Category Archives: life

Hay Festival Today

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There is something incredibly special about catching events live at the Digital Hay and that is exactly what I was able to do (in part) today. I spent ages booking tickets when they were released but you seem to be able to rock up and get in – so do not be put off if you haven’t heard it’s on until now, just go along and see. The tents are huge this year!

This morning I caught the first event on the livestream on You Tube, part of the overflow. The next scheduled event had really wonky connection and I ended up on You Tube again to follow that and I am about to see the master himself, Mr Roger Robinson!

Excited!

The unfortunate technical issues mean that at some point in the next 24 hours I need to find 2 hours to watch these teatime events again. I know that sounds pretty crazy on Lockdown, but my diary is bursting this evening and I have a deadline I am working with too. I WILL find the time to listen to them again because they are in my TOP EVENTS list of 2020. I feel incredibly lucky to have a bit of Roger in my life, I met him at Ledbury Poetry Festival and saw him read earlier on in Lockdown, around the time he won the Royal Society of Literature Prize. He is generous of spirit and inspirational as a documentary poet of our time. I could listen to him talk about his work for hours, so much passion, empathy and love.

 

I caught some of this event on the overflow You Tube channel. The theme of today’s Hay seems to be Death – which is something I can’t face at this time, but this one was obviously meant to be heard by me. Especially as it was full and appeared on the You Tube channel.

David Jarrett talks to Guto Harri

33 MEDITATIONS ON DEATH: NOTES FROM THE WRONG END OF MEDICINE

Virtual venue: Llwyfan Cymru Digidol – Wales Digital Stage

What is a good death? How would you choose to live your last few months? How do we best care for the rising tide of very elderly?

In a series of reflections on death in all its forms: the science of it, the medicine, the tragedy and the comedy. Dr David Jarrett draws on family stories and case histories from his thirty years of treating the old, demented and frail to try to find his own understanding of the end. And he writes about all the conversations that we, our parents, our children, the medical community, our government and society as a whole should be having.

Profound, provocative, strangely funny and astonishingly compelling, it is an impassioned plea that we start talking frankly and openly about death. And it is a call to arms for us to make radical changes to our perspective on ‘the seventh age of man’.

 

HAY THURS

The second event I was looking forward to was worth the wait – although I found the  lagging frustrating (I know I have mentioned it already). I knew some of the research behind this book and it is essential that the world begins to realise the importance of rest. It was a great event and I look forward to listening again soon.

Claudia Hammond talks to Guto Harri

THE ART OF REST

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

The Art of Rest draws on ground-breaking research Claudia Hammond collaborated on – ‘The Rest Test’ – the largest global survey into rest ever undertaken. It was completed by 18,000 people across 135 different countries. Much of value has been written about sleep, but rest is different; it is how we unwind, calm our minds and recharge our bodies. And, as the survey revealed, how much rest you get is directly linked to your sense of well-being.

Claudia Hammond is an award-winning writer and broadcaster and Visiting Professor in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Sussex. As the presenter of All in the Mind she is BBC Radio 4’s voice of psychology and mental health.

 

Then one of my sought after events. I am delighted to have Roger Robinson back in my life, I met him at Ledbury Poetry Festival years ago. This is the 2nd event that I have managed to catch him at since Lockdown. He is so genuine, generous and giving – his list of poets you should read was huge – and sadly was also just as I lost internet connection, I made it back to watch end Hay credits! The internet/connection and lagging was still an issue, but it didn’t totally spoil it for me.

The Royal Literature Society were also there and among many links and comments they posted this:

winning the RSL Ondaatje Prize Roger Robinson said: “Winning the RSL Ondaatje Prize is great on many levels. Gaining wider recognition for the political issues that are raised in A Portable Paradise is one of the most important things for me, alongside more people reading about the struggles of black communities in Britain which hopefully creates some deeper resonating empathy.” RSL

 

To be honest just like some of my other top events, I would have re-watched it anyway! Certainly no hardship. I could post a lot more but I encourage you to go and WATCH it, see HIM.

If this is not a man/poet you have discovered yet, do your life a favour right now!

 

Peter Frankopan and Roger Robinson

THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE ONDAATJE PRIZE

Virtual venue: Baillie Gifford Digital Stage

The chair of this year’s jury, Peter Frankopan, interviews the winner of the 2020 Ondaatje prize.

Roger Robinson is a writer and educator who has taught and performed worldwide and is an experienced workshop leader and lecturer on poetry. He was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon. He received commissions from The National Trust, London Open House, BBC, The National Portrait Gallery, V&A, INIVA, MK Gallery and Theatre Royal Stratford East where he also was associate artist. He is an alumni of The Complete Works. His workshops have been part of a shortlist for the Gulbenkian Prize for Museums and Galleries and were also a part of the Webby Award winning Barbican’s Can I Have A Word. He is the winner of the 2019 TS Eliot Prize and his latest collection ‘A Portable Paradise’ was selected as a New Statesman book of the year. He was shortlisted for The OCM Bocas Poetry Prize, The Oxford Brookes Poetry Prize and highly commended by the Forward Poetry Prize 2013. He has toured extensively with the British Council and is a co-founder of both Spoke Lab and the international writing collective Malika’s Kitchen. He is the lead vocalist and lyricist for King Midas Sound and has also recorded solo albums with Jahtari Records.

