As anyone who follows the blog will know, April is mainly a space for NaPoWriMo, half of which falls during Easter break, the other 15 days are snatched between work and life. This April we also had lots of family needs and it was necessary to step back from work as much as possible to support and survive.
I realise it is now almost the end of June and I have not posted, so here is a little flashback beyond NaPoWriMo.
I had two wonderful events in April, Peter Sutton’s Book Launch, where I was a Guest Reader and Country Voices in Ironbridge, where I performed alongside Nick Pearson & Cherry Doyle. It was a brilliant afternoon of poetry.
Both of these gigs saw my return to LIVE events (after an attempt last September). There is something very strange about the act of leaving your home to perform nowadays, it all feels so new and different. Both events were well attended, so it shows not everyone was as nervous as me.
I have read Cherry’s and Nick’s work but never met them, that was a pleasure. I saw Nick perform again this month at Welshpool Festival. I have also worked with and been aware of Sara-Jane Arbury for years but had never met face to face, that was lovely after knowing her online for a few years.
In Elmslie House the gallery also had a few pieces on display which were created by another of Sara- Jane’s Ledbury Poetry workshop participants. We had fun finding them. Peter’s book launch was an incredible event, a packed audience and so much rich poetry. Black Pear Press know how to throw a party/launch!
I also took part in the Mindful Poetry gathering run by The Well in partnership with the On Being Project. I have attended since 2020 lockdown year, it is a wonderful group of creative Americans and is always a lovely hour of soulfulness attended by people from all around the world. I have really missed these events and was looking forward to them coming back for National Poetry Month.
The Well is nourished by the non-profit organization A Mindful Moment. Our mission is to improve the mental and emotional well-being, connectedness, and effectiveness of all citizens through arts integration, mindfulness, music, movement, and healing-centered practices.
I went to lots of events and watched some stunning sets. I was lucky enough to see Jason Allen-Paisant, who I came across just two years ago during Lockdown. His poetry is amazing and my bookshelves now house him.
May was full of medical appointments, work and family. We celebrated some of our American relatives arriving in our part of the UK after time in London and before a trip across to Dublin. I was also busy developing the program for Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe, along with the rest of the team. I missed several events due to complete exhaustion. Later in the month there were some family needs which very much took over everything.
I did manage some much needed time at the ocean (my first time away from home in 4 years), it was a long trip to Wales for a short amount of time there but worth every hour of the journey.
I received a beautiful copy of a pamphlet a group of Stanza members worked on in 2018 as part of a Forest of Dean project. It is beautiful and a privilege to read all our words from that day. Thank you to Andrew Hoaen for my copy of SILVA – it brings that incredible day with the trees back to me!
I went to the Nine Arches Press Book Launch of Julia Webb and Tom Sastry, a wonderful event and two stunning collections! They were joined by Daniel Sluman, who’s latest collection ‘Single Window’ is also on my shelf!
Another great Book Launch with Bloodaxe poets Jo Clement, Sarah Wimbush & Clare Shaw.
I admire the work of all these poets. It is also lovely knowing (most of) them!
I also had the gift of a Verve Poetry Launch which included Sarah James and her latest collection Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic. I have heard Kathy Pimlott read before, I have read some of Kayleigh Campbell’s work and it was fascinating hearing Georgina Wilding.
I finally finished work on a project I have been sitting on for the best part of two years. And by the end of the May WLFF Festival was ready and we were all busy with promotion.
I had some poems accepted for publication, which was fabulous as I have been unable to submit much since March and there have been lots of rejections stacking up the inbox! I have had all three of my poems accepted for a project which will entail an anthology both hardcopy and digital. I had some of my manuscript poems accepted by an anthology too and have managed to get some work into the Mindful Poetry Anthology (USA) for the second year running.
Now we are in June and I have been working full time and trying to balance the rest of life on plates with small circumferences. I have to get back to the desk at some point, but I am not quite there yet.
I am very much still working and writing but also whirling and spinning through each day!
Yesterday I listened to incredible poems from George Szirtes, Moniza Alvi and Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese at LIVE at The Butchery. Their poems will sit with me for a long time.
During the event Jacqueline Saphra dropped a link to the Fundraiser which happened in London on Mother’s Day, 30th March.
A fundraising, awareness-raising, spirit-raising day of poetry in solidarity with the people of Ukraine at this time of great peril and suffering.
Poets for Ukraine, in partnership with The Society of Authors, The Poetry Society, The Poetry School and JW3 held a Poem-a-Thon here at JW3 where sponsored poets read in relay for up to five minutes, some in person and some virtually.
Special guests include:
Juliet Stevenson, Jessie Ware, Meera Syal, Sophie Ward and Nick Hytner Naomi Shihab Nye from the USA Headliner poets from the UK, including former Scottish Makar Jackie Kay Former National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke Imtiaz Dharker who holds the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry This year’s Costa Book Prize winner Hannah Lowe Forward Prize winner Fiona Benson Former Poet Laureates Carol Ann Duffy and Andrew Motion Poet in Residence for Radio 4 & 4 Extra Daljit Nagra Veteran actors Harriet Walter and Bill Paterson They will share the spotlight with Ukrainian poets appearing on video both from the frontline and the diaspora.
