West Midlands. As well as writing for themselves, the group had two professional poets respond to their writing with poems.

This was a fantastic Community Project in the 1st Lockdown, back in Spring/Summer 2020. It was an honour to read the letters generated by the workshop group Rick Sanders facilitated and then to collate the ideas and emotions into personalised poetry for the attendees.

These poems along with QR codes to scan for audio versions, are currently exhibited by CoLab Dudley at 201a High Street and here is your invite to take a virtual look at the first exhibition being held in this space.

On February 24th from 7:30pm, Nina Lewis and Rick Sanders will be sharing the Connect Dudley poems with you, together with a preview of the exhibition and details of how CoLab Dudley is working to shape the High Street of the future.

Register in advance for the event link https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_FzQIiDpPSyqQlz1oJ3UPhQ?fbclid=IwAR09iQYKmAPDPyV-Pu_N6iY_UblLJ4JeYCg6WZQj2ME15DiblrY0r00vr7g

Chrysalis: Transforming. Thinking. Writing.

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Chrysalis: Transforming. Thinking. Writing

Chrysalis – Sat. 23rd January

A day of events programmed by young people*, reflecting on 2020 and a year spent apart. Tickets are available from the National Centre for Writing.

All events and workshops are free to enjoy online from home.

Reading Diversely

With Holly Ainley, Hannah Chukwu, So Mayer and Amelia Platt

10.30 – 11.30am GMT

When you look at your bookshelves, do you see diversity? Whose stories are being told? How are you reading them? Tune in for our panel discussion on reading and writing habits, and how the world can benefit when we broaden our reading horizons.

Featuring Holly Ainley, book buyer for Jarrold; Hannah Chukwu, assistant editor at Hamish Hamilton (Penguin); writer and activist So Mayer; and young reader and Lit Insider, Amelia Platt.

© Henry-Nicholls

2020 Vision: A Reflection on the Year

With Inua Ellams

12.30 – 1.30pm GMT

2020 was a year like no other. Tune in live for the launch of a specially commissioned poem by internationally touring poet, playwright and performer Inua Ellams. A unique chance to not only take stock of last year but also to look forward to the future.

This event will also include a live Q&A, giving you the chance to ask Inua about his writing, his experience of 2020, and his process for creating this poem.

Alex Holmes

Workshop: Writing the Present

With Alex Holmes

2.15 – 3.45pm GMT

How can writing help you make sense of your feelings and the world around you right now? Join Alex Holmes, mental health and wellness advocate, writer and podcaster, for a friendly and informal online workshop which will give you the tools to write about the issues that matter to you most in an open and honest way.

This workshop will take place online and is open to everyone. Registration is free but places are limited to 15.

PLEASE NOTE the workshop is FULLY BOOKED but there is a wait list option.

Lit From the Inside

Our Lit From the Inside programme enables 14 – 17-year-olds to get a behind-the-scenes look at the literary arts scene in Norwich.

© National Centre for Writing

*The young people who programmed this event are from Lit from the Inside, a scheme open to those who live or go to school in Norfolk.

Bookings and information https://nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk/chrysalis/

I am excited to hear Inua Ellam’s commission, I’m blessed to have seen him perform live several times, always a magical experience. 2020 saw him launch new work, win awards and present at several Literary Festivals including Hay.

Dear 2021, The Start Of It

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Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

I’m busy preparing for the 2nd part of January and I want to share some of the happiness so far. We all need these silver linings at the moment.

Last year Nik Perring was the Writer in Residence for Sheffield’s Year of Reading. You can find out about the multitude of exciting projects he was involved in by clicking the link. Sheffield Libraries have been incredibly proactive throughout all 3 Lockdowns offering a wide range of workshops, interviews and groups.

I was fortunate enough to participate in several of Nik’s Autumn workshops and then two larger projects at the end of the year. On the 7th January one of the outcomes was released on the web for you all to enjoy and this is the first chance I’ve had to share it!

Here’s Nik with the backstory:

© Nik Perring 2020

Many of us will be haunted by the ghosts of 2020 – the strangest of years. We’re giving you the opportunity, the voice, and the audience to put them to bed.

Working with the BBC (The Novels That Shaped Our World) Dear 2021, The Start of It takes the spirit of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and challenges you to exorcise the ghosts of 2020 by writing a letter to Donald Trump, the universe, Santa, the future – to someone or everyone, telling us what you want to change and the whys and hows.

During this two-part workshop, Sheffield Year of Reading Writer in Residence Nik Perring, will show you the best ways of making your ideas, and desires, into brilliant poems, letters, or stories – and then he’ll show you how to shape them into pieces good enough to send up the chimney/out to the world.

The workshops were in November, many of our finished pieces were collated into a special book which came out in December and lots of people who took part in the workshops recorded their work which was broadcast via Sheffield Library Service’s Digital platform 10 days ago!

You can read more about the Video Poems here.

Enjoy!
With gratitude to Nik Perring, Alexis and the Sheffield Libraries Team
and Charles Dickens for inspiring it all in the first place!