The shortlist was:

Jay Bernard – Surge (Chatto & Windus)

Tishani Doshi – Small Days and Nights (Bloomsbury Circus)

Robert Macfarlane – Underland (Hamish Hamilton)

Roger Robinson – A Portable Paradise (Peepal Tree Press)

Elif Shafak – 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)

Jumoke Verissimo – A Small Silence (Cassava Republic)

 

 

 

 

My Huge Lockdown Writing World

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Like many people right now, we are in Lockdown. I’m keeping very busy, possibly even busier than I would be if I was balancing the job and the writing. I am a lot better health-wise and this new lifestyle has the benefits of being easier on my body, enabling me to perhaps do more and I also find staying busy in times of crisis helps me cope. Believe me there is plenty to keep me busy beyond the desk too.

My normal to do list would be A5, at the minute I feel I need A3! Anyone else the same? I think part of this busy is coming off the back of being out of action for so long, especially in fast moving worlds like the Arts, so much has happened that I have not seen/read/heard as I wasn’t just away from the scene, I was away from my brain for most of the 14 months too! I am thoroughly enjoying being a glutton of creative endeavours and as the world moves online the globe shrinks too! I find I can reconnect with people I have not seen for a long while.

I have spent the past 3 weeks (since the end of NaPo) thinking I should blog about that, but because I am writing again after a long, fallow period, I am struggling to find time to write about the writing! I will be posting retrospectively but there are a few events coming up that I shall blog over the coming week. Some fresh content for you all to enjoy will come after that.

 

In the meantime, there’s plenty already in here – use the menus and have a splash about.

 

Stay Safe.

Flashback – An Exhibition in London

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Last year’s missing bits in Flashback posts.

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By the summer I had secured a project I could work on (even in the state I was in) and I started to think about new writing. It had been a while, my Stanza meeting efforts were old poems saved in files on the laptop. I wanted to write again, the urge came a long while before the possibility – and like any writer I know one of the best ways to guarantee work is to find a deadline and write to it.

So I started looking for opportunities and found a call out for the Asking For It project curated by Chloë Clarke and Gabby Ellison. 

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We are the ‘Asking for it’ exhibition. Our aim is to create a place for people to share and feel and come together over adversity. Through expression of art – in a variety of mediums such as film, photography, poetry, art and sound – the exhibition will take the viewer on a journey from the beginning to recovery and survival.

The exhibition not only looks at the experiences of the survivor but the societal judgements and miseducation around the topic of sexual abuse/violence. We believe that art is a powerful tool to express and empower artists and viewers, while educating those who have not experienced this.

I made a poetry film and submitted some poems. My poetry was accepted.

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Unfortunately I was not able to read at the gallery opening as my physical health made it impossible to travel to London.

Private Gallery Exhibition Opening and Performances 23rd October.

 

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It was a brave and successful exhibition. Here are some more photos from the opening night.

A good project to be part of.

Coronavirus

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I feel incredibly guilty planning to relaunch the blog at this time as I will be writing in a way that made seem egocentric. I hope you will understand that this is, in part, a distraction technique for myself to cope and manage at this time of self-isolation. As the UK prepares for the peak of COVID-19 and we all attempt to adjust our lives to staying in and social distancing our anxieties increase.

I was working until a week ago and have been self-isolating since then, my exercise has been indoors and I have used our garden for air and sunshine. I am fortunate enough not to know anyone at this stage who has suffered complications, although people I know have probably got the virus (we don’t know because we are not testing). I know that we will go from losing jobs (my income is currently £0, despite the government putting many packages in place), I am hopeful this will change and if it doesn’t I am grateful that the universe supplied me with some full time work in the months of this outbreak in the East. So there is a small safety net. I know that we will go from this manic stress of losing our lives as we knew them, the economic worries and the fallout of another recession to come to losing loved ones.

I know that we are all in fear, things are uncertain (or certain in some cases) and we are no longer in control. We are in control of how we manage this crisis for ourselves though. Right now you should give yourself permission to feel as you do and know that it will change many times a day. It is okay to feel this way.

I am trying to offer people help in any small way I can. Having suffered clinical depression (2012) I have techniques and experience of many Mental Health aids for wellbeing, I trained as a Life Coach and have just had 12 months of ill health which meant that I was pretty much self isolated. I was certainly cut off. I started a daily positivity page on Facebook which offers a daily dip/tip for keeping your Mental Health in balance during this period of isolation.

Please feel free to use, like and share this page.

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

I am witnessing many creative people helping each other and a country of artists who have now moved online, we are all learning how to use Zoom! I am seeing community (that Big Community our government used to speak about) re-emerging, I am seeing selflessness and love.

I hope you are all finding a way through this time.

The Missing Bits & the Bits I Missed

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exit Last summer I was incredibly lucky to fly to Western Australia as one of the International Guest Poets at Perth Poetry Festival and I will be blogging about some of the adventure over the coming months. I didn’t have much time once I was back on UK soil as I had bookings and the tail-end of a summer to spend with Mr. G, as well as going back to work. Just as I was making videos and writing a review, I ended up in hospital with an unexpected operation. So nearly 12 months later… better late than never. Many people believe the myth that the problems I have suffered were as a result of this travel and the phenomenally long trip I had on my return to save some pennies! It was not the cause of my problems. My time in Perth was a joy and I can’t wait to share it with you!

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September was fairly packed – you can read the review here

My last performance was National Poetry Day, my health was already crooked, but I had been booked and didn’t want to miss NPD. Cut from the same cloth as my dad, do not miss a gig.

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It was a wonderful evening spent with fellow Poets Laureate Tim Cranmore, Heather Wastie, Suz Winspear and Betti Moretti and I had a lot of fun.