All proceeds to our chosen charities, Goods for Good and Hope and Aid Direct.
The links for giving are available under the video.
We made it to 2022, in this exhausting world where everyday we’re grateful to be alive! I hope your start to 2022 has been a quality one.
Since my health issues at the end of 2018, I haven’t really been an active creative. During my treatment I couldn’t write at all. After 6 months I stopped needing morphine, I gradually worked on editing the book which was delayed due to my medical needs. The editing process takes months and by the end of that I had little energy to invest. At this time I was still on over 20 pills a day.
I struggled with myself, feelings of failing and frustrations of inability all through 2019. It took a further year after I was free from the stick walking and consultants to tackle this. By this point we were tackling the pandemic.
Many creatives suffered. I read an article which explained the area of the brain we use to process/ manage the emotional fallout of a pandemic is where the creativity comes from, so it was no surprise we all suddenly felt empty. I had been staring at my wall/garden in isolation for a year already so I didn’t have to tackle that feeling of having nothing to write about, but survival mode doesn’t lend itself to play and I lost any potential of artistic bliss.
I desperately needed to escape into words and place focus away from what was happening globally and at home. Thanks to many generous poets I was able to stay creatively buoyant throughout Lockdown, despite a gauntlet of life’s challenges. And I was finally able to write about my annus horribilis.
By 2021 my m/s was ready but I’ve sat on it for so long that it has become changed. Which was its destiny, but I know it needs to become a priority if it is ever to be completed.
That’s what I am working on as well as taking on almost full time real life work by way of compensating the devastation to the bottom line over the past three years! I am grateful to have work in these times and to be able to do it.
I was diagnosed with a chronic disease at the end of 2019 and another chronic condition in the summer of 2020, obviously the NHS was already in crisis before the pandemic, so people with other issues (1/5th of the population, I believe) are waiting for appointments connected to other conditions. The backlog is not something which can be worked through.
I was lucky to see the consultant for all allocated appointments last year. But news like this also takes some adjusting. So in addition to working offline on the manuscript, I am also giving myself time to focus on health and future.
I am involved in projects which take place over the next two weekends and WLFF (Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe) are planning the 2022 Festival.
I am still here and I am delighted that you are too. I wish you every success and happiness in 2022. Fingers crossed!
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 MaryamHessavi. 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!
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 MaggieMackay.
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.
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 Ambit, The Rialto, Butcher’s Dog, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, harana poetry, The 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.
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 LiteratureFestival and FINALLY sent some submissions!
June – we finally got our summer after perhaps the wettest May on record since 1967! The sunshine has made up for it since. The plants are finally thriving (with a bit of watering help). Festival season continues although I have made a conscious decision to calm the diary down and get back to the desk work (actually writing)!
Despite having to quarantine for 10 days, I didn’t have time to complete this post. So I will share it in two halves, like every wonderful Euro match!
HAY festival – ran until 6th June
Roxbury Poetry Festival 5th June
Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe 6th -11th June
I spent most of the week enjoying events at the Hay Festival. I blogged the 2020 Digital Hay extensively here on AWF – but this year I got to fewer events than I hoped. By the end of the week I was busy spending days organising the WLFF Festival. I managed to make Ade Couper’s Amnesty International event on Friday night. A deeply touching experience. I was quite involved with Amnesty International as a young person, it shocks me that are still having to do the same work decades later and more. I used to write quite a few social activism/political poems, I need to dust this part of my brain off because our words and actions are still necessary!
The weekend was complete madness! I discovered Roxbury Poetry Festival at the end of May and booked tickets. Three weeks before in a workshop with Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton, I met an Anglo-American poet, Chloe Firetto-Toomey. We collaborated together in the workshop and Maureen presumed we knew each other and had worked together before… well we are now and Roxbury was a chance for us to experience a festival together in real time! It was a fantastic programme of events and beautiful knowing we were there together. There were several simultaneous events and we had no communication over any of them* and yet we turned up attuned in each session the same.
*We did discuss going to Rachel McKibbens Craft Talk – as Chloe had sent me one of Rachel’s poems days before.
Roxbury was an amazing hybrid festival. I watched a reading, participated in a wonderful workshop, attended a craft talk reading and the Keynote Speaker Reading:
POETRY IS NOT A LUXURY Reading & Discussion with Janice Lobo Sapiago & Angelo Geter.
Hosted by the Academy of American Poets, this reading and discussion brings together the Poet Laureate of Rock Hill, SC, Angelo Geter and the Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County, CA Janice Lobo Sapiago. Poets will perform a reading of their work and engage in conversations around poetry, civic service, and landscaping spaces for youth poets.
Connecting Body, Breath, and Image: Writing Workshop
In this workshop we will connect and constellate the poet’s body to the literary image and to the poetic line.Taking a tip from breathing exercises, we will work together to create unexpected and deep images that bear our understanding of what the body can do as an antenna for our experience of being human. Central to this will be thinking through the various migrations and motions our bodies make and have a memory of making. This will include engaging the concept of home in its complexities for the poet and the poem’s speaker.