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I also particularly enjoyed going out for a meal beforehand and how much the audience enjoyed the show. Tim was a trouper for organising the event and it was pleasure to attend, despite being tanked up on antibiotics and painkillers!

 

Then came a whole series of things I had to miss. I missed so months of events, book launches, stanza meetings and editing groups. I had to pull all my Autumn/Winter bookings and by the time 2019 happened I had come off social media as I couldn’t deal with everything I was missing. I had a booking I made in June 2018 and a m/s accepted in July 2018 to edit and I couldn’t even manage to start working on these until March! I basically ceased to exist for a 1/4 of a year! 

October

I missed Swindon Poetry Festival as I was in hospital the day I was due to travel down, I had to pull out of a Guest Reading and Workshop for Brum Stanza, I missed the WLF Mental Health Event and a Reading for one in Malvern, I missed the DAN exhibition at Hanbury Hall which I was organising poets ekphrastic writing opportunities and performances for. I had to write my poems this year from photos sent to me by organisers and friends, this was the only writing I did and I didn’t manage that until December.

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My poem Wild Lilies and the Beauty of Abandoned Milk Bottles placed 1st in The Ring 21 Miles Poetry Competition and there was a digital exhibition 15th-28th Oct. at The Hive and a reading. I had only been out of hospital a week and was only really awake to take the daily dose of 27 tablets!

You can find the winning entry here

I won a tent and Mr.G and I can’t wait to use it! I cannot lie on the floor (or get back up) at the moment – so this will have to wait.

I missed being a Guest Reader for Neil Richards’ Book Launch.

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Wings made from the muscle of a river

November

The only event I managed thanks to the kindness of a lift and gentle persuasion from friends was Roy McFarlane’s Book Launch in Birmingham. I had to take 4 tablets during the course of it (and it wasn’t a long night) and the worst thing for me was I couldn’t hug anyone. Unbeknown to me at the time, it was a sort of swansong as that was pretty much the last thing I managed. Fortunately it was before I slipped discs in my back so I could still walk and sit! I held myself the whole time – but also didn’t want to miss it.

It was an incredible night which lifted my spirits. The room was full of creativity and love.

The Healing Next Time Cover

Cover artwork   ©   Barbara Walker

The book itself is a project Roy told me about early on in the process and is a powerful body of work.

The Healing Next Time

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I missed Remembrance events, a reading before the silence in a local town’s ceremony, organised by the Rotary and an evening in Worcester, Beacon Lighting. This is the first year I have been asked to participate in such events and it would have been an honour.

I missed the Verve Festival Pre-Launch Party and attempted and failed to edit my manuscript.

I missed deadlines on exhibition poetry and publishing the 4th issue of Contour (still outstanding), I missed performing at the newly opened Sandon Hall for Ben Parker’s event and sadly I missed out on a trip to Voiron for the Festival. voiron 2018 I had flights booked and everything! I couldn’t get a refund, but if I am well enough I can use the cost to cover a ticket somewhere European this summer.

I was also unable to take a booking for a special Poetry Night Roy McFarlane organised, a Q&A chat show style poetry panel.

December

By this time I had stopped taking any new bookings and resigned myself to life on the sofa, for a long while I had to live downstairs because I couldn’t make it upstairs! I still had to pull bookings for Guest Poet at Jennie Farley’s Book Launch for Hex.

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I had to cancel Meet the Authors, an event organised by Sue Johnson for Evesham Festival of Words. I had not been able to write for all this time and the panic set in about whether I would ever again.

I organised one event for the Hanbury Hall Poets to read at Park’s Cafe for the DAN artists. It was a great night and once again the only thing I did in December.

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2019 Jan – May

In the new year I decided to go to our local stanza meetings, they are held in homely comfort and do not last as long as event nights. Also I wasn’t writing or able to feel creative so it was necessary support for my soul. I had old poems to take and it was also a good challenge for an idled brain. I joined Worcester Film Poetry Collective, who meet monthly (in the comfort of home) with Elephant’s Footprint – this group led by Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron has been a godsend. I have had lots of free time but have not been able to do much. Creating poetry films and animations takes an incredible amount of time, but currently 4+ hours is not difficult for me to find and it has been a fabulously rewarding way to spend an entire half day at a time.

By March I was able to think straight, off meds and able to tackle work on the now delayed manuscript. I was delighted to be a Guest Reader at Kathy Gee’s Book Launch for checkout (V. Press) and although I needed a special chair it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and lovely to reconnect with everyone.

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So much so that Kathy encouraged me to try Dear Listener the following week – which was when I realised I wasn’t ready. I tried again at the end of the Month with Poetry Bites, but couldn’t manage the 2nd half of the evening. However, listening to poetry enabled me to start writing again.

April was NaPoWriMo and this enabled me to crack that barrier and write freely. I have included some of my NaPo poems in recent sets and ended up with a few good ones.

By April/ May I started working on my festival show for Evesham Festival of Words and this month I have made the decision to try to get to some events every now and then.

June

I have managed Licensed to Rhyme, which was my first reading since Kathy’s Launch and that itself was my first reading for 6 months! It was a superb night. Great to see/hear everyone again and try out some edited NaPo poetry.

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The following night (last night), I read at the Worcestershire Litfest at an event organised by Suz Winspear ‘A Night at the Gallery’… more on that soon!

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Jilly Oxlade-Arnott © 2019

I had planned on going back this evening for the Anti-Poet, but my body isn’t ready, so I have to be sensible and give it a miss. But I am no longer absent from the scene and shall continue to strive for strength, mobility and pain management.

It leaves me with a very happy feeling to be back amongst poets, nestled in words.

Returning to the Land of the Living

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Alternative Title: Essay on Health!

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Like many adults the values instilled in us as youngsters steer the way we manage life. I was brought up to believe in working hard and only as an adult has my mum passed on the wisdom that all areas of life need or deserve 100%. Work, work has never been one of them and I am proud of my work ethic. Guilt is something I have not managed to shirk off from my informative years, so for me if you are off sick from work, that is that – you stay in bed and get better. However, when your post op body is weakened and you slip two discs in your back, staying in bed is not the thing to do and no one can expect you to put your entire life on hold whilst you recover!

The abridged version (it’s still quite long)!

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I was still on medication in the Spring which dictated what and how much I could do, (I have sciatica and my left leg/foot has been numb since November), I have been in Physio since November and my weeks have been filled with medical appointments, novels, trash TV, pyjamas & general convalescence. I have experienced the depression of long term sickness and the frustration of not being able to do much. I have advanced from not being able to bear any weight on my left leg to walking with a stick and nowadays, often without. I have a lot more mobility in my left foot thanks to Chair Pilates and a mum who encouraged me to do it. The Specialists I have seen all expect 9-12 months recovery time. I have been off work since the operation (which healed in March). I went to get the results of my MRI scan in May, which is when we discovered it was 2 slipped discs prolapsed on top of each other and the Advanced Physio talked to me about going back to work in the Autumn, but encouraged me to start back with Poeting (my term not his) as soon as possible. Mental Wellbeing and good for the soul.

It is with slightly less guilt that I have started to take his advice. I have a lot more spare time now I am down to 2 appointments a week and my brain works again now I am off medication. I am even having to renew my library books nowadays, I was devouring a novel every few days.

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In March I returned to my desk to work through the edits for my next pamphlet (sent when I was in hospital in October). By the beginning of June that was all ready for the next exciting stage of endorsement/cover design. I have managed to forget about the fact that it was scheduled for release earlier this year and accept the delay caused by ill health. I am truly grateful for the understanding and compassion of my publisher, V. Press. It will happen later this year and I will enjoy it more as I will be able to manage better physically!

Back in March, I found I could write again and attempted some poetry events (which I discovered I wasn’t quite ready for). I had to pull out of Festival bookings, performances, Guest Readings at Book Launches, talks and a trip to a Literature Festival in France this Winter and it has been really hard disconnecting from the poetry scene.

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In March I managed to read at Kathy Gee’s Book Launch for ‘checkout’ published by V. Press. I was super nervous as I hadn’t read in public since National Poetry Day (September)! It was a superb night.

I did a workshop, then I got an almighty case of hives and had a weekend where an ambulance was called and I ended up in A&E with breathing difficulties – although the ECG had shown there was no problem with my heart. I’d had a double mammogram a few days earlier and although it felt as if my sternum was inflamed it was more likely pulled chest muscles.

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A week later, I attempted my first event, Dear Listener, featuring the current Birmingham Poet Laureate Richard O’Brien. I went as audience and was not performing, it was hard (physically) and by the 2nd half I was stretched out at the back on a sofa. I tried again at the end of the month at Poetry Bites, this time I did an Open Mic slot, which I managed by leaning up against the radiator (which was on and very hot)! By the interval I was stretched out in the adjoining room on the sofa, where I listened to most of the 2nd half before hobbling back in to watch. After this I decided to call it quits and wait for my body to catch up with my mind.

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Since January 2019 I have attended Stanza meetings, Worcester Film Poetry Collective meetings and a few workshops thanks to friends who were kind enough to give me lifts, (the equivalent of about 12/163 days) although even these can be physically uncomfortable they’re based in people’s homes which tend to have more accommodating furniture than venues.

Fast forward to June with another wave of Festivals, a medical specialist giving me permission to get back into it and the ability to write again, I was keen to get back on the circuit. Plus I’d already committed to several Festival Events (one pre-op). And so far, I am managing… which is a huge relief!

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So welcome back to the blogging, I am reactivated. It is currently Worcestershire LitFest and I am working on a project show for Evesham Festival of Words at the end of June. I may have to miss Stratford Poetry Festival next week and Ledbury at the start of July. But I am doing what I can. One day I will be ready to take bookings again and in the meantime I give myself permission to enjoy a soft re-entry into the world I love and miss so much!

Welcoming a New Year 2019

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I have not been online much since October when I had an unexpected operation. I have been off work and not able to sit for long periods at the desk. With over 26 tablets a day it has been hard to focus or concentrate.

I am currently working on my next pamphlet which was accepted by V. Press last summer. The latest edits came through in October just before I found myself in hospital so I have been unable to keep up with the schedule. I have also had to pull out of every artistic event/gig/festival since the Autumn too. My last performance was National Poetry Day.

It has been a difficult enforced hiatus and I feel very disconnected.

I had to disconnect myself from social media on the phone as I couldn’t deal emotionally with reading about a world I couldn’t manage to be a part of.

Now it is the New Year and I am growing in health and strength. I have a festival event to organise, poetry from workshops in 2018 to display, a manuscript to work on and I took the role of a Director of Worcester LitFest back in the Autumn, a role which hopefully by next month I can actually manage.

I missed the Lit Festival in Voiron but from my WPL project there have been poets not known before to the community who are very much involved in the Twinning now. I will have the opportunity to meet them this Spring before (hopefully) going to the festival this year. I won a poetry competition I entered in September and Sarah Leavesley wrote an article for Poetry News (Poetry Society) about Two Cities (ATOTC – A Tale of Two Cities). The USA side of the project also had a reading in September.