This workshop with Rajiv Mohabir was intense and generative. Some incredible things came up for me, I was so glad to have the experience and with Chloe too. So much of what we’re tackling came up in theme or thought throughout the day, it was almost as if the organisers had seen right into our minds.
CRAFT TALK W/ RACHEL MCKIBBENS
This event is in partnership with GrubStreet
As poets, we use devices to resurrect or bury, but how often are we willing to lean into our own wickedness, to give it its rightful placement as the second face of our vulnerability instead of an agent of confession? This craft talk encourages participants to bring their lunch on screen while enjoying a craft talk from poet and performer, Rachel McKibbens.
There was so much deep honesty in Rachel’s talk, that sometime afterwards in an email exchange with Chloe, I wrote the darkest, most honest work I have ever shared. Darker than any of my 42Worcester poems or anything I wrote in gloom. I have Rachel McKibbens to thank for opening that door.
KEYNOTE ADDRESS W/ JERICHO BROWN
2020 Pulitzer Prize winner, Jericho Brown, will read from his book The Tradition and answer a few questions from the audience. This talk will be moderated by a local artist.
I always love it when I am in a room with people who have never seen Jericho read live before. Such intense atmosphere and performance. I am grateful for the fortune of watching this man in action throughout 2020 and 2021. I have never seen him perform without tears, his and mine.
A truly exceptional spirit!
I saw Holly McNish & Simon Armitage at HAY. And Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe kicked off Festival week with the Launch and crowning of the NEW Worcestershire Poet Laureate.
You can read about the whole festival (link in Week 2).
For any Fast Show fans… this week I have mainly been organising and facilitating Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe Festival events. I am one of the Directors but also in charge of tech and port of call for a lot of the poets /judges involved in events. I was prepared for a HARD WORK week — what I didn’t bank on, was a week at the chalk-face too. Timing!
The whole WLFF Team worked exceptionally hard to make the mini-festival 2021 as successful as it was.
Read all about it!
Congratulations to Ade Couper – Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2021-22.
I kept things small the weekend after LitFest but did manage to have breakfast in Australia back with Perth Poetry Club, followed by a Sheffield Libraries workshop with Claire Walker and a night in America at the WWBPA with the Poet in residence 2021 – Forrest Gander.
On Sunday I went to the fabulous Black Pear Press Launch for Brian Comber and Beth O’Brien.
Snippet reviews from some of my festival experience. Enjoy your bite of SAHLF 2021.
All the featured books can be purchased in the S@HLF Bookshop here.
Layers in Flash Fiction
A writing workshop on imagery and structure, with Anita Goveas and Farhana Khalique.
Farhana Khalique is a writer, voiceover artist and teacher from London. Her stories are forthcoming or have appeared in the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2021, Leicester Writes Short Story Prize Anthology 2020, Reflex Fiction and more. Farhana has been shortlisted for The Asian Writer Short Story Prize, and she has won a Word Factory Apprentice Award. She is also the editor of Desi Reads and a submissions editor at SmokeLong Quarterly.
This was an amazing workshop, I signed up with the thought of getting back into Flash Fiction writing and these two certainly spurred me on. This was an excellent workshop, they managed to squeeze so much into the hour. I didn’t really know what to expect. They made me think about writing in a fresh, new way.
Thank You for The Small Things: Poetry Workshop with Nadine Aisha Jassat
A workshop with award-winning writer Nadine Aisha Jassat on using poetry to help give thanks for the small things. This gentle workshop will feature prompts to reflect and write on, suitable for folks writing for the first time or those who write regularly, and will make use of some zoom features including the chat box.
This was another incredible workshop, one which warmed all our hearts and again, so much packed into the hour. I got some writing done and have useful ideas to run with in the future. This hour was a pleasure and a joy and I am SO GLAD I didn’t miss this!
Friday was exceptionally busy so I didn’t make it to the festival until the evening.
Solace in Sound – Three Bloodaxe Poets Explore the Landscape of Grief
Join a trio of Bloodaxe poets whose recent poetry collections span Scotland, Ireland, England and Estonia. Each shares a powerful sense of their formative landscapes; whether farmland, forest, mountains, estuaries, rivers or beyond. In poems that consider the impact of loss – of friends and friendships, parents, or a communal event of the most traumatic kind – these collections foster sympathy and strength. The poets will read from their own work, and also from each other’s, creating a unique conversation about memory and resonance in the landscape.
Jane Clarke is the author of two poetry collections, The River and When the Tree Falls (Bloodaxe Books 2015 & 2019), and an illustrated chapbook, All the Way Home, (Smith|Doorstop 2019). Four of her poems feature in Staying Human (Bloodaxe Books 2020) and one of the poems from When the Tree Falls was selected for The Forward Book of Poetry 2021. She grew up on a farm in Co. Roscommon and her work explores enduring connections to people, place and nature. She lives in Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow where she combines writing with teaching & mentoring creative writing.