 

 

So thank you for visiting the Fountain and splashing in all the archived posts. My STATS for 2018 were healthy (the best year yet). Each year the blocks tower upwards with the exception of my Poet Laureate year when I ran a second site.

I promise to work on updating pages and adding new material this year. But my first port of call is that manuscript!

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Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

 

World Childless Week 10th-16th

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I have only discovered Gateway Women UK and World Childless Week today whilst breaking from Admin in Social Media.

This is something rarely spoken about, very much the stories which remain inside us. However, the amount of times women my age and younger are asked the question of children, well it is pretty much every conversation I have ever had with a stranger or new acquaintance since 2005 and it is a painful question.

So with a mighty trigger warning – I am sharing the work of the Gateway Women. With love to you all, those lucky enough and those who are not.

world childless week

World Childless Week aims to raise awareness of the childless not by choice (cnbc) community. To help the cnbc find support groups that understand their grief and can help them move forwards to acceptance. It’s for anyone who is childless because they have never been pregnant (for any reason), not carried full term or have suffered the sadness of a baby born sleeping. All our Champions and founder Steph, represent our audience.

https://worldchildlessweek.net/ © 2018

Each day of the week the site features events. Lots of people submitted their stories and today there are heart-achingly beautiful letters.

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https://worldchildlessweek.net/2018-letters-from-our-hearts/

This link will land you on today’s events page, if you scroll down you can read the letters. Once you are on the first letter The Baby On The Back Seat By Kenny And Berenice Smith you can click through the other stories.

These tales are often too painful to tell, but for those who cannot write them – reading them can give some much needed healing.

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A tiny part of mine seeped into my first pamphlet ‘Fragile Houses’.

Review June 2018

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June this year was definitely a month of transition.

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Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

It saw my final 10 Days as Worcestershire Poet Laureate, the end of 4 years working for Writing West Midlands as a Lead/Assistant Writer for their Spark Young Writers Group in Worcester and although I am not saddened by this particular transition– I have just 3 weeks left in full time employment (which is funding my trip to Australia in the summer).

Week 1: 

I intentionally missed every poetry event this week to conserve energy for the WLF – Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe – the emotional onslaught of watching another poet taking up the mantle of Laureate and the amount of work. work I have to balance meant that there was no time or energy left to support anything else.

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I was desk busy: creating 10 Days – a sequence of films charting my final 10 Days as WPL -reflecting back over the year. These were fun to make but time consuming. Especially after uploading I would spot an incorrect frame and have to go back to the virtual cutting room floor!

Editing the final WPL Anthology Collection of Science/Maths based poems, wrapping up the Twin Town project between Voiron & Droitwich and reading submissions for the final WPL Contour (although perhaps not the final Contour).

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My WPL Twin Town project between Droitwich and Voiron went live on June 7th.

This features 9 poets from England and France exchanging poems on the town and writing responses using something in the original town poem which sparked inspiration.

The collection is bi-lingual and poetry appears in English, French & Portuguese. There is a Food Festival in Droitwich this month and I am hoping to meet Madeleine Silvestri from Voiron Twinning Association, who found the Poet Alain Graz who helped me find our French town poets.

european TT The Anthology can be read here Twin Town.

My poetry films can be found here 10 Days

 

Week 2:

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On Saturday I joined a collective of Stanza Poets in the Forest of Dean for a Heritage Poetry Project organised by Andy Hoaen. After his involvement in survey/heritage work ‘Veteran Tree History Project Speech House Survey’ he decided he wanted to create something. His vision:

I would like to see this as an opportunity for an encounter between two different ways of seeing the world, archaeology with its rigorous approach routed in scientific “objective” description of place and space, and poets with their ability to succinctly capture the essence of things and provide an imaginative subjective view on the world.

It was an interesting and fruitful day for photography and notes and now we all hope to create some tree poetry and more. There may be an exhibition or pamphlet. It was also a great day out and lovely to see some poets who are sadly missed at Stanza meetings.

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© Kathy Gee (no filters)

I wanted the Science/Maths Anthology (my final WPL Anthology) to go live before the Festival Launch and as I was (I just deleted ‘am’) the 7th Poet Laureate I scheduled the arrival for 7:07 AM!

Every Word Counts WPL

You can read the collection here.

Then it was onto the opening of Worcestershire LitFestival & Fringe.

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It was a great Launch – one of the best, although the judging panel missed the Young Writers Competition reading and the Flash Fiction winners as we were interviewing and preparing to judge the WPL competition. My fellow judges were Polly Stretton (former WLF Director), Stephen Wilson (Arts, County) & Rachel Evans (Worcestershire Young Poet Laureate).

The finalists were Peter Sutton, Betti Moretti & Sarah Leavesley and it was a close competition. It was a pleasure to hear them perform poetry  that we judged anonymously just a few weeks ago. Any one of them would have been a worthy winner and done Worcestershire proud. There can only be one winner though and this year it was Betti Moretti.

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Before the winner was announced I performed the poems which won me the Laureateship: Lit Up & Tasseomancy.

 

I couldn’t believe the length of appreciative applause at the end. It was a joyous moment.

 

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© Catherine Crosswell

I had previously joked (since about March when you have to start promoting the competition) that I was going to be the 1st WPL who refused to step down. It was Betti’s idea (for the record) but we had a little tug ‘o’ war over the award.

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It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would have been to congratulate the new WPL and hand it all over. Some relief even, perhaps.

betti crosswell

© Catherine Crosswell

Coffee and cake wouldn’t have fuelled another year at acceleration and it isn’t as if I am not busy.