Philip Gross, born in Cornwall, son of an Estonian wartime refugee, has lived in South Wales since 2004. He won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2009, a Cholmondeley Award in 2017, and is a keen collaborator – with artist Valerie Coffin Price on A Fold In The River (Seren, 2015), with poet Lesley Saunders on A Part of the Main (Mulfran, 2018) and with scientists on Dark Sky Park (Otter-Barry, 2018). His latest collections are Between The Islands (Bloodaxe, 2020) and Troeon/Turnings (Seren, 2021) with Welsh language poet Cyril Jones. A new Bloodaxe collection, The Thirteenth Angel, is due in 2022.
Heidi Williamson grew up in Norfolk and spent many years living in Central Scotland. Her first collection, Electric Shadow, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize. The Print Museum won the 2016 East Anglian Book Award for Poetry. Return by Minor Road, published in 2020, revisits her time living in Dunblane at the time of the Primary School shooting and its aftermath. She is an Advisory Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund and also works for the Poetry Society, Poetry School, National Centre for Writing and The Writing Coach.
I did not want to miss this reading. I saw Heidi last year at the SAHLF and have been fortunate enough to attend several of Philip’s readings. This was an hour filled with incredible poetry. It’s always interesting to hear how themes from different bodies of work can chime together.
The FINAL weekend of the Festival post – COMING SOON!
Three years after the emergence of the global #MeToo movement, we revisit the poems (and poets) behind the #MeToo Women’s Poetry Anthology. Poets Jill Abram, Deborah Alma, Kim Moore, Wendy Pratt, Victoria Bennett, and Jhilmil Breckenridge discuss breaking the silence, whether there is still hope for change, and what needs to happen next for survivors to be heard. Any donations contributed during this event will be given to Women’s Aid.
The proceeds from this event and all proceeds from the book go to Women’s Aid – a charity supporting women in crisis.
Jill Abram is Director of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, a collective encouraging craft, community and development. Publications include The Rialto, Magma, Under the Radar, Ink Sweat & Tears, And Other Poems, and Harana.
Deborah Alma is a UK poet and teacher. Deborah is editor of #MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology. Her first full collection, Dirty Laundry, is published by Nine Arches Press and she now runs the Poetry Pharmacy in Shropshire.
Kim Moore’s first collection The Art of Falling (Seren, 2015) won the 2016 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Her second collection All The Men I Never Married will be published by Seren in October 2021.
Wendy Pratt’s latest collection When I Think of My Body as a Horse won the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet award. She is a poet, author and workshop facilitator and the creator and editor of Spelt magazine.
Her most recent poetry pamphlet, To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2020, and is an invitation to witness to the intimate moments of dying, telling the story of a relationship between women that is transformed through grief.
Jhilmil Breckenridge is a poet, writer and activist. She is the founder of Bhor Foundation, an Indian charity, which is active in mental health advocacy. Her debut poetry collection is Reclamation Song.
#Me Too was first coined in 2006 by New Yorker Toronto Burke. In 2017 following major press coverage (Harvey Weinstein) the # was used over 12 million times in a couple of weeks. Deborah Alma, after following the news, put out a message on Facebook asking who HADN’T experienced… and only 3% hadn’t. And actually in further conversation, this 3% had as well. The book was published in 2018 (Fair Acre Press), in a time when the #me too movement was hitting everyone’s radar.
Sadly, it is still a necessary message to get out to the world. More so since Lockdown.
I went to a few #Me Too readings when the book was launched. My submission didn’t make it between the cover there were hundreds of submissions and the book couldn’t accommodate them all, so Victoria Bennett stepped in and published them on the Wild Women Press website (mine can be found here along with many others). It was also included in a body of work exhibited as part of the ASKING FOR IT exhibition in 2019.
It was hearing Kim Moore read from The Art of Falling, which enabled me to find the strength to write it into existence in the first place.
This, I knew would be a brilliant reading and it was with lots of Q&A too and because of the weight of the subject matter they finished the event off with a touch of self-care. A question to every member of the panel.
This was an incredible workshop and I am so glad I didn’t miss it! If you suffer chronic pain and are a writer, go and watch this session if you can.
I can finally see why 2019 was NOT a creative year for me.
Snippet reviews from some of my festival experience. Enjoy your bite of SAHLF 2021.
All the featured books can be purchased in the S@HLF Bookshop here.
Monday was a Bank Holiday here which meant Mr G. had a rare day off work and we spent it not online much. I missed a good programme of events today but actually ended up going to the open mic as well, which I hadn’t anticipated.
The Pleasures of Detail
Join writer and University of Glasgow senior lecturer Elizabeth Reeder for a short workshop about gather original details – and how to them as a driving force in your writing.
This was a brilliant hour, lots of advice and thoughts on editing. People are still talking about this session *and we are on the last weekend of the festival now. I am not surprised, it was great. We did a short writing exercise from multiple angles, a useful take on the ordinary.
* Longlisted for the 2020 Highland Book Prize*
The online literary salon where writers and guests come together to read, listen and encourage. Prose, poetry and pleasant surprises welcome.
It was a fun hour and lovely to put names to faces from the INSTA sessions.
Join Kathryn Koromilas for a daily morning meditative writing session. In this calm and mindful session, we’ll meditate – in writing – with a poem. The intention of meditative writing is to help you remove mental obstacles, encourage mindful concentration, enhance your creative practice, and just generally supercharge your day. Sessions will be streamed live on Instagram, every morning from 9:15am to 9:45 am for the duration of the festival.
I have been joining in with these sessions on IGTV but TODAY I made my first LIVE session. They are a great way to start the day. Most of the recordings can be found on the SAHLF Instagram, a few had technical difficulties and unfortunately are not available.
The basis is meditative writing from the starting point of copy work. I have enjoyed this practise and have also found some of my own writing completed in these sessions has some gold within it too.
On top of that, these sessions are relaxing and fun.
Claire Dyer on Instagram Live
Poet and novelist Claire Dyer reads from Yield, her new poetry collection. In Yield, the the eponymous verb is repeatedly redefined over a poetic odyssey that sees a son becomes a daughter as the mother becomes a poet, only to see the daughter follow suit.
I was lucky enough to be at the Launch of Yield, but these poems do not lose their power the more you read/hear them.
I was glad to listen in again to this short reading from Yield.
Anthony Anaxagorou: A Workshop on Strangeness and Associative Logic in Poems
Acclaimed poet Anthony Anaxagorou reads from his collection After the Formalities and leads a workshop on strangeness and associative logic in poetry.
Anthony Anaxagorou is a British-born Cypriot poet, fiction writer, essayist, publisher and poetry educator. His poetry has been published in POETRY, The Poetry Review, Poetry London, New Statesman, Granta, and elsewhere. His work has also appeared on BBC Newsnight, BBC Radio 4, ITV, Vice UK, Channel 4 and Sky Arts. His second collection After the Formalities published with Penned in the Margins is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was shortlisted for the 2019 T.S Eliot Prize. It was also a Telegraph and Guardian poetry book of the year.
In 2020 he published How To Write It with Merky Books; a practical guide fused with tips and memoir looking at the politics of writing as well as the craft of poetry and fiction along with the wider publishing industry. He was awarded the 2019 H-100 Award for writing and publishing, and the 2015 Groucho Maverick Award for his poetry and fiction. In 2019 he was made an honorary fellow of the University of Roehampton. Anthony is artistic director of Out-Spoken, a monthly poetry and music night held at London’s Southbank Centre, and publisher of Out-Spoken Press.
I was fortunate enough to attend a few of Anthony’s workshops in the first lockdown and even had a 1 to 1 with him in 2020, I was delighted to have another opportunity and was excited to discover it wasn’t a repeat class.
It was great, a reading and lots of thoughts on writing as well as a chance to do some writing of our own. If you get a chance to catch this, please do.
The Stay at Home! Literary Festival finishes today – a brilliant fortnight of bookish (and beyond) events & opportunities from Carolyn Jess-Cooke & the SAHLF team. But fear not… next week I will continue blogging about it and I believe the You Tube channel will be open for donations to watch replay/catch up of some of the Festival Events.
Welcome to the 2nd part of week 1 – these are just snippet reviews from some of my festival experience. Enjoy your bite of SAHLF 2021.
NaPoWriMo drew to a close and May began, so too the first festival weekend. With a list of many great events programmed for the SAHLF.
All the featured books can be purchased in the S@HLF Bookshop here.
What We Do to Get Through
Q and A and discussion with author and editor James Withey about his new book What I Do to Get Through: How to Run, Swim, Cycle, Sew or Sing Your Way Through Depression, with writers Orna Cunningham and Georgina Woolfrey.
I remember James Withey from last year’s SAHLF. As I have already mentioned in these review posts, dealing with Mental Health and Wellbeing are essential movements in my life. When I suffered clinical depression (8+ years ago), I (like James) could not read, I couldn’t do anything for a long while. Due to being heavily medicated I mainly slept and even as I progressed with treatment it was a long time before I could look at words. I wanted there to be books to help, had there been it may have been a swifter recovery (but possibly not) and in truth, I will always be on this road. I did eventually find black rainbow by Rachel Kelly and that saved me, I blogged about it a lot and the book itself was one of the few available at the time from the perspective of a person who had suffered. I met Rachel a year later – there are some old posts about it all here:
Anyway, this long preamble is to say that these books, this issue are so IMPORTANT. I was amazed and heartened by the attitude towards the audience as this being our space, our time and how willingly people joined in the conversation. Brilliant to see as everything took a lot of guts and courage.
The impact of this session on me cannot really be placed within the framework of words or emotion. Those of you from here will know why.
What I Do to Get Through: How to Run, Swim, Cycle, Sew, or Sing Your Way Through Depression
James Withey is author of the bestselling book How to Tell Depression to Piss Off: 40 Ways to Get Your Life Back, published by Little, Brown in 2020. The follow up book How to Tell Anxiety to Sod Off, will be published in Jan 2022. He is the founder of The Recovery Letters project which publishes online letters from people recovering from depression, addressed to people experiencing it. He is the co-editor of The Recovery Letters book which was a World Book Night title and selected as a Reading Well title. Cosmopolitan magazine named it as ‘One of the 12 mental health books everyone should read’.