It was a delight to be part of the event (although if I could, I would have got out of judging), part of the remit – I knew it was coming. Thought it was nice how we were up on the balcony rather than beside the stage as in previous years. This was possibly easier for the finalists. Although there is nothing easy about being a finalist. It is a hard, emotional competition.

A full review of the Launch and announcement of the New WPL here Launch of WLF 2018

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Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe dominated the week, the festival ran from 10th-16th June and was as fantastic as ever. I had to get used to not posting everything on https://worcestershirepoetlaureateninalewis.wordpress.com/ but at least the waters of the fountain are well and truly active and in full spring again!

You can read write ups of the events I was involved in:

Tuesday 12th – Night at the Museum IV – a wonderful night organised by Worcestershire Poet Laureate (2016-17), Suz Winspear – featuring Young Worcestershire Poet Laureate Rachel Evans, Former YPL Chloe Clarke, Nina Lewis Worcestershire Poet Laureate (2017-18) and the NEW Worcestershire Poet Laureate Betti Moretti in the first half and Suz Winspear in the 2nd half with her poems from the Archives to celebrate the end of her 2 year Residency at Royal Worcester. It was a marvellous evening.

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Wednesday 13th 42 Festival Special – A wonderful evening that saw the Antipoet back in Worcester, with their new book – C:/Users/HP/Documents/Writing Projects/Black Pear/Does My Bass/D published by Black Pear Press.

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© Donna Ray

In the second half a plethora of 42 regulars took to the stage for a themed night ‘The Bewitched Worcestershire Inn’.

Thursday 14th June SpeakEasy Special at Worcester Arts Workshop. Headlined by the amazing Dub Thieves, it was also Betti Moretti’s official WPL hand-over with her newly engraved WPL award. A superb night of performances and some who were new to SpeakEasy too.

 

Week 3:

Festival By The River – LitFest Take Over.

An exciting opportunity arose in the Spring to be part of the festival happening at the Weorgoran Pavilion on South Quay, Worcester. The events for the 10 day festival have been programmed by Cat Roberts. The Festival launched on Friday 15th

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and on the 16th Peter Sutton and I took to the stage and what a sparkly, wondrous stage it is!

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I spent a while creating a water based set and wrote some long awaited poems from our Canal trip (Poet’s Day Out) 2017. I had great fun compiling the half hour set.

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It was a brilliant end to my week.

I spent some time over the weekend planning the next couple of events and promoting ATOTC, 30-40-60, ARTSFEST and PoARTry. I also had a rare day off from poetry.

 

Week 3:

Started with an evening organising the Launch/ Reading Event for PoARTry Ledbury with Leena Batchelor. We already have 12 people interested in reading at the event. The next stage is to confirm dates and then we can get on with creating the schedule and marketing the event.

POARTry Ledbury coming soon

 

I finally managed time to create answers for the remaining four questions sent to me to market the Perth Poetry Festival and I started working on an interview for a new article. More on that news soon.

I promoted 30-40-60 which is soon to be rehearsed and performed again (July).

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I promoted the UK/USA readings for ATOTC which I am very excited by.

 

Ludlow Fringe Festival

logo ludlow fringe Dirty Laundry Launch with Deb Alma & Guest Poets.

I was one of Deb’s Guest Poets at this Launch along with Angela Topping, Roz Munro Derry, Holly Magill & Ruth Stacey. It was a fantastic evening and lovely to share a meal in The Blue Boar first and have a good catch up.

A full review can be found here.

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During the week I worked on interviews and poetry, organised my final WWM session and promoted Festival events.

I attended a Room 204 Workshop in Birmingham at Evolve (which back in the day was the Adam & Eve and venue for Sunday Xpress). Creative Writing to Promote Wellbeing workshop by Emma Marks & Sandra Griffiths of The Red Earth Collective CIC, was a half day event on Creative Writing in the Mental Health Setting.

A half day course for writers who want to develop or improve creative writing workshops for people with a lived experience of mental health problems. The workshop will be an experimental and engaging reflection on ideas and issues associated with running creative writing workshops within a mental health setting. © Red Earth

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It was an intense and useful workshop with plenty of participation. I have more ideas now than ever and a good network of support for future ventures in this direction.

Having missed 1.5 days of work to attend Festivals & training I hit the ground running and had a backlog of assessment marking which came home with me and sadly meant I missed Rob Francis at Dear Listener, the fault of my work schedule. test marking and the lack of time to reach the city. No guilt here – only frustration!

This is the weekend I missed 2 events I was supposed to attend and had a clash of two events too. This always makes me feel low. I wish I could clone myself and attend everything!

On Friday night I had hoped to make it to Birmingham Waterstones for the Verve Poetry Press Book Launch of Leon Priestnall and Nafeesa Hamid’s Debut collections.

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Sadly I missed it, you can read about it and find out more about these new collections here When You Miss Something BIG!

 

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BUY A COPY Leon Priestnall is something quite rare on the Spoken Word circuit – a romantic, a lost soul, with so few of the right answers and so many of the wrong ones. His poems are full of questions, not solutions, or even a step further back from that – are asking the question of what questions to ask. © Verve Poetry Press

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BUY A COPY Besharam – Nafeesa Hamid’s glorious debut collection – asks this and many other questions. When does a girl become a woman? When does her world allow her to become a woman? And what kind of woman should she be? The answers aren’t readily forthcoming. © Verve Poetry Press

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There was also a welcome return of Confab Cabaret in Malvern and they had Elvis McGonagall Headlining and I had a chance to get to Stratford Poetry Festival to see Tony Harrison. Of course neither of these events were possible as I was already committed to the Book Launch. Exhaustion is a hard thing to forgive.