What I Do to Get Through: How to Run, Swim, Cycle, Sew, or Sing Your Way Through Depression, was published by Jessica Kingsley in Feb 2021. James lives in Hove with his husband and emotionally damaged cat.
Orna Cunningham is an editor, illustrator and designer. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, she has been based in her adopted home of Toronto, Canada, since 2015. She has worked for titles like the Irish Independent, The Daily Mail, The Irish Sun, and Russia Today. She is passionate about destigmatising topics surrounding mental health, and apart from her work as a journalist, writes short stories, personal essays, and poetry, and presents the occasional podcast.
It was interesting to hear the genesis of this book and to listen to how various hobbies and the act of doing something helps manage this deep illness. Also loved the fact that James told us all about an Avocado he planted/nurtured and the next day it appeared on his Twitter feed.
Georgina told us the writing which was viewed over 90,000 times was written to try and explain to her friends and family how and where she was.
Home in Our Bodies
Was an incredible powerful event, a reading and a workshop activity. It was joy to discover the brave, honest voice of Aoife Lyall and the equal depth of Victoria Kennefick’s poetry.
Her first collection Mother, Nature (Bloodaxe Books, 2021) has been described as ‘crucial’, ‘daring’, ‘heart-rending’ and ‘staggeringly tender’.
Aoife Lyall (née Grifﬁn) was born in Dublin in 1987 and now lives in the Scottish Highlands. Awarded an Emerging Scottish Writer residency by Cove Park in 2020 and twice shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Awards, her poems have also been shortlisted in the Wells Festival of Literature Open Poetry Competition and the Jane Martin Poetry Prize. She was longlisted for the inaugural Rebecca Swift Foundation Women Poets’ Prize in 2018. Her ﬁrst collection, Mother, Nature, is published by Bloodaxe Books in 2021. She has worked as a guest curator for the Scottish Poetry Library and as a guest editor for Butcher’s Dog. Her reviews have appeared in Browse, The Interpreters’ House, Poetry London and PN Review.
The writing points produced some page surprises for me, not least as I chose a different focal point for the first one and then discovered this had been chosen for the 2nd exercise, so I reverted back to the initial prompt for my second one.
This evet was a dream, if you have a chance to catch these two talented poets, please do.
Witches of Scotland Podcast – Claire Mitchell QC and Zoe Venditozzi
Claire Mitchell QC and Zoe Venditozzi talk about their Witches of Scotland podcast and their work to secure a national monument and apology for those accused of witchcraft during the Scottish Witch trials.
Claire Mitchell studied Law at the University of Glasgow and was called at the Scottish Bar in 2003, having been a solicitor in private practice since 1996. She specialises in criminal law and criminal extradition. She has built up a strong Appeal Court practice, with an emphasis on constitutional, human rights and sentencing questions. She has attended the Privy Council and Supreme Court on a number of occasions in relation to cases of general public importance to the law of Scotland. At the 2013 Law Awards of Scotland, she received a “Special Recognition Award” for her contribution to legal thinking over the previous decade.
Zoe Venditozzi is a writer and teacher who lives in Scotland with her husband and various children. She works as a Support for Learning teacher and also teaches Creative Writing in various settings. Her first novel Anywhere’s Better Than Here won the Guardian newspaper’s Not the Booker popular prize and she has just finished writing a book about madness and psychic phenomena.
This was a fascinating talk. One thing which amazes me is how much local history/National History we never hear about. I knew about the Witch Trials but had not realised just how many lost their lives in Scotland. In other countries, these trials form a central part of the area, here it is hidden, swept shamefully away.
And in the next event, I laughed for practically the full hour. Helen Lederer, I love you!
This was just a stunning, hilarious and insightful three-way conversation/ interview and reading. I am SO glad I didn’t miss it!
How to be Funny When the World is Far From It
Join the founder of the Comedy Women in Print prize Helen Lederer and witty authors Lucy Vine and Abigail Mann to talk about funny fiction, what it’s been like writing comedy when the world doesn’t seem funny, and whether humour has the power to unite us.
Helen began her career in stand-up comedy at London’s famous Comedy Store, as part of the early 80s comedians including French & Saunders and Rik Mayall. She wrote her first play aged ten and was an avid diarist which served her well when asked to reveal them in BBC Radio 4’s My Teenage Diary. On television, Helen is possibly best known for her role as the dippy Catriona in all five series of ‘Absolutely Fabulous’. She has written and performed several one-woman shows- ‘Still Crazy’ a sell out at the Edinburgh Festival in the 90’s, ‘I Might As Well Say It’ was a sell out in 2018. Books include, Coping with Helen Lederer (Angus and Robertson), Single Minding (Hodder and Stoughton) and Finger Food (Accent Press). Her comedy novel, Losing It, published by Pan Macmillan was nominated for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize. She founded the Comedy Women Print Prize to celebrate witty writing by women in 2019.
Lucy Vine is a writer, editor and the bestselling author of novels, Hot Mess, What Fresh Hell, Are We Nearly There Yet? and Bad Choices, out 10 June 2021. Her books have been translated into ten languages around the world, with Hot Mess optioned for a TV series in America. She’s been twice longlisted for the Comedy Women In Print Award and also hosted the podcast and live event series, the Hot Mess Clubhouse, celebrating funny women. Her journalism has appeared in the likes of GRAZIA, Stylist, heat, Fabulous, New, Now, marie claire, Glamour Online, COSMOPOLITAN, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Sun and The Mirror.
Abigail is a comedy writer living in London and surviving on a diet of three-shot coffee, bourbons, and vegetarian sausage rolls. She was born and brought up in Norfolk, which she says is to blame for the sardonic humour that runs through her novels. Abigail was the runner up in 2019’s Comedy Women in Print award for The Lonely Fajita and has recently published her second book The Sister Surprise. Abigail takes inspiration from unconventional cross-sections of modern society and the impact this has on identity and the relationships we create. When she’s not writing, she teaches creative workshops.
Readings from Katie Griffiths, Arji Manuelpillai, Courtney Conrad and Janett Plummer, introduced by the Director of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, Jill Abram. Malika’s Poetry Kitchen (aka MPK, aka Kitchen) is a writers’ collective founded in Brixton by Malika Booker and Roger Robinson in 2001. It nurtures the writing, performance and careers of poets by emphasising craft, community and development.
Malika’s Poetry Kitchen (aka MPK, aka Kitchen) is a writers’ collective founded in Brixton by Malika Booker and Roger Robinson in 2001. It nurtures the writing, performance and careers of poets by emphasising craft, community and development. Jill Abram has been the Director since 2010. Under her stewardship the group meets for workshops on Friday evenings (the saying goes that, as MPK members give their Friday nights over to poetry, we must be very dedicated). Some sessions are led by members of the collective, others by guest poets from the UK and beyond, such as Kei Miller, Mona Arshi and Olive Senior. MPK Alumni include Inua Ellams, Warsan Shire, Kayo Chingonyi, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Nick Makoha and Aoife Mannix. This lively, London-based community of dedicated poets has inspired similar Kitchen models to be set up worldwide, from Chicago to Delhi, creating an international MPK family.
I’ve known about Malika’s Kitchen for years (since 2015), I have seen a few live events with members of the Kitchen and watched countless interviews (well, I could count them, less than 10) with Roger Robinson, Malika Booker or Jill Abram. I was not going to miss this event and I am glad I didn’t.
It was lovely to be reminded of the whole story, to be introduced to the newest member, Courtney Conrad and one of the original poets, Janett Plummer and to see and hear poets I know and or/have met and those I don’t know. A great mix of work in this reading. And I have to mention – Janett’s amazing balloon arch!
I recently attended Kate Griffiths Book Launch (and have seen her read over the years) and Live from the Butchery (Helen Ivory, Martin Figura & Kate Birch – IS&T) had a Malika’s Kitchen reading in March with Malika Booker, Jill Abram and Fahad Al-Amoudi – I have watched Jill and Malika reading many times over the years at various festivals and had caught some of Fahad Al-Amoudi’s work. In Lockdown1 – 2020, I was fortunate enough to be led back to Wayne Holloway-Smith and through him discovered Arji Manuelpillai just in time to make his book launch for Mutton Rolls.
So I was excited by the line up and knew this was going to be a golden event! And I was not disappointed!
As well as enjoying and listening to a variety of readings, Jill Abram introduced this new book, (which I was aware of). It is packed with poems from Malika’s Kitchen members, the title is how poets in this group were viewed 20 years ago. You can pre-order this book. Inside there are more than 60 new poems from members.
The poetry collective and I discovered this through a session Malika led and also a Poetry Society event, is international. Similar groups in this model have been set up and there is a section of the book where Malika Booker talks to this.
Published 5th August 2021
Again – if you missed this event, go and find it on the channel after the festival, treat yourself!
Today, our featured participant is Uncle Phil’s Blog, where the Shadorma/Fib prompt for Day 7 led to a very funny shadorma indeed.
Our featured reading for the day is pre-recorded, so that you can watch it whenever you like. It features the poet Denise Duhamel, reading at Arizona State University.
Our prompt – I call this one “Return to Spoon River,” after Edgar Lee Masters’ eminently creepy 1915 book Spoon River Anthology. The book consists of well over 100 poetic monologues, each spoken by a person buried in the cemetery of the fictional town of Spoon River, Illinois.
Today, I’d like to challenge you to read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead. Not a famous person, necessarily – perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood, like the gentleman who ran the shoeshine stand, or one of your grandmother’s bingo buddies. As with Masters’ poems, the monologue doesn’t have to be a recounting of the person’s whole life, but could be a fictional remembering of some important moment, or statement of purpose or philosophy. Be as dramatic as you like – Masters’ certainly didn’t shy away from high emotion in writing his poems.
PROCESS NOTES:Watch out for the not-really-Rabbit-Holes!