Week 4:

On Saturday I headed to The Hive for my last Spark Young Writer group. It has been a pleasure to work for WWM for the past 4 years, 3 of those as a Lead Writer and I shall miss this part of my writing life a lot!

Spark YW

Afterwards I planned to go to Stratford Poetry Festival to The Black Box event, which was part of a schools/education project I worked on this Spring. My eldest nephew also had a very important birthday – plans for Sunday were rearranged to Saturday and I was already late as they started whilst I was still in my WWM session. I decided I couldn’t miss his momentous occasion and so instead bailed on watching the children perform at the festival. If there is one thing guaranteed to make you feel more guilty than exhaustion it is letting children down!

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Saturday also saw a 10th Birthday Summer Party for Nine Arches Press, having attended their celebrations before for a few years, I was gutted when I discovered this clashed with WWM and my nephew’s birthday party!

I knew I was never able to go – this did not stop me wanting to be there. Again, I have heard wonderful reviews. Sharing photos that have been shared on social media.

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#TenforNine: Nine Arches Press celebrates ten years of publishing

Join us to celebrate ten years of publishing with a series of birthday events on Saturday 23rd June at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Saturday 23rd June at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

© Nine Arches Press will publish new work by ten poets in 2018.

(Top: l-r Aviva Dautch, Romalyn Ante, Sarala Estruch, Robert Peake, Josephine Corcoran. Bottom: l-r Riche McCaffery, Deborah Alma, Roy McFarlane, Suzannah Evans, Isobel Dixon)

There will be something for everyone:‘The Big Read In’ is a chance for readers’ groups to hear TS Eliot Prize shortlisted poet Jacqueline Saphra (All My Mad Mothers) discussing her work, followed by an exclusive writing workshop with former Canal Laureate Jo Bell as well as the launch of Josephine Corcoran’s debut collection, What Are You After? The evening will see a ‘Birthday Mixtape’ event in the conservatoire’s jazz club, co-hosted by Nine Arches Driector and Editor Jane Commane and Rishi Dastidar (Ticker-Tape) featuring favourite readings from a range of Nine Arches Press poets. © Nine Arches Press

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9 10 cake

I missed the WLF Poetry Picnic in Cripplegate Park as I had to finish marking before I could journey to Cheltenham for Anna Saunders Book Launch. I also had an opticians appointment earlier in the week and needed to take Mr. G. into town to help me decide which frames to buy. I was walking around with 9 pairs at one point!

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Anna’s Book Launch at The Retreat Wine Bar was amazing, a pure night of celebration. Her guests were David Clarke and Jonny Fluffypunk and there was an open mic section with Ghost themed poems to start proceedings. It was packed and the open mic list read like ‘Beautiful South Lyrics’.

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Full review COMING SOON.

The main focus this week was the PoARTry Ledbury project, my own writing and Book Launches, more family birthdays and Poetry Festivals. I attempted to keep my schedule free of evening events as this is the busiest time at work with lots of deadlines to meet by the beginning of July and in the current heatwave all I really want to do is feast on ice lollies and sleep!

 

The date was finally set for the PoARTry event, we decided it then spent a week trying to match schedules before finding an AGM clash with the date and reverting back to the original one, which sadly means Rick Sanders won’t be there.

We have had about half the collective sign up to say they are coming so it looks to be a great evening shaping up. Leena and I now have our work cut out developing a running order/ details of the evening. I am looking forward to it and getting extremely excited about seeing my artist’s work in the flesh. Molly Bythell was my extremely talented partner on this project and our collaboration has been bountiful. I am only framing 2-3 poems but have written close to 20!

Ledbury PoARTry SHARE

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On Thursday evening I made my way into Birmingham to David Calcutt’s Book Launch at Waterstones, which was in the Art Room, where I had my own Launch back in 2016. It was great to catch up with people and was a lovely evening. Full review here.

© Elaine Christie

Ledbury Poetry Festival is also underway, I am hoping to get across there at some point. I am definitely there on Tuesday 3rd July.

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All in all, an incredible month of ‘not being —— anymore’, getting used to just being again.

The End Run was just the Warm Up

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So my Poet Laureateship ended at the Launch of the 8th Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe at The Angel Centre on the 10th June. This was the space Suz Winspear held her amazing collaborative DanceFest event ‘Poetry Ballroom’ in last year, when she was Worcestershire Poet Laureate.

 

 

WLF The Launch

The Finalists this year were Peter Sutton, Betti Moretti & Sarah Leavesley.

Following my performance Charley Barnes introduced the winning poet…and who is the new Worcestershire Poet Laureate for 2018/19?

Betti Moretti! Congratulations to her and all the finalists this year.

It was a great event and congratulations should go to the WLF team for pulling it off.

 

Here’s a little look back at some of my year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am delighted to have discovered new writers and assisted some others on the point of giving up. I have published over 200 poets in 7 collections and 4 magazines and completed projects with America and France.

I flew our WLF flag internationally and welcomed poets from bordering counties into the exceptionally talented scene in our Shire.

 

 

 

People keep asking what I will do next. Truth is (as those who read the blog know) I am always busy. I guess I didn’t talk about it as much as it comes across as slightly me-ego, but as many future plans involve seedlings from the Laureateship, maybe you will get to hear about my work.

I will, as always remain super busy!