Welcome to the 2nd week of NaPoWriMo! I found today good fun, hope you do too. I started with the featured participant I LOVED the coffee poem, both poems followed form. The Shadorma about family was intriguing – I know the Shadorma was promoted as funny (it can be read this way) < see how subjective poetry is? When I read it – Uncle Pete caused concern and then later in thought perhaps sympathy – the fact we don’t know why he is left out is a little sinister, or perhaps just brothers who have fallen out, there’s lots to unpack for such a short form – clever writing.
Today was a day of 100s of poems! I listened to the Denise Duhamel Poetry Reading at ASU. Denise Duhamel Poetry Reading at the Arizona State University “Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.”
Denise Duhamel earned a BFA at Emerson College and an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. Citing Dylan Thomas and Kathleen Spivack as early influences, Duhamel writes both free verse and fixed-form poems that fearlessly combine the political, sexual, and ephemeral. Duhamel has published numerous collections of poetry, including Kinky (1997), Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (2001), and Ka-Ching! (2009). Her honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has been included in several volumes of Best American Poetry, and has also been featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Bill Moyers’s PBS poetry special Fooling with Words. An associate professor at Florida International University, she lives in Florida.
It was a great reading, amusing and a fantastic companion to my morning coffee and at 20 minutes more manageable than some of the featured readings offered. The story behind her Sestina to Sean Penn is brilliant! Delta Flight 659 for Sean Penn. I will watch/listen/share this reading.
If you want more than 20 minutes of poetry you can let Vimeo deliver the rest of the “Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference” videos to your screen, most of them are from 2012 Conference.
I listened to Sally Ball. – Not exactly a rabbit hole because I wasn’t seeking it – glad I caught her reading though.
Sally Ball reading from “Annus Mirabilis” at the Arizona State University “Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.”
Sally Ball is the author of Annus Mirabilis, which was selected by Ellen Bryant Voigt for the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize (NY: Barrow Street, 2005). Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Ploughshares, Slate, Threepenny Review, Yale Review, and other journals, as well as in the Best American Poetry anthology. Ball is the associate director of Four Way Books, an independent press based in New York City. In 2007 she was the Margaret Bridgman Fellow in Poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She is an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, where she teaches poetry workshops, courses in modern and contemporary American poetry, and a literary publishing and editing class. She also offers internships with Four Way Books to students in the MFA Program for Creative Writing.
I also read more of Denise Duhamel‘s poems on Poets.org – again notreally-a-rabbit-hole as it was on the same page as the NaPo link and I have only just discovered Denise today and loved her work. Rabbit Hole in time though. I have stored a few for later.
NaPoWriMo often send gems of ebook resources, I didn’t read all of the Spoon River Anthology but I have saved the link on my NaPo resource list. A free book, always a bonus!
Today’s prompt meant that I returned to the book with a 2nd cup of coffee to read a few poems. I have only ever written one dramatic monologue – they were a popular form here on the spoken word circuit about 5 years ago, especially amongst students studying creative writing. Of course they have been in vogue for years and used by Wordsworth, Browning, Tennyson, Eliot and Yeats, to name a few. They are sometimes referred to as persona poems. I have a background in theatre and drama so at one point in my life knew more monologues than poems. The poetic form is a little different from the dramatic form.
I know this prompt is one I shall start this morning and carry with me before I sit to write it out. Especially as I have my first walk in 2021 Walk in Nature planned before lunch. It won’t be far because of the leg/back recovery but it will be OUTSIDE and although cold the sky is blue, there is no sun and the sun is SHINING! Scarf and boots ready. Also it was around this time last year in the 1st UK Lockdown when I felt brave enough to venture outside of my home range for a walk. I saw three fields over the course of 2020 grow through a cycle that let me know some of our world still works as it did. There are geese, ducks, birds of prey and the hills in the background and in a socially distanced way, my mum (who has been shielding so we have big gaps of time where we didn’t see each other off screen).
The walk was a joy! The sky was big.
… read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead… perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood, … a fictional remembering of some important moment, or statement of purpose or philosophy.
Read from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters.
I only read a few of the poems from Spoon River, Cassius Hueffer explores the idea of people’s idea* of us and our real selves can be different. *I like the idea that it may not be the truthful version of what people think anyway but the gravestone is not the place to write a harsh truth. I know whatever comes in the next few hours will stem from this poem.
The basics of a dramatic monologue, demonstrated through the poems collected in the Spoon River Anthology:
Single person speaking/ opinions not necessarily those of poet (assumed character)/ – which creates a distance between the reader and the writer, /it is dramatic (like the theatre- settings/character/conflict) so is spoken to/assumes a listener or is addressed to another character.
M.H. Abrams says; “The main principle controlling the poet’s choice and formulation of what the lyric speaker says is to reveal to the reader, in a way that enhances its interest, the speaker’s temperament and character.”
What came out was a two page poem about a friend we recently lost to suicide. In his voice. Free written, typed at speed. I won’t share an extract but I feel him with me, in my heart.
WOW. Today’s Napo is powerful and not necessarily pleasant in the end, give yourselves self-care if you have written about … or found this traumatic or difficult, this prompt could unpluck a lot of people. Take care. x