My first plan is to prepare for and enjoy the 4 performances I have managed to squeeze into the LitFest. I will be performing poetry at these events: (7-10 minute Guest Spots)

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Weorgoran Pavilion Festival: Sat 16 June

And if that wasn’t enough, this year The Ring have teamed up with WLF to bring a little poetry to Worcester. I will be performing at 12 PM on Saturday 16th June.

Award-winning art, architecture and design studio NEON has created an amazing stage, especially for Worcester. It’s part of The Ring, a Canal & River Trust ‘Arts on the Waterways’ project celebrating a 21-mile circle of natural and historic waterways in Worcestershire. The Weorgoran Pavilion takes its inspiration, and its name, from the Saxon origins of the name Worcester and its translation, “the people of the winding river”. It’s the venue for a free family-friendly festival featuring a soundscape by acclaimed Ledbury born musician Dave Crowe, which plays at selected times.
Bring something to sit on, indulge in a tasty treat from local sellers and enjoy yourself!
Check our other events for the programme on each day of the festival.

 

12:00-13:00 Litfest Takeover featuring Nina Lewis & the newly crowned Worcester Laureate, Betti Moretti.

 

For more information on the programme and how to book tickets check in at my old WPL blog.

Whilst you are there… I spent the week before the festival launch making Countdown films ’10 Days’ check them out too or click here.


PoARTy

I am currently working on PoARTy – Ledbury, in collaboration with Artist Molly Bythall. We have created 3 works, stemmed from work we had already produced – it has been a joy to be part of this creative partnership. There are 16 poems which have come from it although only 3 will be on display. Watch out for more news on this project facilitated by Rick Sanders, who is also taking over my WWM role as Lead Writer with the Sparks Young Writers Group in Worcester come September. (It is all change!)

 

 

Our work will be displayed in July.

 

Heritage Poetry Project

Funnily enough I attended a workshop with Angela France recently where we looked at/wrote about trees and I thought about the potential of this project, which was mentioned at a Stanza meeting at the end of last year.

Our Stanza group spent the day before the WLF Launch in the Forest of Dean writing poetry amongst trees for a project led by Andy Hoaen who has been involved in a survey/heritage work ‘Veteran Tree History Project Speech House Survey’. His vision:

I would like to see this as an opportunity for an encounter between two different ways of seeing the world, archaeology with its rigorous approach routed in scientific “objective” description of place and space, and poets with their ability to succinctly capture the essence of things and provide an imaginative subjective view on the world.

There may well be another exhibition in the future.

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Ludlow Fringe Festival 

I will be joining some of the ‘Me Too’ Poetry Anthology Poets to perform poems at a special event on the 19th June.

I went to Deborah Alma’s Book Launch for ‘Dirty Laundry’ – Nine Arches Press at Waterstones at the end of May, for her Ludlow Launch she is having Guest Poets and a collective of ‘Me Too’ poets perform.

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Room 204 Workshop Rm-204-logo-WITH-WORDS

Writing & Mental Health, working in the Mental Health setting.

 

The Last WWM Sparks YW Group 

The 16th June is my final group as Lead Writer at The Hive in Worcester, I shall be sad to see this end but I have been working as an Assistant/Lead Writer & Mentor for WWM since 2014 and we all know when we apply that these are not renewable positions, the opportunities need to be given to other writers too.

WWM

 

Stratford Poetry Festival 

I was involved in a School Poetry Project with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and on the 16th children I sent poems and poetic challenges to will be performing their work as part of the festival.

 

 

 

Book Launch 

Ghosting For Beginners Anna Saunders, published by IDP. 24th June Cheltenham

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Ledbury Poetry Festival – where I hope to manage at least 1 glorious, poetry packed day!

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Guest Poet

Delighted to welcome Charley Barnes into the V. Press family and doubly delighted to be reading at her launch. 14th July Park’s Cafe, Droitwich 7PM charley b v press

 

Organising Arts Festival Poetry Events 

Artsfest takes place 30th June – 28th July in Droitwich. I am very excited because Kathy Gee, Claire Walker and myself are going to be Performing 30-40-60 again, our collaborative Poetry Media Show.

17th July 7:15 (7:30 start) St. Andrew’s Church. For more information: 30-40-60

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Following on from last year I am organising the Poetry Day events again. On the 21st July 4 Poets will be performing in St. Andrew’s Square between 2-4 PM

Nina Lewis (Former Worcestershire Poet Laureate)

Roy McFarlane (Former Birmingham Poet Laureate)

John Mills

Liz Mills

 

 

In the evening there is Poetry Extravaganza in Park’s Cafe from 7PM (7:30 start) the first half will be the traditional open mic sign up and after the interval 12 Poets from the team of 24 ATOTC UK Poets will be performing from the Special Edition Contour – A Tale of Two Cities.

atotc reading

For more information: http://droitwichartsfest.org/event/poetry-and-prose-readings/

http://droitwichartsfest.org/event/poetry-extravaganza/

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In between these events (as like last year) I will be hot-footing across to Worcester to perform as a Guest Poet at Kieran Davis’s Book Launch of his 2nd collection ‘Legacy’, published by Black Pear Press.

Then I plan a fortnight of R & R before jetting off to be an International Guest Poet at Perth Poetry Festival, Australia.

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Writing wise the desk is heating up also. I am currently working with my next manuscript, compiling the final issue of Contour the WPL Magazine and publishing the final WPL Anthology Collection ‘Every Word Counts’ – Science/Maths poetry.

Later this year I shall start working on the WPL Anthology and later still on my first collection.

So I will be fine, I will be busy, I am a poet… one who will always remain an ambassador of words.